Well, here we are. Our last night in North River. Everyone is hunkered down early and I’m the last one up. Oh wait. Pops just came in and sprayed mosquito repellant in his eyes. He’ll probably be fine.
Today was a great day. During our General Assembly, we got to pull out three really fun Grain Game demos: Mentos, Pinheads and Water Balloon Slingshot. All of these require us to be out in the hot, hot sun - but the teachings and the laughs are so great that we just didn’t care. During our classes, the Gospel was going out in a big way. All week long we have been teaching about Paul and in our post-lunch party/game time, we took a few minutes to review Paul’s story. They are really, really getting it. And we keep coming back to how Paul was changed and forgiven - and that can be their story, too.
After VBS, we embarked on what has now become an India Mission tradition: the end of the week beach trip. About 40 of us loaded up in the van and the back of the truck to roll out to the beach. A bunch of the local village kids went with us and that’s always so much fun. We sing in the back of the truck, dance, wave at people who look severely confused at what is taking place, etc. Tonight we even applauded for the bus driver behind us. I still have no idea why we did that.
But the beach trip is amazing - and pretty much super photogenic. Most Indian people don’t swim, so they just go to the edge of the water and wade around. And this means that we get our annual “David Rajan standing in the ocean holding kids’ hands so they don’t fall in” picture. I love this picture and we got another one tonight. If this isn’t the most obvious picture of the work God has called Rajan to, nothing is. But our “tradition” (because to Baptists, doing something twice around the same time of the calendar is a tradition. Sometimes things can be established as “traditions” before they’re ever done the first time) was added to - and for the way, way better. We brought the guitar and Stephen led the kids in some fun Tamil worship songs. This culminated in an on-the-beach dance party. We circled up and danced around Stephen and got generally crazy singing and dancing. This went on for awhile but for not nearly enough time. It was an amazing experience singing songs about “My Jesus” in His moonlight on His beach in a land that hates what we’re doing. And the children have no shame about it. Dear God, may we become more and more like these children every day.
It occurs to me that you guys don’t know Stephen. For that matter, you don’t really know Hot James, even though he’s been referenced throughout this blog. I want to take a few seconds and introduce some of our team that we picked up in India.
So, “Hot James”. This is not his given birth name. His real name, even though he is a full-on Indian is Don Caleb. Literally, the easiest Indian name of all time. He’s one of the most amazing guys our team has ever met. He is David Rajan’s right hand now and it’s very easy to see why. Hot James is committed, hard-working and the funniest person I’ve ever met in my entire life. He’s had us rolling for the past two weeks - and while he is certainly funny, his commitment to the Lord and to serving Him is inspiring. God has given David one of the best guys to join him on the Front Lines and Hot James is his name. Well, technically, no part of his REAL Name is Hot James, but it’s his nickname, determined by a long and tedious naming bracket specifically for this mission. The name makes no sense. But this is how we know and love him.
That brings us to Stephen. Stephen may genuinely hate our whole team, but you’d never know. Suspect it? Absolutely. He had off from his work this week and David brought him in and convinced him to stay all week. Not only does he play acoustic guitar really well and lead worship (especially for kids) really well, he has been our primary translator all week. This has been amazing to have both Stephen and Hot James with us. Last year, we had very little access to a translator at North River, and this year we have at least five. It is such a blessing beyond words.
And that brings us to the ladies. First, we parted ways with Joy Mathews last Sunday night. She was a part of our team this year AND last year. She was a big help with translations and working with the kids - she also took the time to help us put our selected memory verses in Tamil and taught them to us. She had to take off on Monday, though, because she was going to continue to serve children in Hyderabad. We were also joined by some of David’s family from Sri Lanka: Blossom and Elizabeth. We were all so thankful to have them here to laugh and cry with us, to worship with us, and to translate our words - and even our meanings sometimes. It was so inspiring to be a part of a team in which our gifts were being combined with the heart and calling God has placed on their lives. It’s amazing to see how God is continually bringing Believers from all nations to have their hurts stirred in and towards India. God is moving mightily and He is raising up a new generation to continue this work forward together. And that’s what brings us to our blog tonight.
We just wrapped our final Team meeting and each of us had to turn in our homework. At the beginning of the trip an assignment was made: on the final night, you must answer the question. “How was India?” This is done to give our team practice for our arrival back in America. We know this question is coming and we want to be prepared in a way that would bring our friends into the conversation about India. Your team gave some great answers - very personal. Our purpose is to give people a connection and let you know that this work is not over. Not be any means.
We have work to do. Last night in the blog we talked about our role and the purpose God has called us to. Again, we are NOT the Front Lines - not even during the season here are we the Front Liners. We’re the support crew and in that is great purpose and contentment. When we move outside of that calling and try to take over the bigger, “more significant tasks”, we make a mess of things. This is why it’s so critical that we understand and submit to the leadership of the host missionary who DOES live and breathe this culture. We must always be mindful that, even though we don’t live here and will be heading home late tomorrow, the battle doesn’t stop. The commitment we’ve made to Impact India is not a one-time deal to always do the same thing at the same locations. We have committed to carrying the love and light of Jesus, no matter what.
But we prioritize kids. Here’s why. This culture is SO pagan, SO entirely into idol worship that it becomes ingrained in their mind, making it tough for them to embrace the concept of only one God - the One True God. But the thing is, parents will teach their kids what they believe. So, when a child develops a relationship with God through Jesus, that heritage of faith gets passed down and the cycle continues. That’s how India gets changed by and for God - use the many resources we have at our disposal to invest in the lives of the children here so that they may carry the message of the gospel to the future generations. Right now, we are a part of figuring out how to go about supporting God’s work in India. All we know is that “God will provide”. He has been so faithful to all of us and through you. For those of you who have come alongside of us and prayed, worshipped, gave financial sacrifices, we thank you so much on behalf of these beautiful people. As a Team, we are so grateful for you as well.
There’s work to be done and we need to trust God for the answers and the results. Last year, my heart was burdened by the Hindu temple visible from the roof of North River Mission Center. Every day I would look at that sick thing and I asked a bold prayer - I asked for God to bring this Hindu temple down. I asked for an earthquake or SOMETHING that would specifically ONLY knock down all of the temples here. Very Elijah and the Prophets of Baal-ish. That way, the whole village would acknowledge their sins and turn to the all-powerful God. I prayed this every day we were here. I prayed it after we left. I figured, “Well, we have a 5-year partnership, so that just means it’ll happen during the last year and there will be great rejoicing.” But as I prayed at home, God revealed something. Could He do what I ask? No question about it. Do I have the right motivations? Indeed. But then it struck me: just like the Israelites walking in the wilderness, our tendency is to always give our worship to someone else. If the Hindu temples are brought low, the village will rebuild them and ignore the display and lesson of God’s power. So, what do we need to pray for?
That the villagers would tear down these temples themselves.
When the villagers’ hearts are changed and turned towards Jesus, they will tear down the false gods and they won’t rebuild them.
This must be our mindset. We must make ourselves available to the opportunities God has given to us, to follow Him in obedience and see far greater things than our tiny minds can come up with. I believe with all of my heart that God is doing something major in India and we have a chance to be a partner in these mission endeavors. God has strategically placed the right people at the right time in the right place and lives are being changed all over. Darkness is being pushed back. A generation is rising up and embracing the life-giving message of Jesus - and they are communicating it with boldness and passion. Let’s embrace OUR calling to support them as God directs us to and see the glory of God and the Kingdom of God increase on His earth.
Greater things are still to be done…