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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