LWC Mission: An Expanding Vision
One of my first recollections of raw mission work was in 1995 travelling to Romania for the first time with David Shadwell one of the leaders from Living Waters Church. This was not very long after the political scene changed in Romania and I was invited to a church in Slatina to preach and teach. When we arrived in Slatina we were given a warm welcome and we formed friendships that last to this day.
A brief record of my travels reads like this. Between 1995 and 2014, I made at least 4 trips to Romania, two trips to Zambia, 2 trips to the Ukraine, 2 trips to Bulgaria, and 17 trips to India.
In Zambia I preached and taught in huge tents and the open air.
In Romania I preached in a marque with two foot of snow outside and the roof bulging under the weight of snow! I also preached in the open air on a plot of land in Bucharest that would in time become a huge church building.
It was also in Romania that I watched people being baptised in the open air in an old tin bath! On one occasion in Romania I travelled to seven churches and preached at each one, all in one day!
In Bulgaria after a long drive into the mountains I spoke in a Gipsy church which was a never to be forgotten experience. On another occasion in Bulgaria I helped to baptise literally hundreds of mainly gipsy young people in the Black Sea.
In India I have many times stood in the early morning by a river to avoid detection by the Hindu police and watched as new converts were baptised.
Learning the different cultures and standards by which people live is a humbling and enriching experience but can at times is stressful.
The invitations always came in the same format “will you come and teach, preach and encourage us” I spoke in remote village churches of less than two dozen people by torch light and in very large churches consisting of many hundreds.
I will never forget this first trip to India in 2003. I travelled on my own in order to meet someone from our congregation who had gone early for a wedding. Traveling was quite an experience but I duly met up with my friend and he drove us from the airport to his family home. I preached many times and I have always enjoyed talking to pastors and young people going into the ministry.
Jennifer my wife often came along with me and we made various visits to India preaching and teaching as well as supporting. We visited the works of the Varghese brothers (Faith In Action) and spent many happy hours there. We paid for boreholes, sewing machines and various other equipment to help the churches and orphanages. We also helped in the commencement of a home for elderly ladies and it was really in my heart to establish it in memory of Pastor Roy Chewter who was a father in the faith to many. Most of the old ladies living there now are Hindu but they are prayed for and well cared and some by the end of their life become believers.
On one occasion my son Pastor John accompanied me and we travelled to Orissa again speaking and teaching. Orissa was a place with very open hostility to Christians and it was not an easy trip. Later in about 2008 there was to be terrible persecution of Christians in Orissa, as a quick look at Utube under “Christians in Orissa India” will testify.
On Boxing Day in 2005 the awful Tsunami happened that affected the southern part of Kerala with whole villages washed away and a terrible loss of life. So we raised about a thousand pounds for aid and Jennifer my self and some friends travelled to Kerala in order to distribute aid that we were able to purchase there. I well remember buying rice, fishing nets, cooking pots and other needful things and on a stifling hot day, giving out the aid on the roof of a house. One sad thing I remember was of two middle-aged ladies who had been swept into a canal by the huge wave, which tore off their saris. They could not get out of the canal and none of the men would help them because they were not properly clothed! Those two ladies lost their husbands and children in the disaster and when we met them their only possessions in the world was the aid that we were able to give them.
The awful smell of decay was everywhere and the devastation cannot be described. We can become so sanitised to disaster by the TV screens but when seen in the flesh it makes a deep impact.
I became increasingly concerned about the number of children who were living in total poverty. On one of our trips driving in hills at night I was horrified to see young children of 5 or 6 sleeping in the gutter in the pitch black at night while heavy lorries with no lights drove past inches from their little bodies at breakneck speed. Only in our visits to the street children living in sewers in Romania have I been so horrified.
Another concern was for the many young Christians that I met who wanted to pastor and evangelise but because of poverty would never be able to get any training. So our hearts were drawn in the direction of establishing a children’s home and Bible school. At that time due to the persecution against Christians in Orissa many children were now orphans and living on the streets.
Prince our director in India had a burden to try to help as best he could as well and so the LWMI Boys home was born. I was unhappy that girls could not be included but this is where the cultural differences come into focus and do not always sit comfortably to the western mind. In India women and girls are not equal to men and boys, in fact the culture would never allow girls to be in the same home as boys except in a family situation.
Prince took to our work with an amazing amount of energy and vision. Soon he had rented a floor in a house and was bringing sorry little lads from Orissa to stay there. The language of Orissa is Oriya while the language in Kerala is Malayalam, so after the trauma they had lived through these boys had to learn a new language just in order to communicate. Prince’s wife Meera is a qualified teacher and took to teaching the boys Malayalam and English with great success. At that time we had 12 boys and did not want to increase the numbers because we wanted a family environment not an institution. The early days of the boys home was a steep learning curve both for us and Prince, we had various staff problems as well as the difficulty of raising extra money for the rising costs. Soon after our home was registered with the government not as an orphanage but Boys Home.
Prince soon wanted to get to work on his and our next part of the vision, the establishing of a quality Bible school.
Over the years we had raised many thousands of pounds for the work and now it was bearing fruit. It was not long before we had the first students for the Living Waters Theological Seminary. It was my privilege to officiate at the first Graduation ceremony when a dozen or so students received their first diplomas. At the time of writing we maintain the boys home with around a dozen boys receiving family life, education and free medical care. The Theological Seminary which now has male and female students studying for degrees. A correspondence centre based in Kuwait and around a fifteen churches across India that come under our umbrella. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow…..
Pastor Tony Lacy