Since 2009 International Aid Trust India has been instrumental in establishing 78 churches and 30 house groups in various states throughout the south of India. Initially pastors are appointed and they are supported by IAT India. A principal aim is to continue this process, particularly in areas where there are no established Christian communities or churches such as rural villages, tribal areas, urban slums and inner cities.
A central focus of the work in developing the pastor network is to provide regular theological training so that they may be more effective in their Christian ministry. Each month a Pastor’s Leadership Training seminar is held in Hyderabad. Instruction is provided in house and supplemented by visiting theologians. Currently 34 pastors are supported by IAT India. See appendix A for a detailed list of supported pastors. IAT India would also like to raise the support to the existing pastors. At the present time the financial support (3,500 rupees – £35 per month) is insufficient to cover daily family requirements and educational fees due to an increase in the cost of living. All IAT pastors have school going children.
In 2017IAT India also organised a series of 12 regional conferences in various states including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra. The average attendance at these conferences was in excess of 150 pastors. The number are now growing with an increasing need of unity in face of the growing persecution with the most recent conference in March 2018 being attended by over four hundred pastors.
Following on from the initial training provision for pastors IAT India established the ‘Living Word Theological College’ in 2016 in Hyderabad to continue the ministry training. The faculty is located in a rented two storied building with 6 accommodation rooms, two large halls and two kitchens. This provides the appropriate residential and teaching facilities for a mix of residential and day students. Tuition and accommodation is provided free of charge to the students by sponsorship from the UK. In June 2017 the first batch of 32 pastors completed their course and graduated from the college, of these 15 were residential students and 17 were day scholars.18 are now working under the IAT framework in various states and the remainder in their own respective villages.
The three year lease for the building ends in July because the owner has decided to sell up. We pay £200 per month but the asking price is high, about £150,000, so we are now actively looking for a replacement and more affordable building.
Because of the increasing persecution it is now more important than ever before to equip our pastors and evangelists before sending them out into a very hostile environment. Almost every day reports are coming in of pastors and their families being attacked, churches damaged and discrimination of varying degrees. One way this is being manifested is that pastors trying to rent houses or other properties are being refused once the landlord finds out that they are believers. Bishop Kota, our director was at the point of signing up for three properties when the offers were refused after his occupation was discovered.
The syllabus for the pastor’s course has been developed in-house and is not currently affiliated to any theological college, either in India or internationally. The association with an outside Bible College would not only be advantageous to the education of new pastors, but to the future impact of our ministry. The longer term aim is to train 50 more new pastors thus enabling the work of IAT India to cover a greater geographical area.
Your prayers, thoughts and support are very much appreciated.
Blessings and peace
Rev Bernard Cocker
CEO & Founder