God needed to do something drastic given the general Christian malaise in the state of Andhra Pradesh, one Indian leader surmised. A few months after devastating floods hit Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Indian MB leaders found reconciliation through the waters of footwashing.
In October, floods caused by five days of heavy rain left more than 250 people dead and millions without homes – including some 45 villages home to MB families. Dams broke, houses were submerged, transportation networks were interrupted, and entire fields of soil were washed away.
J. L. David, executive director of Mennonite Brethren Development Organization (MBDO), headed the relief efforts. MB churches were the first to respond to David’s call for help, sending sacks of rice, dal, and clothing for 3,000 families. Help also came from the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB), MBMSI, and the Indian government.
A few months later, in January, the India MB conference celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren with the release of a Telugu version of Knowing and Living Your Faith, a study guide published by ICOMB.
A resource team of Indian Bible college instructors, along with president emeritus of MB Biblical Seminary Elmer Martens, conducted six regional seminars attended by a total of 300 people, mostly male pastors but also some women. The chapter on “Reconciliation and Peacemaking” was received with particular attention and interest.
At the suggestion of Reverend G. Ross, director of the seminars, arrangements were made to conclude the two-day session with a footwashing service. The tradition, now only infrequently observed by MBs, is new to many Indian pastors.
At one of these services, two pastors at odds with each other were reconciled. Two weeks after the foot washing, two family units reconciled after three years of quarrelling.
“Partly because of this ancient ritual and, more important, the Holy Spirit’s work in many hearts, the seminars were, in the words of several, ‘a success,’” says Martens. “God showed up!”
—Karla Braun, with files from Elmer Martens