Each of these precious men is a pastor of at least 2 to 3 house churches within their various communities. The persecution is so fierce that they would never be allowed to build a church structure of any type. So the born again believers meet and worship in various houses. These dear pastors exhibited such a tremendous appetitive for these teachings on evangelism from God’s word. Only 3, out of the 150, have had any Bible College training. The rest of them were laymen who had been converted and later called to preach. The only training that they would have received would be training from their pastor. Consequently, they were extremely grateful that someone would travel from the other side of the world and teach this most vital subject of biblical evangelism.
During the lunch break on the 2nd day of the conference, I experienced one of the most humbling and self- abasing events in my 39 years of walking with the Lord. I had been teaching all day, (which is almost an 11 hours difference from the U.S.). Of course, as always, my feet were fiercely burning from the peripheral neuropathy that I have been afflicted with for 16 years. But for some reason, the pain has increased in intensity lately; and this week was especially difficult, so I was preaching barefooted. However, I was the only person in the room who was aware of the reason for which I had taken off my sandals.
Up on the conclusion of the morning sessions, I stood at the exit door to greet all of these precious brothers. Out of the 150 pastors, only 3 of them spoke any English. So as they would exit the teaching room, I would stand by the door and shake their hands and give them a smile. But on this particular lunch break, these dear pastors, being overwhelmed with gratitude for the teaching of God’s Word, began (one by one) bowing to the ground and would kiss my filthy, burning and swollen feet!!!! Bimal told me that many of them were quoting, “How beautiful are the feet of them who bring Good News.” Of course, my eyes filled with tears, for I was overwhelmed by their humble hearts of gratitude to God for the teaching of His Word.
Oh, there are so many testimonies that I could give to you, of how the Spirit of God worked so mightily in our midst. But let me share the words of Pastor Bimal Jena, as he shared a few of his thoughts concerning the conference, “ Dear Bro. Ed! It was indeed a blessed time to serve the Lord alongside you in the ‘Christ-centered Evangelism’ Conference in the Odisha state of India. It was a great joy to see you face to face, after about 3 years of email communications. The Lord answered our persevering prayers, in granting the Odisha pastors this tremendous opportunity to be a part of this very meaningful conference. We all praise God for your life, as well as, the teachings that you prepared for the ‘Kingdom building’ in the state of Odisha. I also want to thank God personally, for I too was extremely blessed by the teachings. My thinking has been radically and gloriously changed, concerning God’s way of evangelism. As I was interacting with the pastors, during the evenings of the conference, I realized that all of these precious pastors have been greatly blessed by these biblical teachings. These teachings were very powerful and uniquely scriptural. Furthermore, the workbook format was so very helpful to all of us.
The awesome truths of ‘Christ-centered Evangelism’ have shifted us from the ‘so-called’ traditional ways of evangelism to a far more ‘biblically-based evangelism’; both in the methods that we must employ and the message that we must proclaim! Bro. Ed, you had previously informed all of us that the first two days of teaching would produce many questions to our minds; but, that the last two days would give us all of the answers from the Word of God! You were absolutely correct! We have clearly understood how to do ‘God’s work; God’s way; for God’s glory!'
Most of these Baptist pastors minister in various villages throughout the state of Odisha. They are all pastoring at least 2 to 3 house churches. Very few have somewhat larger congregations, because of the terrible persecution in this state! Oh, but I am so encouraged to inform you that all of them will now have the privilege to use the teaching materials, in their ministries. Bro. Ed, I also want to state that, “I praise God that, in spite of your many health challenges; you served us so joyfully and enthusiastically. The Lord also enabled me and gave me the strength to serve Him alongside with you, in the translation of your teaching. We do pray for you, your health and the God-given ministry that you are doing in many parts of the world. May the Lord open the door for you to serve Him again in the Odia and Hindi regions of India in the coming days. On behalf of your entire Odisha team of pastors, I want to give our thanks for your love, your labor and your concern for us. Please pray that we will be able to multiply all of these teachings into the lives of many others. Yours in His mission - Bimal Jena.”
To understand more fully of these pastors’ hunger for the Word of God, I will give you a little glimpse into the daily schedule for the conference. I would teach all day, with a short break for lunch. Then afterward, I would return to my room to prepare and pray toward the next day. Meanwhile, after their evening meal, the other men would gather again and Bimal would go over all the teaching of the day. But they joyfully and intently sat through all the training, because of their yearning to learn more about the Word of God.