This week, please join us in prayer for Stavan John in India.
With 1.38 billion residents (80% Hindu, 14% Muslim, 2% Christian, 2% Sikh), India is the second most populous country on earth. According to 2017 data from the World Bank, over one in three Indians live in urban areas. Up to 120 million are migrant workers from rural villages, dependent on meager daily wages, and disproportionately from “lower” castes or minority tribes. Since a nationwide lockdown commenced on March 25, tens of millions have lost their jobs and found themselves stranded, far from home and without adequate means of survival.
Stavan is pursuing a PhD in Systematic Theology at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (UK). His dissertation on “The Risen and Ascended Humanity of Christ in T.F. Torrance’s ‘Complete’ Christology” examines Christian understandings of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. This research is especially important in an Indian context influenced by Hindu avatar theology, which emphasizes the spirit over the body. Stavan’s work will serve as a corrective, showing that Christ has achieved the complete salvation of whole persons.
Stavan is part of a strategic faculty development plan at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies or SAIACS (a client school of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative), where he will teach after graduation. Stavan is married to Christina.
Stavan shares the following message:
Dear ScholarLeaders Community,
Thank you for this opportunity to share a brief update and some prayer requests. Currently, India is in a nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19. We recently completed 21 days of lockdown, and are in for another 19 days of lockdown until May 3. Please pray for God’s wisdom for our country’s leaders as they deal with the ongoing crisis.
Please especially pray for the many migrant workers in different cities who are left without jobs, and who are now desperately trying to go back to their own homes. May the Lord intervene on their behalf and provide for them.
Although these issues seem huge for the common person, I praise God for those who are trying, in small and big ways, to help daily-wage workers and many others on the margins, by providing money and essential supplies. May these ministries inspire many others to help the poor and those in desperate need in this time.
Impact on SAIACS
With the disruption caused by COVID-19, our graduation at SAIACS has been cancelled. While many students and their families have been able to go back home before the lockdown, some have not. Please pray for God’s provision for them, and pray that they will be able to safely return home after the lockdown.
Please pray for all who have had to complete their courses rather abruptly, due to this disruption. As they enter this difficult and different context, may God’s presence go before each one. May God use them to minister to people effectively and creatively.
Please pray for SAIACS in this new context. May the Lord provide wisdom to our leaders in this time, so that we may continue forming ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for India and South Asia. Amid so much uncertainty, may we look to the Lord Jesus Christ for hope, and present his message of hope to those around us.
Before the pandemic and lockdown, I experienced an epiphany that I would like to share. It was during my recent study trip to the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS). I was asked to speak in the chapel, so I chose a passage dear to my heart: Mark 9:14-29. This passage focuses on the desperation of a father whose child is demon-possessed. Jesus heals the child, but not before addressing the father’s doubt, through both rebuke and empathy. As someone who has struggled with doubt myself, this was a good reminder.
My epiphany came during my preparation for the message:
As I look back, one of the things that I did not do, as I struggled with doubt, was to continue reading God’s Word. I felt, at times, back then, that I needed to have strong convictions before reading the Word.
This was not the right approach. I should have sought the Lord earnestly, in spite of my doubt. I was reminded recently to not neglect reading God’s Word, because, even now, after God has helped me in many ways to overcome my doubt, I still neglect to seek God regularly. The reason I do this is that I think I need to get my act together and become right before I can seek God.
This is not the right approach. I need to come to God just as I am and ask for his help each day. May the Lord help us all through his loving rebuke when we need it, through his empathy, and most of all through his Word.
I thank the Lord for this spiritual revitalization during my trip to OCMS. I came back energized to carry out my research and ministry.
Update on Our Studies
Recently, I also transitioned from the MPhil to the PhD stage of my research program, for which I thank the Lord. I am about halfway through my writing, and am on target to complete a first draft of my thesis by June 2021. I will try to defend my thesis by December 2021. There is a lot to be done, and I would appreciate your prayers for me.
My research on Thomas F. Torrance’s theology of the Ascended Christ continues to be very rewarding. I look forward to writing the chapters to follow and, in particular, to making many points of connection to the Indian context. I am excited about what I am discovering and am thankful to the many people who are walking this journey with me, including my supervisors and many well-wishers.
We thank the Lord for enabling my wife Christina to pursue an MA at SAIACS. She has completed two years and is looking forward to entering her MDiv year. Please pray for God’s wisdom for her as she prayerfully considers how best to serve the Lord after her studies. Studies, work and ministry at SAIACS have been an enriching and formative experience for us. We thank the Lord for this community!
Thank you so much for your prayers for us.