Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mission executive visits churches and Rural Service Center in India.

During a trip to India in October, Global Mission Partnerships executive director Jay Wittmeyer visited congregations of both the Church of North India (CNI) and the Church of the Brethren in India. He also visited the Rural Service Center in Ankleshwar, following up on a recent review and evaluation of that program.

Wittmeyer was in India from Oct. 15-25, starting with time in New Delhi, then traveling to visit with and preach at historically Brethren congregations of CNI in the Gujarat area. He also met with the directors and board of the Rural Service Center, visited with congregations and leaders of the Church of the Brethren India, and attended a meeting of the "CBGB Trust" (standing for the Church of the Brethren General Board).

CNI is beginning a year-long celebration of its 40th anniversary year this fall, having been formed in November 1970 by several mission groups including the Church of the Brethren. Among other CNI services and events, Wittmeyer was welcomed to a special gathering of historically Brethren congregations of CNI in Ankleshwar. The gathering featured two worship services and was attended by hundreds of people, including Bishop Vinod Malavia, CNI bishop of the Gujarat diocese, and most of the CNI pastors in the area. The CNI celebration was extravagantly welcoming, Wittmeyer reported. Piles of flower garlands were presented to mark the occasion.

At the Rural Service Center, Wittmeyer met with directors Idrak and Rachel Din and attended the annual meeting of the Board of Directors. He visited several family farms with which the center has worked, as a follow up to a review and evaluation of the center that was made possible through the Global Food Crisis Fund.

Wittmeyer reported that the Rural Service Center is doing basic agricultural education, support, and capacity building for the rural community. The center bridges "between the local farmer and the local government," he said, "motivating people to access government facilities."

Services provided by the center include land leveling, information about improved varieties of crops and farming techniques such as "intercropping," and information about government agricultural extension programs. The center also works at connecting poorer farm families with the more well-to-do, who may demonstrate newer or more expensive technologies. An essential focus is to establish trust and communications with the farming community, and offer new ideas. "If you take poor rural farmers, they don't have the margin of land to take a risk to try out new crops and techniques," Wittmeyer explained.

The Dins also "work with Muslims and Christians and Hindus," he added. "Whenever you have an interfaith group going together to look at a farm plot, that's interesting."

In the Ahmadabad area, Wittmeyer visited the CNI Gujarat Biblical Seminary.

He also visited with trustees and members of the CBGB Trust. The relationship of CNI and the Church of the Brethren India is "sensitive" because of a legal dispute over former mission properties, he explained. "We (in the Church of the Brethren in the US) recognize both. We have relationship to both entities," he said, referring to the two church bodies that have emerged from the former Brethren mission in India.

Wittmeyer said he spent time encouraging the two church bodies to have consideration for their future relationship, to think beyond the dispute over property, and to share a concern to respect all of the people who are affected by the issue.

Source: 11/18/2009 Newsline

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