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Disaster brings new ministry mindset to Baptist representativecomment (0)

October 13, 2011

By Neisha Fuson

Picture frames began to fall from the walls as Adam Reese was scooping another handful of rice and dal (lentil soup) into his mouth.

It was a magnitude-6.9 earthquake.

But for Reese and his family, Southern Baptist representatives working in north India, the Sept. 18 earthquake was not just another natural disaster  — it was a ministry changer.

One week after the earthquake, he hosted a team from The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, doing disaster relief in the affected areas. The team originally had planned to share Christ in another section of Sikkim state, but after the earthquake, the word “plan” took on a more fluid definition. Each day held uncertainty — where to find food, where to sleep, where to serve.

Reese led the team on a three-day journey to a relief camp set up in a small village nestled in the corner of a valley green with rice paddies. The team and several national partners obtained entry permits and endured numerous long and bumpy taxi rides and some intense hiking.

Reese, the team and the national partners slept in a Buddhist school a few hundred feet from the camp.

Once the team settled in at the school, team members immediately started providing medical care. But the medical and relief work was not the greatest need at the camp. The Lepcha people, the people group of the area who sought refuge at the camp, really just needed to talk.

The “panchayat,” or supervisor of the camp, permitted the team to enter and stay at the school, and more than relief work, he wanted it to just visit with the people — in his mind, a sure morale boost for the fearful and discouraged Lepcha.

Though on the outside things seemed to be running smoothly, Reese faced a “spiritual attack” at the camp. He was concerned about officials, who were rather curious why the team of Americans wanted to go help in such a remote location that the national army had already supplied with relief goods.

The team, the national partners and Reese had spent one night at the school, but he was hesitant to stay another night. The team was sharing the gospel boldly, and Reese said he felt as if they were on “a knife’s edge” with officials. He left the school and walked down to the campfire “really scared.” He needed to pray about the next step of the trip. He saw two of his national partners, their faces lit by the warm glow of the fire.

Timothy, a national partner who accompanied the team as a translator, stood to greet him. He looked him in the eye. It was a crucial moment for Reese.

“Brother,” Timothy said to Reese, “I can see you are worried, but you are doing a very good job.

“I think we know each other well now. You are like my own brother and I love you.” He grabbed Reese’s arm. “I am with you.”

Reese strained to hold back the tears. “I thought to myself, ‘I have my first [Nepalese] friend.’”

With his brothers behind him and a reminder from the Lord of His sovereignty and protection, Reese, the team and the national partners stayed another night.

The next day, team members ventured up the mountainside into the rustic Lepcha homes.

“A woman that was 46 years old heard the gospel for the first time, and the gospel was presented in half a dozen homes where it had never gone,” Reese said.

“[The team] opened doors [at the camp] that I could have never done on my own.”

National partners also experienced getting to share Christ in a new place. They told Reese over and over, “It’s a privilege to be here and a blessing. If you come back here again, please bring me with you.”

The next morning, the team packed up to move on to the next relief location.

Reese was invited back by everyone at the camp, even the people he thought were the most suspicious of the team. And Reese plans to return for further work.

Contact was made with two national partners who could be developed to work in that area specifically, he said.

“[All these good things] happened kind of in the midst of, ‘What do we do? We can’t do medical [relief] here like we were planning. What do we do?’” Reese said.

By the end of the week, he had a new perspective on several aspects of ministry in north India, including short-term missions trips.

“For maybe 15 years, I’ve been utterly against short-term missions,” Reese admitted with a grin. “But I was wrong … because this border would not have been pushed open if [the team] had not come.”

Shortly after his arrival in India nine months ago, if asked what God was doing in the area, he said he might have answered something like, “Lots of stuff.”

Today Reese can see the fine details.

“God came here to bring the Kingdom, and it’s going to happen [in this way]: by making disciples who make disciples.”

EDITOR’S NOTE — Names changed for security reasons.

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