Monday Morning and Promise Land

Monday morning came early as we were (again) awakened by the blasting sound of the Muslim call to prayer.  The mosque next door had some seriously impressive loudspeakers attached to the minaret, and it was just as successful at rattling us out of bed as it was at rattling our windows.  This occurred five times per day and the first was at 5:00 AM sharp. It had awoken us the first couple of days as well, prompting my friend Paul and I to get up and pray to OUR God.  With each passing morning our prayer times became more and more intense, as if we were praying against the uninvited deception being broadcasted into every home throughout the region.  If you aren’t familiar with the calls, they are basically intended to deliver the substance of Islamic beliefs and spiritual ideology to everyone within earshot.  It is the pronouncing of their statement of faith, which is “There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God”.  This adds to the tangible feeling of spiritual warfare that is already evident every time I am in India.  Maybe it is because I am sheltered from the reality of this battle back home.  Maybe I just don’t think about it enough.  Either way, experiencing this reality again really stirred us to readily engage in spiritual combat.

I would like to make mention here of my friend and roommate Paul. Paul is a gruff Navy vet, a roofer by trade, and honestly the first time I met him I wasn’t sure if I liked him. He was kind of loud and straight forward in his approach to people (pretty much the opposite of my personality) and I wasn’t completely fired up about being paired up with him for a trip around the world.  That was right before we traveled to India together in January of 2011.  Here is what I have learned about Paul having done this trip twice together:  He is a true evangelist and teacher with a tremendous heart for other people and for missions.  He is an intercessor at his core and loves India almost as much as I do.  He has become a great friend and really blessed me by hanging out with him more than he will ever know.  Now, no one tell him I wrote that or he might push me down next time he sees me.  Seriously though, this is one of my favorite things about doing mission trips with people.  You develop a camaraderie and friendship with people you may have never truly taken the time to get to know.  You will forever share memories of the trip with these people and collectively you never forget what God did. When you link arms with people to accomplish a common goal like this, you find out what kind of character they truly possesses.  I have been blessed that in both of my experiences doing this, EVERY team member that has traveled with us have blown me away by the integrity that they walk in.  They have all challenged me just by the way they serve Jesus.

After a good breakfast, we were scheduled to take a visit to a place appropriately named Promise Land.  Promise Land is situated on a picturesque piece of property some 30-40 miles outside of Hyderabad on the back side of a very poor and mostly Hindu village.  It is surrounded by rice patties and wide open spaces, however the openness is interrupted by several random rock mountains that very much resemble something you would see in the western US.  The peaks of each mountain have been claimed by the local Hindu’s as sacred places of deity worship.  It is easy to identify this fact because the entire peak of the mountain is typically painted in bold white paint, often accompanied by a pattern of stripes or something similar. Promise Land is a widow’s and children’s home and is a really unique place that is basically two side-by-side twin buildings.  One building houses the 20-30 widows and the other houses 30 beautiful children that have been orphaned for one reason or another.  The widows help take care of the children while receiving specialized training for themselves.  They learn skills like sewing, purse making, reading, etc.  Learning trades like these are extremely important for widows in India who are basically outcasts and are considered “cursed”.  They are avoided and ignored in general.  Learning a trade allows them to generate income for themselves and contribute to society in new ways.

Promise Land1

Promise Land2

As we exited our vehicles we could hear the sweet sound of little voices inside one of the buildings.  The children were rehearsing one of their songs while simultaneously bending their necks toward the entry way to get a peak at us.  This was my second time to visit Promise Land and the feeling I had this time was the same as last.  It is very difficult not to notice the joy on their little faces and compare it to the simplicity of their surroundings.  The children are well taken care of I can assure you, but what they have is very basic compared to so many children in the US.  Though what they have materially is minimal, what they do not lack is a joy that can only come from knowing that they are loved by a loving God.  All children deserve to know this truth and they know it.  What I love knowing is that our team of seven had trotted around the globe and made our way to this remote place to simply reinforce this truth of God’s love extended toward them.  We listened to them sing worship songs and watched them dance.  We clapped as loud as we could after each routine.  Next, Matt and Traci taught them a new song and dance, which the kids loved.  Then they shared a great message about understanding your purpose.  They have a real gift at communicating with children and did an amazing job.  Again, seeing them do this in India after dreaming of it for several years was so fulfilling for all of us to see.

Image

Image

After finishing up, we handed out gift bags to every child.  We had prepared these back in the US and they included some treats like candy, rubber popper toys, pens, bendable monkeys, etc.  Every person also received a toothbrush and their own pack of toothpaste as well.  Finally, we spent some time praying with the local staff members and made our way back to Hyderabad so that we could arrive in time for the opening night of the Pastor’s conference.

Advertisements

Reflecting on India – Saturday & Sunday

Upon arrival to India after a very long trek across the world it was the same India I had left two and a half years ago (and two years prior to that). Those same familiar sights and smells which really never leave your memory were quite reinvigorating to me after such a long trip. The things that used to overwhelm my senses in this country no longer have the exact same effect. Because my heart is so connected here, I think I’ve allowed the dust and smell of India to become a part of my DNA. It now feels as though this country is just a part of my life and a home away from home.

Once settled into our hotel we began to rest up and eat well in preparation for the week ahead. The hotel was really an amazing home base for us. As much as the team was going to be giving of themselves it was crucial to have such a revitalizing place to return to. The beds are excellent and so is the food. We were well taken care of. I am especially happy that the team members who had never experienced this culture before were able to take it all in in small doses. I believe it allowed them to adjust with more ease and be able to actually enjoy the experience.

After resting all day on Saturday we ventured out that night to participate in an engagement ceremony of some dear friends of our host. I didn’t know what to expect, but found the symbolism of the ceremony to be quite refreshing. I say it was refreshing in the sense that it was nice to see such a celebration for an engagement, but more than that, it was nice to see the seriousness of the commitment that these two were making to one another. It was almost like a mini wedding. I think this custom is something India should maintain and we could learn from.

Image

After the much appreciated day of rest on Saturday, Sunday morning came quickly. Our team of seven were split up to speak at three different village churches. My friend Matt and I were taken to a village church located in the middle of vast farmland. Every mile driven away from the city almost represents ten years into the past. Visiting the village areas of this country gives you a sense of what this place looked like 80 years ago and actually represents what 90% of India is really like. Not much has changed minus the sketchy electricity, the plethora of cell phones, and a variety automotive vehicles. When we arrived, the 20 x 40 white cinderblock building which looked like something built 50 years ago came as no surprise to me as it is what I have come to expect. The fact that the place was packed full of people worshiping God with all their hearts did not surprise me either. As we walked down the center aisle to the front “stage” area I felt the eyes of curiosity and intrigue on us. Of course when you are as white as a polar bear and at least 1 foot taller than everyone else in the building you will get that.

I was very happy that my friend Matt was having this experience, because this whole trip is the fulfillment of a 4 year dream of his and his wife Traci. Matt introduced himself and did a great job speaking from his heart and encouraging the people. Then I spoke and gave a message about David and Goliath and not trading our faith for Saul’s Armor (basically my previous blog post). The people listened intently as usual. I have to admit I was quite nervous because I have never been asked to deliver a message of this type to this many people. It proved to be a very good, “getting the feet wet” experience because of all the teaching I would be doing over the next few days.

During the service they had a time for testimonies where a few people would stand up and share about God’s faithfulness, or share major prayer requests. As the ladies stood and made their requests known, one lady absolutely wrecked me. As she shared in her native tongue I had no idea what she was saying, but the more she shared the more she began to weep. As she wept, I began to weep. I felt the compassion of Jesus in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time. As she finished her words she collapsed into a puddle in the floor and covered her head in her vibrant sari. She stayed in that position for much of the service. Daniel our interpreter told us the doctors have told her she has something wrong with her body but they don’t know what it is or what to do about it.

After the message we pretty much prayed for every single person there, including the lady who had shared earlier. I was overwhelmed with all the needs of the people. They live such difficult lives in those farmlands that surround them. Most of them live in homes that would shock almost anyone and work in environments that rapidly take years away from their lives. We prayed for people who had snake bites, womb issues, cancer, heart problems, head aches, even someone who felt that they had been cursed by someone in a neighboring village. Seeing this, I was happy that I had spoken about faith and overcoming giants of all varieties in our lives.

After everyone finally cleared the area, the Pastor and his wife fed us the best they had. We prayed and ate. And ate and ate. They kept bringing food and we ate as much as we could handle for a blazing hot day in a cinder-block building. Drenched in our own sweat we exited the building and before leaving we were able to distribute gift packs to the ten orphans that this church was taking care of. They were thrilled and it was worth the entire trip to see their little faces light up. Afterward, we met back up with the other teams and visited two potential hotels that we may be able to stay at in future years. Then, after a long ride back to the hotel we called it a night. We were all more than ready for a long shower and to hit the bed nice and early.