Core Team (Left to Right) Arpit Charan, Augustine Frederick, Nikul Masih, Vijay Bannet
(not pictured – Anosh Charan, Amber Massey)
By Rev. Dr. Kimberly Reisman
One of the joys of my work with World Methodist Evangelism is to be able to see the dramatic way God works in the lives of young people. Surprisingly, the current pandemic has highlighted this joy, reminding me that even in the midst of crisis God moves in remarkable ways.
Two years ago, in January 2018 WME held an evangelism seminar in India. Several young adults were present and one in particular – Vijay Bannet, was especially energized by what he learned through the Embrace training that was included during the week. He left ready to enlist his friends to join him in reaching others for Christ.
Vijay was also excited to attend Metanoia, our international young adult gathering that was to take place in Costa Rica in May. He and four other young men began the visa application process in order to attend. Unfortunately, their visas were denied, and they were unable to be with us in person. The rejection was deeply disappointing, but God clearly had other plans.
Through Facebook Live these young men were able to experience a bit of our Metanoia gathering, which energized them further. God began to shape their rejection into a redirection and Metanoia India was born. Using the WME framework they had experienced, in November 2018, Vijay and his friends, Anosh Charan, Augustine Frederick, Amber Massey, and Nikul Masih held their own Metanoia gathering in India recruiting preachers, teachers and other leaders to engage with over 250 participants.
But a one-time gathering wasn’t enough. In November 2019 they held a second Metanoia India, which once again impacted hundreds of young people. These young men – none of whom were trained pastors, had caught a vision bigger than they could have imagined when they received their visa rejections.
This month I would have joined Vijay, Anosh, Augustine, Amber, and Nikul at their third Metanoia India gathering. Sadly, COVID19 prevented that from happening, and yet, once again, God had other plans.
Recognizing that a large gathering would be impossible, Vijay and his team shifted gears and launched a new effort – Project Next Generation. Building on the emphasis on transformation that is at the heart of Metanoia, Project Next Generation includes three components – Metanoia (spiritual transformation), Mathetes (discipleship and spiritual formation), and Igetis (leadership development). During these months of pandemic lock downs and social distancing, they have organized 6+ webinars and digital conversations that have continued to provide the young adults in the Metanoia India community opportunities to grow in their faith.
With great hope, they’re looking to the future when they can hold a small gathering for 30 young adults who are currently involved in deepening their discipleship (Mathetes). They plan to meet in Nainital, at the Chapel where the first Christian Ashram was founded by E. Stanley Jones. And of course, they haven’t given up on Metanoia India 2021, which (God willing) I will be able to attend with great joy.
When we face challenging circumstances – visa rejections or even pandemics – it can frequently feel like we’ve been robbed of opportunities for growth and forward movement. And yet, that couldn’t be farther from God’s perspective. Often, the Holy Spirit moves most powerfully in times of disruption, redirecting us to opportunities for growth and transformation that we otherwise would not have been able to see.
That has certainly been the case for Vijay and the Metanoia India team. They’ve already reached over 500 young adults through Metanoia India, often using their own resources in order to do so. And rather than giving up when they were unable to reach more in 2020, they redirected their vision to discipleship and spiritual growth. I have no doubt that God will continue to bless their efforts to bring more people to Christ through Metanoia India and Project Next Generation.
We praise God for the way he has used WME to spark a new movement of the Spirit in India. We are grateful to these young men – all under thirty-five – who did not hesitate to act when the Spirit moved within them. Vijay, a relationship manager at a local bank, Anosh, who has recently entered full time ministry as an evangelist, Augustine, who has recently completed his university studies, Amber, who is a Hospital Quality Assurance Associate and Nikul, a school teacher – went from rejection to redirection because they trusted that God would lead and guide them if they were willing to follow.