When Eric Spangler’s superintendent asked him to accompany a Free Methodist bishop on an Asian ministry tour, he initially wasn’t enthusiastic that the tour included India, but he soon loved the South Asian nation.
“The place that I was most afraid of was the place that captured my heart most,” said Spangler, the lead pastor of LifePoint Church in Everett and Lake Stevens, Washington, who also has served since July 1 as Free Methodist World Missions’ new Asia area director. “It was more than just the land and the dramatic experience. It was the people.”
Nearly 15 years later, Spangler’s connection with India continues. “I had the blessing of forming some of what I would now consider lifelong brother-sister relationships that are very dear to me,” said Spangler, who added that the first visit to India “helped me better develop a biblical worldview.”
Pastor Shirish Ahaley is one of the Free Methodists in India with whom Spangler developed a long-term partnership.
“That one first visit that he made to India actually changed all of his life,” Ahaley said. “He has never stopped coming to India since then.”
Spangler’s relationship with Indian Free Methodists defies easy categorization.
“It’s more than a partnership for me. It’s like family,” Spangler said. “I would trust my own life, my children and my wife with my friends in
India. I have grown that much to trust, love and learn from them.”
Ahaley expressed gratitude for Spangler and other LifePoint members.
“Eric Spangler and his church have been very supportive of the entire movement whether it’s the child-care ministry; whether it is the work of evangelism; whether it is moving into different cities, towns and villages; or whether it is any kind of ministry,” Ahaley said. “LifePoint Church has been a tremendous source of encouragement and support.”
He credited Spangler and LifePoint members with supporting a boys’ home and traveling to India each year to host a vacation Bible school and help with other events such as youth camps and retreats for pastors’ families.
“Connecting with the worldwide church, especially the church in India, has helped us to become a healthier congregation,” Spangler said. “That’s the blessing of being a part of a denominational family.”
Spangler will leave LifePoint at the end of this year to focus on his new position with Free Methodist World Missions. Of course, partnerships in Asia are nothing new for him.
Spangler knows of the personal impact of global connections. He said these partnerships “are as much about what God wants to do in you as it is what He wants to do through you.”