A team of 8 CCO missionaries from across Canada, including myself and also two supporters from Ottawa took the first half of June to stay in India for 10 days. We met the leadership and trained students of a movement called “Jesus Youth”. Jesus Youth is an international Catholic youth movement with a charismatic spirituality. It had its beginnings in Kerala in 1985 but is now active in nearly 25 different countries around the world. (Kerala is a province in southern India composed of approximately 20% Catholics, the highest concentration of Catholics in the country) Jesus Youth is an initiative of young people themselves, who, filled with the Holy Spirit try to reach out to other young people. This encounter of Jesus Youth and CCO I believe was an extremely important occurrence for the maturation of both movements and only in the future will we know its significance.
When I used to think of India I thought of poverty, lack of education, technological shortcomings and extreme cultural and religious differences. I didn’t ever desire to travel so far to a place that would cause me to leave my physical comfort zone. I had adopted by default the general understanding of India that our western culture has. Not many people that I know see the value in traveling to India and learning about the country. This is a mistake because India, like China, is quickly growing into a nation that will grow to significantly influence the world. They have the second largest population in the world and soon will have the youngest population in the world as well. India is also home to the largest number of English speaking people. It is estimated that around 900 million people are fluent in English! The trip to India would be my first time in a poorer country without all the comforts of a place like Canada or the United States. But for some reason I felt God calling me to apply to go to India. And wouldn’t you know it, God called me to leave my comfort zone again (know that I can be sarcastic at times)! Before I knew much at all about the country and the people, it was a hard thing to commit to. It meant I would also have to fund-raise $2500 above and beyond my own salary fundraising responsibilities. I knew that the only reasons for me to not go to India would be selfish reasons.
I had previously built relationships with Jesus Youth people in Calgary throughout the last 2 years and knew these friendships came about for a reason. But not until this opportunity to go to India came this last February did I see how my time with Jesus Youth in Canada was for a specific reason. My true exposure to the country and the Jesus Youth people gave me great hope because of how awesome the people were! I loved them from day one! The Jesus Youth leaders and students were excellent! They were so hard working, grateful, polite, punctual, and intelligent. They blew away my expectations! These students were so receptive to learning what we had to offer. They were extremely disciplined, humble and filled with a deep joy that was proof of God’s presence. They treated us with a great honour and recognized the efforts and sacrifices we made in order to come so far. On top of it all they were fantastically quick learners. They quickly became family to us and us to them! For the first few days we met with the leadership of JY. These were the leaders in charge of over 300 JY prayer groups in Universities throughout India. My responsibilities within this was minimal. I was merely there to observe and make new friends and learn about JY and India in general. Jeff Lockert (CCO’s president) and Andre Regnier (one of CCO’s co-founders) would take the lead in these meetings. During these first few days we also got to see points of interest in Kerala and specifically the city of Kochi.
We ended up in the city of Bangalore for four full days of training on presenting the gospel in a clear and simple way and how to entrust the message to others so that others would do the same, creating an unbroken chain of evangelization. For those of you unfamiliar with CCO’s simple and clear method of evangelization, here it is:
1) God created us in His own image and created us for a relationship with Him now and forever.
2) Because of our free will at some point man chose to disobey God and sought power and independence from God, breaking the relationship and creating an insurmountable void that no person could ever get across on their own.
3) God Himself would have to come into humanity and reconcile humanity with divinity, this is why as Christians we believe Jesus was fully God and fully man! Jesus by dying and rising from the dead destroyed sin and death and became the bridge that we need to cross the void.
4) Each of us now personally have to choose to make Christ the center of our lives, to give Him permission to save us from our own sin by co-operating with Him. We need to exercise our free will and re-align it with God’s will because He knows us better than we know ourselves.
After this message is fully understood and chosen, someone can begin to share it with others and invite others to make a choice for God. Only when people begin to share and entrust the mission to others is true and complete evangelization actually happening. This is what we trained the university students on and they picked it up quickly as our methods were exactly what the movement had been looking for. They were extremely excited to apply what they learned from us to express their hearts desire for others to truly know Jesus!
To sum up my experience, which I am still reflecting upon, I would like to state the benefits for them and us in regard to our time in India. We exemplified the mission and its clarity and the boldness in which to proclaim it. We exemplified a structure and strategy needed in order to reach the world one person at a time. They certainly exemplified holiness in its simplicity and in the docility needed to become saints! They exemplified detachment and surrendering of all things to God! I think the future of the Catholic Church in India is very bright. I think the future of the friendship between CCO and Jesus Youth is also very bright! And I think my future is not without another encounter with Jesus Youth.