The enormity of this city challenges me.

The enormity of this city challenges me.

The enormity of this city challenges me. There is always something more to do, more people to reach, more scope in the ministry, and more and more.

As a youth chaplain, the scope of ministering to the youth in a city like Mumbai is tremendous, often hitting mind-boggling scales.

I must also know that I am not able to do everything on my own. Must not either.

I remember advice of setting up a human resources team that could assist in various aspects of ministry. We have that in a virtual form, with volunteers with a wide variety of skills from singing, designing, teaching, leading, law, medicine, communication and a lot more. However, a structured, systematic outreach – is that possible through volunteers who may have something to do at times and therefore unable to commit?

 

I have been careful not to be disappointed or expect too much of youth who are already busy and have priorities. I have always approached them knowing that any time that they spend for youth ministry is because of their commitment to the cause and I rejoice no matter how short a time they are able to give, as long as they involve, as long as they share a part of themselves to ministering to fellow brethren.

 

A concern in my mind is, how can the youth ministry grow and reach out to more? How can it assist the growth of more youth in Christ? There are hundreds of unreached youth. People who are on the ledges of faith. How do we get to them?

 

That is when I begin to think God needs to give me some more support. And as you may have rightly judged, that is where “I” the person, the ego, begin to emerge. Of course, the ministry is not about me at the same time it deeply involves ‘me’.There is no impersonal ministry, as far as I can gather. As much as I would like to see fruit, I must also remember that as a pioneer, my job is to till the ground, sow the seeds. And that is not easy.  Preparing the ground, as Isaiah 4 reflects, involves clearing the ground of stones as well.

 

Perhaps, as I reflect, this ministry should have started many years ago. The need is quite telling. It should have grown and bloomed by now. I wonder why it never began. Were we, as a Church, blind?

 

However, I am privileged that I could be part of the beginning. That also mean I perpetually carry the burden that I am not reaching out enough.

From Virar to Colaba.

From Kalyan To Dadar.

From Dadar to Ambernath.

I feel paralized. I need more help and support. Perhaps more staff?

 

While interviewing fellow youth workers from other organizations during the first year, I gathered that the struggle is real and that they face the same too. People have become busier. There is always more people to reach out to, more hearts to be touched, more people to come to salvation in Christ.

 

From time to time, I remember teachings that I have learned and read. This ministry belongs to God. He will do what He has to do in His time. At this moment, he wanted me to be here. He will accomplish what he has started. His words will never return empty. My job is to trust him and to entrust him with my weaknesses and strengths so that he can accomplish what He has to, in His time.

 

 

Love in a mug

On the previous day of INTIMATE ’17, the workshop for young married couples and those who were preparing to become one, we gathered around as an organizing team with the resource persons at Cynthia’s house. Her mum and Dad had lovingly opened up their house and heart to host the guests.

The house upstairs where their grand parents lived was opened up as a studio where the art /craft work for the next day were being prepared. Chembur youth had gathered as volunteers under the members of the organsing team – John, Cynthia, Riba and Ansu.

Dr. PC Mathew and Ciby, the leaders of the workshop shared with us that we were doing this for the Kingdom and not one of these efforts would go wasted. “God is no one’s debtor,” PC’s father would remind him in his childhood. As we sat there together as a team, praying for the programme, we prayed for impact. PC had begun by telling us that the call of Christians is not to do great miracles or tumble governments but simply to obey. It was for God to do those things and we were called merely to obey what we were called for. If we obeyed, he would bring everything to pass.

We obeyed.

The Game Changer Project ( The Mar Thoma Youth Ministry of Mumbai) thus far had organised something for a community that needed much attention : young married couples and youth who were preparing to get married.

The love we received from the participants, many of whom had moist eyes, was overwhelming. They had never imagined that they would be so blessed, that they would learn so much and most importantly – that they would not be interrupted by their toddlers ( our brilliant volunteers had been taking care of them). They could not wait to lead a Christ-centred married life.

The organizing team had met just over a month ago to discuss how to go about the programme, given the time constraint and  an only available date of the speakers. The planning meeting which Christina and I hosted went on from 8 pm to 2 am. We carefully lined up everything from the start, from scratch, all the way to the theme and logo, having begun with prayer. It was planned to the tiniest detail.

And God blessed the plans.

Two days before the programme, a parent shared that she wasn’t comfortable with us taking the children to a home nearby (which belonged to one of our members). Since the venue, which was the hall of an Orthodox Syrian church did not have another space other than the Church above – which was out of bounds – we had planned the above.

Till the day of the programme, that was the only loose end. But we knew that the Lord who led this far would lead us forward.  Trust and obey – that we did.

On the day opened up a guest room, that could be used by mothers of infants to feed. At other times, it would be the kids playroom. And the best part –  it was air- conditioned, and close enough for the parents to pop-in, yet closed enough that the childrens’ noise stayed-in. He is no one’s debtor, you see.

The organizing team went into a meditative mood as they set up the garden for the culmination of the programme : the candle light dinner. It looked more beautiful than I had ever imagined.  It was well arranged to the tiniest details – mosquito coils at the foot of the table. Mosquito coils? Don’t won’t to ruin the aroma of the candles and flowers on the table? No, we used mosquito coils with lavender fragrance.  Beat that!

It was just brilliant working with these passionate youngsters who had a burden that young people needed Christ as they entered and lived out their marriages. And God blessed them. I was just blessed to work with them and the volunteers who stood with us.

How do you thank them?

Of course, I thanked them a million times, even in church and in front of their parents. But gratitude needs more.

So far the youth ministry has worked on no / shoe-string budgets and contributions of generous people who pop-up at the right time. And those who worked for it never got anything – of course, they were never expecting anything.

But this time, three years down the line, I felt, that these youngsters ought to receive something symbolic, yet tangible. We need to use our funds to say thank you to our team.

A leader is not leading an organization, but people. He is not responsible for the results, but responsible for the people who are responsible for the results. Take care of your people and your mission will be fulfilled (Brilliant thoughts from Simon Sinek). I have been  huge fan of Jesus’ servant leadership.

And I decided to do so; to express gratitude to beyond words.  So I made them mugs with the poster Cynthia had made and put their names on it, so that they remember this wonderful event till the mugs broke. On doing that, I realise that I should have done this earlier and should not have shied away from thinking whether the Diocese would think it a waste. The Diocese, to whom I had never asked this before will pay this time, and I am sure that they will be glad to since these children are our own and did something for the Lord and His Church.  On harking back, the first ones to receive these mugs should have been the Youth Ministry Ideators, who managed 50 days of lent video editing and uploading in 2015. A committed team of 15 people, these boys with full time jobs did an unforgettable job, which really helped launch the youth ministry forward. They were invited home for a get-together, during the infancy period of the ministry. We won’t forget it.  The same team also organized the Walk With Him Concert and mission tour with the Rapture band, entirely planned online and executed on ground. The Lord was gracious and that has been the highest attended programme for youth in the past two years. Each of them deserved at least a mug and that is on the cards too. We remember, that despite the rains and a flooded Mumbai, around 500 youth turned up!

God has given us wonderful youngsters right here in Mumbai and my heart is moved by their sincerity and hardwork in the name of the Lord. I pray that the Lord uses them for His glory wherever they are.

I take the mugs to INTIMATE ’17 team today as we gather to settle accounts. I hope they smile, and would do things like these again for the Lord.

I fondly remember and thank God also for the Youth Ministry Ideators who have been by my side over the past two years.