Jacob Isaac speaks to the India Mission Summit
Eric Miller, longtime friend, media whiz and Bible study leader... in a playful moment!!
Sometimes the world can seem overwhelmingly large, especially in a place like India, As a foreigner, with no ability in any of the hundreds of local languages, it is easy to feel very tiny indeed.
But then, in a instant, the world can feel surprisingly and intimately interconnected.
That's what happened as I talked with Jacob Isaac last week. Jacob had just delivered a terrific message to the delegates at the India Mission Summit, in Kohima, Nagaland, North East India. Jacob is a very engaging and dynamic speaker, and a passionate advocate for youth ministry.
Jacob talked about the importance of hanging out with youth (on their terms, on their turf). He also shared some of the many creative things he does to engage youth and young adults. One brief example he mentioned was a retreat when he led Manuscript Bible Study with teenagers.
Say wha...? Did this Indian champion of youth ministry just say "Manuscript Bible Study"? In that moment I knew I would have a follow-up conversation with Jacob!
I first encountered Manuscript Bible Study as a college student in 1972, through the ministry of Ron Kernaghan, who was serving with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It revolutionized my way of reading and understanding Scripture. A couple of years later, I had the chance to go further with Manuscript Bible Study, under the teaching of Ron's mentor, Paul Byer, at Fuller Seminary. It has been central to my practice of faith and ministry ever since.
So, more than intrigued, I asked Jacob how he got introduced to Manuscript Bible Study. When he mentioned Indian InterVarsity, I told him I suspected we had a number of mutual friendsl, and began with one I knew had done some work in India, Eric Miller.
"Eric Miller? He changed my life!"
Jacob had been a singer and a media whiz. When Eric came to India as a media consultant to India's InterVarsity affiliate (UESI), Jacob quickly joined Eric's team, to learn all he could learn.
"I was fascinated by media and amazed by Eric's creative talent. But as I worked with him, I saw that his real passion was the Word. The point of everything we did together with media was to communicate the Word of God. Watching Eric at work changed my focus. It changed my life!"
It was wonderful to hear Jacob's testimony to God at work through my longtime friend and colleague! It was wonderful, also, to hear him share how something deeply important to me has also been life-changing for him.
Jacob's story is special to me, because of my relationship with Eric. But it is also typical of my experience throughout this visit to India.
These have been days packed with testimonies to the amazing variety of ways God's grace ripples through the human family. The Abrahamic model--blessed, to be a blessing; chosen, to be a channel--has been at the heart of the stories I have heard. From the legacy of pioneering missionaries and their courageous indigenous co-workers, to the impact of living saints, including my friend Eric, the people I have met and the stories I have heard over the last few days have been an incredible kaleidoscope of what Peter calls "the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). "Manifold" (pluriform, multi-colored), indeed!
Two days ago, I listened to the great-granddaughter of the Ao Naga man who opened his home to the first American Baptist missionary to live in his village (E. W. Clark, Molungkimong, 1876). She, and most Nagas describe the transformation in their lives with the phrase, "from darkness to light." God worked through Clark's Assamese assistant, Godhula, through Clark himself, and through so many others. The Naga peoples of North East India would be the first to say that much transformation remains to be accomplished in their personal and community lives. But they know they have been changed for good, and are eager to be used by God for the blessing of others.
Listening to Jacob Isaac last week, to many Naga brothers and sisters this week, I have been reminded that, even as we remain very much works-in-progress, the sovereign Lord is pleased to make us channels of blessing to others. I am grateful for these many and wonderful reminders!
Today, may the Lord both touch your life with grace, and use you to grace the lives of those around you!