The final installment of Reverse Missionaries was showed last night on BBC 2. If you miss it you can watch it on BBC iPlayer. In this final episode we have a woman from India in the person of Kshama Jayaraj. She runs a flourishing Church in Mumbai called House of Prayer which attracts children, youth and young adults. She uses music, dance, drama and various skills to spread the Gospel. Kshama was brought to Belfast to do missions. This is the birth place of the missionary, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) who went to India working among children. Amy fought against child prostitution in India and she started an orphanage for young girls who were forced into this evil trade. The orphanage was known as Dohnavur Fellowship situated in Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
Just as Amy Carmichael went to India doing missions, Kshama has come back to Belfast to do missions. She was introduced to the minister of Townsend Presbyterian Church in Belfast Rev Jack with his fascinating beard. Kshama who has never been to the UK but thought surely Amy Carmichael’s country will be welcoming soon discovered that things were not as easy as she thought. She started going into the streets to talk with children and the youth. She met with brick wall as they were not interested in God. Curtis, one of the youth lads told her directly that he doesn’t go to Church. Kshama who has creative ways of presenting the Gospel did so to the children by allowing them to act out Bible stories. The children seemed to warm up to Kshama but not the youth. She invited the children to Church and they did turn up although not in droves as Kshama expected. She was surprised that the youth did not show up. She made it her mission to reach out to the youth.
While Kshama was going round to meet the youth she discovered the historic tension in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants or between Irish flags and Union jack flag. This came as a big surprise to her. Nevertheless, she went to a youth centre run by a lady called Ruth. The youth centre was where the young people hang out. Ruth instructed Kshama to build relationship first before preaching. Kshama decided to cook a spicy Indian curry for them. They assisted her in this which really helped them to know her. Kshama during the programme also met a young mum, Vicky who was 17 years old. This opened up Kshama to one of the realities in the UK, teenage pregnancy. Kshama decided better than preaching, something practical would be appropriate that would allow Vicky to see Jesus. She decided to look after her son, Joshua (which means Jesus), while Vicky and Joshua’s father can have some time to relax together. This was love in reality that endeared Vicky and Ben to like Kshama. Kshama later suggested to Vicky whether she would like Joshua to be dedicated at the Presbyterian Church. Vicky and Ben having no problem with dedication agreed.
Kshama also journeyed to the other side of the town which is the Catholic section with the Irish flags. She met some young girls in a centre and gave a light preaching about fidelity in relationships, they did not fully agree with her but they enjoyed her company. As Kshama moved around the city of Belfast she saw murals that depicted the sad history and struggles of the country. She decided that a peaceful mural that speaks something about the Gospel would be good. This became a community event that brought together children and youth from both side of the divide (Catholic and Protestant sides). The mural asked the question what is the craic? (That is, what is happening) and has Jesus in a big letter words. Everyone that participated also wrote their names on it. The documentary ended with Joshua’ dedication which saw children and the youth that Kshama has influenced in attendance!
One of the merits of the documentary was that it shows reverse missions is not something only that male pastors can do but that women are also involved. This is important because the history of reverse missions in Britain has pioneer women such as the late Rev Dr Io Smith of New Testament Assembly who was actively involved in the early days of Black Majority Churches (BMC) and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI).
Secondly, the creativeness of pastor Kshama is very impressive and effective both in India and Belfast. Thirdly, the programme highlight practical ways teenage couples could be encouraged and supported by the Church. Lastly, while the other 2 episodes seemed to have focused on youth this one saw the importance of children’s ministry.
One critique is still the narrator’s insistence that everything Kshama did was influenced by her Heroine, Amy Carmichael. Kshama is her own person with her own giftings therefore while she may have been inspired by Amy’s work in India, she is still to be credited for her own initiatives and ideas.