Finding Her Identity: Summer Intern Grows in Christ

June 30 2017

"I definitely knew about the Bible, grew up with it, [and] was familiar with it, but it wasn't until the end of high school that my faith became personal."

Sierra Steffen, a senior at Purdue University majoring in organizational leadership, is excited to figure out what it looks like to combine everyday work with personal spiritual growth while serving with the Communications and Marketing Department this summer.

Sierra grew up in a home that put God first, but it took her years to recognize that she wasn't fully putting her identity in Christ.

On the evening of her high school graduation, she found herself looking at her pictures, plaques, and trophies, everything she had put her identity into in high school, and she felt empty. She k new she needed to place her identity into something, or more appropriately someone, who was permanent. She counts herself fortunate that she grew up in a household where she knew that Jesus was the answer. Jesus was who her identity should be founded in, so it was on that night that she gave her life to the Lord.

When she felt God calling her to Purdue, she was surprised because it wasn't the type of school she had previously considered. But, God had a plan that involved getting plugged into a good youth group. She reflects on this calling with a laugh now because it has given her "A lot of opportunities to witness to people on campus."

The first summer after her freshman year, Sierra interned in a big city, and she hoped to do something similar after her sophomore year. She wanted to achieve bigger and better things, but she had to come to terms with the fact that God was calling her home for the summer. "God totally changed my heart about going home for the summer. He led me home and closed some doors to make it very clear that's where he wanted me. Looking back, it's so neat to see that he needed me home that summer."

Knowing that God's will mattered most, she fully relied on him while trying to figure out where to go and what to do for this current summer. "I really prayed that his will would be done, and that I would be where he wanted me." Accepting where that would be was hard, but "He definitely knows what's best, and he led me to One Mission Society."

And, with every creative meeting, deep conversation, and coffee break that makes you hold your stomach with laughter, she is reaffirmed of her decision to serve with OMS.

"You're part of the Great Commission here."

Tags: internship, marketing, summer, oms, spiritual growth, communications intern,

Jesus Brings Healing

October 21 2016

Susheel was trained by Sunil, a fellow Indian church planter. Amazingly, his life in the village early on was characterized by some sort of insanity. As a boy he roamed about the village touching people’s feet with a neem tree twig used as a tooth brush! He failed in school, eventually lost hope and any desire to live. He wanted to hang himself. Upon reading a Christian tract, given by a cousin, God’s truth began to penetrate his heart and mind. This led to a desperate prayer for help from Jesus, which over time, brought him healing from his mental and emotional distress. Later on, his sister in law was delivered from demonization, which also led to a dramatic change in his grandfather who was a witch doctor. When visiting Susheel’s church, I noticed his humble tears of gratitude to the God he now loves and serves. As a Train & Multiply church planter he has a vision to reach 100 villages with the Gospel and is already visiting 60 of them each month! He is training 20 pastoral workers who are helping to bring this goal to reality.

Pray for Susheel and other Indian church planters as they plant new churches and disciple new believers around India.

By OMS missionary Roger Kruse, India field leader

Tags: india, church planting, training, church growth, christians in india, villages,

60-Year-Old Indian Widow Plants Churches

September 15 2016

Prema Alexander was born on January 12, 1956, in Tamil Nadu, South India. She was raised in a strong Christian home, along with five brothers and four sisters of which Prema was the eldest. They were taught God’s Word and to have faith in him from an early age.

In 1976, she married Rev. Alexander. They began the Lord’s ministry in South India with the ECI (Evangelical Church of India). They first planted two churches in local villages.

God blessed their ministry and their family life. He gave them six children, three of whom are married and have started their own families. In 1984, ECI asked them to move to Mumbai city in Maharashtra (West India). They began ministries in several places. God enabled them to establish churches in these places despite many challenges.

In July 1989, they moved to Aurangabad to develop the church ministry there. Ministry began in the village outskirts of various towns. In that time of ministry, many people were delivered from demonic possession in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Others who did not know the name of Jesus Christ believed in the Gospel when they heard it. They were added into the churches, and thus, ministry of the Gospel grew amid the challenges.

In 1997, Prema and her husband established a church in Mukundwadi. ECI purchased the land and built a church building where the Alexanders preached there among the Mang, Chamar, Mahar, Buddhist, Maratha, and other people groups. Many believed in Jesus Christ and were baptized and added to the church.

In 2000, Prema’s beloved husband died of a heart attack. But despite his death, she felt a burden to continue the ministry they had shared of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, making disciples, and planting churches. Prema is grateful for the help and encouragement of the Bishop President Ezra Sargunam and ECI in this time that allowed her to thrive in ministry and complete her two-year theological training degree.

That’s when Prema became a full-time evangelist, walking from village to village to tell people about Jesus. Meanwhile, her children grew up. Her eldest son James completed his studies at Allahabad Bible Seminary and became an ECI pastor. However, he felt a calling to minister to the Hindi-speaking people of North India. In 2009, he joined the Every Community for Christ ministry as the training coordinator for North India and began working with OMS missionaries to train hundreds of church planters. As James flourished in this church-planting ministry, the Lord granted Prema favor, at age 60, to plant 11 churches. ECI appointed her area chair to oversee the churches in the area.

Recently, her son James was appointed as the associate ECC national coordinator for India. Prema shared, “The OMS missionaries trained him and several others to assume full responsibility for training the ECC teams in India, using a method called Train & Multiply. This has been so successful that there were more than 11,000 house churches planted by the end of 2015. When James told me that ECI was planning to train 7,000 people in Train & Multiply in 2016, I realized that God had a bigger plan for my life. Instead of planting one church at a time, God could use me to plant churches that would multiply by the hundreds or even thousands!”

Prema not only attended the ECC training event in June, she also recruited 24 other men and women to join her in Chennai. “My son James and the other trainers prepared us to be God’s choice instruments to build his kingdom in India. We returned to our homes and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, will now do all that he has prepared us to do. To God be the glory!” What an exciting time of church growth in India.

To donate to help accelerate the church growth in India, click here.

Tags: india, church planting, training, church growth, christians in india, jubilee,

How the Church Grows in India

September 7 2016

The story of the church in India begins with the arrival of the Apostle Thomas in the first century. He established a toehold before being martyred. Since then, the church has grown slowly. Only two percent of Indians identified as Christians in 2000. Something needed to change.

In 2010, OMS moved away from the traditional church planting methods of the past and introduced two church multiplication processes: Train & Multiply (T&M) and Village Church Planting (VCP). Both of these resulted in more rapid planting of churches but still depended too much on Western trainers. When the Evangelical Church of India (ECI) leaders asked these OMS trainers in 2014 to train seminary students to use T&M, we said, “No, we won’t train the students, but we will train the Indian coordinators to train the students.”

That training was the turning point. It was practical, fun, and needed no translation. The seminary students responded with enthusiasm and immediately began using T&M in their practical work of planting churches on the weekends in surrounding villages. More trainings followed as the coordinators traveled to various Indian states to train hundreds of ECI pastors, lay leaders, and Indian missionaries. Then Ezra Sargunam, ECI Bishop-President, declared that OMS was to train 7,000 church planters at the denomination’s 60th anniversary Diamond Jubilee celebration in January 2016 in Chennai.

What a challenge! ECI and OMS leaders met in October 2015 to plan this event AND what must follow. They faced many challenges, but everyone was encouraged as the plans took shape:

  • Raise $350,000 to pay for travel and food for 7,000 people.
  • Raise $30,000 to translate 280 pages of material into Indian languages and print 7,500 books.
  • Arrange for a five-acre tent pavilion that would accommodate separate training areas for four language groups.
  • Provide a similar pavilion where participants and their families could sleep.
  • Train approximately 760 small group leaders to lead small groups at the Jubilee training.
  • Organize the feeding of 7,000 and their families.

Nobody had planned, though, for the Chennai flood. Weeks of non-stop rain in December 2015 flooded Chennai and the surrounding areas to such an extent that ECI’s attention was fixed on flood relief. ECI reluctantly postponed this event until June 2016.

That was the bad news. The good news was that the delay allowed the needed time to complete translation and printing of the training books. Although the postponement meant that some people could not attend due to other commitments, penalties for changing train tickets, and extremely hot weather, the trainers and nearly 5,000 participants still persevered and attended the massive training event this past June. James, Amos, Raju, Lawrance John, and Rajan facilitated the training, and the small group leaders trained with passion and excellence.

Now the hard work begins. In order to reach the next goal of 100,000 house churches, all of these leaders will follow up with those who received training. Follow-up meetings began in July to review the plans and action steps of each church planter, schedule regular coaching meetings, and answer questions. In the first meetings, 89 church planters committed to establish 184 new house churches by October. These are exciting times of growth in India!

To donate to help accelerate the church growth in India, click here.

Tags: india, church planting, training, church growth, christians in india, jubilee,

Prison Cell Church Explosion

September 8 2015

by Lois Pannabecker

Prisons in Honduras generally have about 400 inmates. In the prisons where ECC partner ministries have a presence, twenty to forty percent of the inmates are worshiping together in literal “cell” churches. Gary and Diane Barefoot are Church Multiplication Facilitators (CMF) in Honduras. They give us this report on their most recent visit.

Gary states, “I am so excited about what God is doing through the group of volunteers and the faithful Christians in Honduras!”

Attempting to get a good grasp on the current growth in this ministry, I asked a Train & Multiply (T&M) trainer, ”What do you think this program will look like a year from now?” At first I got a confused look, so I said, “How many trainers do you now have?” They answered, “Seventeen.” I followed up, “Then how many do you expect to have in a year?”

At first I was met with another blank look, then Nora spoke up, “In three weeks we will have a total of sixty-three trainers because several training classes will be completed.” “Ok, how many will you have in a year,” I responded? It was then that it really dawned on them that this program is about to explode numerically. They replied, “Well, we could probably have over one hundred!” to which I added, “probably closer to two or three hundred!”

Today, with only seventeen trainers, we have about as many groups studying and each of those has 5-7 trainees. Within the four prisons where our ministry is active, there is a total of two to three hundred individuals worshiping Jesus as a result of the Train & Multiply program.

God is in the process of opening all the prisons in the country, twenty-six of them, to our program. Praise God for open doors and encouraging growth!

Tags: honduras, prison ministry, ecc, growth, train and multiply,