Mike and Jyoti Van Buskirk: Fulfilling the Great Commission:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NASB
Mike Van Buskirk answered the call to go to the nation of India at nineteen years old. He sold his possessions to be a life-long missionary in the nation of India. But this path of full-time ministry reveals that God can pluck us out of the mire.
As a teen growing up in Oregon, he was raised in a non-believing family who suffered from homelessness at times. Living in a shelter, suspended from school, doing drugs, and getting into fights, Mike was on a path to destruction.
But at fifteen, his Christian Aunt arranged for him to attend a youth camp that summer. While the kids worshipped Jesus around a campfire, Mike realized he was lost. The youths witnessed to him about Jesus, sharing how He accepts Mike just as he is. Mike reasoned that if that was true, he’d be a fool to not try. He prayed, “God help me. Help my family.” Instantly he felt the presence of God and broke down and wept.
He was radically changed! Returning home, he realized he couldn’t hang out with the same friends. He also re-enrolled in school, read the Bible, and prayed. God proved faithful to lead him on the right path.
One pivotal step in his faith occurred miraculously! One day, a book on the baptism of Holy Spirit was found on his doorstep! He had no idea how it got there, but he devoured it. Then he got filled with the Holy Spirit in his bedroom, all by himself. He received the gift of speaking in tongues like a flowing river despite having no understanding of this work beyond what this book shared.
The second pivotal step was when he found a church. Like the book, he discovered the church supernaturally. While riding around town on a bike, he saw a church office and stopped. He inquired inside, only to discover this was not where the services were held — this only housed the office. The secretary gave him directions and the time and date of the services. When that day came, he walked to the location, but after arriving found a totally different church than what the secretary had directed him to.
Here, he was able to grow, connect, and serve. “Between being filled with the Holy Spirit and finding a good home church, this made all the difference in me as a young believer.” The next summer, he returned to the same youth camp where he found Jesus, but this time, he preached and shared his testimony.
God directed his path toward the mission field in subtle ways. Mike enrolled in a new high school and in the same school year had to take the same class twice to get credits. The class? Global Studies! And in both semesters, Mike studied the region of southeast Asia. During the second time around, something began to happen deep inside Mike’s spirit. He wept as he learned all about this region of the world.
Ironically enough, the year before, he had fought with kids in his school from southeast Asia. He had developed a prejudice toward them, but now, he was consumed with love for these same people. And when a missionary from India visited his church, his heart connected with him as well. So, by seventeen years old, Mike knew he was called to the nation of India.
Journey to India:
After he graduated, Mike connected with Domata School of Missions, a two-month missionary training course out of World Outreach Church in Tulsa. He attended this school because he had already met Pastor Kevin Cooley who had just started Domata Bible School in Calcutta, India.
Once the course was finished, in October 2000, Mike went to Calcutta, India with the team on his first missions trip. “I packed whatever I thought I might need and had no idea what I was getting into. I tried to learn the language the best I could, but I knew nothing about India. I prayed. But most of what I knew about India was from the movie Indiana Jones. I went knowing God called me there.”
On his first day in Calcutta, he told the Lord, “I could stay here for rest of my life and serve you.” Mike has served there ever since! On this same trip, he met Jyoti. She served as his interpreter when he taught at the church she attended. They eventually fell in love and got married. Now, they have a son, Joshua, and a daughter, Mahima. (Mahima means Glory in Hindi, which was the first word Mike learned when he came to India.)
Establishing Bible schools:
Through the years, Mike experimented with different models of ministry. He saw a need to establish a different type of Bible school model with less emphasis on full-time residential training where they housed the students, to more emphasis on a grass roots operation with a long-term school where the local church hosts the school. Fortunately, he had a connection to Pastor Russ and JudiJo Adams through his pastor in Oregon. So, in 2013-14, Mike contacted the Adams’ to consider replicating the XN model in India.
Three years later in 2017, they launched XploreNations Bible College in Sikkim, India. They’re currently in their third year with the first group of students. And this year, they’ve helped a local Domata Bible School graduate establish an XN Bible school in his home church in India. “The vision is to establish works around the country. We want to assist them to bring a Bible college into their church to train their people and make disciples where they are.”
Expanding ministry to meet needs:
In addition to the church and XN Bible College, Mike also establishes children’s homes called Hope Homes. He first started with opening his home, but now it’s grown to seven homes in four different cities in India. “This is so dear to my family’s heart. We started this home when my own children were babies. We recognized the opportunity to rescue these children, raise them up, and change their life. We hope to potentially transform an entire nation by reaching out to these kids.”
The need to rescue children is massive in the nation of India. Riddled with extreme poverty and a religion that classifies people into a rigid social structure, India is burdened with millions of orphaned children. With the mindset that they were born into poverty as their lot in life, the government and social structures don’t do much to handle this crisis. So, many of these children are trapped in a lifestyle of prostitution, drug or alcohol addiction, and violence and crime.
“Every train stop, you’ll find all those kids begging. And you see throughout the slums in India, these kids never attend school to receive an education, or have an opportunity to rise above their oppressed social lot. So, we’re going after these oppressed children to help as many as we can. Our vision is to have thousands of Hope Homes all over India.”
The model for these Hope Homes is to create a family environment. They have separate homes for boys and girls. Each home only accommodates twelve children and provides quality care and supervision, so they can focus on meeting each child’s need. They have boys and girls homes in Sikkim, Calcutta, Bangalore, and in the state of Nagaland in northeast India. Since these homes have been around for over twelve years, they’ve seen their children become responsible adults. One of their kids is now a worship leader and university student. One young woman is an XN Bible College student. Others are serving in ministry as children’s pastors, youth pastors, and outreach pastors. Their goal is to see them become men and women of God and transition into next phase of life.
Currently, Mike oversees a church, the Bible college, the graduate network from Domata India that has around 1,000 graduates in India, Nepal, Bhutan, as well as the children’s homes.
India, a world within the nation:
India itself is one of the largest countries in the world according to population. Mike’s call there is great! For even within the nation of India, each state— they have around thirty-five different states — is cultivated like it’s own country with their own language and culture. Thus, opening a Bible college in another state is a major undertaking. This is another reason why the XN model of a local church running the Bible school makes so much sense.
They have another XN Bible College campus in Orissa that’s southwest from Sikkim and located in a different state.
“We embrace the culture in India and embrace the people. A lot of times, to bring someone to Jesus means they belong before they believe. They’re not going to just believe. You need to invite them into the community, disciple them, and lead them to Christ. Along the way, they’re born again and ready to get baptized.
Every day someone is coming to Jesus. As soon as we get one, the whole family can know Him too. It starts with that individual. This is sustainable. When they encounter Christ, it’s not through the religion of their culture. Most of the people we deal with in our church and Bible school are all first-generation Christians. They’re coming out of what their culture taught them and what they were born into. When people make decisions like that, it’s firm and intentional. Commitment levels are extremely high.”
Grass Roots Work:
Mike is stationed longterm in India. And that’s what is needed for such a diverse and massive country! “God told me, before that first trip, that India is a nation of salvation. We’re going after it. There’s a great future for the ministry there. So many opportunities to train and raise up many leaders to literally impact the nation and surrounding nations. “
It starts locally. Mike has a large local staff working in the church, Bible school, and Hope Homes. Although he’s the primary Bible teacher at the Sikkim campus, he will delegate teaching to the new graduates that are currently in their third year. Once new campuses are established, he’ll replicate this same model, encouraging directors to take their students through, then delegate the teaching to them, so they have an opportunity to teach what they’ve been taught.
Long term Vision:
Emphasizing that India is a nation of nations, his focus is on regions. The big vision is to establish at least seven mission bases in the nation until potentially every state will have a base. Each base (modeled like the one in Sikkim) will have a local church, Hope Homes, and an XN Bible College.
Currently, they’re working on establishing two other locations, which will be regional bases. They already have the infrastructure in place because they’ve trained ministers at the other Bible college in southern India. They need to partner with them to establish the campuses in their churches.
“Our vision is to reach nations and to fulfill the Great Commission in India to win as many people to Jesus and make as many as disciples as we can.”
The main support goes to the Hope Homes since the church is becoming self-sufficient. When it’s time to launch a massive project, they’ll invite people to partner with them. The local outreaches are self-sustained. The Bible College has its own facility, so there’s no overhead. They have reserves because the students pay a small tuition (varies from place to place depending on the locality). They have enough in the bank to open new campuses. It only costs about $80/month to sponsor one child and currently, several of their newest children are in need of sponsors.
Laborers are the greatest need:
“Nations are calling. Whoever is listening can answer. Many are called, few are chosen. That’s just became not everyone answers the call. If you answer the call, you’ll discover real quick that you are chosen too! God will put a people, and a place in your heart and that’s where you must go. We have to fulfill the Great Commission!”