India Ethos - A Family We've Never Seen
by Shannon Dennis, Journalist Intern
“Love God, Love People and Awaken a Movement” is the mission statement of Ethos Church. Since its inception in fall 2008, Ethos has faithfully carried out its mission by planting two churches in the cities of Basirhat and Gabadora, India. This past May, in partnership with Lipscomb Missions, Ethos formed a mission trip to India to visit, teach, and encourage these new churches. The team of eight was comprised of four University staff, two alumni, one student and a friend of Lipscomb. After prayerful consideration, Dolly Stang and Jason Parker stepped up to lead this trip, serving their new Indian brothers and sisters in Christ whom they had never met before.
Stang, an Admissions Counselor and Recruiter for Lipscomb University, has been an active member of Ethos Church for two years. “House church has been key in my spiritual growth,” said Stang. “I have enjoyed seeing how the members of Ethos have reached out and cared for the community, and I was eager to be a part of that.” Stang saw the Ethos mission trip to India as her opportunity to advance God’s Kingdom. Stang is no stranger to India - in fact, because of her parents’ mission work in the country, she has travelled to India 24 times for mission purposes every year since she was three years old. Growing up, she would often serve alongside her parents to aid women, children, and leper ministries.
Parker, Lipscomb’s Director of Campus Ministry, noted that because of her experience in mission work and her insight into Indian culture, “We relied on Dolly in many ways. She carried a great weight of the trip on her shoulders, for we took our cues from her to know what to expect and how to respond in various situations in Indian culture. She prepared us incredibly well.” Because of her background in mission work, she proved herself an invaluable asset to the mission team.
Stang enjoyed working with her peers and church family on this trip, for a change, as she usually travels alone to do mission work. She liked seeing God work in each team member and how He used them to further God’s Kingdom. “There was a sense of unity in our group that reminded me of how we were working as the Body of Christ.” She hopes that the trip to India will continue and that the number of trips per year will increase as well, “This trip is a wonderful opportunity for Ethos to get involved with their brothers and sisters across the world, to make our bond with them stronger. Because of the focus and maturity of our team along with the partners on the ground, this was the best mission trip I have experienced.”
Working alongside Stang was Jason Parker, who, while having been a secondary team leader on mission trips to Honduras and Jamaica, this was his first experience leading an entire team. He found his responsibilities as a team leader a bit overwhelming at times. For example, he knew that his team looked to him for guidance and he desired more than anything to lead and direct his team well.
Like a true leader, Parker faced such challenges and overcame them with support from his fellow team members and Stang, who continually brought up Parker in her interview saying, “His steadfast leadership made us feel safe. His compassion for the team and for the Indian people was inspiring. It was a blessing to see how he and his wife Kim worked together to help grow the community of Christ.”
Helping the churches through open air meetings and VBS activities made scripture come alive for Parker. The vast needs in India, from basics such as food and shelter, to spiritual needs, reminded him of Acts and how the disciples taught people of all backgrounds how to love and follow Christ. He continually found himself completely relying on God to share the Gospel.
On one of the final days of the trip, the mission team travelled to meet the people of the village of Nalpur. These people were believers, but they were suffering great persecution for their faith, so they had to meet the team outside of the actual village. The mission team spoke life, love, and hope into the believers and encouraged them to hold on to Christ. As the team delved deep into the Word with these people, they could see the joy mounting in their faces because they were hungry for a greater understanding of God’s truth.
At the end of the sweltering day where the temperature reached 120°F, the believers thanked the mission team by teaching them a traditional Indian dance. Despite the heat, they danced in elation for Christ. As they danced, a rain storm blew in and the temperature went down 30°! Parker stated, “This occurrence demonstrated that joy and peace can exist in the midst of persecution.” Dolly shared, “It was like the freshness of God was falling to Earth to refresh us all, spiritually and physically.”
Parker noticed that the team was unusually quiet on the journey home. The team had just seen God at work in ways they had never experienced, and in a part of the world where He is typically not exalted on the throne. The team had witnessed jarring brokenness and unbelievable jubilation within the span of a short time, yet amidst their weariness at the end of a long 2+ week trip, they found themselves with a renewed sense of purpose because of what God was doing through His church in India.