Tuesday, May 29, 2012

India 2012: Epiblogue

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I've been back in the states for a few days now, and as I reflect back on my ninth mission trip to India, I am flooded with images, memories, and emotions. Allow me to express it this way:

Hanging with the locals...
Kelu and his family: former Muslims facing great danger.
Preaching at Daniel's Church with Jesher as my translator.
Sitting with Punjabi students.

Dr. Srinivas seeing patients.
A new Believer sharing with a Hindu woman.
Preaching in a small church.
Praying for people at a crusade.

The Himalayas!
Seeking God...
A typical medical camp: people with needs.
Engaging more school children!

Friday, May 25, 2012

India 2012: Day 12

Not because it was our last day of ministry do I say this, but I believe that this day was the most significant for me...

We traveled about 15 km out of Srinigar higher up in the mountains to about 9,000 feet, where we set up our medical camp at a school in the middle of a Muslim village of 1,200 people. The people of this isolated community were shy, innocent, and skeptical as we began our work.

Our doctors saw over 600 patients.

Speaking to a school official, I learned that only the school and a few homes had electricity, that the people rarely ventured far from their homes, and contact with the outside world was minimal. But the people warmed up to our presence, the school children became my friends, and we were able to do some significant groundwork for our local host pastor Kelu, who has a vision to reach this village.

Kelu is a former Muslum who has suffered much persecution including beatings, forceable removal from his house, and multiple other acts of discrimination on himself and his family because of his conversion to Christ. And yet he stands as a visionary light in this dark place.

The team began their journey back to Kazipet that evening, and because I was not catching my first flight to begin my return journey to the US until the next morning, Kelu acted as my host in his home before taking me to my hotel.

I had been to Kelu's house three years ago during my first visit to Srinigar. It's a two room apartment with no furniture where he, his wife, his wife's mother, and his three children live. His oldest son Selmon, has multiple physical and mental needs and requires constant attention.

While I observed the stacked sleeping mats and blankets in the corner, we sat on the floor of the living/dining/bed room and drank tea. Kelu proudly brought out a small bowl that was filled with tiny pictures. He carefully laid them out in a row, and proudly said that these are the ones who had been baptized so far this year, 28 in all.

Then he laid out the pictures of about 15 others whom he told me were "with us" but had yet to be baptized. To be baptized as a believer in Christ in this Muslum region can be a death sentence. And yet Kelu and his wife witness, minister, and faithfully seek to be a light.

His wife asked me what style and color of Indian clothes my wife likes. I told her, and later in the evening they presented me with a gift for her: a Punjabi-style dress in her favorite color.

I was honored and humbled, because they are very poor, they live humbly, and yet their hearts are generous. Facing a difficult life both because of their son's situation and because of the ministry they conduct, they continue to give with joy and consistency.

Yes, today was significant, and truly humbling.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

India 2012: Day 11

We had a great medical camp today in an all-Muslim community here in Srinagar, Kashmir. The people were reluctant in coming at first, but as with most of these types of environments, they start slowly but build up steam as the day progresses.

According to the Doctors, we ended up seeing a little over 150 people in this hillside community at the foot of some mountains. My job: simply to interact with the people, learn names, direct them to our different stations, and pray for them as I "laid hands on them" while leading them around.

The Muslim community is a very difficult place to reach with the Gospel. We planted seeds for the local pastor, and we know that over time there will be much fruit.

After a late lunch, the team went shopping (need to bring gifts to my wife), then I had an extended time in the marketplace with the local pastor and one of our doctors, complete with a ride in an auto-rickshaw! Definitely a full day!

Tomorrow is our last day here, and we'll conduct a big medical camp in another un-reached Muslim community. Plus, we have to find a new place to spend the night on Wednesday. More fun!

Thank you again for following and sharing this Blog.

Monday, May 21, 2012

India 2012: Day 10

Today was a day of travel... We just arrived in Srinagar, Kashmir after 13 1/2 hours on the road, crammed in a vehicle, twisting and turning through mountain roads as we approached the Himalayas.

Lodging was scarce and we tried several hotels (remember: think motel 6). This is vacation time up here, and this is a resort city. We have finally found a place that had two rooms available (all of our team are cramming into the two rooms).

I was able to re-connect with our host pastor from here in Srinagar, a former Muslim who pastors a small church in this Muslim dominated region.

I met him three years ago and have been praying for him since then. I was humbled to see the joy in his face as he told me that they have baptized 28 into their church (all former Muslims).

Tomorrow we begin our medical camps and "covert" prayer for the Muslim people we engage.

Thanks for following!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

India 2012: Day 9

It appeared that three was the number of the day. Three events: A morning worship where I preached, a medical camp where I prayed, and the crusade meeting where I did both!

At the worship service, we had three speakers: a testimony by one of our team, Pastor Daniel giving a brief exhortation, and myself bringing the main message.

Even the testimony was a contained the number three: The team member who gave her testimony only speaks Telugu, so Pastor Daniel translated into English so our main interpreter (who doesn't speak Telugu) could then translate into Hindi for the people. Seeing the three of them lined up across the stage, each with a microphone, speaking and then waiting was almost comical. But the young lady's testimony was powerful, and many were encouraged by it.

Pastor Daniel spoke a word about God restoring the work of His Kingdom there in India, and then I concluded the meeting with a message on expecting a blessing.

I didn't realize how hot it was (mid-one-hundred-and-teens) until after I was finished speaking and noticed that I was soaking wet with sweat.

Our team took a break for lunch, and then we began the medical camp. Again: three doctors seeing the crowd of people that had gathered in the field where we are holding the nightly crusade. We are in the north part of India where Christianity is not tolerated as much, so the following paragraph is a big encouragement.

At one point I was moved to pray for one of the patients so I told the doctor to ask for permission for me to pray for her (she was a Hindu woman, and I wasn't seeking to offend or push her). She was told by our doctor that I was there to pray for people, and if she was willing we would agree together that God would touch her in the Name of Jesus.

She allowed me to pray for her, and soon others were lining up for prayer, each wanting to be well, pain-free, or spiritually made whole.

This evening, we held the last of our crusade meetings here in Jammu. Another 2,000+ attended in our open-air field that sits in the middle of the apartment-houses.

Pastor Daniel and I both brought the word, and then at the altar call the front was again filled as many came giving their lives to Christ.

We also prayed for the sick, and saw many miracles. I prayed for a small child in her father's arms who had a fever for several days. I actually felt her body cooling as I prayed that God would heal her of this!

Another person I prayed for was a teenage boy who was deaf and mute. His father stood with him, and I prayed for the boy's ears to open and his mouth to speak. Within 30 seconds he was saying over and over, "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!"

What a great way to end our Crusade in Jammu! Tomorrow we begin a three-hour journey by car to Srinagar in the Himalayan Mountains, where we'll conduct three days of medical camps in an almost all-Muslim region.

The adventure continues!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

India 2012: Day 8

Huge! Those who know me personally know that I use that word a lot, but not without justification. That is how I describe this evening's crusade service...Huge!

When our team arrived to the outdoor meeting site, the crowd was big, and the worship was already progressing. We took our seats in the front (the Indian people are very big into honoring guests), joined in with the singing, and then were introduced.

One of the members of our team again shared a testimony (we lost power during that - hello India!), and then the microphone was turned over to me. Through an interpreter, I shared a new message that I felt the Lord had given me just a few days before, that was specifically for this night, to this people.

I finished by telling a story of a rich Indian Hindu man whom I met on one of my previous trips here. After spending two days and much conversation with him, this man had given his heart to Christ. It was a perfect story to illustrate how Hindu people can give their lives to Christ.

About 100 people responded to the call to give their lives to Christ! Some were alcoholics, some were young men & women, all were wanting to follow Jesus. We prayed individually for each person at the end of the service. It was a great night!

Tomorrow we have a large medical camp, and then the last night of the crusade here in Jammu.

Again, thank you for reading this Blog. Please direct others to it by 'sharing' it in your Facebook status, tweeting it, or emailing the link.

Friday, May 18, 2012

India 2012: Day 7

Picture temperatures in the hundred-and-teens, a dry and dusty field in the center of a government school, and the students sitting on the ground listening to their teachers. That's where we held our two combined medical camps in our last day in Punjab.

Our doctors saw just under 200 patients, and they still kept coming and coming. We had to turn people away because of a commitment to hold a worship service in the community of 1,500 where we held the camp.

The teachers allowed me to interact with the students in the school, grades 1-10. It was a unique experience, learning Punjabi words, and sharing English translations for Punjabi words. I even read from an English reader to the class of 10th graders a story they had been studying so they could hear how English speaking people pronounce our language.

Then I was treated to watch a game of volleyball among some gifted young 20's men. I was asked several times to play, but I didn't want to jeopardize the fragile American-Punjabi relationship I had build with the players in our conversations by embarrassing myself. I begged-off, saying it was too hot for me to play.

Tomorrow we are up early to leave for Jammu City (100 km away), then conduct a medical camp, followed by a big two-night crusade where over 2,000 will attend each night. I have spoken at this event twice before, and it is a great opportunity for harvest.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

India 2012: Day 6

After a looooong train ride we stepped onto the platform just before noon in the city of Pathanket, Punjab. With no time to waste, we were met by the local host Pastor and loaded our luggage onto the top of the rented vehicle and climbed (crammed - 9 people in a vehicle designed for 7) into the car.

A quick stop at our hotel for the next two nights (think Motel 6 rather than Marriott), a shower (Yes!!! It had been 48 hours since my last one), then we crammed again into the vehicle to go to the local Pastor's house for a big Indian meal. After that we began our medical camp. Our team of three doctors saw over 180 people.

My job was to pray for people, and simply help out where needed. Many people, with many needs.

After a short break, we began a worship service where one of our team shared a testimony, and Pastor Daniel and I shared the preaching. Then of course we had a time of prayer for those who requested it. After returning to the hotel and showering, I finally got into bed at 12:30 am.

The highlight for me this day was I had the opportunity to "mentor" the youth worship team from the local church as they prepared to lead in the service. I was able to encourage the team as they played/sang, and they allowed me to offer some "tweaks" that gave them an entire new sound which they received graciously.

They returned the favor by asking me to sit in on guitar during the worship service. So I played Punjabi praise & worship, not having a clue what I was playing. I simply watched the keyboardists hands for chord changes, and the drummer for breaks and dynamics. I was in heaven!

Today (it's Friday morning as I write) we will be conducting two different medical camps out in some villages, and then we'll minister this evening in a worship service at one of those places.

This is why I came to India. There is no other place I'd rather be right now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

India 2012: Day 5

Still on the train...

We are in the state of Punjab now. Another three or so hours to go. It's been a long ride.

We are diverting from Jammu-Kashmir for now because some opportunities for medical camps developed in Punjab, and we are taking them. We will proceed to Jammu City on Saturday.

I'm still in conversation with my new Muslim friend Mohamed. It seems that Christianity is not the direction he wants to go right now. But I have hope. We have exchanged email addresses, and desire to continue the conversation both on Christianity and business.

I have made another friend on the train: an Indian army soldier who is traveling to his new post in Kashmir. He is a believer in Christ, and has appreciated the encouragement. He is going to a very dangerous area, where terrorism is very prevalent, and there is one soldier for every two civilians.

Interesting note: That's where we are going too! In fact, we are seeing a greater presence of Indian army and security forces at the train stations the farther north we go.

(For any of my Indian friends following this Blog, we just passed through the city of Jalandhar Cantonment.)

Check in again soon for my next Blog post. My plan is to update daily. If you think others would like the read, share in your Facebook status, or send the link. Thanks for following!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

India 2012: Day 4

I apologize. I was wrong. It wasn't intentional...

I had indicated in previous posts that our train journey from Andhra Pradesh was 37 hours long. I was misinformed. It is actually going to be 44 hours!

I am writing from the train even now. Pastor Daniel has a mobile connection for his laptop, so I'm connected!

Our team of seven began the journey Tuesday evening, boarding the train after a 30 minute ride to the station. We left around 7:00, and I survived the first night.

It's 9:30 am as I write this post, and we are slowing down as we approach a station somewhere in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

I have already connected with a young Muslim man from Srinigar, our eventual destination  We have talked about business, places to visit in Srinigar, import-export, and of course Christianity. Our connection will make the journey much more pleasant. I'm expecting more conversation, and a conversion!

I will update again as the internet permits. Until then, please continue to check my Blog for updates, and 'share', forward, and tweet this link.

Monday, May 14, 2012

India 2012: Day 3

A quiet day for the team as we prepare for tomorrow's 37 hour train journey to Jammu/Kashmir. I studied, read, and took a quick shopping trip this evening on the back of a motorcycle. Preparation tomorrow, then we leave for the train station in the late afternoon.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

India 2012: Day 2

Today was a great day, as I was privileged to speak in three different churches, two this morning and one tonight.

I was taken by car across the city at 7:00 this morning and spoke in a small church with about 75 people present. They are people hungry for God's presence in a Hindu community. I encouraged them to follow the path the Lord puts in front of them, even if there are difficulties.

Then I was shuttled back to Pastor Daniel's church where over 750 gathered for worship and God's Word. I shared with this exciting congregation that God wants to use them to reach many people in this city, even as he already has.

Their mission is church planting, and they have been very successful at it. I prayed for about 250 people, and then had lunch and got to rest. It was a long morning.

This evening, I spoke at one of those church plants, where they held their first service in a newly constructed building. Well, it was eight pillars, a concrete roof, and half of a back wall, but it was their church building! They will continue to hold their worship services there as the construction continues.

The church is located in the middle of a large village, and as the only Christian witness there, they are over 250 strong while meeting for the past few years in the outdoors under a grove of trees. Wow!

Tomorrow is a day of rest and preparation for Tuesday's 37 hour train journey to Jammu-Kashmir in the north of India where we will conduct our medical camps.

Keep following this Blog, and if you think others would like the read, share it with them in your Facebook status, or email or tweet the link. Thanks for following!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

India 2012: Day 1

The adventure continues...It began when I boarded the first of 4 flights to get to India. But I am here, safe, and tired!

I arrived in Hyderabad at 3:00 am on Saturday morning (India time), retrieved my luggage, proceeded through customs, then traveled by car for three hours to Kazipet.

I took a short nap, then spoke to over 500 at a the monthly Saturday service here at Ecclesia Ministries. After the traditional "garlanding", I spoke to the people, encouraging them to look to God in the face of problems with a story from the life of the prophet Elisha, accompanied by my faithful translator Jesher.

I then spent the next two hours praying for well over 300 people individually. They were hungry for a touch from God, and many had needs that I prayed for.

Every ten minutes or so we'd stop and listen to testimonies of people who had just been healed, physically or emotionally. It was a great beginning day to this trip to India!

Tomorrow I speak at three different churches here in Kazipet, beginning at 7:30 am. I think the "Biking Pastor" will be making a comeback (my mode of transport shuttling between churches)... I love it!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

India: I Never Look Back

This Thursday I begin my journey to India. This will be the 9th time I will be going there to minister. I will be partnering with Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu, whom I have ministered with for seven of the eight previous times that I have been to this beautiful country.

Let me begin by saying I am grateful for Pastor Charles Schmitt of Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, whom I served with for 10 years before moving to Florida a year ago. Pastor Charles invited me to travel with him to India, and he put a passion in my heart for the Indian people. I have never looked back.

Pensacola, Memphis, Houston, Dubai, and Hyderabad is my air travel itinerary, then by car for three hours to Kazipet, Andhra Pradesh where I will begin speaking a few hours after I arrive.

After a few days of ministering in that area, our team will board the train for a 37 hour trip to Jammu in Kashmir, where we will conduct medical camps during the day, and then crusades in the evening.

We will make our way north by vehicle, conducting medical camps along the way, and ultimately end up in the beautiful city of Srinagar in the Himalayas for more ministry. This region is a very Muslim-dominated area, close to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad, Dubai, Houston, Atlanta, and Pensacola are the stops for my journey home after 17 days.

I encourage you to follow this Blog during these days. I will be updating as often as logistically possible (travel and censorship restrictions might pose a challenge, but my goal is daily).

I ask you to encourage others to follow, to share my posts in your Facebook status, and to forward this link via email. I want you to participate with me on this trip.

Thank you for being a regular reader of Big Cloud Blog. I am honored.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Sound In The Silence

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We walk into the house and turn on the television. We start the car and turn on the radio. We sit down to study and put in our iPod ear buds.

It seems we are the most comfortable when there is some kind of noise going on around us.

Why is it that we gravitate toward noise and shun silence? What causes us to be uncomfortable in the quiet?

Perhaps it has to do with our inability to create our own sound in our silence. We need an outside source to stimulate our senses, rather than allow our imagination to inspire us. We aren't content with our quiet.

Or maybe in the silence we are forced to listen to what is in our hearts, and we've been avoiding that play list.

There is an ancient proverb that says: I've cultivated a quiet heart. I kind of like that: I've cultivated a quiet heart. In fact, I see four valuable truths in that short statement.
  • I've - The responsibility is on the individual person to produce a quiet heart. No placing blame on parents, no indictment of upbringing, no criticizing the one's lack of educational opportunities. If it's to be accomplished, then I must work to accomplish it.
  • Cultivated - A long-term strategy that requires discipline, consistency, and time. There are no shortcuts in cultivation. Farmers don't plant trees that already have fruit. They plant seeds, and do what it takes to produce fruit-bearing plants.
  • Quiet - Herein lies the key. It is quiet that needs to be sought. Silence must be stronger than noise, stillness must be greater than commotion. To be satisfied with silence is to be comfortable with one's self.
  • Heart - I believe that it is not the mind that is the center of the person, but rather the heart. That is why quiet needs to be cultivated in the heart. The same author of the proverb also said: Above all else guard your heart, for everything else flows from it.
I challenge us all to take the time to cultivate a quiet heart. Consistently turn off the noise and live in the quiet. Concentrate to your creativity. Meditate on God's Word. Receive what your Creator is saying to you. You will find plenty of sound in the silence.

Question: Do you find it difficult to be satisfied with silence? Share your thoughts below in comments.
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