Monday, April 29, 2013
It is good to be back in Normal and almost normal sleep schedule. I'm fully immersed back into the ministry that God has called me to here, but below I offer some reflections from the India trip - some work the Spirit is doing in my heart as a result: 1. I am praying for Ajai and Indu Lall everyday. Their ministry and vision and impact for Christ is nothing short of amazing and I want to lift them up before the FATHER! 2. How long did it take for the apostle Paul take to recuperate from his missionary journeys that included ships, walking, beatings, jail sentences, riots, writing the Bible, and preaching until midnight! I'll bet getting back into the right sleep schedule was not his main concern. I also think that worship at his home church (Antioch) must have been pure bliss as worshiping with my family at Eastview was for me yesterday. 3. How can I have the evangelistic intensity of someone who might be killed for preaching when no one is really threatening my life? 4. The Bible really is the living Word of God...every nation, every tongue, every life is impacted by preaching of this word. 5. Communion with believers tears down every language, cultural, social, and racial barrier. There is nothing more moving to me in foreign countries than to partake of the body and blood of Jesus. No words necessary - totally equal under God's grace! Our unity is sealed in this worship moment. 6. Preaching in a korte is probably one of the most comfortable things to preach in even if my sons both said I wore a dress to church yesterday. 7. Strategy is not a bad word in church. The ministry of CICM accomplishes much for the kingdom because they really understand prayer and being led by the Spirit....AND they have a strategy for reaching millions with the gospel. Just because God is doing all the work doesn't mean that we can't make a plan. Somehow he uses our ideas for His purpose..don't overthink it, just do it.
at 10:51 AM
Monday, April 22, 2013
Cleaning up a little after a 10 hours train ride from Damoh to Agra that I'm not sure I can fully describe. We were privileged to participate in the graduation last night of 50-60 young men who have trained and are now going into ministry. Seven of them were headed to Punjab, the state on the Pakistan border and some of the most dangerous ministry in the world. I was humbled to challenge these young preachers with a sermon that I felt needed to challenge them in a great way. It was an honor to preach with Ajai interpreting and I can't wait to have him in the states at Eastview in October. The ceremony lasted from 6:30 to 9:00 and then we ate dinner. Our train was supposed to leave at 12:45 a.m., but ended up not leaving until 1:30. So we were wiped out and then we boarded the train. I really don't mean to be insulting - so please don't respond as to how spoiled I am - I know it, but the car we piled inot was dirty, and smelly, and we each had a sleeping space that was really small. By the grace of God I got about 3-4 hours of interrupted sleep and then watched the countryside roll by as we made our way north. A short stop (3-4 hours) here to see the Taj Mahal and then we'll head to Delhi for one more day before heading home. It's going to take a couple of weeks for me to download all that my soul has taken in these ten days. I'm inspired, challenged, saddened, encouraged, etc... There are faces and experiences that I enjoyed at the beginning of this trip that I will have to review to remember in my prayers. This is where a journal comes in handy. As we headed into yesterday evening, I tried to pray for Eastview at the times of our service starting back home. Really missed being there, but glad to have shared ministry here. This is the most I have ever preached on a missions trip. I was able to preach five times to four congregations translated into four languages (Hindi, Bundeli, Burmese, and Nepalese). What an honor for a kid from Indiana who wanted to preach. One more cool part of the story from two nights ago...17 people gave their lives to Jesus and will be baptized in the following weeks. Someday in heaven I look forward to seeing how every person touched every other person in the kingdom of God to make an eternal difference. It's awesome to think that God would use us to reach us!
at 1:23 AM
Saturday, April 20, 2013
That's pronounced boon-day-lee and it is a language spoken in the central part of India. What we learned today is that there are an estimated 50 million people who speak this language, and until 2010 there had never been anything written about Jesus in their language! This is where the ministry of CICM comes in. Part of their operation here is to publish Christian books and materials for Christians in India. Most of this is in Hindi, which the majority of people speak, but three years ago, they initiated a translation project that gave the Bundeli speaking people a New Testament in their own language. So today, in their publishing house we saw actual handwritten manuscript translations of this Bible that were part of the process. Think about it..a language spoken for hundreds of years suddenly has the word of God and the story of His Son Jesus at their disposal. Anybody out there guilty of taking their Bible for granted? 50 million people did not have access to Jesus in their language and now they do!!! But wait, that's not all - the story gets better! Tonight we drove about five miles outside of Damoh to worship with about 150 people from two village churches. Several years ago, they were persecuted and driven from their homes because of their faith (their homes were burned) - but the church survived. But catch this, as I was getting ready to preach I noticed one of the Bibles from the print shop - a Bundeli Bible! I asked Ajai if these were Bundeli speaking people and they were and my sermon was translated in their language and they read from their Bibles! One more cool thing. The cover of this Bible has the pictures of several Bundeli speaking people and and older gentleman from the picture was worshiping tonight with us. He was the first convert of his village to Christianity and is now an elder in that church. For real..can't make this up.
at 10:56 AM
Friday, April 19, 2013
We arrived at the aiport yesterday morning and were greeted by Ajai Lall and his staff ahead of our two hour drive to Bal Bhavan. He is such a gracious man and so hospitable to us. We had some great conversation and took in the sights and sounds of central India as we did (even saw some black faced monkeys along the road where we took some pictures - something you don't see everyday in Illinois). A little after noon, we arrived at the children's home where 100 former orphans stay in a place called Bal Bhavan. The literal interpretation of these world are "children's palace" - Their tag line - where every girl is a princess and every boy is a prince. We were greeted by all children with the traditional flower necklaces and hugs. Very cool. Then we ate lunch and caught up with all of the staff. Ajai's children all married Americans and all of them are on staff in some capacity and my paths have crossed with some of them through my youth ministry days. Of course, Ajai and I have known some of the same people - including a couple named Philip and Margaret Ho who were missionaries who came to my church when I was a boy and are still living. Philip is in his mid 80's still preaching the gospel near Tibet! The rest of the day was emotionally tough. We sat for three hours as some of the pastors spoke of the conditions of ministry as they face persecution from militant Hindu extremists and others who would destroy their ministries literally. Yesterday we prayed over pastors whose wives had been killed, houses had been burned, father were killed, wives were raped, and families disowned them. Yeah....it's that real and it breaks your heart. But you know what is amazing?...none have given up on God or preaching about His son, Jesus. In fact all of them have baptized into the thousands of people because of their courageous faith. Our vision statement at Eastview is a "Fearless Church of Christ followers whose ridiculous love and dangerous witness are irresitible". I met some people yesterday who are the embodiment of this statement. And I pray that my faith is as strong. Well, the emotional gut wrenching of those stories was healed by the evening meal and children's presentation where the kids celebrated the end of their school year with singing, dancing, report cards, and presents. Also they celebrated the birthdays of the kids of that month. It was truly joyous to see these beautiful kids smile and laugh and be filled with joy. Even now, tears come to my eyes as I think of the redemption that has taken place in them through Jesus and his church here in Damoh. Someday in heaven, all of us in Christ - the persecuted, the unwanted, the unlovely, the hurting, the lonely - the forgiven children of God will meet Jesus face to face and there we'll be such joy - and we'll dance, and sing, and eat cake - and we'll stay there forever!
at 7:13 PM
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Yesterday afternoon we arrived at our hotel in Delhi in time to take a short nap and get ready for a visit to a church made up of Burmese refugees who fled the persecution of the government 8 years ago. They are not given any legal status here, just the equivalent of our green cards and so the only work they have is underpaid factory work where they are taken advantage of. Last night Pastor Halomon and his wife Zhiy assembled their church to worship with us and give me another chance to preach. I can't describe in words the traffic in Delhi at 6:30 p.m. I'm not exaggerating when I say it took us an hour and a half plus to go about 20 kilometers. This is in the city of New Delhi mind you. Simple more cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. than you can imagine. Think Chicago rush hour traffic with 8 lanes and motorcycles making lanes wherever there was a space! Crazy humanity. Well, after we got near the location of the church (a rented basement looking room where 50-60 Christians were gathered and worshiping) we walked about 1/4 mile on narrow, dusty, broken streets with this cheerful and gracious pastor. The joy and love we felt as we clapped along to songs of praise we didn't know was a blessing. It was as if we stepped into a little section of a Burmese Christian village where the pain, poverty and hardships of the real outside world was removed. I shared with them that we all hope in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus (preached from I Corinthians 15). I suspect they hope in a different way than I do, and I'm challenged in my faith by them! It's almost 4:00 in the morning now and we're heading back to the airport and the school in Damoh in a few hours. More to come.
at 5:17 PM
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Today found us back at the Darjeeling International Bible Academy where about 25 young men are training to be in ministry. I was privileged again to teach these students in a classroom setting. My heart of course is large for preaching and to be able to encourage both the students and about 10 local pastors (by local I mean anywhere from 100 kilometers and in) in their preaching from II timothy 4 was a thrill. After teaching we had opportunity to sit and talk with these pastors through an interpreter. Each of there stories was of incredible family conversion from either Hinduism or Islam and most through miraculous healing in Jesus name! These men are heroes of mine, living out a tough ministry and filled with joy doing it! After the pastors, we got to meet each of the students and here their stories of how they became students at the college. Some are born in Nepal and Bhutan and heading back there to do ministry! I heard over 25 stories today of God's grace and work of salvation in the lives of people. A great reminder that God is the God of testimonies. He is working all over this globe! One last thing to share, one of the pastors taught me how to say "God bless you in Nepalese" - say it with me: Pravu tapailai ashish diyun. He blesses in any language!
at 10:47 AM
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Sitting on the patio with birds chirping and an attendant cleaning up from last night's rain. He is using a make shift broom from some dried palmetto branches to "sweep" the leaves off of the grassy courtyard. It really stormed hard last night, even lost the power around 3:00 a.m. We all slept well (the word coma comes to mind) but not all through the night. Steve Wadhams (my roomy) flipped on the lights around 4:30 a.m. or so. Then I introduced him to some of the best coffee in the world. Bottled water in these hot water maker (that basically boils the water of a coil in the bottom of the carafe - don't know what they call 'em, but I remember them from when I was in England - they use it for tea)over Nescafe' and one packet of sugar. Don't know if it's because it's third world or not, but it's really awesome coffee and a good wake up 4 hours before breakfast. Now, I've studied, read, written some and I'm ready to eat. Speaking of food, the food here is great (but I'm really not that objective I like food). Had some pasty red stuff yesterday that Daniel called "pickle" that was spicy and great on their version of omelets. Of course every meat here is covered in some sort of sauce that includes curry with rice and what looks like yellowish mashed potatoes. This stuff is smashed chick peas and is awesome (but I"m the only one who thinks so). Had some goat on the plane and some fish and they both tasted like curry. Last night we had some chicken and veggies served on a hot iron skillet (fajita style like at Mexican restaurants) but the king of the meal was the nan. The flat bread here that is fried and covered with butter. Looks like I'm not going to lose weight while I'm here! Great stuff...don't worry for me, I won't starve. Plus Steve and Tyler are loaded with granola bars and stuff. Man, is it time for breakfast yet?
at 9:30 PM
It's now around 8:30 Tuesday evening in Darjeeling India, and I barely made it through supper! I was literally falling asleep at the table which is cute when you're a one year old but not so much when the missionary is telling his story! I had to walk around to wake up! We figured it had been 40+ hours of travel with no real opportunity to sleep. We arrived at the hotel (a really cool Indiana Jones type place with palm trees and a courtyard) at 3:30 after the flight from Delhi hoping to catch a quick nap, but Daniel (the missionary who I was falling asleep on later) told us they had changed the church service to the afternoon instead of evening. So we went to church. Here's why I don't listen when Christians complain about music styles - everytime I'm on a mission trip, they don't sing my style (or my language) and the Spirit still moves me! Anyway, I preached through an interpreter and I'm pretty sure he made the sermon much better than it was. There are these times where you say five English words and then the interpreter rambles on for four sentences. Pretty sure he's cleaning it up! Got some tweets about some earthquake supposedly over here? Didn't feel anything, but you know how it is...when I travel there's probably gonna be something! Heading to bed...and I'll probably get up at 3:00 a.m. but at least I'm sleeping in a bed!
at 10:14 AM
Monday, April 15, 2013
Well, we arrived in Delhi at 3:30 a.m. local time and were greeted with traditional flower necklaces (think Hawaiian leis, but bulkier and roses) by some local pastors and some guys that work at CICM. Rai and Daniel seem to be the main leaders. Since we have about 9 hours until our next flight to Darjeeling, they drove us to a YWCA in Delhi to grab some shut eye for a few hours, a quick breakfast and then back to the airport. Initial impressions - the air quality here is really bad (I've been to Mexico City and I think it's worse) - looks like a smoky haze everywhere. Also, the pastors here are real servants. Everyone is in good health and good spirits thus far...just don't feel like sleeping at this point. Crazy how the body clock rules everything else. I'm going to try and write some and then read until I get sleepy. Hope that works.
at 6:21 PM
Well, we have arrived safely and are enjoying a very strong americano in an airport cafe'. We basically lost a whole day flying over here. We left Chicago at 8:50 Sunday evening (14th) and landed at 7:30 Monday evening in the United Arab Emirates. I don't know whether to eat a donut or a hamburger. Which time zone should my appetite be in? These are the important mission questions I'm sure Paul and Barnabus contemplated. Met a group of three Christian girls heading to India and then Nepal for a women's conference. Cool to have other Christians on mission in a definitively Muslim world. The flight even began with a prayer for travel safety from the Koran. Never have flown Etihud airlines before, but it was a nice plane. Of course, I tried the lamb for dinner last evening. Short layover here and then to Delhi. Check in again soon.
at 11:38 AM
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Usually, I write a blog on Monday mornings, but I'm getting ready to board an all night flight to a place I've never been, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to update the blog. Tyler Hari, Bill Troyer and Steve Wadhams are my traveling brothers for this trip to India to encourage our ministry partners through CICM and also listen for the Holy Spirit's movement in our hearts and the ministries God may be calling us to join with. By God's grace, I am going to be privileged to speak at the graduation ceremony of the academy in Damoh next Sunday to encourage some guys who really understand Dangerous Witness as they head out to preach the word and plant churches. I will do my best to give regular updates on this trip and hopefully share some cool cultural insights as well as how God is moving in our midst. By the way, I learned in security in conversation with an Indian man that you can't just jump out with I'm going to India to preach about Jesus (don't worry, I didn't), but I did kinda stutter my way through explaining why I was just going to India for seven days for fun! Tyler says he often says he's a teacher or religious teacher. I've decided I'm going to say I'm a translator of ancient sacred languages...unless of course I freeze again! See you on the other side.
at 7:26 PM
Monday, April 8, 2013
In light of yesterday's sermon where I spoke about being an alien in a strange land (Christians in American culture) and about the need for us to continue to tell the truth even when the culture doesn't (we don't speak the language); I thought it would be appropriate for a few words as to how exactly we can do this (without being jerks in the name of Jesus). The thing I have found to be most effective is to try and shift the conversation to the heart of the matter with gentle yet piercing questions and comments. Satan is good at using every tool available to shift the conversation in such a way that gains consensus with a selfish culture. Remember he is the father of lies according to Jesus...so his deception is his personality. Here are some ways in which he has shifted conversation in our lifetimes. 1) Abortion - shifting the conversation from murdering a baby to women's rights. 2) Homosexuality - shifting the conversation from harmful behavior to a civil rights issue. 3) Prayer in Schools - shifting from a basic belief in God by most Americans to the rights of atheists. 4) Church leadership - shifting from men and women called to serve God to the scandals of SOME within religion. 5) Christianity in general - shifting from the faith of two billion people worldwide that crosses every race to a plot by the rich and powerful to remain that way. 6) Sexuality - shifting the conversation from right and wrong and the harmful results of sex out of context to it is a fun game to be played by all. 7) Life - shifting from being thankful and content with what I have to an insatiable desire to continually need more. I could go on...but I'll stop there. Jesus was the master at getting the conversation back to the heart of the matter. I'll give one example. In Mark 11:27 the Jewish leaders asked him where he got his authority clear the temple. Jesus knew their main concern was to keep their power and that Jesus was a threat to that. So Jesus shifted the conversation towards God and his heavenly kingdom...by asking a question: "John's baptism, was it from heaven or from men?" In one sentence, he pierced their heart, got them thinking and talking, and pretty much kept them quiet. Here are some conversation shifters that spoken in the right tone have been valuable in shifting words and talk to the spiritual heart of things. There are more, just a few examples from conversations I've actually had. 1) "There is no God" - "That is quite the faith statement, when did you come to believe that?" "Why do you believe God doesn't exist?" "What do you think about people who believe other things?" "What if you're wrong?" 2) "I was born gay" - "How do you know?" "At one point you say, you thought you were straight, but not now, what has changed?" "What do you think the limitations are for a gay couple in regards to family?" "Why do you think God calls homosexuality a sin?" 3) "when a woman's life is in jeopardy, an abortion is okay" - "Do you think that unborn baby is alive?" "What if you knew that baby was going to be the next great doctor, world leader, or inventor?" "Do you think humans have the ability to determine which lives are more valuable than others?" The point is that as Christians, we know the truth, but to simply say, "you're wrong" is a conversation ender. Maybe we aliens should see behind the cultures language to it's heart and shift the conversations there. Praying we all will.
at 10:58 AM
Monday, April 1, 2013
I had the opportunity to be out of town this weekend and ran into a couple of demonstrations that have grabbed the headlines lately. Both were relatively small, but the messages grieved my heart as I thought of the Christ whose resurrection we were ready to celebrate. The first group at the state capital was made up of about 25 people with signs urging the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage. They held a sign the said, "all love is love". Right next to them, were some guys with automatic weapons draped around their necks, American flags and a sign that said. "This is America and this is my right." How does a Christian respond to these protests and signs? Well, here are some thoughts that stirred in my spirit. 1. A culture in which everyone focuses on indidividual rights will be defined as selfish. In fact, this is what America is..we have become a people that are only concerned about getting what we want. Media cleverly has diverted many conversations to this mantra that is near and dear to the American heart. This was used to make abortion not about killing babies and about a woman's right. It is being used to divert the social implications of gay marriage into the rights of people to choose a lifestyle. It is being used to argue about who should have guns and what kind of guns they should have. Jesus, the most powerful person who ever lived gave up his rights to become a man and submit to death on the cross. His church is the answer for this problem of rights because in it's true form, everyone looks out for the needs of everyone else, not their own. 2. A culture which difuses the word "love" to mean any emotion that makes me happy will eventually not be capable of loving anyone. In fact, love is not love as defined by our music, movies, television shows, and entertainment industry in general. According to Jesus, love is not an emotion, it is a decision to put someone else first. Love is defined pretty clearly in I Corinthians 13 and can be used as a guide to determine if you are "in love" or not. True love must answer to all of these questions: "Is this patient?" "Is this kind?" "Is this out of envy?" "Is this self-seeking?" "Is this boastful?" "Is this rude?" "Is this easily angered?" "Is this keeping record of wrongs?" "is this delighting in evil?" "Is this protecting?" "Is this trusting?" "Is this hopeful?" "Is this persevering?" Answering one of these questions in the wrong way eliminates the emotion from being true love. Jesus said, "True love is this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Of course he did. So what should a Christian (or pastor) do when he sees people picketing for things they don't even know about? Pray for conversations that will allow us to talk about Christ with them. They will never give up their rights until they hear how Jesus gave up His for them and they will never know what love is until they are loved by Him. Jesus is the only chance this culture has. And that's why we are called to be witnesses for Him.
at 10:46 AM