After six days of travel, I found myself sitting in a hotel room feverishly studying my Bible. I wanted to get an “up close” look at the lives of 20 missionaries ICC supports in India, so I paired up with a missionary named Mangaldan who was willing to take me out for a day to what he called his “field.”
HOW TO BUILD A CHURCH ON WHEELS
To say that Pastor Mangaldan is dedicated to his field is an understatement; every week, he consistently visits five different villages, conducting 13 different fellowships with over 150 congregants in total. He knows them all by name, and faithfully prays for them. In a given week, Pastor Mangaldan will travel 250-300 miles on his motorcycle, bouncing from fellowship to home visit throughout the day (a pretty unique way to build a Church).
As we ate dinner, Mangaldan causally told me I would be leading every fellowship meeting the next day.
I had no idea what I would share! Mangaldan spends so much time, energy, and resources to build a Church spiritually in his community, one in which he can relate to the persecution believers face, and I as an outsider, could not. Growing up in the U.S., I had no personal experience I could use to relate with the fellowships. When I confessed to Mangaldan that I didn’t know what to say to these people, he assured me the Spirit would lead me to the right message.
After 15 minutes of randomly flipping through my Bible, I got down on my knees and prayed, asking God to give me the right message to encourage the people I would be meeting. I didn’t know it at that moment, but God was about to use me in a way I had never experienced before.
After a cup of tea and a quick prayer the next morning, Mangaldan rolled out his motorcycle, handed me the only helmet available and invited me to jump on for a day of building God’s Church via wheels.
As we drove, the road became progressively less road-like, yet I felt a sense of peace come over me. As I reflected on Mangaldan’s suggestion of relying on the Spirit, I suddenly had a moment of clarity and discovered a message I believed would be both powerful and relevant. It wasn’t an intense “road to Damascus moment,” but, without a doubt, I felt the Spirit’s presence as Mangaldan and I bounced along on his motorcycle.
HOW TO BUILD A CHURCH ON WHEELS
The first fellowship was in a small village surrounded by rice fields. After a brief introduction to the fellowship, I opened my Bible to I Cor. 12:12 and shared the message the Spirit had put on my heart. In the passage, Paul explains that the Church is a single body in Christ. I explained how this truth continues to be true for the Church today, emphasizing that we are a single global body, adopted as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called not just to build a church, but to collectively be the Church.
As I spoke, I could see this message was powerful for many fellowship members. Being from the Dalit or “untouchable” caste of Indian society, the fact that the Bible assigned these Christians the same status as any other Christian in the Church was incredibly uplifting.
The Power of Spirit-Led Prayer
After speaking, fellowship members began forming a line in front of me. Mangaldan explained they were lining up for me to pray over them, one-by-one. The “laying of hands” is not something I am very experienced with, so I said another prayer for God’s guidance and began praying over people.
Again, God answered my prayer. As I prayed over every fellowship member, I felt the presence of the Spirit. The last person to ask for prayer was a man named Santu. According to the fellowship, Santu was depressed and hadn’t spoken in over a year. They wanted me to pray over Santu and ask for God’s healing.
I laid my hand on the young man’s shoulder and began praying for the Spirit to fill him and break him out of his depression. When I concluded “in Jesus’ name,” I felt Santu go rigid and begin falling over. Mangaldan and I lowered Santu onto the floor where he began to shake violently. Momentarily stepping into my Western worldview of facts and reasoning, I started to fear Santu was having a grand mal seizure.
Looking to the fellowship for assistance, I saw that all of the members had gathered around and were saying, “Praise the Lord!” Before I ran out of the house searching for help, Santu stopped shaking, stood up and started talking. I was left speechless.
I am beginning to understand this is how encountering the Spirit should be. Being from a culture of science and reason, my mind naturally searches for “real world” explanations. I am realizing “real world” explanations really aren’t important when God and the Spirit act in our lives. Looking back, I am just happy God allowed me to encounter the Spirit that day in India, and to play a part in the Father’s mission to build a Church with his persecuted people.
BY WILLIAM STARK