Inspiring Real Life Stories Of Global Missions Work.

Tim Lundy
Oct 17, 2021    45m
Join us as we hear inspiring yet, brutally honest, real-life stories of global mission work. Our ministry partners share what our support has meant in the life of the people they are helping through their critical life-saving work. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Narrator: [00:00:03] In India, despite the devastation from the second wave of COVID and ongoing opposition to Christianity in the region, our partners distributed over 20,000 Bibles to students and young adults. Over 700 at-risk men and women graduated from skills training programs, with 89% finding work immediately. Out of that graduating class, 140 accepted Christ, 190 new pastors were trained to start churches throughout India. Through our COVID response funding, over 30,000 people were fed or received medical attention. Construction of a Christian school in southern India was completed and a second story was added to a Christian school in northern India. In total, over 4,000 students are being educated through our partner schools. In northern India, we helped build self-sustaining microenterprise programs. What started with only 11 water buffalo has now grown to feed and financially sustain one hundred and twenty people. Today, we will hear from Saji John, leader of Asha Jyothi Ministries in Hyderabad, India. Asha Jyothi ministries empowers at-risk women and men with employable skills, with many placing their faith in Christ and getting baptized along the way. Please welcome Saji John.

Tim Lundy: [00:01:28] Well, Venture, I want to welcome you, as this week we're going have a little bit different message because we're in a little bit different series. This is Venture Unleashed. This is this time of year where we take a few weeks and we get the opportunity to look at what God's doing around the world, specifically in some of the areas where we have the privilege of partnering.

Tim Lundy: [00:01:49] Now, last week we showed you some of the work that was going on in Mexico through Venture Partners, and also the Middle East. This week, we're looking at two of our longest-standing regions, areas where God is doing unbelievable work and we have unbelievable partners. You just saw the video of the work that's happening in India, and I've just got to tell you, I love seeing how God is moving through our partners in India in very challenging circumstances. One of our strongest partners, Saji John, was scheduled to come fly here and be a part of this. But with COVID restrictions and all that was going on, Saji wasn't able to come and join us and be interviewed here, but we were still able to capture an interview via Zoom. And so I want to show you part of that interview, just because Saji is one of those partners where God's doing some special things in his ministry. Through their ministry there in Hyderabad, that they have over 1500 students who are part of their campus, over two hundred and forty-two of them live there all the time, they've got twelve hundred women who are being trained, they've got seventy-one young women who are being counseled because they're coming out of pretty traumatic situations, and they also have a church planting program.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:04] Saji's one of those guys, and I love him as a businessman who has an eye for not only rescuing, but how do you rebuild? How do you set people up for life, both with the gospel, but also with skills for life? And you can imagine, if you've kept up with the news, the impact COVID has had in India and specifically in their ministry. And so as we welcome Saji, and you see part of this interview, he's going to tell us a little bit about how COVID impacted them.

Saji John: [00:03:36] Hello Venture, I'm glad to be here. This is Saji John from the John Foundation. First of all, I just want to say thank you for your prayers and partnership in the ministry here in India. We are so very grateful for all your prayers and grateful for standing with us for the many, many years.

Saji John: [00:03:55] You asked about COVID, I think the second wave of COVID hit us very, very hard. And it started around April 2021, and we really had a very bad situation. In fact, the situation was so bad we lost hundreds of thousands of people, and the hospital situation became so bad that there were times when there were 18,000 patients in our own state waiting outside the hospital for a bed, and there were many cases where they had to wait three or four days for a hospital bed. And finally, when they got a bed, they didn't have the needed oxygen or ventilators, so we lost thousands of people in not getting a hospital bed or having the facility to have the ventilator. And the other sad thing was when people died, and I have seen this with my own eyes, Hindus usually cremate their dead bodies, and even in the remote area of our cremation ground, there was no place to cremate the dead bodies. And the relatives who brought these dead bodies had to wait eight to 10 hours just to cremate their body, just on the road waiting with the body, and that was the kind of situation.

Saji John: [00:05:20] And the people who were very badly hit were the migrant workers, there were thousands and thousands of migrant workers who lost their jobs because of the lockdown. Most of the companies, and organizations, and businesses, all had to shut down because of the lockdown. And the migrant workers lost work, and these are people who live on daily wages, and when they don't have work for three days or four days, then they don't have anything to eat.

Saji John: [00:05:44] The other group that was hit very badly was the single moms. Single moms who work as daily wage workers or domestic help, when they don't have work for a week or so, then they don't have any money to buy food, and they were really struggling single moms and their children. So the people who were really hit very hard where the migrant workers, and the single moms, and their children. And what we were able to do was, we distributed nearly 12,000 food packets.

Saji John: [00:06:17] And this is where I really want to thank Venture Christian Church for helping us with the food grain packets, and really, this really saved the lives of three thousand families, and we were able to go and give them food grain packets that would last for a week. And so, you really, through your prayer and financial support, you were able to save the lives of 3000 families and we are so grateful to you for that. So that's what basically we did with COVID.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:48] Yeah, we were excited as a church to be able to step in, you know, the COVID relief fund that we established and money that went across the Bay Area, we also sent to international partners. And so when Saji reached out and said, hey, we can, with these food grain packets, literally save lives. We immediately responded and said, yeah, we want to be a part of that. But one of the things I love about Saji is he's always looking at it, not just to rescue, their whole ministries built on how do you rebuild lives? How do you help people that wouldn't have a future otherwise? And so one of the things he said is, they immediately started asking themselves, what are the new opportunities that COVID is opening up? And they were able to add 33 more orphans to their orphanage and add 30 students, they added more women to the skills training program, they sponsored students who wouldn't be able to go to school otherwise. I love the mentality, because you heard how devastating COVID was, but instead of pulling back, they stepped forward.

Tim Lundy: [00:07:52] In fact, I'd encourage you to look into this ministry more, because Saji has done such a great job of helping to rescue some of the most desperate people and be a part of training them and establishing them, all while sharing the Gospel. Listen as he describes some of the categories of women that they're able to help in this program, but also the impact long term.

Saji John: [00:08:19] We have three categories, mainly three categories of people. In that one is, girls rescued from sex trafficking and temple prostitution, we bring them to our campus. The second one is we bring in school dropout girls, that is girls who are studied up to eighth grade, ninth grade, and the parents who are not able to send them further to schooling or college, and they are just sitting at home and very vulnerable to traffickers, we bring them to our campus. And the third main category is single moms, widows who have lost their husbands, and they are not equipped, or they don't have enough education to go and work somewhere, so we bring them also to our campus.

Saji John: [00:09:02] And we have 17 government-recognized skills training programs, that includes computers, spoken English, office management, recently, this year, we introduced three primary teachers training programs, lab technician, and also nursing care assistant, these are all government-recognized courses. Now, if they come from being rescued from sex trafficking and temple prostitution, we take a lot of time in counseling them. And once the counseling sessions are over, of course, it's an ongoing process, then they go through the six months of the training program, and they get both the theoretical and practical experience. And then at the end of their course, for example, last Friday, we had one hundred and ninety-one students graduating.

Saji John: [00:09:51] This was just last Friday, and just before the graduation, we bring in a number of local companies like garment factories, data entry centers, factory owners, and different ones to our campus, and they have an opportunity to interview our girls and give them jobs. And the job interview takes place right on our campus, and so far, our average is about eighty-nine to ninety percent employment. In fact, in 2018, so before the pandemic started, we had 100 percent employment. This is 1,200 students, and one hundred percent employment in 2018. Otherwise, we get an average of eighty-nine percent.

Saji John: [00:10:35] So basically, we are taking girls who were trafficked into the sex trade, or who are vulnerable to traffickers, we are bringing them, providing them skills, and helping them to get a job stand on their own legs so that not only they are self-sustainable, but they can also empower their next generation of children and others. So that's what basically we do.

Saji John: [00:11:00] I mean, just for your encouragement today we had SERUDS, SERUDS is a large children's organization, they just came and signed an MOU with us, they want to send back 60 girls whom they are rescuing for our skills training program. We have IJM, who come to us for skills training. But many large organizations, who are all very good in rescue, but God has blessed us with this skills training program over the last, since 2008, and it has such a reputation in our state and the city today, and everybody is happy to take our girls and give employment, and that's really a blessing for us.

Tim Lundy: [00:11:42] Yeah, I love that. I love the way that, and if you meet Saji, everybody around him will tell you it's such a good businessman. But he also has such a great heart of ministry, and he combines those two in using his entrepreneurial skills and looking at ways to not only rescue these girls out of sex trafficking, and out of temple prostitution, but training them in the skills that are needed in the region. He'll say it, that they don't have a set curriculum, they're always asking the businesses, what do you need? And whatever skills are being hired, whatever jobs are needed, that's what they train them. And you have this unbelievable rate of employment, so that these girls are able to truly leave this life and leave their past behind and be established and be able to help their family as well. Now, you may hear all that and you go, well, I'm hearing all the business out of it, where's the ministry? And let me just tell you, all of this is done because he has a passion to see Christ proclaimed. Listen, as he describes how these young women are exposed to the gospel through this.

Saji John: [00:12:52] What we do is when the girls come to our campus is, we have every day a morning devotion, they join the staff devotion, they go through devotion. We don't force them, because many of them are non-Christians, we tell them, look, it is your choice, you can come and attend. Some of them hesitate in the first two or three weeks, but most of them afterwards, they have no problem because there are so many students in the campus and Bible college students with the counseling, friendship, all of them come to the worship time and the community time, they start coming.

Saji John: [00:13:25] So we start with devotions, and while they are doing the course, we bring in people who have come to know Christ from non-Christian backgrounds, like Muslims, and Hindus, who have come to know Christ, they will share their testimony to these people, so we do that as the next level of sharing the Gospel. And then the Bible college students and the church planters who are in the training program on the campus, they use that as a personal evangelism to these students. I mean, they have their evangelism field right on the campus because when the students are doing their church planting, we have 1,25n non-Christian students on the campus with whom they can practice evangelism, so they do that.

Saji John: [00:14:06] And then one day we show a Christian movie, which is an evangelistic movie. At the end of that movie, we share the Gospel, and we give them an invitation to accept Christ. Now, usually, we get about two hundred and fifty to two hundred and sixty students accepting Christ every year, and we have about sixty-eight to sixty-nine students taking water baptism, and they all become part of the local church. And then at the graduation, we give a Bible as a graduation gift to them. And most of them, I mean, though they may not publicly express it, these two hundred and sixty, what I'm saying are publicly who expressed who have accepted Christ. But for some of them are scared, though they accept him in the heart because of safety and security reasons, they may not be able to publicly say it. Because in India today it is very dangerous, especially if you are coming to know Christ from a non-Christian background, and it is more dangerous if they take water baptism. But we use every opportunity, our goal, our main goal is to make Christ known, so we use every opportunity to share the love of Christ

Tim Lundy: [00:15:18] That is so powerful, and just to give you some concept, this is a region, I mean, with what's happening in India, so many people are having to pull back. And to have a ministry that you're not only rescuing thousands, but you're seeing hundreds and thousands come to Christ through it and experience that kind of life transformation, it really is exciting what God's doing there, it's powerful to see it.

Tim Lundy: [00:15:44] You know, the skills training program is so recognized, Saji has different corporations, he's had different banks come and say, hey, we'll sponsor this skills program. In fact, one bank told him, we'll sponsor it, give you millions, but here's the one thing, you can't talk about Jesus, and you can't talk about the Gospel. And Saji looked at them and smiled and said, I'm sorry, number one priority of this program is to make Christ known. He said, I didn't take their money in order that they could stay true to the ministry that God's called him to.

Tim Lundy: [00:16:21] You know, if you're around him much and you listen to him, any of those who've been able to travel and see it firsthand, there's story after story. We're talking broad numbers, but these are real lives. In fact, I want you to hear from Saji of one of these life stories, and then also some ways that you've been a part, if you're part of Venture, of giving to this ministry.

Saji John: [00:16:46] One of the things is I want to share with you about [inaudible], which is a girl who was brought to us maybe about six months ago, she lost her father to HIV/AIDS. And when her father died of HIV/AIDS, the villagers came to know, finally, that he died of HIV/AIDS, so they chased both her and her mother out of the village. And finally, they ended up on the road, and actually, a Catholic nun saw them, and she brought both of them to us. And we were able to find a job small job for [inaudible] mother, and we took [inaudible] into our campus, she trained with us for six months in the computer MS Office Basic operation. And just last month, she got a job in one of the best medical colleges in Hyderabad, in the reception area, as a data enterer where they enter all the patient's information and all. And she was so joyful, when her father died, when the villagers pushed her out, she was feeling so rejected and had no place to go, basically, they were on the road. We were able to take her, and she came back to our campus just two weeks ago, just crying and thanking us for the way we helped her. And she accepted the Lord, and she's so full of joy and worshipping Christ, and today she goes to a local church. That brings us great joy, that was one thing I wanted to share.

Saji John: [00:18:20] The second thing, I just wanted to thank the Venture Christian Church family. One, I just want to say that their prayer and support has helped, as I mentioned earlier, three thousand families during the shutdown and pandemic. Basically, you saved them from death. I mean, so many people lost life of hunger, this is a real story of India. But thank you Venture family for allowing us to have the food grain packets and to distribute them to those single moms, you saved those lives, and we really want to thank you.

Saji John: [00:18:57] And we distributed those food packets, even in remote village church pastors because most of the remote village pastors survive on the weekly offering, and when the church shut down and the church was locked down, they had no money to survive. I remember walking into a Christian family pastor and his wife and two children, and when I took them the food grain packet, for three days they are not eaten anything, and I just cried. They were sitting in their home because they said, Sir, the church is closed for the last so many weeks and I have no offerings, I have no...And he was saying he was thinking of, I mean, I know it was coming from a pastor, but he said we had no option but to die or to kill ourselves, and you arrived at the right time. And so we want to thank Venture Church for allowing us to do that as well.

Saji John: [00:19:50] Then, thank you for allowing us to rescue, with your funding. we have rescued so many girls. We've specifically have forty-six girls who were rescued from sex trafficking this year with Venture’s funding, so thank you for that. And six hundred and eighty girls were trained in a skills training program with Venture funding, and I want to thank you for that. And forty-three church planters were sent out, and twenty-two thousand Bibles were distributed with your support. And one hundred and twenty students accepted Christ, and four churches were planted this year, and I just want to say thank you. I'm saying these figures just to encourage your heart, I know you contribute this, but you may not see this with your own eyes, but I want to just say thank you, thank you for standing with us, thank you for praying for us. Your sacrifice, your generosity, is really making a difference and we are grateful to you for that. And please accept our gratitude and gratefulness, and we are grateful for your partnership and standing with us.

Tim Lundy: [00:20:58] I don't know about you, when I hear that, it's humbling, it's pretty sobering and humbling. And at the same time, you know, Saji is thanking us, I'm just so thankful for him, I'm thankful for the ministry there. I'm thankful for so many of you who've stepped forward over the years, and you've contributed, and you partnered, and we are able to be a part of literally lives being rescued, and restored, and rebuilt. for churches being planted, for families who were starving to actually have food. I don't know, I'll say it again, it's humbling to be a part of it. And I think that's why it's so important this time of year to just take the time to hear the stories, to connect with our partners, to rub shoulders with them.

Tim Lundy: [00:21:47] God's doing some amazing things in India. I told you last week, we don't have to light the burning bush, God has lit the bush, we just want to come with the resources to pour fuel on the flame. Now, India is one of those key areas, another incredible place where God has moved over the years and Venture has been a key part of it is in Ethiopia. And I want you to see a little bit about what's happening in the country and then also hear from one of our special partners.

Narrator: [00:22:18] In Ethiopia, despite the pandemic, famine, and regional conflict, God has been moving in supernatural ways. Muslim leaders are seeing God through dreams and are being led to faith in Christ through other believers. Last year, our Ethiopian partners reported seeing over 27,000 new believers, almost 2,000 new churches, and the training of nearly 5,000 church leaders. A new well was drilled in the Cocozza district, and we funded a program that rehabilitates over one hundred trafficked women annually, like Fatima, a single mom who was living on the streets but now runs a small business. We also saw many families fed last year as a part of our response to the economic downturn and regional conflict throughout the country. Today, we will hear from our missionary partner. Aychi Beyene, Aychi is the regional director for New Generations, a ministry that works to multiply disciple-making movements in Ethiopia by focusing on obedience-based living and engagement with the Bible. Please welcome Aychi Beyene

Aychi Beyene: [00:23:34] My name is Aychi, I am from Ethiopia. I'm married to [inaudible] a wonderful wife and a gift from God, and also God blessed us with five children. God called me for mission work for the last twenty-six years, and I've been focusing among the [inaudible] people groups in the Horn of Africa. Our call from God is to see the disciple-making movement being ignited, accelerated, and sustained. The country is facing a historic kind of crisis right now, one upon another. But in spite of this, it is amazing for me to see God working through this broken heart, this broken situation that seems impossible.

Aychi Beyene: [00:24:15] Right now in our ministry, this is the season that we have seen an amazing hand of God, especially the last six months that I just witnessed, over 728 churches have been planted, over 8,000 disciples have come to the Lord, and half of them also are from a Muslim background. So God is penetrating the darkness and showing his glory.

Aychi Beyene: [00:24:48] Our people are living, the majority of them, hand-to-mouth kind of like this, so when things are shutting down and everything, movement is limited, there is a lot of economic crises because we don't know how to handle it. As a result, communities become starvation camps, families don't know what they put in the table to their families for the children. I remember in the locust time that's just happening in the eastern part, farmers were disappointed because father farmers were not able to feed their families, next year, there is no food.

Aychi Beyene: [00:25:19] So because of that, we have been praying and reaching to our partner, Venture, Venture has been a right hand to the work of God in Ethiopia. So as a result, with the support that we got, we provide, we got the food, you know, basic food, sanitary materials, and emergency needs that we provide, and we took to over 10000 families. These are communities all over traveling, some of them were not able to get food from one place, but we are just shipping it, transporting it, and bringing to them.

Aychi Beyene: [00:25:52] Most of the places that we were, were places that have been Gospel restricted in a quotation. When we went there, especially one community I remember and they call me, this is the leaders, the spiritual leader of that community said, how come you came? Because we expected our people, which means his religious people from Addis could come and help us, but they didn't. The church, the building that we are worshipping, we damaged it, we persecuted it, no one is there now, why did you come? Because we want you to be removed from our religion, we don't need you anymore, and instead of that, you brought us food, you brought us compassion. And lastly, he said, forgive us for what we have done so far into you. After this, and instead of being you coming, we will be your guards. You can do, you can express your faith as much as you want. You are our brother, we have seen that, if it is needed even to use our mosque, I will allow it. As a result, we got that penetration. We believe that, you know, God loves the lost, and it is his desire to send his people the church to be the hand, the church to be the messenger, the church to deliver the Gospel and the message, and the disciples to be obedient in delivering that message.

Aychi Beyene: [00:27:24] Venture, in partnership with ordinary disciples like us, have done it, have done it in Bale Oromo, now is doing it among the Hararghe Oromo. Really, I just want to say, Venture, thank you for your investment, your investment help produce not just 30 fruits, not just it's just 60 fruits, but a hundredfold, because I am the living witness in that happening. I have spent over twenty-six years of my life in mission, but I have not witnessed to see what God has done the last six years, and I'm grateful that God allowed me and given me this time to see my people being reached by the Gospel. This is happening because of the strategic partnership that we have in Venture.

Aychi Beyene: [00:28:31] One of the encouraging things that we see is people coming to the Lord, that they are determined to follow Jesus Christ in spite of any consequences. This is a young man from a Muslim background in the eastern part of the country, among the Hararghe Oromo people. And these people are 99 percent Muslims, and to be a Hararghe Oromo means to be Muslim, there is no other way.

Aychi Beyene: [00:28:56] First, as we have been doing every time, when we focus in a people group, we mobilize prayer because we believe that prayer is the backbone of this movement, and then we start to look for the person of peace in that area. So this young man, Kadir, was the person that happened to meet one of our strategic coordinators, and he came to the Lord in amazing, miraculous ways. And Kadir started to share with his wife about Jesus, and his wife accepted the Lor. And he started to share with his neighbors. And he was so touched by the love of God, he could not keep it for himself only. So he started to share the good news, and Kadir, very soon after a few months, he became effective. He was able to make disciples and equip other disciples to do the same. The extremist saw these things, because if we are not stopping Kadir, he is going to bring all of them to the faith that is believing. So they are not happy about it.

Aychi Beyene: [00:29:59] One night they got him and gave him a choice, whether he's, he's following Jesus, or is he willing to go back to the previous religion? Kadir was bold and courageous enough to say no, I won't go back, I have accepted Jesus as the Lord and Savior. As a result, they just chopped one of his hands. I was with him, with Kadir, the last time I told him, do you regret your decision? He said, Aychi, I have no regrets because, for Jesus, who has given me his life, and even if they take another part of my hand, I will still follow Jesus. As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a citizen of heaven, the Bible clearly told us that this world is not an asphalt for us, it's not a smooth journey, there will be troubles that come because of our faith. The faith that we have, we have accepted are also, you know, being clearly told us that we are going to face challenges. The challenge may be different, the challenge that we face in Africa may not be happening here, but it's a different challenge. But every follower of Christ is not exempted from trouble, from persecution. In fact, that's where we see the hand of God, that's where we become stronger in our faith. How are we shaping our lives?

Aychi Beyene: [00:31:32] A lot of, you know, one of the benefits that happened a lot the last one year and a half has been believers were able to spend themselves with their family a quality time. I did that with my family, a lot of timing, a lot of fellowship, a lot of prayer, a lot of time that have never, ever spent that much time in my house because I was a bit busy in ministry, but we all got that quality time. But now when things are opening up, are we continuing that lifestyle, that quality lifestyle? So the world will try to distract us, but as Jesus told us, the main thing is to follow Jesus and be the salt in the light of God. So this is a Christian principle, this is a Christian lifestyle, so as a Christian, we need to be ready because persecution is not geographic, it's not a people groups. it's not here and there, as a Christian, that citizenship is a lifestyle that it’s bringing.

Aychi Beyene: [00:32:38] So there is a great promise, I always get excited when I read Matthew 28, where Jesus said, "Go make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you." And after that, he said, "When you do these things, I am with you till the very end." That great promise is with us, that's why sometimes we may be afraid as we share the good news to our neighbors, our families, when we are really stretching our lives to be the salt and the light, there is fear that comes. Sometimes, you know, we're not comfortable to do that. You know what, in spite of those challenges, there is a great promise. Jesus said, "I am with you till the end.", that's a comforting word for me as I do the ministry, that is what really keeping keeps me going as [inaudible].

Aychi Beyene: [00:33:36] The greater vision that really God gave us, myself, my wife, and also the rest of the team, is to see gospel poverty being eradicated in the Horn of Africa, to see Gospel poverty being eradicated in Ethiopia, and we are always asking, what will it take to do that? What will it take to see that? So we always have that three-stage of igniting, accelerating, and sustaining disciple-making movements, in every unreached people group and place.

Aychi Beyene: [00:34:14] In the next year, there is one people group that we just started this year, these people are called the Hararghe Oromo, they are over five million in the eastern part of the country. Mission work has been done for the last 70 to 80 years with very few results that have been. These people are strategic, that can take us also to another people group, even cross-border to Somalia because intermarriage is happening always. We see these people just not only them, but they are the gateway to other people, so we are focusing on that one.

Aychi Beyene: [00:34:53] I'm grateful Venture is partnering with that strategic partnership. we want to see that the disciple-making movement being ignited among that people group, and we see the Gospel movement being accelerated in that people group. We are, right now, you know, starting and putting a foundation on the equipping center in the middle of that people group. We are working as an Access Ministry of Children's Ministry in that people group. The discipleship program is already in momentum in that people group, and we believe God will give us hundredfold results in the coming year. We are already praying, mobilizing prayers, we have 24-hour prayer intercessors for that people group in a close-by city in the eastern part of the country.

Aychi Beyene: [00:35:49] So I'm really grateful and seeing God doing beyond and above what we have planned or imagined. So, I'm really grateful for Venture, and the bigger picture is God using ordinary disciples like us, we see his glory being expanded among many other people groups. We are working out with over twenty-seven people groups in the country, and we have also cross-border into other countries to be able to bring this message of the Gospel to them. So that's our vision and we believe God will do it.

Tim Lundy: [00:36:34] Wow. I don't know about you, but when you hear stories like that, and especially that level of sacrifice and what God's doing through it, I'll just say it again, it's both humbling and sobering. In fact, I told you this week the message is a little bit different, it's not our normal extended message where we look at a passage. If anything, here's what I'd say, we're looking at some living epistles, we're looking at people that they're living out, what does it mean to walk with Christ in this way? That's why I think this time of year is so important for us as a church. I think it is so important for us to see our partners, to see the work that's happening, to see what God's doing around the world, because it changes our perspective. And I think it's important to rub shoulders with some believers who are leading and living and walking like this in these parts of the world.

Tim Lundy: [00:37:28] I'm reminded of how Paul puts it when he talks about his own life. You know, Paul points to his life as kind of a living epistle, not just what he wrote to the churches, but he also points to himself. You know, in First Corinthians, in chapter 4, he says, "I urge you, then, be imitators of me." That's a powerful statement, he's literally saying, if you're trying to figure out what this looks like, imitate me. A little bit later in Chapter 11, he says it again. He says, "Be imitators of me..." And notice, he adds this on, " I am of Christ." He's not saying it's about his life, he's not a narcissist, it's not about Paul. But here's what he is doing, he's saying, look, I am so sold out for Christ, I am so passionately pursuing him, maybe not perfectly, but passionately. And so if you want to know what it looks like, just look at me, and the things you see me doing, you do them too.

Tim Lundy: [00:38:27] And today, I had that same sense as I heard Saji talking about what they're doing there in India, when I heard Aychi talking, about the level of both sacrifice and the amazing ways God's moving in Ethiopia. As I look at these brothers in Christ, and I look at their lives, and we've seen it both weeks so far with our partners all over the world. When I look at several of our missionaries who are home right now, and the level of sacrifice and their passion to take the Gospel across this planet, I mean, for me, it's just a time of year where it gives me some living epistles again and I go, OK, that's what it looks like.

Tim Lundy: [00:39:11] And here's what I'd encourage all of us, I mean as we think about imitating, as we think about learning, as we think about the stories, we hear today...And I'll say this again, I don't want this to be something where we go, oh man, that is awesome what God is doing out there. Remember, part of the focus is what is God doing in here? What's God doing in my heart? What do I need to learn from them? There are two things I would just ask you today to just, we would do well to imitate.

Tim Lundy: [00:39:42] One is, we would do well to imitate their attitude. You notice, you heard, what's going on in Ethiopia, what is going on in India, what's going on in last week in Mexico, I mean, we've got partners who are facing the cartel, people that are losing their lives, people that lose a hand, people that are experiencing persecution. And yet, when you listen to their stories, these are not people with a persecution complex. If anything, over and over again, you know what you hear from them? Yeah, this is hard, but God's in control and he's opening up new doors through this. Guys, I just think we would do well, and I'm just talking for those of us in the states here, I think we would do well to learn from their attitude, to imitate them. It's been a hard couple of years, we're facing things in our culture, we're watching our country become post-Christian. And yet, here's the attitude, guys, yeah, it's hard, but God's in control, and he's going to open up new opportunities for us to be able to be banner carriers, be ones who share Jesus Christ with a world that needs to hear what he's doing. So I just encourage you, I think we would do well to imitate their attitude.

Tim Lundy: [00:41:04] The second thing I'd ask you to imitate, is imitate their action. That's the thing that stood out to me in each of the regions we've heard, in our missionaries, these are people that are doing something, they get in the game, they're involved. They're not waiting for the kingdom of God, they want to actively be a part of those who are bringing the good news of the kingdom of God, and they do something. And I would just encourage you., man, some of you you've heard about this, you've heard about this, you've heard about this, you hear about India, you hear about Ethiopia, you hear what we're doing in Mexico, you hear about the Middle East, you hear about the Bay Area, and it always is this thing that there's an intent in your heart that says, oh man, that's a good thing, I'm glad we're doing that. And yet, you're not in on the action, you've never signed up for a mission trip, you've never served in a project, maybe you've never stepped forward and said, yeah, I want to pledge my resources to be a part. If there's anything that I want to imitate from the partners that we're seeing, these are men and women of action because they actually trust Christ by faith, and so maybe today you need to step out.

Tim Lundy: [00:42:20] There is a number of ways that you can step out in it. One, go online and look at these regions, maybe you want to pick one of them that you go, yeah, I'm really going to start praying, I'm going to find out more about our partners there. As Covid's coming to a better place, we're looking at mission trips again, maybe this is the year that you step out and you go on a short-term trip. You know, in both India and Ethiopia, we have a great child sponsorship program where we're able to sponsor these kids to be able to go to the school. Now one of the ways that God's blessed so much right now, they have the financial resources for the sponsorship program. And so they frankly, this is usually the time of year when we're trying to get people to raise more money, we don't need the money. But here's what we do need, we need prayer partners. Because it's more than just money, it's families who've said, yeah, I want to pray for that child, I want to know about that child, I want to be a part of that child's life. And so if you'd like to be one of those prayer sponsors, I'd encourage you, you can see it online there. Just email them and say, yeah, sign me up. I want to be a part of that too.

Tim Lundy: [00:43:29] The final thing I'd just encourage you, and you're going to hear more about it over the next few weeks. But if you've never stepped forward and been a part of making a faith promise pledge, where you commit your resources over and above what you normally give, man, this is the year to do it. Because these are the stories, these are the lives, these are the people that were sponsoring through it. You literally have the opportunity to see people, their physical lives changed, but more than that their future has changed, and their eternity has changed because people in this church said, yeah, I'll pledge that. I'll, by faith, make a pledge because I want to see my resources be a part of it. Guys, it's good for us to rub shoulders with living epistles. It's good for us to hear from people we need to imitate. And so, I'd just encourage you today, both in attitude and action, let's not just admire these people, let's learn from them and imitate them.

Tim Lundy: [00:44:35] Will you pray with me? Father, I do thank you. I thank you for what you're doing in India; I thank you for what you're doing in Ethiopia; I thank you for the partners that we have all over this planet; I thank you that you give us the privilege of being a part of it. Lord, I pray that we would not just admire, but we would imitate, I pray that you would mobilize us. We don't want to miss out on what you're doing, and we thank you that you've given us the opportunity and the resources to be a part. And so we lift this before you in Christ's name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032