In one word, here’s how I would summarize my experience with MTM in Mumbai, India: WOW! To bring the practical teachings of the New Testament church into the slum-like living conditions of the Dalit people (the untouchables) of India was a wonderful privilege indeed! Dalits are a mixed population but all taken together, according to the 2011 Census they make up 25% of India’s entire population. So while they are a suppressed group, they are a significant percentage!
Under Bro. Raymond Burkholder’s direction, we connected with a local Indian pastor, Benjamin Wadekar who has oversight of 44 small churches and pastors throughout the state of Maharashtra. Most of the people of this state are Hindu, less than 1% are Christian, and even less than that know what it means to be born again and to live by the teachings of the New Testament.
Benjamin is 42 years old and is following in the footsteps of his father (deceased) and mother (still living). They came to Christ in a miraculous way many years ago and have been persecuted for their faith by their relatives and neighbors ever since.
The full MTM ministry team L-R; Jenise Ropp (IGo student), Kim Good (IGo student), Margaret & Jesse Slabaugh (IGo students), Wendell Hochstedle
Pastor Benjamin has never before partnered with anyone like MTM and he and his fellow pastors soaked up the teaching like a sponge. So much of their vision reminds me of the values we espouse as biblical Mennonites. Things like preferring tent-making pastors in plural ministry instead of living off the people and/or being so position-conscious. Also in seeking out, solid biblical, yet practical training and input rather than pursuing seminary-type of educational experiences.
And while Benjamin is a new contact for Bro. Raymond, Raymond has been blessed by the way in which he has never asked for money in facilitating this conference endeavor. Yet he and his family live very poorly and many of the pastors and churches he oversees live very poorly themselves. They do not own their own homes and in renting they are required by the government to move every eleven months. This makes it very difficult for strong, stable family and church environments to be established. Most know nothing of their own transportation and either walk or need to hire a taxi for longer distances. Benjamin himself sold the small motorcycle he had in order to buy food for the conferences. A couple of his fellow pastors have been able to acquire little tricycle rickshaws which they use for hire to make some money to support themselves.
MTM Taught Three Different Two-Day Conferences At Three Different Locations. This Was The Group At The First Two-day Conference
Bro. Raymond taught from his well-prepared, well-delivered library of PowerPoint presentations! He operates in the sweet spot of his full gifting and connects very well with his audiences! I have come to believe that the Macedonian Teaching Ministry (MTM) is one of the worthiest ministries among third-world cultures today.
An added bonus for these particular conferences in Mumbai was that one of the IGo student ministry teams were also able to partner with us. Six young people, including one young married couple, did excellent ministry with the children of these communities. Bradlyn Wadel was the team leader, Jesse & Margaret Slabaugh, Wendell Hochstedler, Kimberly Good, and Jenise Ropp made up the rest of the team. They also ministered well in the conference context with special four-part harmony singing, and praying over people who came forward for special prayer.
I personally did teaching on marriage and family and used my recently published book, The Way of a Bride with Her Groom, as a bit of a textbook. It was huge surprise to me how voraciously they devoured the input and even more so when the Pastor Benjamin began inquiring about getting the book translated into five of the over fifty languages in India, including Hindi which is the national language.
Thanks to each of you who prayed especially for these Indian conferences and as well, those of you who so generously support MTM financially. Your investments are reaping a bountiful harvest!
Editor’s Note; The above article was written by brother Ernest Witmer who served as a guest teach with MTM for the Mumbai conferences. A very special thank you to brother Ernest for giving of himself in serving the Lord and the dear people of Mumbai. May the Lord reward you openly for your labor of love. Brother Ernest serves as the Pastor of the LA ROAD (Los Angeles Real-life Opportunities And Discipleship church), 230 S. Avenue 55, Los Angeles, CA 90042. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org