Friday, May 23, 2008

CLCI 10th Seminary Graduation

Greeting from Guntur again,

Last night was quite a usual CLCI fashion (as past Mission Helpers to India know) the CLCI compound, when decorated for a big event is a beautiful sight at night. The large court yard is turned into an outdoor sanctuary with a large stage at one end with a colorful backdrop and canopy. On the backdrop was a large banner that announced the 10th graduation of the CLCI seminary and the theme for the night written in Greek, English, and Telegu: Speaking the Truth in Love. The trees and buildings are all draped with lights. It turns into a magical place in the midst of the dirt and grim and poverty of this developing nation.

After about two hours of pastors, seminary students, and graduates taking turns singing Gospel songs in Telegu over the loud speakers that can be heard several kilometers aways and the Sunday school children of several near by congregation singing and performing action songs, the service began with V.S. Benjamin's youngest son, Nireekshana, opening with prayer and the invocation. Graduates and guests and a few hundred members from surrounding CLCI congregations were welcomed.

V.S. Benjamin, who is very close to 87 years old now was also in attendance. He is really starting to show his age. While he needed the assistance of his sons to get up the steps to the stage he was still eager to deliver a sermon and perform the laying on of hands of each of the graduating seminary students with great enthusiasm.

Each graduate has already received his assigned congregation and so this service serves as graduation and ordination. Each graduate was brought on stage as V.S. Benjamin anointed the head of each graduate with oil as all the seminary professors, Pastor Ude, and myself laid our hands upon their heads and prayed for the Lord's blessings upon the man, the ministry, and the congregations they have been called to start or serve. V.S. Benjamin then embraced each graduate and gave him a kiss on the forehead as he sent him off into the ministry.

After sermons from Pastor Ude and myself...Pastor Ude had the honor of handing out certificates of completion to 10 graduates of the CLCI correspondance course in theology. I was given the privilege of distributing diplomasa and gifts to the 14 graduates of the CLCI seminary. This is the largest class of graduates thus far.

Following the distribution of diplomas, all the CLCI pastors who were in attendance were brought on stage and honored for their service to the Lord with a handshake and shawl. Then the teaching staff of the seminary was honored with the same, and finally Pastor Ude and myself were given a shawl and a gift and thanked for being present on this special night.

Following the benediction...everyone was informed of the "love feast" that had been prepared and all 1200+ attendees were fed a meal of chicken biriyani. It seems that it was enjoyed by all. Pastor Ude and I were invited into Jyothi's home to eat a meal prepared especially for us by his wife. We ate (not too spicy) chicken biriyani and chicken livers. It was good. (click here to watch a slide show of the graduation: )

I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to be here for this special event. It was eleven years ago this summer that I first visited India. At that time the CLCI proposed to the CLC Board of Missions the idea of starting a fulltime seminary. The Board of Missions granted their request and by the grace of God the funding for this Gospel mission work came through the offering of God's people in the CLC-USA. Over the past ten years I have witnessed God's gracious had at work as many improvements have been made in the CLCI seminary with addition of a new and larger classroom needed for the 38+ students currently enrolled. Two men have also been added to the teaching staff. The orphange duties that Jyothi once held have been transferred to his brother Nireekshana so that he can dedicate himself fulltime to the preaching and teaching ministry as he still preaches and conducts outreach efforts in areas where there is little or no Christian witness. It was also a joy for me to see the faces of men who are now full-time pastors in the CLCI that I have had the privilege of teaching and encouraging over the years that I have visited the CLCI. As the Lord continues to bless this effort we continue to pray that the Lord would send more and more workers to the CLCI seminary to prepare them for the great harvest of souls here in South India. Next year, the Lord willing...the CLCI will have 12 graduates. Current enrollment for next year is currently 38 with seven more slot to be filled from the abundance of applications they have received.

Today I meet with Nireekshana to discuss Mission Board business. Tonight we visit a congregation. If our car is fixed by tonight we will return to Chennai tomorrow. If not...we will probably take the train because we have a flight to Nepal to catch on Monday...and I don't think they will wait for us. :)

Your prayers are appreciated!

In Christ,
Pastor Ohlmann

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