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

On Monday we attended the funeral of Aji Anthony’s mother. We drove for about an hour and turned down a one lane rock road. When we pulled up to the church there were a couple hundred people gathered outside the building around the body. When we stepped out of the car, Aji Anthony quickly walked up to us and gave us huge hugs. It was hard not to cry. He ushered us straight to his mother’s coffin, which set outside and was in the midst of the crowd. We stood in front of her body which was lying in the most simple of coffins with a white shroud around her. The crowd sat staring at us. For some of them, they had only seen a white person a hand full of time.

After this they had people move from their seat so that we could sit down in the second row. This act of generosity was not uncommon on our trip. All week we struggled with their hospitality. They treated us far greater than we deserved, even at a funeral. After we sat down, Aji Anthony came up and whispered in the ear of Babu Samuel. Babu turned around and said to us, “Aji would like you to say a few words.” At that moment, my heart jumped to my throat. Javan responded, “Whatever Aji Anthony wants. We are here for him.” Javan and I started to rifle through the Bible looking for guidance. What seemed like 10 seconds later, Babu turned to Javan and said, “John, you come and say some words.” He stood and walked forward in front of the people and spoke. Babu interpreted for him, which by this time we had become comfortable with. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Javan spoke graciously. Later, I asked him about how he felt, and Javan said “Surreal”.

Once again, it is hard to explain the depth of the brotherly love that we feel hear in India. It is only explainable through Jesus Christ. By the power of Jesus’ blood Aji Anthony and us have been adopted into the same family of God. In that sense, it seems perfectly reasonable to speak at his mother’s funeral, a lady we have never met. However some day we shall due to her genuine belief in our Savior. After this they had people move from their seat so that we could sit down in the second row. This act of generosity was not uncommon on our trip. All week we struggled with their hospitality. They treated us far greater than we deserved, even at a funeral. After we sat down, Aji Anthony came up and whispered in the ear of Babu Samuel. Babu turned around and said to us, “Aji would like you to say a few words.” At that moment, my heart jumped to my throat. Javan responded, “Whatever Aji Anthony wants. We are here for him.” Javan and I started to rifle through the Bible looking for guidance. What seemed like 10 seconds later, Babu turned to Javan and said, “John, you come and say some words.” He stood and walked forward in front of the people and spoke. Babu interpreted for him, which by this time we had become comfortable with. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Javan spoke graciously. Later, I asked him about how he felt, and Javan said “Surreal”.

Once again, it is hard to explain the depth of the brotherly love that we feel hear in India. It is only explainable through Jesus Christ. By the power of Jesus’ blood Aji Anthony and us have been adopted into the same family of God. In that sense, it seems perfectly reasonable to speak at his mother’s funeral, a lady we have never met. However some day we shall due to her genuine belief in our Savior.

One of the local pastors lost his mom yesterday. I believe she had cancer. Tomorrow we are going to go with Babu to the fuenral. Aji Anthony is the pastor’s name. He is a very good pastor we are told. We have heard him preach, and we couldn’t understand him, but he preached with power and the people seemed to connect. He is a about our age. He is also one of the pastors that Javan and I seemed to connect with. Even though we can’t communicate very well, we felt that we were on the same page.

I post this to ask for you to pray for him and his family. His mom believed in Jesus Christ so the funeral will be a celebration, but they will still miss her.

Today we got to participate in a service for the pastors. New Life Church assisted in purchasing Bibles for them and we got to hand them out. It was pretty cool.

The Bible is not as available here in India and the people are very poor, so they treasure the Word of God very much. The Bibles they have had for a number of years are pretty beaten up from hours and hours of reading. The truly believe that Jesus is the Word and the Word gives life.

Today Javan preached about the importance of God’s Word. It was also very good.

Now we are spending time with Babu and his family at his house. They are very hospitable. It almost makes you feel guilty. It is there custom to have the guests eat first and they stand behind and watch until you are done. Once you are done, they eat the left overs. It is hard to get use to.

There is also an open door policy at Babu’s house, both figuratively and literally. People seem to be coming and going at all times. Babu has told us stories of people possessed that are brought to his house in the middle of the night. Crazy.

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

We spent some time talking with Babu today about the struggles of GCM. He said a lot of it is financial. Right now the orphanage was shut down by the government, and the people of each church are so poor that no pastor is being paid. Every pastor of GCM is getting a place to stay but absolutely no income. I wonder how many pastors we would have in America if they didn’t get paid? It is another example of their love for Christ and their understanding of the Gospel mission.

I may be a little off on this number but I think GCM has four church buildings out of about 30 churches. The other churches have to rent space from local property owners. A lot of GCM money goes to rent each month, just so the people have a place to meet. Right now one Church meets in Babu’s house, but it is far from adequate. I don’t know how they fit.

Babu told us that his goal is to pay his pastors $25 a month. That is right, a month. He asked us what American pastors made and he was surprised by the amount.

The need here is overwhelming. It is going to be hard coming back to the States. I am guessing I will have a new perspective on life.

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

I have been talking a lot about India being a dark place. Today I decided to preach about the light that conquers darkness, Jesus Christ. As I prepared I was amazed at the number of verses in the Bible that speaks of God as light. Once again, the Bible seems to becoming more and more vibrant in India.

However, darkness reigns throughout the world. In America too. As I type this I wonder how many people reading it, may not have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and therefore still live in darkness.

Praise God, that in Revelation 22:5 it says, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

The “they” in the above scripture is all who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. If you don’t think that includes you, then I encourage you to humble yourself and invite Jesus Christ into your heart to be your Savior and your King.

Phil

We spent the day in Kottoyam, India. It has a population of 1 million. It felt like we saw all 1 million on the road. It was chaos. I have never seen anything like it; cars, motorcycles, trucks, mopeds, people, and cows all vying for the same space on the road.

It was a stark contrast from the Church in Kottoyam. They are one of the smallest churches in the GCM ministry. Today they had approximately 30 people in attendance. Despite their lack of numbers they sang with more passion than 100 American churches combined. Almost brings me to tears thinking about it.

We were also privileged to be taken on a boat tour this afternoon. We spent a few hours in the bay that leads out to the Arabian Sea. God’s creation is amazing. It felt like we were in a movie. Once again it was a stark contrast to the city.

Tomorrow we are visiting our fourth church and then the GCM convention begins on Thursday. This is when about 500 people from all of the area GCM churches will come together to worship. We are looking forward to this. It will be longs days, but good days.

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