Here is a story from my trip in 2007. It was an evening I will never forget.
Day 7, August 4th, 2007.
As Jack and Raj headed off to the church dedication some 5 or 6 hours away, that left Jodi, Brandy and myself to stay back in town with Samuel. I might mention that Samuel, the church planter we we’re assigned to, is one the hardest working people I have ever met. Not only does he pastor this church of 500 plus (in what would easily be described as an often hostile environment ) he leaves town every evening and travels into the surrounding villages every night and goes door to door ( really it’s hut to hut ) and often does not get back home until 1:00 am after catching dinner ( rice and whatever) usually around 11:30 or so. I was the slowest in my group for grasping the Tamil explanations of the food.
After Jack and Raj hit the road, Samuel asked us to attend a mid day bible study/vision casting meeting with the church staff and key volunteers. When we got there, Samuel asked that we give our testimonies and tell the group about our lives, work and families. Samuel was our translator. I got to be first and I was very happy that my wife provided me a picture book fold out of my whole family. As the pictures made there way around the women’s group first ( the women set on one side of the room and the men the other ) they were buzzing with excitement and pointing and laughing. It was the first time for me having to think about my life and testimony in a way that would translate well in another language. It wasÂ exhilarating. The girls, Jodi and Brandy followed right after me. One question that came up several times was, what do you do at GCC church ? It was fun trying to explain what I did in context with the mission, vision and purpose of GCC folded in. One of the most surreal moments I encountered was seeing the villagers in tiny little hut homes (half cement and half thatched roof) studying the GCC core class materials that had been translated into Tamil.
Later that evening we headed out toward the outer villages, one in particular that was not receptive to Samuel’s advances in the past. It was already very dark by the time we arrived. We parked near a small government cement building that had a sort of street light and parked. Within minutes, there were villagers coming out to see what was going on. We were led back into the village to a home where an elderly women invited us in. We all took off our shoes, (as is the custom where ever you go) and entered her home. I hit my head as I entered, one because I had my eyes on the video camera ( that was running almost all the time) and the other reason was the door opening. Many of the people we met were under five foot tall. Samuel spoke with the women for several minutes and then we prayed for her and her family. I think Jodi prayed and Samuel translated. After that we found ourselves in a small sort of ” quickmart hut “. The man invited us in and asked for prayers for ” good business” (a prayer I have often prayed myself ). I prayed for him and Samuel translated. He then asked us to come to his home and pray for his daughter who had a bad leg. More about that later. We then headed back to Samuel’s jeep like vehicle where we met with a group of children and some of their parents.
Samuel’s worship leader from church had them all singing a worship song in Tamil. Then Jodi and Brandy taught the kids, “Jesus loves the little Children” in English. That was a truly awesome experience. The parents stood around the outside and smiled as all parents do anywhere in the world. It was magical to hear the children learning and sing these words for the first time.
After the worship time with the children we left for an adventurous trek down a narrow and rugged road that was bordered on both sides by a river. The ride had a sort of primeval feel to it.There we were, nine thousand miles from our home, driving down a bumpy, narrow , rut filled, dirt road in the middle of the night singing, Jesus Loves the little Children with Samuel, his worship leader and a young woman named Blessie. It was the only song we could sing together. The moment was filled with a sort of innocence and wonder. I could sense the love of God for all of us. About half way down this one lane trail, we saw headlights. This was not a good thing. As we approached the oncoming vehicle it became clear to me that they were bigger than us. The rule in India is: the biggest vehicle wins. It turned out to be a large farm tractor with a trailer load of locals in the back. We had to back up a ways and find a slightly wider area to get out of the way. The tractor then pulled by us leaving no room to spare. I was nervous about the whole process, but Samuel seemed very comfortable with everything so I pretended like I did that sort of thing every day.
Soon we arrived at the home of the shop owner and had to use ropes to enter his home. It was a room about 10′ by 16′. Inside, the little girl, her grand parents and the mother and father greeted us. The father showed us the little girls weakened left leg. She was pretty frail and she could not walk. We prayed for her healing and for God’s blessing on the whole family.
After jumping back into the TATA (kind of a Indian manufactured jeep of sorts) we headed of toward dinner. It wasn’t long before we were on a much larger road filled with the Indian version of semi trucks. Samuel drove for a while looking for somewhere to eat. I was thinking we were taking part in some kind of Asian mafia, B movie. I fully expected to hear gun fire and see people scrambling for cover at any second. It did not happen.
We pulled into a “restaurant” where we stepped over piles of bricks and junk and set down at a table. There were no walls, just cement block half walls and a thatched roof. The ” kitchen” was in the same room. I had a fairly high level of food paranoia before I got to this place, but this place creeped me out completely! I told Samuel, that Raj would be angry with him if he killed the American’s. It turned out to be some of the best food on the trip! The service was excellent and Fried Rice Veg with Chicken 65 was awesome.
I was exhausted and full by the time we were done eating and can’t really remember the rest of the trip back to the church. But as I had done the night before, I made my way to the front steps of the church where there is a large, granite, open air porch. I rolled out the bed ( a 1/4 inch thick mat of reeds ) and my high tech air bed to spend my 2nd night sleeping under the stars. I think I prayed for all of 60 seconds before falling to sleep. My last conscience thought was: God has taken me to India, let me see His hands reaching out, I am sleeping in the open air, on the front porch of a church. What could be cooler than that?