Good evening, friends and family!
Well, maybe "evening" is the wrong word depending on where/when you're reading this. It's about 8:30 p.m. in Chennai, which means it's 11 a.m. on the East Coast. Quick help. If you want to know what time it is in India, take the current Eastern Standard Time, subtract 2.5 hours and flip the a.m./p.m. It sure seems like our "a.m./p.m." has been flipped. We left for India on Friday night at 9:30 and have yet to "go to bed". We caught some sleep on the plane (some more than others) and have spent the day making preparations for the work that begins tomorrow. Needlessly to say, we're all sort of really super exhausted.
Also, Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms out there. Especially to my wife, who is the greatest mom to me and the kids. I'm very thankful for Jen, because without her, I wouldn't be able to have this experience. And that goes to all of our families as well. Thank you for sharing us and for your sacrifice. Also, a special "Happy Mother's Day" to Annette Spain (Matt's mom), who has yet to hear from her son because, in his words, "The worry will make the reunion that much better." Matt is fine. He's falling asleep standing up, but he's fine.
Today was another one of those days that we had a "bucket list" experience. Well, maybe it wasn't a "Bucket List" experience, but that's probably because this experience was so nuts that we didn't ever think it would be a reality. After a very successful trip through customs/immigration (thank you for your prayers!), we got ALL of our bags (thank you for your prayers!) and made to David's condo. We unloaded and then had a little downtime where we were able to get a few hours of rest before we started back up again. About an hour before lunchtime, we joined together with David and the Grain Game Gurus (Chip, Clifton and Luke - wonderful gentlemen, all of them) as well as some of David's family from Sri Lanka for a time of worship. This culminated in a room full of people singing old hymns together while David accompanied us. On accordion. That was not an auto-correct. Accordion. Somehow, though, it was a beautiful sound and we got to impress David's family with our pitiful attempt at "Power in the Blood" in Tamil. Each year we get better, so I suspect by Year 5 we should have it pretty close to good.
We left David's condo to head to "Skymall" - a 5 story shopping complex where we pick up the supplies that would be difficult to bring from home. But before we did that, all 15 of us (including a new friend - Donny Caleb) stopped at Pizza Hut for some lunch. I'm delighted to announce that Pizza Hut in India is super good. Let me take a second to introduce Donny Caleb to you. He is a 27 year-old Indian brother who is hilarious, speaks perfect english and is one of the greatest servants you'll ever meet. He is running to help us do whatever is needed and we are doing everything we can to keep up with him. He has become a fast friend to everyone on the team and I can't wait to tell you more stories about how God is going to use him.
After our eating/shopping excursion, we made it back to the condo for a planning/strategy session. We did this because, due to the vehicle we're riding in and the size of the group here, we had to send half of the team to our first mission location this evening. So, the women have all packed up and moved on to Poonthandalam Mission Center where they will be staying the night. Tomorrow, the men have to get up, load up and get out the door by 6 a.m. so that we can be at Poonthandalam when the VBS program begins. We ask for your prayers over the work that will take place tomorrow. As it always happens on any mission trip, you always prepare one way only to find that you will have to make significant changes when you arrive. We already anticipate this happening tomorrow and are trying to do our best to be able to go with the flow. But for Americans, this seems especially hard to accept and embrace. In our culture, we expect things to run like clockwork and go according to plan. That doesn't happen on mission. And that CERTAINLY never happens in India. Funny story. This morning we were fellowshipping with Pastor Nandakumar. Pops asked him when his church had their Sunday morning worship. His response? "9:30-10 a.m.". We thought that seemed like a short service, until David explained that he was referring to the start time. "Sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Whenever." is basically the gist. We all had a good laugh about that one - especially picturing ANY church in America trying that out. But this where we are and this is what we've been called to. Please pray for us that we would be able to get plugged in and roll with whatever God throws at us. Chip reminded us this morning in our devotion that God has dropped us in a situation where we have no control - but it's in those situations where we see God at work the best. When we sit back and let Him do what He wants to do, it ALWAYS works better than our scripts. So, we're not asking for prayer for everything to go according to plan. We're asking you to lift us up so that we would be excited about this prospect. That we would wake up in the morning and not worry about our plans, but focus on the calling and the opportunity God has given to us to see Him at work.
And we also ask for prayer for strength. I believe the two toughest days on an Indian mission trip are the first day and the last day. On the last day, you struggle with the emotions of saying "goodbye" and leaving your Indian family knowing that Satan is after them daily. But the first day of mission here is also tough. The jetlag really has already taken it's toll. We try to acclimate as fast as possible, but it's really tough to shake our bodies out of routine in one day - especially when that routine has us working on an internal clock that is flipped almost entirely upside down. And then the heat. Between the heat/humidity and the lack of sleep, looking at the team tonight, you would think this is the last day of mission where we are so physically exhausted. And when people get hot and tired, they get cranky. So far everyone is hanging in there, but when you couple all of these factors with a situation that you feel unprepared for precisely because it's so unknown, it's an environment for Satan to work and do some damage. We need prayer. We are begging for it. Please help us and lift us up to the only One who could give us what we need.
Tonight, we ask for prayer for these things:
1) That God would be glorified
2) That we would be able to get rest
3) The God would restore our bodies and spirits
4) That we would have a proper focus on the mission and not give into stress/frustration if things don't go how we planned
5) Pray for our families back home. We're so grateful to them and the team talked tonight about how we are missing them already.
Thank you so much for making this journey with us. We have prepared the best we know how. Tomorrow, the work begins. We love you all.