My four days in Tripura started like any other visit but turned into the most productive I’ve had since first going to this North East Indian state in 2004.
Travelling with Mission Council member John McMullan, our purpose was to meet with the Tripura Baptist Christian Union (TBCU) leadership to discuss the work they are doing. In particular, I wanted to focus on their efforts to disciple believers in their 600 churches and their plans for reaching the state’s majority Bengali population.
It was a busy time. We had plans to meet with the secretaries of the TBCU, and the principal of the Tripura Academy of Integrated Christian Studies (TAICS). We had preaching engagements in four churches, a meeting with the leadership of the Argartala Baptist Church, and a dinner and meeting with the leaders of the 16 regional associations.
While there is much to report from all these meetings, I’d like to encourage you with three highlights where we sensed God’s Holy Spirit working in our midst.
The first was on the Sunday evening. It was our fourth service of the day – I spoke at the Argartala Baptist Church in the morning and John spoke at the Kok Borok and Mizo services in the afternoon. Next was the Bengali fellowship service.
The evening was unique in culture, but fairly normal in procedure. I spoke from Philippians and John prayed for the gathering. This night was special because it was held in the home of a new member who, having recently been healed from a severe illness, wanted to have a celebration service in his home.
All was normal until the pastor invited us to pray specifically for this man to be re-commissioned and re-ordained for the work he’d been called to. I sensed God challenge me to remind this pastor that he’d already been ordained by man and, more importantly, by God in his mother’s womb.
It was immediately obvious he’d been impacted by the prayer. Later, he said his mother used to tell him as a boy that he’d been ordained for something special while she carried him in her womb. The Spirit of God affirmed this ordination in a special way that night.
The following day, John and I met with TBCU leaders to discuss a long-held desire to develop a mobile discipleship programme. The TBCU have baptized more than 5,000 people each year over the past five years. However, there seems to be genuine lack of discipleship, which would see those baptized fully integrated into the life of the local community of faith. The plan was to equip lay leaders with the skills and resources to continually disciple members of their churches.
John and I endeavored to discern a path forward. We suggested a leadership training vision that integrated all the training needs of the TBCU, including the study offered by TAICS, which has just begun the first classes of a Bachelor of Theology degree.
This leadership training vision focuses on pastoral leadership, lay leadership and future leadership training programmes. While New Zealand involvement has been sought in terms of vision oversight, all training and development will be done at the local level.
Additionally, Milford Baptist Church have agreed to sponsor the development of the mobile Bible school programmes for the next five years. This has created a fantastic partnership between the Milford church, tranzsend and the people of Tripura.
Being able to help provide vision and guidance to what will become a significant ministry in Tripura was very affirming and we can already sense the work of the Holy Spirit in this.
The third meeting John and I were part of was with the Baptist Association leaders from across the Tripura state. There are 16 associations, and all but one leader attended the dinner and meeting. Some had to travel nearly two days to get there. Again, we felt the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the discussions we had.
Each association reported on how they were doing in terms of numbers – number of pastors, number of evangelists, and the budget they’d set for the year ahead.
When I got up to speak I sensed God challenge me to encourage these leaders – one leader to another. As I did that, John and I then sensed the need to pray for them in a specific way. As we did so, the Spirit of God come down upon our gathering and we felt God’s encouragement surge through all of us as we prayed en masse.
Later on, John and I shared with each other how we felt God was moving in our midst. We’d each had three men on our hearts as leaders for the future. When we compared who they were, we received affirmation as they were the same three men.
The following day we shared this with Rev Ngaituasunga (Sunga) Darlong, the newly reelected General Secretary of the TBCU. He affirmed that they had identified these three men as leaders of the future.
God is working in a new and encouraging way in Tripura. I felt strongly that he wants New Zealand Baptists to continue their involvement there, just as he encouraged John and me in our active involvement on this visit.
Be encouraged. As New Zealand Baptists, we continue to be part of something special God is doing in this part of his world.
• Peter Mihaere is General Director of New Zealand Baptists Reaching the World.