Last week, Cheddar’s Restaurant in Harker Heights was the scene of a joyful reunion for my family and our Indian student and friend, Ivan Powar.
Powar, 49, was in the U.S. to attend two conferences. He ministered in McKinney on Sunday, then drove to Killeen to visit us.
Thirty-one years had passed since our son, Michael, had seen Powar. Reminiscing about days past was a beautiful experience. The hugs were warm. Gifts were shared in Indian style. Conversation was lively.
Powar’s sweet wife, Nini, communicated with us via Skype, too.
My husband, Doyle, and I last visited India in 1998, 14 years after we lived in the country as missionaries.
Our adventure began in October 1979, when we arrived in South India to be house parents in a mission’s boarding home for an international school. Doyle and I were in charge of children 24 hours a day and were known as Aunty and Uncle Oliver. Michael was only 8 years old at the time.
Housing was primitive, but we managed to run the household and enjoy the children. In 1981, an opportunity arose for us to transfer to the capital of New Delhi, 1,000 miles north. The resident missionary was going to the U.S. because of health reasons and we would replace him.
After seeking the Lord, we were made aware that we needed to begin an English language church in our home as other attempts to do the same had not been successful.
Doyle and a missionary friend prayed, then agreed that we also needed to train the young men who were coming to us for direction. We prepared materials and Bible lessons, English language lessons and video presentations from other teachers to begin a Bible college in New Delhi.
One of the two young men who were our first students was 17-year-old Powar. The two came to our center for training during the day.
His parents attended our church and agreed their son should study with us. We met on Thursday evenings in their home for prayer, Bible study and a dinner of wonderful, spicy food.
The church grew and the Sulami family from the Indonesian Embassy began attending. They had three daughters. Nini was a lovely young lady in love with the Lord. Nini Sulami and Powar were part of the church’s praise team.
Powar was a diligent and bright student who excelled in his studies. He also served as our interpreter. Powar and other Bible school students had a street ministry and went into the villages to share their faith. The young men also accompanied us when we conducted crusades and meetings in other cities.
Our family left India in 1984 to return to the U.S. Powar and Nini Sulami married and continued to minister at the church we started in India. They served faithfully under the new pastor, Robert Jeyaraj. One day while riding his motor bike, Powar heard the scripture Joshua 1:3: “Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread, that have I given to you, as I promised Moses.”
The scripture was spoken in a voice so clear, Powar turned to see if someone was there.
He and Nini began to pray about a move to the city of Faridabad in the state of Haryana, and after talking with their pastor, began to work there.
The Powars are now pastors of Grace Assembly of God in Faridabad. The church has 12 locations in the area where about 3,500 people congregate weekly for worship and study. Another 2,500 people congregate weekly at 13 other locations in the state.
The church has a trained staff and team to meet the needs of the people. There are great challenges, but they say God is faithful in helping them.
“India today is very different than when you served there, it is much modernized,” Ivan Powar said at dinner. “Today, women play a key role in leadership as well as men.”
The Powar family is living proof of that statement. Their daughter, Debbie, is the church’s administrative assistant, and another daughter, Stephanie, is in her last year of college studying journalism and communications.
Grace Assembly also has an orphanage called Karuna Children’s Home, which the government refers to as the best in the state. The Powar family adopted a young girl named Seema years ago, and she is now 17 and a member of their family. Ivan Powar serves as the district superintendent of the Haryana District of churches for the Assemblies of God.
I asked Ivan Powar if, when he sat in our small classroom all those years ago, he ever thought his life would be so full.
“I couldn’t imagine it,” he said with a smile.
Herald/Sandra Duffy Oliver