As a lot of you know, James-Michael Smith and I traveled to Odisha State, India from February 22 to March 5.
This is the fourth time Good Shepherd has ministered in this area, and each time our emphasis is on training and encouraging local pastors to do the work of ministry in their towns and villages.
We work in Odisha every year because a) we have excellent local contacts there who ensure a productive trip; b) we have identified two pastoral networks with teachable spirits AND a fervor for Jesus; and c) Odisha has historically been Ground Zero for persecution against Christians in India. This persecution doesn’t get the same attention and press as in other parts of the world, but on occasion it has been every bit as deadly.
So this year, James-Michael and I worked in concert for our training. As the scholar, James-Michael’s sessions took our pastor friends through the letter to the Romans. Taking the 30,000 foot view on that epistle that changed the world, JM taught about Paul’s Jewish background, his rhetorical strategy, and the implication for both Roman and Indian Christians.
As always, JM was thorough, witty, and wise. Here he is working with Rohini, one of our favorite translators:
My sessions built on James-Michael’s. Instead of the approach of a scholar, I tackled the material from a pastoral perspective, and taught our pastor friends how to develop sermons from Romans 8:31-39. So if JM taught the general, I zeroed in on the particular.
Actually, I led the pastors through the preparation and design process for my current sermon series, 4U. In the Oriya language, you pronounce that Amho Mananko Pai-ing. We said that a million times together. We would begin our sessions together with singing:
Then, as I taught them the ME WE GOD YOU WE sermon design (borrowed from Andy Stanley), I had them break into small working groups to both study the text and develop their own approach.
Our sessions typically concluded with prayer, Indian style.
At the end of our time together with these courageous pastors, we paused for the obligatory group photo:
And then, through generosity made possible by the people of Good Shepherd, we presented twenty of our friends with new bicycles. They will use the bikes to travel from village to village, spreading the love and care of Christ. Your generosity helps invite all people — all Odishans! — into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.