Thursday, January 23, 2020

Change in Plans...

Unfortunately, upon arrival at the airport in Chennai a couple of days ago, my ten-year Visa was revoked and I was denied entrance to India. After several hours of being detained by India immigration I was deported on the first flight out at 3am and then spent several hours in Sri Lanka trying to locate my baggage and arranging flights home. I'm now safely in London waiting for a flight to Dallas and then home. If all goes as planned, I should be home late Thursday night. 

So briefly, here's what happened. When I handed my passport to the immigration officer at the airport in Chennai, he scanned it, looked at his computer screen, and immediately began jotting down notes. He didn't ask me any questions, he simply asked me to wait there as he took my passport and his notes and walked over to the main immigration office. A few minutes later he and another officer escorted me to the immigration office. They began to ask me questions, to which I gave the typical vague answers. They then called the head immigration office in New Delhi for more information about my visa. A seemingly higher-ranking officer then came over and began a much more specific and pointed line of questioning. From the more specific questions I was asked, it appears that a report must have been filed concerning my last visit to India. During that visit a Police Intelligence officer came to my hotel and questioned me and the pastor I was working with about our activities. The immigration officers in Chennai knew the name of the pastor, the city where I had been questioned, and the acronym of the church body I had been working with. The immigration officers made another phone call, conferenced a bit among themselves, and then informed me that my visa had been revoked, I was denied entrance in to India, and I was being deported immediately. They wouldn't give me any reasons or details. I asked for a photocopy of the documents they had printed out so I could take them to the embassy in the U.S. but they refused to answer any of my questions. They simply told me that I was being deported and I was not to return to India again unless the Indian embassy in the U.S. issued me a new visa. They refused to give me any other information. 

All in all, I'm no worse for the wear, just a bit tired and very frustrated and disappointed that I wasn't able to return to India to proclaim the Good News among my brothers and sisters in Christ and to those who are trapped in the darkness of unbelief in India. I'm also very sad and discouraged that I may never be able to return to India to see and work with my dear brothers and sisters in Christ again. I've been traveling to and working in India on an almost annual basis since 1997. I remember the first time I went to India thinking it was a once in a lifetime thing. And now, having lost count of how many visits I've made, it's hard to accept that I might never be able to set foot in India again. I do hope, and pray, and plan, that the Lord will provide a new visa that will allow me to return at some point. And thankfully, like all things in life, we'll leave this in the hands of our gracious Lord and Savior, knowing and trusting by faith, that His ways and thoughts and love and plans are, much higher than mine!

Pastor David R. was able to get in and is safe as he is now busy carrying out the visiting, teaching, and preaching schedule we had planned. He'll need to scramble a bit to come up with more lessons to teach because he will now need to fill my teaching time slots. So he'll have double duty for the next few weeks. Of course, the Lord will provide! I'm confident that our Savior will keep him safe and bless the truths of His saving word that Pastor David will proclaim. Please pray for Pastor David and his work among the pastors and leaders in India and at the Joint Asia Pastoral Conferencenext week!

Please pray for all Christians in India and especially for all the unbelievers as the Pro-Hindu Nationalist majority (BJP) government continues to pass and further enforce laws intended to eliminate the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! 

It is so good to know by faith, that Jehovah, the one true God, is ultimately in charge of all of this and His love for us is great...great enough to lay down His life for all sinners, that we might have forgiveness, salvation, and an eternal home in Heaven!

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:31–32 

There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

Monday, January 20, 2020

Off the Beaten Path in Bangladesh...

Yesterday (20 JAN) was our last full day in Bangladesh. It's been a whirlwind of activity since our arrival six days ago. We had a full day of doctrinal discussions with Pastor Monotosh on the day after our arrival. That evening we were privileged to preach and teach at a local preaching station in Dhaka. Early the next morning we hit the road in a rented van to travel to south-western districts of Bangladesh where most of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission Congregations are located. For the next few days, we were up early and on the road. The congregations are not that far apart from each other, but the roads and paths and trails here in the rural areas do not make for fast travel.

The first congregation and tutoring center that we visited yesterday was well off the beaten path. At least it was off of our definition of a well-beaten path. I suspect the folks that live there wouldn't agree with our assessment since to them this is just home. And what a beautiful place to call home. From the fields and fields of canola blooms to the wide variety of palm trees separated by brick laid paths built on top of levies dividing the low-land water-ways and farmland, there is endless beauty to take in. But the most thing to see in this land that is said to be 95% Muslim and 4% Hindu is the smiling faces of men, women, and children who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior who gather to hear learn more of the truths of God's saving word from the pastor, evangelists, and deacons of the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission. 

What a privilege to be one of the vessels that God has chosen to bring His word to these people on these particular days. It's a bit overwhelming at times.

In about an hour we'll head to the airport for the flights that will take us to India. We'll fly from Dhaka to Colombo, Sri Lanka and then to Chennai, India. We'll be in India for the next three weeks working with the CLCI and the BELC and attending and teaching at the Joint Asia Pastoral Conference in Vijaywada. 

Please enjoy just a few pictures of the time that Pastor Dave Reim and I have spent here in Bangladesh working with and among the sheep of God's BLCM flock.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Sent to Bangladesh & India

It's time to hit the road again. Tomorrow (14 JAN) late-afternoon I will meet Pastor David Reim at the airport in Chicago where we'll board the first of several flights over the next four weeks. We'll fly from Chicago to Istanbul and then to Dhaka, Bangladesh. After a week or so in Bangladesh, we'll fly to India where we'll have the opportunity to work with the pastors and leaders of the BELC, attend the Joint Asia Pastoral Conference, and then spend our last week in India working with the CLCI. 

While in Bangladesh we will spend time visiting with Pastor Monotosh Banarjee and a few of the congregations and preaching stations that he serves. But the main purpose of our visit is to conduct a colloquy with Pastor Banarjee and the BLCM. The word colloquy is defined as a "formal conversation." When used in the context of the church, it takes on a more specific meaning. It's basically a conversation to compare doctrine to see if we share the prerequisite unity of doctrine to establish a God-pleasing fellowship. Pastor Banarjee has been in contact with representatives of the CLC for nearly four years. In the beginning, several emails were exchanged to determine the nature of the contact and to discuss expectations and just to get to know each other's intentions. These first several emails revealed that Pastor Monotosh had a strong confessional Lutheran background. He had been trained by other conservative Lutherans but had become frustrated when the training suddenly stopped and no further instruction was given. When he contacted the CLC he was eager to receive more Bible training. He had read through much of the materials from the CLC that he had found online and was convinced that the CLC was a true teaching church body that was committed to on-going pastoral training in many places around the world. It was at this time that I began Online Theological Studies with Pastor Banarjee. He has completed several courses. We began with a course titled "An Introduction to Lutheranism and the CLC" that is based on the CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose. This study revealed that Pastor Monotosh and the CLC already had much in common. After a couple more years of Online courses, a visit was conducted with myself and the Board of Missions chairman, Joel Krafft. That visit took place last year. You can read the blog post from that visit here:

That first visit went very well and correspondence continued. President Eichstadt asked that colloquy be scheduled. And so, Pastor Reim and I have been sent to Bangladesh. If all goes well with the "formal conversation about doctrine" we expect to make a recommendation to President Eichstadt to formally declare fellowship with Pastor Banarjee and the BLCM to the 2020 CLC Convention in June. 

From Bangladesh, we will travel to India. The biennial Joint Asia Pastoral Conference is scheduled for 28-30 January. This conference, sponsored by the CLC and funded through the CLC Mission Development Fund takes place every-other-year with attendees coming from the CLCI and BELC in India, the HCLC-Nepal, the NLC-Myanmar, and the CLC-Myanmar. This year Pastor Banarjee from Bangladesh will also attend. We will hear encouraging essays from several pastors and reports on the work of each church body. We will also gather for worship and encouragement through the Gospel in word and sacrament. 

While we are in India we will also spend a week with the BELC before the JAPC and a week with the CLCI after the conference. During the time with the CLCI and BELC we will be teaching pastoral training seminars and preaching and teaching at several congregations and preaching stations. 

Please keep us in your prayers asking the Lord to bless us with safe and uneventful travels, that He will clear our way through immigration in both Bangladesh and India, and that He will grant us the wisdom, patience, love, and zeal for the work before us. Pray also for our wives and families back home. And pray for those we are going to work with and those we go to teach that they too will be blessed with all that is needed both as hearers and learners of God's saving word. 

Prayer List - January 2020

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you...
2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)

1.    Bangladesh An official colloquy with Pastor Monotosh Banarjee and the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission (BLCM) is scheduled for mid-January. Pastor Monotosh has been in contact with the CLC for nearly four years and has successfully completed several Online Theological Courses. Missionary Ohlmann and Bd of Missions Chairman, Joel Krafft visited the BLCM in February of 2019. President Eichstadt has appointed Pastor David Reim of the CLC Board of Doctrine to represent the CLC in this colloquy. Pastor Reim will accompany Missionary Ohlmann on a visit to Bangladesh for this purpose. They will be leaving for Bangladesh on January 13th. Pray that the Lord will bless this important next step toward establishing a God-pleasing fellowship based upon a unity of faith and doctrine.

2.    Asia – The Joint Asia Pastoral Conference (JAPC) – is a conference for CLC affiliated pastors throughout Asia. It is sponsored by the CLC Board of Missions and funded through the CLC Mission Development Fund. This conference is held every other year in India from January 28-30. Missionary Ohlmann and Pastor David Reim are planning to attend after visiting Bangladesh. As the Lord wills, pastors from India, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh will be in attendance. Pray that the Lord will bless this effort to encourage and build up the leaders of these church bodies through the essays and Bible studies that will be delivered. Pray also that He will bless and provide for all that is necessary tor such a conference to take place.

3.    D.R. Congo – Seven men have completed four years of theological training and are now ready to graduate and be ordained as pastors in the Congregation Confessionnelle Lutheranienne Du Congo (CCLC). Graduation and ordination services are planned for March. Give thanks to the Lord for providing for the training these men have received through the support of CLC Project Kinship. Ask the Lord to continue to bless their labors that many may be led to repent of their sins and to rejoice in the salvation that Jesus won for all people on the cross.  

4.    Nepal – There are sixteen men who are nearing graduation from the Himalayan Bible Institute. They are scheduled to graduate and be ordained in April of 2020. Missionary Ohlmann is making plans to be in Nepal to attend the service. Pray that the Lord will bless their last few months of formal training and give thanks to the Lord that these men have dedicated themselves to preaching and teaching the truth of His saving word.

5.    Tanzania – The second year of classes is set to begin again at the Wartburg Lutheran Seminary of the CLC-Tanzania in late January. There are six students enrolled and the CLC Project Kinship has arranged sponsorship for each student. Pray that the Lord will bless these men and their families with everything needed as they spend their time preparing to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word. Pray also for the teachers and staff that the Lord will continue to give them the wisdom, strength, and guidance needed for the work they have been given.