India 2009 – An Adventure to Remember

17 08 2009

Entering into the sultry heat of Mumbai, India never prepared us for the adventure God had laid out for our team.  Over a brief five day ministry trip, the Holy Spirit gave us a full course taste of India that will be difficult to erase from our memories.  From the lecture hall of the Master’s College where we taught on church leadership four to five times daily to feeding homeless lepers in the slums at 2 am, no one had much time for rest and relaxation.

Our first night in India was the beginning of the adventure.  We exited the hotel to the screams of every taxi driver, hotel owner, and rickshaw driver in Mumbai.  Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration—but not by much.  But praise the Lord, we had prepaid hotel rooms…right?  Right.  We soon learned that nothing is guaranteed in India.  I called the hotel only to find out that our dates were off by one day and we had no rooms.   Wonderful. 

With no hotel lined up we had to negotiate, barter, and bluff our way through a people who have honed those skills way past our civilized western protocol.  I felt a little bit like Crocodile Dundee in the city as I tried a combination of kindness, “Hey I’m the dumbest guy ever” routine, and common sense (which is not as common in certain parts of the world) to figure out where we could sleep.  As we were given rides by a family of Indians who called everyone they knew to get our business, we found ourselves debating the price for our rooms in the Mumbai slums as everyone was falling asleep through sheer exhaustion.  We secured five rooms and God gave us grace and sleep after 25 hours of travel.

Each day began with Randy Welch, Rick Rupert, and myself teaching over 200 Indian church planters and 50 Bible School students at the Masters Home, College and Seminary in Vizag on such topics as leadership, discipleship, and building strong churches.  Randy is a former pastor and businessman in our church.  Rick is an old friend from California who is now serving as a missionary in Malaysia.  Each one of us taught on different topics; it was truly amazing to watch as the Holy Spirit caused our messages to weave a beautiful tapestry of themes that were powerful and used of God.

The rest of our team led a VBS to the orphanage children each day.  Nicole, Hannah, Josh, Daniel, Tawnie, Joyanne, Ian, Allison, and Naomi ministered through songs, Bible stories, and games to the children of the Master’s School.  The joy and laughter of the children was a testimony to the impact they made.  Twelve children indicated they prayed to receive Christ during the VBS.  On the final day there was a special assembly, Josh spoke to several hundred combined schools and dozens raised their hands to receive Christ.

In the midst of our 12 hour days of ministry, Rick, the radical Malaysian Missionary in our group, kept coming up with new and novel methods for evangelism in the city.  Rick, who I might add has a propensity for hip shooting, storytelling, last minute, no plan, no sleep, middle of the night ideas, kept everyone guessing…and excited.

One night as we headed back to our hotel we came across thousands of people involved in a local Hindu festival.  Stages were set up and hundreds were gathered at each stage watching dancers and singers perform.  Rick came up with the idea of a kind of Kingdom raid on the festival.  At the hotel we dressed up in our blue shirts (every mission trip at MSC has to have a free T-shirt and we were no exception), Josh grabbed his guitar, and we practiced the worship song “Rain Down,” and were ready. 

Upon crashing the party in downtown Vizag, the crowd suddenly went wild and pushed us to the stage!  We were rock stars in five minutes. And with all the skill of 11 Americans who can’t speak the language, don’t have a clue about the culture, and can barely sing one worship song, we looked really cool (?).  After a few cheesy dance moves, they realized we weren’t exactly Bruce Springsteen or Brittany Spears, and we were politely escorted off the stage.

But the adventure wasn’t over.  In the crowd, there was one India wannabe promoter who could see the latent talent and opportunity in this motley crew, and we were practically dragged, pushed, and shoved to another stage.  God opened the door and we were able to sing “Rain Down” to a crowd of several hundred.  Our prayer was that maybe just maybe, our short message of God’s love to the Indian people, might have touched a few hearts. It was fun to be His instrument.    

Our group had the opportunity to visit a Compassion Project and minister in a widow’s home and saw firsthand the ravages of poverty but the hope of the Gospel.  It was exciting to see the impact Jesus and the church can make in some of the most depressing, humiliating, and hopeless situations of our world.  All of us counted it rare privilege to show the love of Jesus in practical ways at these and other places.

One night Rick and the group came up with an idea of going into the slums and ministering to the homeless and the lepers of Vizag.  So, at 10pm the group entered some of the darkest parts of the city with food and compassion.  They encountered old men to little children who were abandoned by society and their families.  Our group moved through the abandoned apartments and alleyways giving away food, praying for people, and sharing the gospel as God opened up opportunities.

There were so many more adventures I could share: like the night several of our group stayed up till 3am sharing the gospel with a beautiful young Hindu woman who, in the end, with tears running down her face, gave her heart to Jesus.  Or, when we had the opportunity to pray over 25 Tribal Indian pastors who are literally risking their lives to preach the gospel in the remote hill country of eastern India.  Or, the countless chances we all had to share our story of Jesus to people we met in the hotel, in the airport, and on the plane.  Or, our narrow escape through armed guards in Mumbai who would not let us leave the airport.  Or, the food!  Yes the curry, curry, and more curry, and rice!  But we loved every part and won’t forget all that God did.

Thanks so much for the hundreds of people who prayed for us.  Your prayers made this a joyful, challenging, and visionary trip that none of us will forget. It was most definitely an adventure to remember. 

Carpe Diem Gloriae Dei,

Pastor Steve