Author: Robin Thomson served for many years as a Christian educator and leader in India. He is currently associated with South Asian Concern.
Cross-cultural mission is part of the DNA of South Asian churches. George Melel arrived in Germany in 1977, sent from India by the Divya Jyothi Mission India, based in Kerala. When he first arrived, people asked him ‘Who invited you here as a missionary?’ He replied ‘Who invited Bartholomew Ziegenbalg or William Carey to come to India as missionaries?’ 19 years later, he is still there, working with people of all ethnic backgrounds. Mission happens because you are sent out by the call of the Holy Spirit and the prayer and recognition of the church (Acts 13.1-4).
It’s exactly 120 years since the foundation (in 1888) of the Mar Thoma Evangelistic Association, the first mission movement in the modern Indian church. The Indian Missionary society (1903) and the National Missionary Society (1905) were both founded just over 100 years ago, by the same person, Bishop V S Azariah. He was inspired to start the IMS by the missionary vision of Christians in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. In the 1920s Sadhu Sunder Singh is believed to have died while evangelising in Tibet.
The first 50 years of the 20th century focussed on the large scale people movements, the independence struggle and efforts for church union. After the colonial era, and the partition of India, there was a flourishing of Indian missions from the mid 1960s, with groups like the Indian Evangelical Mission, the Friends Missionary Prayer Band, Operation Mobilisation and a number of Pentecostal and independent groups. Today the India Missions Association represents 210 Indian mission organisations, agencies and Church groups and about 40,000 Christian workers within India and beyond.
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