April 13, 2017 | 0 By Pastor Shawn Otto of Bethel Mennonite Church, Sarasota, FL. Fearless! God impressed that word on my mind over and over as I sat and listened to the amazing work being carried out in East India. Men and women shared stories of entering pagan villages and sharing the Good News of Jesus in spite of intimidation, violence, and even the threat of death. To these brave ambassadors for Christ, persecution was a normal part of the Christian walk—even expected! It did not deter them; it did not make them run in fear; and it certainly did not stop them from opening their mouths to share the truth of Jesus! I had the incredible privilege of visiting East India and taking part in an Annual Equipping Event (AEE) with Global Disciples. My role was simple: Build relationships, hear stories of God’s work in that region, and bring those experiences back to our church in Sarasota, Florida! Our congregation has been investing prayer and finances in this region through Global Disciples so the work is familiar to me. Still, I had no idea the profound mutual impact this visit would have on the participants of the AEE as well as on me and my church. The AEE participants—all leaders of discipleship-mission and leadership training programs—expressed often how privileged they were to have believers from all over the world praying for them. This simple act of obedience boosted their faith and encouraged them to continue the work God had called them to do. Prior to this AEE, I would have said prayer is important—of course! But after seeing the encouragement our prayers were to these participants, I am more acutely aware of my need to lift up these brothers and sisters to God. But far beyond my encouragement to them was the encouragement these participants have been to me and my church. First, as I listened to their courage in sharing the Good News in spite of intense persecution, I was personally emboldened in my own faith. I was forced to consider, Why don’t I talk to that neighbor about Jesus? Why don’t I engage in conversation with the barista at Starbucks? Why am I fearful in these circumstances? What’s holding me back? If these men and women saw their persecution like the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4:7-12) and accepted it gladly, then my suffering is nothing in comparison. I want to be as bold as they are! I want to see Jesus proclaimed like He is there, in India, through them. To God’s credit, the very first day after my return, I met my neighbor at the mailbox and shared my faith! What a joy and privilege. The courage of the AEE participants was imparted to me and made that happen! Second, because of the stories I brought back, our church has taken new ownership of this mission. No longer is it just a faceless check being written each month, but rather these are real people, with real stories, and real needs. Our congregants see themselves as real contributors to the work God is doing among the least-reached people of our world. That realization not only boosts their faith, but also their giving! Praise be to God! If your church is considering a partnership with Global Disciples, I can only say one thing: Do it! God is at work around the world and this is your opportunity to be part of it! You will be enriched as the Gospel flourishes around the globe!