Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Can You See Me?"

“…you will be ever hearing, but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving.." Matt 13:14

It was dark by the time my flight finally reached Bombay. My luggage all came through (at significant cost) which surprised me but then there were the crowds of people to negotiate through to try and find my ride and dinner companions. As I made my way out the automatic doors, the night air, traffic sounds and smells, slowed my steps. I was trying to see if my greeters would see me. There are hundreds of people standing with signs but no one had my name on it. When the “Anglos” walk past people begin waving their varied posters, some professionally produced by business meeting and greeting clients – others hand scratched notes on scraps of paper - each looking to make connection with someone they don’t know.

When I came to the end of the barricade holding back the crowds – my fears were realized (once again) no one at the airport to meet me. While it is a familiar occurrence it is still a bit disconcerting. I had someone make the call to connect me with my “ride” (the Pastor’s brother) and then was left to wait.

Once they arrived and we were in our makeshift cab – the traffic swallowed us. The night closed in around us and the horns were relentless in their constant blaring, warning, signaling for squeezed through passageways.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? " Psalm 27:4

I never cease to be amazed how inches separate life, limb and certain death – but somehow with the aid of horns and brakes people make their way crossing oncoming traffic, wrong directional, no directional and just plain chaos without being crippled.

We came to a large bridge and stopped at the light just near the underpass. Immediately, we were surrounded by beggars - mothers holding infants knocking on the window, making gestures of hand to mouth and then pushing their children forward to further elicit sympathy. In the darkness you could see hundreds of children walking from car to car – negotiating their way through the pile up. Trying to determine which one would likely offer something for their effort and risk. One small girl – seeing a light person in a cab decided patience would pay off. She kept knocking on my window, making noises, calling out “Aunti, Aunti”. She held her face up to the glass – peering inside through cupped hands. Looking, waiting and working the system she has been brought up in. I could not make myself look at her.

I could not “see” her.

There was a great deal I did see under that bridge - hundreds of children, dogs, foraging through the garbage and – the fires, built for warmth, for light for food – perhaps.

I always take my cue from the nationals and ask about the appropriate response. Often it feels heartless and gutless.

One day on the streets of Hubli a beggar child approached the Pastor. I watched to see his response. He said a few words and turned her away. I questioned his reaction wanting to know how foreigners, but not just foreigners but Christ followers should act. He explained as long as they can make money begging they have no desire to better themselves. And when they receive response from well-meaning foreigners it makes the process and the pursuing that much greater the next time – a reward for bad behavior is how he put it.

And there’s the rub as they say. “Don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish”. I ask – always “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, what about THIS?” Where are You?” I often hear His gentle answer to my anxiety “You’re here aren’t you – it means I’m here too.

When Christ told His followers: the poor you will always have with you.” I understand more and more there was NOT enough money in the world then – there is not enough money in the world NOW to solve the problems: children abandoned to the streets, simple medical care not available, lack of clean water and sanitation killing hundreds of thousands each year. He was telling them – AND me – AND you - there is only one solution to the problem “ME”.

"All His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He. " Deut 32:4

He explained service, “Whatever you have done to the least of these you have done so unto me”. He explained religion “pure and undefiled” is to look after widows and orphans. He explained prayer, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts, how much so your Father in Heaven – pray without ceasing.

He explained what we are to do “Go make disciples of all nations unto the ends of the earth, preach the Gospel.

In the dark night with a faceless child peering through the window of a dilapidated taxi – I felt her gaze and question “can you see me?”

I prayed to understand to see Him for HER answer.

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord." Psalm 31:24

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bumpy in Bombay

We left the hotel early in search of “magic” and other material goods. We had tentatively scheduled an outreach but by the time the trip accounting was done, K and I hounded for every last cent we had for “good luck” as first customers of the gypsy merchants – it was time to head to the airport. Thankfully, A remembered to give me Pastor’s cell phone and his brother’s. The flight was short but Bombay was crowded and no familiar face met me.

Thank God for cell phones – and the kindness of strangers. I had someone call James to tell him of my arrival – they were stuck in traffic – somewhere in the dark. When they finally arrived it became an even greater comedy. Here I had my 120 lbs of luggage (paid for) on a cart rolling from one 1950 taxi to a 1949 taxi, seeing who would take on the luggage and the journey to the International Airport. The young driver who took on the charge loaded the two smaller bags on top and assured me they would not fall off – of course that is because he knew he had practically NO transmission and his cab would only drive 20 miles per hour. Not long on our way a trowtrow honked and honked – all I could think of was my luggage hanging off! Turns out the front door was not shut. Actually, could not shut. Perilous for the passenger indeed! Once as the airport the search for a meal was even more laughable because of the luggage. What were we to do? Unload the luggage – load the luggage and then unload the luggage once more? Finally I convinced my companions to leave me to my own devices – which they did with reluctance.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go!" Joshua 1:9

Monday, November 13, 2006

No House

“… but the Son of Man has no house to lay His head…” Matt 8:20

Driving by the slums of Bombay on our first day in India, left us with many questions and uncertainties of what the day was going to “look like” ministering in the “gypsy slums”. I could envision masses of crowds and definitely chaos.

The gypsy slums in Goa are considerably different. They are little pockets of people living in makeshift houses built from bits of tarp, mud, rocks, palm leaves held together with strings and ropes. Sometimes you will see a group of 10 such structures off to the side of the road near a garbage heap. But the two villages we visited today were back off the road in a forested area. It held its own kind of simple beauty. The houses were creative constructions, each one different, and adorned inside with carious articles and artifacts found or formed. In some there were paper cutouts hanging form the ceilings; others would have stripes of material knotted together in carious ways and one to my great surprise had a working TV!

Beyond the huts were the people – the children run up – bright eyes wide open against their chocolate colored skin. Their smiles are infections and they are ready to imitate any action you do, wave exuberantly, and smile and laugh for the camera. The true beauty and array of colors parade in on the women. Each has on multi-layers of skirts, sari’s, scarves around their heads, bangles and beads, nose rings and blouses hand stitched with mirrors. It is quite a sight. As I am sure we were equally a site to them.

The Pastor has told us many missionaries from foreign countries come to India – but no one comes to these villages. We were first introduced to the believer (missionary) living in the village, what a harvest field! Of course we did our program, passed out smiley face balloons as well. But as always the big hit was the Polaroid photos. We use them to illustrate the plan and purpose God has for His people. This is most likely the first photo they have ever had taken they can keep. There may have been instances when they were in the city and curious tourist caught their photo – oh, but these are treasures.

Most live as a family in these homes that are smaller than 10 x 10. The cooking fire is lit outside but all sleeping happens on straw mats laid out over the dirt each evening and rolled up each morning. These mats come in handy for visitors because they are able to bring them out of their houses and create a stage for the audience to sit on and watch the show.

They responded to the Name of Jesus – they came forward and asked for prayers and blessings for their children. The Lord was praised and I am sure pleased.

Our second village stop came after dark. The missionary had to guide our car back through the woods by driving his motor bike slowly in front of us to make sure the car stayed on the path. We could hear the crowd singing as we approached but we couldn’t see them. Only one bare light bulb hung in the tree overhead. But they could sure see us! They started clapping and saying hallelujahs. What a sight and sound.

A had discovered a new “trick” from an Indian magic shop and used it very effectively to illustrate the bondage of sin and freedom through Christ. The Pastor was translating each on of us into three languages because of the literacy level of the villagers – he was excited however because he said “these are simple people they need to see these visual things and stories – I have learned so much in seeing how you do these things.”

Again, there was great response, prayers, and blessings over the people especially the children.The humbling moment came when the Pastor said the one family of believers had prepared dinner for us. We walked carefully through the darkness to their one room house only to learn they had also cooked for the entire village. They wanted to show Christ’s love through this offering of food to the people. It made our part seem so small in comparison to the great sacrifice on the part of these simple beautiful believers.

As we were returning to the hotel I commented to the Pastor how beautiful I thought the women’s clothes were – he said “did you notice the mirrors?” Yes of course I replied. He explained the gypsies know they have lost their king – they are hoping through the mirrors to see Him.

Our prayer is tonight they saw the King of all Kings!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Appointed Work

"Eventually the news is going to get out. This and only this has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth..." 1 Timothy 2:7

Our last day of worship, as the hands were held high and the hallelujahs proclaimed loudly it made me wonder what the week would bring. As I return to worship “American Style” how have I been changed to see the earnestness of prayer and true worship and praise?

Because of my Baptist background the fervor and length of the Pentecostal services can seem redundant to me – but then my Spirit quickens to remind me – God is worthy to be praised for hours and hours throughout eternity!

Each day our cup has overflowed with joy and “field work”. Once as we were driving I broke out in the chorus “Bringing in the Sheaves”. However, my young companions laughed and said “we’ve never heard of these tunes, are you making them up?”

Yesterday as we were leaving Hubli the Pastor drove us the short cut to the orphanage. It was easy to see why he took the long way through the fields to avoid exposing us to the sites of the slums. My heart broke.

“He who goes out weeping carrying seeds to sow will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them” Psalm 126:6

The Father has entrusted me with so much. Seeing the “reality” of the world and having faith that will not fail. My prayer is to be the one to “strengthen the brethren.” Not just in meetings in churches around the globe but also the ones at home who don’t “GO” but that I may give them the eyes to see the ears to hear the cries of the poor and the heart to respond.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Encourage One Another With This

“From the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” Phil 1:5-7

We were ready for the next phase of our journey. Up, out, packed and downstairs by 8:00 am (our scheduled departure time). Pastor P arrived around 8:30 but asked if we could rearrange our luggage situation to carry only what was necessary. That of course included all of my bags, but K and A were able to take one bag combined, which saved room and enabled us to take the Pastor’s car, he explained this was better on the “jigjag” roads! Ah, the drive that was ahead of us. We arrived in the afternoon but all of us asked the Pastor if there was any internet service. I felt the need to see if I received word from home. It was an adventure that took us over an hour to find a place open with a working connection. We all logged on, updated, and asked for more prayers. It caused us to be a little late for our night meeting but we arrived safe and sound.

“Therefore the nations will praise You forever and ever” Psalm 45:17

The singing was in full force, and would continue for another hour - lots of clapping shouting and more hallelujahs than can be counted. When it came time for our program we were ready! They loved it and were genuinely encouraged to go forth as missionaries to the nation. We prayed in agreement that it be so. The Pastor and his wife had prepared a meal of curry and rice for us, and after a long drive and a long day it was a tasty treat. We didn’t return to the hotel until after 10:00 pm – enjoyed the scalding hot water (a first since we have been here) doused ourselves (and our beds) with oils, Off and the blood of Jesus! The Father provided us with His peace – a job well done faithful servants. We entered into His joy and His rest.

“I will lie down and sleep in peace for You alone, O Lord make me dwell in peace” Psalm 4:8

Friday, November 10, 2006

Life is Urgent

“Jesus said to another, Follow Me! He said “certainly, but first … I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.” Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: announce God’s Kingdom!” Luke 9:61 The Message

One of the first things you notice in the gypsy village are the clothes worn by the people. The children’s attire is predominately the same – school uniforms and shorts with un-tucked well-worn shirts, but the women’s wear beautiful multi-layered silks of bright colors banded in gold and silver trim, and when strangers or men approach they are quick to pull the scarf over their head. Most wear elaborate beaded nose rings for adornment and jeweled bangles on their wrists. The women sat on the peripheral of the crowd of children - when the gospel began in earnest to be preached the gathered the beauty that covered their outside and left empty inside.

We handed out balloons when we arrived and as we were leaving they clamored to have one more “pooka” even though they were hiding them in their hands or pockets – just one more. The Pastor asked us to come to the house of the one (out of 700 in the village) believer. We were followed by 30 or 40 children sure they could coax one more of something out of us. We stepped inside the one room house. A picture of Jesus hung proudly on the wall in the 8x8 room. Pastor asked A to bless the couple and their house. They knelt on the mat and A placed his hands on their humbled bowed heads, and prayed for strength, blessing and boldness to speak the truth into their community.

I looked around the small room. The clothes they owned were hanging on a clothesline strung from one corner to another. There was a drink crate suspended on the wall whose small compartments held the entirety of their worldly possessions. The hospitality humbled us – they passed around a plate of cookies and glasses of tea, and as soon as the plate was depleted, the husband ran out and purchased another sack of cookies.

I wanted to cry – it was more testimony that the mite the widow offered as sacrifice. These people were honoring and giving to us out of thanks for bringing the Gospel to their village – to help “them” get the word out. How could we not continue to “go” to the ends of the earth – when this is what awaits us?

Our next stop was a family whose daughter had received a miraculous healing two years ago. When the Pastor visited the village they had set her in a corner and expected her illness to rob her of life. Until one carrying the Word of Life came to their house. They were all smiles and blessings, thanking the Pastor, shaking our hand and praising God. They asked for a blessing as their faith was still weak, their walls still covered with the pictures of other gods, even though they witnessed the healing power of the Risen Lord.

We took a photo for the occasion and walked out – negotiating past the tethered cattle and bulls, watching our step to avoid what the animals have left behind, and the next step to miss the holes, rocks, stones and gutters that constitute the village road.

We loaded the can and set off for the next village “in the dark” literally and spiritually.

“Seek God, while He’s here to be found, pray to Him while He’s close at hand. Let the wicked abandon their way of life.” Isaiah 55:6-7

Again, we parked at the outskirts of the village and started our praise and prayer walk down the dark streets. The smell of fire permeates the air. Although, it is relatively late for American diners – fires dot the streets with women cooking the night’s meal. Children run freely up and down the streets along with a menagerie of animals. We are the curiosity in this place – and they wonder not just “who” we are but “what” we are.

The best place for our presentation was directly across from the village temple. It was empowering to call the name of Jesus in front of the gates of hell! We presented the Gospel, sang praise songs and watched the children watching us and seeing Him. The Pastor led the people in an altar call of acceptance and salvation.

“Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:10

I think today He would also say “I will make you fishers in villages in Indian, gypsies and outcast, orphans in all parts of the world, learned University students in China, tribal women suffering in Africa, the war wounded in Bosnia, and disaster victims in Sri Lanka.

He is calling always to those who are listening. The conversations in heaven are always concerned for the lost and hurting of this world.

“ and then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

Thursday, November 09, 2006

This Little Light O' Mine

“… Go into the villages and town and preach the good news…” Luke 9:6

Our long ride back to the city of Hubli had its diversions. We stopped to see the waterfalls and long suspension bridge that ran the breadth across the river. As we walked across we saw multitudes of women washing their clothes on the rocks, beating them and then laying them out across the sandstone to dry.

Our afternoon arrival in the city gave us time to unpack, unwind and prepare for the village meeting. the programs are well orchestrated and choreographed. The van stops just outside the village - we pile out, the missionaries carrying the equipment, drums and tambourines. The Pastor begins singing, the drum beat keeps time with our measured steps and waves of hello and invitation to the villagers as we pass by. Even though the light is at a minimum - with our white faces and strange clothes we are beacons of an unusual nature to these simple people.

"purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus 2:14

The missionaries carry the equipment to the village center, attach our "spotlight" to a light pole and tap into the electric current by tying their wires into the source. How it works without shocking or igniting, I'll never be able to understand - but when the power is on the loudspeakers pointed down the streets - the praise of the Living God invites all to come.

"We have found the one Moses wrote about... come and see" John 1:45

Again, I felt like the Pied Piper calling out - people sitting outside on their porches picked up their babies and walked behind us. By the time the equipment is set, the spotlight is on and the praise music starts there are always scores of children eagerly waiting, watching to see what we will do, say or give them. they enjoy the show, the intermittent flash of the camera and at the "altar call" - most raise their hands.

It may seem a bit overstated to say most respond and repeat the Pastor's proclamation of the sinner's prayer - but it is no greater or less than responses in stadiums around the world when and international evangelist appears on the scene.

I'm not comparing our stories, tricks or testimonies to Billy Graham - but the same Spirit that is working during an altar call before 50,000 is working in the small villages in India. And the same "Chariots of Fire" that stood surrounding Elijah and his people are battling in the heavenlies as we preach and pray before the Hindu temples built to honor the hundreds of demonic idols the dwellers bow down to.

"There are more on our side than on their side... Elisha prayed, "Oh God open his eyes"... and the Lord opened the eyes of the young man , and he saw... the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire!" 2 Kings 6:17

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fields of Cane and Cains

…Cain and his offering didn’t get approval…” Genesis 4:5

It was going to be a busy day. We had three villages to cover and the distance, road conditions, and unsure tires made for great anticipation and adventure.

We got started after lung and after driving through countless acres of sugar cane arrived at the first location within 2 hours. Due to the rainstorm the previous night the dirt roads were heavily rutted and not easily traversed. The first thing the driver looks for is a place where he can negotiate to turn the can around without turning it over or winding up in a ditch. The eight missionaries traveling with us unloaded the sound system and indicated for us to follow. We carefully stepped on the pathways unsure what was mud and what were remnants of animals that had gone before us.

I was surprised that our location was the village Hindu temple! We took our placed under the paintings and statues of the local gods and we proclaimed the One true God.

It reminded me of the time Jesus stood at the temple in Caesarea Philippi and told Peter “you are Peter and on this rock I will build by church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18) I stood at that same location almost 2000 years later and saw the ruins of the pagan temple that truly did not stand against the Truth, the Way and the Life.

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." 2 Corinthians 10:5

The crowd gathered and hundreds of children filled the temple and sat eagerly in front of us. Many of them were wearing their gospel bracelets and proudly showed them off. The hope of the community in the simplicity of a few beads.

We had time after the program to pray for the people almost all of them came forward for a blessing. We prayed for the demonic forces to be broken in a temple filled with them. When prayer time was over we were walked through the village to the believer’s house to enjoy chai and biscuits. Our first stop was one of the elders of the village. We entered the low doorway and found ourselves in the stall with a cow and chicken. An elevated area held the bed and chairs we were to occupy. There was an old woman with leg problems lying on the bed. After our tea and biscuits we prayed for her and blessed the house. We crossed the mud roads trying to avoid the cattle, goats and mud.

Over the next doorway, we noticed the words in English “Thank You Jesus”. Written at great risk but proudly displayed. Here we had sugar cane milk and again prayed blessings for the household. The husband and wife knelt for blessing and the harvest of their “field”

We loaded up the van, waved goodbye to the crowd and we were chased down the road by the happy children.

Back on the road through the cane fields to our next outreach. Down the one lane road I was surprised at how much traffic was on the road – human, animal and vehicle – all vying for room and right of way. As we approached the village, harvested corn was piled high waiting to be shucked and ground into flour.

The corn here is a deep orange color not far from “saffron”. I had to think to myself the harvest here is not white but the beautiful multi-shades of the native people.

The sun was beginning to set and we had time to see the people and be “seen”. Under a concrete shed, a television had been set up by the government; children were watching wrestling – courtesy of USA-ESPN. It didn’t take long before they saw we were more interesting than the television after all we were “live.”

The missionaries started singing their praise choruses and the children followed quickly along. The elders of the village soon began to gather around the outskirts of the crowd. One of the elders began yelling and shouting. Some men in our team quickly surrounded him to calm him down.

As I looked over the gathered crowd, enjoying, listening, and ready to hear what we had to say. I saw harvest. The old man stood behind a pile of corn – his harvest and he was desperately trying to stop the Lord’s. He was finally convinced to leave and the program continued without interruption. Once again, when our time came to leave – we left behind many who had responded to the call to believe in Jesus.

“Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Matthew 13:8-9

By the time we reached our last stop for the evening it was dark. But the vehicle approaching still was cause to draw a crowd – even in the dark people came to hear what was happening in the light and to see who was speaking about the Light!

“…say to the captives, “come out” and to those in darkness, “Be free!” Isaiah 49:9

Monday, November 06, 2006

Psalms in the Night

“…our help is in the Name of the Lord…” Psalm 124:8

The 124th Psalm begins “if the Lord had not been on our side…” our harvest time here in India brought it to my mind. We left the village feeling the Spirit of a demolition team and a job well done – strongholds brought down and the Lord lifted up. We still had several hours to travel to arrive in Gokak. The road was hazardous and dark. Our first problem began about 20 minutes outside the village. The tire blew out. We pulled off the road and the men struggled to remove the lug nuts from the rusted rim. It took 30 minutes just for that to be taken care of. But the problem did not stop there - the tire we had to replace it with had no tread at all on the sides and the tread remaining hung by threads of treads!! Pastor P took the wheel and said, “This is very bad – we must pray.”

The passengers all began to praise and worship the King. Thanking Him for allowing us to anger the enemy to such a degree! We keep singing up and down the rutted roadway while P negotiated past pot holes and a variety of other roadside perils. We sang every song we knew (except Bobby McGee)! After the first hour A & K grew bored as I put in the iPod and sang some more – as loudly as I could (much to the embarrassment of A & K) I could only reply “this is the praise the Lord inhabits – we will make it home.”

They laughed but when we did finally arrive at the hotel and saw for ourselves the tire we had been driving on for the past two hours it was far more than obvious we had been spared from the “fowler’s snare.”

Uncontained Crowd

“… and the crowds grew…”

We had ample time to pack and organize ourselves for the trip to Belgaum and then on to Gokak where we would be staying for the next few days. Pastor P told us the orphanage van would have a new muffler put on and we would leave for our village meeting after lunch. Around 1:00 he called to say there would be an additional hour or more delay.

We became adventurous and set off for the closest internet cafĂ©. Even after we returned we still were waiting. This would affect our eventual arrival at the village but it was unavoidable. When we were finally able to load the van we had to stop in the next city for a “new K” wardrobe. It seemed the pajamas didn’t go over too well.

The van dropped us in the town center with thousands of other people crowded on the street. We made our way carefully crossing the streets making our way past pigs, cows, oxen, and hundreds of merchants selling floral offerings to the local idols.

Even now as I recount the events before I retire, firecrackers and Indian flutes and drums echo loudly outside to call for favor to some god of this land and the dark underworld they belong to!

The highway leading to Belgaum and the village was modern and well traveled, however, the turn off for the village was another all together different diversion. It looked like a dirt trail and not much else. A person would have to know where they were going to get there for certain! We bumped up and back down, around deep gulleys washed away in the road and bounced our way back into the “boonies”.

I was surprised when other vehicles actually passed us – coming from somewhere! But where?!

It was now well after dark, even as our arrival in the village was expected and awaited. When the big red orphanage van pulled up we were surrounded. A and K handed out handfuls of balloons, but it of course created chaos quicker than either could manage.

A table was brought out with our chairs set like places of honor. The halogen spotlight was strung up a light pole, high enough to illuminate our position. We began with the missionaries leading the children in song with tambourines and drums. The children learned the choruses quickly and shouted out with enthusiasm “Happiness is bubbling up in me since Jesus saved me.” It felt like an old-time camp revival meeting, as the adult crowd was expanding back into the dark streets of the village.

I shared the unequal ropes, the coloring book and the Rainbow Story using K once again as a willing drama queen. The children laughed, the adults enjoyed it and the “hook” was set as “fisher-of-men” say. After the story ended, I passed off the baton of faith, for K to carry on – she ran the race efficiently sharing her testimony with a quick and flawless passing to A.

The Gospel was proclaimed, and heard from the responses we saw in the crowd when the invitation was given. In a village of over 5000 the missionary shared there were only 20 believers. Tonight the numbers increased significantly!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Under the Stars (Believer's Meeting)

“He determines the number of the stars and He calls them each by name…” Psalms 147:4

We weren’t exactly sure what was meant by “Believer’s Meeting” when the Pastor explained the evening event we would participate in. What we did know, was we would be having dinner with his brother S and his family afterwards. We soon learned the meeting would be at S’s home. We arrived a little later than the start time of 6:00. We were escorted up the stairs by S’s children who heard our arrival. Once inside we only saw Pastor P and S’s father seated in the center of the room, maintaining his balance with a cane. Not much of a meeting but perhaps people had yet to arrive.

After our introductions, serenades of Happy Birthday by one of the children on the guitar, Pastor P said “shall we begin?” We were once again led by the children through a small corridor that opened onto a huge second story veranda. There under a cloudless sky were gathered around 65 of the faith. They were seated on mats, shoes off, eyes closed and singing praises to the Lord under whose night canopy they enjoyed. It was wonderful.

Our devotion time covered the recent persecution experiences of A in Sri Lanka and my time in China. I used my tiny army soldiers to illustrate feeling the odds are against us. I reminded our brothers and sisters great victories may come and then be followed by a season of feeling abandoned like God’s servant Elijah.

When it was over Pastor P shook his head in typical Indian agreement and said. “Oh, they shall never forget this, they will remember you always.” A faced imprisonment, I witnessed a wounding of a soldier in battle, but the reality of the persecution facing those we were meeting with is often swift and severe. I was humbled. We prayed for them and we praised with them.

As hands were raised in praise, I could only think of our Creator watching and delighting in the worship of His children, some far from home, and perhaps through persecution some coming home to Him soon.

Here I am to Worship

"Our hope for you is firm… your hard times are our hard times. When we see that you’re working to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good we know you’re going to make it no doubt about it." 2 Corinthians 1:7

The same small concrete enclosure where we held the seminar of the prior two days was the room serving for the church sanctuary. When we arrived singing could be heard from the makeshift sanctuary above the orphanage. The children making their way up to the service met us with smiles, handshakes and greetings of “Uncle, Uncle, Auntie, Auntie.”

They were eager to escort us up the stairs, and watched as we removed our shoes before entering the Holy ground.

Our seats are positioned in front with the congregants seated on the floor in front of us with no space for moving and just enough to manipulate the required posture of standing, kneeling, sitting and standing again.

Praise and worship seemed to be the majority of the service accompanied with drums, cymbals and tambourines. On occasion they would sing a familiar hymn in a combination of English and Kannada. “All to Jesus I Surrender” “Power in the Blood”. My American team members and I joined in the familiar chorus “there is power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb.” Surely, that power brought 3 diverse servants to India for such a time as this.

I shared the “Rainbow Story” with K’s help. The story fit well with the little girl who didn’t have much – I even pointed out K had borrowed clothes. This drew a big laugh but we did not find out why until much later in the afternoon. It seems the tunic my friend loaned me “direct from India” was actually pajamas. This explained the quizzical look we received from Pastor P when we got in the car that morning!

After the service and more singing we prayed over each member of the congregation. We prayed, we blessed and we worshiped the living God! Those who came forward for blessing have been delivered from millions of gods of the world – and while our thoughts may recoil at the millions of Hindu idols their culture pays homage to – we should recoil and renounce our own false idols – those of the whiter brighter smile, the perfume producing sex appeal, the car that gives us status, and the soft drink that refreshes. We are quick to judge but slow to confess.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Accommodation Translation

Last night we didn't return to the hotel until well after nine. When we got out of the car we all tried to clarify our schedule for the day, times and what would be expected. Somehow things got lost in communication and translation. We are left to rely on faith and assurance what is needed will be provided.

Once upstairs we ordered our dinner and tried to make it light, fast and bland. We had been told at lunch "chicken fingers" are only a little bit sweet not spicy. We ordered for three. Cheese "nain" (the local bread) a safe bet and spinach (to keep up our strength). The funny thing about room service here is that each dish is brought up separately (Although they should all be eaten together.) Bread, chicken and then a plate of PEANUTS?! What? Where is the spinach?

A called room service and again requested "Popeyes's provision". He felt confident he communicated "SPIN-ACHEE". When the doorbell rang in came another plate of peanuts! In the end we gave up on the green stuff, drank lots of water to quench the chili hot peppers found on our "not spicy" chicken, and thanked God for the familiar "bread and water."

This exchange of thoughts, ideas, words and menu items can be funny and frustrating. For the most part we have done well as we are sharing ONE truth. The styles may be different, length of worships lengthy, and language barriers more than an unknown "tongue" but - God is God - and when they praise Him they do say the familiar:


to which we agree with a hearty (not Popeye's hearty harhar) but our own


Friday, November 03, 2006

"Who are You?"

“Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Acts 19:15

It was a long day. Once our seminar concluded we were scheduled to travel close to two hours to a village. Pastor explained there was not even one believer in the entire village of over 1,000 people.

As we left the city, the roads leading to the village got darker and darker. We wondered what we would find when the road came to and end.

The ministry van with ten of the missionaries left earlier than we did. They loaded up lights, speakers and the generator. The Pastor’s cell phone range alerting him the van had a flat tire, and was now parked off to the side of the dirt road. When we came upon them, the missionaries were all standing on the side waiting to load the speakers and light into the car and press on.

A local bus passed by and the stranded missionaries boarded to take the high road, the calling of Christ Jesus. We were excited the enemy really was trying to stop us! As we entered the outskirts of the village we passed numerous shrines and temples with worshippers looking into the darkness for protection. Sadly there was even a shrine where children were sitting chanting to the garlanded gods of their parents and culture.

When we stopped the car and began setting up the generator, speakers and lights, the children came running. We were soon surrounded. The Pastor and missionaries were busy, A was talking with several young men who were English speakers and appeared friendly. But something changed in the atmosphere. The young men who at first seemed interested turned to the Pastor and missionaries and demanded we leave. The argument went on and on. The Pastor was quiet and prayerfully maintaining control over the growing heated situation.

The children were unfazed, they still surrounded K playing hand games, shaking hands, pulling away, laughing unsure of the heated debate going on right behind them. They were all eager to use their English “what is your name?”

As I questioned the Pastor what was happening, in hushed tones he explained the rebels had already called authorities in the city and we needed to leave. Several of the missionaries were breaking down the sound system and wrapped up the cords. They pulled the switch and the system lights went out.

“If I say, ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light will become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to You, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” Psalm 139:11-12

A spoke to the young men. Why had their hearts changed from friendly exchange to anger? The young men had no answer – they only said “Get out.”

“What is your name? My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’ And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.” Luke 8:30

As we made our way to the car, the children kept crowding around us. They certainly understood we were being asked to leave, but as they touch our hands and stretched forth to get one last hand shake they said “thank you.”

The Pastor started the car and quietly said, “Are you discouraged?” And in unison the “A Team” replied, “NO!”

Greater Things

"I tell you the truth. Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father" John 14:12

It was a big day. We began by taking part in a Pastor and Missionary training to encourage the locals in mission and vision. K shared her testimony of going from “ordinary” to “extraordinary”. I used the illustration of the Polaroid to share vision and faith believing things hoped for that is yet to be seen. A boldly preached on reaching the lost and nothing being too hard for our God.

The audience was attentive and genuinely interested in what we had to say even though we are worlds apart in so many ways. After our lunch break the rain came again, but only for a short while. Again we worshipped the One true God in a land where millions are present. I told the parable of the sower – and what and how the seeds grow he recognizes is not his responsibility – he just goes out and sows and sows. We also had the “Flower” story.

The men had a time donning their floral head pieces. But the saga of the “tulip” – the flower that desired to stay planted illustrated Pastor P’s heart the most. “Tell them again about this illustration.” His mission is to see the 300,000 villages that have never heard the Name of Christ evangelized.
His desire is to see the missionaries “GO!”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Lord Added

"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:46-47

It started raining – the more the rain came down the muddier the streets became, and the chance for an outdoor meeting in the village soon became an impossibility. While the Pastor’s spirit was dampened because the attendance would be smaller, he kept saying “God is in control.”

The village took about one hour to reach even though it was only around 15 miles away. Between the abundance of traffic and the absence of roads the distance was daunting.

Once we arrived in the village we ran out of road and were forced to park the car and walk the rest of the way. Though the meeting house was not fare the path was treacherous. The road had deep trenches dug on the side for sewage and trash. The rain created deep pot holes and puddles of uncertain depth, and then there were the stones. Each step taken was prayerful and purposefully placed. As we entered the souse we negotiated through the standing crowd into the main room. 10 x 10 filled with seated visitors. There were chairs placed at the front of the room and as we carefully avoided stepping on fingers or clothes, we took our seats.

Katie shared her testimony first; then I shared the “Holy Bible.” Aaron wrapped up with a salvation message and when the invitation for eternal life was offered almost all accepted! It was exciting and a blessing.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

Advance Man

"Created in Christ to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do..." Eph 2:10

God prepared us for India. It was in His plan before we were born - an awesome thought indeed. We traveled from Bombay to Hubli via prop plane. It was not like Paul’s ship voyage but, one that took us 15,000 feet above a land filled with millions of gods and over a billion people who worship them.

We are certainly no the first missionaries to India. Countless thousands have come before us for the Harvest here is huge. Church history tells us Thomas (yes the one who doubted) came to preach the gospel in India. The Apostle Thomas faced a nation filled with the same gods we face today. Hinduism predates Christianity. Thomas must have seen similar temples, gargoyles, and idols that we see today. And yet…

There is a remnant of the faithful. God is not dead in India, God is alive and God grieves for those steeped in deception of a thousand other gods. Our hearts must grieve for the hearts in bondage to these strongholds.

We arrived and made our way to the hotel to prepare for our time with the children at the orphanage. The Pastor told us he had booked the room three weeks in advance – he knew we were coming and he made adequate preparations. But more than the advance work of Pastor P, the Holy Spirit has been preparing the hearts of those we will meet during the next two weeks. The Pastor has put the word out in advance and called other Pastor’s and missionaries to come to be told by those traveling from a distant land.

I praise God for the “advance man”. I praise Him for the responsibility we have as well. For WE are “advance men” for those coming after we go. Others will come and sow, others will reap a harvest and still others will die for the sake of the call. The state we are in has a high persecution rate of Christians. I confess this made me nervous. But we are not given a spirit of fear but of boldness. I must bolster myself, going from faith to faith with this charge…

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show they are looking for a country of their own…. a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them! Hebrews 11:13-16

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To The Unknown God

“As I walked around I looked carefully at your objects of worship” Acts 17:23

Our excursion to see the “Gateway to India” consisted mostly of dodging pedestrians, powered rickshaws, and stopping to ask taxi drivers where we were going (perhaps a shortcut) but we really were unsure of where we were in the first place!

After an hour and a half of negotiated twists turns and turn arounds we arrived. It was quite impressive. When A asked what we were looking at I explained it was the “Arc de Triomphe”of India. The colonialists had left their mark on the conquering of the continent for the advancement of the British Empire.

What the conquering colonialists failed to rid the continent of was the culture of gods. Not just one god but a god for very malady, potential problem or hoped for blessing. Hundreds of women in the crowd wore a red dot on the center of their forehead. There were elaborate buildings decorated with gargoyles and gods governing a variety of domains.

The task introducing truth to a culture so steeped in deception seems overwhelming, the gargoyles and gods hideous grins mock in unmoving stares. But we are given weapons to bring down these strongholds, to put to death these demons and to bring for life everlasting. Paul faced a pagan world with these same weapons of warfare – and the world CHANGED!

Cities along Paul's ancient route are familiar to us 2,000 years later: Thessalonica, Philippi, Colossi, Corinth, Crete, Galatia, Ephesus and the 7 churches of John’s revelation: Laodicea, Philadelphia, Smyrna, Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis. Will the villages we reach have familiar names to the faithful future generations? Will missionaries be sent forth from these small pockets of poverty, the impoverished made rich in the knowledge of Christ save their nation?

Is anything too hard for God?

Bombay Blast

“I will give you a new name”
Revelation 2:17

Bombay/Mumbai – the names are different the place is the same. A place going through rapid change as well. In an effort to distance themselves from their colonial past, many of the larger cities in India are changing their names to more traditional sounding Hindi pronunciations: Bombay/Mumbai, Calcutta/Kolkati; Chennai/Madras to name a few.

As we were guided through the congested streets, Pastor P pointed out the slum area – “60% of Bombay’s population lives in these slums – no slums – no Bombay.” Lack of running water, electricity, sanitation, basic housing – poverty and peril up one day at a time.

“He will yet… fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy”
Job 8:24

In view of what is seen – hope, faith, truth, and the promise hover like an unheard whisper over the tin roofs of the shanty town. The message of Job states clearly “He will YET…” not now - and in the meantime.

The faithful, the called, those listening and answering go – we make our way through taking in the visual but also the vision. Pastor P explained there are 600,000 villages in India that have never heard the name of Jesus. His eyes scanned the vast horizon of poverty’s plight, “here 2000 years later – they have not heard about Jesus, we must tell them.”

So here we are – in Bombay to tell them.

The "A" Team

"As my Father sent me so send I you" John 20:21

At the airport, introductions were made, the Pastor's brother had patiently waited for each of the team arrived on different airlines at different times and from different countries. K arrived from Ethiopia via Dubai, A arrived from the US via Paris, and as for me – Star Alliance through Frankfurt of course.

“A three strand cord is not easily broken” Ecclesiasties 4:12

We embraced each other and the opportunity that lay ahead of us here in India. With our luggage loaded we took off through the darkened streets (it was past 3:00 am) to the hotel. No stars, but no bugs either – not bad…

We agreed on an early breakfast (9:00 am) with the Pastor scheduled to arrive around 1:00 pm. After we greeted each other, we crossed the street (yes, I did have a hard time doing it) for a traditional Indian lunch of Nain (flat bread) and mixed curries; delicious, spicy and filling. The Pastor and his family (brother with his wife and daughter) were eager to show us a bit of Bombay.

It’s an adventure – and the “A Team” is ready and willing.

Someone to Meet You

And on that day He'll bring you back, a great reunion - God's promise.
Zephaniah 3:20 The Message

There is something about arrivals at airports, the anxieties and expectations. There is getting through the crowds, the immigration stamps, the lines and of course the “luggage”. Full flights mean frenetic collections of claimed and unclaimed goods, the push with four-wheeled unstable cars, and vying for an optimum position to retrieve personal property. Then come the prayers. “Will all the bags arrive? Will they be intact? Did the zippers hold up when pushed to their maximum sumo-pressing of packed parcels?” I don’t have a very good testimony while I wait eyeballing the encroaching passengers into MY cordoned off territory. “Excuse YOU!” I remark. Not exactly what Jesus would do. But then again … I’m not Jesus yet (or at least not in baggage claim)

As I pushed my 200 lbs of luggage through the customs and crowds awaiting arriving passengers – my eyes looked high knowing with A’s 6’3” frame and blonde hair he would stand above the rest. Soon I heard the familiar “Car” – and here he came to help maneuver the cart the rest of the way through the crowd.

I think there is something a bit heavenly to the scene. Death holds so many unknowns. Will our arrival have us claiming our eternal treasures on a revolving wheel without the frustration or anxiety? Will we be making our way through “so great a cloud of witnesses? Scanning eyes for those assembled familiar faces who have gone before?

And who will be the one to raise their hand in greeting, flag us down, call out our name and say “Welcome home – we’ve been waiting for you?”