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.
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.