Thirteen McAfee students and Drs. Rob Nash and David Garber recently returned from a three week long mission and cultural immersion in several cities of India, including Hyderabad, Bodhgaya, Kolkata, Pune, Aurangabad, and Mumbai. Ministry highlights included the opportunity to lead worship in three congregations, to visit a number of ministries including sewing centers and a Christian school in Hyderabad, to encourage Christian families during a visit in a slum area in Mumbai, and to work with children and the elderly through the Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa's order in Kolkata. In addition, the group visited a number of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples and caves and the site of the Buddha's enlightenment at the Mahabodhi Temple at that World Heritage Site.
The group began its journey in Hyderabad where it stayed at a Catholic retreat center run by the Sisters of St. Ann, a Roman Catholic order. Their hosts were the Revs. Paul and David Bandela, a father-son team who together minister at the Bethel Ministry Training Center and church. The Mercer team of students led a day of Bible Study and recreation for children while Professors Nash and Garber taught the books of Mark and Amos to a group of pastors and spouses. The group divided into two teams for Sunday worship with one team leading the service at Bethel while the other team led worship at Grace and Truth Church, the location of a significant sewing ministry to women in the local area. The group was introduced to this vital and fully sustainable ministry of training women to sew and then providing a sewing machine to them at the point of the successful completion of the training. Students and professors also visited a local Christian school which has run into significant funding challenges as a result of the fact that it was not founded with a view to making it fully sustainable in the future. The two ministries of the sewing center and the school helped students to identify some of the missiological challenges which are created when ministries become too dependent upon outside funding.
While in the Hyderabad area, the group also visited a number of Hindu and Jain temples, including Birla Mandir, the Mahankali Temple, the Narasimha Swamy Temple, a Jain Temple, and the Thousand Pillar Temple. These temples, all dedicated to various gods and goddesses, helped the students to become familiar with the deities of the Hindu tradition as well as to observe the differences between Hinduism and Jainism, a sixth century BCE religion that emerged on the sub-continent as a reforming movement within the Hindu tradition. Students led orientation sessions to each site and also offered comparisons between Hindu deities and ancient Canaanite deities as a part of their requirements for the Asian Religions and Ancient Near Eastern Religions courses that they took in concert with the trip.In addition, students discussed at length the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Dhammapada, all sacred texts of the Hindu and Buddhist religions. As part of their course requirements, students are now completing papers and presentations related to what they learned while on this immersion experience.
*All photos were taken by Dr. Dave Garber and used by permission.