Annual Letter 2020
Missions illustrate the beauty and power of Christian faith. When a Christian can share the Gospel with family and neighbors through thier occupation, the gospel becomes tangible, and the world sees the necessity of Christian missions. This is the early lesson we’ve learned. Now, in the field for two generations, and working with uncompromising American Christian men and women since 1998, this lesson has become more real. If challenges help to appreciate what is truly important, 2020 did a marvelous job at it. Each time a solution in the form of a medical or technological advancement is introduced, we witness that the problems too, advance. You might ask, why, we can't invent a pill that would make man honest, kind, or sincere? Jesus offers that remedy.
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26
The old hymn line "When Jesus comes, the tempter's power's broken" is true and alive today. Even as uncertainty, confusion, and fear took over 2020, God allowed Sanma occupational missions to make inroads to the wretched cellars where sin kept people captives. That’s what missions do. We certainly understand why many people from other faiths are skeptical about missions in general, or even about Christian relief works. Frankly, it’s natural for them view our works as a way to expand the borders of religion or denomination. Sanma missions don't make the missionary an agent of religion. Instead, they adorn them with the beauty of the gospel. Neighbors see it! None is more attractive than a person who’s made free with the Truth of Jesus Christ. Places where we work, lives are dominated by religious customs. Many perceive the gospel a foreign religion, and a threat to traditions. For this reason, many in India don't know what the gospel means.
Timothy’s story - how our well meaning missionary work isolated a man in his own community. Several years ago, when starting a ministry among micro-farmers, we did what we thought would be effective. We met Timothy, a micro-farmer from Kavoor, a village near Sanma office in India. He was one of the very few Christians in his village at that time, and he had a burden for his people to know Savior Jesus. We felt we found the right person and the method to evangelize his neighborhood. Timothy became a "Sanma missionary" with a monthly support, Bibles, megaphone and a moped. We discussed building a church for them as the ministry grows. We thought things were going fine. We were wrong. A few months later, Timothy declined our monthly support and explained to us why. He had sensed what we didn't. Our monthly support to preach to his people had practically isolated him in his own community.
The local missionary now was no longer their neighbor, but an agent that preached to them for a religious work. When viewed a salesman, a resistance was developed towards him. This hurt his work. Timothy tried to work this out with helps for the needy. Those who sought material benefits became his audience. It was not the life-changing Gospel that was spreading, but an undue welfare in the name of missions. This was an eye-opener for us! Timothy’s farm missed a season of crop each year due to lack of water supply. Sanma built a well in his land that brought water for him and for his neighbors. Availability of water made their farming more productive. As he worked with his neighbor farmers, Timothy shared his testimony - a story that was re-written by the truth of the gospel. Timothy was raised in an orphanage. Not because he was an orphan, but because he was born at the "wrong time" according to the astrologer. Astrology dictates Indian lives, regardless of your education or financial status. Timothy's parents were poor, but they could raise their children on their own.
When the astrologer predicted misfortune will follow Timothy, and thus the family, even village, his parents had to put him in an orphanage. An adult and married man now, Timothy found reasons to believe that bad fortune was after him. The young couple endured three miscarriages. Not finding answers to life's questions, Timothy contemplated suicide. During this time, he attended a meeting at Sanma and accepted the Savior. God had plans for him... "plans for good." Jeremiah 29:11 Timothy and his wife became parents of three healthy children - two girls and a boy. God intended for Timothy to be a father, a productive farmer and a contributing citizen. The village had to witness the effect of the Gospel in their neighbor's life- a re-written life story. The man's farming and association with fellow farmers became his ministry. During the next nine years of his ministry, Timothy would start four congregations where people worship the living God. Sanma's part in this mission was to help some of his people with tools to earn more from their occupation. God blessed their livelihoods, and the congregations constructed church buildings on their own.
What God wanted for the community was not a seasoned preacher, but a farmer that preached less with words and more with actions. If there's one lesson we’ve learned about missionary work after 22 years, it’s that scaling the presentation of the gospel through predesigned methods can diminish the power and beauty thereof, because repentance is an individual level work of the Holy Spirit, not of the eloquence of words, or "effectiveness" of any method. The scent of Christian faith is inlaid in occupational missions. When permeated through transformed lives, the irresistible fragrance of the gospel disarms every resistance, connecting thirsty souls to the Water of Life, Jesus Christ. Occupational missions take "the church" to the world as people become letters of Christ. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, these missions lift up the Son of Man in the spiritual wilderness of Indian subcontinent and Africa. Lives bitten by sin look up to the Savior.
We've been asked, how we choose a missionary or a project. When we look for a missionary, or a project, we seek one that doesn’t need to make an effort to stay in the shadow of the Cross. We look for one to whom it is natural. If a person or a program must constantly wield in order to make the gospel known, than it would themselves, mission becomes a struggle, and brought less joy. Sometimes our "missionary" is a person that would witness Jesus as the blind He healed. The once blind, but now seeing says;
"...one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." John 9:25.
Another element of our "criteria" looked for people or projects that have direct, tangible interest in the target audience. Oftentimes missionaries are appointed to places and projects based on similar backgrounds, or experience. This is a well meant, yet surface level approach. We have learnt that, a vested interest between the missionary and the audience surpasses many other credentials, or experience. Lastly, we sought programs and missionaries that are independent in nature that they can work well with other Christians. Evangelistic missions can never be successful if denominational differences deter working with another Christian. When the Savior Christ is lifted, ALL are attracted to Him. When you work in places where religious liberty is partial, and resources limited, you don’t have a lot of choices. Then you learn that, the choices themselves were making you less efficient.
Today, people that support Sanma come from a class that deliver nothing short of exceptional value in their own works, and accept only the same in return. Many people ask why Christians do missions. We"re the only faith group that invites others into ours. Churches everywhere welcome all people. Missions illustrate the beauty and strength of Christian faith. They solve problems of the world more effectively than any other. Christians do mission because we are commanded to do so. A mission-less Christian has no future. May you become a mission yourself. When you fund an occupational mission, you allow the world to see a letter of Christ. May the world see in you too, the beauty of a person who's made free with the gospel. None is more attractive! If you were to ask me what's next... We do not know what the future holds. And frankly, we do not want to know, because God knows. After my death, or the death of those who now work at Sanma, if it the Lord’s will to continue the work, He will raise up the right people for it.
We're not sure if we should, as in the corporate world, create long term plans about how God will do His work. If we can keep a pure heart, and stay faithful to do what He assigned with us at this time, I would consider it a great honor. We do not want to hope that we could formulate some kind of norms about doing missions, or to create any module for such. The gospel will go forward. God may have it continue in the "traditional" ways, or through entirely different methods. That is a choice God makes as to how He gets His message across.
To God be the glory! He ordered this work, and He has been faithful. I dedicate our work to Him. Such a gracious Lord, He gives us credit for the work that He helped us to do. I write this letter with a grateful heart to the people that pray for, and selflessly support this work. Yes, it is a class of its own, a world class human beings, flawless channels of God. There are many worthy places you could give to, and to pray for. But God laid it on your heart, and you simply obeyed Him with your resources. He is delighted in you, we know. If our work made any worthwhile progress, it is a tribute to your faithfulness to God, and your ability to trust Him. I am grateful for the chance to learn from you.
"...And they that turn many to righteousness [shine] as the stars for ever and ever." Daniel 12:3.
Your gifts turn people to the righteousness of God, Savior Jesus Christ. May you shine! We also want to thank our partners on the field, beautiful people who reflect the light and love of Jesus through what they do. We draw inspiration from your courage to display Jesus, and to take risk.
Finally, there is one person in particular who kept coming up as I reflect on the last 22 years, and that’s Pastor K. J. George, my dad. "Why don't you preach about our Krishna god?" a man interrupted him while preaching on a street corner. "Because, Krishna has never told me to..., Jesus did." Dad replied. He enjoyed witnessing his Savior everywhere, and especially where people are hostile towards the gospel. Though never much involved directly, dad's insights, ways of connecting with people on a personal level with the gospel, courage, amazing ability to forgive etc. continue to inspire the works that we do at Sanma.
Respectfully, in Christ,