CHRISTIAN MISSION PROPERTIES-I
Foreign Christian missionaries were engaged in constructive, socio-religious and educational pioneering work. In order to establish the Kingdom of God, they lived unmatched sacrificial lives, often facing hostile climatic and socio-political conditions so as to preach the Gospel and to ameliorate the socio-spiritual lot of the downtrodden and the less privileged people in this country.
Starting from scratch, the foreign missionaries bought acres of land in major cities, towns and even in rural areas to build schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals and quarters for the mission workers. The sacrificial and dedicated service of the foreign missionaries came to an end as their strength gradually dwindled after the country attained political independence in 1947.
'Desi' Missionary Era
Desi missionaries, many with dubious dedication and lack of spiritual vision, took over, in course of time. The Boards of Trustees shot up into prominence. They began to manage the erstwhile mission properties - the valuable assets, received as rare heritage! But, instead of putting it to the best use of the Christian brethren, institutions and churches, Desi missionaries seem to be engaged in self-interest! Coming under the spell of temptation, they began to indulge in property deals which led to misappropriation, by joining hands with worldly elements.
With the Boards of Trustees without vision, the functionaries of the Christian institutions, particularly hospitals, once considered most ideal in medical services, are either receiving a setback in the field or have become totally defunct! The wave of commercialism, even in the field of medical services, has laid bare the foundations of most Christian charitable institutions.
Cobweb Of Satanic Temptations
In managing the most valued heritage of the mission properties, those at the helm of affairs, having neither spiritual vision nor proper foresight, seem to have fallen prey to the satanic temptation and have begun to collaborate with the 'builders' or 'developers,' who have opened Ali Baba's cave of hidden treasures! Seeing this scenario, one is reminded of the Biblical account of the 'Tower of Babel' in Genesis 11. Having a grudge against the flood, the human community rose under the leadership of King Nimrod and began to build a 'sky high' tower in defiance of the Lord God!
Likewise, the mission property managers joined hands with builders to raise 'Towers' on the Christian mission properties, be they educational, medical institutions or church! Thus, they are trying to treacherously fulfil their selfish motives in sharp contrast to the foreign missionaries. The pioneering missionaries not only ameliorated the socio-economic lot of the Indians and the new converts, but they also opened the door of eternal life for them!
Forgetting the philanthropic services rendered by the selfless foreign missionaries, many present day Desi missionaries are ungratefully engaged in diagonally opposite selfish ends. They should stop their unlawful activities. Or else, be prepared to face the throne of Lord Jesus' Judgment, which is imminent! This act of theirs is like stabbing in the back of their poor and ignorant Christian brethren, who in fact, should be the real beneficiaries of mission properties!
The mission property managers of the 21st century seem to have conveniently forgotten to put into practice the Great Commandment of our Lord to His disciples to 'Go and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you' (Matt. 28: 19-20). But having lost that spiritual vision, most of the property managers are being lured away by satanic temptations of worldly wealth!
Christians And Litigation
Beginning with Mumbai, the financial capital of India, the evil winds of change are gradually drifting to other cities of Maharashtra. The Christian institutions, though appearing to work according to rule, are falling prey to this wave of temptation one after the other! Starting with Mumbai's Bishop's House, Hume High School, Hume Memorial Congregational Church premises, the tsunami wave of 'development' of the mission properties has reportedly reached the Wilson Education Society's Ethel Gordon Girls' D.Ed. College in Pune!!...
It will be worthwhile to make a wider survey; this satanic temptation process seems to be an all India phenomenon! Howsoever weak it may be, opposition is bound to be there. Certain disputes regarding the church properties as well as that of the erstwhile Christian missions are reported to be subjugated to the judiciary. But as believers, we are expected to abstain from going to the courts! It is not only inappropriate, but also condemnable from the Christian point of view!
Apostle Paul clearly condemns this type of moves in unambiguous terms. He reproves the Corinthians for referring their disputes to heathen judges. His censure can be paraphrased as follows:
* How is it that, when you quarrel with one another, you go before heathen judges and do not let some of the brethren decide your matter? You spoke of saints judging the world, why not allow them to settle these trifles? You spoke of Christians looking forward to sit in judgment on angels; why not then let them deal with the ordinary affairs of life? And if you must have these things settled formally, make umpires of church members, not heathen people.
* I write thus to make you ashamed. Is there really no wise man among you, who can be trusted to judge between the brethren? Why this unnecessary practice of calling in unbelievers to settle your disputes?
* But the fault lies deeper than this, for you should have no such disputes at all. Better be wronged and defrauded, than you wrong and defraud your brethren. After all, in the end, the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. And who are the unrighteous but the unchaste, the greedy, the drunken, and the extortioners, none of whom have any part in that Kingdom? Such indeed were some of you Corinthians; but since your baptism, you have professed that you are seeking to become pure, and holy through the influence of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit! (1 Cor. 6: 1-9, 11).
One representative Committee of knowledgeable Christians was set up to raise the Christian public's voice against the unbridled activities of the property managers of the erstwhile Christian missions. The Committee held several meetings in which these matters were said to be discussed. The panel seems to have ceased its deliberations. In the absence of any such voice of the Christian conscience, it is obvious that the tsunami waves will keep engulfing the mission properties. The needy and economically weaker section of the community is left in the lurch, even though they are the ultimate inheritors on earth to own and utilise mission properties in the post-missionary area.
The Bible plainly states that the Lord God alone owns the earth and everything on it. As such, the human agents like the Boards of Trustees are only caretakers, and have no right to decide the fate of the mission properties and buildings of the schools, colleges, orphanages, hospitals, etc. They cannot arbitrarily make any decision for sale or deals related to their future use. All these are owned by the Lord God alone.
Let us see some of the Bible verses which shed light on this subject:
* "And Moses said to him, (Oh Pharaoh), .. You may know that the earth is the Lord's" (Exo. 9:29).
* '(Oh Israel), … Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth with all that is in it' (Deut. 10:14).
* 'The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world, and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters' (Psa. 24:1-2)
* 'Thus says the LORD: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool' (Isa. 66:1)
* 'God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise' (Hab. 3:3).
* 'For the earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness' (1 Cor. 10:26 and 28).
Worldly Wealth and Divine Warnings
Our Lord Himself has given clear warnings. All those administering mission properties in any capacity must be mindful of them. 'And He said unto them, Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses' (Lk. 12:15).
* And He spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully; and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?
* So he said, I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
* And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry."
* But God said to him, "Fool, This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?
* So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God' (Lk. 12:13-21).
* 'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also' (Matt.6:19-21).
* 'And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"... So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me" (Lk. 18:18-25).
* 'Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads' (Rev. 7:3).