ITMI Monthly: Walk us through the different aspects of your ministry in India?
Paul: I am called to be a church planter, so there is a mother church and two daughters, a sports ministry, tutor centers, pastor training/discipleship for local pastors, and of course, our girls.
Describe life for the people of your church.
We meet (and most live) in the slum, an area full of refugees. The older generation isn't educated, but the younger one is. The church body is made up mostly of first generation Christians.
Many are secret Christians whose husbands are non-believers, often drunk and abusive. Our church members are good prayer warriors. They are uneducated, poor and as lower caste members they don't have the idea that they can accomplish things. They just ask Him to work - and He does.
I consistently preach about what Christ’s family looks like. We provide opportunities to live that out in six cell groups and three services on Sunday. We also fast together, pray together, and learn together in Bible studies.
The room where we meet is open 24/7 and someone is always there praying.
ITMI's Steve Evers is leading Paul's church in prayer.
How does discipleship happen in your sports ministry?
Invitation time at Sports Ministry event.
In a nutshell, our sports ministry has 14 centers/cell groups in different slums.
Each one reaches about 25-30 teens, so the ministry overall reaches about 350 players a week. They have weekly morning or evening soccer coaching sessions and a weekly Bible study. Each cell is coached by 2-3 shepherd/evangelists who receive weekly training. Some live far away and have day jobs, others live right in the community. The sessions are open to all who want to come.
The cell groups’ best players feed into two major competitive teams, but we also have mini-tournaments between the cell groups followed by a teaching time.
Every six months there is a camp that attracts about 70 players. From the teaching times, the interactions with the coaches and the Bible studies, they hear they are valued and unique bearers of God’s image, and that Jesus broke the caste system.
Some go to the next level of being a disciple and even become coaches.
Paul and one of his disciples, who now leads in the Sports Ministry.
Are there recent developments/fruit from the pastor training Steve and Chad did last fall?
Pastors call every week asking for follow up. But we have a full plate and we just can’t handle it. But it is so crucial and needs to be done. There are lots of opportunities still there.
We need more workers to be able to follow up with them.
Paul training pastors in India.
Pastor Training Conference participants were eager and grateful.
Worship at the pastor's training conference.
Tell us about the tutoring centers.
There are six tutoring centers. The locations are believers’ homes, our church building and we rent space for two of the centers.
The kids that come are orphans, from single parent families, some have abusive parents or parents that don't value education or help with it - maybe they are too busy drinking or watching TV to provide environment for learning at home.
Many live in one room homes where the TV is on too loud to study. Each session starts with prayer and the Gospel is shared. The kids can join a weekly Bible study if they want.
Students working at one of the tutoring centers.
For awhile, we couldn’t pay our tutors, so we shut the ministry down, but the kids came to us and said, “This is so helpful, our lives have been changed.”
They offered to give what pocket change they had to keep the centers open, so the teachers are basically working for far less than a fair amount because they are compassionate and love the kids.
To pay them a fair salary, we should be paying them each $80/month, which would be $400/month total, but right now we have $250/month available for the teachers’ salaries.
We want them to be equipped to lead and they need education to do it. What kind of leaders will they be? Our goal is that they’ll be gospel driven, Christ-like leaders.
How are the girls?
Paul with his 19 Ashraya Daughters
When I think about today, I am happy, but when I think about their whole life, I am scared. I'm a church planter - I never thought I would have this many children. I am not a softy. I am a "hard" person, but the girls changed my life. They soften my heart. But God cares about them even more than me and Molly.
Since they are all about the same age, they all hit school age at once and we were scrambling, but God provided a really good school and a good price; they even got uniforms, books and bags with the deal.
But the school is 45 minutes away, and we don’t have a vehicle that can fit them all in one trip. The best thing would be to buy a van that holds them all, but until we can do that we had to hire a couple vehicles to take them to school and that made our monthly expenses shoot up.
What are your greatest funding needs right now?
We would need $24,000 for a large van for transporting the girls that I mentioned before, but the most immediate and important need to us right now is the girls’ monthly expenses, which totals $2700 a month.
Someone has been generously covering our monthly expenses for the girls, but that will run out in a month or so. It’s common when you have a building project - all eyes are on the building and people forget about the monthly expenses.
What’s the status on the building for the girls?
We are still fundraising for the girls’ building. We need $500,000 which takes care of everything: water supply, paperwork, workers, housing for watchmen, wall, landscaping, finished and furnished. We are at about $170,000 so far.
As we concluded the interview, Paul expressed a deep and heartfelt thanks for ITMI supporters and their sacrifice.
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.