Sunday, February 25, 2007

India: Day Fourteen

Today was my final day in India and my final time of ministry. I had the privilege of speaking at a church that is very mush like my home church, Immanuel’s, in its worship and style.

After a passionate time of worship, prayer, offering and even announcements, I challenged the congregation from the book of Acts. It was exciting to see the people listening and receiving the Word of God, and during the altar call there were four adults who committed their lives to Christ for the first time!

The Lord has shown Himself strong during this trip. I am privileged to have shared in what He is doing in this part of the world. I am excited that the pastors and believers here are hungry for a move of the Holy Spirit and seeking Him passionately. Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me.

India: Day Thirteen

I am seeing that the house church movement is very strategic here in India. Many of the churches that have begun here have started as home fellowships. I spoke at one this evening that had only two families attending, but they were encouraged and they encouraged me.

One man that I have met here is involved in three house churches, assisting them as they begin and grow. The desire of the people here to see their families, friends and communities won to Christ is powerful. We know that the Holy Spirit is continuing to show Himself strong here in India, and this country will see great revival and harvest.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

India: Day Twelve

Today may sound like a “minor” day of ministry because my only work was speaking at a small house church. But it was far from that, as once again God’s Spirit showed Himself strong and God’s presence showed itself in a remarkable way.

The house church is a relatively new ministry that is located in the center of a community of Hindus. In fact, the twenty or so people that attend the meetings are the only Christians in the community. They have experienced much persecution in many forms. There is ridicule at school where the children attend, verbal abuse and “silent” abuse (opportunities are not given to the Christians to buy things at discount, promotions at work are not given when they are due and college scholarships are given only to Hindu students). Plus, false accusations are brought against the people to the police and to other government officials. There has been at least one instance of rocks being thrown at the believers as they have gathered to worship.

Yet the faith and resolve of this small group of believers continues! Twenty-three gathered in the living room of a businessman on Friday evening and assisted by a worship CD in a CD player, they sang, prayed and thanked God for His faithfulness. Then I shared an encouraging word to strengthen their faith and give them courage.

The presence of God was strong there. It was the strongest of any of the churches that I have met with on this trip. Many of the people asked me to pray for them, and as I did the presence of God increased and very real emotional and physical healings took place.

One young girl complained of sharp stomach pain for a week. After we prayed, she said the pain was gone! A married couple who had been trying to conceive a child for five years asked if I’d pray for them. As I prayed, I sensed that the woman’s womb was actually opening. I told them that deep in my spirit I felt that one year form now they would be holding a baby.

Another young lady asked that I pray for a husband for her. As we prayed, she began to cry a cry of release, trusting in the Lord. (She couldn’t understand what I was praying because she didn’t speak English. But her spirit understood!)

What moved me the most was the wife of the host home. She is a believer, but I was told she is very reserved and not given to emotion. She asked that I pray for pain in her shoulders and arms. As I prayed she was filled with the Holy Spirit began to cry, and continued to for quite a while. She was overjoyed with her encounter with the Lord! All were astonished at her response because it was so out of character for her.

I believe that this humble house church will become the leading edge of a revival in that community and in just a few months, the community will be known as “Christian” rather than Hindu.

Friday, February 23, 2007

India: Day Eleven

This evening I had the privilege to speak at the weekly chapel service at the most prestigious teaching hospital in all of India. What an honor it was to stand before over 500 doctors, medical staff, students, patients and family members and share the love of Christ with the again mostly Hindu audience. The place was packed, with many standing in the doorways.

After a time of worship and prayer, led by a team from a nearby church, I shared the story in John 5 of the man by the pool who was waiting to be healed for 38 years. Ramesh translated into Tamil, and together we told the people that Jesus was willing to heal them both physically and spiritually if they are willing to trust in Him and Him alone.

I gave an altar call and approximately 200 people responded to the invitation to commit their lives to Christ! What an incredible sight it was to see a hospital chapel service become a harvest of souls!

It was a fast-paced evening because as soon as I finished with the altar call, I was whisked away by motor cycle to a village outside of Vellore where I was scheduled to speak at a humble house-church, leaving Ramesh and his brother-in-law-pastor in charge of the “after-service”.

Once again I was overwhelmed with the passion and heart of the Christians who faithfully meet week after week to worship, pray and receive the Word of God amid much opposition and poverty.

The small gathering of 22 believers were gracious and receptive to the encouragement from God’s Word. After the service we prayed for each person and again saw miracles. Many asked that I pray for their families who were Hindu and needed to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is faithful!

Thank you for continuing to lift me up as I minister here in India. We only have three more days of ministry, and I am expecting God to do even more wonders! Thank you for being part of this trip with me!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

India: Day Ten

Once again the Spirit of God showed Himself strong as we ministered! I misunderstood the plan for today when I was told the night before. I thought we were going out in the remote areas again to visit the poor and pray for them. As we were driving through Vellore it became apparent in the conversation that we were going instead to a prayer meeting, and I was to bring a word.

I quickly prayed, “Lord, I have not prepared anything. Give me a word!” Well, as we walked into the small church, there were about 40 women praying. The only men were the pastor, Ramesh and my pastor-host-driver. The Lord immediately gave me a word.

I spoke to the women out of Zephaniah chapter 3, focusing on verse 17 where it says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

I sensed that these women, some of whom were former Hindus and the others were still Hindus, needed to know that they were loved and to feel that they were loved. So I shared the Love of God the Father with them. I was obvious in their eyes and their countenances that they were receiving the Father’s love as I spoke.

I prayed for them as a group, and then prayed for most of them individually. In the process, I led several of the Hindu women to Christ. The Love of the Father drew them to Himself! It was a beautiful and wonderful time!

One older woman said that she had lost her husband one month ago, and was very sad and starting to grow weak, wanting to give up on life. After I prayed for her, I embraced her (remember, hugging is not big in the Indian culture). As I did, she hugged me back and allowed me to hold her for several minutes. I know that the Lord was ministering to her broken heart and pouring out His love in her.

I spent the afternoon with a Sri Lankan pastor, and was able to encourage him as he encouraged me with what God was doing in his country. Then that evening, we were back at the church where I spoke on Monday.

We had a glorious time of praise and the Lord was anointing His Word as I spoke from Psalm 115 (see verse 1 below). Great boldness rose up from the people as we ministered at the end of the service. We also saw two people have their sight restored as they were prayed for.

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.”

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

India: Day Nine

Imagine a successful fruit and vegetable business, buying fresh products at wholesale and then selling them to consumers who frequent the stores to purchase the products. Imagine the owners in their beautiful home, driving expensive cars, and living the American Dream. We see it everyday.

Now imagine a family of five in India, with a modest fruit stand along a main street in a small village, selling the few pieces of fruit that the father could afford to buy at the fruit market in the city and carrying on his bicycle. Then imagine a four-foot-by-six-foot hut right behind the fruit stand, right there on the street where all five of the family sleep every night because it is their home.

Today I stopped and prayed for this very family described above (see pic also). They are one of the few families of believers in this predominately Hindu town. They are seeking to be a light in this very dark part of the world, living with much joy amidst such challenging poverty.

After we prayed, they gave me their only watermelon they had for sale (probably 1/5 of their profit for the day). I had to take it, so as not to offend them. I silently prayed that the Lord would bless them one-hundred fold.

I gave the watermelon away to another family. After receiving it, the mother thanked the Lord, and told me this story: Just this morning they had bought a much smaller watermelon but some monkeys stole it and ate it, leaving them with none. Now, they had an even bigger watermelon! Isn’t the Lord good?

The morning and afternoon was spent visiting poor people in a farming and shepherding area. We went from house to house, field to field and prayed for people, encouraging them and sharing the love of Jesus. At one place, 13 women had gathered to pass the lunch hour in the shade of a big tree. Only one was a Christian, the rest were Hindu. Right then and there we had an evangelistic meeting and I shared the Gospel, and several gave their hearts to the Lord!

In the evening I spoke at a prayer meeting in a small rural church with just over 60 people present. They worshipped with passion, they prayed with fervor, and they received God’s Word with grace. They are hungry for God’s Word and His Spirit. God is doing great wonders here, but it is a difficult life for the people.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

India: Day Eight

This has been an overwhelming day for me. I saw things today that I had only heard about or read about. Today God allowed me to see the part of His Kingdom that He loves the most, what most Americans don’t get to see.

Let me tell you about this evening first. I had the privilege of being in one of the first meetings of a new church plant outside of Vellore, in one of the remote areas. The people are celebrating the construction of their new building, a modest one-room concrete block structure with openings in the walls for the breeze to blow through. Wednesday they are having their official dedication (I have been asked to speak).

The people (a little over 50) worshipped with passion, led by the two pastors (Ramesh was on keyboard). The exuberance of these Christians is inspiring. They sing, they shout, they dance, they lift their hands and they clap. They know how to worship.

I spoke on the presence of God, and after another time of praise and calling for the glory of God, we prayed for people. Once again God was faithful and we saw healings and delivered prophetic words. I am looking forward to going back on Wednesday.

OK, now to what shook my soul. In the morning, I accompanied a local pastor (the pastor of the aforementioned church) to a very poor area that had a settlement for crippled people. We stopped and spoke with people who had all kinds of physical limitations – twisted limbs, turned feet – sharing the love of God and then asking if we could pray for them. Just about everyone is Hindu, and the concept of a savior who not only could save but also heal was very foreign.

A few hundred meters away from there is a leaper colony that we went to next. We would walk along, stopping to speak to people, and groups would form. The pastor would share the Gospel, and then I would lay hands on and pray for the leapers. My heart was so moved with compassion as I saw these outcasts, whom no one loved or wanted to be near.

After I had prayed for the first person, I heard the Lord say, “Hold him.” And so I wrapped my arms around the man and held him for a few minutes. I did this for all of the leapers that I prayed for. (The Indian culture isn’t big on hugging anyway, so this was doubly-different for them.) Add to this that they are leapers, and who knows how many years it has been since they were held?

As we were walking back to the car a leprous man came out to the road, hobbling on a stick he could hardly hold. He had heard that we were praying for people. He said, “Pray for me!” I did, and as I held him he put his head on my shoulder and began to cry.


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Monday, February 19, 2007

India: Day Seven

Today was Sunday. Three different messages in three different churches. The Word of God produced fruit. The Spirit of God brought healing. The presence of God brought freedom. The Lord was exalted!

Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness. (Psalm 115:1)

I’m tired! Goodnite!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

India: Day Six

Today is the last day in Mamallapuram. I was called upon to set up a computer and internet connection for Pastor Sami at the orphanage before we attended the Saturday prayer meeting. A little practical work before spiritual work. We got the computer up and running (that is where I posted yesterday’s blog from) and then went into the prayer meeting after it had already begun.

Fervent is how I have to keep describing prayer of the believers here. They called out to God for revival, for family members, for he lost and for the hurting. I don’t know of one person who asked that I pray for themselves.

I taught a word on the pressures of life (these people have pressure!) and how God is interested in making us all perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. I envy the people, because they have so few distractions and when God applies pressure on their lives, they can only turn to Him.

There were many goodbyes, hugs and blessings, and then I got in the car with Ramesh (from Immanuel’s) and we headed west to Vellore, a city about 3 hours from the coast. It was an interesting ride as we saw farmlands, cities, towns and lot of people pass by in this vast country.

In Vellore, my first ministry act was to participate on Saturday evening in the commissioning of a new missionary by an organization that sends apostles all over India. On the trip over I was told I’d been asked to give the charge to the man (see pic). He is going to be working with the prostitutes in the north of India, taking the love of Christ to those whom no one loves. I challenged him to follow the leading of the Spirit of God, and to not turn to the left or the right as the Spirit led him.

After I sat down, a note was passed to the lead pastor asking me to pray for him also. I wasn’t on that part of the program, but I was again called on, this time to pray. I began to prophesy things into his life that God was showing me as I prayed for him.

After I sat down, another note was passed to the front, this time asking me to pray for the other missionaries present, about 14 in all. They even asked if I’d bless the offering after it was taken!

It is exciting to see these people committed to reaching their own nation. It was shared that evening that there are over 4,000 different people groups in India, and over 1,600 different languages. Only 4% of the population is Christians, so there is much to be done. Tomorrow I preach three times at three different churches on three different subjects. It ought to be interesting!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

India: Day Five

Today has been a whirlwind! We had a prayer meeting in the morning at Pastor Sami's church and then we left for a refugee camp in Chennai. More about Chennai later.

At the prayer meeting the people were passionate about crying out to the Lord. They prayed in the "harp and bowl" style, intermingling praise & prayer, worship and intercession. Just as I was going to give an encouraging word to them, a man literally stumbled in, hardly able to stand, let alone walk. He was a Hindu man, who one of the members met that morning and invited to the meeting. Well, he picked a good meeting to attend, because the Spirit of God was strong! I was told he had a sickness (I don't know the English equivalent for it) and it affected his whole body, making him weak and hardly able to move. I told him that only Jesus could heal him, and he needed to call on the Name of Jesus, and not any of his other "gods".

I asked him, "Do you want to be healed?" He said yes, and lifted his hands and called on Jesus. We prayed and he stood up and walked, proclaiming, "I believe in Jesus!" It just doesn't get any better than that!

The refugee camp in Chennai is where people from Sri Lanka, who fled their nation because of war, have settled. There are over 3,000 people living on five acres! Imagine the living conditions.

Right in the middle of the camp is a modest building of 12 by 15 feet where a church meets. Over 50 people packed on tho the floor of this tiny building in expectation of what the Lord was going to do. They worshipped, I preached, and then after we prayed. Then I was called upon to I gave the charge at the ordination of the church's pastor (remember: I had to be ready for anything on this trip). After the service, a Sri Lankan man came to me and one of his eyes was swollen almost completely closed. He said only two words to me: the first was "pray" as he pointed to his eye. I put my hand over his eye and began to pray for him. After I finished, he said the second word: "clear", as he again pointed to his eye with a big smile on his face. It was fully opened and he kept looking around everywhere!

The Lord is good! Tomorrow I am off to a new area (Vellore) for the second week of my trip here in India. Please continue to pray! This corner of the world is experiencing the power of God. Lives are being changed and the Kingdom of God is being expanded!

Friday, February 16, 2007

India: Day Four

Today was a day of extremes. In the morning we attended a pastor’s meeting and in the evening it was evangelism. From encouraging the shepherds to winning the sheep.

Oh yes, on the way to the pastor’s meeting we stopped by where Jonathan was staying so we could encourage him and see how he was doing. In the course of our conversation, two of his friends sat in so Pastor Sammi and I shared the Gospel with them also. I gave away one of my Bibles to Jonathan (I brought two – I have more back home) and we bid him farewell, knowing that God has His hand on Jonathan’s life.

We gathered at the orphanage that Pastor Sammi started as one of his ministry outreaches to meet with and encourage local pastors (I guess local means traveling from as far away as 40 miles). Thirty-six pastors attended, and after they had an opportunity to introduce themselves and tell about their ministries and lives (some had congregations of only 15, the largest had 150, one was an evangelist who ministered in fishing villages) I encouraged them with a word.

I spoke on the importance of having a legacy, and how they needed to make sure they were reproducing themselves in others so their ministries would continue after they were gone. After a time of prayer and ministry, we ate lunch together. Several of the pastors told me that they have never heard the concept of a legacy (remember that this is a remote area that is only beginning to hear the Gospel so evangelism is the only goal of most pastors).

In the evening we traveled 8 miles by motorcycle (don’t tell my wife) over some good and some bad roads (there were three of us on the small motorcycle, plus equipment – PA system), then hiked a quarter-mile through a village. Next we crossed about a half-mile of rice paddies and came upon a farmer’s village where we set up for a street meeting (more like a dirt path meeting).

The PA system was set up and we worshipped, followed by me preaching the Gospel to about 75 people. I was told after words that only two families present (eight people) attended Pastor Sammi’s church. The rest were lost people. I gave an altar call and nearly everyone else said “yes” to Jesus. We prayed individually for people and again saw many healings!

One of the church families had us over for dinner after the meeting. Please understand what I am about to say next. These are dirt-poor farmers who opened up their home (rather their dirt yard) to us and gave us a simple meal of rice and dahl cooked over an outdoor fire pit (picture a hole in the ground). And they are treating me like a king, giving me the only chair in the house and the only spoon they owned to eat with. I was given two bananas while the other members of the team got only one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

India: Day Three

This morning I preached at a small church (45 present) that is located near a fishing village and an area where the poorest of the poor live. The fishing village was completely destroyed by the Tsunami and the people live in thatched huts (see pic) while their homes are being re-built.

Let me say that I don’t think I have ever been in a worship service where there was more fervent declaration during the worship. These people, who pretty much have only the Lord, are incredibly passionate about their love for Him.

When I saw their hearts of gratitude and praise during the worship time (the only instrument was a man playing an old snare drum with his hands and a stick), I changed what I had planned to speak on and shared an encouraging word from Psalm 42. After words, it was announced that I would be praying for people. The people practically climbed over each other as they gathered around to be prayed for.

We saw miracles again! One woman who was having trouble breathing (I assume emphysema – her wheezing was very profound) was breathing clearly when we said amen. Another woman complained of pain around her sinuses and told me the pain was gone when we finished. Broken marriages were prayed for, as well as sick children and barren wombs. It was quite a morning!

In the evening, a large tent was erected in front of Pastor Sammi’s house/church building right on the main road in the middle of town. Don’t picture a huge worship center with a beautiful lawn and shrubbery. Think more of a modest, aging stucco structure and a dirt yard along a dirty, busy road.

During the worship, a white man in his mid-thirties walked up to the tent. Pastor Sammi greeted him and introduced him to me. His name is Jonathan, and he told me that he was from England, and that he was here on a month-long spiritual retreat among the Hindu people. I told him that if he stayed around, that I believed he would find what he was looking for. He stayed, and I preached about the blind beggar who called out to Jesus and whom Jesus told him that his faith had made him see.

After the preaching, as myself and other local pastors were praying for people, Jonathan came up to me and said, “I only speak to experts about spiritual things. I think you are an expert on faith.” Well, needless to say I am no expert, but I do know a little about faith. So we talked and in the end, he committed his life to the Lord!

I shared with him that I believed the Lord was saying He had called him out to make way for His coming. Jonathan responded, “That’s interesting, because the children (who were sitting by him under the tent) said he was John the Baptist (he knew who John the Baptist was). I told him, “Not interesting, but confirmed.”

Yes there were physical miracles that evening, but I believe that the experience with Jonathan was the highlight for me.

Thank you for faithfully praying for me and for reading this blog to see what God is doing half-way around the world. Your comments are very encouraging to me on this difficult and demanding ministry trip. Blessings!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

India: Day Two

Get this: on the way from the airport after I was picked Sunday night up by Pastor Sammi (the main pastor that I am working with the first week I am here), he leans over to me and says, “We are going to a wedding on Tuesday morning and you are giving the wedding challenge to the bride and groom.” I knew I was supposed to be ready for anything when traveling for ministry, but I didn’t think a wedding was on the agenda. Great, I thought, I didn’t even bring a suit!

So just like he said, on Tuesday morning we went to a wedding (the bride is a member of Pastor Sammi’s congregation) and just before they took their vows, I gave a 20 minute challenge from Ephesians 4 & 5 to the bride and groom and the assembles guests. At the end of the ceremony I was again called on, this time to bless the couple. My first traditional Indian wedding and I got to be in it! Like I said yesterday, “Very cool!”

Well the wedding was wonderful, but going to and coming from the wedding was where the challenge was. The wedding was in Chennai, and we needed to travel 90 minutes to get there from Mamallapuram, the town where we are ministering this week. Pastor Sammi hired a car and driver (the car seats four, including the driver) and proceeded to load 11 more people into the car. 

Add to the mix the number of busses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians and animals, none of whom obey any traffic laws (maybe the animals do a bit) on the roads, streets and highways, and this was quite an experience. Pastor Sammi lives in the edge, and he pulled me out right there with him.

Tuesday afternoon and evening Pastor Sammi’s son Isaac, who is a college student and worship leader, took me around the area to give me a feel for the local culture. is a fishing/tourist town that was practically obliterated by the Tsunami. Isaac showed me where homes previously stood, where entire fishing villages were destroyed and where the water came to before it receded. He also showed me the areas where the poorest of the poor lived, the Gypsy settlement and the garbage dump that contributes to the poor sanitation.

But, he also pointed out the six churches and orphanage that his father has started. Plus, he introduced me to some of their pastors (I am staying with one). Ninety-six percent of India is Hindu, but in this little corner of the country, the Kingdom of God is expanding!

Tomorrow, we have a morning service near a fishing village and a poor community, and then a big crusade service in the evening at the main church in the center of town. I am praying for miracles!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

India: Day One

After a 19½ hour journey, I stepped off the plane in Chennai, India at 12:30 am on Monday morning (there’s a 10½ hour time difference between here and home – sorry, you do the math). By the time I got into bed at the home where I was staying, it was 3:00 am. And I was wide awake! So much for my first experience with real jet-lag. (Just for geographical perspective, the small fishing/resort town where I am staying this week south of Chennai was one of the areas devastated by the 2004 Tsunami.)

A few hours later it was morning and I was ready to go. I am staying one mile from the beach so took my morning run along the Indian Ocean. As I ran parallel to the angry ocean with its crashing waves and rough surf I began to think about the story where the disciples were fighting a storm in a boat and Jesus came to them walking on the water. Peter saw Jesus and said, “Lord, if it’s really You, tell me to come out on the water also.” Jesus said, “Come.”

Call it my upside-down-sleep-deprived state, or maybe it was the heat as I did my five miles (it was 90ยบ today), but as I meditated on those verses I actually looked out over the water a few of times half-expecting Jesus to be out there doing his water-walk. And then I posed myself the question, “What if Jesus asked me to come out on the water? Would I go?”

Well, I spent some time under some trees cooling down and pondering those thoughts, came back to my house and took a shower. Just about noon, I did my first “ministry act”… I laid hands on a man with leprosy and prayed for him to be healed. Pretty cool! And I am expecting a good report when I see him later this week.

That evening we had a meeting in a thatched-roof, open-sided pole building with mats on the sand floor. I preached the Gospel (through an interpreter) using the story in Matthew 14 where Peter walks on the water to the 51 people who attended (yes, I counted). There were five people who received Christ (the local pastor told me that they had never been to his meetings). More cool!

Then I laid hands on and prayed for the people. One man, a local fisherman who could hardly walk, stood up after we prayed and practically ran over to his family. Another man named Lazarus, who was in terrible back pain, got up after the prayer and carried the 50 lb. PA system speakers out to the storage building. Now that’s way cool!

By the way, I told the Lord, “Yes, I think I would come out on the water with Him.” I think He believed me because we did some pretty fancy water-walking together today.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Leaving For India...

This Saturday, February 10th I leave on a 16 day mission trip to Chennai (Madras), India. It will be my first trip there. I will be teaming with local pastors and we will be conducting crusade meetings in the evenings and will also preach at impromptu gatherings during the day. At other times we will be praying for the sick and feeding the poor.

I will be posting as often as I can during the trip so please check my blog to get updates on how God is moving.

Follow your passion!

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