While In India Part II
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Saturday AM)
Finishing breakfast (scrambled eggs & toast/jam, a welcome taste of home) in advance of the lepers conference.
Pre-meeting, dialed back the overall content of my message, as it appears best that it be condensed based on yesterday’s events. Need to make sure that a clear Gospel message is presented.
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Saturday AM)
Held a short meeting with the lepers focused on some worship and a message of encouragement. Modified the content slightly (taking a cue from messages given yesterday afternoon), sharing scriptures of encouragement, and then recounting the story of the death of Lazarus and Jesus raising him from the dead. The best portion: “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes will not die but live. Do you believe this?” And a majority of the lepers raised their ravaged hands. I spoke a bit more about Jesus death and resurrection and then read the same passage again – same affirmative response.
That session was followed by a medical clinic for the lepers. Cleaning of open wounds, application of medical ointments and providing new dressings. Blood pressure checks. Distribution of medications. Finally, we served them rice with chilies and water. Everything seemed to be a good encouragement to several of these people in desperate need. And a piece of me broke inside as I watched them exit the gate to return to the streets with nowhere to go.
Mid-afternoon we held an encouragement session for local widows. Quite a broad range of ages, which became more understandable when researching the Indian definition of widow. Much to our surprise and obvious delight, we were informed prior to the beginning of the meeting that two widows requested baptism. It was exciting to be a part of such a great thing in the lives of these women, yet a huge reality check, understanding that the matter is much more serious for them than for Americans who are baptized. We are used to much joy and celebration for baptisms in America. For those being baptized in India, there is a clear knowledge that it marks them. The representation of “set apart” was brought much more sharply into focus.
After a longer than desired “taking of rest”, we’re back on the roads of death to head roughly 30 miles away from the compound. If time permits, we’ll hold another widows meeting (due to the delayed departure, not clear if it’s still on the docket). Primary purpose is to conduct an open air public gospel meeting. As usual, details are sketchy (quickly realizing this is the mission’s field norm). The guitar is in the vehicle – probably will be singing a few songs. Short messages prepared by my travel partner and me per last minute request from host. Our travel leader was originally slated to speak at this event, so he’s already prepped. We continue to pray that the Lord directs, provides and protects. And ultimately, that we are used for His purpose and His glory!
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Saturday PM)
Getting a little used to being driven around to unknown towns & villages, but it probably wouldn’t matter if I knew their names, since everything looks the same.
So, on to another remote village via roads that would be barely considered paths back home, battling traffic insanity (“controlled chaos” as it’s known), and arriving to an ongoing event. This one was an open air public gospel meeting. Essentially the same service structure as every meeting yesterday, just a bit extended. They sang some Indian worship songs. I sang three American worship songs. The three American guys sang “This Is The Day” (we had quite a few practice runs yesterday). They sang a couple more Indian worship songs. They prayed. Our host introduced us. My travel partner spoke about Paul. I spoke about God already knowing us intimately and when He speaks to us, we need to listen and respond. Our travel leader gave a straight up Gospel message with exhortations about not worshipping false gods and idols thrown in about six times. Offered salvation; many hands in the crowd were raised. Said the sinner prayer in the hopes that there was at least one new salvation. The ultimate purpose of these types of meetings is to reach the fringe. Sing and preach and evangelize to those outside the meeting boundaries (thus, the need for a PA system rated to broadcast for five miles).
On the exit drive from the village, had a radical Hindu yell at our vehicle but other than that, have ventured everywhere without issue. While today seems busy when reading in black and white, it was slower than we’d have liked. But we know God is in control.
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Sunday AM)
Here at 7AM, it’s a little bittersweet to begin packing my belongings. Mid-morning, we go to the church pastored by our host’s brother for a couple hours of worship and the Word before departing for the airport. While very much looking forward to the service, it’s crazy to think that this trip is already coming to a close. I’m hopeful that it’s the beginning of a greater relationship; with who is less pertinent, for Who is the focus.
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Sunday AM)
It’s 11:26AM, and still in the “call to worship” portion of the morning service with 8 people in the congregation (1 of whom is the daughter of our host). Need to leave the compound at 12:45PM to begin our travels home. Very interesting how things run in India. Congregation shows up while music is being played and sometimes takes quite some time (understanding was that service time started at 11AM). The pastor said that we’ll get started a bit late as people will be traveling quite a distance from villages and such, likely having traffic issues. It’s also cultural, as it’s considered rude to be early, inappropriate to be timely and complimentary to be 15-30 minutes late. Definitely see that people don’t account things like traffic or other delays – India runs on its own schedule.
Our driver told us today that he is sad to see us go. We had bonded quite a bit and developed a very nice relationship with him. We’ve tried to encourage him while we were here – it’s evident that he does much behind the scenes work in this ministry.
IN-COUNTRY: Vijayawada (Sunday PM)
Successfully checked in at the airport and through security. Time to start the long trek home (although this leg is short – 50 minute flight to Hyderabad – dinner and “take rest” until 4:10AM flight to Dubai). Looking forward to getting home. Looking forward to a long hot shower. Looking forward to cleanliness. Looking forward to relatively sane traffic comparatively speaking. Looking forward to a comfortable bed. Looking forward to some American food. Looking forward to hugging my sons and kissing my wife. And looking forward to exploring next steps in advancing Gods kingdom in India. I get to go home. I get to return to creature comforts. I get to experience hope every day of my life, supplemented with gainful employment, unarguable prosperity, tremendous church family, religious freedom and endless opportunity. Those kinds of things aren’t something that can simply be offered to the village people in India. And frankly, that shouldn’t be the goal – either there or at home. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s all that’s needed. That’s all that matters.
OUTBOUND TRAVEL: Monday AM
Early flight out of Hyderabad to Dubai (4:10AM departure, 1:30AM meet time for security and customs). Uneventful. Little breakfast and shopping in Dubai terminal then long flight (13.5 hours) from Dubai to Boston. As I’m typing this, we are 10 minutes from Boston touchdown, looking at the Massachusetts landscape on the airplane camera. One more flight to Detroit. Will be very nice to be home. Stayed awake straight through from Hyderabad to Boston so far, same plan through Detroit, in an effort to sleep well tonight and get back on Eastern Time Zone as quickly as possible. Good to be in America.
HOME: Monday PM
Greeted by our wonderful families with smiles and hugs. Just one of God’s tiny reminders that we are blessed beyond measure.
The pervasive weight on my heart for several months now is simple: it’s all about eternity. In this life, we can be richly blessed or devastatingly outcast – in the eyes of the world. But in the eyes of our Father, through the lens of His Son, we are beautiful. He loves us beyond comprehension. And He offers us the free gift of life with Him.
For those that claim Christ, there must be an urgency to share that free gift with the world. We must each do our part – eternity is at stake.