This past week I met Joe. Well, I didn't actually meet Joe. I met him in the spring of 2015 when I wrote an article about him after he was honored for being a Vietnam Veteran. But I learned something new about Joe.
Joe is one of those people I run into regularly in town. I see him at the library. I see him at local events. I run into him at restaurants. I see him at City Council. But I hadn't seen him for a while.
Then one day my in-box was flodded with amazing photos from an obviously far off location. No explanaiton. Just photos like this.
This is the best part of my job. Hearing people's stories. So, in a new series, "From the Headlines," I'll share some of those stories with you.
Joe recently returned from South India where he taught at a Bible school for three months.
Joe traveled to Andhra Pradesh, one of 29 states in India, which is located on the southeast coast of the country. He spent three months in a tribal area to share his time and his love of God through the Bible school.
The surrounding area is controlled by the Baharatiya Janata (BJP) party, a political party established in 1980 that has grown quickly to become the largest political party in India. They are right-wing radical hindus. Simply getting to the tribal area was a challenge. India cancels visas of pastors and other missionaries they find on social media. Joe was able to make it to his destination by using a tourist visa instead of a missionary visa and claiming he was there for vacation and to visit friends. I have not included his last name here to help retain his ability to travel to India.
Fortunately, Joe didn’t experience any major problems while in India. Instead, he experienced a one in a lifetime opportunity to share the word of God. Though in Joef’s case, missions work hasn’t just been a one time opportunity. His first mission trip was in 1991. He has been to Uganda, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and India several times.
A self-supporting missionary, Joef taught the Old Testament to his students, mostly local pastors, every morning. Over 100 people attended the school and even more wanted to attend. Christian Life Center in Stockton, CA helped fund the school, which was held in a church that several villages came together and built, then left.
At the end of three months, students graduated from the Bible school. They attended graduation and received diplomas. They gave away several bicycles and a motorbike at graduation to students.
But even more memorable to Joe was the baptism of over 50 people on November 26, 2015 in the name of Jesus. “It was just powerful and amazing,” Joe said.
In a country that is seventy percent hindu and 18 percent muslim, Christianity is growing. “The government wants to slow it down, but they won’t step in.".
Joe will never forget the people he met in India or the poverty he witnessed. Every morning he saw two children digging in the trash for food. There is rampant pollution and a smell that you just can’t describe, you have to experience. “It really makes you appreciate this country more. I think every young person should spend some time in a third world county."
Joe plans to continue his mission work in the future. “I’ve been blessed with some good investments and I’m retired. You can’t take it with you anyway, so you might as well do something with it.”
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