Church Planting in India Equips for Canada
By Philip Omondi
Destiny Center started in 2000 when I and some like-minded university students sensed God calling us to start a multi-cultural church. We were on fire for Jesus, but we had no mentorship or spiritual covering.
I was a young, unmarried student at the time—a Kenyan, studying in India, far away from home. Most responsibilities in the ministry fell on me. I tried to do what I sensed God wanted, but often felt so stressed as I carried the work, needed to study, and pursued a courtship with my soon-to-be wife.
When a friend introduced me to Hesbone Odindo, who is now an apostolic leader in DOVE, I sensed such a kinship with him. We shared common values for building relationships and reaching people groups. Hesbone later introduced me to Ibrahim Omondi, DOVE Africa apostolic leader, during one of our visits back home in Kenya. Hesbone and Ibrahim prayed for me and helped me with some needs. I felt so connected with them. I realized I needed a family—a spiritual covering.
Since Kerina and I planned to marry, we needed to return to our homeland in Kenya to renew our visas. The immigration law required us to remain in Africa for two years before we were able to return. Kerina and I married in 2005, and returned to India in 2007.
Destiny Joins DOVE
By that time, attendance at Destiny had dropped. We entered into a one-year engagement period with DOVE. DOVE’s focus on small groups made it easy for people to connect, and the numbers started growing again. At a DOVE Africa Conference, I met Greg Linnebach, a DOVE Mission International (DMI) associate from Arizona. He served as a mentor to me. A visit from Ibrahim Omondi and Larry Kreider also really encouraged us.
Destiny has many international college students, most of whom return to their own countries after their studies and are eager to plant churches there. Destiny members have already planted churches in Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. Destiny also has an outreach to the Siddi people group in remote villages. The small group model works well and facilitates growth and multiplication. We found that members more quickly accept to be a house church leader than the pastor of a “regular” church.
One might think the clear biblical message we proclaim would be repulsive to the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist followers. Instead, several of them have expressed similar statements as one Muslim who said, “I attend because I feel something different in this church. There is some kind of power here.” Many attending say they are inspired by the worship and sharing.
Some attendees face persecution after becoming Christians. Some are not allowed to attend formal church but can attend informal gatherings such as cell churches. When in Destiny, the Lord really stretched our boundaries and gave us faith to reach the nations of the world. At some point, we had members representing as many as seventeen nations including Nepal, Syria, Iran, Sri Lanka and several African countries.
When writing about our India church plant back in 2012, I said, “We must not limit God to the present little thing we are doing because the Lord is stretching our boundaries and has given us faith to reach the world.” Little did I know that a major transition was ahead.
In 2016 we felt the need to hand over leadership to a younger couple who we had been mentoring. The church had multiplied and the new church plant was being led by a younger leader who was part of our wider leadership team. We blessed the new work and released some brethren to move with the new congregation, and they are still going strong with the work until today. My wife and I provided oversight to both congregations for the remainder of our time in India. It was a very humbling and rewarding experience to see the new leaders settle in and pursue what they felt the Lord putting in their hearts. A call to Canada also grew strong in our hearts during that time.
Just before we left India in October 2017, we were blessed to have our spiritual father, Ibrahim Omondi, come to officially commission the new leaders and release us to move on to Canada. Leaving India without any plans to go back created a mixed bag of feelings. I had stayed in that country for twenty-two years and my wife eighteen years. Our son and daughter had known only one country as their home; they could not understand what was happening. That departure was one of the toughest experiences we have ever gone through as a family.
We had envisioned a short transition period during which we planned to stay with friends in Uganda. We ended up spending over seventeen months in Uganda. During that time, we were blessed with the arrival of our third child, a daughter (our first two children were born in India). We kept ourselves active spiritually by helping our Uganda hosts with their network which is spread out in the capital city and in the northern part of the country. We eventually received our visas for Canada in March of 2019 and moved our family of five to Toronto in May of the same year.
Starting Again in Toronto
Looking back at our experiences in India, we now realize that God was preparing us for bigger things than we could have imagined. We launched a new church in Toronto in August of 2019, House of Destiny, just four months into our stay. We were cautiously confident, mostly because we had been through church planting before. It was such a blessing to have my in-laws, our spiritual parents from Africa and friends from DOVE Canada join us for the inaugural service. DOVE Canada continues to encourage us, and our DOVE family all over the world is also cheering us on. We cannot overstate the importance of being connected and grounded in a good church family.
Just as in India, we set out to intentionally build a multi-cultural congregation in Toronto. And as in India, we are again committed to making sure that the larger we grow, the smaller we become. We do this by training and commissioning brethren to pursue God’s call upon their lives. We hold large gatherings in the “temple” and also gather from house to house. From the start we are intentionally building an apostolic center that will be a catalyst for raising missionaries. We are so blessed to see many of our spiritual children who were with us in India leading churches and Christian ministries in different countries.
We have a burning desire to see God’s Kingdom multiply through our new work here in Canada. We have started outreach programs where we meet with new friends at the parks and beaches. This ensures that the church experience is not limited to meetings and programs inside buildings. Interestingly, we have noticed an extraordinary grace in relating with friends from Asia because of our shared culture. Truly we should not limit God to the present little thing we are doing because the Lord is stretching our boundaries and has given us faith to reach the world with His Good News. We stand amazed at His awesome work.
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