Tuesday, September 30, 2014

India #12: Day 5

One of my life verses is 2 Timothy‬ ‭2‬:‭2‬: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
I was able to personify that verse today as I had the privilege of teaching at the Immanuel's School of the Bible on the Ecclesia Ministries campus. The hungry and eager students literally drank in every word I spoke as I shared the importance of Character, Conviction, and Commitment for those in ministry. Their reception was warm, but their spirits burned with a desire to minister in the unreached regions of India. Oh that we would have that same spirit!

One of the most important things I did on this trip was to spend this afternoon with Pastor Daniel planning and strategizing my next trip to India in April of 2015. We will once again assenble a team of doctors and nurses (this time joined by my brother-in-law Dr. Patrick Kennedy), and travel via the Indian railway by night, and by day conducting medical camps and crusades in the poor and remote villages across India.

Our ultimate destination will be Srinagar in the Kashmiri Himalayas, where will conduct medical camps, and also hold a covert Bible Conference for the many recent Muslim converts to Christianity. 

I have not yet left Indian soil (I am in the airport awaiting my flight home), but I am already looking forward to my next time in India! Thank you for following and supporting me!

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Monday, September 29, 2014

India #12: Day 3 & 4

Remembering that India's time zone is 9½ ahead of the USA's Eastern Time, I figured I'd go ahead and update the events from the last two days in this post.

Sunday morning dawned bright and hot, but that what most of India wakes up to every day. I was still excited from the night before (see yesterday's post), and I was anticipating a great time of worship and the Word with the people of Ecclesia Church, where my host Daniel Kalyanapu is the pastor.

Loud and heartfelt praise greeted me as I entered the meeting room filled with passionate people declaring their love for Jesus. My heart literally leaped as I saw so many familiar faces of the people whom I have grown to love over the past six years. I have lost count of the number of times I have had the privilege of sharing with their wonderful people.

Once again I was "shawled & garlanded", an experience that I do not take lightly. The Indian way of expressing honor consisting of leaders gathering around the honoree, a shawl is draped over my shoulders, and a garland of fresh flowers is placed around my neck. Handshakes and words of blessing from the leaders follow. It is truly a memorable and fun experience.

I brought a word of encouragement to the people about Jesus' love for His people from John 21, translated by Pastor Daniel. And then I prayed for several hundred of the people, hungry for a touch from God. If is always an encouragement to me to see so many seeking more of the Lord.

On Sunday afternoon we traveled the three hours to Hyderabad for the wedding rehearsal of Victor Kalyanapu, the son of Pastor Daniel's brother Joy David. Over the past few years I have become good friends with Victor who lives in the USA, but came to India for his wedding. Joy David asked me to give the wedding message at Victor's wedding if my schedule would allow, so we coordinated dates and it worked out that I was here in India for the wedding.

I shared not only a word at the rehearsal, but also was honored to stand before the couple, their family, friends and guests at the wedding ceremony, and share God's Word with them. What a blessing it was for to me to participate in a wedding like this!

Tonight we travel back to Kazipet where Tuesday morning I will address the students of Immanuel's School of the Bible here. Then in the afternoon it's the beginning of my long journey back to United States. Thank you for following this Blog!

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

India #12: Day 2

As I write this post, I am about to preach at the Sunday morning worship service here at Ecclesia Church, my home base while in India. Part of my anticipation and excitement is because of last night, and the powerful meeting we had.
We traveled for 1½ hours to a remote village, most of it on a pothole-strewn road (actually it was more like an asphalt-strewn pothole). The farther we traveled, the deeper we went into the "country". We finally arriving at a humble "church" (a tent awning set up on the ground in front of a small concrete platform).

As our team exited the vehicle, we could hear the people passionately worshipping with no instruments other than a drum and a tambourine. I was surprised to find over 150 people had gathered in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.

Makeshift lights had been set up, and even as some of our team lead a worship song, two young men were stringing another light from one of the tent poles, plugging the bare wires into an open receptacle. Ah, India!

About a week ago the Lord had put a word in my heart from John 5 where Jesus healed a man by a pool who had been crippled for 38 years. I sensed that this was the time and place to share that word.

I preached the message of Jesus' love for us, and how he simply wants us to believe in Him, trusting Him to meet every one of our needs. I knew God's Spirit was strong as the word was spoken.

There was an excitement in the air when we gave the "altar call" response time, and well over half of the people came forward for prayer. There were so many needs expressed (translated to me through the altar workers), and led by the Spirit of God I laid hands and prayed for every person who came forward. AIDS, broken marriages,  cancer, pains, deafness, fever, evil spirits, and many more needs were expressed and prayed for.

I was so focused on praying for the people that I did not realize that person after person was publicly testifying to God immediately meeting their needs, bring healing, release, peace, and salvation.

One woman who was literally doubled over and in great pain, having been diagnosed with stomach cancer, stood with a smiling face and an upright stance and told of how the pain immediately left her as she was prayed for.

On an on the people spoke of God for meeting their needs because they simply trusted in Him, and in Him alone.

I am not a skeptic. I am a believer. When desperate people bring their needs to Jesus, trusting in Him and Him alone, God shows up and brings salvation, healing, and life!

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

India #12: Day 1

After traveling for just under 28 hours I arrived at the Ecclesia Ministries campus at 6 am local time on Saturday. As I watched the dawn slowly transform the Indian countryside as I rode by car from the Hyderabad airport to Kazipet (a three hour trip), reality hit as I once again I found myself in India!

A most welcomed bucket shower, followed by a couple hours of sleep refreshed me enough to take on the day. Also most welcomed was an excellent indian meal prepared by Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu's wife Azuba. It is good to always good to connect with Pastor Daniel and his family, sharing stories and encouragements.

As we ate, Pastor Daniel asked me to bring a word with the 60 faithful who gather every Saturday afternoon for prayer. I brought a brief word on the power of praise from Psalm 138. Hungry hearts seeking the Lord!

This evening we travel about 50 km for a village outreach. I love sharing God's love with the Indian people, and seeing lives changed and encouraged!

Check in tomorrow for more!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

India #12: It's Here!

Here I go again... I am leaving after work this Thursday for a short mission trip among the people I love: The Indian people! An opportunity opened for me and I am stepping in.
On the day I was to fly home from my last India trip back in March, one of my good friends whom I partner with while there, Joy David Kalyanapu (Daniels brother), posed a question to me: Would I come back to India at the end of September and perform the wedding ceremony for his oldest son Victor? (Victor lives here in the US and I connect with him any chance I get.)
Of course I was honored to be asked, and told him I would pray with my wife about it. I returned to the US, and over the next three months, we talked and prayed. We knew it would be a time and financial pinch, but we also sensed that I needed to go.
I am grateful to my insurance agent boss who understands my heart for India, and worked with me around the days Id be gone from the office.
Some friends and family were gracious with giving to help a little with my trip, I had a few vacation days left, so here I go!
I asked Joy David and Daniel to load me up with preaching and ministry opportunities, and my schedule will be full, speaking multiple times every day I am there.
I return on Wednesday night and I am back at the insurance office on Thursday. (Whew!)
A short trip, but one I know will be very fruitful! Pray, follow this Blog as I will be posting daily once I get in-country, and believe with me that India #12 will be an incredible time!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Journey

Life is a journey. Even if we spend our entire lives in the same place, the relationships, events, lessons, and changes make it a journey.
My wife and I began a journey together over 37 years ago, and it has been an incredible journey for both of us. We have no regrets whatsoever as to having chosen each other to "travel" with.

Our journey together is taking on a new turn, a different feel, a untrodden path.

Three years ago we moved to Northwest Florida from the Washington, DC area, where I partnered at a church with a pastor friend while he was recovering from a liver transplant. During that time I also worked at a State Farm insurance agency for our income.

Also during this time, my ministry in India has remained a very large part of my life. I continue to travel there on a yearly basis, as well as raise money and send support to the Indian pastors I work with.

In October, my State Farm agent (who has been a friend for over 30 years) was offered a large agency in Ft. Lauderdale. He invited me to join him in South Florida to work with him. I thanked him for the offer but didn't feel it was God's will. My agent told me that the job was always there if I was interested.

That conversation in October became the catalyst for a five month re-evaluation and search for God's purpose for my wife and me. My Pastor friend had gotten better, and he released us to pursue that while we continued to lead worship at the church.

About a week before I left for India on March 6th, my agent (who was already in transition to begin at the new agency on April 1st) called me again and made a new offer that would meet our financial needs, as well as provide more time for my India ministry.

Once again my wife and I went before the Lord with this, and this time we both were confident that this is what we were to do. Of course our two grown children who live with us want to move down also! (An added bonus: Our middle son Zach and his wife and daughter live in Ft. Lauderdale!)

So four days after I returned from India I was on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale, while Elaine was in the process of listing our house for sale. As soon as it sells, Elaine, Eric, and Elisha will join me here. Until then I am bunking on Zach's couch as I help with the agency transition.

This is an exciting change for us! Although I will not be formerly ministering on a church staff, I will still be ministering. I have always been a proponent of marketplace ministry, and I will have the opportunity to expand my influence in the marketplace of Ft. Lauderdale!

My youth pastor used to say, "You can minister anywhere." Here we go!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

India #11: Epiblog

Having had a few days to physically recover, spiritually decompress, and emotionally reconnect with my family, I have reflected on my India #11 Mission Trip.
For me, this was the most challenging, yet the most rewarding trip that I have taken. The days and nights were brutal: Medical camps during the day, train rides by night to the next location. This was the first week!

Beginning the second week, we remained based in Jammu in the same place and did Medical campus during the day, and held a three night crusade in the evenings. Then we travelled a bit, had our famous two-mile mountain trek to a remote location for a camp (see previous post). And we still hadn't made the really long journey through the mountains to Srinagar in Kashmir!

That drive was a faith-builder, with hairpin turns, rock slides, heavy rain that turned into snow, narrow passes, and of course the usual assortment of cars, trucks, buses, buffalo, cows, and goats. But after 12 hours we made it (well after our SUV broke down just a few miles from our destination. So myself and the doctors went on ahead to conduct a Medical Camp while the rest of the team awaited repairs). Whew!

The last day in Srinagar was very special. Pastor Daniel and I sent the team back home via vehicle (remember the 12 hour trek mentioned above?) to Jammu to catch a train back to Kazipet. He and I prepared to board a plane back to Hyderabad where I would catch my flight to the US.

On the morning of our departure, the owner of the hotel (more like Motel 6) where we were staying heard that we were a team of Doctors and asked if we'd look at his daughter. She was 14, but at age 6 had endured a botched spinal tap and was physically & mentally challenged. Pastor Daniel indicated that our Doctors had already left for home, but I motioned to him that I wanted to pray for her.

Pastor Daniel wisely told to the owner to come back with his daughter later (when our local Srinagari pastor Kelu - whom I have mentioned on numerous occasions on this Blog - would be with us to "translate"). The real reason was this: This region is heavily Muslim, and we did not want to jeopardize Kelu's influence, but rather would defer to his judgement on if we should pray for her or not. He is constantly targeted for his Christian beliefs, and we did not want to hinder any work he was doing.

When Kelu arrived he spoke with the owner, and felt that it would be alright to proceed with indicating we were Christians and we wanted to pray for the girl. And so we did (see picture above). I am believing that God is healing her and that the family will come to Christ as a result!

For me it was a glorious ending to an incredible trip! Thank you for following!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

India #11 - Day 12

I love ministering among the Kashmiri people in and around Srinagar. They are gracious, they love conversation (I do my best), and they have need of the love of Jesus.

We conducted a very large Medical Camp in a village about 10 miles away from the center of Srinagar. Once again our host Kelu organized the camp in a village where he is seeking to have a spiritual impact. These are Muslims, and to reach them we must have a specific strategy. That is why we are here.

Our Doctors saw right at 400 people! It was almost overwhelming at times as the people crowded in on the doctors, not giving them any room to see, talk to patients, distribute medicines, or even breathe.

Several of the people asked if I was a doctor. I responded no, I'm Security. Myself and a local man did our best to keep the people back and give the doctors some breathing room, but I think it was an exercise In futility.

But when it was all over, it was a satisfying feeling knowing we helped pave the way for our host to minister. We come to do "social work" among the Muslim people, raising the status of the local pastors. They in turn effectively use our actions to build the Kingdom of God.

I cannot say enough about those who put their lives on the line every day bringing the love of Jesus to the Muslim people in this region. My heart is is so drawn to them, especially Kelu. I got to spend a few hours with him this evening encouraging him, and blessing him with a laptop for his ministry.

Yesterday I called him my hero. After being with him another day, and seeing his heart in action, as well as hearing his heart in conversation, I'm calling him my Super Hero!

Thank you for following!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

India #11 - Day 11

Another adventurous day for our team! Our plan was to catch a few hours of rest in a hotel (remember to think Motel 6) in Udhampur, and try to be on the road at midnight because of the long drive to Srinagar and the medical camps we were to conduct today.

Because of forecasted storms, we decided to sleep until 3:00 am and be on the road by 4:00 so we'd have more light on the mountain road. I'm glad we did!

It was pouring rain when we left the hotel, and it continued as a steady rain. The temperature was in the mid-40's, and even on a warm and sunny day the road is treacherous. The paving is full of holes, at times it is only wide enough for one vehicle, there are sheer drop-offs of 2,000 feet with no guardrail, there are blind switchbacks, and the road is 230 miles long.

Now add the rain and the fact that our vehicle had no defroster so the driver kept his window open to help keep the windshield un-fogged. Remember it was in the mid-40's and got colder as we went north and higher in elevation.

And then there were the rockslides. Three times we stopped while loaders cleared the debris. The last one had us and about 300 other vehicles stopped for 40 minutes. Exciting yet? Just wait...

When we reached the right altitude the rain turned into snow! Add that to the mix and you can see why I called it an adventure! Plus, it was beautiful seeing the mountains covered with snow. But the real beauty was the Lord's protection and empowerment of our hired driver.

There is a mile-and-a-half long tunnel about 60 miles from Srinagar that passes through a mountain. I joked that at least it won't be snowing in the tunnel. When we came out on the other side, God's favor shone in the sunshine! Yes, it was still below freezing (driver's window is still open), but the weather was much better.

We finally approached Srinagar after 12 hours on the road, and 6 miles from the city limits our fan belt broke... Adventure! We called our host pastor Kelu, a converted Muslim, and he came to get us in a four passenger car (there are six on our team, plus luggage). Hmmmm...

Pastor Daniel made the decision for myself, the two doctors, and nurse to accompany Kelu directly to the Medical Camp where the people had been waiting for hours for our arrival.

Kelu is strategically seeking to reach the predominantly Muslim population. One of his strategies is to provide free Medical Camps in the poor areas. Our goal: Serve the people, meet needs, and raise Kelu's esteem in the community. He then gently shares the love of Jesus, and little by little he is winning Muslims to Christ and planting churches.

I am so impressed by Kelu's commitment and sacrifice. Daily he puts his life on the line. He has been beaten, dumped out of his house, threatened, vandalized, and has suffered greatly. And yet he still loves the people and ministers with humility.

He is my hero. Thank you for following!

Monday, March 17, 2014

India #11 - Day 10

"Outdoor Adventure" would be a great way to describe today's Medical Camp. Because of traffic restrictions on the road to Srinagar in the northern part of Kashmir (also in the Himalayas), we were not able to travel there today. So a couple of local pastors put together a Medical Camp... In the mountains!

After a 12 km drive over a steep, bumpy, switchback-filled one-lane road, our team had to hike two miles over another mountain to a poor Muslim village. It was a steep, rocky climb and decent, but when it was over, we are glad we went.

A village full of needs is how I would describe it. Malnutrition, sickness, and crippling disease were all present among these poor people who scratched a meager living out of the mountain for generations.

Our doctors patiently ministered to every person, dispensing medicine and compassion. The local pastors and I silently prayed as we touched the people and offered smiles and peace.

A merger meal of beans and rice was apologetically offered to our team. I asked one of the local pastors to tell the hostess that to me, this was a feast, as beans and  rice are a regular of my diet.

Goodbyes were exchanged, and the team had the challenge of hiking back out of the area, over the same mountain. A meal at a local pastor's home this evening, some rest in a hotel, and we are on the road at midnight to Srinagar!

Thank you for following!

India #11 - Day 9

There is never a way to compare the days on a mission trip. Every day brings excitement, adventure, ministry, and unexpected encounters.

This morning we held a worship service on the Crusade grounds for the people who had no church home. Because I've been battling laryngitis since I arrived in India, I deferred to Pastor Daniel to bring the message so I could save my voice for this evening's final Crusade meeting.

A modest crowd of 72 (yes, I counted) worshipped, and were encouraged by Pastor Daniel's word. We had a quick lunch in a home adjacent to the site, and then our doctors went to work with the people on the Crusade grounds. Pastor Daniel and I went in search of an Internet cafe so I could upload yesterday's Blog post.

Today was a one-day Hindu festival where people throw water balloons and also balloons filled with brightly colored powder (think dry tempura paint from grade school) at each other and at unsuspecting passersby. I didn't think much about as we were out and about. I should have...

Later in the afternoon our interpreter, one of the host pastors, and myself were traveling in an auto-rickshaw to the Crusade grounds to gather the medical team. On the way we were pelted by pink paint powder thrown by some young men on a motorcycle, dousing all of with the colored stuff. It was quite a sight... I look pretty good in pink!

This evening was the final night of the Jammu crusade. The crowd had doubled from Saturday night, and after we were led in passionate worship by the singers and band, Pastor Daniel and I had the privilege of ordaining seven men as pastors. It is humbling to impart words of challenge and encouragement to men who will literally put their lives on the line for Christ.

Finally, I got to Preach to the people! A quick, pointed, and passionate message on Jesus. Pastor Daniel followed me and drew the net, and once again hundreds responded to the message of salvation. It was overwhelming...

We are adjusting our plans a bit on Monday: We were to spend the day traveling to Srinagar to complete our ministry with two days of medical camps among the Muslims. Because of road restrictions, we won't be able to leave until Tuesday. But, with the help of some local pastors, two medical camps have been hastily organized about one-fourth of the way to Srinagar.

It stays exciting and unexpected, but unpredictable is the norm here. Thank you for following!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

India #11 - Day 8

If one word could describe today, it would be "Wow!" So much happened, so many people were touched by the love of God.

After a little difficulty in securing a vehicle big enough to hold our team and host pastor, we made our way out of Jammu and headed west across the mountains. The farther we traveled, the greater the Indian military presence was in the area. Heavily armed troops were everywhere. Base after base came and went as our SUV drove by. We even encountered a small convoy carrying a general and his staff.

I soon found out why: We were on the Kashmir-Pakistan border! It is a very volatile stretch of land, with both sides claiming the ground of the other. Our medical camps were in two different good-sized towns along that very border.

The first camp was held in the courtyard (think a 20x20 dung-floored surface) outside of a simple thatch-roofed house owned by a family of Believers in the middle of a farming neighborhood.

I am pretty confident I was one of the first "white people" to be in that town because there were many curious looks, and much apprehension when I approached for conversation.

Our medical team went to work seeing patients and dispensing medicines, while I moved about the courtyard helping the in-firmed, silently praying, and seeking to engage the people.

I watched as an older gentleman unhooked his small horse from an ancient cart, gather some grass on a pail, and feed it to the tired animal. The man saw me watching, came over to me and shook my hand with a smile. He reached inside his shirt and showed me attached to a chain around his neck, a cross that he he proudly wore. He was a Believer, and even though I did not understand his words, wanted me to know it!

Our second camp was held in the church building of a newly planted ministry in a different town. Here we were greeted by people anxious to see the doctors, and a pastor and team of committed servants anxious to show what God was doing. The pastor is a young man that I met six years earlier in my first visit to Jammu. Now I was able to see in person the ministry that I have been praying for.

This evening we held the second night of a three-day Crusade in the Jammu city center. Loud worship, fervent prayer, and passionate preaching marked the night.

I spoke to the people about how Jesus healed a blind man who called out to Him, and how they likewise needed to also call out to Him to have their needs met. Pastor Daniel followed with a word on God's love for us, and when the altar call was given hundreds came forward, calling out to Jesus!

Bonus: Yesterday a mother and child came to me for prayer. The mother explained that some abnormalities had been diagnosed in the child that would affect her later in life, and that extensive testing was done. The test results would be revealed the next day (today). I prayed that the results would come back negative, and that the mother would not fear but rather have faith. The mother and daughter returned tonight and with a big smile said that everything was normal with the child... The tests results were negative!

Wow! Thanks for following!

Friday, March 14, 2014

India #11 - Day 7

After a 22 hour train ride on the Indian railway (our 4th train in five days), we finally arrived in the city of Jammu in Kashmir. Our host pastors received us at the train station. It was great to reconnect with friends I have known for six years now!

We got some rest in our hotel rooms, then made our way to the Crusade grounds: A rocky field surrounded by apartments on all sides. There was a stage, a sound system, large carpets spread on the ground for the people to sit on, about 150 chairs for those who wanted one, and a tent covering the stage and the first 60 feet in front of it.

As we arrived the atmosphere was electric with worship as a team of nine singers and a band (think harmoniums [Indian keyboard] and tabla [Indian drums]) led the people in passionate praise in the Hindi language.

A crowd of over 800 had already gathered, and more people continued to come as the meeting progressed. I preached a simple message on the salvation found in Jesus, Pastor Daniel shared a short word about faith, and the altar call was given.

Over 75 people came forward, and I prayed for every one individually! Salvation, healing, relationships, and many other needs were voiced. We believe that God did a great work, and many souls were added to the Kingdom tonight!

Tomorrow (Saturday) is our first medical camp in Jammu area. Our medical team is ready to work hard all day, then tomorrow evening day two of the three-day crusade.

Keep praying, keep following... Thanks!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

India #11 - Day 6

A dusty dirt track across some low hills, driving through a ravine deep enough to swallow our SUV, temperature in the upper 90's, and a farming village full of Christians. That was the setting of today's medical camp.

We loaded up and left our hotel this morning, traveled again on some "interesting" roads (see yesterday's post for a description), and in three hours made our way over the above mentioned dirt track to our destination.

As our team walked from our vehicle to a house, we heard the joyous sound of voices and percussion instruments. (There is no church building in this village - just a pastor, and a group of 70 people who love Jesus.) The people had already gathered in anticipation of our arrival and worshipped God as they waited.

We entered the thatched-roof outer room and it was filled, literally wall-to-wall with people, sitting and kneeling with their hands and voices raised. We could barely gain access to the front of the room where a hastily created "stage" (three chairs) awaited pastor Daniel, our interpreter, and myself.

What a privilege it was to encourage these people to simply love each other, and to dwell together in unity. I believe that is is an important word for the church, for any church. How will the world know that we are Christ's followers, that Jesus came from the Father if we don't love each other?.

When we were finished our doctors began to see people and minister in their skill. All told, our doctors saw 80+ people. When we finished we were treated to an excellent Indian meal provided by the owners of the humble home where met.

We departed for another three-plus hours on the road, heading to the train station where we boarded our train to Jammu, 22 hours away.

We had one bonus as we drove: I was able to share Christ with our hired SUV driver, a young Hindu man, and through Dr. Pratibha's clear translation, lead the young man to Jesus!

Right now I am being jostled about on my top berth as our train races north, hoping we'll pass through an area with a strong enough cell signal so I can upload this Blog post.

I love this life! Thank you for following!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

India #11 - Day 5

After a five hour train journey during the evening and first part of the night, we arrived somewhere sometime and checked into a hotel for some much needed rest. Travel on the Indian railway isn't like the Amtrak... But it sure beats walking!

This morning we checked out of the hotel (remember to think Motel 6) and traveled by SUV for a couple of hours across some "interesting" roads. Most of the time they were one-lane broken asphalt tracks winding through hills, but some of the time were "washed out 7-foot wide dirt and rock paths" with gullies deep enough to lose a large dog in.

Our destination was a couple of villages we were to conduct medical camps in, among new Christian believers as a result of church plants in a radical Hindu region. That's a mouthful for a purpose.

The work is difficult here, both spiritually and physically. These people live off of the land as they have for generations, scratching the earth to squeeze out cotton, corn, chenna (chick peas), mangoes, and wheat. Spiritually it is difficult because of the radical Hindu influence in the region that attacks Christian converts.

The pastors are heroes, faithfully spreading the gospel with little in return except for souls. I got the privilege of encouraging both groups from God's Word, and both pastors with simple love.

Tomorrow we travel by SUV for 6 ½ hours ( see above road description) to our next medical camp location.

Still loving it... Thanks for following!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

India #11 - Day 4

Craziness! That is what describes our nights and days here...

I am sitting in a train compartment at a junction station, grabbing a wireless signal, hoping our train doesn't leave before I can finish this post. It is 9:20 pm on Tuesday, and we completed a medical camp in the middle of a Muslim community in Bhopal, Madrha Pradesh.

I reconnected with a former Muslim priest who came to Christ four years ago,  and I had the privilege of ordaining to the ministry alongside of Pastor Charles from Immanuel's Church. As I spoke with him and he introduced me to new converts and those who had received water baptism as recently as this past Sunday, I was moved to tears as I considered the great personal risk he takes every day sharing the love of Christ with the Muslim people.

I am humbled to have been in the presence of a real hero.

Our doctors saw over 80 patients administering medicine, while I shared smiles and handshakes, and whispered silent prayers for the salvation of those we encountered.

Our train journey tonight ends at 10:00, when we will check into a hotel for anew hours of rest, then rise to travel by vehicle to our next destination of Bagidora, Rajasthan where we will conduct two separate medical camps, then on the train again tomorrow night!

Our train is leaving the station... Gotta go!

Craziness yes, but loving it! Thank you for following!

Monday, March 10, 2014

India #11 - Day 3

Whew... What a first day on the road! (On the rail?) We boarded the train in Pastor Daniel's city of Kazipet on Sunday evening and headed for the state of Maharashtra.

The team arrived in the town of Rajura where we were met by our local host pastor on the train platform just before 2:00 in the morning. A 15 minute trip to our hotel for a few hours of rest (think Motel 6, but if there's a power cut you won't find a light on), then we woke this morning and headed for our first medical camp of the day.

Picture an outlying, poor farming village, accessible by bad roads. Now picture a government school of dirty cement blocks in the middle of that village. Muddy roads, muddy paths and courtyards, oxen, cows, goats, dogs, chickens, adults, children, and motor vehicles. We were right in the middle of it!

Our doctors saw a little over 70 people, about half of them young school children. This is a radical Hindu region so there was no crusade meeting. However, Pastor Daniel and I prayed for people as they requested it. My prayer for each person: That they would find Jesus!

We had lunch at the local pastor's home, and now we are back at the hotel for a couple hours of rest.(We actually were in the midst of a power cut when I stepped into our room, so no light was on!)

Later this afternoon we will launch a second medical camp in a different un-reached village, have a light dinner at 7:00, then head to the railway station to board an overnight express train to Rajasthan. There we will disembark onTuesday morning and go directly to our next medical camp location.

Loving it... Thank you for following!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

India #11 - Day 2

A single service, but a powerful time in the presence of the Lord! It is always a privilege when I am asked to speak to the people of Ecclesia Ministries during their main Sunday worship service.

Over 1,200 people, hungry for the Word of God and seeking the Presence of God! That's the makeup of the Sunday morning "crowd". The worship was passionate, the people welcomed me, and after our medical camp team were prayed for (three doctors, one nurse, Pastor Daniel, and me), I was handed the mic to being the message.

Through my interpreter I shared God's formula for peace from II Chronicles 14. It's a wonderful story about God's people pursuing God's heart. Take a minute and read it!

After the message I prayed for people, then had lunch at 2:00. Some counseling with leaders, and packing for our train journey completed my afternoon. We leave at 4:30 for the railway station and an overnight trip to our first medical camp.

Thanks for following!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

India #11 - Day 1

Whew! Finally made it to India after multiple flights and airports. I arrived in Hyderabad at 8:30 pm on Friday, and finally got to bed at 1:45 am Saturday morning.

We had our second Saturday Revival service at Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu's church. I began the meeting by greeting the people from myself and my son Zach, who had accompanied me to India a year ago, but because of a new job wasn't able to join me this year.

I then preached a message of salvation and God's Unmeasurable Grace. Many were saved, many were healed, and many were encouraged. I know I was!

Some meetings to encourage members of Pastor Daniel's family today and the evening, then a big Sunday worship service tomorrow morning, Later tomorrow we board the Indian Railway for an overnight journey to our first medical camp.

Love it! Thanks for following...

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

India 2014: It's Here!

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In less than two days I will be on a plane on my way to DFW, where I will catch my flight to Dubai, then on to Hyderabad, in the state of Andhra Pradesh of India. My 11th missions trip to India is here!
In 2007 when I first traveled to India, God captured my heart with the Indian people and since then I find myself desiring to be on Indian soil more and more. However, job, responsibilities, available vacation time, and finances now limit my visits to once a year, but I am grateful for the opportunity.

This year I will once again be partnering with Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu, ministering in and around Kazipet. Then we will be joined by a small team of doctors and nurses and will travel by the Indian railway to points north, ministering in medical camps among the poor, ultimately making our way to the city of Srinagar in Kashmiri Himalayas.

I covet your prayers. That is first and foremost. Also, I invite you to follow my journey daily, as I will be regularly blogging about our trip, and the people, the meetings, and the miracles along the way.

You can easily join my Blog mailing list. Simply type your email address on the top right of this page where it says Receive This Blog By Email. My latest post will arrive in your email inbox.

My wife has a saying about my India mission trips: "When Brad goes to India, God shows off and Brad gets to be a part of it!"

Thanks for following!

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Practice, Practice, Practice

(Click here to read about my upcoming trip to India.)

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(The following is a re-post of a previously published post):

The old joke goes something like this: A tourist in New York City asks a man on the street, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" The man responds, "Practice, practice, practice."
That's sound wisdom for any artist or creative (and I believe that all of us are creative, because we were made in the image of the Great Creator). Practice.

So we sit in front of a music stand with our instrument, or at the pallet with our brushes, or with pen in hand and we practice.

But we need to think beyond traditional practice and look for creative ways to improve our craft. The writer looks at people and in their mind creates a "character" based on what they see. The painter always has their sketchbook handy for when they stumble upon a scene.

I remember as a Jr. High student, learning music in my Beginning Band class. My director was teaching us about intervals, and the relationship between notes. Wanting to master this fundamental, I would listen for sounds in "life" (the hum of a motor, a blaring car horn, the test pattern of a TV station), and practice humming intervals while identifying them in my mind.

To this day I still hum intervals when I hear a sustained tone. I think I'm being creative. My wife thinks I'm odd.

And then there are scales, the lifeblood of instrumental music. Wanting to use more than just my "band time" and my "personal practice time", I would (as a trumpet player) practice the fingering of the various scales by tapping them out on any surface my hand was on. (For you brass players reading this, when I took up the French horn in high school, I had to practice tapping with my left hand also!)

Again, I still find myself unconsciously moving my fingers in the sequence of a scale. I've noticed guitar players working on fingerings using their forearm as a fret board (a tell-tale sign you are a guitar player).

We should never stop practicing, even when we've "arrived". Practicing should be as much a part of our creativity as the performance. To this day, the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma regularly practices, sometimes five hours a day.

May I encourage all of us to continue to practice. Whether it be purposeful or casual, in preparation for an event or simply to hone your craft, practice. Your goal may not be Carnegie Hall, but the investment is worth the effort.

Question: What do you do to practice your craft/art? Share your thoughts below in comments.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Surprising Things To Learn About Yourself

(Click here to read about my upcoming trip to India!)

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I want to always be a learner. I hope I never come to the place where I feel that I cannot learn something new. Especially, I want to make sure I am learning about myself.
I have learned a lot about myself in the last few years because of two major changes in my life that have given me an entirely new perspective.
The first change was this: After working much of my adult life as a pastor supported by a church, I have spent the last three years working a "tentmaking" job, while continuing to minister on "my time". Here are some things I have learned:
  • I need to be less demanding with people. There is nothing wrong with challenging people. But between job, family, community, and relationships, most people do not have the amount of extra time to give to the church that the pastor wishes they would.
  • I need to be more creative with time. If I needed to call my mechanic or run to Lowe's to pick up a plumbing fitting, I would call my mechanic or run to Lowe's. Now, I must schedule my personal business either during my lunch hour, after I get off work in the evening, or on the weekend.
  • I need to be more purposeful with my free time. My free time has become less, and also very precious to me. I find myself reading less, writing less, and investing in relationships less. I need to make time during my free time to accommodate those listed disciplines.
The second change was this: I have been to India, multiple times. Here are some things I have learned:
  • I do not need to consume all of the food available to me. I stopped eating as much as I used to. I have seen multiple times where a family of four shares the same amount of food over the course of a day that I would eat in one meal.
  • I take luxuries like air conditioning and electricity for granted. I have stopped complaining when the power goes off. Regular "power cuts" are a daily occurrence in India, and they often happen during the hottest part of the day.
  • I don't always need the newest and the best. I have learned to value and preserve the possessions that I have been blessed with. Many Indian men have only three shirts in their closet. Some don't even have a closet. Old and worn, yet still functional describe many possessions of the people of India.
Please do not take these comments as a rant against materialism. Know that they are simply a confession of surprising things I have learned about myself.
Question: What have you learned ablout yourself by changing your perspective or lifestyle? Share your thoughts below in 'comments'.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Teaching Creative Thinking

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We love to have all the answers. When someone comes to with us with a problem, we want to be the one who solves it for them. We want to be a hero.
Our children's school project, our work group's assignment, our team's goal. We want to be know as the creative one: The smartest dad or mom in the world to our kids. The most knowledgeable boss or co-worker.
Part of that is because many of us have a need for validation or a desire to accomplish. When we are presented with a problem we act, we think, swe olve, we create.
But what if the person bringing us the problem needs also to learn how to solve problems for themselves? Part of us desires to do it ourselves because we're good at it (who hasn't built their child's volcano for the science fair?). Part of us desires to do it ourselves because it's easier for us to do it.
But with a little creativity we can use times like these as opportunities for growth and creative development in the lives of those we lead (children, students, employees, team members). When we get asked for help, consider responding by asking the person questions like these, so they can grow in their creativity and problem-solving skills:
  • What would you do?
  • How do you think it should work?
  • What would produce the most favorable result?
  • What if you're not able to pull it off?
  • Is that the best way?
  • If you had the time, what would you do differently?
  • If you had the money, what would you do differently?
Being creative may be easy for you. But reproducing that creativity in the life of another is a greater use of that creativity.
Question: When are you tempted to solve creatively rather than teach creativity? Share your thoughts below in 'comments'.
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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Creativity And Chaos

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I recently read a blog post where the author indicated that he had been less than frequent in his posting because of stress and work overload. I myself recently wrote a blog post indicating that my creative well was dry: I've Got Nothing.
Is there a correlation between stress and creativity? Does the amount of pressure that you face every day have a direct result on your output?

I know of some who thrive in a fast-paced, multi-tasking environment. They get bored if they're not doing at least five things.

I know of others who come up with some of their greatest ideas when the heat is on and the expectation level is high.

On the other hand, there are many who need a quiet and peaceful atmosphere to bring out their greatest creativity. For them calm is king.

The key is finding our what brings out the best from you.

Here are some tips for finding your creative sweet spot:
  • Try scheduling some quiet time where you are free from distractions. Does that work for you?
  • Evaluate yourself in groups and while alone. What place generates the most and best ideas?
  • Try creating in the morning, in the middle of the day, and at night. What fits you best?
  • Whatever works best for you, find a good app on your smart device or have an old school pen and notebook handy to facilitate recording creative thoughts and ideas.
Question: Which kind of person are you? Do you thrive in contentment or chaos? Share your thoughts below in 'comments'.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Influence On Cassette

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I got a text message from one of my sons asking about a song that a singer/songwriter I highly admire wrote. He wanted to know the title, but only had the general theme of the song to identify it. I remembered the song. I hadn't thought about it for about 20 years.
I was able to locate the song and some information about it through the artist's website. I sent my son the information, and then out of curiosity asked him what brought up the inquiry.

His response: I was listening to some of his older stuff. I remember listening to that particular one when I was a kid, going to sleep.

I remember playing music for my children when they were young, hoping that the message and mood of the songs would reinforce the Godly character qualities that my wife and I were seeking to instill into them. In this case the song was Daddy's Song by Dennis Jernigan.

Let me tell you that I was incredibly moved by his response. As a parent, my dream is that the daily, consistent influence that I have on my children will produce exceptional and eternal results.

My wife and I were very purposeful in the influence we were covering our children with. We were selective in what we would allow them to see/hear/experience, as well as creative on how we would expose them to positive life-altering influences.

In this case some cassette tapes by one of my favorite musicians, in a quiet room during bedtime was the choice. And from the comment made by my son, and seeing the Godly man he has become, I think this was a good choice.

You and I have multiple, daily opportunities to affect our children, grandchildren, spouses, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. How we consistently handle those opportunities will for the most part, determine the amount of influence we have.

Take advantage of those moments. Be purposeful. Be creative. Be about creating a legacy.

What are you creatively doing to influence the relationships you have? Share your thoughts below in 'comments'.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Scenes From A Hat

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The show "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" featured a game called Scenes From A Hat, where the host would randomly choose "scenes" that were compiled from audience suggestions, written on slips of paper, and placed in a hat (such as "What is the worse thing that has ever happened to you at work?"). Then the participants would act out the scene, usually with a hilarious result.
Each actor, in his or her own comedic way, could take a mundane and common scene (think: situation, relationship encounter, or everyday challenge) and make it laughable, oftentimes causing us to laugh at ourselves because of the absurd ways we tend to handle those scenes.

I know I would laugh as I identified with the situation and the response. Like me, most people can relate to the game Scenes From A Hat.

For most of us, life is like Scenes From A Hat. Daily we are faced with common and everyday situations, relationship encounters, and challenges. But instead of being an actor in a comedy "game" show, we are real people, dealing with real situations, which demand our response.

How do you react when faced with a selfish co-worker? How do you respond when asked to stay late and finish a project because your boss didn't plan well? When someone pulls out in front of you while driving, what is your first thought?

Just as the actors on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" get a few seconds to prepare, you actually have a few seconds to prepare your response.

Here are a few statements you can say to yourself, not just when engaging a Scene From A Hat, but as you begin every day, every relationship encounter, every meeting, every homework session with your kids, every conversation with your spouse:

  • I will be kind.
  • I will listen.
  • I will be grateful.
  • I will understand from the other person's perspective.
  • I will assume the other person has a legitimate reason for what they do.
  • I will not be selfish.
  • I will not make it about me.

You can survive life's Scenes From A Hat. All it takes is a little bit of life preparation, a character that is grounded in others over self, and maybe a Twix candy bar (you figure it out...).

Question: What do you do when faced with real life Scenes From A Hat? Share your thoughts below in 'comments.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Just Looking

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I am not a big fan of retail salespeople. I do understand that they are only seeking to make a living, to pay their rent, to feed their families. But I am built to make decisions without the pressure of a qualified specialist of the product I am looking at. If I need help, I'll ask for it.
So when asked if I need help, I usually respond: Just looking, thank you. Oftentimes the person is an hourly wage-earner who is there to simply fill their shift, to do their hours. That person will simply walk away, their duty fulfilled.

The ones who are commission-based (or who are truly seeking to be helpful) are a bit more aggressive and don't give up so easily. More questions come my way, which I seek to repel with disinterested indifference. Seriously: I'm just looking!

Now I know that there are some people who are just killing time when shopping and are really not interested in the products they are viewing. People like spouses, parents, and friends. They truly are Just Looking.

There are others who like to engage salespeople, make a "deal", and then go brag to their friends about how they outsmarted the salesperson.

Others simply drift along from store to store, aisle to aisle, scanning, passing, and genuinely not seeing unless something really catches their eye.

How many of us go through our lives Just Looking? Do we scan the scenery, events, and relationships with indifference, killing time as we move from day to day?

Rather than truly engaging what is happening around us, we're Just Looking.

May I challenge us to savor the moments, to go deeper in our relationships, to really listen to what another has to say, to make our story interesting, to seek to grow and be better, and in the process to make others better.

Do more than Just Looking. Be more than Just Looking. Live more than Just Looking.

Question: Do you sometimes find yourself floating through life, Just Looking? Share your thoughts below in 'comments'.

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Sunday, January 05, 2014

India 2014: Coming Soon!

My next mission trip to India is coming up fast! On March 6th I leave the States and embark on my 11th trip to the country that I have adopted as my second home.
Once again I will be partnering with Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu, spending three days preaching and praying for people in crusades in and around Kazipet, as well as ministering in Pastor Daniel's church.

Then a team of doctors, nurses, and I will board a train for multiple ministry stops where we will conduct medical camps in unreached villages, on our way to Kashmir where we will partner with Kelu, a converted Muslim.
My love and respect for Kelu runs deep, as I have witnessed the daily persecution he and his family face in an unreached region as he witnesses for Christ. He has been beaten, evicted, physically harassed, and shunned, and yet his gentle though tenacious spirit puts him daily in the middle of communities, meeting needs and sharing Christ.

Another treat will be that we will minister alongside of Abdul, whom God revealed Himself to while he was reading the Koran. He committed his life to Christ, and now seeks to bring the Gospel to his people in India. Pastor Charles Schmitt of Immanuel's Church and I had the privilege of ordaining him in 2010.
I love going to this region of India. There is much terrorism and unrest there, but so many have never heard the name Jesus. I want to go and share it with them.

My previous trips to India were funded by the generous people of Immanuel's Church when I served as a pastor. Now I serve as a non-paid pastor in a very small church, supporting my family by working as a "tent-maker" in an insurance agency.

Would you consider supporting me and my mission trip this year? I know that you will partner with me in prayer. I am also asking that you consider supporting me financially.

You can click the "PayPal" button on the top right, or if you'd like you can send a check payable to GraceChurch, and it will be applied to my trip expenses. (Mail to: Brad Lewis, 1913 Catamaran Drive, Navarre, FL 32566. Please write India Missions on the memo line of the check.)

Thank you for your investment into my life and into the lives of those who need to hear about Christ!

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