Monday, November 23, 2009

MON -Day 7) A Bumpy Ride

"Fasten your seat belts boys, it's going to be a very bumpy ride." Bette Davis

When those famous and often quoted words were spoken it had nothing to do with India. In fact it didn't even have anything to do with roads. It was said in regards to the emotional roller coaster the listeners were about to embark on.

The roads of India ARE bumpy. They are hazardous. However, seat belts are seldom available but prayer always is! Being in the Harvest fields is also the kind of emotional roller coaster the actress referred to. Prayer provides the seat belts for our hearts. The Word provides the "handles" for us to hang on to. And like any good ride, screaming occasional occurs. Like when a commotion broke out on the train that could have been ANYTHING - but turned out to be a hot cup of tea spilled on a passenger. I also screamed when I saw a "National Geographic" sized insect crawling up the wall of the restaurant at breakfast. There was screaming in the middle of the night while we were in Silonijin when a neighborhood card game got out of control.

And there were the screams of joy when the children were playing games of hot potato and dancing the Hokey Pokey.

This morning was our last. With all the packing accomplished the night before we took time to share our thoughts and pray for the seeds planted to reap a Harvest, some ten fold, some a thousand fold. We praise God for allowing us to contribute in some small way to the advancement of the Kingdom to come.

As I reflect on my days here, the difficulties and the delights, I am reminded of His Words:

"Where your treasure is there your heart will be also."

I always thought of this verse in terms of my treasure being fixed in the realm of the heavenlies; on things eternal. These last few weeks I have expanded my vision and the location of my treasure.

I now see the geography as:

with the lepers

with the naked

with the hungry

with those who know real thirst

with those who are asking for God's mercy

with village evangelists and pastors who are not asking us to pray for buildings or even provision, but for more boldness and strength to share the Word when they are persecuted

with the children of tea workers and stone pickers who will never learn to read or write

with the faithful believers who will never own a Bible

with the orphans who have yet to be taken in to a home and are exploited by the evil

with the Hindus who live in a culture held in bondage to 330 million gods

with the Muslims who believe a reward awaits them in holy jihad and claim innocent victims

with the millions who live "across the river" evangelists will never reach

with a little thatch church on a hilltop in India that shines its light brighter than any I have ever seen in America

with our "church" that has neglected the plight of the lost and failed to fulfill the Great Commission

with our nation that has been given much, and will answer to the Living God for satiating appetites and desires

A few weeks ago, my oldest son traveled on business to Bangladesh. We were only a few geographic hours north on this trip to Assam. Before he went on his trip he asked if he should plan to travel to any other area in the region. I explained it is a tough place for the "uninitiated" traveler. I said, "You should have a really good reason to go." He called me when he arrived using Skpye technology and said, "This is the most god-forsaken place I have ever seen. I have a whole new appreciation for what you do. But tell me how do you do it?"

I replied, "I have a really good reason to go."

Now I understand, it is because it is where a good-sized part of my heart is.

Leaving with a chest full of treasure!
Charlynn in flight
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SUN -Day 6) On a Hill Far Away

I confess; after the river crossing, the 5 hour train ride from Dimapur back to Guwahati, and the traffic to our hotel, all I could think of was a long sleep. The thought of getting up and going to a "church" service I wouldn't even understand did nothing to ignite my spirit. It did a lot to just add to my weariness. But, as I have counseled other volunteers when things get their toughest remember the familiar Praise song, "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You're my God." Here in the tough place of my life not here in the pew!

Well after midnight, when the team was finally settled in and packed up for the day of "church" and ministry to the orphans, I sang myself to sleep. "Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am...."

Lipok arrived and we headed off to the church. We didn't even bother asking how far it was, or how long it would take us to get there. "HERE (in India) we are to worship. HERE (at the end of a physically challenging trip) we are to bow down, HERE (in a church filled we people who don't understand anything we are saying) we are to say that You're our God."

The van pulled into what looked like an area of road construction just off the main highway. We looked around and saw no signs of a church or even a building. Lipok pointed to the dirt path leading up a MOUNTAIN (hey, I am from Texas) and said, "This way." It was STEEP, it was slightly muddy, it was uneven and did I mention it was STEEP!

"Here I am to bow down..."

I just prayed the bowing down part didn't entail me falling down. We trekked again on our journey with the King, and knowing my fear of heights AND falling, from somewhere on the slippery slope behind me I heard Vicki's voice say, "don't look down."

"When I said "my foot is slipping", your love, O Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." Psalm 94:18-19

We keep walking, breathing heavily and wondering just WHERE was this church. When we could finally see the top of the hill - we saw it; still far from us and much higher still.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." Matthew 5:14

When we arrived to the thatch walled church and walked in it was filled with 90% children. It was a beautiful sight indeed. They were already in the process of singing songs. The 19 year-old girl who was leading the praise turned to us nervously and with her voice cracking said, "We can't believe you are here. We could have never imagined people like you would come to visit this place. We are a very poor church, you can see we are mostly children. We don't have any instruments even to play. But we have our hands. So we clap as we sing and praise God."

I cried.

Beginning the night before I had dreaded the thought of the morning. When I saw the steep road ahead of us with no church in sight I was even more agitated at the thought of what kind of mess God had gotten this 50 year old body into THIS time. By the time I stepped inside the church I was out of breath from the journey.

And then the Lord took my breath away with the humility of a young girl who expressed with such eloquence (in English) she could not have dreamed of such a day!

"O clap your hands all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph." Psalm 47:1

The children sang and praised God. They clapped their hands in rhythms that rang throughout the hilltops and on up into the heavenlies. When they finished the girl interpreted my story. I told her she had made me cry. She was embarrassed and said, "oh no." I explained my dismay looking up at the steep hill. But I went on to say if I had only known this was what was waiting I would have run as fast as I could to get there.

"Out of the mouth of babes and infants hast Thou perfected praise." Matthew 21:16

We all love the mountain top experiences. The view from the heights the Father takes us to remind us of how far we have come. Sometimes it's just hard to remember the journey to the top isn't always easy to make. We must remember to press on and pray, "Lead me to a rock that is higher than I."

Out of breath
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SAT -Day 5) Search but No Seizure

We arrived back to the church compound early in the afternoon. This gave us time to pack our things to be ready for departing by 7:00 am this morning. Lipok arranged the paperwork for us to enter the state of Nagaland (his tribal home) and do a day of children's ministry with a village of Muslims.

We also had time to pray.

It takes an additional (other than Indian) special visa to enter Nagaland. It is an area of tribal insurgency so people moving in and out of the area are closely monitored. We experienced this first hand when we passed through the military checkpoint. The armed soldiers motioned for the van to pull over. One stuck his head through the front seat window where I was sitting. He saw our bags of ministry items pushed under the seat, and he saw a car full of non-Indians. He opened my door and signaled us to get out.

After a few tense moments we were motioned to get back in and continue on our journey.

We knew we were going to have to cross the same checkpoint this morning and we knew we had to pray to advance the Kingdom!

Last night as we were preparing, Lipok came in with his familiar grin and said, "You ladies have two options. To get to the village we can walk across a river or we can take the road and we will have a mile walk to the village. It's up to you." We laughed. What kind of river was this? What if we fell in? What was God expecting us to do? How far would we go to a people that could potential run us out like the first village? If we had to cross a river to get there it would mean should we have to make an "escape" we might be swimming for our lives! Were crocodiles involved? Lipok also told us to "take care for our shoes."

By the time we reached the river, we saw it probably wasn't going to be all that bad. It was knee deep in places, cold and a little swift, but with several willing pastors to escort us across, and my bright yellow Crocs being used by everyone as "the shoes" to make the wade in, we did fine.

We could see the villagers and children gathered at the top of the embankment watching. We decided they were most likely taking bets on which one of us would fall.

We walked through the village and faced the crowds of the curious. Many of the men were out in the fields harvesting chilis and other produce. The women were at the embankment picking stones from the river and digging them out of the crumbling slopes. Lipok suggested we start with games and dancing before we shared the Gospel presentation. This would calm the men and young boys down so they could see we were there to do know harm.

It worked.

By the time it came around to passing out the beads and sharing the Gospel, even the young men who sat on the sidelines as skeptics, went through the crowd making sure everyone got a bracelet. They would encourage the older women to come up, they would walk with frightened toddlers. It was a most precious site to see how the Lord turned their hearts towards His.

When we were almost finished with the beads, a young man came up from the fields. He was carrying a 25 lb bag of fresh picked "hot" chilies. His teeth were orange, colored from years of chewing beetle nut. He looked at our strange gathering. One of the evangelist approached him with a bracelet and shared the whole message of the truth with him. It was a most wondrous sight. But a few moments later, the village evangelist (a converted Muslim) who was sitting on the grass guarding our backs and reading his bible was approached by this same young man.

There they sat, young seeker, and an old believer. One holding the Bible, one holding the Koran. It was a sight to behold indeed!

Today in a village of Muslim Stone pickers there were those who were searching.

We seized the day!

Carpe Diem and Dancing

"I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight." Isaiah 45:3
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FRI -Day 4) Jubilant Feet

"How can they call upon One in whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear unless someone goes" Romans 10:15

After six hours traveling on a dark road, even without the comforts of home it is easy to fall asleep. It takes some time to get our Coleman air mattresses inflated, our pillows from home out of their vacuumed sucked and sealed bags, change into sleepwear and say goodnight and "Thank God."

We were up with the chickens, the roosters, two hogs, new puppies and all the nationals that were preparing our breakfast and getting the supplies ready for our day of ministry. Each day we have asked with comic frustration "how long" is it going to take for us to arrive at our destination. Each day no matter what the answer the time is typically twice as long, three times as bumpy
and more than ten times the fun!

Our first stop was a school with over 150 students and village children gathered on the lawn waiting for our arrival. The second place of ministry was even farther and even MORE children and adults (250). We introduce ourselves, tell stories, make bracelets, share the Gospel and then -
we dance.

I never cease to be amazed at the joy shared by children (and adults)across the world when it comes to making like a "chicken." Their hands motion like beaks, they flap their arms like chickens and they swing their partners "round and round" grinning from ear to ear.

Even the older folks and very serious teenage boys sitting on the sidelines eventually have to crater and crack a smile.

When we ask Lipok how much time to take for the program, what to include (as far as tricks, stories, games, etc...) he always says, "But don't forget the Chicken.

The Word teaches the feet of those who bring the Good News are beautiful. I would hasten to add so are the ones that make like "chickens," for the King of all nations.
"Oh be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet! His truth goes marching on."*

Serving, praising and dancing
And of course smiling at chickens

* Battle Hymn of the Republic
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THUR -Day 3b) Depth of Vision

Traveling down rural roads at night in India helped me realize an important truth; your vision goes only as far as your headlights allow.

In America and other developed nations, most highways and byways are well lit. The streets, signs and roadside exits with drive-through food and fuel stops have lights to entice to their brand of convenience. You can not just see where you are - you can see where you want to be!

It is not that way here. Even as we pass through townships of commerce, the light from the shop front only illuminates about 50 feet to the street side, and behind the building and beyond lies total darkness. When we have taken time to slow down (for crossing pedestrians, bicyclists and two passenger taxis) it was possible to catch a glimpse of kerosene lanterns inside the houses. But the rest is just dark.

There was fog when we drove through the Karinzanga Game reserve. This made spotting cyclists, workers walking home from a day picking tea and the animals that occupy this beautiful forest impossible to see. Signs cautioned drivers to use their horns as little as possible - but it was improbable humans would survive without the blast of sound alerting them to get off the road. I am sure the animals have grown accustomed to the noise of the Industrial Revolution harassing them in their habitat.

Coming from a nation founded on religious freedom, with Judeo-Christian morals as the plumb line for behavior, it is easy to cast a critical eye on those who question, quarrel and even threaten us with violence.

But driving down the dark roads I realized, they truly are a people living in "darkness". They do not understand because they have not been given the infrastructure (a Christian foundation) or the equipment (flashlights and street lamps of the Living Word) to guide them out of the dark.

I am always amazed to watch in the pitch black of night people walking without any form of light to guide them AT ALL. Until a car, truck or van passes they can't even see potholes or other dangers that might cause them to fall. They have grown so adept at finding their way "in the dark" is it all that hard to believe they see no reason for what we refer to as the Light of the World?

"This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light..." John 3:19

Turning on the Light
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THUR -Day 3a) Foxes Have Holes

"...and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head."
We have finished the outreach in Gouapar. We prayed long and hard this morning before leaving for the village. Because of the opposition we faced the day before we were unsure what the atmosphere of the village elders would be.

We pulled off the side of the road and walked down the path to the schoolhouse with over a hundred waiting children. There were a few mothers with babes in arms but suspicion on their faces. We waved hello, and the national team helped raise interest and the enthusiasm of the children by singing songs. It took several choruses before they understood the words, lost their inhibition and decided the strange looking creatures really were harmless. We might even be fun!

By the time the children started singing, the men started arriving. I immediately recognized some of the agitators from the first village the day before. The enemy is alive and well, and he was back.

The men motioned and called over the village evangelist and Lipok to question what were our intentions with the children. They asked if we were attempting to "indoctrinate" them? The nationals assured them we were only there to play with them, to sing, and give gifts.

We started the "short" program version; one designed to ease the tension before the Gospel was presented. I told a story, we played games like "hot potato" and frisbee relay, all while the adults cheered the children on. After a few games, Hokey Pokey, and the proverbial "Chicken Dance" we had the children sit down.
Even through the chaos of handing out cut string and a thousand beads, the Gospel was preached, the truth of the Living God proclaimed, and the Name above 330 million no-gods was lifted up! When all was said and done, even the "opposition" took what we had to offer (the bracelets, the cookies and candy and the pencils). They may not have accepted the gift of salvation - but the seeds of righteousness were planted on what was before today fallow ground.

We returned and loaded up our travelling "show" and prepared to thank our hosts. When we arrived late in the night we didn't quite understand the nature of our accommodations. We were introduced to the "owners" of the house - but they hastily disappeared, only to present themselves to help with the meal preparations. Today, as we were leaving Lipok explained we had been staying in their house. "Yes, yes thank you." We all expressed our gratitude. Then what was "lost in translation" was clarified. This was not some dwelling they rent to outsiders. This was THEIR HOUSE! They removed their few belongings and allowed us to move in "lock stock" and 500 lbs of luggage that were far from barrels! We were all shocked and humbled. Not one of us could think of any church goer we knew (INCLUDING ourselves) that would totally vacate their house and allow very strange foreigners to take over their home.

As in many places around the world I am humbled by the generosity of believers. They exhibit such willingness to sacrifice READILY in service to the King. Where I live we are more concerned about protecting our "territory" than advancing the Territory of the Kingdom of God.
When a man asked the Master if he could become one of His disciples. Jesus let Him know it would not be. a road of prosperity or possessions. The King of all Kings, Creator of the world did not own a single piece of property.

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Through the things I have seen, the attacks and what little persecution I have endured, I have learned to embrace the culture of surrender. It was once easy to "think" "Lord, I would die for You." It is much harder (and heartbreaking) to begin to list the things I'm not ready to release.

I'm not sure I would let strangers move into the perceived sanctuary and safety of the place I call home.

I praise God there were people here in India who were!

On the road to the next temporary "fox hole"
Humbly bumpingly
Down the road of His service
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WED -Day 2) One Missing Found - One Mising Still Lost

"Surely, He leaves the ninety and nine to reach the one that was lost"

We reached our final destination well into the night. It took a while for the team to unload our semi-comforts of home (in the form of inflatable Coleman mattresses, Off Mosquito spray, 12 rolls of American toilet paper and beauty products to keep the age lines away).

We also had to adjust to the sounds of fighting dogs, and the rustling feathers of what would become tonight's dinner. We busied ourselves packing bags of balloons, beads, games and stories to be ready for the morning. It was after midnight when we finally succumbed to the humming songs of crickets, locusts, and canines whimpering in the dark.

After an early rising, we met with the nationals who arrived to help with the days scheduled village programs.

We prayed.

We felt prepared.

I lost my new Timex glow in the dark watch last night while organizing our "camp space." However, time in the third world isn't time kept on a clock. A trip we are told will take 40 minutes is usually at least a two hour ordeal (judging by how many breaks we take to water the roadside trees). My watch would have just made me anxious.

We drove, and drove, and slowed down for water buffalos, naked children in the road, cows napping, and baby goats happily jumping in front of the moving vehicles taking us to our destination. We were so far off the path it wasn't even "beaten." It was a decimated drive of trenches, troughs and bicycles parked in the midst of the trail. After all, four wheeled vehicles are a rarity in this stretch of jungle and rice fields.

As we drove along the banks of the river, the silted houses of the "Mising" tribal people appeared. We kept thinking - this place must be it. But further we drove, deeper and deeper until the vistas of the rice fields disappeared and the jungle closed in around our cars.

When we did arrive at the village, it wasn't the foliage that created density - it was the people. There were already children gathered and as soon as the vehicle stopped - the adults who had watched us drive into their domain came out as well.

There were hundreds of children, and an equal number of adults. It took a while to engage them - but they did finally begin to have fun. Once again, the men of the village stood on the outskirts of the program watching. Once again, alcohol was a factor. Once again, the devil showed his ugly face and that he was not giving up this territory!

Shouting broke out on the periphery, accusations of black magic and the lies of Christianity were all flying back and forth between the tribal elders (supporting us) and the enemy and his minions who were against us. Lipok suggested we pack up and head toward the cars.

By the time we reached the surrounded van - the agitation had increased. We sat and prayed, asked for intervention and supernatural protection. We drove away.

The disciples asked Jesus when they were met with opposition in the villages they traveled to if they should pray for "fire and brimestone." Given my history - it felt like a good day for some "wrath" to rain! But His answer was to shake the dust off their feet and move on.

Move on we did. We drove just to the outskirts of the village and trekked (and I do me TREKKED) to the neighboring village that had invited us to have a program there. Lipok assured us of our safety, as well as their willingness for us to be there.

We loaded up our backpacks, sacks of games and gifts and started walking. We crossed a 30 foot high bamboo bridge over a river that seemed as wide as the Mississippi (to this girl afraid of heights). And we walked, and we walked, through the rice fields, the sugar cane, the cow dung we were desperately trying to avoid and then we walked some more.

We walked past herds of water buffalo bathing in the river, men with elaborate bamboo constructions designed to catch fish, and a variety of women who walked out to the path just curious at the foreign pied pipers with hundreds of children keeping step.

As our 5 minute walk went well past 20, we arrived at a schoolhouse where the children were waiting in the sunshine and watching our approach.

They had a great time! They sang, they played games, they made Gospel bracelets and they heard the message of the gift of God through Christ His Son. We concluded without incident but definitely with the Kingdom advancing!

Around each corner we turned, it felt like at least we reached the "edge" of the "ends of the earth." But we kept going further still. I sense we still have a long way to go. Today, one "Mising" Tribe remained lost - but one was found.

"This Gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth - and then I will come!"

You can hardly say that without a smile
But you'd better be serving when He does
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TUE -Day 1) Where the Streets Have No Name

"I want to reach out, and touch the frail - where the streets have no name." U2

I have heard Bono, the lead singer of U2, is a believer. I can't say that with certainty, but he has used his celebrity to bring awareness and aid to the disenfranchised of the world. There is a YouTube video of his acceptance speech for an NAACP award that could compete with any sermon preached from a pulpit. In it he states, "if you want to be where Jesus is - then be among the poor." It brought rounds of "amens," "preach on brother," and a standing ovation from the crowd.

I don't know the spiritual state of the band when the hit song "Where the Streets Have No Name" was penned years ago, but as our plane from New Delhi flew over the lowlands of the Himalaya valley, it was a good song to be listening to.

"Delay" seemed to be the operative word along the start of our long journey. The East West team was delayed out of Chicago. We were all delayed out of Delhi. I am not sure that cows, goats, bicycles and the commerce of humanity on the roadway qualifies as a "delay" but it sure making the getting from point "A" (the airport) to point "B" (the campground for our program) take a long long long long time.

At 5:00 pm darkness came with a sudden and certain finality. It makes it easier for the team that has just arrived to reset their body clocks. You know it is some kind of tired - when women can pitch their heads back on the seat of a moving vehicle, and stay asleep amidst blaring horns, headlights on high beam, and intermittent braking for traffic heading our way HEAD ON!

Since my body clock has been reset - I am taking my mind off imminent danger by writing what could be my "Last Will and Testament" (okay so I exaggerate.)

But truly, my last "will" (and I hasten to add that of my teammates) is to do the will of the Father. We are here with Pastor Lipok and his team as the FIRST foreigners to break ground in this area. We are giving "testament" of the Living God to a people who are living in darkness.

We are travelling down streets with "no names" (and those that do we couldn't begin to pronounce). Lipok laughed and said he invited a team of men, who quickly adopted the moniker the "Extreme Team". He said, "Here you are - women doing the job first - and you don't even think it is extreme. You just came."

Perhaps after about 2,000 more swerves, 4,358 more blasts of the horn, 150 near miss collisions, and NO MORE elephants (yes, we did see working elephants on the side of the road), we will reach our destination.

To the children
To the parents
To the tribal elders
To the frail
To those who are known as "Missing"

To those who are lost - at the end of "streets with no names"

Standing on the Rock
That never rolls!
Although smiling (and singing)
In His service

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Leaving on a(nother) Jet Plane

I have finally arrived to depart again! I am sending this short note to let you know this could be the last time I am able (or have time) to send information until I return to Delhi next Monday.

I will be flying into Delhi tonight and eventually (the EW team's plane was delayed) meet up with the rest of the team. Tomorrow morning we will catch a flight to Guwahati and then make the 5 hour trip to Gouapur. Our first all day program is on Wednesday.
We will have two programs in Gouapur, then Thursday afternoon we will travel 6 hours to Silinjin. Friday morning we will have a program and then Friday afternoon leave for Dimapur. Saturday will be our program in Dimapur and then we will catch a train back to Guwahati (5 hours). We will visit an orphanage there on Sunday. And that as Porky Pig would stutter "that's all folks."

Aside from being "on the move" quite a bit, the area we are travelling to is surrounded by three international borders (Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar)and satellites are controlled by the military. We did not have service when we were there in January.

This area is also a hot bed of "activity". I cannot stress the importance of intercession at a time like this. The enemy has a firm stronghold on the region and the hearts of children are his breeding ground of hatred and deception. Even if you do not know how to pray remember the "unutterable" prayers of the spirit know exactly what we will be in need of.

These are harsh circumstances for women who are neither teenagers nor campers - but we know the Lord and His hosts will be encamped about us.

For safety in ALL travels
For health
For stamina
For discernment for the leadership
For boldness in sharing the truth
For the light of the Kingdom to break through the darkness
For weapons not of the worldly kind- but ones that will bring down strongholds
For restoration for all teammates during these long journeys
For the hearts of the children to be open to the good news
For those that hear (the adults and parents) to come to salvation
For nations to bow down and worship the King

He is sovereign
He is smiling
Me - I'm still in service
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Open My Eyes

For the past four days of ministry the skies have grown increasing cloudy. I read the forecast for this area before I arrived. The predictions were rain every day. The East West team that arrived a week before I did experienced the showers and the sickness that generally accompanies flood waters.

Each day of ministry has been just overcast enough to keep the unbearable heat tolerable, and there would be a little bit of sunshine throughout the day - but no rain.

That is, until yesterday. A cyclone hit the west coast of India on Tuesday and the bands of storm clouds reached finally reached the east coast (where we are). Huge thunder clouds surrounded us from every direction. My interpreters and teammates for the day kept watchful eyes on the threatening skies throughout our 1 1/2 hour drive to the village. "Rain coming! This will not be good." When a national utters a warning like that you know the odds are it will "not be good" it will in fact mostly likely be very very BAD!

The area of Nellore has already suffered severe flooding and more rain on muddy dirt roads makes for impassable places and potential stuck vehicles.

I offered optimism. "No, my ministry is Sunshine After Rain, you had rain last week - this week sunshine only." It was hard to sound believable as the sky grew darker. Miraculously, and thankfully we had a day without rain. But it did come with its share of "darkness."

The plan for the day was to have four village programs for children. November 14 is the holiday know as National Children's day, so all the schools were closed and children were already anticipating something special. They really couldn't picture what we were bringing - but their excitement level was at a fever pitch. Wild clapping, exuberant laughter and when it came time to make Gospel Bracelets or hand out balloons and chocolate, pandemonium.

The two young youth workers were just as excited to see something new as well. They were thanking me for showing them new ways to reach children. At the end of the day it didn't look favorable for the sunshine to last. Every few minutes a drop would fall from the sky. I would hold my hands upward (in a makeshift effort to abate the coming downpour). When we began to head toward the last village, my interpreter (Dennis) nervously laughed. "Sister, each time we have tried to have a program in this place it has rained. I don't know about this place. There are lots of demons there. The children are very mischievous. I think it will be hard."

Threatening weather and threatening people; this information did not make for an enthusiastic performer on the way out to the "way out."

It was difficult reaching the gathering. The roads were narrow and extremely muddy. At any moment it felt like our little mini-Cooper sized car would be swallowed in the mire. Dennis stopped the car to make sure we could get through. We were immediately surrounded by a group of hostile women banging on my window asking for what - I had no clue?

Dennis calmed them down, encouraged them to bring their children and they finally walked on. He explained to me, the last time visitors were here they left because the crowd became chaotic and threatening and so they didn't leave anything behind (food, rice, money, or chocolates) but hastily exited filled with fear.

All day as we negotiated through, towns, villages and what could perhaps be called "enclaves" of humanity, I kept noticing men clad in black shirts and mid-calf length skirting. I asked Dennis what this signified. He explained it was the time of year to worship a certain demonic god - and these darkly clad men were the followers. They were everywhere. They were unsettling. They were triggering my Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

I fought to quote scriptures, hold my spirit in check, etc, etc... However, the darker the night the more the men in black appeared. At the village, those same men surrounded us on all sides. Some were visibly drunk. An occasional skirmish would break out between the inebriated, but the pastors and lay workers would soon usher them on down the road away from our gathering. They heckled (I presume) what the interpreters were saying.

"Greater is He that is with me." 1 John 4:4

The village kids enjoyed the program and laughed, the women too, and some of the elderly men grinned from time to time. But always the leering looks of the enemy (dressed as men in black) caught my eye.

I made it through. No worse for the wear. I was NOT in danger. There were seven men with me which could have quickly provided protection and I hasten to add the Spirit and the Hosts were guarding me as well.

But this morning after a story night - it hit; the "PTSD." Fear washed over me. I am a person who faced the enemy and was attacked. I cried. I prayed. I called my therapist (and very best friend), and I called my comrade who had shared the event with me in Gokak.

I left this morning for another full day of ministry, praying for my Elisha answer:

"Alas my master, how shall we do? And he answered, "Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, "I pray to open his eyes that he may see." And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." 2 Kings 6:17

I know when I am weak - He is strong. Today, the strong arm of salvation and mercy was with me. One hundred more children and villagers heard the name of Jesus lifted up and the King of Kings glorified. I might not have "seen" the chariots of fire, but I have no doubt they were there. It is His promise!
(Psalm 91:9-13)

My time here in Nellore has ended with over 1000 village children and adults being ministered to. Tomorrow morning I leave for a 4 hour drive back down to Chennai, a flight to Delhi, and there I will meet up with the team from East West. We will overnight in Delhi then catch a morning flight to Guwahati, and travel 5 hours to Gouapur the first stop for our Children's camp programs.

Pray for their rest on the long flight to India and for travel mercies on each step of our journey.

Praise God for the works He has accomplished here and the opportunities He has ahead.

Praise God for counting me worthy to suffer a vicious attack, protect me and allow me to press on for the upward high calling.

Praise God for He is worthy of all praise.

Smiling at the thought I have a "chariot" driver named Benhur!
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Friday, November 13, 2009

A Celebration!

It's past my bedtime here in India (and it would be past my bedtime if I was back home too). I just came back from bidding a bon voyage to the East West team headed back to the US. When I went into the lobby there were balloons everywhere, a camera crew and women arriving "dressed to the nines" as they say down south.

I was curious to what was creating all the "paparazzi" and elegance? Did I miss the announce of "Bran-Jolina"? Was a famous Bollywood actor arriving? What could it be?

Suddenly, the movie cameras and photographers moved towards the entrance. I was excited. I was about to witness something. I wasn't sure what but hey when in Rome - wait this is India! All heads turned as the door was open to the arriving vehicle. Out stepped a beautiful woman stunningly dressed and a dapper gentleman holding a bewildered toddler in a white dress. Who were these people? Was I missing something? Were they important dignitaries or celebrities People magazine doesn't cover?

I turned to Benhur and said, "Are they famous?" He laughed, "No sister, they are rich." I inquired further not willing to think a bank account could account for the festivities. "What is the celebration?" To which I was informed it was the little girl's first birthday.

The team came downstairs in the midst of the poses, the pinching of the cheeks and the pats and poo-pah-has over the child. I gave the low down on the high brows. "It's her birthday." With a sardonic grin, one of the ladies said, "She probably doesn't even know how SPECIAL she is."

I told her I would have to write about that!

WE are that special! The 100 village children ministered to on this day are THAT special. The King and creator of the universe makes THAT much (even more actually) fanfare over each one of His children. The father carried the child with pride and invited all his most important friends to acknowledge the day she was born. The child didn't have a clue.

So many of us don't.

Our Father does.

At the end of every dirt path, in each village and inside huts made of palm fronds and plastic are the esteemed of the Lord. There are people who need to know they are not forsaken, or forgotten but forgiven. They have a chance to be adopted and accepted into Royalty!

Today over 100 children and adults heard an invitation from the King of Kings to the biggest celebration of all.

Taking pictures at the party!
Smiling behind the "lens" of service
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Unutterable

The first full day of ministry has concluded here in Nellore. It began comically, trying to find a place none of the 5 accompanying Pastors had been to before. This is not a place a Garmin, a new iPhone app or even an old-fashioned map could help you locate. Even the semi-nearby residents could not direct us with any certainty. Our van made three turn arounds (you can't u-turn on a one lane path). When our driver would ask the local shop merchants or those passing by where the school was, they would scratch their heads in confusion and seem to direct us to a place we had just passed, and it always seemed to be a muddier road than the last.

We finally found the two room school house, not from accurate directions but from the school master standing in the middle of the road flagging us down. There were no other cars traversing the village which made it easy to know we were looking for him.

We got out of the van and began to draw a crowd. The social worker (a parishioner of Pastor Benhur) was our host and had arranged for our program. He escorted me to the school (two rooms 10 x 5) filled with excited children but no chairs, desks or electricity.

It was obvious the porch around the building wouldn't accommodate all the children and gathering adults so where do you think we set up our makeshift road-show? In the road of course!

The children carried the mats out to the street to see what the first foreigner they had ever seen (probably the last) had to show. They kept staring in disbelief at the color of my skin, my eyes, the shade of my hair, and the strange words coming out of my mouth. But they laughed the same as children all over the world at the tricks and the stories. Today down a muddy street in India at "the ragged edge of a broken world"* the message of the Good News was proclaimed.

Our next destination was a familiar one. We had no trouble locating the village of the leper beggars. It is a place near to the Pastor's heart and to mine. These are the same people who had their entire village bulldozed at the whim of a land owner. Our first trip to visit them, they were next to the cemetery. Then the land became more valuable than their shelters and they lost what little they had. Now they are even further removed from the city, but next to the latrine for the school.

Four young boys dressed in uniforms took their place under the tree to watch the show. I thought it was unusual, but I didn't have a chance to ask anyone about them. When the program was complete, I asked the Pastor if the leper children were now able to go to school. He shook his head. "Oh no sister these are not leper children. These are children who left school to go to the latrine and saw what was happening and stayed." I asked if any of the 50 children (from a few months old to age 17) had a chance to go to school.

"No, sister."

"We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26

I praise God for the indwelling of His Spirit. What do you begin to ask for when there is no education, no medical assistance, no economic relief, no change EVER. A new government won't help these people. A cure has already been discovered for leprosy, but reformed health care will not affect the state or advancement of their disease.

They are outcast and beyond destitute. But they are not beyond the hand or the heart of the Almighty!

They smiled today. They remembered me - and I remembered them. For a sliver of time this side of eternity, under the shade of mango trees the lepers were laughing.

In the whisper of the wind, I could almost hear the angels too.

"But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do. I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me." Micah 7:7

Counting on the Author to write the rest of this story

*Quoted from TEAM Ministries
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Call to the Heights

"So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights..." Hebrews 3:1

Looking out the window from my hotel in Nellore, India it doesn't look too high from the fourth floor. It has been ten months since my last visit here. So much is familiar, but there is something about memory the softens the reality.

I remembered it is loud. But arriving after midnight, I forgot just HOW loud it always is. The horns never stop, commerce goes on well into the night (bananas for sale at 4am) and the food - it is not just spicy - it is down right HOT!

Thank you for your prayers marking the steps of my long journey here. I arrived without incident and so did all my luggage. The car ride was fast and furious - but I survived and as far as I know so did all cows, cats and dogs that we passed along the way.

Today, I am getting acclimated and organized while Pastor Benhur performs the wedding for his niece. There is a team of Americans from East West (EW) here, but I didn't see them at the breakfast "hot chili" buffet. Pastor Benhur reported last night four of the team had been sick but are recovering. It is hard NOT to be afflicted by something unusual here. Pray for their recovery and a strong immune system in place for me. I have a long way to go before I return to a breakfast that does not include curry.

The EW team visited the leper beggars, but Benhur said "They are asking where is our sister?" He assured them I am on the way. How it warmed my heart to know they have remembrance and fondness for a fair skinned, fair haired girl from a distant land.

Friends, we are called to the "heights." But the heights of the Lord are found among the poor, the lame, the outcast, and yes, the lepers. The night before our King's last night on earth, He spent it dining in the home of Simon THE LEPER. He was not honored in a palace or 4 star restaurant. He found honor among those the world had cast out.

Here I am in the heights of India. Let us walk this tight-rope of faith with confidence He serves not only as our balance but our net in case we fall.

Taking a deep breath
Admiring the view with a smile

PS. India is 11 and a 1/2 hours ahead of CST. To make a quick calculation of where I am on my side of the world just subtract 30 minutes from your time (CST) and change your am to pm or pm to am.
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Mark the Journey

I have arrived in Frankfurt with no prblems. Prya my bags make the short connection time.

Oncw I arrive in Chennai, I will be met by Pastor Ben Hur and then we will drive directly to Nellore (e hours).

Pray for safety on the dark and dangerous roads!

On the way
With a tired grin
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Mark the Journey

I have arrived in Frankfurt with no prblems. Prya my bags make the short connection time.

Oncw I arrive in Chennai, I will be met by Pastor Ben Hur and then we will drive directly to Nellore (e hours).

Pray for safety on the dark and dangerous roads!

On the way
With a tired grin
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Monday, November 09, 2009

Just Around the Corner

A week ago, I returned from the mountain top experience of serving wounded soldiers and their families at the fourth Warrior Getaway. The director forwarded a touching email from one in attendance describing what the respite meant for he and his family.

(paraphrased) "I was ready to give up. I had so many problems I didn't even want to be around to face the holidays. But the volunteers gave me "joy" and I want to stick around and give back what was given to me."

Two days later, Fort Hood came under fire. It was not "friendly." Thirteen soldiers lost their lives and over 30 were wounded - the country was shocked. Here, men and women who VOLUNTER to serve our country and protect our freedom were killed in a senseless act of violence. The protectors - unprotected.

"Friends, when life gets really difficult don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job."

What is happening in our world? What happens in the heart to create such catastrophe?

"Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced."

I am preparing to leave for India this afternoon wondering what I will encounter. Although I have served in this area (Nellore) I still find myself a bit anxious at the thought. The overwhelming poverty, the disease, the broken hearts of those afflicted by leprosy - a curable illness if...
I am holding fast to the promises of the Word.

"This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner". 1 Peter 4:13

Just around the corner, His glory will be revealed. The suffering over, the questions answered, and all the tears wiped away. (Revelation 21:4). Until then - we must ALL be about the Father's business. As the body of Christ we are ALL enlisted into a volunteer army - sent out into the world to "set the captives free." Life IS difficult. But our God is on the job and our King is on the throne!

Last week, I read this devotion:

"If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of
experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others... God's way is always the way of suffering - the way of the "long road home" Oswald Chambers Nov 5

I am embarking on the "long road" to India. I am praying to be useful in His hands. I am entering into the suffering. Join me:

For travel mercies
For quick recovery from the journey
For the flood victims in the region we will be ministering to
For the Pastors and team in India
For the hearts of the people to see the One true and living God
For the East West team as they prepare to come on the 15th to northern India
For health and safety
For boldness to proclaim the Good News!
For the remaining $3700 needed for China

Putting one foot in front of the other
Smiling still

To make a donation online please visit our website:

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Haste the Day...

…when my faith shall be sight.”*

I returned from the fourth Warrior Getaway and collected the mail my neighbor faithfully holds for me while I am away to parts west, east, north and south. I hoped all the financial needs to purchase and fund my December trip to China would be found tucked in the piles and piles of catalogs, coupons and the latest grocery store ads. Alas, it was not.

“Even so, it is well with my soul…”*

During difficult economic times, I understand the reluctance to financially commit to the “unseen” work of the Kingdom. It is the end of the year, Christmas is coming and on, and on, and on. Each morning I have laid my heart at the throne and surrendered to my King. “If You have other plans for me during this season, I am ready.” I have prayed Philippians 4:6 repeatedly: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, AND THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.” A close friend and faithful supporter reminded me I also needed to be specific and present my requests to you.

In the eight consecutive trips Sunshine After Rain Ministries has made to China (since 2001), we have ministered directly to over 12,000 orphans and University students. We have appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, magazine publications and newspaper articles have covered our trips to the orphanages. This has resulted in exposing the Gospel to literally hundreds of thousands of Chinese who might never have listened except for the Lord using the “foolish” (a clown) to confound the wise. Christmas is one of the best “Harvest” opportunities. China has embraced the Christmas holiday, but few know anything about the “Real Reason for the Season.” Many foreigners take this time of year to share the hope found in the Savior’s birth with friends and acquaintances.

I want to be a part of the Holiday Harvest in December 2009. This covers not just our flight, and in-country costs, but also allows us to bless the orphanages with much needed items for the winter. In past years we have provided winter clothing, warm blankets, winter boots, heaters, air purifiers and common items as simple as diapers and fresh fruit.

Thank you in advance for your support during these last days of “what we cannot see” and have an impact in Eternity.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we don’t see.” Hebrews 11:1

Let this blessed assurance control

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

* Lyrics from the traditional hymn “It is Well with My Soul”

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

INDIA - Calendar of Events

Depart USA

Arrive in Germany
Depart for Chennai India
Arrive in Chennai 11:50 pm

Drive to Nellore

Village Outreach
Village Outreach

Village Outreach
Village Outreach

Village Outreach
Village Outreach

Church Program

Travel to Chennai
Flight to Delhi

Flight to Guwahati
Travel to Goupar

Children's Camp

Children's Camp
Travel to Solinijan

Children's Camp
Travel to Dimapur

Children's Camp
Travel to Guwahati by train


Flight to Delhi

Depart for USA 3:05 am
Arrive DFW 2:30 pm

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Like No Place on Earth

A man walks in to a BBQ, sits down and takes off his leg and says to a pirate, "Hey, Chaplain, what do you think of my new Harley?"

Two angels were at the same BBQ. One looks over and says, "Honey your halo is crooked - let me fix that for you."

At the next table a man with hearts on his eyes adjusted the camouflage wings of a warrior angel.

Elvis posed on a haystack in the center of the room with a Renaissance man who was his daughter and his quarterback son who was dressed as a princess.

It was a place where superstars posed with superheroes.

The dish didn’t run away with the spoon, but a princess did enjoy her corn on the cob!

Walt Disney doesn’t have the monopoly on a place that is “like no place on earth.” For the past few days, a golf resort near San Antonio, Texas was like nothing you could ever imagine. I know I couldn’t have imagined any of the scenes above even though this was the fourth such event for Wounded Warriors and their families. It fell over a weekend that is known for its goblins and ghouls, tricks and treats, and clocks that turned back time! I heard more than one child sadly express they did not want to participate because it would mean they would miss the door-to-door tradition. They couldn’t have imagined there would be nothing missed and everything gained.

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hopes; it’s a world of fear*

Our team of volunteers had many opportunities to laugh with the soldiers and their families. They helped kids catch fish (some ten feet long!) and make it to the top of a mountain (a rock climbing wall) to ring the bell. There were times of tears as spouses shared the heartbreak of neglect by the government, and overwhelming relief knowing their loved one had survived. Hope (in the joy of Christ) was shared by Dale Witwer ( ) our inspirational speaker for the weekend; and he openly spoke of the fear he felt at 14 years old, the night he was shot in the head.

There’s so much that we share
That its time we're aware
It’s a small world after all

When the children and parents walked into the “Joy Station” and realized they could come in and dress up anytime they wanted to, their grins reached from ear to ear! Grown men and women who had fought the enemy valiantly for our freedom, were now in a place where they had freedom to don silly hats and wigs and smile like there was no tomorrow.
Yesterday, after the praise and worship service, there was an opportunity for families to voice what the Wounded Warrior Getaway meant to them. One spouse got up and shared what she had written to express her and her family’s gratitude. She apologized for reading it, but said, “I wanted to be sure not to forget anything.” She mentioned the quote engraved in stone at the Center for the Intrepid (the rehabilitation facility at Brooke Army Medical Center) from Marine Staff Sgt. Dan Clay (killed in action in Fallujah in 2005):
“I know what honor is. It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to. Never Falter. Don't hesitate to honor and support those of us who had the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.”

It was a world of tears in the audience when she expressed we (the volunteers and those who make the getaway possible) are the ones worth protecting! She is a devout Christian woman; one who has lived through the trials of a wounded soldier and come out the other side. She went on to say, how the quote reminds her of Christ who didn’t hesitate to die, and He found us worthy of protecting.

It was a world of hope, when one of the soldiers just as he was preparing to leave the center, came up to a volunteer. He said, “I didn’t get a chance to talk with you very much but I want to thank you for making this a great weekend.” Then he lifted up his shirt, revealing a chest covered in scars from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blast. He turned around to show the 18” incision where the surgeons had repaired his internal organs. As he lowered his shirt and turned to face her, he smiled, “I wanted you to see I am okay.”

“Heal the wound but leave the scar, a reminder of how merciful You are. I am broken, torn apart. Take the pieces of this heart, and heal the wound but leave the scar.”**

For a few days, somewhere off the GPS systems of Garmins and governments, a place down south was like no place on earth. In fact, I am sure everyone who attended would agree, it was in fact a piece of heaven on earth.

Thank you for participating in prayer to keep those who have protected us – protected.

Looking up for the answers
From a kneeling position

* Lyrics: It’s a Small World
** Lyrics: Heal the Wound by Point of Grace