Dr. Chatla Devasahayam led the congregation in a formal procession around the church building, followed by prayers and more circles around the building. Church members sang as they walked, each lap concluding with prayer. Dr. Chatla, president of the Indian Christian Bethel Baptist Gospel Fellowship, dedicated a plaque that acknowledges the efforts of Glenn Amos, the former Teen Leadership Conference director; Dwight Peterson, current TLC director; and Chris Hindal, director of GARBC International Ministries. The three men had traveled from the U.S. at the invitation of Dr. Chatla; all three participated in the dedication ceremonies.
Commenting on the “sacrificial and generous gifts of American teens,” Chris Hindal described the churches as “congregations made up of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Though they live in a land of poverty, they are rich in their commitment to Jesus Christ.”
The two churches are located several miles apart in Andhra Pradesh in southeast India. Dr. Chatla started the network of churches in 1979, working out of a grass hut. Now the association includes 350 churches, a Christian school, a Bible institute, and facilities for widows and orphans.
“Dwight and I were moved—unbelievably impressed—at what Dr. Chatla is doing in India,” says Glenn Amos, now the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Clarks Summit, Pa. “That guy is a visionary. To see what he has done with the ministry over there is amazing.”
The unique partnership between Indian churches and American teens began last summer, when Glenn Amos asked Chris Hindal for offering suggestions, hoping that he could motivate teens who were attending the conference on the campus of Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, Pa. Hindal knew of the two churches through his ministry as director of GARBC International Ministries. When money for the Indian churches ran out, construction had stopped on both buildings.
Working with Hindal, Amos and Peterson set what they thought was a stretch goal for the first week of Teen Leadership Conference. Hindal presented the ministry need on Monday night and asked the teens to pray about their giving, which would begin Wednesday; $6,000 would finish the churches.
“It struck me as a high goal, and Chris wondered if it was too high, but I didn’t want to make an easy goal that the kids could make without sacrifice,” Glenn Amos says.
The 313 teens who attended the conference ended up giving $7,300, more than enough to complete the project. The next week, TLC students were challenged to give toward the GARBC’s Hope for Haiti project, rebuilding churches destroyed by an earthquake. The second week’s attendance was larger, with 435 teens and 80 youth sponsors. The goal of $10,000 was enough to rebuild one entire church building—but the teens ended up giving $13,055.
“For years anyone who has been in youth ministry has observed that kids have more money than any of us. The question is, do they want to give it?” Glenn Amos asks. “Properly challenged, with a good goal and a legitimate need, teens will give generously to projects like this.”
Then Pastor Amos takes his conclusion one step further, extending it to parents and other adults. “The millennial generation wants to be challenged, and our churches want to be challenged too.”
Chris Hindal observed how “teens are not waiting to grow up to do God’s will; God is using them right now.” And Chris can’t help but ask the same question as Glenn Amos: “That makes me wonder what God’s people in our churches could do if we let God be Lord of our resources,” Hindal says.