Connor H.* and his family have been sent out to North India by thier church in San Diego in close association with HeartCry. They have been sent to assist churches in North India in training ministers and planting more churches. The area where they will be working is so difficult that it is known as the “missionary graveyard” of India. Please keep them in your prayers.
I am from San Diego, California, and grew up in a Christian environment. My parents were faithful to keep our family attending a church throughout my childhood, but as a child, Sunday school and church were not things to which I looked forward.
During Junior High, a youth pastor reached out to me, and we built a good relationship. I quickly became involved with youth group events and began to enjoy it. Our family eventually settled down in that church.
During those same Junior High years, I made new friends at school who were not Christians. I invited them to the church outreaches, and they also soon became involved. In reality, we did not care much about God or eternal things. We liked the youth group and the youth pastor, but we did not truly love God or want to serve Him.
At this time, my friends and I developed the sinful habit of tearing people apart with our words and with our humor. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), but we rarely used our tongues for life. We lived to laugh at the expense of others. We rarely spoke a serious sentence. While I do believe humor and laughter are gifts from God, our particular type of humor was very dishonoring to God and destructive to people.
As I entered High School, the opportunities for sin multiplied. We pulled many pranks, some of them dangerous, cruel, harmful, and unlawful. But they were hilarious to us. I became a thief with multiple offenses, yet was never caught. I started getting drunk early in High School, but few knew about it. My church did not know. My family did not know. There was one shameful occasion when I “led worship” for a youth outreach while inebriated. But no one knew.
Not only did I live for empty humor, but I also lived for my own glory. My friends and I were in a band, and we had aspirations of “making it big.” If you are familiar with the local music scenes, you know that most of it (if not all) is vanity. Those on the stage love the worship and admiration from the crowd. Those attending the concerts are usually concerned with the latest clothing fad. It is a fashion show for individual glory and self-exaltation. The anthem of this sub-culture is, “Let us make a name for ourselves.” I lived and thrived in this scene. I cannot speak for everyone in my band, but I know that my motives were for my own glory.
Ironically, during all of this, my friends and I became increasingly involved in the youth group, and I even came to be seen as a spiritual leader. There were some that lifted me up as an example for others to follow. Many complemented my maturity and spiritual growth. If only they knew who I really was – a hypocrite.
Testimony of Conversion
Oftentimes I wish I had a date that marked my conversion or even a year to which I could point. But I do not. God saves some men with a glorious show for all to see, like the Apostle Paul; while He saves others in a less conspicuous manner, like Timothy. The reality is that until the middle of High School I did not understand the Gospel. I knew that Jesus died, but I did not understand how His death on a Roman cross could remove my sin and guilt. There was a great disconnect in my mind. I deserved hell, not just a cross. So why did Jesus just die on a cross? How did that take care of my sins? I had no clue that Jesus died as my Substitute under the wrath of God.
When I was sixteen years old, I decided to start attending a new church plant in San Diego, since I had a relationship with a few of the pastors there It was during this changing of churches that my life also started to change. I began desiring to follow Christ and disdaining my sin. God opened my eyes to the vanity of my pursuits, and I quit the band. I felt as if I was no longer my own, like I belonged to another. When I sinned, my conscience would smite me. I developed a love for the Scriptures, and I found myself slipping away to spend time alone with God. I found hiding places, whether in the hills of East County or on the coastal cliffs of La Jolla, where I would spend hours reading the Word of God and calling out to Him in prayer. These were sweet times. For the first time, I felt like I was beginning to know God directly and not second-hand.
The first push-back I received was from my friends. I spent less and less time with them and was ridiculed for it. They said that I was trying to be “holier than thou.” When I did spend time with them, they said that I was different and no longer any fun to be around. As I look back now, I realize that what they meant as criticism was actually evidence that God was changing me.
I did not have a specific time when I sat down, repented of my sins, and consciously put my faith in the person and work of Christ; but I was increasingly living a life of repentance and faith. When I learned something new about Christ or His Gospel, it resonated within my heart, and the truths became my own. My conscience grew in sensitivity. Somewhere in this whole process, God had converted my soul.
Call to the Ministry
When I was twelve or thirteen, I remember having a sense that I would one day end up as a preacher. When I was eighteen, shortly after my conversion, I went on a short-term missions trip to India with one of my pastors. Our focus was to visit some orphanages and indigenous missionaries. During that trip I met men who were planting churches in remote villages – men of God who had few possessions, yet possessed everything. Many had been beaten, stabbed, or almost burned alive for the sake of the Gospel. I saw their unswerving faith in God and love for Christ. That encounter with those men awakened me to the reality of the Christian life in light of eternity.
When I returned to the U.S., I was quite undone. I began to feel that I would never be content to live a life as a business owner (which had been my aim). I went on an extended fast with hopes of discerning God’s will in the matter. As a result of the fast and through the counsel of my elders, the Lord led me to go back to India – this time by myself – to live with the indigenous pastors for three months. This trip proved to change the course of my life.
I was still eighteen when I went to India on this second, extended trip. I expected that my time would be spent learning from these Indian men and in hours of prayer, but in the strange providence of God, they had planned to spend most of our time in evangelism. For two out of the three months of my stay, we traveled to countless villages sharing the Gospel. Someone from the team usually would choose an area for preaching, mostly in the open air. We would then go around to the mud huts, houses, and fields to invite the locals to hear a message in the evening. We would then spend a season in prayer to ask God to bring them. Usually around 8:00 PM a crowd would gather, and we would stand on a bull cart or a hefty table and preach to twenty, fifty, or sometimes a hundred people who gathered. Other times we ministered in small mud huts to a family or two. During this time, I was preaching through a translator four or five times a week.
These were some of my first experiences preaching. While standing there and preaching, I felt a burning in my heart and a joy, thinking that I would never be content to spend my life doing anything other than preaching the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those few months were instrumental in my call to the ministry. Although I now feel that I was not then mature in the faith and that I probably should not have been preaching, God had His own purposes. He was calling a young man into the ministry. He took my lips that were once used for destruction and used them to proclaim the life-giving words of the Gospel. He had shifted my pursuit of my own glory into a pursuit of spreading His fame and glory in one of the most unreached places on earth.
To be transparent, I came back to the U.S. as a prideful young buck. I wanted to move to India right away and felt that I was ready. My elders did recognize something of a call, but they saw my immaturity and admonished me to be patient and to learn while serving in our church. The Lord humbled me and helped me decide to submit to their wise counsel – which may well be one of the most important decisions I have ever made. They began to mentor me in what was an informal internship.
I was hired on staff at the church in an administrative role. At that time, our church did not have its own facility, so I worked at the house of one of my elders. I was in his house every day of the work-week for over a year. One of the greatest benefits of this season was that I was able to observe his everyday life: how he treated his wife; how, when, and why he disciplined his children; how he handled matters in the church. Most importantly, I learned how to love Christ and His Word. I would not exchange that time for anything.
I began going to Bible College online, and I continued my short-term trips to India over the years. As time passed, the elders gave me more and more teaching and ministry opportunities.
I now have a lovely wife and three precious daughters. When my wife and I began courting, our first conversation was about ministry and India. I wanted to know if she was willing to move there. I shared that God was not calling me to be a businessman (though I ran a business at the time); rather, He was calling me to preach the Gospel, and most likely in India. By God’s goodness, she was supportive from day one, and a year later we were married. It has been nearly ten years since my first trip, and now at last we are in India.
My prayer for India is that through the Gospel, India would “be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Some might say that our sights are set too high and that it would be better if we lowered our expectations. I know that we are few in number. I know that we are weak in frame. But we serve the One True God of the Bible. This desire is not just our ambition; it is God’s desire and promise. Would it not be tragic for us to ask Him for anything less?
Along with our sending church, we will be working closely with HeartCry while on the field. In India, we will be a part of a local Indian church that is affiliated with HeartCry. The elders of that church love Christ, they love their flock, they love the lost, and they are theologically sound. What a blessing this is for my family and me, that we can be a part of a church while on the mission field. While countless laborers are needed in India, there are bursts of light that are scattered across the darkness. This is an encouraging truth, and we should not ignore its reality!
When considering the enormity of India’s needs, we could easily become overwhelmed, not knowing where to start. But thankfully, God has given a clear and simple “game plan” that we must not change. As a minister of the Gospel, God has called me to give myself to the following things: prayer, the study of the Word, the preaching of the Word, sacrificial love, and the training of “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). Beyond these things, we have no strategy. I believe that if we devote ourselves to these callings, the Gospel will prevail and spread in India.
If I could ask one thing from you, it would be that you would pray. Remember my family and me. Pray that I serve my wife and children and do not neglect them for the sake of ministry. Pray for our transition to this culture that is very different from our own. Pray that God will continuously fill us with His Spirit, with wisdom, with patience, with endurance, with love, and with joy. And pray that God would spread His fame and worship in North India.
* For his security, a pen name has been used for this missionary.