Thursday, 9 February 2017
Writer Bruce Greig, Australian Committee
Having the Global Gathering in India where less than 3% of the population are Christians was a bold move. The venue was to have been Delhi but bureaucratic government regulations and the increased costs were beyond the finances of the local churches, so the venue was changed to Damoh late in September 2016. Damoh is the heart of the early American missionary work established over 125 years ago and the location of Central India Christian Mission (CICM). There is a Bible college, schools, a children’s home, a hospital, and training centre for nurses. Our President Dr Ajai Lall and his team worked tirelessly to transform the campus of CICM into a welcoming place for 3500 visitors from 29 countries and 21 Indian States. There were 26 Australians representing each state. Each group was welcomed with great ceremony—the red carpet, a floral lei presented by Indian girls in colourful saris, and a band. The hospitality of the Indian Christians was overwhelming from the welcome, the warmth of friendship, the accommodation, and all meals for the 3500 people.
The Gathering began on Thursday evening on January 12 when a guard of honour of smiling, sari-clad students threw flower petals in our path as we entered the enormous marquee that seated all 3500. The parade of banners representing the 29 countries and 21 India states was accompanied by the song ‘He reigns’.
After being welcomed by Dr Lall, the students of the Nursing School of CICM performed a traditional welcome dance. The singing was loud and with a Bollywood beat. The theme of the Gathering was ‘God Breaks Down Walls to Build Bridges’. Speakers included men and women from New Zealand, Brazil, Poland, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland, and USA. Workshop and groups were also part of the program. A J Lal challenged us to break down the walls between the head and heart, between faith and action, and between traditionalism and truth—allowing Jesus to lead us into a revolution that takes us beyond borders to tear down walls of guilt, shame, and failure. Oscar Muria of Nigeria used the image of a jigsaw puzzle from 1 Corinthians 12 on gifts and unity— just as puzzle pieces are different to make the picture, so God has given gifts to each part of the Church. This forces us to work together to be the beautiful picture God wants. He applied this to local, national, continental, and worldwide expressions of Church. Leroy Lawson of the USA suggested that God translates his love into body language. If the Gospel is the bridge, God has done his part. Jesus did his part so now we have to do our part—we are the ramp to the bridge and need to love with the love of God.
We heard testimonies of persecuted Christians in India that touched our hearts. One woman watched as extremists killed her father and mother and her husband, and then raped her. She now ministers to children. A man told of being beaten unconscious as he was taking his wife to hospital only to wake and find she had been murdered. He now ministers to one of the fastest growing congregations in India with around 1500 attending services. One man who once persecuted Christians became one himself and is now a church planter in North India. These stories of such deep and powerful faith moved many of us to tears.
To quote Gary Holloway, “This Gathering was an historic in many ways. It was the first in Asia. Those from outside of India were amazed at quality of the preparations made for them: meals where Christ was shared among nations, the smiles, handshakes and photo sessions with our Indian brothers and sisters, the encouraging words in music and sermons, and the clear call to break down walls and build bridges.” This Gathering was without a doubt a turning point in making it a truly Global Gathering of the Churches of Christ (Campbell Stone Movement). Plan NOW for Easter 2019 for the next Gathering in Swaziland. It will be another exciting and blessed event you won’t want to miss. Interested? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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