‘God has a plan’: Pastor says sickness complicated, but also expanded, ministry trip

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Manubhai Mecwan (blue shirt), pastor of Faith Community Fellowship, prays with Christians in India and with Living Streams Community Church pastor Greg Ruble (white shirt, to right of Mecwan).

Photo provided

Preaching in churches, encouraging groups of Christians gathered in their homes, and celebrating a wedding were all part of the itinerary for the trip.

Two weeks in a hospital intensive-care unit were not.

It was harrowing for a while; Manubhai Mecwan said doctors told his wife they were down to their last medicine. A few Hancock County congregations and other friends of the pastor prayed he would recover and return from his trip to India.

And he did, but not before his effervescent faith-sharing had made an impression even within the walls of the hospital.

BUS TICKET AND A SANDWICH

Around the start of a new year, Mecwan sets out for India for several weeks of ministry and invites a local pastor to go with him. This year, as in many other years, it was Greg Ruble of Living Streams Community Church in McCordsville.

It used to be the other way around for the pastor from India. Years ago, he pastored a Methodist church in Bombay but would spend a month each year ministering in the United States. He said for several years, he bought a monthly bus pass for $265 and spent that month riding between New York and California, bringing up Jesus to people and talking with those who would converse. He timed his bus rides so he could catch sleep and ate $1 McChicken sandwiches from McDonald’s — or if he was especially hungry, two.

After about seven years of that, he felt God had called him to minister to Indian people living in the United States. While policies in India can limit activities such as open-air preaching, Mecwan sought to reach out to Indian people here, knowing they could then share their Christian faith with friends and relatives back home. He leads Faith Community Fellowship here, which has a Tuesday prayer meeting to pray for America and for those family members and friends in India.

‘NEW TESTAMENT-LIKE’

Each week, he calls several churches in India and preaches over the phone to the congregation gathered, often in someone’s home. The yearly trip is a chance to visit some of those churches.

“There’s over 20 churches in India now … all of that has been fruit of their prayer ministry that goes on every week here,” Ruble said.

“… He’s on the phone quite a bit leading and teaching over there from here … It’s very Acts, New Testament-like in flavor,” he added, recalling chapters in the Bible recounting the Apostle Paul’s travels and letters to churches.

Ruble said he and Hubert Nolen go as they are able along with Mecwan on these trips. (Nolen is founding pastor of Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine and now co-founding executive director of Hope Center Indy,) They often speak to small house churches who fill up the living room of a home.

“We pray for them and teach them, always sharing the Gospel everywhere we go,” Ruble said.

FULL SCHEDULE

Ruble said there’s a lot happening in India: some persecution; revival in the rural areas of the south, where Mecwan supports three missionaries; and seven churches that have been planted since COVID, with 200 to 1,000 people in those churches.

Ruble preached at a church the first Sunday of their trip. They visited a school the pastor’s wife is running for first-generation Christian families.

Mecwan’s family was also finally able to have wedding celebrations in India for his daughter Charmin, married in 2020, and her husband. A procession to the reception, a dance circle, fireworks and food were all part of several days of festivities to celebrate the joining of two families.

There were also more churches to visit, more encouragement to offer. Ruble said it ranged from encouraging longtime Christians in established churches to be bold in sharing their faith, to offering basic Christian teachings and prayer to groups gathered in homes and perhaps newer to the faith.

About two-thirds of the way into the trip, though, both pastors were sick. Ruble managed to rally and, with prayers from Mecwan, fly back to the U.S. But by the time he left Jan. 19, Mecwan was in a hospital; Mecwan would not return to the United States until March.

‘IF YOUR GOD WILL…”

Mecwan said he was in an intensive-care unit for 16 days.

“I could not take a breath,” he said, panting a few times to illustrate what it was like. “The doctor finally said to my wife, ‘Your last chance, we are going to try a higher dose (and maybe) if your God will do some miracle …,” he said. “I had oxygen day and night … by God’s grace, after 14 days I got a breath — my own.”

In the course of his hospital stay, doctors also discovered a tumor — cancer — in his liver, which they treated with a form of ablation, injecting something to burn out the tumor.

“I never keep quiet,” Mecwan said. “Even in pain, I said, ‘Jesus loves you.’ That’s my nature. ‘Jesus loves you.’”

He said hospital staff asked why he and his wife did not seem worried; he said he knew where he was going if he died. He said his hospital stay started some conversations, and some people asked him to pray for them and/or asked for a Bible.

A friend of Mecwan’s, a retired American doctor, would call Mecwan on a video call and pray with him.

“When he prayed with me, all these people were listening to the prayer, (saying) ‘American people are praying for Mecwan,’” he said.

“… God has a plan. Because of my sickness, maybe God wants to save them. … Nothing is impossible for God.”