Brothers and Sisters, 

A seemingly small thing like a virus has shifted the world. We have all experienced the consequences in our lives in one way or the other. For some of us in America, if not most, it is merely the inconvenience of wearing a mask. For those in nations such as India, the consequences are far greater, and far more dangerous. In the nation of India, some locations are experiencing a government mandated “Triple Lockdown”. This lockdown closes nearly all businesses, prohibits public transportation, and restricts the movement of citizens by police force. 

Due to these governmental measures, it is estimated by some that the poverty rate in India may double due to the financial strain caused by COVID related governmental decisions. It was estimated in April that the number of those in poverty could climb to as high as 623 million people in India. To give some perspective, the population of the entire United States is 328 million. And as we know, with poverty comes suffering. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to care about suffering, both suffering now and suffering throughout eternity. I am reminded of the words in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” With these circumstances we have an opportunity to display a pure and true religion to those in affliction; a Christ centered religion that does not only involve the academic, but a religion that also involves action. 

Since the beginning of COVID-19, Epaphroditus has been in regular communication with Babu Samuel and Grace Christian Ministries (GCM) and he is humbly asking for a special love offering from all his current and past partners to assist the Church in India during these times of affliction. 

We ask that you prayerfully consider a one-time gift to GCM to assist them in this unique time of “Triple Lockdown.” In addition, we ask that you consider a regular and monthly gift to GCM for ongoing ministry needs. If you would like to financially assist, you can give online or by mailing a check to Epaphroditus, 830 Nixon St., Cascade IA, 52033. 

Lastly, above financial giving, we ask for your ongoing prayer for the Church in India. Pray that through this time of suffering, the gospel goes forward and brings about repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. 

In Christ, 

Phil Parsons
President of Epaphroditus

My oldest daughter, Alex, is currently playing basketball for Pekin Middle School. As a father who enjoyed basketball as a kid, it is simultaneously fun and frustrating to watch. It takes a great deal of self-control not to make a fool out of myself while watching and “encouraging” my daughter. My wife may argue that I fail at this more than I succeed.

One aspect of basketball that can be frustrating for parents, and coaches alike, is the absence of total commitment. Too often you see players merely go through the motions. To correct this halfhearted behavior, a coach my yell “Leave it all on the Court!” The idea behind this phrase is that players should not hold anything back. They should use all their heart, mind, and strength to win the game; being willing to sprint back on defense, dive on the floor for loose balls, and mix it up in the paint…blood, sweat, and tears.

The reason behind this reckless behavior is the desire to accomplish the primary goal, to win the game. Interestingly, being a Christian is not terribly different.  

When Christ came in the flesh, he came for one purpose, to save sinners. He didn’t come to go through motions. He didn’t come to build wealth. He didn’t come to climb the corporate ladder. He didn’t come to create a Pinterest life. Jesus took on flesh, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross to achieve the goal of seeking and saving the lost. As disciples of Christ, our purpose is not different. You can see this in the calling of the first disciples.  In Luke 5:4-11 we read these words:

“[W]hen he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

In verse 10 we see Jesus tell his disciples that they will be catching men.  This was their new purpose as followers of Jesus, to look out upon the sea of faces in this world and throw out the net of the gospel and draw men to Jesus. Peter, James, and John are the first Christians, and in their calling, we are given the first example of what it means to follow Christ, to partner with Him to seek and save the lost.

But how do we do this? It begins with a commitment to leave everything on the court. Notice verse 11, “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Let that sink in…they left everything…everything; their boat, their source of income, their dreams, and even their dad. At this moment they were giving it their all, literally.  

Now…it is time for some self-evaluation. How do you stack up? Do you view yourself as a Christian, as a disciple, as a follower of Christ? Has Jesus called you to be catchers of men? Have you accepted that call? Have you committed yourself to the primary mission of seeking and saving the lost? Have you given it your all? Have you left it all on the Court? Or are you going through the motions?

Remember, when Christ calls you, it is not into passivity, but activity, and it is an activity of total abandonment. Later in the Gospel of Luke Jesus says these words, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).

Christ calls us to leave it all on the court, to give everything we have, blood, sweat, and tears to the God glorifying, eternal, gospel centered mission of saving sinners.

Your tax-deductible year-end gift to Epaphroditus will help spread the Gospel in the nation of India. Epaphroditus is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that supports Gospel ministry in India through our Indian partner organization Grace Christian Ministries. Help us spread the good news of Jesus Christ in India today!

Did you know you can also have a portion of your Amazon shopping go to help Epaphroditus? Just go to AmazonSmile and select Epaphroditus as your AmazonSmile organization.

We appreciate your help in spreading the Gospel. Merry Christmas and God bless!

I wanted to post a quick note letting people know about what happened this morning in the hotel. We usually go down to the lobby to read the Hindi Express each morning. Were not sure if it has any real truth puplished in it at all. A couple of days ago there was a picture of a man just before a lion attacked him in town.

Anyway, as we were waiting this moring we heard the sound of American English being spoken. This got our attention quickly. We had not met one white person in Punalur or Patthanapurum since we have been here and neither had I in the three weeks I was here in 2007. It just doesn’t happen.

So obviously we checked out who it was. He was just as surprised to meet us. In fact He had been coming to Punalur each year for the last 26 and said we where the first he had met. He and his wife are from Massachusetts and they come each year to support another Christian orphanage near Punalur. They told us about their church back home and how Christ has worked through their mission work to do good things. They also told us about some of the same struggles their orphanage is having that Babu’s is. In fact, they are in a very Muslim area and are regularly subject to physical abuse as they come and go from the orphanage site.

I just can’t get beyond how it seems God’s sovereignty is bringing about a healing for India. This explains the increased persecution and restrictions for His church here. It only makes sense that the darkness would be pushing back when it is threatened. If the Holy Spirit weren’t working here, there would be no reason for the evil one to address it.

It was very encouraging to visit with them and share our passion for the Gospel. They talked about how 3 or 4 churches in their area back home got together to share in this mission. It sounds like such a great way to bond believers from different faith families and to make a community impact for mission work.

It’s hard not to start thinking about and planning our next trip here. It would be so wonderful to come again next year to see the new Pathanapurum church and to introduce more people to our friends in India!
If while reading this, you are feeling some interest in joining a team to visit here, then don’t let that feeling subside. Tell someone about your interest. God will make it work out.
On another note. I can’t tell you how encouraging it has been for Phil and I to read your blog comments and receive your emails. It sounds like what is happening at home is just as exciting or more than what is going on here. It gives us peace to here your praying. It gives us hope to hear of your faith. It gives us joy to hear about your sanctification. It gives us great joy to hear about your unity. It gives us a little sadness because we miss you all, our Faith family.

We can’t wait to see you all.

Javan

Last night we discovered that our hotel is right next to one of the Hindu god’s shrine. Thousands of lost souls were making a pilgrimage to the shrine. It was sad. They appeared to be very poor. We were told that most of them were seeking blessings from this false hill god. Most of them walk for miles and sleep on the ground. Very sad.

Stuff like this makes our hearts break. They are so lost and so far into darkness.

However, I was encouraged by Matthew 16:18, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”. This is a promise, and it is true in India and it is true in the midst of false Hindu hill god’s.

Pray that Christ’s light would break through in this dark place and the gates of hell would not only not prevail

And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. – Luke 9:60

I am amazed by how direct Jesus is. If most pastors preached like He did, they would be on unemployment. But we can’t escape the truth behind the words of the Word (Jesus).

Jesus was responding to an excuse of one of the people who claimed to want to follow Jesus. The so called follower wanted time to deal with their family matters first before they totally committed to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t having it. He was going to be first in that person’s life no matter what the cost.

Jesus before family. Jesus before work. Jesus before self.

What is holding you back?

Whatever it is, cast it off and go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

Last Sunday I was invited to give the message and share about our visit to GCM at Crossroads Community Church in Estherville, Iowa.

We talked about what God is doing through GCM in Kerala, India and invited them to take Jesus on walk through their lives. If we prayerfully invite Jesus to help inventory our priorities, our schedules, the desires of our heart, and our stuff, he will show us where we have been living for the flesh and where we have been living for the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4. in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5.For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Does your life makes sense in light of the fact that God has put his Spirit in you? God sent His Son and he bore the wrath of God for your sin in His body on the cross, so you might die to sin and live for righteousness! Paul says to the Phillipians, make your life worthy of this Gospel! Does pouring our enenergy and resources into building a kingdom for ourselves here make sense. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, “thy kingdom come” do we mean it? Or do our actions scream, “my kingdom come!”

If we live according to the flesh than this is our kingdom and this life is our reward and it will vanish like a dried up flower in the field. If we fix our minds on the things of the Spirit and on seeing His kingdom come, our reward in heaven will be immeasurable and everlasting!

God is about the details, so look at the details of your life and sift the things of the flesh and pour your life out as a spiritual act of worship, in view of His great mercy, for the things of the Spirit and His kingdom!

After service we shared in so many encouraging converstations about what God has been doing and several people inquired about going with us on the next trip.

It was a wonderful experience sharing with them in worship and study of God’s word. They are a very mission minded faith family and serious about spreading the Gospel. Thanks Crossroads!

Javan

Yesterday, being the first Sunday of the month, was communion Sunday at New Life. At the end of service, the bread and the cup was passed. It took me back to one of the few very familiar events of the trip to India.

We had very little familiarity in India. In every detail imaginable, and some not imaginable, things were opposite of the way it is in the West, at least very different. A car is driven from the right seat…on the left side of the road, mostly. Writing is from right to left. An affirmative head shake is side to side not up and down. They are dark skinned, we are light skinned. Marriage is arranged. Funerals are a celebration, in deed as well as word. Their night is our day. Time is irrelevant. We couldn’t even begin to understand the language even in the richest of context.

However, on that first Sunday service, when the table cloth was lifted from the pulpit to reveal a plastic pitcher of grape juice and a loaf of bread, a flood of familiarity rushed in. We knew exactly what this meant! We knew that we were doing this in remembrance of the focal point of all of humanity.

We were remembering the cross. Christ’s death on the cross was the climax and culmination of the history of the universe to that point. From that point on, the single most determent point of all history to come, to be complete in the second return and judgment of the earth.

At the cross, all of God’s wrath for sin was poured out on Jesus. God’s wrath that moved him to destroy every living thing on the earth in Genesis 6. God’s wrath that will bring about eternal judgment on the last day. The wrath for every sin of every man for all of human history and humanity’s future was stored up in God’s cup of wrath and poured out on His sinless son at the cross.

That means my sin was in the cup. All my sin! When I first grabbed a toy from my sister and declared, “MINE!” When this morning I chose to sleep-in rather than lead my family in pursuit of the knowledge of God and His glory. Even when I… (fill in the blank)… but my intentions were not to bring glory to God but so that I would receive glory! In my first breath I was a sinner deserving the wrath of God as a participant in the Sin of Adam. When I draw my final breath, my flesh will draw it finally, in rebellion to God. All of it, foreknown by God, was stored up in His cup and emptied on my savior.

My sin puts me at the cross. My sin has me and over 100 billion others represented at the cross 2000 years ago. But in my communion reflection I am at the foot of the cross kneeling, humbled, broken, contrite, crying out for forgiveness. I kneel there with my own cup. It is the cup of repentance and it is filling up and overflowing with Jesus’ blood, drop by drop as it flows from his pierced side. Jesus took my wrath, all of it. And he gave me His perfect, blameless blood, which is perfect and wholly sufficient for the covering of my sin. I am eternally grateful and I drink it through tears of contrition and tears of gratitude. I drink from His great mercy. When I partake in the symbols of His blood and body, this is my reflection.

-For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (Leviticus 17:11 ESV)

– So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 ESV)

Javan

Last night we were heading back to the hotel very late after spending the evening with Babu’s family. The roads were strangely quiet and dark. As we approached a T intersection not far from Babu’s house, a motorcycle and a large moped crashed head on, tire to tire, and stopped instantly throwing each rider from their bike. We ran over to check on them and help them gather themselves and their bikes. One rider was very very quiet and seemed disoriented while the other driver was giving him the “what for” with all enthusiasm. They appeared healthy and others were soon on the scene so we departed. As we left we reflected on how many thousands of vehicle we watched at high speed passing each other by mear milimeters and tonight with no one on the road, somehow these two guys smack right into each other. We also figured when the disoriented guy finally gets his wits, he is going to think about the two English speaking white guys who showed up at the accident and probably check himself into the hospital for head trauma.

Today was another introduction to a strange Indian custom. Apparently there is some dispute about the proposed usage of a new dam. In objection to what is proposed by the national government, the entire state of Kerala was on strike. There was some concern that we might not be able to even leave the hotel today. Fortunately, Babu sent Lubies to pick us up. He had us ride in the back seat where we would be safer in case people got upset about us being out and about. No school, no work, no transportation. 33 million people took a day off.

While we are spending the afternoon at Babu’s we tended to some last minute tasks. We took some more pictures at the college to capture better what is going to be built there with the New Life gift. We video taped an interview with Babu for sharing on the web and with churches who might have an interest in partnering with Babu.
We took some time to organize photos and videos and said many good-byes. In a few hours we will be packing and after a few hours of sleep beginning the 48 hour journey home.

As things wind down here I find myself thoughts turning towards home.

I am getting very excited to see my family and give them some big hugs! I am so excited to re-unite with our church family and friends. It seems like so much has happened while we were gone. Reading your blog comments has been so inspiring to us. We just can’t wait to exchange stories and discover the mutual sanctification that took place throughout our church during this time. It just feels like we are at a different place spiritually than we were two weeks ago.

We really feel like many of you were on this journey with us. I can’t explain how much it feels like we truly were representing our faith family here. Your support throughout this mission experience has been overwhelming. We can never express our gratitude for all your prayers, your support of our families, financial support, and sharing your experience with us. It has just been soo much.

Javan

This morning we met with 48 pastors and their wives from GCM. They gathered for the preacher’s seminar of the convention. The other attendees of the convention will be arriving for tonights general meeting.

I can’t tell you how humbling it was to look across the faces of this group. We were gathered in the presence of Gospel Warriors for whom this world is not worthy. Each has chosen to live a life of sacrifice, humility, ostracization, and risk of personel welfare to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost people. Their families have chosen with them. They have embraced the call to equip the saints for the work of evangelism and they clearly are going with the power of God.

But for the power of God’s word I would have never felt more inadequate in all my teaching experience. They were gracious to listen and respond.
I am inspired by them. Though, my guess is they would think my coments silly. They do what they do for God and his Glory. They do what they do because they have seen the irresistable force of the living God in Jesus. They know the truth and it burns in their hearts such that they must teach others. It is so clear when you watch them teach.
Javan