India Flood Relief

The Indian state of Kerala has witnessed historic flooding due to continuing rains which have been ongoing for several days. Vigorous monsoon rains have left a trail of destruction across Kerala, killing more than four hundred people since August 16th.

This monsoon has led to increased water levels in many dams and reservoirs in Kerala. Regions, especially in northern and central Kerala, have witnessed extremely difficult situations causing loss of life, property, and hope for thousands.

The flooding has damaged infrastructure, agricultural lands, and houses. About one million people are in relief camps.

“In Central Kerala and surrounding areas, waters from 36 dams have contributed to flooding in the plains and a red alert has been declared in all states of Kerala.   Such rainfall has not been witnessed in the history of Kerala.” – Jaison Thomas

Will You Help Bring Hope to God’s Children in Kerala?

Dr. Jaison Thomas is the current principal of OC partner, New India Bible Seminary (NIBS). The seminary has suspended classes to minister to their community.  More than 200 seminary students and faculty are actively helping the victims by providing assistance, shelter, food, clothing and more. However, the need is enormous as the situation continues even after a week.

By clicking the link below you will equip emerging Christian leaders at NIBS to share the love of Jesus Christ in this devastating flood with the relief provisions they desperately need.

Click Here to Donate to the India Relief Fund!

Thank you for your faithful support of this ministry and may the Lord continue to bless you for your prayers and support!
Warmly,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Cuningham, PhD

Executive Director

 

Click here to learn more about how OC partner school NIBS

has provided relief to their community.

 

New India Bible Seminary Provides Assistance, Shelter, Food, Clothing and More in Kerala Floods

The August 2018 flood situation has been said to be the worst natural calamity Kerala has witnessed in 100 years. The heavy rainfalls were so unprecedented this time of the year, and have flooded the state of Kerala. The rain havoc started on the 8th of August; on the 9th we had 24 dams opened simultaneously due to incessant rains; the following day, state after state in Kerala went on red alert; from the 11threscue mission started; on 15th, the government issued high alert- and, NIBS prayerfully started reaching out to the flood victims.  We started off with a strategy of four-level sequential support: Rescue, Relief, Restoration, and Rebuilding.

The turmoil resulted from the losses everywhere was overwhelming…roads, rail tracks, bridges and buildings were flooded in no time. 370 deaths were officially reported and hundreds are still misplaced or missing. 36 main dams and several smaller ones were opened and 87 landslides concurrently hit Kerala. We had 8,50,680 people rescued and sheltered in 3,734 camps. Thousands were stranded without communication and electricity. As water continued rising to the second floors of buildings and rains and landfalls increased, people panicked.

The loss has been immense and unimaginable!

Seeing the trauma ahead, we started praying fervently about the situation and mobilized the faculty-student teams from the New India Bible Seminary for multiple levels of relief services to the flood victims. Here’s a brief daily review. 

Aug 15: India’s 72nd independence day. Incessant rainfalls continued all day through, deterring our schedules for the day.  Much of the rescue support was provided through online networks with persons and agencies in the government and NGOs particularly in locating and rescuing the stranded people as soon as some information is received, arranging food support to the hungry and finding children who were separated from their parents. Being unable to practically reach many of the places, still, Kerala was on high alert and situation was getting worse hour by hour. Faculty teams at NIBS were equipped under the leadership of Dr. JaisonThomas &JessyJaison and plans were made to help the affected in the best possible ways.

Aug 16: NIBS faculty team volunteered at the Relief Camp at CMS LP School, Myladumpara, where 230 persons from 60 families had their shelter. Obviously, our primary supply that day was food items. The campsite had no electricity and every member was in need of clothes to protect themselves from the rain and mud in the area. Returning from the camp, we bought blankets and towels and gathered six boxes of clothes for the affected families.

These were Sheeja’s words, “It was raining the whole day… and we never wanted to leave home as we never even imagined a situation of waters rising and our houses being swept away… Heavy rains and scary winds continued for a few days and it was midnight when we heard the high flood alert… and we ran just in the nightgowns. We lost our sandals while running and we tightly held on to our dear ones so that we will run to safety together”

Aug 17: We formed a larger team of faculty from NIBS to visit the same camp and distributed blankets, clothes, balms, ointments and basic medicines. Spending time quietly listening to their agony of having nothing left for survival, was the most important part of our day. Listening to people, we realized that the needs in the camp are diverse and crucial. We met with Suma, a woman aged 69 who had recently suffered a heart attack, taken to the relief camp by someone. She said, “all I need is a pair of sandals for my weak feet and my daily medicines for diabetes.” With a smile, she added, “life here in the relief camp is okay, I have food and shelter and many people around me. But… when I get back to my house I will have nothing. Someone told me today that not only my house but the whole neighborhood has gone underwater fully, making even rooftops invisible. I cannot even think of returning.”

We also met teens who needed daily medicines for conditions like epilepsy.

Aug 18: As the same Camp invited us again to share more needs in the camp, a team of faculty and staff went again and provided their needs and cared for the sick and weak, and, particularly the elderly women who suffered severe emotional dilemma as they had their homes and everything they had still completely submerged in water.

Aug 19: After early morning worship and intercession, spent the day purchasing, organizing, planning for the week ahead.

Aug 20: Partnering with the Relief Team from IPC Peniel Church in Anjilithanam, two teams of faculty and staff from NIBS visited five different relief locations and provided food and clothes to the flood victims. These were: NSS UP School-KizhakkanOthera, CMS LP School Myladumpara, Idanad-Pazhayakavu area, Government LP School KizhakkanOthera, and Kompadi area. Meeting with the student community at NIBS, the faculty formed 8 student-teams to further enhance the service force in the next phase of our service that is, restoring each of the affected families back to their homes.

The story of a young man in a camp had left a piercing ache in our hearts. This is what he told us in a feeble voice, “This flood has taken everything I had, including my house. My wedding was fixed and now I’m in this place, empty-handed, not knowing where she is…and what my life is going to be…”

Still, the lovely faces of the several toddlers in the Relief Camps were assuring all of us once again that there is a life to live and hope to hold on.

Aug 21: NIBS organized forty members of faculty and students in four teams to reach out to the affected families in Chengannur, Ambattubhagam, Kallooppara, Thuruthikkad areas where water is just starting to recede. Teams walked miles through marshy lands reaching out to the families that had been desperately waiting for help in making their houses and premises livable. Expected of us was ‘hard work’ in its true sense, in conditions that weren’t easy for many reasons, particularly, the presence of poisonous snakes. Thankfully, the task force was well prepared for the day’s immense demands.

Our first Household Kit was gifted to an elderly woman who lost everything in the house as the entire place got submerged. We met her in her son’s house. The torrent had taken away the temporary doors of the house and everything including wooden and metal furniture. From food to sleeping mats, she needed so many things to start life again.  As we handed over the kit, with tears rolling down she said, “is it not the flood that brought you here, to my little house? So, I’m happy.”

Scenes were hard and even traumatic at times. While some grieved about the irreversible loss of their entire life’s earnings, others were heartbroken about the beloved ones, still displaced.

When our team reached the 85-year-old Sasi’s place, walking miles through the marshy land, he had only managed to open the front door of his little house that was submerged in water for days. Mud and water covered everywhere and everything, furniture floated or broken into pieces, all personal documents and valuables washed away…we heard him sobbing and say, “I have nothing left here…”… “and, I don’t know where my two daughters are. Floods separated us. This is adding to my distress now.”

It was a herculean task-making the house and premises livable. Watching all that happened at Sasi’s place, said the Panchayath Vice-President, “This’s been unparalleled service. Please pray for me also as I serve my community.”Thanks to God for enabling NIBS to serve the most deserving ones and all glory to him alone.

The team, exhausted after the day’s work, was just about to return. Then we heard a young woman named Beena shouting for help. From a little far we asked her, “please tell us how we can help you” Her response came quickly, “please don’t leave me and my house. Please come and help me open my house and get it cleaned. All my clothes are gone, I lost my vessels, furniture and the house is full of mud, poisonous insects, and reptiles.  My mother broke her leg and now in a relief camp. Everyone in the camp is told to leave to their homes today. I need to bring her here today.”

The team immediately set off, to help. No pathway, no facilities, no drinking water, no electricity, no networks and nothing left in the home. Hard work for over two hours, the team got the house perfectly cleaned for her, making her feel cared for in the midst of loss and loneliness. Thanking the team she made this heart-wrenching appeal saying, “Running for safety, I reached in this relief center and someone carried my mother here. My 20-year-old daughter may be safe somewhere, I don’t know where she is. Please pray that she will be safe and we will meet again soon.”

The day was filled with grace and strength. Networking with the government panchayat authority including the President, Vice President and several of the official representatives helped us significantly in locating the most deserving people in the area. We heard voices calling for prayer by the victims of flood and the local community leaders and health workers.  While returning, we were thankful that these dear ones are finally able to come back to their homes in spite of everything.  We were also reminded of the hundreds and thousands who lost not only their houses but their land and their beloved ones too. Together we pray that God will help us to reach beyond from providing supplies to becoming a healing touch to the wounded lives around us these days.

Will You Help Bring Hope to God’s Children in Kerala?

Dr. Jaison Thomas is the current principal of OC partner, New India Bible Seminary (NIBS).  The seminary has suspended classes to minister to their community.  More than 200 seminary students and faculty are actively helping the victims by providing assistance, shelter, food, clothing and more. However, the need is enormous as the situation continues even after a week.

By clicking the link below you will equip emerging Christian leaders at NIBS to share sharing the love of Jesus Christ in this devastating flood with the relief provisions they desperately need.

Click Here to Donate to the India Relief Fund!

 

 

 

No Sacred Cows

Gunja Gurung is no stranger to the supernatural.  While it’s easy for us in the west to become jaded or skeptical, the pastor who leads a 300 member church and 9 small village churches in Kathmandu, Nepal has seen God at work in some amazing ways.

“An elderly man in my church has developed deep faith and knowledge of God over the past two decades.  People started coming to him for prayer for the sick and the needy and God performed wonders.  One day a group of villagers who heard that this man does miracles in the name of Jesus brought to him a cow that suffered from some rare illness.  He prayed over the cow and the cow got completely healed.”  The family who owned the cow as their only means of their survival thanked him -and Jesus – as they returned to their village.

Likewise, Gurung’s wife often confronts women possessed by evil spirits.  “Generations long rituals and superstitions have blinded them to the powers of darkness.  My wife did not study in a Bible College, but she believed in the Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4:18 (in which Jesus declares the purpose of his ministry – healing the sick, freedom for captives and deliverance for those trapped in darkness) and showed the church many times the huge need for healing and deliverance of these people from demonic powers.”

As a devoted Hindu young man of 34 years, Gurung met his Lord Jesus Christ through the Gospel sharing of his elder sister.  “In the little knowledge I had about Christianity”, he says, “I viewed it as a foreign religion of the lower castes and a religion that helps these people to make money.  After my baptism in 1994, I was persecuted by my family members and was taken to the Pashupati Hindu Temple for worship and purification.  When I bowed down before the idol with everyone else, all of a sudden I uttered the name ‘JESUS’ without being fully aware of what I was doing.  That day I gave my life completely to the service of Jesus Christ.”

As a first generation Christian student from Nepal, Gurung received no financial assistance from his family.  “I had my parents, my wife and two children to be cared for in Nepal when I started my study at NIBS, the New India Bible Seminary.  As a pioneer church planter in a Hindu country like Nepal, new converts had no money or material things to share with the church.  They all were living in extreme poverty.  The financial assistance I received from Overseas Council was absolutely a miraculous provision from God and I am always thankful for that.  I would have never survived in India or completed my studies without this help.”

The work Gurung and his wife take on encompasses three main categories: Church Planting and Pastoral Ministry, Bible School Ministry, and Social Work.  “My wife has been an immense support to me in the ministry of evangelism and church planting.  She does not fear anything as she shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  She is equally a leader with me in the ministry of the church.”  With their three children, “God is using us to set a model of family ministry, which is impacting many persons and communities in Nepal.  We are thankful to God for this”, says Gurung.

Indeed, the Church in Kathmandu is growing steadily.  Women’s ministry support is incredible in church planting and growth, and God is changing lives and transforming the land for His Kingdom.  Christianity is getting strongly rooted in a nation which used to be the only Hindu nation in the world.  Says Gurung, “The first church I planted by the grace of God in the capital city of Kathmandu is one of the largest churches and we have been having people from all different castes worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ in one accord.  The impact of this Christian vision of oneness in Christ has been a blessing not just to the city, but is also expanding to many other places where we are continuing church planting.”

All new converts in Gurung’s church, as well as the branch churches in the villages, receive regular discipleship and teaching so that they will stand firm when persecutions come.  New converts committed to ministry who seek some form of formal training are offered the opportunity to obtain a Bachelor of Theology with the New India Bible Seminary in Paippad.  For those who don’t have access to training, Gurung provides non-formal training.  “I provide them systematic teachings and courses so that they will develop confidence in skills and trust in God.  All the nine outstations of my first church started with the people whom I trained.”

The Church in Nepal faces a number of challenges.  Human Trafficking.  Poverty (particularly after devastating earthquakes).  Famine.   False Christian cults like the Sachai, Matha.  And persecution.  “New converts are misguided easily and evangelists are driven away from their faith in Jesus Christ and the true Gospel.  The cults are aiming at the Christian believers mainly and this is setting one of the biggest challenges to the ministry in Nepal”, says Gurung.  Additionally, “It is difficult for Christians to rent rooms for prayer or bury their dead.  People are divided by castes and Christians are looked down upon as lower castes.”  Gurung prays, and asks US to pray, that one day “Caste-ism and all its evil effects will be eradicated from Nepal.”

Reaping the Harvest in Central African Republic

A growing number of women connected to Faculté De Théologie Évangelique De Bangui (FATEB) are impacting their fellow African citizens in myriad ways.  Two such women are Gertrude and Blanche.  Blanche graduated five years ago with a Master’s of Theology, while Gertrude is a current student.

Blanche works in a Baptist church giving theological and biblical training to men and women via the evangelism, church life and mission divisions.  She also coordinates seven – you read that right, SEVEN, other departments.  As if that isn’t enough, she teaches in the FATEB Women’s School and is also the founder of a national NGO working in three towns that cares for widows and children of deceased pastors.

With her husband who is a military Chaplain, Blanche organizes prayer sessions for soldiers, their families and for the nation.

Blanche is most pleased that the teaching she provides “helps to correct theological practices and errors and puts the Bible at the center of peoples’ lives.”  She seeks to cultivate what she calls “a complete commitment to God from people, and the development of God’s mission in all aspects of their lives.”  As a result, she has observed improvements in the conditions of the widows and orphans under her tutelage.  “That work,” she says, “brings freedom.”

She is also developing new pastoral counseling tools in order to better follow up with people.

Back on campus, Gertrude sees what alumni like Blanche have achieved and that motivates her to continue to grow in everyday life as well as her faith.  She’s learned how to be more self-sufficient and says her understanding of God has changed because of her studies.  She’s “noticed a change in my manner, the way I consider people, the way I listen to people and how I address them.”

Her plan for ministry is to teach the Word of God to young girls.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!

From Worshiping the Creation to Worshiping the Creator

“I realized it is more exciting to know the Creator than his creation.”

John Calvin Thathapudi didn’t always believe that.  Raised in a good Christian family with strong Christian values and convictions, both his parents and grandparents were pastors and missionaries.  Even so, Christianity was, to John, just a ritual with some basics to follow.  Though active in the church choir, he never attended Sunday school.   “I loved Science, believed everything it said”, he states.  “And to believe Genesis- it seemed foolish and ignorant.  I was controlled by my human instincts and developed a callous attitude towards God.  Having seen my parents’ hardships and trials in ministry, I developed a hatred towards God.  When asked whether or not I would like to be a pastor, I remember responding ‘you cannot expect me to be a beggar.’”

What changed him?

“My mother’s prayers.”

“I was having a difficult time with my studies at Loyola College where I happened to stay for six months in the Student Hostel.”  Despite his indifference, or perhaps outright hostility, toward God, John tried to seek Him regularly, particularly during his struggles at college.  Finally, in October of 2009, “God spoke to me through Isaiah 43:25. ‘I am He who blots out your transgressions… and I will not remember your sins.’  God’s Spirit convicted me…  I confessed and repented for my sins.”

John made up his mind to spend the rest of his life in service to Christ.  “He has put a strong desire in my heart to serve Him among the intellectuals and educated.  Nobody ever expected such a change in me.”

John, who was a sponsored child through Compassion International until 2013, learned personal evangelism through Campus Crusade for Christ while serving in the slums of Chennai.  He attended International Youth Fellowship, Inter-Collegiate Prayer Fellowship (Tiruvella), Come Ministries India, and five months of Discipleship Training School with YWAM, Chennai.

His interest these days is apologetics and teaching future leaders who will impact their communities.  He attended SAIACS, the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies, where he obtained an MDiv in Theology and Ethics in March of 2018.  “I am hopeful that my studies will broaden and deepen my understanding of His written word so I can defend Christ among intellectuals who are in spiritual darkness and to those who are in intellectual confusion.”

Reaching the Embattled Through His Love

In a country struggling to recover from nearly five years of war for independence, one Christian leader has devoted her ministry to serving impoverished communities of Croatia. Edita Plascak has devoted her time to delivering donations and other basic needs to those seeking to survive the country’s ailing economy.

“I try my best to visit as many families as possible,” she said. Although her ministry focuses on humanitarian aid, Edita also responds to their spiritual needs through Christian counseling that draws those she serves closer to God. “So many people we serve need someone to present the hope of Christ when listening to them,” she shared. “Every person needs someone to listen to their story, no matter their situation nor the size of their problem.”

As a country working through post-war crisis, Croatian communities battle more than sin and a lack of repentance. Among the impoverished young families with children, Edita found that their limited knowledge of scripture often makes their circumstances feel more dire. Utilizing her training from Evangelical Theological Seminary (ETS), Edita works with other church leaders to teach the value of learning, studying, and using scripture in everyday life. “The people I serve are struggling, but little by little I am seeing them gain more hope and optimism about their future,” she said.

Edita also shares what she has learned at ETS with friends and family who are eager to learn about theology. Without a regular income, the scholarship assistance made it possible for her to finish school and earn her degree. She looks forward to using her knowledge to continue helping the poor and needy.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!

Enjoying the Sunrise in Ethiopia

Yoseph Haddis teaches and leads ministry at his local church and has recently expanded his ministry to include mentoring at Youth for Christ -Ethiopia, a local youth organization.

Yoseph’s work is critical to his community. Due to extreme poverty and hunger, many youth are out of school, forced into child marriage, child labor, and human trafficking. Each week Yoseph draws upon his training from our partner school, Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, to coach small group leaders and gives them tools to serve their communities and be prepared to handle life challenges. He also organizes teams that address spiritual needs of the people they serve. “My ministry is about helping others find hope in Jesus Christ and to passionately pursue the Word of God,” he said.

Although Yoseph’s community faces major challenges with marriage, parenting, and unemployment, his work has begun to have a big impact on the church. First, a new ministry was created which focused on serving impoverished and at-risk teenagers. Then a children’s ministry was restructured to utilize teenage volunteers who are new to the faith, as mentors for youth. The ministry now serves six times the number of children, most of whom come from the homes of non-believers. Yoseph has also developed Bible study materials that are impacting how others are learning about God’s love for them and living in a way that honors Him.

The scholarship assistance Yoseph received has allowed him more time to study and learn the Bible, and has enabled him to think strategically about the most effective ways to have impact for the Lord in his community.

Thank you for your faithful support of our ministry!

Greater Together for His Kingdom!

As a ministry of United World Mission, Overseas Council looks forward to even greater Kingdom impact in 2018!

By teaming up with UWM, OC has gained a significant teammate whose influence has been felt on a global scale. And our mission of equipping Christian Leaders by partnering with vital seminaries worldwide to advance God’s kingdom will have even greater impact, in more than 70 countries!

Planting Seeds of Hope in Guatemala

My wife and I serve more than 300 in our community by working in youth ministry as part of the leadership team. In addition to preaching and leading team meetings, we are also in charge of the marriage ministry. One of the great joys of working in ministry with my wife is that I not only have the opportunity to preach to her and our community during services, but I also get to see my wife work with Sunday school teachers, training them and teaching kids.

We have witnessed how essential it is to share the knowledge acquired at SETECA. Through the classes we have taken, we have been able to more deeply and accurately serve the people of our church who want to learn more about God. More importantly, the knowledge I have acquired at SETECA has helped me in my spiritual life. It is from this growth that I can share the Word with others so they can be spiritually strengthened.

“The scholarship from Overseas Council has turned a great obstacle into a great opportunity to serve in His Kingdom.”

Press Release: OCI and UWM

Merger Brings Leadership Development Organizations Together to Further Serve Global Church

United World Mission to assume leadership of Overseas Council International, uniting formal and non-formal training efforts that help equip thousands.

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Two organizations with a long history of helping grow and strengthen the global church through training and leadership development are joining forces to maximize their impact.

The merger will bring Overseas Council International (OCI,http://overseas.org), based in Indianapolis, under the leadership of United World Mission (UWM, http://uwm.org), headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The two groups have played a largely behind-the-scenes role in equipping thousands of missionaries, pastors, church planters and lay people over the past 70 years. Each emphasizes the development of indigenous leaders for effective ministry in their communities and nations. By uniting they expect to expand their reach and deepen their impact.

Founded in 1946 when a group of Ohio churches united to collaborate for global mission, UWM today has 400 staff serving more than 100 national partners in 48 countries. With an emphasis on non-formal methods, UWM makes ministry training accessible and reproducible to people that are outside the reach of formal efforts.

Established in 1974 by a group of businessmen in Indianapolis to raise funds to support Korean seminary students, OCI—or Overseas Council—today serves 130 partner schools in 70 countries which equip almost 60,000 students annually. Its focus is on formal theological education for Christian leaders who can equip and influence the church.

The combined organization will be headquartered in Charlotte, with OCI functioning under the name Overseas Council (OC), a Ministry of United World Mission.

“This move makes sense at so many levels,” said Dr. John Bernard, president of UWM. “We share many of the same values, even as we carry out ministry in distinct ways. We anticipate synergies that will lead to greater impact in both formal and non-formal ministry training. Beyond economic efficiencies, strategies, and aligned mission statements, we believe this merger enables us to better reflect the unity of Christ’s body on mission together.”

Scott Cunningham, OCI’s interim president and CEO, said that he believed the merger would be a “God-glorifying combination for the expansion of leadership development for the health of the global church, accomplishing more together, by God’s grace, than we ever could separately.”

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About United World Mission

Founded in 1946, United World Mission (UWM, www.uwm.org) exists to develop well-trained, spiritually-formed leaders, and to strengthen and multiply disciple-making churches that proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.  They fulfill this mission by partnering with the church around the world. Currently UWM’s 400 staff serve more than 100 national partners in more than 48 countries. 

About Overseas Council International

Established in 1974 to provide Korean seminary student scholarships, Overseas Council (www.overseas.org) has since grown into the largest leadership development ministry of its kind in the world. Under the banner “Called. Trained. Multiplied,” Overseas Council now “equips Christian leaders by partnering with vital seminaries worldwide to advance God’s kingdom.”

CUTLINE: FUSBC (Biblical Seminary of Colombia) in Medellín, Colombia, is one of the Christian leadership institutions with which Overseas Council (OC) and United World Mission (UWM) have partnered to help raise up and equip indigenous church leaders—work that continues as OC and UWM merge to maximize their efforts.