Real Living Sacrifices

Curt Vernon and kids in an indian village (photo by  dei gratia photography

Living Hope Theological College and Jaya Nursing School are situated in the middle of a small South Indian village in Tamil Nadu, which is a painful overnight bus ride away from the state's capital of Chennai. It is one of the last places you would expect to see God foster a great movement of His Spirit - about as unassuming as Bethlehem. But it's just like God to give birth to the most glorious in the least likely of places. (An improbable God is much more fun to follow than a deity small enough for us to understand.)

The community may not have earned recognition on most local maps, but a man named Rev. Dr. R.C. Ghunakumar has established the village as a place that is a substantial cause for concern to the kingdom of darkness. For instance, from this town of less than 2,000, he now runs the largest VBS in the entire nation of India, with over 5,000 kids converging on the Bible college's campus every May.

I had been friends with pastor Ghuna for a few years when I finally got to visit and see the work firsthand. I had met this contagious man of God on his trips to the United States when he would come and spend time on his knees in prayer with a small group of young people who met weekly in my parents' living room. He told us about his work with children, his orphanage, a sewing school that provided income for women who had little financial hope otherwise, the Bible college, the nursing school, and his work with VBS. But what I found out in the second week of my visit was that he had failed to mention he had been responsible for planting and supporting over 1,000 churches representing 320 pastors.

After seeing the ministry up close, one thing became clear: if you give a dollar to Ghuna's ministry, it may be the most productive dollar you give all year. That may sound exaggerated, but I say this from the perspective of a careful and cautious giver. There are a thousand fantastic and worthy places for us to send money in this day and age, and I have no intention of taking away from any other ministries. But we often don't have because we don't ask, so I would like to ask on behalf of a ministry that by God's grace has been able to do incredible work with very limited funds.

If you're looking for a place to give responsibly to a ministry that will steward resources toward fulfilling the Great Commission, I can assure you that every dollar you give to Ghuna's ministries will be used wisely and faithfully.

Let me close this appeal with a story that beautifully displays the fruit of what's taking place in the backwoods of south India. I was visiting the Bible College students' dorm rooms last month, and I was amazed at how small they are!  Each room houses only 3 metal bunk beds and whatever the students needed to live (usually enough to fill a backpack). My spoiled, self-indulgent American eyes saw three things immediately: insufficient space, a terrible shortage of general comforts, and the lack of air conditioning. But I could not overlook the clear display of contentment in each of the students' faces! They were as enthusiastic about showing off their dorm as any American student would be at an elite liberal arts university.

But then I glanced down and noticed something that has driven my heart resolutely toward Jesus ever since. I saw a single mat placed on the floor, so I asked the young man next to me why this mat was in the middle of the room. If my spoiled, high-maintenance version of Christianity was not clear before this, it was about to be.

The mat could have been no thicker than a quarter of an inch, but it turned out to be the closest thing to a mattress that this young man had. I asked him why he hadn't put it up on the bunk bed that had been provided for him, and he proceeded to tell me the story of his past five years in ministry.

After earning an MBA, he and some friends began getting jobs in major north Indian cities. The northern part of the nation is notoriously hostile towards the Gospel, so it is safest and most effective to build relationships and earn trust before sharing Christ with people. They would pray for their coworkers and do the best they could to display His love, and God was always faithful to provide opportunities for them to share. They would especially look for opportunities for God to display His miraculous power, like the example of one man's supernatural healing from kidney failure as he sat on his deathbed. That man and his whole family came to Jesus! This student and his friends would lead coworkers to Christ, disciple them, plant a small house church, and, once they felt they could sustain themselves, the band of marketplace missionaries would move to another city to repeat the process.

I was amazed by the young man's excitement about missions, but I still hadn't figured out why his mat was laying on the floor. He informed me that one of the best ways to show his coworkers the difference Jesus makes in a person's life is to give money away freely. India prides itself on being a developing nation, and the modern urban Indian worker is doing all they can to amass wealth. This young man and his friends would live as simply as possible to have resources to give away. Because of this simplistic lifestyle, they taught themselves to sleep on thin mats on the floor. This way more people could stay in one apartment, and they would have more resources available to give. I was struck deeply by this man's sacrificial heart, but I told him I thought he could at least sleep a bit more comfortably for the few years he was in Bible college! He told me, "My back will not get spoiled while I'm here to learn Scripture; my back will always be prepared for the difficulties of missionary life."

That is the fruit of Ghuna Kumar's ministries: passionate, sacrificial love for Jesus. These amazing brothers and sisters have proven that they will gladly give up anything to take Jesus to their nation, but the Father has given us the honor and privilege of playing an equally vital role. We get to give the resources that will equip and bless these missionaries in India, and, as a result, we will bless those without Christ as well. I am trusting that you are someone who, not only desires to be a financial blessing to a faithful ministry, but would be offended to find out I didn't ask. So, in an effort not to rob you of the opportunity to make heaven a more crowded place, I extend an invitation. Pray, and as you pray, ask God to bless you with permission to give. I've heard it said, "Find where God is already working and join Him there." He is working through Ghuna Kumar. Join Him.