The Global Servant

by Rachel White

Daniel Chetti ’76, Ph.D., grew up in a small dusty village in South India, with no running water or electricity, living amid stark poverty. He later moved with his family to Calcutta, where his father became pastor of a historic Baptist church. Here he first saw the Church at work in the world. His father sought to bring hope and beauty to his family and their community by growing a bountiful garden on the church grounds for all to share and enjoy. Chetti remembers seeing local nuns visit the garden to cut fresh flowers for their Friday Mass. Those nuns belonged to the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation founded by Mother Teresa dedicated to helping the poor.

“As a boy, I would see Mother Teresa riding crowded tram cars, walking the streets of Calcutta, helping those in need,” said Chetti. “At the time, I had no idea who she was, but I knew she was doing God’s work.” This ability to recognize God’s work has served Chetti well, fueling his lifelong calling as a global servant for Christ.

As a young man, Chetti left India to attend London Bible College. His finances proved insufficient, so in 1972, he applied to Azusa Pacific College, the university’s forerunner. “The president at the time, Dr. Cornelius Haggard, graciously gave me a full scholarship, enabling me to come to the United States and complete my bachelor’s degree, and for that I am deeply grateful,” he said. His time at APU strengthened his faith and his focus, affirming his passions for ministry and teaching.

Attentive to God’s call, Chetti returned to India to teach at an Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Madras and serve as assistant pastor at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for 13 years. This interdenominational work prepared him for what came next—answering the charge to serve in a complex area of the world where God reveals Himself in unexpected ways.

“God is in control,” said Chetti. “We need to realize God is sovereign, and we shouldn’t be paralyzed by fear or discouraged by what we read or see on television, because God is moving in ways like never before.”

From Chetti’s vantage point as a professor at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, he views history in the making. The upheaval and aftermath of the Arab Spring and the escalating Syrian refugee crisis provide heartache and opportunity as never before. Chetti equips leaders for the Church in the Arab world from nine countries across the Middle East and North Africa, including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Eygpt, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. “These difficult times allow God to reveal Himself among His people,” he said. “There is an interdenominational revival taking place in the Middle East. Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Coptic Evangelical, Armenian, Evangelical, Church of God, and Pentecostal members are serving together and recognizing that God’s Kingdom transcends all boundaries and individual identities. The Church is a much bigger tent housing all nations and all tribes.”

The church Chetti attends in Hadath, Lebanon, reflects this awakening. The congregation, which includes members from several countries, recently grew from 150 to more than 500, drawing Lebanese, Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian Christians to worship together. “The 21st century is the age of the migrating Church,” he said. “Populations are crossing borders. In Lebanon, every third person is now a Syrian refugee. Amidst the turmoil, there is a hunger for the Gospel in the Middle East like never before.”

In addition to training church leaders, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary houses the Institute of Middle East Studies, which works to advance positive relations in the Middle East and beyond by encouraging Christian-Muslim dialogue through curriculum, programs, and educational events. The institute aims to dispel inaccurate religious and cultural perceptions and find common ground. “We are at the forefront of an Arab Renaissance, a political and philosophical transformation that casts aside the rigid structures of the past in search of peace. God is at work here. He is opening the door.”

Rachel White is associate director of public relations in the Office of University Relations. rewhite@apu.edu

Originally published in the Winter '15 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.