Greetings fellow missionaries! We’ve had a great day and I can’t wait to tell you some of the stories of what we’ve experienced today.
First…Annette Spain. I just wanted to tell you…you know what? I’ll get to that later. It’s best for my focus and writing if I keep it chronological.
So, today started out like the previous days and we had a great time in our General Assembly. We ran our songs and now we are having a blast with all of them. Not only are we locked in and comfortable with them, the kids have picked all of them up and we’re having a party. June 5th is our India Report Night. Make plans to be there if only to dance to “God O” and “Great Big God”. Once again, we hopped over to the first village church that David planted to spend a few minutes with the VBS going on there. It’s a much smaller group numerically, but we love these kids so much. They are so amazing, so responsive and attentive and really get into our time together. Today, when we arrived, one of the girls was performing one of her dances for us. Naturally, once her beautiful and well-rehearsed dance was completed, David told us to get up in the front and do the same dance. I thank God that there is no video footage of this. I should mention, one of the great aspects of the Indian culture is that music and dancing is a part of their everyday life and performances are a part of just about every group meeting. You can tell when you see their dances that this is a meaningful part of their lives. It’s beautiful and expressive. You can tell when you see our dances that this is NOT something that is a part of our lives. Watching us today you might gather that Americans are out of shape, arrhythmic blobs. It was embarrassing. But the kids laughed. I think it was the good kind of laughter, though.
On the way back to the Mission Center, David gave us a (mostly) driving tour of the village the church is located in. Our one stop was at a recently rebuilt church facility. Six years ago, the church was burned down and the pastor was stabbed. Today, we were able to walk into the new church building and seeing a beautiful - absolutely gorgeous in its simplicity -- room where David told us that many church members meet for an hour before worship services just to pray and seek God’s face. And sure enough, as we were there, we were visited by some of the church members, the pastor and his family. They serenaded us with a beautiful praise song. It was lovely. And of course, once they were done, we decided to “bless” them in return by singing a Tamil song. They were better. Way better. We’re just feeling stupid at this point because these people are so much better at…everything. David then asked me to share the Bible verse I had learned in Tamil (I Corinthians 10:31). Before I had finished, some of the kids were already laughing. Yeah. Totally stupid.
After VBS was over, David took us to see ancient ruins over 2,000 years old. Just before leaving, though, the dancers were practicing their dances for the closing celebration of VBS. So, naturally, Matt and I, having learned nothing from our village church experience, decided that it would be a good idea to join in. We weren’t half bad! Nope. We were 100% irredeemably bad. And again, following our attempts to follow the dance steps accurately, David instructed us to do our own song/dance. That we were to “freestyle”. Never, ever tell us to freestyle. I can neither confirm nor deny that the Electric Slide and “The Sprinkler” made an appearance. We were then told that we would also be performing a dance on Saturday at the closing celebration when all of the families show up. Pray for us. We may push us towards World War III. Hopefully Auntie Betty and Auntie Leslie will be able to class it up for us. Thankfully, no one on the team was able to grab any video of it. Some of the Indian kids did, but it’s not making it out of the country. If you would like to see us, please join us on mission in the coming years.
So, after our horrid display, we hopped in the van and headed out to the ruins. We discussed tonight in our group that there is a fine line between history and paganism and that we need to be discerning about what we are experiencing. For instance, the ruins were fascinating. They were intricately carved on the side of a mountain and the carvings were really detailed and well-preserved for being thousands of years old. However, the carvings, when you examine them closely, are pagan/Hindu designs still worshiped and revered today. It is just another reminder of what is going on in this part of the world. While some would enjoy the detail and design, it’s difficult to look past the evil that is behind it. What was an interesting tourist stop ended up being the catalyst for our discussions tonight where we looked ahead to the week to come and the spiritual warfare that will be taking place. We need your prayers. Not just for physical protection, but also for our spiritual protection. We are praying and we need you to as well. The attacks are only going to get way bigger as our time in India continues. We’ll share more of our reflections and thoughts on the spiritual war going on in India in future blogs.
Following our ruins stop (complete with a reenactment of “The Lion King”’s opening “Circle of Life” moment and the phrase, “Your American is showing”), David took us to the local beach for some ice cream and an incredible view - not just of the water, but the people and the experiences they have at the beach. Indian people aren’t big swimmers, so you will LITERALLY see “Cowboy experience/horseback photoshoots”, a hand-powered ferris wheel (exactly what it sounds like) and monkeys dressed up and on leashes. And we did. We left the beach and headed to our van only to discover that it had been double parked and there was no way to get out. We tried to literally lift a taxi out of the way. We tried a lot of things. About 45 minutes passed while we were waiting at the van until finally Matt goes, “Why don’t we pray about it?” It’s embarrassing that it took us that long to think about that, but we were distracted pretty severely (I’ll get to that in a minute). Matt said, “Amen” and 15 seconds later, the keyless entry clicks on and the owner of the vehicle walks up. No lie. That fast. God is far too gracious to us than we deserve and we give Him praise tonight for His protection and provision.
But what was the “severe distraction” you ask? Well, it was both painfully tough while also being hilarious and an adventure no one will ever forget. On the way to the beach, we kinda stuck out a little bit and so we’re fairly easily identifiable as tourists. This makes us a target for panhandlers. And gypsies.
As soon as we got out of the car, David says, “These people coming are gypsies. Don’t stop. Don’t engage.” This is a great lesson if you ever travel to…anywhere. Stay away from gypsies. If only we had listened. To kill time as we walked, a few team members responded to the questions and promptings from the gypsies. Fortunately, I look horribly unfriendly and poor so they got clear of me pretty fast. On the way back to the van, our gypsy friends picked us back up and harassed us all the way to the van. However, to live the adventure and experience being offered, Pops could not help himself. He found a necklace he liked and agreed to pay 100 rupees for it. Now, that may sound high, but at the exchange rate he got, it was equivalent to about $3. The problem is, when you pay money, especially THAT MUCH money, you become the new favorite person of the gypsy community. To put it in perspective, Joy Mathews who is serving with us here talked the gypsies down to 10 necklaces for 100 rupees. Pops is everyone’s favorite person, obviously. But now, he is a legend in the gypsy community and they have his face plastered on their post offices.
But as tragic as all of this sounds, it made for some good comedy that I feel like is worth sharing. If you don’t like a funny story, you can skip this part. But I do feel like it’s genuinely pretty good, so I would recommend staying with.
Pops spent the entire time bartering with the gypsies for a more than reasonable price. But Mr. Gypsy was a salesman and he drove a really hard bargain for someone selling something cheap that nobody wanted. Ask Pops for all of the details - it’s too many to list here. But the funny part(s) happened next. I was standing next to Pops trying to help him out. The gypsy wouldn’t budge on the price. It also probably didn’t help that from 30 feet away I yelled out, “Pops, don’t. They are ripping you off.” Knowing that the gypsy and his Mrs. spoke English well was preferable to my calling them out and they understanding it. So when I rushed to Pops aid, Mr. Gypsy pulled out a lighter to try and destroy the necklace to prove that he wasn’t selling something cheap. And when Pops seemed genuinely unimpressed and not taken by the act, Mr. Gypsy dropped this line, which I also will never forget as long as I live: “I am a gypsy. I do not lie.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
After that, I walked off and Pops opted to pay more than he was willing, but he did it for the experience and walked away with something to show for it. But the cherry on top of this whole delicious gypsy sundae is that we had two kids from the Mission Center accompanying us. The two boys (Moses and Bubalan) have been so wonderful and helpful to us. We are so blessed by them. Bubalan comes over to me whilst I was sitting on the curb. He turns to me and says, “You……father…..your….”. Now, already this is more than Bubalan has ever spoken to me in my entire life. He’s not as proficient in English as some of his peers, but he’s the kid you want with you. A young man of character, who is (now I know) really funny and sincerely generous. So, Bubalan finally gets out (after my initial shock at him speaking to me):
Classic Bubalan. And I don’t even know what Classic Bubalan is. I was in stitches until…well, I pretty much still am. On the bright side, Pops spent about $5 all in all. But the hassle and the tension was a lot of fun to watch.
(OK, FUNNY STORY OVER. FEEL FREE TO RETURN TO THE BLOG)
We ended the night with one of my favorite Indian experiences: a worship concert with The Godfather. He sang his mission trip standards and they’re still perfect. We had a great time of impromptu worship together and it was a great way to close out a great day. We have one more day of serving at Poonthandalam and the village church and the demos are going to be a ton of fun. Can’t wait to see what God is going to do.
Tonight, we ask you to join us in prayer for these things:
1) For continued physical strength and good rest tonight.
2) For protection over our minds and hearts, knowing the spiritual battles are just getting started
3) For our families back home - lift them up for their faithfulness and support
4) For the rebuilt church in the village of Poonthandalam - that the name of Jesus would go forth boldly, even though they understand what that might cost in their community.
5) For the Spirit of God to move in America the way it’s moving in India
Thank you all again for your support. And I apologize for any misspellings or mistakes in these blogs. I hate grammatical errors. However, I’m too tired to fix them - nor can we see straight! Thank you for your grace.
Oh, and Annette Spain. Haven’t forgotten. No marriage proposals today, but the team has selected someone for him. Godfather has totally signed off. We’ve chosen well. Congrats!
Love you all.