On the first day of our trip, we met up with Pastor Thomas and his wife, Jegajothi. Pastor Thomas is a 2014 Bible college alumni (B.TH) and an electrician by trade. We met with Pastor Thomas at Kudakovil, Madurai to view the church he is currently building and was really encouraged with the time spent with him and his wife. More and more, we are seeing the Government try and push Christian organisations out of India and one of the key objectives for Rhema over the next year, is to encourage our Pastors to be more self sufficient.
Following an announcement made by Archbishop Samuel in November to our Pastors about becoming more self sufficient, Pastor Thomas has recognised that his long lost skill of being an electrician, can now offer him an opportunity to earn extra funds for his family. He now attends to small electrical projects for those in the communities where he can raise funds for his family and share the gospel.
He is also in the process of building a church. His plot is on a larger plot of undeveloped land. There are no utilities to this plot, so he is currently without water or electricity. The land was purchased from funds from (1) the return of deposit from another property the Diocese were renting (2) sale of his own property - Rs 9,000 (3) single donor from the congregation - Rs2,000. Members of the congregation regularly come to the property to volunteer to help build the church. He clearly has good relationships with his congregation and is valued by them.
Pastor Thomas is currently living in rental accommodation of which the lease will be up at the end of March so he is looking to have the roof on the church so that he can begin worship services in the church as well as live in the church. The church is currently at roof height and during the visit, 2 workers were working on the building. There is little water in the area and a borewell would be essential. Amongst church services, Pastor Thomas's ministry includes house visits, hospital ministry and ministry amongst youth and children.
I was so humbled by Pastor Thomas's drive to build his church - selling his own property to fund the build. The area is almost 99% Hindu and the caste system is a major problem in the area, so he has a huge challenge ahead of him. If people turn away from Hinduism, they are excommunicated from the entire family. Interestingly, I've noticed that when people are excommunicated they become a vital part of the church who then become their family. It's been interesting to see how these relationships develop.
At the moment, we continue to pray for Pastor Thomas and Jegajothi, that their building will see completion and that their ministry will grow.