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alpha india news

VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2 | APRIL - JUNE 2011

NEWS IN BRIEF

Alpha in Local Train: People commute daily by train from home to work and vice-versa. Alpha in local train is run for the duration of the journey between two stations. A new approach to evangelism on wheels.Read more on Pg. 4

THE QUARTERLY NEWSPAPER OF ALPHA INDIA

NICKY GUMBEL

ENCOURAGES 1,300

LEADERS IN BANGALORE

Accelerate 2011 with Nicky Gumbel : About 1300 Christian leaders from all over India gathered in Bangalore to hear Nicky Gumbel also read Bishop Sandy Millar’s meeting with CNI and CSI Bishops. Pg. 6-7 New Developments in North-East: The Alpha Course is witnessing steady growth in the North-East. Leaders in Nagaland and Meghalaya have taken the initiave to use Alpha in their Churches. Pg. 8 Questions of Life : This book contains all the 15 talks delivered on an Alpha Course. A must read for anybody interested in evangelism. Pg.10-11 Financial Partnership We appreciate your financial partnership. If you are inspired to support Alpha India then please use the details below, or contact Josy Joseph at the Alpha India Office. Alpha India Account: Account Number: 03532000005741 Name: Alpha India Bank: HDFC Bank Ltd. Branch: Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore Account Type: Current account

Rev. Nicky Gumbel travelled to India in January 2011 to witness the amazing growth in Alpha Courses here and to meet with Church leaders. “Nothing compares with telling others about Jesus. It’s a vision worth going for, it’s worth leaving everything and following Jesus.” Full report on pages 6-7.

The Alpha Course is now being used to reach a unique community: commuters on a local train in Kolkata. Pg 4


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alpha notes

National Alpha Office contact details:

READERS’ STORIES&PHOTOS

Alpha India: 219, 5th A Main Road, HRBR 2nd Block, Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore - 560 043 Tel: 080 2542 0902 IDD: +91 80 2542 0902 Email: contact@alphaindia.org Web: www.alphaindia.org

National Director: Mr J Varadaraj Board Members:

Scott Norling, Chairman Chris Sadler, Alpha Asia Pacific Chairman J Varadaraj, National Director Dr A. F. Pinto, CEO of St. Xavier Group of Schools and Ryan International Schools Gul Kripalani, Managing Director of Pijikay Fr. Anthony D’Souza S.J. Director of the Xavier Institute of Leadership Amrit Kunder, Builder/Developer Noel Swaranjit Sen, Former Police Chief of A.P T. David Raj, Joyce Meyer Ministries, India Matthew Anthony, Secretary for Evangelisation, Archdiocese of Delhi

Church Advisory Board:

Archbishop Vincent Concessao Bishop Rt. Rev. V. M. Malaviya Rev. Dr D. Mohan, Superintendant of AOG India

National Coordinator’s Contact details: Alpha in the Workplace: Santosh Chettri Mob: 09007-022889

Alpha Family Ministry: Earnest & Shirley Immanuel Mob: 095351-79269 Alpha for Prisons: Peace Khapai Mob: 09597-421832 Youth Alpha: Melissa Thomas Mob: 080953-22726

State Coordinators’ Contact details: Andhra Pradesh: Susheel K Chattar Mob: 098660-99184

Andhra Pradesh - Hindupur: Paul J L Mob: 094408-61979 Assam and Meghalaya: Ranjit De Mob: 094347-59794 Bihar: George Muller Mob: 094310-16124 Gujarat: D Jimmy Mob: 098254-44197

ALPHA INDIA NEWS APRIL - JUNE 2011

Many thanks for the testimonies, stories and photos that have been posted to us. Once again in this issue your stories have been printed throughout the newspaper, together with other encouraging stories we have collected from across the nation. Please send your stories to, Email: stories.alphaindia@gmail.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/alphacourseindia Postal address: Alpha India National Office 219, 5th A Main Road HRBR 2nd Block, Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore - 560 043

Letter from BISHOP Rt. Rev. Dr. Samson Das Greetings from the Diocese of Cuttack, C.N.I From the year 2007, I have heard about the Alpha ministry and that it is doing wonderfully here in Odisha where it is used by our Churches & Organisations in order to take an active part in the evangelisation of our Nation and transformation of our society which is also the vision of Alpha. I praise God for giving me an unique opportunity to attend the C.N.I Bishops retreat at Ahmedabad with Bishop Sandy Millar, which was an unforgettable event of my life. After this I am personally moved with passion to carry forward the vision of Alpha through all our Churches under the Diocese of Cuttack and I wish this wonderful tool be introduced to all the Churches in Odisha irrespective of their denominational background. For this I am committed as I realise that the Alpha Course is an effective tool to bring renewal in the Churches as well as to transform the society. It is my prayer, that this year would be a year of harvest not only here in Odisha but also throughout the Nation through the Alpha movement which is spreading like wild fire throughout the world. With Blessings Bishop Diocese of Cuttack Rt. Rev. Dr. Samson Das

Himachal Pradesh: Rupak K Nayak Mob: 093189-02997 Jammu & Kashmir: Mushtaq Ahmad Mob: 099066-84250 Kerala: Mon C George Mob: 094464-83577 Karnataka - Bangalore : S R Joseph Mob: 098866-08954 Karnataka: Sam Victor Mob: 099646-98118 Odisha: Tushar K Behera Mob: 093371-41600

New Regional Offices and Alpha Family Ministry begin as work accelerates across the country To support the many churches starting Alpha, we have taken a major step this quarter by opening two new regional offices in Chandigarh and Kolkata. These offices will function similar to the National Office in Bangalore, and will serve their respective regions. We also praise God for Earnest & Shirley Immanuel who will be managing Alpha Family Ministry. We ask for your prayers for their health, protection and guidance as they take on these key responsibilities.

Odisha: Jayadeep Samantroy Mob: 098535-03813 Uttar Pradesh: Vinay P Dayal Mob: 093594-86843 West Bengal: Dilip and Kakali Debnath Mob: 098742-07760 West Bengal - Kolkata: Prabir Mondal Mob: 096744-61951

© Alpha India 2011, edited and published by J.V. Raj for Alpha India

Thomas Mathew, Regional Manager, Chandigarh with wife Grace

Santosh Chettri & family Regional Manager, Kolkata

Earnest & Shirley Immanuel Alpha Family Ministry


ALPHA INDIA NEWS APRIL - JUNE 2011

From the National Director There are four things that seem to me that have under-girded the Alpha Movement from the beginning. Firstly, Intimacy with God. God has many servants. Servants look forward to work and wages. And many are good servants. Some are even heroes. This is noble. BUT God is looking for lovers. Lovers of God are sold out to their Beloved. No price is too much for them. Their concern is to be with Him, to be His pleasure. They have no agenda of their own. Intimacy with God is a journey in a relationship. This journey is initiated by God. Intimacy is a human response to a Divine Revelation. The language of intimacy is obedience. There is an inkling of this in Song of Solomon Chapter 2:8-10. The Beloved says, “Come Away”. The Lord Jesus asked Peter,” Do you love me more than these?” Paul said, “I count all my riches of the past as dung when compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ.” With such a longing, the journey becomes a pilgrimage. The only difference is that our Beloved walks with us all through. “Life can become so selfish, that it wants everything. And while trying for everything, we miss something worth everything”(India Calling). The Psalms express the many longings of the writers. Our love will be tested. Once tested, it will be trusted. May His Presence be always our desire. May His voice be sweet to us. May we learn to bask in the shadow of His love.

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alpha notes Secondly, Intimacy with one another. 32 times the phrase ‘one another’ appear in the New Testament. ‘Love one another’, ‘serve one another’ indicate the call to relate intimately one with another in the body of Christ. There can be no long distance feet washing possible. Jesus said “by your love they will know you are my disciples.” Christian teaching emphasizes community life. Our love to God is best expressed in our love to fellow human beings. Intimacy demands transparency. And transparency has components of vulnerability and trauma. This is also a call to love those whom we do not like. Love is both a choice and a commitment. Our gifting divide us. But our brokenness binds us together. The intimate knowledge that we are all saved by grace and share the same hope of salvation should be a prime reason to choose to commit ourselves to one another. Such a mutual commitment will give a purpose to all relationships. A community of loving people is the hope for a world filled with lonely people. Thirdly, the Bible. Rooted in the Word and led by the Spirit can be the summary of our Theology. The mandate of the ministry “evangelisation of the nations” came out of the Bible. The Old Testament theme is “Return to God” and the Gospels show us “how to return.” The Epistles show “the way forward.” All the talks on Alpha are from Scriptures and organised to help a person to start on a journey to explore the meaning of life.

Scriptures have had a prominent place in the life of all the leaders of the Movement. Nicky Gumbel spends time in daily study of the Scriptures. You can sign-up for his daily devotions today at www.alphaindia.org. Lastly Prayer. As a spiritual movement, Prayer has always had an emphasis at different stages of the Alpha work. There is so much prayer that is invested before and at each stage of a course. Prayer is one of the talks. We pray and minister to those who come on the course. Prayer expresses our total dependence on God for all our endeavors. Prayer is a great opportunity to engage God in what we do. Prayer begins with God. He asked us to pray and assured us answers. Alpha is a testimony to countless answered prayers. Prayer is a way of life. Christians and Churches that pray have something special about them. May the reading of this material spur you into fruitful lifestyle as individuals, families and Churches.

Raj

“Alpha is all over the place.” -Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor

Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster and former President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Archbishop Salvatore Pennachio Apostolic Nuncio to India

with Mr. J. Varadaraj, National Director, Alpha India & Mr. Chris Sadler, Chairman Alpha Asia Pacific


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from the field

ALPHA INDIA NEWS APRIL - JUNE 2011

ALPHA COURSE IN KOLKATA TRAIN

Alpha Course in Kolkata Local Train Report by Dilip Debnath

Slowly we realised that Jesus Christ is the only true God...

In December 2010 we started an Alpha Course in a Kolkata local train. Our train ministry started three years ago, and at that time there was a group of seven people who would devote one day every week to help with outreach work on-board.

I am Jayanta of a village in the southern part of Odisha. In April 2009 my wife and I were invited by one of my Christian friends, Jagat to attend the Alpha Course that was going on near our village. This was a new experience in our life as we enjoyed fellowship with others and here every one is accepted with their own identity and dignity.

Among the team was Swapan Mandal, who attended the Alpha Master Training programme in Lucknow in 2009, and because of that he was inspired to run the Alpha Course in his own church. When I went to a Youth meeting at Lucknow afterward God spoke to me to start this course on the Kolkata local train. So after I came back from Lucknow I met with the seven people team and we decided to start the Alpha Course in the train every Monday. The train would start from the Sealdah station and it would take more than two hours for each train to reach its destination, so there was ample time to do the Alpha Course. Now we have three Alpha Courses on the local trains and each group has 10 members, so there are around 30 people doing the Alpha Course while being on the move! These people are regular commuters who travel every day by the same train at the same time. Now they have finished five weeks of the course already. On the train tea and snacks are provided to the course guests. On the first week of the course Christmas gifts were given to them and the course was introduced to them and on the second week the first talk of the course “Who is Jesus?� was done. The New Testament Bibles were also distributed to them as they were interested to know more about Jesus. Pray for their protection and for us as we run the Alpha Course on the local trains in Kolkata.

Slowly we realized that Jesus Christ is the only true God. In July 2010 my wife and I accepted Jesus as our personal Saviour and took water baptism. I praise God for this wonderful course which has shifted me and my wife from darkness to light. Now we are helping our friend Jagat during the Alpha Course.

Eight guests took baptism, accepting Jesus as their Saviour My name is Pastor Simon and I serve as a Pastor in Raigada. In the month of March 2010, I attended a two-day Alpha Training in our city. Immediately after the training we started the Alpha Course in our Church. Since then all our members (adults, women and young people) started cooperating with us as they experienced how the Alpha Course gives them an opportunity to play an active role in evangelisation in a friendly atmosphere. After this many non-Christians have been invited by our Church members to attend the course and gradually they have discovered the truth for themselves. Recently eight guests took water baptism, accepting Jesus as their personal Saviour.

I asked many questions to know what Christianity was all about I am Sushama. I was born in a Hindu family. I am 18 years old. I was worshipping different gods and goddesses. Mr. Santanu Nag invited me to attend the Alpha Course that was run in my village. I attended with a curiosity to know what the Christians here were teaching and doing. Slowly I came to know about Christianity and God.


ALPHA INDIA NEWS APRIL - JUNE 2011

from the field

I asked many questions to know what Christianity was all about. During the discussion period I was convinced about the truth and I got all the answers to my questions. When one pastor prayed for me during the Holy Spirit session I experienced something different in my life.

Increased momentum in the Nilgiris: 11 new courses start. Report by Peace Khapai

I understood the truth and power of God. I started worshipping Jesus who is true and the only God. At the end of the course I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and God. I want to take Baptism but I am opposed by my family members. Please pray for me so that I will be able to take Baptism soon and will worship Him without any problem. Pray for the conversion of my family also.

Youth Alpha introduced at JNC Bangalore. Report by Melissa Thomas “El Shaddai” An Intercollegiate Gospel Fest was held on 4th March at the Jyoti Nivas College. Alpha being the co-sponsor of the event was given the central space for its’ stall. Over 500 participants from 23 colleges in the city of Bangalore were present at the fest. Six Alpha banners were displayed all over the campus area. Ten of the National Alpha Office staff were present at the campus to interact with the students. Various promos were being displayed in seminar halls and auditoriums while the competitions were being held. Before the competitions could start, there was a 10 minute slot given for introduction of Alpha. After displaying three promos, the National Youth Alpha coordinator spoke to an audience of 400 students on exploring the questions of life and also encouraged them to visit the Alpha stall outside to know more.

5 They greatly benefitted from this Alpha Course. As a teacher it is my great joy when I see spiritual awakening in the hearts of my students and to see their lives transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to see them walking in the light and not in darkness. My heart overflows with thanks to the Lord who alone can bring meaning and purpose into the lives of young people and make His light shine upon them for His Glory.

The Alpha training in Ooty has created a momentum for the churchMay God bless Alpha India and use it to es in the Nilgiris region of Tamil transform our Nation. Nadu. 87 pastors and leaders from 29 churches of the Nilgiris recently attended training which took place at the Union Church – Ooty. The training encouraged and challenged the participants as they heard the testimonies of how Alpha has been a blessing for our country. Some of them said that this is what they have been looking and waiting for. They understood that the Alpha Course would impact their churches and communities as they received much during the training.

Please Pray for Alpha in India Praise Points: 1. Praise God for the success of the well planned and executed meetings with Nicky Gumbel. 11 churches have since registered their Alpha Courses. We have also formed an Alpha Nilgiris prayer team with five key leaders in Ooty. This team will meet for prayer once a month for the Alpha Ministry in India and they have met once already. This team will also help when ever there is any Alpha program in the Nilgiris. The Senior Pastor of the Union Church gave us their conference hall and other equipment for free for the training, and we give the church many thanks for their generosity.

Alpha starts at ladies college in Lucknow. Excerpts from a letter written by Angeline S. Moser I am very grateful to Alpha India for conducting the Alpha Course for our students at Isabella Thobum College. Twenty –five students registered out of which eighteen have completed the 10 week course.

2. Praise God for all the meetings for the Bishops of the Church of South India and the Church of North India held in Bangalore and Ahmedabad with Bishop Sandy Millar and Ms. Tricia Neill. 3. Praise God for the many trainings that have come out of all these efforts. 4. Praise God for the staff retreat and the ministry of Dr. Kuruvilla Varkey and his wife Dr. Susan Varkey. 5. Praise God for all that He has done in the country through the ministry of Alpha. Prayer Points: 1. Pray for continued open doors for the Gospel in the country. 2. Pray for freshness among all the staff and our partners in the ministry. 3. Pray for re-runs of Alpha started in thousands of churches in the last few years. 4. Pray for the Regional offices in Kolkata and Chandigarh. 5. Pray that all of us will see beyond the work and bless the church in the land.


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special focus - nicky gumb

Accelerate

“Spiritually th is moving ea and now has 45 members ready to be baptised.” - Rev Hamilton Roy “The Alpha Course is running in the Army. This has opened new doors for Alpha in the Air Force and CRPF.” - Captain Behl

Accelerate 2011 with Rev. Nicky Gumbel was held on the 5th of January at Good Shepherd Auditorium, Bangalore. At least 1300 Christian leaders from all over the nation converged to hear Rev. Gumbel speak on evangelisation and transformation in our society through the Alpha Course. Pippa Gumbel, Rev. Gumbel’s wife and Tricia Neill, Executive Director, Alpha International were present at the meeting. Rev. Nicky Gumbel is the pioneer of the Alpha Course, which began in the 1970’s and is now used in 169 countries in over 112 language groups. Leaders of various churches, ministries, para churches, organisations were eager to hear from the pioneer of the Alpha Course. By the time Rev. Gumbel took to stage the auditorium was overflowing. People were perched on side walls and some even squatted on the aisles to hear the message. In a time of testimonies, Christian leaders and Alpha graduates shared stories from their home states of Gujarat, West Bengal, Odisha, Meghalaya, Bihar and Karnataka. Their stories got the attention of all attendees as they shared first hand endorsements of how God had done wonderful things in their churches and ministries through the Alpha Course. “A church was closed for 40 years. Through the Alpha Course this church was revived

“Alpha Course is running among the Naxals. Those who went about causing terror with their guns have now surrendered their weapons. All because of doing the Alpha Course.” - Pastor RB William. Bishop Lawrence from CSI introduced Rev. Gumbel. He said “One of the most influential person at this point of time is Rev. Dr. Gumbel. He is one of the most influential people today because he is carrying Christ to the unreached people.” Bishop Lawrence also announced the release of a new book titled “The Jesus Lifestyle” by Rev. Nicky Gumbel. Senior pastors were handed a copy of the new book. The book is a study of the Sermon on the Mount and is available at National Alpha India office. Rev. Gumbel connected immediately with the delegates by sharing about his family’s love for India and the game of cricket. That his son works in Bangalore and his daughter married a half Indian made everyone comfortable in their chairs. After sharing a bit about his family, Rev. Gumbel shared how his life was transformed after reading the New Testament while at university. In his early days as a new Christian he swayed between being insensitive and fearful in his approach to sharing Christ with his friends. “All the way I have been looking for a way for ordinary people like me to communicate their faith without insensitivity or fear. This is why I was so happy to discover Alpha.” Rev. Gumbel encouraged the leaders to consider running an effective tool of evangelism and how the nation would be blessed if the 300,000 churches in India did evangelism

effectively. He said that India is the key to reach the world, and that the whole world is looking to India because 20% of the world’s population is in India, 60% are young people and India is the world’s largest democracy. Economically, politically and spiritually the world is moving east. There was a wide spectrum of denominations that were represented by the Church of South India (CSI), Methodist, Assemblies of God, New Life Fellowship, Evangelical Church of India, Church of the Nazarene and Independent churches. The prominent leaders that were present in this meeting were Bishop Rt. Rev. Lawrence from CSI Nandyal Diocese, Pastor Yeswanth Kumar, Pastor Johnson Varghese (Bethel AG), Ps. Samson Arthur Paul(Grace Gospel Mission), Rev. Manoah Nickelson(Philadelphia Church - KGF), Ps. Samuel(New Life Fellowship). While in Bangalore Rev. Gumbel also met with Lawyers, Businessmen and Youth leaders at ITC Windsor Manor. At least 34 Workplace Alpha courses are scheduled to begin in different offices. Apart from the meeting in Bangalore, Nicky also addressed a gathering of 300 leaders in Trivandrum, Kerala. The simplicity of the man and his message was encapsulated in these words “Nothing compares with telling others about Jesus. It’s a vision worth going for, it’s worth leaving everything and following Jesus.”


bel & bishop sandy millar

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ccelerate 2011 with Rev. Nicky Gumbel

he world ast...” Bishop Lawrence giving a copy of “The Jesus Lifestyle” to Pastor Yashwanth Kumar

BISHOP SANDY MILLAR MEETS WITH CNI & CSI BISHOPS Bishop Sandy Millar of London met with Bishops of the CNI and CSI churches of India in January this year. Bishop Millar was Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton from 1985 to 2005 and is the principal person responsible for encouraging Nicky Gumbel’s development of the Alpha Course. We are thankful to the CSI Moderator Bishop Vasantha Kumar for his encouragement towards these meetings. Bishops from CNI and CSI churches took an unprecedented three days off from their very busy diocesan schedules to spend time with Bishop Sandy Millar and Tricia Neill in Bangalore and Ahmedabad. It was a fantastic time of building friendship and getting to know Alpha from the man who helped develop it in its early days. Bishop Sandy shared the DNA of the Alpha Course and how integrating them into the life of the church could increase the growth of the congregation as well as start new churches in their diocese. The following is the list of Bishops who attended the retreat and refresher getaway: CNI Bishops. • Rt. Rev. S. R. Cutting • Rt. Rev. P.K.Samantaroy • Rt. Rev. Prakash D. Patole • Rt. Rev. B. B. Baskey • Rt. Rev. Dr. Samson Das • Rt. Rev. V. M. Malaviya • Rt. Rev. B. R. Tiwade • Rt. Rev. M. U. Kasab • Rt. Rev. Bijay K Nayak • Rt. Rev. Vijay B Sathe • Rt. Rev. Pinuel Dip • Rt. Rev.Brojen Malakar • Rt. Rev. Pradip L. Kamble • Rt. Rev. Paul B. Prabhudas Dupare • Rt. Rev. Dr. P. P. Marandih

Agra, Uttar Pradesh Amritsar, Punjab Mumbai, Maharashtra Chotanagpur, Jharkhand Cuttack, Odisha Ahmedabad, Gujarat Kolhapur, Maharashtra Marathawada, Maharashtra Phulbani, Odisha Pune, Maharashtra Sambalpur, Odisha Barackpore, West Bengal Nasik, Maharashtra Nagpur, Maharashtra Patna, Bihar

CSI Bishops. • Rt. Rev. Dr. B. S. Devamani • Rt. Rev. Dr. P. Surya Prakash • Rt. Rev. T. Kanaka Prasad • Rt. Rev. Dr. K. G. Daniel • Rt. Rev. Dr. Y. William • Rt. Rev. P. J. Lawrence • Rt. Rev. J. J. Christdoss • Rt. Rev. Dr. J. A. D. Jebachandran • Rt. Rev. K.B. Yesuvaraprasad • Rt. Rev. Dr. V. Devasahayam

Dornakal, Andhra Pradesh Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh Melukavumattom, Kerala Vellore, Tamil Nadu Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh Tiruneveli, Tamil Nadu Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh Chennai, Tamil Nadu


new developments

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ALPHA INDIA NEWS APRIL - JUNE 2011

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE NORTH-EAST

Alpha Coordinator in North East India. Ranjit has a vision for North East India Ranjit De is presently the Alpha Coordinator in North East India. He is a Physical Chemistry Specialist by profession. He has dedicated his life to serve the Lord and has been serving full-time with Alpha India since 2006. •

To see the lives of youths of this region encounter the true love relationship with God and explore the meaning of life.

To see people find answers to the questions they are carrying in their lives.

To make each and every Christian know about this blessed tool, The Alpha Course and its impact towards reconciling people to God.

To see every church blessed by the use of The Alpha Course.

Increasing unity among each other in bringing sin sick souls to the Kingdom of God as The Alpha Course offers the opportunity to do it together.

To see ex-offenders’ lives changed as the churches can use it in correctional homes.

Ranjit’s heart is full of thankfulness and gratitude to God and to His people who have always been a source of assistance and support to him.

Alpha Advisors’ Meet in Shillong Report by Ranjit De Alpha Advisors’ Meeting in Shillong was held at UESI on 19 March. Altogether sixteen dif-

ferent churches, Christian organisations and theological seminaries were represented in this meeting. Advisors from Manipur and Nagaland also attended the meeting. Delegates were greatly encouraged as the National Director of Alpha India, Mr.Varadaraj acknowledged their role by giving each one a certificate of recognition which would encourage them to train others in running Alpha Course. This meeting has provided a team comprising of people from different denominations as well as different walks of life to come together and work for the same cause. It is exciting to note that these leaders have experienced the effectiveness of Alpha Course in their communities and now share in the vision and mission of Alpha India

Meeting with leaders in Kohima Report by Raj Commonly called as the 8-sisters of the North-east, it is part of the country, though very different from the rest of India. The people are of Mongoloid race, colourful in their dressing and musical in their linguistic expressions. Highly gifted singers, Nagaland and Manipur are bordering states. Nagaland is rich in forests, minerals and mountains. Rather rough terrain. Once headhunters, saved many years ago—as a people group. There are 16 tribes with each group having their own special culture, but all united by one language called Nagamese. The major missionaries who came were Baptists, so are the churches. 98% of the state is Christian. There are many large churches and the practice of ethics is rather high.

While in Kohima, I spoke to a group of intellectuals, professors, engineers and scientists at the Science College in Kohima. I also introduced the course to several leaders of churches and received a warm welcome. A Training Programme has been proposed by them in the month of June. I also met Dr. Huzo Meru, Principal of Shalom Bible Seminary, leader of much influence in the state and he is very happy to have us back to do some training. I also met the Law Secretary and the Principal advisor on Political affairs, Government of Nagaland and all of them have welcomed us back. The Home Minister of Nagaland is keen that we have the course for the people of the cabinet. After nine hours of rugged terrain, we reached Imphal and I preached at two Services on Sunday, one at the Tangkhul Church and the other at the Central church of The Manipur Baptist Convention. Nearly 300 young people made decisions to follow Christ during the second service. The pastor of the church, Simon, has been through a GAT and has done the course in the previous church and is now keen to start the course in the new church. Pastor Banner Makan was very helpful in these meetings.

God at work Report by Santosh Chettri Is there such a thing as a holy job, will we find happiness in our achievements...

On the 1st of March a presentation was made about the God at Work course at Salt Lake, Kolkata. Four engineers from Larsen & Tubro attended this I had the privilege of meeting several medical introduction. This informal doctors in Dimapur, most of whom are old meeting was over a cup friends, now leaders in the community. They of coffee. welcomed Alpha and are working out ways to Salt Lake houses all the implement the course in the hospital setting MNC’s and is the hub with the staff. Pastor Rajahao has done Alof corporate houses in pha before in Singapore and is now finishing Kolkota. one course in Dimapur.


ALPHA INDIA NEWS APRIL - JUNE 2011

new developments

During the first week four of us decided to meet for the first session “Work Matters”. The following week the four brought 12 more colleagues and 5 of them were from other faith. I was so excited to see the hunger in these people. This group comprised of people who were highly qualified professionals in their own fields. IIT engineers and heads of banking companies.

Over the three days, the guests were taken through various sessions of the course. The talks were given via DVDs as well through Live Talks, so as to also give the guests the option of using Live Speakers in order to reach out in the local language.

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After the Alpha talks, the guests were told about the nuances of running the Alpha Course and were shown live demonstrations on how to lead the small group discussions. We hope that The Jowai diocese will find the Alpha Course a successful tool for evangelisation.

What is Lent ?

Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Dr. GRAHAM TOMLIN ON LENT Give Out – Not Up

During the discussion on work matters questions like Is work a call or a curse, work-fulfillment or futility, is there such a thing as a holy job, will we find happiness in our achievements... Apart from these many moral questions were raised which would be discussed during the ensuing weeks.

Alpha introduced to Catholic Diocese in Meghalaya. Report by Mathew Antony The Alpha Course was introduced to the Catholic diocese of Jowai on 17th, 18th, 19th of February 2011. Sr Martina, who is responsible for the Commission for Laity Faith Formation, (Evangelisation, Catechetic, Bible Liturgy and SCCs) in Jowai, had organised the course for the teachers of RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). The participants (around 20 in all) found the Alpha Course a useful tool that could be used to begin the RCIA classes, to give the basics of the Christian faith to the students. The Alpha team from Delhi had members of the Commission for Evangelisation (Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi), comprising of myself, Mathew Thankachan and Bernadette Morris, who began the Pilot Course by showing the guests the Introductory talk by Nicky Gumbel- Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant ?

It may be a little in the distance, but Lent is not too far away. I am beginning to think about what I might do this year. I heard recently of a campaign run by an organisation called Stewardship, which is called “40 Acts, Give Out – Not Up”. The idea is that rather than giving up something for Lent, you do something positive instead, and in particular do something generous on a regular basis. The idea is that on each of the 40 days of Lent you do something out of the ordinary, something generous - giving something away to others, whether it is time, money, gifts etc. It struck me that this was a good idea for a number of reasons. First, the great tradition of building character through virtue rooted in Aristotle and given strong Christian colouring by Aquinas and in recent times Stanley Hauerwas and others, suggests with reason that good character is built up by regularly practising certain acts. So for example, becoming a generous person requires repeated acts of generosity, so that it becomes a habit. This way it becomes something which is easier to do than not to do. The goal of Christian behaviour is not to perform the occasional heroic generous act, which is difficult and out of the ordinary, but to become the kind of person who naturally, almost without thinking about it, does generous things. This is the impression you get of Jesus. He doesn’t look like he is making some mental calculation all the time to give his time, energy and life for those who need it. These are natural acts that come out the person that he is. For us, generosity is nurtured by a blend of meditation on the generosity of God and creation and in Christ, and the experience of the overflowing love of God poured out through the Holy Spirit, and then repeated acts of generosity in response to this, which embed the practice as a habit or virtue in our lives. This also struck me as a good idea because generosity is perhaps one of the major qualities which speaks of the nature of God in contemporary life. We live in a deeply acquisitive culture. In other words, we are told again and again that life is about acquiring things, buying objects, getting as many gadgets and toys as we can to fill our homes, lives and time and earning enough money to satisfy every whim or desire. Generosity as a virtue runs counter to all of that because it tells us that true life is about giving things away, rather than about acquiring them. To that extent, it mirrors the very nature of God the great Giver, who gives us the gift of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and our daily bread day by day. So perhaps this is one of the most countercultural Christian virtues of them of all and something which we need to learn more of. For that reason I think it is a pretty good plan. I still might give up something, but I will at least have a go at generosity this year.

KASHMIRI BIBLES AVAILABLE ! Alpha India is privileged to sponsor the first print ever of the full Bible in the Kashmiri language. This also sees the possible resurgence of an almost extinct language and is a turning point for the good news to reach many in this beautiful state. For copies of the Kashmiri Bible contact : National Alpha India Office OR mushtaq.alphaindia@gmail.com


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QUESTIONS OF LIFE ? by Nicky Gumbel

Questions of Life GUMBEL. has been central BY NICKY to the whole Alpha Course phenomenon. As the Alpha Course in book form, it has become an international bestseller through which countless thousands have been introduced to Jesus Christ for the first time. In this book, Nicky Gumbel provides answers to some of the key questions that all who explore the Christian faith will face: • Who is Jesus? • Why Did Jesus Die? • How Can We Have Faith? • Why and How Do I Pray? • Why and How Should I Read the Bible? • How Does God Guide Us? • Who is the Holy Spirit? • What Does the Holy Spirit Do? • How Can I be Filled With the Holy Spirit? • How Can I Resist Evil? • Why and How Should I Tell Others? • Does God Heal Today? • What About the Church? • How Can I Make the Most of the Rest of My Life?

The following is Chapter 1 from Questions of Life. We hope the excerpt will bless and encourage you as you seek to serve God and make Him known. For many years I had three objections to the Christian faith. First, I thought it was boring. I went to chapel at school and found it very dull. I had sympathy with the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, who once entered in his diary, as if recording an extraordinary phenomenon, ‘I have been to Church today, and am not depressed.’ My impression of the Christian faith was that it was dreary and uninspiring. Secondly, it seemed to me to be untrue. I had intellectual objections to the Christian faith and described myself as an atheist. In fact, I rather pretentiously called myself a logical determinist. When I was fourteen I wrote an essay for religious studies in which I tried to destroy the whole of Christianity and disprove the existence of God. Rather surprisingly, it was put forward for a prize! I had knock-down arguments against the Christian faith and rather enjoyed arguing with Christians, on each occasion thinking I had won some great victory. Thirdly, I thought that Christianity was irrelevant to my life. I could not see how something that happened 2,000 years ago and 2,000 miles away in the Middle East could have any relevance to my life today. At school we often used to sing that much-loved hymn ‘Jerusalem’, which asks, ‘And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green?’ We all knew that the answer was, ‘No, they did not.’ Jesus never came anywhere near England! With hindsight, I realise that it was partly my fault as I never really listened and so did not know very much about the Christian faith.

stuff it with, however many Is There television Moresets tothey Life than This? well balanced children and loyal friends they

There are many people today who don’t know much about Jesus Christ, or what he did, or anything else about Christianity.

One hospital chaplain listed some of the replies he was given to the question, ‘Would you like Holy Communion?’ These are some of the answers: No thanks, I’m Church of England.’ ‘No thanks, I asked for Cornflakes.’ ‘No thanks, I’ve never been circumcised.’ Not only was I ignorant about the Christian faith but, looking back, my experience was that something was missing. In his book The Audacity of Hope, President Barack Obama, commenting on his own conversion to Christianity, writes of the hunger in every human heart: Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily rounds – dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets – and coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness are not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives, something that will relieve a chronic loneliness or lift them above the exhausting, relentless toll of daily life. They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway toward nothingness. Men and women were created to live in a relationship with God. Without that relationship there will always be a hunger; an emptiness, a feeling that something is missing. Bernard Levin, perhaps the greatest columnist of his generation, once wrote an article called ‘Life’s Great Riddle, and No Time to Find its Meaning’. In it he said that in spite of his great success he feared he might have ‘wasted reality in the chase of a dream’. To put it bluntly, have I time to discover why I was born before I die? . . . I have not managed to answer the question yet, and however many years I have before me they are certainly not as many as there are behind. There is an obvious danger in leaving it too late . . . why do I have to know why I was born? Because, of course, I am unable to believe that it was an accident; and if it wasn’t one, it must have a meaning. He was not religious, writing on one occasion, ‘For the fourteen thousandth time, I am not a Christian.’ Yet he seemed only too aware of the inadequate answers to the meaning of life. He wrote some years earlier: Countries like ours are full of people who have all the material comforts they desire, together with such non-material blessings as a happy family, and yet lead lives of quiet, and at times noisy, desperation, understanding nothing but the fact that there is a hole inside them and that however much food and drink they pour into it, however many motor cars and

parade around the edges of it . . . it aches.

Jesus Christ said, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6). The implications of his claim were as startling in the first century as they are in the twenty-first. So what are we to make of it? Direction for a lost world First, Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ When their children were younger, some friends of mine had a Swedish nanny. She was struggling to learn the English language, and still hadn’t quite mastered all the English idioms. On one occasion, an argument broke out between the children in their bedroom. The nanny rushed upstairs to sort it out, and what she meant to say was, ‘What on earth are you doing?’ What she actually said was, ‘What are you doing on earth?’ This is a very good question, ‘What are we doing on earth?’ Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, wrote a book called A Confession in 1879, in which he tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. He had rejected Christianity as a child. When he left university he sought to get as much pleasure out of life as he could. He threw himself into the social worlds of Moscow and St Petersburg, drinking heavily, sleeping around, gambling and leading a wild life. But he found it did not satisfy. Then he became ambitious for money. He had inherited an estate and made a large amount of money out of his books. Yet that did not satisfy him either. He sought success, fame and importance. These he also achieved. He wrote what the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes as ‘one of the two or three greatest novels in world literature’. But he was left asking the question, ‘Well fine . . . so what?’, to which he had no answer. Then he became ambitious for his family – to give them the best possible life. He married in 1862 and had a kind, loving wife and thirteen children (which, he said, distracted him from any search for the overall meaning of life!). He had achieved all his ambitions and was surrounded by what appeared to be complete happiness. And yet one question brought him to the verge of suicide: ‘Is there any meaning in my life which will not be annihilated by the inevitability of death which awaits me?’ He searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy. The only answer he could find to the question ‘Why do I live?’ was that ‘in the infinity of space and the infinity of time infinitely small particles mutate with infinite complexity’. Not finding that answer hugely satisfying, he looked round at his contemporaries and found that many of them were simply avoiding the issue. Eventually he found among


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Russia’s peasants the answer he had been looking for: their faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote after his conversion that he was ‘led inescapably by experience to the conviction that only . . . faith give[s] life a meaning’. Over one hundred years later, nothing has changed. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the rock group Queen, who died at the end of 1991, wrote in one of his last songs on The Miracle album, ‘Does anybody know what we are living for?’ In spite of the fact that he had amassed a huge fortune and had attracted thousands of fans, he admitted in an interview shortly before his death that he was desperately lonely. He said, ‘You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man, and that is the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolisation and millions of pounds, but it’s prevented me from having the one thing we all need – a loving, ongoing relationship.’ Freddie Mercury was right to speak of an ‘ongoing relationship’ as the one thing we all need. Ultimately there is only one relationship that is completely loving and totally ongoing: a relationship with God. Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ He is the only One who can bring us into that relationship with God that goes on into eternity. When I was a child our family had an old black and white television set. We could never get a very good picture: on one occasion, during the World Cup final in 1966, just as England were about to score a goal, the screen went fuzzy, disintegrating into lines. We were quite happy with it since we did not know anything different. We tried to improve the picture by treading on certain floorboards and standing in certain places near it. Then we discovered that what the television needed was an outside aerial! Suddenly we could get clear and distinct pictures. Our enjoyment was transformed. Life without a relationship with Jesus Christ is like the television without the aerial. Some people seem quite happy, because they don’t realise that there is something better. Once we have experienced a relationship with God, the purpose and meaning of life become clearer. We see things that we have never seen and we understand why we were made. Reality in a confused world Secondly, Jesus said, ‘I am the truth.’ Sometimes people say, ‘It does not matter what you believe so long as you are sincere.’ But it is possible to be sincerely wrong. Adolf Hitler was sincerely wrong. His beliefs destroyed the lives of millions of people. The Yorkshire Ripper believed that he was doing God’s will when he killed prostitutes. He too was sincerely wrong. His beliefs affected his behaviour. These are extreme examples, but they make the point that it matters a great deal what we believe, because what we believe will dictate how we live. Other people’s response to a Christian may be, ‘It’s great for you, but it is not for me.’ This is not a logical position. If Christianity is true, it is of vital importance to every one of us. If it is not true, it is not ‘great for us’ – it is very sad, and it means that Christians are deluded. As the writer

and scholar C. S. Lewis put it, ‘Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.’ Is it true? Is there any evidence to support Jesus’ claim to be ‘the truth’? These are some of the questions we will be looking at later in the book. The linchpin of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and for that there is ample evidence, which we will look at in the following chapter. I don’t think I ever realised how much the course of history has been shaped by people who believed that Jesus really was ‘the truth’. Lord Denning, widely thought of as one of the greatest legal minds in the twentieth century, was for nearly forty years President of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship. He had applied his legendary powers of analysis to the historical evidence for Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection and concluded that Christianity was true. I had not appreciated either that some of the most sophisticated philosophers the West has ever produced – Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Pascal, Leibniz, Kant – were all committed Christians. In fact, two of the most influential philosophers living today, Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre, have both built a great deal of their work on a deep commitment to Jesus Christ. Nor had I realised how many of the pioneers of modern science were Christian believers: Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Mendel, Pasteur and Maxwell. This is still true of leading scientists today. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project and one of the most respected geneticists in the world, tells of a mountain walk during which he was so overwhelmed by the beauty of creation that, in his words, ‘I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ.’ These words highlight the fact that when Jesus said, ‘I am the truth,’ he meant more than just intellectual truth. He means a personal knowledge of someone who fully embodies that truth. The Hebrew understanding of truth is one of experienced reality. It’s the difference between knowing something in your head and knowing it in your heart. Suppose that before I met my wife Pippa I had read a book about her. Then, after I had finished reading the book I thought, ‘She sounds like an amazing woman. This is the person I want to marry.’ There would be a big difference in my state of mind then – intellectually convinced that she was a wonderful person – and my state of mind now after the experience of many years of marriage from which I can say, ‘I know she is a wonderful person.’ When a Christian says, in relation to his faith, ‘I know Jesus is the truth,’ he does not mean only that he knows intellectually that he is the truth, but that he has experienced Jesus as the truth.

viet Union, said, ‘The line separating good and evil passes, not through states, nor through classes, nor between political parties . . . but right through every human heart and through all human hearts.’ I used to think I was a ‘nice’ person – because I didn’t rob banks or commit other serious crimes. Only when I began to see my life alongside the life of Jesus Christ did I realise how much was wrong. We all need forgiveness and it can only be found in Christ. Marghanita Laski, a humanist, made an amazing confession during a TV debate with a Christian. She said, ‘What I envy about you Christians is your forgiveness.’ Then she added rather wistfully, ‘I have no one to forgive me.’ What Jesus did when he was crucified for us was to pay the penalty for all the things that we have done wrong. We will look at this subject in more detail in Chapter 3. We will see that he died to remove our guilt and to set us free from addictions, fear and death. Jesus not only died for us, he was also raised from the dead for us. In this act he defeated death. Jesus came to bring us ‘eternal life’. Eternal life is a quality of life which comes from living in a relationship with God (John 17:3). Jesus never promised anyone an easy life, but he promised fullness of life (John 10:10). Alice Cooper, the veteran rock musician, once gave an interview to The Sunday Times headlined: ‘Alice Cooper has a dark secret – the 53-year-old rocker is a Christian.’ In this interview, he describes his conversion to Christianity. ‘It hasn’t been easy combining religion and rock. It’s the most rebellious thing I’ve ever done. Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s real rebellion.’ The theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich described the human condition as one that always involves three fears: fear of guilt, fear of meaninglessness, and fear of death. Jesus Christ meets each of these fears head on, because he is ‘the way and the truth and the life’.

Thirdly, Jesus said, ‘I am the life.’ The Christian view has always been that people are made in the image of God. As a result there is something noble about every human being. This conviction has been the driving force behind many of the great social reformers, from William Wilberforce to Martin Luther King Jr and Desmond Tutu. But there is also another side to the coin. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Russian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, converted to Christianity when in exile from the So-

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Alpha India Newsletter April 2011