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I'm going to share an update from our missionaries in Rameswaram, India called Body of Christ Ministries that is going to really bless you. It's long, so I'm going to divide it into two posts, today and tomorrow. I do hope you take the time to read - it could change your life and your walk with your Savior. This is Body of Christ Ministries and we have personally known and supported them for many years. I quote a woman who has recently been there working with this ministry:

I am living in a world where simplicity seems to be daily redefined. As my personal exposure to poverty increases, simplicity’s definition is whittled away at—continually transforming into a new perspective of what it means to have little—or nothing—in terms of worldly possessions.

Recently, I encountered two men (and their families) who live a simple Kingdom life—simple in its barest form. Having no true possessions, they, like the Levites mentioned in Deuteronomy 10, keep “the Lord himself as their special possession.” Their stories have revolutionized my thoughts on Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

There seems to be a direct correlation with the limitation of possessions and increased, keen awareness and hunger for the Living God. A certain liberation comes with the release of belongings—a liberation that leaves a new sensitivity for encountering God. I was struck as I read the story of Jacob wrestling with God this morning in Genesis 32. Just before his encounter, “Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two servant wives, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok River with them. After taking them to the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone…” God showed up when Jacob was completely alone. Not only away from the presence of people and family—away from all his possessions. All his stuff. Everything that represented his power and success. Everything he had accumulated to build a name for himself. God wasn’t interested in meeting with Jacob’s possessions; He was interested in meeting with Jacob.

Shanmugam and Joshua—two men I was recently introduced to—are men that have little to nothing. Nothing but the transforming presence of God working amidst their daily lives. They are men that have met with God—encountered Him in their humblest of states, leaving them—and their life purposes— forever changed. Though their stories could fill endless pages, for the sake of brevity, I will attempt to capture only the highlights.

Shanmugam and Joshua have a lot in common. They both have experienced transformation in the highest sense. Shanmugam used to be a violent gang leader, known by locals as “Tobacco Man” for the fifty packs of tobacco he chewed daily. Joshua is an ex-terrorist. After taking the lives of many, he spent several years in prison. Both men had encounters with Jesus—and both men are entirely changed.

Shanmugam’s story begins with the prayers of his mother-in-law, Elisabeth. I had the pleasure of meeting her at his home last week. Under five feet tall and dressed in a sun-bleached sari, she embodied this simplicity I keep speaking of—but she clothed herself with limitless love, wisdom and an evident gentleness and grace.

After decades of Elisabeth’s faithful prayers, Shanmugam finally surrendered his life to Jesus. A few weeks after his baptism, he ran into one of his previous gang members who had also become a believer. His friend rejoiced over seeing his transformation, telling him that every other member of their previous gang was in prison or dead.

With an obviously roughened face and a physically intimidating build, everything about Shanmugam’s presence speaks toughness—yet his heart is incredibly soft and his spirit is malleable. He has only been following Jesus for three years, but already he is pastoring a church of several hundred believers—150 of which he has baptized. God has used Shanmugam powerfully in his community—he has seen God physically heal many people through his prayers, and a thirty-year old man was even raised from the dead (stories that are not uncommon amongst believers in India).

Previously a bus driver and shopkeeper, skilled at swindling—Shanmugam is now serving the Lord in full-time ministry with little to claim as his own. His family of four lives in a hovel of a home. Only ten feet by twelve feet, with a thatched grass roof, it has been impossible to keep water from flooding their limited floor space during the present rainy season. Last week I stood with Shanmugan in his home—lit only with dim candlelight due to their absence of electricity. Ankle deep in water, I gazed around the miniscule space—clothing hanging from the thatched walls to keep from being soaked. There was no room for a bed. Shanmugam and his family literally sleep in the water. As he and his wife prayed aloud, there was no hint of insecurity. Their voices rang with a deep security and trust in their great provider—God himself. With thankfulness that night, they fed us a dinner of mutton—food that was beyond their ability to afford. I sat there with a full belly, being treated like a queen by a family that didn’t even have a dry floor to sleep on.

Before I left Shanmugam’s village, we met in their local church for a pastor’s meeting. The church—and the exterior church kitchen—were also completely flooded. As women prepared rice over an open fire with smiling faces, they were shoveling buckets of muddied water from the kitchen floor. Just before the service was over, Shanmugam, his wife, and their church body stood on stage and sang a worship song in Tamil. With a handful of drums, two tambourines, and strong voices raised, they sang with the deepest sincerity and thankfulness. I’ve rarely heard such beautiful singing. Songs praising their Creator--the One whom everything belongs to and everything comes from. Their most “special possession”.

That ends today's half of the update. If you wish to be part of this great work of God in a Hindu nation, click here and contribute what you are able. I do hope you support them with your prayers as a minimum.

I will continue this tomorrow.

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