Hi! Thanks for reading this today/tonight…whenever you are reading this. On behalf of the team, I cannot tell you how much your support means to all of us. Even more, the prayers you are lifting up are being felt in big ways. In our debrief session tonight, we gave thanks to God for the answered prayers - we asked you to pray for our strength, a decrease in humidity, wisdom, less bugs…and it was so evident that you have been faithful. Not only that, but to whoever prayed for “a breeze”…God bless you. You are good and kind. Tonight feels wonderful with a great breeze helping us cool off. Please keep this prayer going!
Today was a great day of mission. We started off our morning with a time of devotion and worship that reminded us that while we love India and these children, we are here, at our core, because of our love for Jesus. This is what is keeping us going. This morning at the General Assembly, we jumped around and sang with the kids. Pops led the “Impossible Passageway” Grain Game where, by simply cutting a piece of regular paper a certain way, he is able to make a hole in the paper big enough to fit an entire person through. The teaching along with this is that, when Moses and the Israelites escaped from Egypt, they were pursued by Pharoah and his army. Trapped between the army and the Red Sea, the Israelites faced certain death. But God made a way where no way existed and rescued His people. We share that, just as easy as the body passed through the hole in the piece of paper, in Christ our lives will pass that easily from death into eternity with him. This is not the first time the kids have seen this demonstration, but they love the “reveal” when a selected child is able to pass through the paper. Karena led our “Energy Stick” demonstration where we use light-and-sound energy sticks to communicate to the children that just as the electrical circuit is complete when we hold the light stick (and each other’s hand), so in Christ we are one family. Even though we are from different countries and speak different languages, we are one in Christ. It’s a beautiful picture and the kids love the connection to the team (we love it more).
Following our General Session, our plans changed yet again…and yet again, for the better. We anticipated breaking up with the different classes and doing some hands on Bible teaching. But God had a better plan and instead of that, we took a drive over to the FIRST church David had a hand in planting where they were also simultaneously running another VBS. Here’s the thing…David is connected to 30 churches and 3 mission centers and ALL of them (except for our 2nd week location) are running VBS programs. This is why we need you to commit to go on these trips. How great would it be to know that, with our partnership, we would have the possibility of supporting all of these different churches and increasing the reach in their community. A yearly team of 6-8 people is not enough to accomplish this. One of the reasons we put this blog together is to paint a picture for you of the work that is taking place and how you absolutely must get over here to see this and play the role God has called you to. Please pray about the possibility of partnering with us. The more that commit, the more we can go and the more work for the Kingdom can be accomplished.
So we headed over to the church where we lead part of an assembly for just about an hour. We repeated the Grain Games from this morning and added the “Balloon Animals” Grain Game. This is where we play a guessing game with the kids. We’ll start shaping some balloons trying to get them to guess what the finished product would be. Obviously, no one knows except the balloon maker. We tie this back to Psalm 139 and how God has purposefully created each one of us and knows everything about us. Others may look at us and question who or what we are, but we can rest in the knowledge that we are special to God and He created us with His purpose in mind. It’s a lot of fun. Then, we spent the next 20-30 minutes making balloon animals for EVERYONE in the church. Everyone.
We returned to Poonthandalam for the closing portion and after dismissal, God gave me the opportunity to share and encourage three other pastors who were here. Correction, I was encouraged. The pastors (both full-time and lay pastors) are from an orphanage that is a long way away. The pastors and 25 of the orphans they serve, traveled all night on Sunday evening to join us for VBS. When we think of “orphans”, I guess most people get images in their head of orphans portrayed in movies - poor, destitute, ratty clothing and dirty faces. Couldn’t be further from the truth here. These children were some of the best, most beautiful kids we’ve seen here. At the end of each day, when Pastor Gnagnam quizzes the kids on the lessons learned that day, the kids from the orphanage are the first ones up and have their stuff together. It’s amazing. They are so brilliant - and a few girls were talking tonight about their plans to become doctors. It was a blessing to sit and talk with the pastors about the work their doing and what God is doing in India.
And now, to explain tonight’s blog title. In our conversation, we discussed God’s work in America (as a whole) and in India. What we discussed was how present the Spirit of God is in this country - how the Church is committed to Christ above all. You know how someone with less than you can ask a question about what you have and you get really embarrassed? Well, it was like that tonight…except on a spiritual level. Instead of asking how big our congregations are or how much money we have in our church accounts, they asked a question I’ve never been asked before: “How long are your services?” The question wasn’t worded exactly that way, but that was the gist of the question. See, here in India, the church services start in the early morning and end…sometime. Usually 3-4 hours later…and then the church sticks around and has lunch and fellowship together. Sunday worship is a big deal to them. To those who follow Christ, Christ is EVERYTHING to them. They long for corporate worship. They long for the Word of God. They long to be with each other in fellowship. They absolutely DELIGHT in serving one another. I was embarrassed because, knowing this, I had to acknowledge that the typical worship service in America is usually about an hour to an hour and a half, with some singing and some preaching. Then, we tend to wrap out and leave because, face it, there are other places we’d rather be. Sometimes we’ll skip church altogether if we get a better offer. A better offer. Like, sleeping in. Or a sporting event. Or we made stupid, sinful decisions the night before because we don’t place our commitment to Christ and His call to be His bride over ourselves. I told them how, in India, Christianity is on the rise. In America, it’s on the decline. This is what happens with the Bride falls out of love and places herself over the Groom. In fact, Pops’ devotion today ended up being precisely about this - before this discussion ever happened. Surely not a coincidence. I shared with the pastors how (and I’ll use the simple language that was being used to communicate across the language barrier) “America has lots of stuff: big houses, money…but little Jesus. India has little stuff, but big Jesus. I want big Jesus.” While the Grammar Nazis may hate that last sentence, it was understood well.
And then today, multiple times we had the opportunity to take big group pictures with some of the kids. You know what they say when the camera goes up? Not “Cheese”. They chant “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…”. We were at the Mission Center - they chanted “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” We were driving to the beach going past a Hindu temple - they sang, worshipped and chanted, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” We were on the beach, surrounded by people who don’t follow Christ, in a culture where religious persecution is rampant - they chanted, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I heard the name of Jesus so much today - it was incredible. And sad. Sad because I realized, I don’t hear His name nearly this amount in America. And I don’t know if it’s that we’re ashamed of it - maybe we are - or if we just don’t love Him to the point that our heart cannot contain His name. Whichever it is, it all boils down to love for Jesus. These people, these kids - the orphans! - have so little compared to us…but they have “big Jesus”. And that’s enough for them. God, may it be enough for us. We want big Jesus.
I realize that you’re not supposed to learn a big lesson and go heavy on people this early in a mission trip - but one commitment we made was that as God worked we would be faithful to share what He is doing. Today, it was about our love for Him and calling every one of us to go deeper. I was going to share this later in the trip, but that’s what happened today. Thank You, Jesus.
Sadly, we found out that the pastors and the orphans are going back home early tomorrow morning. We already miss them and we ask you to pray for them that they would all have safe travels on a very long trip. A bit of exciting news, though - David asked if we would be willing to take the team to Mission Center #3 for a day of VBS there. This is really exciting because we’ve never been there before and we love the idea of branching out to new locations and encouraging the Church there.
Tonight, we again thank you for your generosity and commitment to prayer. You all have been a blessing to us and we can’t thank you enough. Tonight, we ask you to join with us again in prayer for these things:
1) That the orphans and their pastors would have a safe trip home
2) That God would renew our strength - we know that the “hot days” are still to come
3) That we would give our best attention and love to each new child and relationship that we make
4) For continued favor with the weather - the lack of humidity and this breeze is such a blessing
Also, this needs to be shared. Betty Jo is lined up to do one of her Grain Game demonstrations that calls for a glass cup. We bought the cups on Sunday at the store. We searched high and low tonight and couldn’t find the cups. We looked everywhere. In every suitcase, in every bag - you name it, we looked for it. Finally, Leslie found the cups in a bag from the store that was sitting in the middle of the floor. I looked in that bag. I lifted things out and ran my hand all in it and couldn’t find them. Actually, this is not a big deal at all because, as my beautiful wife will attest, I’m the least observant person God ever created. However, Betty Jo Bennett is NOT. She is extraordinarily thorough in EVERYTHING. She also checked that bag before I did. There is no way those cups were in that bag if Betty Jo couldn’t find them. You may write it off, and that’s fine, but I’m counting it as a miracle. A big one.
Finally, Annette Spain, I found out that Matt still hasn’t called you like I told him to (and offered my phone for him to do it). So, he’s fine, still. He’s having a life-changing experience and it’s already two days in. He’s cried already and he’s had two marriage proposals/inquiries so far (the crying and the proposals are not related to each other). I’ll keep you up to date daily here.
Thanks for being a part of this mission. You are vital to its success.