Sunday – Visiting Local Churches:
After a decent night of sleep we packed up all of our luggage and headed downstairs to the restaurant next door for breakfast. When we laid down for sleep on Sunday night it would be back in the major city where we started out. After eating breakfast we split into three groups. The idea was that we would visit and minister at three different churches that our hosts had pre-arranged for us to minister at. The three churches we visited varied in building size and attendance. My friend Vince and I were driven to the smallest after everyone else was dropped off at their meeting places. We drove through the tiniest little village down narrow streets that our SUV could barely squeeze through. The setting of the church was like something you would see on a Hollywood set. As we exited our vehicle parked at a narrow alleyway, we followed our temporary guide who would also serve as our translator, down the short alley way. The closer we got to the church we heard pure heartfelt singing coming from between two small buildings. In between the two buildings was a tin roof stretching from one to the other with blue tarpaulin covering the whole area. The result was a little meeting space where 17 people were coming together to worship, pray, and learn the Word of God. I was so thankful that God allowed us to be there. As Vince delivered the Word to these precious people I couldn’t help but think about the simplicity of it all. In the U.S. some churches are so concerned about building massive facilities as if they are in some sort of arms race. We make sure we have the latest and greatest in projection equipment, microphones, and lighting, but here, somewhere close to nowhere, 17 people are sitting here with nothing but each other, a shade, a Bible, and a desire to hear from God. I believe God sent me all the way to this obscure part of India to show me this.
After Vince shared a great message that I believe was well received, he concluded in prayer. I’ll never forget what happened next. As he began his prayer, the Muslim call to worship began to ring out across the village from across the city. He continued in prayer unfazed and I opened my eyes slightly to see what the people were doing. It brought tears to my eyes yet again to see the women and little girls, with covered heads, on their knees, lifting their hands with honest sincerity. Some of the young men were in the same position, while others were laying on their faces. This was probably the highlight of the trip for me. It was just a surreal God moment. It had nothing to do with us being there, it had nothing to do with the message, and it certainly had nothing to do with the music that wasn’t being played. It was just pure prayer and worship. As we concluded, we took time to pray for every one of them then took several pictures so that we would never forget them.
We then got back into the SUV where we were returned to one of the other churches that our other group ministered to. As we walked in, the local Pastor and his wife brought us back into their kitchen and fed us. We ate something similar to a home maid McDonalds Egg McMuffin, a short bread type pastry, and fresh sliced papaya. We were already on our way to eat lunch together at a local restaurant afterward, but there is no way we would have turned down their hospitality. In India, it is customary for them to prepare food for you to show you appreciation and hospitality. Fortunately, their food is almost always very good. They always give you their very best and this makes you appreciate it even more.
As we finished up, the Pastor really wanted us to walk down the street to an open field where they were in the process of constructing a new church building. It was a beautiful place for a church. As we got closer I noticed that the people of the church were there working! They left church after it concluded, walked down the street, then started moving dirt from the outside to the inside. The women had formed a sort of assembly line and as they passed buckets of dirt all the way down the line from the outside to the inside, the final lady would pile it up. After the buckets reached their final destination, the little boys would grab the bucket and run it back to the front of the line. This was amazing to see. They weren’t concerned about going home for lunch or changing clothes. They went to put in some time constructing the new church building.
From there we returned to our vehicles and headed toward the restaurant downtown for lunch. Unfortunately, because we were so far into this village we needed a little guidance making our way out. So our driver asked the father of a little boy on the side of the road if he and his buddy could ride with us until we made it to the main road. They were happy to do this and jumped right in. As they lead us out, I decided I would give them each a quarter (or more specifically, an “American Coin”), especially since they were going to have to walk all the way back. When I handed it to them their face lit up and when we drove off they waved in appreciation then started leaping into the air in jubilation. It was so cute. We then joined the rest of the team at the local downtown restaurant and ate a great Indian lunch even though we were still somewhat full.
The next stop on the way back to the major city was to visit a tribal village who had recently converted to Christianity. As we drove into the direction of the tribal village, we drove and we drove and we drove. The only problem was that the roads we drove on should not have been called roads. They were so bad that it would have taken us a full 12 hours to get there. We would have run out of gas before we ever made it. Large cement trucks and animal herds crowded the roads and both apparently contributed to to road’s demise. As a result, we decided to forgo the visit and just make our way to our new hotel room to grab some rest. It turned out to be a great move as we got the best night of sleep since we had been there. The hotel was very nice and had Wi-Fi which allowed me to Skype my sweet family for the first time. This was a great pick me up but made me really miss them even more.