I write from crowded, sweaty, never-know-what-to-expect-next...India!
Myself, Chad Krittenbrink, and ITMI partner, Paul are here to provide training for over 700 local Indian pastors whose training leaves much to be desired. We are working alongside a team of local Indian pastors who have had the benefits of good training, thanks to Paul and his family’s ministry.
Your prayers for my health are appreciated.
I kicked off the trip with a bout of what doctors tell me was most likely Salmonella, but thanks to some medication from a local clinic, I am almost feeling full strength again! I still don't have much of an appetite, but that is really a good thing. Not to want food is great, but it is totally strange to not be hungry at all.
Now, can I share a story with you?
A Story from Sports Ministry in India
"Anyone here ever ...stolen something?"
I was standing in front of 88 sweaty slum boys in Southern India who are crazy about soccer and participating in a soccer camp. The camp is part of the sports ministry of ITMI’s Paul and Molly and their family.
Although not too many hands went up, I heard lots of uncomfortable giggles and snickers. This confirmed what I already knew to be true about this group of boys, who mostly come from the slums and learn from the streets. "How stupid can this white guy be? I'm not going to incriminate myself," I’m sure each of them thought.
These boys generally have no knowledge of Jesus, but they had just heard some white face (me), with the Spirit doing the communicating and Paul translating into Tamil, tell them the story of Saul from the Bible, and that their sin will destroy them just like Saul's did. They will never, ever know what they could have been, as long as they do life their way. God may have a plan for them that raises them up like the rejected David. I was about to show them how God has written the Ten Commandments on each and every one of our hearts.
I tried a different angle. “If you have stolen something, what does that make you? A thief?” They agreed. “Anyone ever tell a lie?" The boys more readily admitted that one, almost like it’s okay. In fact they were all pretty much laughing about it. I told them it really wasn't too funny. Then I reminded them of what happened to Saul for doing what he wanted and not what God says to do.
I asked them if it would be okay if I lied to them. A unified "NO!"
"Would it be okay if I stole your soccer jerseys?” The jerseys are pretty much priceless to them. An even bigger "NO".
"So, is it okay for YOU to steal and lie ...?" A more subdued, but open "No," was the answer again.
"If I stole all your stuff and totally lied about it...should I be punished in some way?"
“So, do you deserve a punishment for all the sins you have committed in your life?” I brought Xavier, Paul’s brother, up front.
I told them that Xavier was going to sacrificially step in and pay for all my lying and thieving so I wouldn’t be punished. Then I asked them if they would like to have someone come in and rescue them from the punishment or penalty of all their sin.
Using Paul's brother Xavier to demonstrate someone stepping in to rescue.
The dark brown eyes were totally fixed on what was being said.
They did want to have their "stuff" paid for.
They did want to reach their full potential as God has planned for them.
After asking the group to bow their heads, I lead them in a sinner's prayer. Then I asked them to show me, by raising their hands, who prayed that prayer and really meant it from the bottom of their hearts.
Almost the whole group of boys raised their hands. Paul thinks that maybe over 70 boys raised their hands, and raised them without any concern of what the other boys were thinking or doing.
Soccer Outreach Instead of Pastor Training: God is Sovereign
I want to share some more background, because it completely extols God in his sovereignty.
Having me speak to this soccer camp was not part of our original agenda for this trip. One of the main purposes for this trip is pastor and leadership training.
However, God clearly had another plan, and I’m thankful that Paul’s team was sensitive and flexible enough to obey.
The pastors we were supposed to train on Monday called at 7pm on Sunday and cancelled. Apparently there was some scheduling conflict with local politics and they all needed to be somewhere else.
Like I said, in India, you never really know what to expect.
Paul was disappointed, but he and his team hastily got on their phones and sent out the word that there was going to be a soccer camp on Monday. "Invite all your friends!"
Soccer tournaments, games, skits and free food, what more can a slum boy want?
Almost 90 boys showed up. Apparently, my white face and status as a foreigner gives me elevated credibility.
I think my camera helped, along with the fact that I wasn’t displaying the condescending and judgmental attitude they receive from most adults, both white and Indian.
After watching the boys play soccer, eat a free meal and learn “life lessons” that are really truths which they build the gospel on, I got to goof around with them.
They completely ate it up.
I must have taken hundreds of pictures and given many more hi-fives and fist bumps. They couldn’t get enough. I say that to illustrate how starved for affection and attention some of these boys are.
They really enjoyed having me take their picture.
Teaching time at the soccer ministry event.
The soccer ministry leaders are engaged and helpful.
The excited tournament champions.
Paul and the leaders challenged the winning team.
We had a great time with the boys!
Seeds were planted and Jesus was glorified!
As you read, the Holy Spirit blessed, touched hearts, did His work, and let us in on it! It was a pretty awesome day...considering it was a "failure" relative to "our" planning for pastor training.
Pray that all these boys will show up on Sunday to see the slide show of them playing ball.
We will use the pictures as a draw to get them to come to a church that is hated by the Hindus in general. Pray that the fragile seed that was planted today will grow into a champion for Christ.
Thank you, Lord for busting up our schedule in order to make sure that Your will is done.
In His Service,
Summer Kelley is a writer who lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three kids. She has had the privilege of telling ITMI's stories since 2006. She loves to write uplifting stories of God's work overseas, read and learn about the world around her and enjoy her family.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.