It’s nearly noon on Thursday, April 26 (Wed night, April 25 in Lee’s Summit) and I am on a plane heading to Israel after our time in India. Though our time was brief, it was highly impactful.
A few random thoughts on the trip as I think back:
Long Flight: We didn’t settle into bed in India until more than 24 hours after we left JCI on Sunday morning for the airport. With the time change, more than 36 hours elapsed. Yet, every time I thought about how sore my rear was sitting on a hard airline seat I thought about the Apostle Thomas, who WALKED the more than 5,000 miles from Israel to India to tell them about his friend and savior, Jesus. Clearly, I am a pansy. However, it was a long trip.
My Parents: As we visited more than 200 orphaned girls at two different orphanages, I thought often about my Mom and Dad, and how thankful I am to have two parents who loved me, raised me, cared for me, and told me about Jesus. If you’ve had a similar experience growing up, be thankful for your families.
Red Lights: I’ve never been more thankful for red lights than I am today. Chennai is a city between 8 and 12 million people strong (the size of New York City, or Los Angeles if the high estimates are true), and they have very little traffic infrastructure. They don’t have hardly any stop lights or stop signs…anywhere. Every intersection; I mean EVERY intersection, is a game of chicken, full speed. It is CRAZY! I died a thousand deaths in my mind driving through that city in our crazy ‘auto-rickshaw’ (think 3-wheeled golf cart that goes 30 mph on a street w/ real cars and trucks [big trucks] and no traffic coordination). I will gladly, or maybe a better thought is ‘more patiently’ sit through red lights now.
American Food: I miss it – just sayin.
Silverware: They don’t use it in India, and their food is messy. Think ’1 year old eating cake at his birthday party’, that is what meal time looked like for us [the adults] when we joined the girls at the orphanage. Very messy – thankful for whoever created the fork!
The Girls: I will never forget the smiles and faces of the little girls that I served on behalf of our church this week. They were as sweet as they come. I hope many of you have the chance that I had this week; to come to India and talk with them, pray with them, play with them, and show them the healthy love of a Christian adult. 75 girls in the first orphanage have the love of only a handful of adult staff to love them. They need one on one time with adults – they craved it – and it blessed me more than any of them, I promise you that.
JCI Support: The financial and sponsorship support of our church is real, and I saw it in action, and I am so thankful. At one orphanage, where the girls sleep 75 in one room, laying on mats on a concrete floor, we provide every ounce of life existence for 7 girls. All clothes, school books, toiletries, shoes, food, everything they have our church provides. I smiled (and cried), knowing that we were making a difference in the life of even one girl. And the highlight of these girls’ lives is the sponsorship letters. We passed out all the letters that our church wrote to the girls, and it was if we had handed them a million bucks. They raced to open it and read it (over and over again) and then we watched as they raced to the schoolhouse to write back (with school supplies we provide them with). Their letters should be to us in a month or so. For those writing letters – thank you!
Lost in Translation: I had the opportunity to lead a short devotional time for about 150 leaders at another ministry we support in Chennai by preaching with the help of a translator. It was one of the more difficult ministry tasks of my life! I desperately needed the gift of tongues from Acts 2. Either I’m a bad preacher, the translator is a bad preacher, or the people just show very little emotion. It was one of the greatest honors of my life to represent our church before those leaders, but I have no idea how it went. With the grace of God, I’ll trust that it went well. Perhaps next time I need to preach one of my “Sex, Love, and Marriage” messages and see if anybody is understanding!
Coleen: I met the founder of CMCT (Christian Missionary Charitable Trust), a modern day hero of the faith, a modern day William Carey. Coleen, a young single woman from New Zealand, was called by God through a vision at 13 years old to go to India as a missionary. In 1964 she boarded a boat, a young single girl by herself, and took a 3 week journey across the Indian Ocean to found this mission organization. 48 years later, she is still there, giving her life and heart to India. Her organization houses hundreds of orphan girls [3 that our church personally sponsors] that we spent time with (sleeping 24-30 to a room, all with one drawer, that holds their lives possessions). Her organization has rebuilt entire communities destroyed by the 2004 Tsunami, they have two schools with more than 1000 students who get private Christian education for free, they have a free medical clinic (one of the largest in Chennai), they have AIDS ministries, Leprosy ministries, and work-skills training ministries, among other things. In fact, the India girl dolls that many in our church have purchased are made at her ministry. I watched as young Indian girls made them by hand yesterday morning. They let me take their picture to show you all – they were so sweet. Coleen, I believe, is one of the most influential Christians alive in the world today. It was my honor to pray over her with our team before we left CMCT yesterday.
There’s Just too Much: I could go on and on, but very few will even read this much. In short, we are planning to bring a team of 10-12 back to India probably in February 2013. We will settle a date and begin the process of team building and fundraising by June 1. If you are interested, and willing to sacrificially give one week of your life away to fulfill the Great Compassion of Matthew 25, I promise you your life will never be the same.
I’ll share a lot more later – plus an entire additional week of information from meetings and ministry in Israel. I hope to have dinner in Jerusalem today if I can ever get off these planes…which, by the way, I am very thankful for. If I had to walk from India back to Israel, you may never see or hear from me again.
Thank you, Journey Church International, for your love and commitment to the girls of India and for allowing Pastor David and me to minister on your behalf this week. Your support of our church and vision, and your excitement as we pursue it, makes it possible.
We’re making a difference in the world a little at a time!