John Wesley was born into an Anglican family in India’s Tamil Nadu State. Called into ministry at a young age, John Wesley graduated from Allahabad Bible Seminary and earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Serampore College. Later ordained by the Methodist Church of India, Rev. Wesley has served with Urban India Ministries, Operation Mobilization, the Evangelical Church of India, and Grace To India. For the last 26 years, Rev. Wesley has served with Indian Evangelical Mission, presently as the General Secretary. He is married to Mercy and has three sons.
Based in Bangalore, the Indian Evangelical Mission (IEM) was established in 1966 as the missions arm of the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Today it has more than 600 indigenous missionaries serving throughout India and in seven other nations. Their vision is “a church among every people group and the Gospel to every person.” They also mobilize Indian Christians to realize their responsibility for world evangelism and to recognize the need for partnership with the global Church in fulfilling the task.
In Ganeshganj village, local people earn money by making bricks. One summer they labored hard for more than a month to make 20,000 bricks. Finally the time came for the bricks to be baked. This is a critical time, as rain during these days can ruin all the bricks. The Hindus performed pujas before baking the bricks. But the believers decided to pray. Soon after, dark clouds gathered in the sky and heavy rain fell. The next day the believers realized that miraculously no rain had fallen within a half kilometer of their bricks. The non-believers were amazed how God had honored the faith of His children. As a result a new worship group was formed in the village.
No other part of the world has as high a concentration of unevangelized people as India. Only about 3-4% of India’s 1.14 billion people claim to be Christian. Most of these believers are from the poorest of the poor and low-caste groups who have little power or influence to reach social groups beyond their own caste.
Though outlawed, the Hindu caste system remains prevalent, even within the Church. Laws countering discrimination against the lower end of the class structure have not changed the reality that the caste system remains an important source of social identification for most Hindus and a potent factor in the political life of the country.
Although 83 percent of the people are Hindu, India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations with more than 150 million adherents. There are also large populations of animistic tribal people.
Since foreign missionaries are not allowed to preach the Gospel in India, it is important that Indian nationals are fully equipped to win souls for Christ and establish churches.
Persecution against Christians is on the increase as never before, especially over the last three years. Hindu militant groups are growing in strength and influencing society with their call for a return to Hinduism. The global economic recession and terrorist attacks have further challenged the Church and general populace in India. Despite these struggles, or perhaps because of them, indigenous church planters are seeing many come to Christ.
Reaching Punjab, IEM
Bathinda is the third largest district in Punjab with a population of about 1.5 million people. Located in the southern part of the state, Bathinda has a wide array of unreached people groups including the Chamar, Jatia Chamar, Raghar, Raigar, Ramdasi, and Ravidasi. There are two major Sikh communities called the Jatsikh (high caste) and Majbirsikh (low caste). This is the least evangelized southern district of Punjab, and it is just 0.6% Christian.
IEM’s ministry in this area began in 2002 and today includes evangelism, counseling, medical care, and children’s ministries, among others. Ten IEM missionaries and a local evangelist are serving in three areas, having planted four worship centers to date.
To continue the growth of the ministry in this area, Partners would like to help fund several key ministry gatherings. These include women’s retreats (60 women) and youth retreats (90 youth) which will provide spiritual nurture and discipleship to new believers. A leadership training program will equip 75 emerging leaders in the principles of biblical leadership. And a three-day children’s camp will bring 200 children together to learn Christian values. Through such events, believers will be encouraged to grow in their faith and to share the Gospel with their own families and neighbors.
Evangelism and Discipleship Training, IEM
The sole aim of IEM is to see spiritually strong and mature churches established among unreached people groups.
IEM’s Missionary Candidates Training Program equips cross-cultural missionaries with the skills needed to learn the language and culture of the target people group, adapt to their lifestyle, and start the ministry of church planting. This course is eleven months long, six months of which are spent in class with the remainder on the field under the supervision of a senior missionary. This training has proven to reduce the period of time normally taken by the workers to adjust to a new place, language, and culture. Thirty missionary candidates will participate this year. Gifts will be used for room and board, travel expenses, and living stipends for the trainees.
Women's Ministry, IEM
With a special burden for women, IEM has declared 2011 their “year of women’s empowerment.” As part of this new effort, they held their first national women’s missionary conference called WISE (Women of Insight for Service and Evangelism) in May 2011 with 250 women from 23 states of India. As an outcome of this conference, beginning in August 2011, IEM will begin a quarterly three-day training program for groups of 25 women leaders from different fields of their mission. Current IEM leaders will work to identify the trainees, hoping to invite six believing women from each people group and equip them as leaders. At the end of one year they hope to have 600 local women leaders identified and trained to be vibrant witnesses in their local community.
Effective training will enhance the ministries of these budding leaders, helping them understand the imperatives of leadership and how they can be used as channels of blessing to unreached women.
MentorLink Seminar, IEM
Partners International knows that the development of first and second-level indigenous ministry partner leaders must take an increasingly higher priority. It is not uncommon for indigenous leaders to receive good theological training in their preparatory years. However, mid-career training upgrades are hard to come by. As a result, these leaders must rely on years-old education while having to deal with ever-changing ministry and world dynamics. For many years, MentorLink International has equipped men and women to increasingly grow into leaders with Christ-like character as well as to engage in long-term self-sustaining leadership development. We have been leveraging their expertise for the benefit of our ministry partners for many years. This year, 35 IEM staff and missionaries from IEM will gather for three days of training in leadership development and mentoring.
Gospel Training, IEM
With so much emphasis today on contextualization, it can sometimes become unclear, even to long-time Christians, what the essential message of the Gospel really is. As cross-cultural evangelists, this question becomes even more important. How can the Gospel be shared cross-culturally without exporting one’s own cultural and personal bias?
Thirty new missionaries recruited by IEM will take part in a course called “What is the Gospel?” This training, led by a cross-cultural missionary with 50 years of ministry experience, goes step by step through basic Christian doctrine about God, missions, stewardship, mercy, and salvation. By the end of the course, leaders can simply and effectively articulate the Gospel, even to those with little or no concept of God. With theological training and the practical advice and mentoring of this veteran trainer, participants become more effective deliverers of the Gospel message.