In India we shared 36 times with over 10,000 people. Tons of lost people heard the Gospel. Many of these were in the schools. Of course, in the schools we weren’t allowed to give an invitation but we explained very clearly how to receive Christ. I don’t know how many decisions we had as the result of this trip but we were faithful to boldly share the Good News and I don’t think we’ll truly ever know the outcome until we stand before the Lord in eternity. People were saved. Christians were challenged and encouraged. Leaders were trained. A pastor even told me after one of our open air meetings that there were several people who had come with sicknesses but that had God healed them during the meeting or as we prayed for them after.
Our success is not found in numbers but in faithfulness and obedience.
We also now understand the importance of our family going. God used each of us in different ways to share His love. Each of us played an important part and the Lord blessed and protected us.
Before we left for India we designed a card that we could distribute in all the schools where kids are taught English. We printed 10,000 of these cards because we wanted to use them as a way where English-speaking students could continue to hear the Gospel beyond just one school program. The card contained a link to the Bible in the different languages where we would be sharing so they could read Scripture in their heart language as well as a link to our YouTube channel. We had heard that YouTube is big in India. Our goal was to drive people to watch more stunts and illusions on our channel as a way of getting them to hear more about the Gospel.
Since we arrived in India on February 1, we have already had over 58 hours of videos being watched from India. We don’t know how many people these 58 hours represent but we also picked up 149 new subscribers, many of whom have Indian sounding names. These people will be notified when we post a new video and with such a spike in viewing time, we trust that the Lord is continuing to move in people hearts as they watch these videos.
We are also talking with some leaders about using websites and video as a way of sharing the Gospel and we’ll continue to provide resources for the children’s leaders we met as well. We also now have several opportunities for ministry that are open doors in India. One is a foundation outside of Hyderabad that has started a school with over 700 students, a church and a community hall. They feed the children, since it is in a very poor slum area not far from the Hyderabad trash dump. We have a church in Guntur that has asked us to come back and spend more time with them and another is the last church where we shared in the slum village that has asked us to come back and spend several days with them. We’re praying about all the opportunities and will continue to seek God’s will concerning the future.
We left Chennai by train around 7pm. Our compartment had four beds because we wouldn’t arrive back in Hyderabad until 6:30am the next morning. It was a great experience and a much more comfortable ride than I had expected. The only issue was that the beds were plastic leather and as you slept your skin would stick to it so that when you sat up it was like pulling duct tape off your skin.
The next morning we checked back into a hotel, mainly to rest for a while and to leave our luggage while we visited the market. In the photo below Mary Beth is buying a few decorative handkerchiefs from the boys. We asked Sunil if these boys should be in school and he told us that because of their family situation, they were needed to work, selling items on the street to help support their family and because of this they would not get an education. Pray for these young men and other like them who are doing their best to survive from day to day.
Finally, we loaded our luggage and headed to the airport at around 6pm. We’ll fly to London and arrive at 6:30am, check into a hotel there for one day and one night and fly out the following day to finally go home.
Often after services people will surround you wanting you to pray for them. I think this is a part of the culture of Christianity here and I believe it springs from a Hindu custom. In Hinduism people want a “holy man” to bless them. On the Christian side I believe this shifts to wanting a minister to pray for them. At one of the open air meetings, people surrounded me as soon as the service was over. It’s hard to describe but it reminded me of when the women with the issue of blood touched Jesus and when Jesus asked who touched Him the disciple referred to how the crowd was pressing in on Him. That idea of a crowd pressing in on you is exactly what this instance was like. I literally couldn’t move any direction and from every direction people were reaching out and saying things like “Pray, pray,” or were pointing to the places on their bodies that they were hurting and saying “Headache,” “hand”, “foot”, etc. And even while you were praying for someone, you could feel other reaching out to you and bumping into you.
On the last night of our mission trip, the pastor asked if we could visit the hut of a couple who has been trying to have a baby for 10 years on our way to our last meeting. We agreed and Titus and I went. This couple lives in a very small, thatched hut that the husband made himself. There are only two small rooms, both about 7 feet by 7 feet. They were poor but they welcomed us with gifts. This was unnecessary, of course, but giving gifts in their culture seems to be a source of great joy. The wife had cooked a very special “snack.” It had four sweet items that are hard to describe. We ate these off banana leaves. The photo can’t do justice to the taste of these treat. All four of these items were amazingly good.
We talked and ate and then we knelt in the middle of their hut and prayed that God would bless them, as He did Hannah in the Bible, with a child and that their child would grow up to be a godly follower of Christ. I’m asking you to join me as I continue to pray for the Lord to give them a baby.
One of the greatest compliments that I had during our trip was a young man in his twenties who told me, “My heart was burning inside me while you spoke.”
Above is a picture from our last meeting. It was in a small church building in a slum village but what you can’t see is that there are about 100 or more people sitting in chairs outside. They even set up speakers on the porch so everyone could hear.
Part way through the service a pastor leaned over to me and said, “This is more people than we expected. A great majority of them are Hindu.”
I preached about the cross and God’s love for them. I could feel the spiritual tension in the room so much that as I spoke I prayed the Lord would rebuke any evil spirits. As I came to the invitation time, I said, “Tonight if you would be willing to received Christ,” and as soon as the words came out of my mouth, a balloon next to me popped. For years in evangelism training I have taught to expect distractions at the moment you invite someone to receive Christ.
I don’t know what all decisions were make that night but I saw several Hindu women crying as I explained the sacrifice that Jesus had made for them. I’ll never forget one of the ladies using her head scarf to wipe a tear from her eye.
We shared at a university while in Chennai, India. Although the president of the school is Hindu, she gave us permission to share our belief in Christ.
The students and faculty listened intently as I shared. Afterwards I was told that all of the professors had attended and more students than they had expected. I was also told that they had never listened to any speaker that well before. Usually the students would be going in and out of the room and the man who invited us told me that he was even afraid that they might heckle me. This Lord removed these obstacles, not because of me, but because the Holy Spirit was moving.
After the meeting one of the Christian students sent the text in the picture above to one of the professors: “I was crying when he preached about our Jesus Christ…I was totally shattered before entering the auditorium. After his preaching I was filled up with joy and happiness in Christ.”
Please pray for the University in Chennai. Pray for the president of the school—She is very kind and intelligent. Pray that God will touch her heart and open her eyes to the truth of the Gospel. Pray for the Hindu professors and the students here who heard the Gospel. Pray also for this Christian professor who is a light in darkness.
Pastor Ebenezer (seen in the far left of the above picture) was our translator in Chennai. His family is involved in multiple ministries in the area. His dad leads worship at his church. His sister and her husband minister through several of the schools and in another church. His other sister married the pastor of a church her father-in-law started 30 years ago. It was with this church that we held our last open air meeting. Pray for this family. They are making a difference in India. Pray for protection and pray that God will continue to use and bless them.
In the photo above, you can see Ebenezer’s grandmother, Poti (which means “old women”) and Ezri. She had been a witch when she was younger. She was saved after her husband died and she was the first in her family to convert to Christianity. We have asked them to video her testimony so that we can share it with you in the future.
In the schools the Lord helped us to carefully walk a very fine line as we shared Jesus in front of thousands of students. Many of these students are Hindu or Muslim. We shared God’s plan to save us from our sin and how Jesus is the only way to have life and to be forgiven. God gave us boldness but there is one situation which stands in my mind above the rest.
We were sharing at a school and after I shared with the students, they asked Mary Beth and the boys questions. What do you believe about end times? What do you believe about the coronavirus? What do you believe about this and that. Then they asked Mary Beth, “If you could say anything to India, what would it be?”
She replied that God loved them and sent Jesus to make a way to save them. It was the Gospel in a nutshell. It was very similar to what I had shared earlier and although this was supposed to be the last question, one of the men who had been in charge of the questions, took the microphone and asked one more. It was basically just the same question, just rephrased. Both her and I could tell that he was digging deeper.
Without hesitation, she responded, “There are not many gods. There is only one true God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ…” Suddenly all the Christians in the room began to applaud. She had crossed a line. In India it is one thing to share Jesus, for which you can experience opposition, but it is something entirely different to look at Hinduism and basically say, “You’re wrong.” It was a line that God wanted us to cross that day.
Afterwards several of the pastors told us how blessed and encouraged they were that she said this without hesitation and without any regard to our safety or to any consequences that might have come on us for directly challenging Hinduism.
“She looks like a doll,” was the response we were given when we asked why so many people took such an interest in Ezri. They wanted pictures with her and when she acknowledged them their faces would light up as if something great had just happened.
The picture above is a family what was walking on the beach and wanted their daughter to meet her and to have a photo, or as they would say, “a quick snap”, with her.
Another tradition in India is to reach to a child’s mouth as if you’re pulling a kiss away from their lips and bring to your own lips to kiss your fingers. This happened over and over to Ezri and a few times to Titus too.
God many times protects us in spite of our own ignorance. While we were walking on the beach at the Bay of Bengal, we found shells. Some of these were small clams but some were small cone shells. Most of these were empty but we found a few that still had a creature inside.
Titus said, “I think I saw these on a documentary about deadliest animals.”
We didn’t think so but put these shells away after holding several. It turns out that these creatures are called Bengal Cones and carry a variety of toxins which can be deadly. There is also no antidote for them. We have a picture of one in Mary Beth’s hand and you can see a tube-like thing that is extended. When this creature senses a prey, it will shoot a stinger out of this tube that is so small that sometimes people don’t feel anything but it injects them with poison which can affect them a few minutes later or up to three days later.
The Lord shielded us from our own ignorance.
We also had an experience where I was reaching back into a car to get my backpack and the driver didn’t realize that the door wasn’t closed. He began to drive forward. Ezri and my toes were only inches from the tire when this happened.
These are just a couple of scenarios that could have been bad had the Lord not intervened. And I’m sure that there were dozens of other situations that the Lord protected us from about which we were completely unaware.
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.” Psalm 28:7
After Guntur City, we left at 6am on Monday for a 7 hour train ride to Chennai. You can’t buy a seat for children age 5 and under, so Ezri sat on our lap the entire time. It was tight in the train. We didn’t have a translator once we left the station and we were exhausted. In fact, the last thing they told us before getting on the train was, “Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t trust anyone. The people are waiting to meet you at Chennai.” This was a little disconcerting but we weren’t concerned. We were just tired.
While in Guntur City, Titus began to feel sick. Ezri and I both started coughing from all the pollution and dust and Mary Beth began having a small allergic reaction as well.
Once we arrived at Chennai we rested and took a day to relax at the beach. It reminded me why God puts such a priority on respecting the Sabbath. The rest was good and by Wednesday morning we were ready to begin the ministry here in Chennai.
On Sunday morning in Guntur City, I shared at a church that has an incredible ministry. There were about 200 people in the worship service. At the end of the message, I shared with them that “you are not alone.” Not only is Jesus with you but there are believers around the world who are praying for you and for the salvation of India. I shared my burden to see American come to Christ and challenged them to boldly be a light in darkness. At the end of the service, the pastor called me back up. He led his church in praying for the believes in America.
After the service, they told me that I would get to share again. I didn’t know it, but there were more than 200 children outside. They minister to these kids and feed them every Sunday from 10am to 4pm. Then beyond this, throughout the week they lead 13 “Sunday schools” where they ministry to around 700 kids (mainly in slum areas) in different parts of the city. They also have 20 women living in the church building and when they complete the building, they will be able to house 50 Bible students to bring from across the country to train them and send them out.
They are also completing what will be the only baptistry that I saw the entire time I was in India. We prayed together that thousands of people would be baptized in it.
Please pray for Pastor Suresh and this ministry. They have already overcome numerous obstacles. He told that it has been “difficult” and that they have faced a lot of “opposition.”
One of my favorite experiences in Hyderabad was training church leaders who are working with children. There were about 25 people who attended our training conference. Among them are two brothers who are teaching “Sunday school” at their church. Their mother had been a witch and involved in black magic before she came to Christ. She was saved when they were young and they are second generation Christians. Both of these brothers have a passion for sharing Christ.
Sunil, who was our main translator in Hyderabad, has a team of five people who work with him to share at numerous churches, VBS and other children’s events. Sunil also leads several weekly Bible studies for children. He told me that he has created a library of resources to share with other churches. This way, the churches wouldn’t need to purchase their own but could share. He had also approached several pastors to offer to share with the children in their areas too.
After hearing Sunil’s heart for reaching children, we decided to spend an evening just training him and when we leave India we will be leaving most of our ministry equipment with him to use or to share with others.
On Saturday we drove about 40km outside of Guntur City for a children’s retreat. Many of the children were from the “slum colony” where the retreat was held. If you look in the background of these pictures, you’ll see huts made from wood, cardboard, scraps and nature. A few churches came from nearby areas bringing their kids as well. I shared both in the morning and in the afternoon and in between, the kids sang songs, had a “talent show”, ate lunch. When it came time for a break, I saw a line of boys walking up the road. Their restroom was the ditch half a mile up the way. The girls went into a nearby cotton field where they could have more privacy.
As I looked around I could see kids dressed in very nice clothes coming out of the huts. I asked one of the leaders about this and they said that parents and schools put a high priority on kids looking nice and so they often dress their best when they come to church events as well.
This retreat, which was held in an open pavilion with about 200 kids, with trash literally everywhere on the ground in the middle of this colony of huts was another highlight of my week. An old lady and an old man walking by stopped to listen as I spoke. The kids laughed. We sang. And we shared the love of Christ with them.
We’ve now shared in 7 distinct slum areas and I am finally understanding that Christianity here focuses on reaching children and reaching people in the slums. There is less resistance here. People in the slums are considered outcasts. According to Hinduism they are in this situation because of poor choices in another life. In a way, karma is punishing them. As a result they have little hope and little chance of a better life. Imagine then that the Good News of Christ comes in, telling them that they are valuable and important to God, that He loves them and has plans for their lives and that His love was proven by sending His own Son to save them. Can you see why these people more readily embrace Christianity and why so many of the churches are ministering in these areas. It’s not an easy ministry. Many of these people lack basic items. They need food. They have very little education. Disease and illness are rampant but the glory of God is moving in these dark places.
After sharing 21 times in and around Hyderabad, we drove 5 hours to Guntur City. We arrived around midnight and checked into our hotel. Our two days in Guntur City was fast-paced without a lot of rest. Although we shared only 5 times, one of the events we led was a children’s retreat in a slum colony about 90 minutes outside of the city. The next post will show you pictures and details about that event, which so far has been one of the highlights of trip.
On both evenings, we led open air outreach meetings on the street in Guntur City. The church set us up in a slum area of the city. On the first night around 200 people attended. The second night was even more filled and I spent over an hour afterwards praying with people–praying for lost husbands, addictions, for spiritual growth, for two couples whom doctors have told that they will never have children, and more. A group of children gathered to my side as I shared, standing behind their bicycles. Above me I could see people on their balconies, listening to God’s Word. And as I shared, people were walking by on a nearby street, easily within hearing of what was being said. They were out of sight for me but it was an incredible opportunity to boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way for someone to be saved.
In Guntur City several of the pastors spoke the Indian English. English is a common language here but their English is not always easy to understand. In Hyderabad we had someone who spoke very plain English which helped us understand more. But in this city there were times where I didn’t exactly know what was happening. On one night of the outreach, I sat down after the invitation and the pastor in charge called me back up. He said, “Give them another chance. Give a second altar call.” I don’t know why he said this and I never understood his reason but he was seeing something and wanted to extend the invitation to come to Christ.
I don’t know what all decisions were made one these nights. The pastor was thrilled about everything but all I could understand him say was “Many hearts were touched tonight. Many decisions were made. God did amazing things.”