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A one day Counseling Summit was held on January 6, at  Vyara Town Hall in Guajrat. The purpose of this summit was to bring pastors, counselors, professionals, and anyone with a passion for counseling, around the concept of counseling as a mission and responding to the challenging needs of our families from a Christian perspective.
 
The summit theme, "Counseling as a Mission," empowers the participants and focused on three major areas: challenges facing our generation, role of counseling in strengthening families, and training of leaders. This summit provided a great opportunity to interact with other counselors, Pastors, Teachers and Women leaders and featured the latest resources and approaches to equip the participants in the areas of marriage, parenting, and mental health. Dr. Thomas Idiculla, PhD, was the key note speaker for this summit.  Dr Idiculla said, through compassionate counseling, and innovative educational programs, together we can make a profound difference in the lives of many individuals, families, and churches. Dr Sam Jebenth from Kuwait and Mukesh Azad from New Delhi also lead various sessions.
 
The summit was organized under the leadership of Raju Gamit and his team. The participants given positive feedback about the summit and several participants signed up for API online counseling course.
 
Agape Partners International (API) was founded as a nonprofit Christian Counseling organization in 1997. It’s a network of Christian Professionals providing free confidential counseling, and dedicated to Asian families in the US and around the world through education, counseling, seminars, research and publications. Dr. Thomas Idiculla  serves the President and Rev. Leslie Verghese serves as the Executive Director.

In the past three decades, the world has seen unprecedented scientific, financial, and intellectual growth, but it has come with a heavy price tag. The Christian family and marriage structure appears to be crumbling, as evident by six major trends:1) marital conflicts; 2) separation, 3) divorce, 4) increase in unmarried cohabitation, 5) changing attitudes about sex, marriage and parenting, alternatives to marriage, unwed childbearing, abortion, extramarital relationships; and 6) computer and internet addiction for virtual pleasure.

The Biblical view of marriage is an exclusive covenant (irrevocable, indissoluble commitment made to each other before God), between one man and one woman, ordained and sealed by God. Though the majority of born again Christians follow a biblical view of marriage, there are some troubling trends that without a doubt should alarm us.

In India, each year there are over 10 million marriages; that is 20 million people get married, and almost all these couples anticipate living happily ever after.  However only a small group continuous in harmonious relationship. The divorce rate in India is increasing among the young married couples, according to a report in Hindustan times. In this context, I would like to share some tips that will nourish and cherish our marriage and relationships.

Premarital counseling is targeted toward couples in committed relationships who are planning to marry in the future. It can improve marital outcomes. It can help identify weaknesses that could become bigger problems during marriage. Premarital preparation can help reduce the possibility of divorce. People requesting premarital counseling should expect to learn about themselves to some extent and about their relationship with each other. Premarital Counseling is designed primarily to enhance intimacy in relationships. Traditional churches and societies have rarely been involved in providing premarital counseling topics such as intimacy, sexuality and sex education. This is designed to assist the couple in enhancing their relationship, rather than being a screening process. Premarital counseling is more effective through joint sessions over individual sessions. Many invest more time and energy in creating the “marriage event” rather than building the relationship. Couples typically spend 6-12 months preparing for the wedding ceremony, but pay little attention to building skills for a lasting marriage.  Prepare and Enrich is one of the most widely used and validated marriage assessment tools to strengthen marriage. It is an online assessment program that the couples can take to help to identify their unique strengths and potential growth areas of your relationship.

Overall, Christian Counseling is a pressing need in our community today. With the resources available to individuals, couples, families, and churches, today, people are able to overcome many family situations they are faced with and will be able to do so upon a biblical basis through the guidance and support of Christian counselors. Through the Christian Counseling training that is provided today, Pastors and committed Christians can learn how to help people from all walks and stages of life find healing and restoration in their lives through Jesus Christ.

A half day Counseling Summit was held on December 29 at Oyster Convention Center in Thiruvalla. The purpose of this summit was to bring pastors, counselors, professionals, and anyone with a passion for counseling, around the concept of counseling as a mission and responding to the challenging needs of our families from a Christian perspective. The summit theme, "Counseling as a Mission," empowers the participants and focused on three major areas: challenges facing our generation, role of counseling in strengthening families, and training of leaders. This summit provided a great opportunity to interact with other counselors, Pastors, Professors and Women’s group and featured the latest resources and approaches to equip the participants in the areas of marriage, parenting, and mental health. Dr. Thomas Idiculla, PhD, was the key note speaker for this summit.  Dr Idiculla said, through compassionate counseling, and innovative educational programs, together we can make a profound difference in the lives of many individuals, families, and churches.
 
There were four panels representing Pastors, professional counselors, professors, and women's group including  Rev. Abey Peter (IPCKTS), Rev. Saju Joseph (IBC), Dr. Saji Kumar, KP (IBTS), Prof Salomey George,Susy Johnson and  Rev Johnson Daniel (CoG), Dr. Peter Joy (ICPF), Saji Munukottakal (Agape Counselling, Prof TM George (ICPF), Rev. Johnson Daniel (New Life Seminary), Mercy Luke and Sherly Chacko (IBC), CV Jacob (Rise and build ministries), Girija Sam, Philip Cherian (Formation ), Sinoj George (Life Enrichment Center). KP Thomas (IPC).
 
Agape Partners International (API) was founded as a nonprofit Christian Counseling organization in 1997. It’s a network of Christian Professionals providing free confidential counseling, and dedicated to Asian families in the US and around the world through education, counseling, seminars, research and publications. Dr. Thomas Idiculla serves the President and Rev. Leslie Verghese serves as the Executive Director.

Merry Christmas!!! Another very busy year of ministry has all but come to a close. In addition to the ongoing counseling and speaking engagements, we had a series of youth, family, and leadership seminars in USA, Oman, Kuwait and India. These seminars have reached over 5000 people including teens, parents and leaders. I’m getting ready for the next mission trip to India from December 24 to January 10.  The purpose of this trip is to bring pastors, counselors, professionals, parents, and students in responding to the challenging needs of our families. The trip theme, "Counseling as a Mission," challenges the participants and focuses on three major areas: challenges facing our generation, role of counseling in strengthening families, and training of next generation leaders.
 
Itinerary:
Dec 26-28: PYPA Annual Camp, KOTTAYAM
Dec 29: Counseling as a Mission, Thomson Restaurant, THIRUVALLA
Dec 30: Counseling Seminar, India Baptist Theological Seminary, KOTTAYAM
Dec 31: Issues Facing Christina Youth Ministry Today, Hotel Elite International, THRISSUR
Jan 1-2: Bethany Medical Center/Tribal Mission, ATTAPADI
Jan 3: Counseling as a Mission, HYDERABAD
Jan 4: New Horizons Health & Research Foundation, MUMBAI
Jan 4: Christ University, Institute of Management, PUNE
Jan 5: Family Enrichment Seminar, Fellowship Ashram, GUJARAT
Jan 6: Counseling as a Mission Summit, Municipal Town Hall, VYARA, GUJARAT
Jan 7: Counseling as a Mission Summit, Operation Agape, DELHI
Jan 7: Family Enrichment Seminar, The Holy Kingdom Public School, GURGAON
Jan 8: Life Enrichment Seminar, St. Stephen’s College, DELHI
Jan 9: Teens and Teachers Seminar, The Holy Kingdom Public School, GURGAON
Jan 9: Family Seminary, Holy Trinity Church, Dubai
 
We have an unparalleled opportunity and potential to impact lives of families who are going through difficult situations by helping them wisely, humbly and effectively. Please continue to uphold me and API team in your prayers for a fruitful mission trip beginning December 24.

Fireproof Marriage

Most movies are made for entertainment and very few provide the Christian church an opportunity for ministry. Fireproof is a refreshing change - it was made by Sherwood Baptist Church! The film provides opportunities to open dialogue around issues of conflict resolution, differences between men and women, pornography, forgiveness and need for God’s love. Whether your church wants to do a marriage sermon message series, movie event, small group study, seminar or other type of ministry. Fireproof earned endorsements by top Christian ministries and leaders.

Sunday School curriculum must be Bible based. It must provide a deeper understanding of the Bible and must be age appropriate. It must also connect with children and their life which is  culturally adaptable and must teach basic Christian principles and doctrines.

What does it do?
Communicates God’s Word to Children
Helps children to understand Biblical principles
Leads children to salvation
Helps children to walk closer with God
Helps a child become a true Christian
Paves the way for  good citizenship, fellowship and discipleship
Transforms students into spiritual champions and missionaries

Assess:
Your passion for Sunday School
Your knowledge about Sunday School
Your Bible knowledge
Your spiritual growth
Your spiritual gifts
Your strengths
Your  weakness

What do we need to be mindful of when teaching children in Sunday School?
Teens are different-they have different intellectual, emotional, and spiritual traits
You need to know your students: Sunday School teaching is a ministry that wins only through genuine relationship.
Know your lesson objectives
Cognitive – what students ought to know after the lesson
Behavioral – what students ought to do after the lesson
Pray for your students daily that the holy spirit minister to their hearts
Captivate reluctant or indifferent students
Motivate students seeking a deeper relationship with God; and committed to discipleship
Activate students to step out in service to the church and community
Teaching is not just a lecture  but it is an interaction: encourage questions, measure their understanding, generate worksheets, discussions, case studies, questions, role playing, and tests.

Sunday School Teachers Training
We need to equip our Sunday School Teachers with comprehensive training. Sunday Schools Network International (SSNI) has conducted several training in various cities in the last 5 years. These training modules are based on needs and available for churches and can be arranged in various cities upon request. The Training modules are professionally presented with handouts, State of the Art Training Sessions with Audio Visual Aids with several Training Sessions to Choose from.
Introductory Workshop
Combined Teachers & Parents Workshop
Teaching Methods Workshop
Classroom Management
Origin & History of Sunday School
Role of a Sunday School
The Sunday School Teacher
The Jesus Model of Teaching
Elements of Effective Sunday School Teaching
Effective Communication
Contemporary Teaching Methodologies
Handling your difficult students in class
Motivating your students
Conducting Effective Examination

How can you improve your school ministry?
Use bible based curriculum
Arrange annual training for sunday school teachers
Invest time, talents and  resources in our children’s moral and spiritual development
Establish Sunday Schools in needy areas aimed at transforming the lives of our young generation 
Be a resource person for Teacher’s Training, and Networking

For more information about sunday school ministry, curriculum, teachers training, please visit: www.sundayschoolnetwork.org or call at 781-223-0082

For many Christians the idea of dating is easily confused with the notion of courting, or courtship. There are differences between the two, sometimes, and while one might and should lead to marriage if undertaken with a Christian heart and love of each other and God, the other might be a practical way to carry on an easy friendship and casual fellowship in a Christian manner.

Both dating and courting are ways of beginning a relationship with members of the opposite sex. To start, we should all understand that carrying on dating solely with the intention of having an intimate physical relationship with someone is not acceptable for a person who believes himself or herself to be a good Christian. A good way of looking at dating – when a person is a Christian – is that it can be a method for carrying on a slightly deeper friendship with another person. A casual, fun night at the movies or attendance at sporting event and the like are all ways in which people date, but as nothing more than good friends. Courting, or courtship, is many times a serious step past that, when both people might be ready to commit to each other as potential partners in holy marriage.

Courting is a way of finding if the other person is a true believer in Jesus Christ. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:14-15, New International Version) reminds us that we should not marry those of us who aren’t of the Christian faith. Courtship can be a sound method for determining whether that special person is truly bound in the fellowship of Christ that all good Christians enjoy with one another. Courtship is also a time where extremely intimate physical contact should not take place, which goes without saying.

Courtship is a time of almost no real physical contact until marriage. In Biblical times and throughout much of our history, classical notions of courtship demanded that once a couple began to seriously court with one another, there was to be no touching, hand-holding, or kissing until the marriage ceremony had been performed, and when they were husband and wife.

In current times, courtship and dating have evolved somewhat. Today, of course, we know that honoring this sort of procedure might never allow the dating ritual to proceed past a certain point. Perhaps the best solution is to always keep in mind that Christ must always be honored whenever two people of the opposite sex are in courtship with one another. Besides, if courting were restricted to just public meetings and no outward expressions of love, we might never gain a glimpse of the true person within the dating or courting partner. This “true person” normally is evident on occasion when two people who think they care for and love each other might be alone with one another. This is the so-called “private face.”

Dating and courtship were never demanded in the Bible. When you scrape away all the procedure involved in dating or courtship, you find that what matters far more are the strength of the man and woman’s belief in the message of Christianity and their maturity of spirit when it comes to accepting that central message. Call it what you want: Serious dating, dating, courtship or something else, the desired result and its ending -– good Christian men and women marrying and raising families that will also love and worship our God -- will matter more than anything else.

Counseling is a lonely job. Counselors are often tucked away in their office, meeting with clients one on one, day after day. They see so much human brokenness and pain first hand. Moreover they have to do it all alone. It is not an easy task as problems become more complex and get entrenched in culturally shaped issues. Although counseling is not a popular profession among South Asians in North America, there has been a heightened interest in psychological studies in recent years among the younger generation. It is also noteworthy that those who have some kind of formal training in the field are getting involved informally in their churches or communities in providing care within their limited scope of practice and expertise. All of this and many other reasons led to organizing a consultation of the lay and professional care givers in the South Asian community in North America. The primary objective was to identify resources within the community and elsewhere in raising the level of care to our community in field of counseling.

The first ever consultation of South Asian Christian caregivers in North America took place in the suburbs of the windy city of Chicago from 5th through 7th of September 2008. It was jointly organized by Parivar International and Agape Partners International. The event was held at the facility of Awana International in Streamwood, IL. It was attended by over 60 lay and professional caregivers from the South Asian community from all across the United States and Canada. Attendees included students, lay counselors, Pastors, Social workers, Christian counselors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, hospital chaplains, military chaplains and others from Boston, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Seattle, Missouri, Wisconsin, Regina and of course Chicago.

The consultation began on Sept 5th, 2008 at 6pm with dinner. Sam George, Executive Director of Parivar gave a warm welcome to all delegates and introduced the format of the consultation. The worship leaders for the entire weekend were Abey & Lisa Philip of philipmusic.com. The plenary speakers were Dr. T.V. Thomas of Center for Evangelism and Missions in Regina, SK (Canada) and Dr. Paul Meier, founder of Meier Clinics based in Richardson, Texas. Throughout the weekend, there were 14 topical seminars that ran on four tracks of Youth, Marriage, Community and Counseling practice. Morning devotional reflections on Saturday and Sunday were given by Sam George and Rev. Jai Prakash Masih, Pastor of the Asian Mennonite Church in Chicago respectively. The consultation concluded with a discussion on future plans of iCare network by Dr. Thomas Idiculla of Agape Partners International.

In his inaugural talk on Friday night, Dr. T.V. Thomas talked about the growing family needs among immigrant families and presented a theology of care. He encouraged the delegates with the core theme of Christian Counseling - ‘we care for the hurting, because God cares for them’. He presented God as compassionate and talked about his compassionate care reaching out to people through us.

Saturday began with worship followed by the devotional talk by Sam George. Sam’s message was titled ‘Balm of Gilead: Healing Agents in our Community’ based on Jeremiah 8:22 and the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). He challenged the audience to become good neighbors and healing agents in the community.  The plenary talk in the evening was given by Dr. Paul Meier, in which he shared his call to ministry and journey into teaching and providing care to churches in the USA and around the world. It was an inspirational talk and surely it was encouraging to learn that the perspectives about mental health issues among Asian Indian community were common to mainstream America as well.

Altogether there were 14 presentations. The youth track was presided by Col. Thomas Joseph and three papers were presented - Cross-cultural counseling by Rev. Nate Sauve (Chicago, IL); Substance abuse by Dr. Binu Chacko (Queens, NY); and Crisis pregnancy by Nissy Philip (Atlanta, GA). The marriage track was presided by Dr. Thomas Kulanjiyil and four papers were presented - Marital conflicts by Nevi Christodos (Chicago, IL), Interracial marriage by Shoji Boldt (Chicago, IL); Domestic violence by Veena Keeny (Chicago, IL); and Counseling in churches  by Rev. Dr. David Ravinder (Roselle Park, NJ). The community track was presided by Rev. Dr. T.V. Thomas and four papers were presented - Christian parenting by Dr. Jacob Philip (Danbury, CT); Marriage Trends by Dr. Thomas Idiculla (Boston, MA); Ministry among Hispanic community by Dr. Alicia LaHoz (Wheaton, IL); and Financial Counseling by Brian Kapur (Chicago, IL). The final session on counseling practice was presided by Dr. Thomas Idiculla and three papers were presented - Integration of faith by Dr. Dolly Thomas (St. Louis, MO); Psychiatric Help by Dr. Rajeev Sharma (Chicago, IL); and Lay Counseling Training by Dr. Mabel Koshy (Chicago, IL).

Sunday morning began with an extended worship session led by Rev. Isaac Wilson, retired pastor of Indian Evangelical Free Church and Abey & Lisa Philip. In the morning message, Rev. JP Masih shared from Matthew 11:28-30 about Christ’s invitation to all those who are burdened and broken. He read the passage in Hindi and Urdu and gave an exposition on rest and healing available in Christ.

The venue was an excellent choice for a gathering of this sort. Even some of the local folks stayed at the venue which gave ample time to mingle with the delegates from other states. Food was provided by various catering services. Ample meal breaks and informal settings provided numerous opportunities for interaction among the delegates. Everyone was grateful for an excellent team of volunteers who worked through all the details of the consultation.

The participants proposed several projects. As a pioneer project Parivar and Agape will compile a list of lay and professional counselors in the community. It was also decided to organize regular teleconferences, iCare blog and regional gathering of networks. A five member team will plan out future activities of the iCare network. Future plans will be broadcasted through the iCare Network website – www.iCareCounseling.net. Sam George collected an event evaluation from all delegates and expressed gratitude to all participants who made the consultation effective and successful. A certification of participation was handed out to all delegates. The meeting ended with prayer and benediction by Dr. T.V. Thomas.  Praise be to God for what was accomplished at the first ever consultation of South Asian counselors in North America and for the creation of this informal network across this region of the world.

The 27th Pentecostal Conference of North American Keralites (PCNAK) held in Chicago (IL) had a combined face-off session with adults and youths on the topic  of the Future of the Indian Churches in North America. Click here for seminar presentations.

Helping the Poor and Needy

Mumbai -  The friends of well wishers of Social and Evangelical Association of Love (SEAL)  will be meeting at YMCA (small hall) at Ernakulam on 19th March, 2009 at 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.  Pastor Philip and the First Son of SEAL Reuben will be present in the meeting.
 
Reuben was nine months old and HIV positive when some social workers got him from Sonapur and handed over to SEAL.  Pastor Philip and Pastor Biju knocked many doors of orphanages and NGOs but none were ready to accept him as he was HIV positive.  Then Pastor Philip had no other alternate except to give him shelter at his own custody, and then he was forced to start a rescue home for such children.
 
Today SEAL gives shelter to around 50 children and 90 other people infected with different kinds of diseases, mentally retarded and handicapped. Today Reuben is 10 year old and a healthy child though he is still HIV positive. Reuben wanted to visit his Papa's home town Kerala since long, if God allows he can visit the place by next week. Kindly pray for Reuben and all our other residents

SEAL is a Non - Government Organization (NGO) founded by Pastor K. M. Philip on 15th November, 1999, in Mumbai.  The rehabilitation of the destitute and street people is the prime motto of this mission. It started with 2 mats and an HIV positive child in a small rented room. Today, 10 years later SEAL houses new born babies to very old people providing them with shelter, food, clothing and education. The institution is run by a group of committed servants of God with a vision and guidance from above. Besides four assistant pastors, there are a number of volunteers who work round the clock to look after the inmates. They cook the food, give the patients medicines, wash and feed them and tend to their injuries. “Their financial needs are met by the ‘daily bread basis’ by faith and trust in the Lord” says Pastor Philip.

People who are brought here are practically skeletons and suffer from all kinds of diseases. They are received with open arms without any difference to caste, creed or age.  No matter what illnesses they suffer from, the dedicated servants of God treat them all alike with kindness, love and tender care. Mentally and physically abused, mentally retarded, people suffering from Tuberculosis, AIDS, have all found a home at SEAL. No one who needs help and a home is turned away.

SEAL also caters to street children many of whom have run away from their homes for a number of reasons --- self-pity, guilt, poverty, attraction to city life, problems with alcoholic or step parents.  After living on the streets for years, these children get habituated to drugs, stealing, sexual abuse etc.   Even those who miss home and want to return cannot go back for fear and shame.

SEAL visits railway stations and locate these runaways: children and vagabonds, finally lead them to reunification or rehabilitation.

So far, SEAL has reunited 96 lost, runaways with their families all over India. Through networking with other NGOS and with help from local police they trace the whereabouts of the runaways and restore them to their families. SEAL has also grown into a referral place for the police authorities, medical colleges and the public.

If you would like to support SEALINDIA ministries (www.sealindia.org), please click here:

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