By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
ELLICOTT CITY, Md.—Kip Smith, senior pastor of Bethany Church, with campuses in Ellicott City and Columbia, Md., prayed for souls to be saved, for the team to be united and for spiritual discernment, specifically for the ability to identify darkness before participating in a six person mission team to India in March. God answered Smith’s prayers.
The team, led by church member Raja Konda, travelled in intense heat each day up to three hours to remote villages and shared the Gospel, through interpreters, to small congregations gathered in thatched hut churches. The purpose of the trip was to fulfill the vision given to Konda to encourage the pastors of small churches planted deep in the remote villages of village of India whose calling was to reached the unreached people groups of India.
After delivering the message at the first church, Smith thought he was “closing” the service with the benediction. That, however was just the beginning. People streamed to the front for prayer—everyone in the congregation. Smith and the others in the team began to lay hands on the people and pray.
Members of the team were confronted with the powers of darkness as people stood before them stating they had demons. At every church it was the same. Immediately after worship, people lined up for prayer or deliverance. At times there were six lines of people, each with a prayer request for a miracle in their lives. Throughout the trip, the team prayed over the sick and led people to Jesus, baptizing them in rivers nearaby the churches.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life,” Smith said. “I was overwhelmed by the pain in front of me—malaria, typhus, everywhere you turn was pain, poverty and struggle. Team member Chad Johnson echoed this sentiment as did all that went on the trip. Johnson and other team members participated at each visit to one of six churches through preaching or giving testimony.
Evil and idolatry was present all around. Smith referred to a “monkey god” towering 100 feet in the air in the primarily Hindu region. People were hungry for the real God, not a weak idol.
“Every time we prayed the Spirit of God was pouring through us,” Smith said.
Even as they were rushing from one church due to a potential security threat, a man was running up to their vehicle begging them to please pray for his wife who had a demon.
“I believed in Satan, but when I went to India I saw him face to face,” Smith said.
The miracles the team saw actually began at the start of the trip. Kenny Crummitt, campus minister, Bethany Church, Columbia campus, and his wife, Kate, who serves as the church’s administrative minister at Ellicott City were on the team. The couple said Satan tried very hard to stop them from participating in the trip. They had health issues, visa problems and their usual childcare was not available, but one-by-one, God filled the needs and opened the doors.
Several health issues became non-issues while ministering in India. When one member did get ill, another had just the right medication to take care of the problem. God took care of all the worries that now seem petty, said mission team member Nancy Obkiebisu.
While in Hyderabad, on the way home, they “happened” to meet a sound technician working for Christian artist Chris Tomlin. Tomlin’s band was in town for a “Passion Hyderbad” event and the team was able to get tickets for the show. Kenny praised God for the gift of “refreshment” from God, allowing the team to simply worship Him following a fabulous but long, hard journey.
Kate Crummitt , who grew up in Manila, said after returning from India, and seeing the poverty, it is difficult for her to even go to a coffeehouse without thinking of what the cost of a cup of coffee could do in India. “I have seen poverty, I have lived poverty, but to think of the wealth of the United States compared to the rest of the world overwhelms me,” she said.
Kate was also overwhelmed with the passion of the Indian pastors. “I want to be like those pastors and see Columbia and Ellicott City residents as those pastors see people in their villages. How can we have the same zeal and urgency?”
Raja Konda, team leader and a deacon at Bethany Church, grew up in India. Konda relayed how at the beginning of the trip he saw his role as being responsible for transportation, lodging and security for the team. But the Lord had different plans for Konda. Before the trip was over, the Lord had impressed Konda with a sermon he was to deliver to the home church, Great Commission Baptist Church in Hyderbad. Raja preached his first sermon on the final Sunday the team was in India.
The church plans to adopt the ten bivocational pastors in India to allow those pastors to minister full time. Smith said the pastors walk miles to minister to their congregations. One is almost blind, one is crippled. “I am blown away by their sacrifice,” Kate said.
Kip Smith said God has given him a vision to return to the villages within the next year, take a praise team and have the team sing and the local preachers preach, ushering in the presence of the Holy Spirit in a huge massive revival.