A heart to train our people

Members of Christ Lutheran Church worship to the sound of drums outside a church. Photo: LWF/Philip Lok
Members of Christ Lutheran Church worship to the sound of drums outside a church. The church was welcomed into the communion at this year's LWF Council meeting. Photo: LWF/Philip Lok

New LWF member: Christ Lutheran Church in India

(LWI) - People struggling in poverty. Drug addicts. The unemployed. Those marginalised through no fault of their own or have fallen on hard times.

One of the newest members of the Lutheran World Federation sees the potential in all these people and has pragmatic solutions to overcome discrimination and poverty.

Christ Lutheran Church (CLC) was founded by Rev. Dr Stanley Jose, when he set up the first congregation in Mannivakkam, Chennai, in 1995, and today has 54 congregations and outreach centres in six states. Membership of the church stands at 2700.

At the LWF Council meeting in June, CLC was accepted as a new member of the LWF.

If anything happens to us we feel encouraged and strengthened by fellowship knowing that there is a body of people around the world to support us.
Rev. Dr Stanley Jose, Christ Lutheran Church

President Rev. Dr Jose said membership of a global church body brings CLC recognition in the 99 countries of the LWF. “It is important to be known by people in different countries and to fellowship as the body of Christ. We don’t feel we are isolated but are an included community within the LWF.” Violence against Christians in India has escalated in recent years. “If anything happens to us we feel encouraged and strengthened by fellowship knowing that there is a body of people around the world to support us.”

If anything happens to us we feel encouraged and strengthened by fellowship knowing that there is a body of people around the world to support us.
Rev. Dr Stanley Jose, Christ Lutheran Church

The church is attracted to the LWF’s commitment to overcome inequality and to promote women in ministry. Rev. Dr Jose wants to encourage young members of CLC to study theology and transgender people to take part in further education, through the LWF scholarship program.

Economic and social development

Congregations of CLC come from predominantly tribal and remote areas where agriculture is basis of the economy. Low rates of literacy and poor education are prevalent. The church trains Christians who are indigenous people, of different language and ethnicity, before sending them back to their own communities.

“Once spiritual transformation occurs in a person’s life, economic or social development accompanies them.” After training and support from the church, a man with a drug addiction was able to move to a better house and send his children not only to secondary school but on to tertiary education.

CLC offers a range of vocational training: computer technician training, medical care, training in beautician work, driving, mobile phone repair and tailoring schools. In one instance, the church runs para-medical and nurse training from the home laboratory of two church members. “It’s a husband and wife team who are trained and licenced, with their own laboratory, running a program that will benefit the whole community irrespective of religion. The students will get qualifications recognised by the government.”

The church reaches out to transgender people, who are often marginalised and isolated, firstly by their own families, later by the rest of society. “Refused accommodation and school admission, the church has to cater to their needs and providing those needs can transform their lives.” The church also funds college training and sponsors IT professionals. Once graduated, transgender people try to, in turn, change negative attitudes in their community.

I was hungry and you gave me food

Rev. Dr Jose said he was called by God to look after the poor when he was 13 years old. He came from a poor economic background himself and was raised in a home for children. After tertiary education, he returned to India to set up the church.

“The Lord put into my heart to train our people and reach out to communities, first spiritual and as well, a social economic need.

“Growing up poor motivated me to be a person of charity, determined to help others. God raised me a to a level where I can now stretch my hand to bless others.”

He said Matthew chapter 25, verses 34-40 summed it up: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

The church is also a member of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India, the national body for the LWF member churches in the country.

 

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