Please pray for our journey through India! Our flight from Chicago to Delhi leaves in a few hours.
We have spent several good weeks in the US, connecting with family and old friends while still teaching multiple courses in Malaysia and India from the east coast. We are grateful for this time, and now we are eager for our time in India. My (Rich’s) connection to India began with a chance to teach the gospel of Mark in an inductive study for church planters there 13 years ago. Since then, at various times I have had to say no to invitations to return, due to the cost of the travel in time and money. So, when the pandemic forced even rural pastors to master the rudiments of Zoom, I was able to say yes to multiple opportunities to train leaders in several cities. A desire has grown to meet in person these vibrant, faithful leaders when the pandemic had receded enough for it to be safe to travel there.
Lisa has prepared four workshops for pastors and seminary students on: narrative preaching, thriving in ministry, bringing ourselves to our sermons, and ending sermons with impact. She also has written a more formal lecture for the faculty of the two seminaries we will visit, on the nature of hope and how to preach hope in difficult environments today. We will both preach several times, and she has chosen to preach on the woman who anointed Jesus with nard (possibly from India…), breaking her precious alabaster jar in a beautiful act of grateful devotion.
Our preparation has also included the lighter project of watching several Bollywood movies, some of which tell the story of India under the British Raj and some dig into modern India’s treatment of women, religious worldviews, etc. Our top recommendation is Padman, which tells the inspiring true story of the brave and persistent entrepreneur, Arunachalam Muruganantham.
As we have prepared for our trip, I have been thinking about Jesus’ words to his disciples when he sent them out in Mark 6:7-13. He sent them out with relatively little, including no extra money. We are bringing a little money to support the ministries we are coming alongside of, and we have more than one tunic apiece, though we are traveling much lighter than the last time we left the US. But we are going in faith, to teach and to pray for people. We expect to learn a great deal, to be challenged but find strength both in our hosts and in God. We desire to see and honor people, to enjoy meals in their homes, to attend to them even when they speak to us at times in languages we cannot understand, while we wait patiently for translation. Our time will not be our own, and we will seldom control what we eat. We will depend on God and his people, our brothers and sisters, people who are or will become dear to us. Finally, Jesus sent out the apostles with partners, two-by-two. We are grateful that God has sent us to India with our partner and best friend. We help, or cheer, or crack each other up daily, and together we rely on God.
A fairly ambitious itinerary has emerged, with visits to 8 cities in 7 states over seven weeks. So, we ask your prayers for health and stamina, patience and good humor between us, and God-given connections across linguistic and cultural barriers that will allow for rich fellowship and mutual encouragement.
At the end of our time in India, we will head to Malaysia, where we plan to teach in two of the schools we serve there. We are quite confident we can get a 90-or even 120-day tourist visa for this, and fairly hopeful that a long-term visa will be granted to us by early 2023.
As always, we are so grateful for your friendship and support on this journey. We would love to hear from you! Hit reply and share how we can be praying for you.
We’re grateful as always for your gifts and prayers that make our ministry possible.
With love, Lisa and Rich
Below Photo by Evgeny Nelmin on Unsplash, though cropped inartfully by me.
[This is a review of our last two years and our decision to move to Malaysia.]
Background: In 2019, after our kids were married and supporting themselves, we realized that we did not need the six figures of income we were together earning, but could take our teaching ministry to Asia by raising a (much smaller) income and living simply.
How did we decide on Asia? When I was 24 years old, just having gotten back from Urbana 84, sharing in a small group, I was answering the question, "Why aren't you planning to be an overseas missionary?" My response at the time was "I want to be in student ministry in the US when I am young, because in student ministry youth and energy is valued. When I get older I want to go to Asia, where age and wisdom are valued." It wasn't a cop out at the time--I had taken a seminary course on the church in China and had long thought about ministry in Asia, but it didn't seem to be the right time. Three years ago, when we began looking for places to go, our son was living in Hong Kong, and our daughter had just moved to Durham NC, where her husband was in school at Duke. No one lived in California, or seemed likely to do again soon. So we explored theological teaching opportunities in Asia. Lisa went to the Asian Theological Association in Singapore in 2019, where she kept meeting Malaysians, often people who had studied at Fuller Seminary and knew people she knew. Several of them suggested that Malaysia would be an easy place in Asia to come, where the teaching language is English and she could be effective right away. By early 2020, she had an invitation to join the faculty of St. Paul's Theological College. LIsa had been teaching preaching courses at Fuller since she completed her PhD in 2008, including lots of teaching in an on-line format. So when COVID delayed our entry into Malaysia, we both started receiving invitations to teach courses.
What is your vision? The vision that unites our work, Lisa's theology and homiletics teaching and my Bible studies on leadership and discipleship, is bringing leadership development and resources to emerging leaders in Asia, where the church is growing and in need of more leaders, but especially where the number of resources falls behind the need and the opportunity. Malaysia is a key place because it has populations of both ethnic Chinese believers and ethnic Indian believers, and the church is young and growing there. We are resourcing people who want to grow in their faith and who, in the course of their theological education, are given a vision for and a calling to ministry, whether in the workplace or in the church. We also have a vision, for example, to serve rural church planters who wouldn't have funds to pay for seminary in Singapore or even Malaysia or Bangalore, but could go to a Bible college in the state of Tamil Nadu where they receive three years of training even if they haven't completed a high school diploma. These are the kinds of students being touched by our ministry.
Lisa has been invited to join the community of scholars who are helping to prepare a group of Malaysian PhD candidates for theological education. She has done this as well for India and Nepal, helping to read dissertations, serve on doctoral committees, etc. I don't have the formal theological education, but I will be beginning a DMin degree in Penang, Malaysia, taking courses led by Asian faculty, focusing on ministry development in Asia. My dissertation research will focus on the challenges of bringing inductive teaching in an Asian (Chinese and Indian) church context. This I feel will both be fueled by my own experience but will help to sharpen and extend it.
How has the pandemic affected your ministry? While doors were closing to in-person ministry in Malaysia, they were opening up via technology, through Zoom teaching on-line. In the past two years Lisa and I have taught more than 20 courses at seminaries and Bible colleges in Malaysia (3), the Philippines (1), Nepal (2), India (3), Sri Lanka (1). Beyond that, I have begun teaching non-formal classes to church planters and leaders in India, with my partners translating my teaching into Hindi, Oriya, Tamil and Urdu. I have developed leadership Bible studies called Sketches of Leadership. Now there are about 150 different Sketches of Leadership, including many that have been translated into these different languages. I use these Sketches in my formal classes and in the non-formal trainings, and am currently on pace to teach between 500 and 600 Bible studies per year (10-15 per week), usually though not always one of these Sketches. The sketches are translated so that the leaders I am training can turn around and use them with the people they are training, and that is starting to happen. One of the purposes of our trip to India this summer is to extend that ministry and to deepen its impact.
Rich and Lisa Lamb