Saturday – Pastor’s Conference Day 2 of 2:
Saturday started out with a delicious Indian style breakfast and included an authentic Chai which provided a nice little pep after another short nights sleep. For day two of the pastor’s conference, we split the group up. Everyone who spoke the day before went ahead of us directly to the village where they enjoyed being with the people all day. They played cricket with the kids, visited families homes, and just fellowshipped with the precious people. The other group (four of us) including myself went back to the conference where we were all scheduled to speak to the people.
After the time of worship and transition I had the honor of God allowing me to speak something into the lives of the pastors. Speaking in front of a large group of people is out of my comfort zone, but I knew this had nothing to do with me and everything to do with equipping them so that they could then teach their congregations and spread the gospel throughout their country by making disciples. In the U.S. we take for granted the fact that we can go to the bookstore and pick up a book on any topic. We have instant information at our fingertips. As we spoke, I could tell that they were soaking in our words like a dry sponge. We were sharing basic truths to them and it was as if they were hearing them for the first time. Our hosts had prepped us and informed us that this would be the case. We were informed that many of these pastors have grown weary in their efforts and they needed to be reminded of exactly what the purpose of the church is and what they must focus on. We taught and encouraged them. I reminded them that this is their country and that we could never effectively impact their individual communities the way they can. I reminded them that God strategically placed them right where they are because He wants to use them to impact their communities for the Kingdom of God.
Once the conference concluded, it ended the same as the day before, with people gathering around each of us. This time they just wanted to shake our hands and ask that we would remember them in prayer when we return home. I told them that I would never forget them or forget to pray for them every day. Most of them asked that we please come back and teach them some more which humbled me to the core. I know the ultimate goal is to continually send teams over on a regular basis but I didn’t want to tell them that because I didn’t know when that would happen next.
Two young teenagers became my shadow until I finally made my way to the car to leave. They were full of questions, including, “Is Obama an American? If so, why is he black?” As if there are no black Americans. I held back my laughter as I tried to explain that I was told he was born in Hawaii (not knowing for sure of course). One of them had the same name as my son’s middle name which thrilled him. As I got into the car they both handed me a gift. One of them gave me a small card with a calendar on the back and the other gave me a 2 rupee coin. It was precious because I’m sure it was all they had in their pockets. I gave a U.S. coin to each of them and they stared at them and smiled widely.
After we left, we headed back toward the village and stopped along the way at a busy little intersection to pick up some bottled Sprite. We were standing around and chatting as we drank our Sprite and a crowd of curious bystanders began to surround us so we took the liberty of photographing them. Then of course everyone wanted their picture made. People were seemingly coming from out of nowhere until there was so many pressing up against us that we felt that we should go ahead and conclude our visit. When we finally arrived at the village I was asked to tag team with two of our other team members and share a short 10 or 15 minute message with the people. I really didn’t know what to speak about until a few minutes later when I saw my friend Paul walking around surrounded by about 30 children. I knew immediately that I was supposed to speak to them about the heart of a child and becoming like a little child as Jesus instructed the disciples in Matthew 18:1-5. I was asked to speak second and as I looked out at all the beautiful children I decided to bring one of them up as I spoke. I asked my interpreter to get this little girl who was in a red dress that appeared to be really calm. This proved to be a good move because as I brought her up to stand next to me I immediately had the attention of the people and I saw smiles throughout the crowd of women up front. As I introduced what I wanted to talk to them about and read the scripture I planned to teach from, I told the little sweetheart next to me that she could go back and sit down if she wanted to. Then, she told the interpreter something and he told me she wanted to stay up there with me. I said, of course she can! I was just afraid she might be too shy and want to return to her seat. It was so cute and it really helped me to have her up there with me. At the end of the service the children performed more dances for us and before they concluded we were whisked off through the village to the cute little local church where our hosts’ cook had once again prepared dinner for us which we ate with our fingers. Thankfully we had our hand sanitizer on hand. Upon conclusion, we returned to our vehicles and braced ourselves for a long rough ride back to the hotel. However, I very much enjoyed this time as we shared stories and laughed until we hurt. This team I was so fortunate to travel with is full of wisdom and have so many great stories to share. I gleaned from them as much as I possibly could. Once again we returned to the hotel after midnight and slept hard.