Going To India: Pre-Trip
My morning commutes are usually spent in study (audio Bible or messages), prayer (silent time) or worship (generally music-based). My evening commutes tend to be more conducive to deeper thought; my brain has been beat down by the daily rigors of my secular job and is ripe for spiritual contemplation and debate.
Recently, during one of my aforementioned daily commutes, I was thinking.
My thoughts on this particular evening went to my pending trip to India. At the request of my local church body, I was asked to prayerfully consider joining two other men for a 7-day journey to a small city in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh in the country of India. It’s important to note that I’ve never spent time on foreign soil for the purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Virtually all my travel within the U.S. has been for business or vacation and all my travel outside the U.S. has occurred within the context of business activities. I’ve been offered opportunities to venture abroad in His name, but I have been focused on church body ministry and local missions. This particular prospect coincided with some direct associations that could not be ignored. A friend had shared his calling to reach out to the people of India, so much so that he took employment with a firm having direct connections with India. A work team member, originally from India, whom God has been allowing me to witness to and disciple. An Indian national missionary was visiting my local church and I was given the opportunity to host him in my home. As I’ve come to expect from God, when things just seem to line up and make sense, He’s probably telling me something. An immediate affirmative response from my wife, combined with an overwhelming peace (Philippians 4:7), brought about a quick confirmatory response.
So, as I sit in a darkened living room, with my laptop where it should be (on my lap), just under two weeks from departure, I feel compelled to capture some thoughts. What is my mindset? What are my perceptions? What is the purpose of this trip? Why am I going? Why was I asked? What is exciting or worrying? In summary, where’s my head and heart?
If there’s anything that is causing anxiety in the days leading up to departure, it’s thoughts about the physical rigors. It’s a long trip – roughly 18 hours of actual travel going and approximately 21 hours on the return trip – culminating to 30-36 hours when including connections and layovers. It’s not an overwhelming concern, but the reality is that I’m not as fit as I used to be. And trying to cram a lot of activities into three days of travel and four days of ministry, without planned downtime pre-/post-trip, may prove taxing. A bit more concerning is the weather and the food – expecting both to be hot and spicy – with a body that doesn’t tend to take well to either. I’ll prepare as much as possible before leaving and be sure to include remedies while in-country. I do know this: even with full expectation that there will be physical challenges, those concerns cannot be a deterrent from accepting His call (Philippians 4:13).
So far, the overwhelming peace that was present during the decision-making process continues to rest upon me. Perhaps I’ve witnessed the Lord’s faithfulness enough times to know that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). In the face of some crazy personal life adversity, both in the past and even still today, He gives comfort in the storm and offers strength to be used by Him.
I have intentionally been making extra time to be with Him through prayer, scripture, study and fellowship (Psalm 105:4). I’ve fought off temptation even more rigorously, focusing on Him to ward off the fiery darts. I’ve sought His help to be more patient and compassionate to others (and that’s no easy task with some of my co-workers).
There are multiple scheduled opportunities during this trip to share the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout this trip. While much preparation remains to be done in this regard, I have full confidence in He who provides that His purpose will be served and His words will be given to be proclaimed.
1 ½ WEEKS
My laptop allows me to set multiple clocks. I have one set for local time – a second set for destination India time. 10.5 hours ahead, so it’s currently early morning there.
Still lots of prep to be done. Shopping for travel supplies (bedding, travel towel, convertible pants, trail boots, power converter, etc). Messages to be crafted. Very hectic work schedule. Many things with what feels like virtually zero time.
I normally don’t care much for sleep. I seem to revile it even more lately. But it does catch up eventually.
Not sure how I feel. You know – mindset and all (mentioned earlier). Been running so hard and fast that I’m not finding much quiet time to converse with myself or Him.
Praying that He will bring everything together as necessary. And that if that looks differently than I expect that He provides peace to rest in Him.
T-MINUS 5 DAYS
Pretty amazing how He works things…
Most of the shopping for travel supplies is done. While more items than expected, I’m certainly following my normal pattern of over-preparation. It is incredible how many different scenarios require “just in case” readiness. Will there be clean water? What type of bedding? Long pants or shorts? Will they provide a bath towel, do I need to bring one, bath towels are large and take up lots of room in a bag, is there a more efficient alternative? While it seems trite, it’s a real thing. Traveling to a foreign land with a different language, different currency, different culture and different expectations. The safe assumption is to plan for everything. Because anything short of that could end up as a distraction for the ultimate purpose for the trip.
I’ve been spending a decent amount of time on preparation for speaking. We have roughly 15 events in 3 days that require one of our three team members to speak. Based on how we’ve divvied it up amongst the team, I’ll teach one session at a pastors conference (Who Is God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit? – sure, I’ll take the easy one [heavy sarcasm]), deliver messages of encouragement to the impoverished elderly and lepers, and preach before a village congregation. I’ve been able to rough in some ideas and get a lot of scripture on paper, but not excelling at pulling it together in a cohesive manner. The previous thoughts on sleep have played some havoc in that area – to avoid compromising family time, I’ll wait until everyone goes to bed to sit in a darkened living room, with my laptop where it should be (on my lap), working away on the task at hand – and then I end up falling asleep.
And in the spirit of transparency, the aforementioned seeking of His help to be more patient and compassionate to others – haven’t been perfect in that regard. Regret.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the opportunities afforded by this trip that have already occurred, well in advance of departure. I have co-workers genuinely interested and asking many questions. Not just “how long is the flight” but real questions that allow me to share Christ to a degree and certainly open the door for future conversations. The best question is “are you nervous?” because it allows me to share the peace that He is providing. And everyone is truly excited to hear the full report upon returning from the trip. Praying hard that God uses this trip as much at home as abroad.
There are many things that I can do to prepare for this trip. In the end, I trust that God will have His way and will ultimately be glorified. I have faith that He’ll provide the means and ways, whether that’s words for a message or water for a drink. He is sovereign. He is in control. I’ll do my part and watch Him make it great.
So, it’s the big day. Bag is packed (quite the endeavor to find enough space for all my over-preparedness items). Copying electronic versions of documents to tablet. Clearing space off phone in order to take pictures. Trying to fill the time before we leave.
My mind keeps racing. It’s been a pretty even keel couple weeks leading up to this point. But now, it’s real. No words of eloquence come to mind. No profound wisdom to expound. Just one fact: it’s all up to Him now.