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.
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.
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.