If I (John) could only come to India for one day on these visits, I would insist that it be convention Sunday. There is so much rich and glorious worship, fellowship, love and encouragement packed into one day. It is the sweetest exhaustion that we go to rest with tonight.

Baptism: I will never get over the weight and joy of the baptism celebrations here. To describe it in writing would not do the experience justice. I imagine that watching a video even leaves something missing. The totality of the experience heralds authentic submission, elated union, and corporate sanctification.

Continue reading “The Climax of Convention Sunday”

This morning we arrived at the college for our last convention session. It was a very pleasant morning. I suppose it was only 75 degrees rather than the normal 90 degree mornings we have been having.

As usual we were greeted with giant smiles and warm hand-shakes, along with the usual “praise God” salutation which is the only English most of them speak.

They were in the midst of the baptism class when we arrived. We noticed that some of them where those who had made a decision for the Lord the previous evening. As soon as the class was over we went down to the third terrace level where they had a concrete outdoor baptismal filled with smoky brown water. It was almost impossible to make my way to the baptismal as the believers had crowded around it and filled the staircases that descend to that level. Babu was shouting for me to come down but I really had to struggle through the crowd to get to him.

Just before we started, they determined that the baptismal was filled too deeply for a couple of the young girls who were being baptized. So two men quickly took to bailing water from the pool to lower the level. Babu and I entered the baptism which was set into the ground. This put us at about foot level with the others watching and as you looked up from there in almost every direction people were clinging to the sides of the building and terrace wall from staircases.

All were singing joyously a praise song as we gathered around to start the baptism. It was moving to feel the energy and enthusiasm for this solemn event.

One by one the new believers walked into the baptismal, declared their faith in Jesus and their Lord and Savior. We prayed for each one before and after and the believers sang songs of praise as they came and went from the baptismal.

One particular girl who was baptized today was a orphan that Babu took in when she was 5 years old. I believe she is 14 now and they have recently found her mother and she has accepted Christ now as well. It was such a Holy experience! All of the girls who were baptized changed in to wedding dresses to symbolize that they have become the bride of Christ in the church. Several were quietly crying as they publicly committed their lives to Jesus. It was difficult to hold back the tears with them.

Following the baptism we held our last convention worship service. We took this opportunity to say our good-byes to the group, express our appreciation for welcoming us to their convention, and share our hopes and prayers for them as we part ways. We prayed to bless several new pastors and missionaries. We prayed with several families. And we must have had our pictures taken 1000 times.

It was sad as we drove away to have lunch with Babu’s family. We all hope that God has it in his will for us to return.

Javan

Today we had a very full day! We had a childrens program where Greg gave a message and did a craft with the kids. We also gathered the orphanage children to give them gifts, pray with them, here them sing songs, and talk with them.

Then we had a convention believers meeting and I preached on the Gospel in Genesis 6.

After a quick lunch we participated in the graduation ceremony. It was amazing! To see these young men and women who are going to dangerous mission fields to plant churches, reach villages, and evagalize the lost was a hallowed experience. They are an incredible group of believers.

One young man named Jonada gave his testimony. He told about how he grew up in Pradesh and his father was a pastor. He grew up watching his father suffer so much for the Gospel that he decided that he didn’t want anything to do with it. He hated God for how much pain his family endured for Him. So as a teenager, he ran away from home to the city. He was living on the streets in this city when one night he was overcome with despair, loneliness, and hopelessness. At this moment he was sobbing into his hands when a missionary approached him. The missionary spoke to him about how Jesus suffered and died for him. He read from the Bible and he remembered hearing John 3:16. That very night he prayed to receive Jesus and today he was graduating from Bible college to become a pastor like his father!

I had to hold back the tears listening to his testimony and something tells me there were more testimonies like his in that group.

I had the absolute priveledge to give the convocation address. I read from Joshua and encouraged them to choose today, never to look back at the garbage this world has to offer, but to fix their minds on serving God. They have been called to the highest priveledge of serving the one and only living God.

Babu says were off to the next thing…got to go.

I wanted to post a quick note letting people know about what happened this morning in the hotel. We usually go down to the lobby to read the Hindi Express each morning. Were not sure if it has any real truth puplished in it at all. A couple of days ago there was a picture of a man just before a lion attacked him in town.

Anyway, as we were waiting this moring we heard the sound of American English being spoken. This got our attention quickly. We had not met one white person in Punalur or Patthanapurum since we have been here and neither had I in the three weeks I was here in 2007. It just doesn’t happen.

So obviously we checked out who it was. He was just as surprised to meet us. In fact He had been coming to Punalur each year for the last 26 and said we where the first he had met. He and his wife are from Massachusetts and they come each year to support another Christian orphanage near Punalur. They told us about their church back home and how Christ has worked through their mission work to do good things. They also told us about some of the same struggles their orphanage is having that Babu’s is. In fact, they are in a very Muslim area and are regularly subject to physical abuse as they come and go from the orphanage site.

I just can’t get beyond how it seems God’s sovereignty is bringing about a healing for India. This explains the increased persecution and restrictions for His church here. It only makes sense that the darkness would be pushing back when it is threatened. If the Holy Spirit weren’t working here, there would be no reason for the evil one to address it.

It was very encouraging to visit with them and share our passion for the Gospel. They talked about how 3 or 4 churches in their area back home got together to share in this mission. It sounds like such a great way to bond believers from different faith families and to make a community impact for mission work.

It’s hard not to start thinking about and planning our next trip here. It would be so wonderful to come again next year to see the new Pathanapurum church and to introduce more people to our friends in India!
If while reading this, you are feeling some interest in joining a team to visit here, then don’t let that feeling subside. Tell someone about your interest. God will make it work out.
On another note. I can’t tell you how encouraging it has been for Phil and I to read your blog comments and receive your emails. It sounds like what is happening at home is just as exciting or more than what is going on here. It gives us peace to here your praying. It gives us hope to hear of your faith. It gives us joy to hear about your sanctification. It gives us great joy to hear about your unity. It gives us a little sadness because we miss you all, our Faith family.

We can’t wait to see you all.

Javan

Below is an email that Javan received from a young man named Jonnada. Jonnada was one of the graduates of Grace Christian Ministry. He had given his testimony during the graduation ceremony this January while we were visiting. In summary, he had rejected Christ because of the persecution he saw his father receive in India as a follower of Christ. Because of what he saw his father go through, he ran away. He ran away from Christ and ran away from home…literally. It was a real life Prodigal Son story. One night he was alone and crying when a missionary found him and lead him to Christ. After accepting Christ he enrolled at GCM and just graduated. Now he is returning to Andhra Pradesh to partner with his father in proclaiming the Gospel in the nation of India. Praise God.

I post this email to show you the faith that we experienced while in India. These people who were sold out for the mission. I love that he requests prayers for the ministry. He isn’t asking for prayers for comfort or fortune, but that the Gospel would go forth.

PRAISE THE LORD

RESPECTED SIR, I GREET TO YOU IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST !

HOW ARE YOU SIR ? I HOPE YOU ARE DOING FINE ! CONVEY MY GREETING TO YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS AND CHURCH MEMBERS!

SIR, AM PRAYING FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR MINISTRY WORK,AND I PRAYED FOR YOUR SAFE JOURNEY I ENJOYED WITH YOUR PREACHING, AND WITH YOUR LOVELY RELATIONSHIP ! SIR,PLEASE PRAY FOR MY LIFE ,MINISTRY, AND FOR MY DAD MINISTRY, HE IS DOING MINISTRY IN AGENCY AREAS.

SIR, I WELL COME YOU PLEASE COME TO INDIA ( ANDHARA PRADESH ) YOU CAN SEE OUR MINISTRY IN MY PLACE. YOU CAN PREACH WORD OF GOD TO MY PEOPLE. SIR, WE ARE VERY LUCKY AND HAPPY , ESPECIALLY ME! BECAUSE YOU CAME TO OUR GRADUATION CEREMONY. SIR, REMEMBER ME IN YOUR PERSONAL PRAYER . *I LOVE YOU*

THANK YOU SIR,
YOURS IN HIS SERVICE,
JONNADA RANG BABU

Yesterday, being the first Sunday of the month, was communion Sunday at New Life. At the end of service, the bread and the cup was passed. It took me back to one of the few very familiar events of the trip to India.

We had very little familiarity in India. In every detail imaginable, and some not imaginable, things were opposite of the way it is in the West, at least very different. A car is driven from the right seat…on the left side of the road, mostly. Writing is from right to left. An affirmative head shake is side to side not up and down. They are dark skinned, we are light skinned. Marriage is arranged. Funerals are a celebration, in deed as well as word. Their night is our day. Time is irrelevant. We couldn’t even begin to understand the language even in the richest of context.

However, on that first Sunday service, when the table cloth was lifted from the pulpit to reveal a plastic pitcher of grape juice and a loaf of bread, a flood of familiarity rushed in. We knew exactly what this meant! We knew that we were doing this in remembrance of the focal point of all of humanity.

We were remembering the cross. Christ’s death on the cross was the climax and culmination of the history of the universe to that point. From that point on, the single most determent point of all history to come, to be complete in the second return and judgment of the earth.

At the cross, all of God’s wrath for sin was poured out on Jesus. God’s wrath that moved him to destroy every living thing on the earth in Genesis 6. God’s wrath that will bring about eternal judgment on the last day. The wrath for every sin of every man for all of human history and humanity’s future was stored up in God’s cup of wrath and poured out on His sinless son at the cross.

That means my sin was in the cup. All my sin! When I first grabbed a toy from my sister and declared, “MINE!” When this morning I chose to sleep-in rather than lead my family in pursuit of the knowledge of God and His glory. Even when I… (fill in the blank)… but my intentions were not to bring glory to God but so that I would receive glory! In my first breath I was a sinner deserving the wrath of God as a participant in the Sin of Adam. When I draw my final breath, my flesh will draw it finally, in rebellion to God. All of it, foreknown by God, was stored up in His cup and emptied on my savior.

My sin puts me at the cross. My sin has me and over 100 billion others represented at the cross 2000 years ago. But in my communion reflection I am at the foot of the cross kneeling, humbled, broken, contrite, crying out for forgiveness. I kneel there with my own cup. It is the cup of repentance and it is filling up and overflowing with Jesus’ blood, drop by drop as it flows from his pierced side. Jesus took my wrath, all of it. And he gave me His perfect, blameless blood, which is perfect and wholly sufficient for the covering of my sin. I am eternally grateful and I drink it through tears of contrition and tears of gratitude. I drink from His great mercy. When I partake in the symbols of His blood and body, this is my reflection.

-For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (Leviticus 17:11 ESV)

– So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 ESV)

Javan

Last night we were heading back to the hotel very late after spending the evening with Babu’s family. The roads were strangely quiet and dark. As we approached a T intersection not far from Babu’s house, a motorcycle and a large moped crashed head on, tire to tire, and stopped instantly throwing each rider from their bike. We ran over to check on them and help them gather themselves and their bikes. One rider was very very quiet and seemed disoriented while the other driver was giving him the “what for” with all enthusiasm. They appeared healthy and others were soon on the scene so we departed. As we left we reflected on how many thousands of vehicle we watched at high speed passing each other by mear milimeters and tonight with no one on the road, somehow these two guys smack right into each other. We also figured when the disoriented guy finally gets his wits, he is going to think about the two English speaking white guys who showed up at the accident and probably check himself into the hospital for head trauma.

Today was another introduction to a strange Indian custom. Apparently there is some dispute about the proposed usage of a new dam. In objection to what is proposed by the national government, the entire state of Kerala was on strike. There was some concern that we might not be able to even leave the hotel today. Fortunately, Babu sent Lubies to pick us up. He had us ride in the back seat where we would be safer in case people got upset about us being out and about. No school, no work, no transportation. 33 million people took a day off.

While we are spending the afternoon at Babu’s we tended to some last minute tasks. We took some more pictures at the college to capture better what is going to be built there with the New Life gift. We video taped an interview with Babu for sharing on the web and with churches who might have an interest in partnering with Babu.
We took some time to organize photos and videos and said many good-byes. In a few hours we will be packing and after a few hours of sleep beginning the 48 hour journey home.

As things wind down here I find myself thoughts turning towards home.

I am getting very excited to see my family and give them some big hugs! I am so excited to re-unite with our church family and friends. It seems like so much has happened while we were gone. Reading your blog comments has been so inspiring to us. We just can’t wait to exchange stories and discover the mutual sanctification that took place throughout our church during this time. It just feels like we are at a different place spiritually than we were two weeks ago.

We really feel like many of you were on this journey with us. I can’t explain how much it feels like we truly were representing our faith family here. Your support throughout this mission experience has been overwhelming. We can never express our gratitude for all your prayers, your support of our families, financial support, and sharing your experience with us. It has just been soo much.

Javan

This morning we met with 48 pastors and their wives from GCM. They gathered for the preacher’s seminar of the convention. The other attendees of the convention will be arriving for tonights general meeting.

I can’t tell you how humbling it was to look across the faces of this group. We were gathered in the presence of Gospel Warriors for whom this world is not worthy. Each has chosen to live a life of sacrifice, humility, ostracization, and risk of personel welfare to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost people. Their families have chosen with them. They have embraced the call to equip the saints for the work of evangelism and they clearly are going with the power of God.

But for the power of God’s word I would have never felt more inadequate in all my teaching experience. They were gracious to listen and respond.
I am inspired by them. Though, my guess is they would think my coments silly. They do what they do for God and his Glory. They do what they do because they have seen the irresistable force of the living God in Jesus. They know the truth and it burns in their hearts such that they must teach others. It is so clear when you watch them teach.
Javan

Today we had a great monthly believers meeting in Ranny. Babu thought we might have 50 or 60 attending but they filled the room and then some. They even ran out of food for everyone. Phil delivered a wonderful spirit filled message that spoke to the hearts of many.

We met a young man who spoke fairly good English. He told us that he wants to be a pastor and had completed 3 years of Bible college when he contracted Malaria. He hasn’t been able to complete college yet.

We met another young man who’s father was Babu’s Hindu neighbor. Babu’s neighbor accepted Christ a few years ago and then lead his family to Jesus. His son attended Grace Christian College and now is graduating from a University with his Master’s of Divinity. He will become a pastor.

Tomorrow the convention begins. Babu has told us that there will be many people who don’t know Jesus as their savior there. He also told us it is against the law to invite people to become believers but we can tell them how to do it. I realize this sounds like a fine line and were not totally sure where the line is. Babu said their will definately be people monitoring for this. We will trust in his wisdom to translate appropriately. We will definately be sharing the Gospel but leaving any form of invitation up to Babu.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to be in the driver’s seat during the convention and that many might be saved for God’s glory.

Though we are having an incredible experience, we definately are missing home. Being away makes us appreciate all of you all the more.

Javan

Today we visited a GCM church in Kozhanchery. It was their monthly believers meeting. We approached in a narrow alley just wide enough for one vehicle and a pedestrian, if they hugged the wall. To get to this church we walked across a driveway righ in front of the home then descended some steps around the corner of the house which revealed a set of steps that went up to a upper room. As we passed through this narrow passage a middle aged woman in a sari style dress was mixing rocks, sand, and cement to make concrete for a nearby construction project. It was in the mid 90’s with full sun.

The church service started with loud praise songs and it seemed to alert the local church members that service had begun because they started to show up one by one until the church was full. There may have been 50-70 people, mostly woman, as the men were off to work and don’t get paid time off.

The worship was so authentic and sincere. It was so loud. Hands were raised, tears were present, and though we couldn’t understand a word of it, we could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

There are so many people every where. It struck me that Jesus knows each and every one and he died for all their sin. It is sobering to think how few of these people know that.

The chirstians have an overwhelming task here. Babu told us about all the obstacles they face in government restrictions and the overwhelming presence of Hindu and Muslim influence. It truly is a David and Goliath situation. But they have one thing going for them that none of the others do. They are sent by a living God! A God that keeps His promises and is lord of all.

We continue to strugle with the challenges of interpretation. A couple of nights ago we ate dinner at our hotel. The menu is in English for our benefit but the waiter doesn’t know English. So we can’t really point to our orders and they can barely understand what we ask for. They talk to each other and talk to us for several minutes and then walk back to the kitchen. We just figure we will eat whatever shows up.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Whenever we tell the Christians here that our church is praying for them and our visit, they show so much excitement.

Javan