James 4:14

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." James 4:14

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gospel Meetings

If I were to recap the entire week it would probably be about twenty pages long, so I'll just update you on the Gospel Campaign last weekend. It was a great time and we've already begun to see some of the impact from it. Thank you so much for praying. I cut a lot out of this already, but it's still kind of long, so you might want to get a cup of coffee before you keep going.

Friday was the first night of the meetings and it went pretty well. Most of the day before the meeting was spent praying and then working on sound stuff. The meeting was a blast though. The first part was all singing, which sounded amazing. They had a gospel band with a drummer, electric guitarist, keyboardist, bongo player, and a couple singers who were all extremely talented. Pastor Dempsey gave a good message. He definitely has a different style of preaching than what I'm used to (maybe because it was in English, jk) but it was good and heartfelt.

The second speaker of the night was a native named John. He was an incredibly gifted speaker and the pastor of a church. I wish I could have understood what he was talking about, but it was still good to see how he engaged the people and and held their attention. He preached for a while and we ended late, around 11pm. It was a good night, but not very comfortable. There were about half a bajillion bugs out and we were sitting on stage in the lights. I put on tons of bug repellent beforehand, but I think that just made my arms sticky so when the bugs landed on me anyway, they just got stuck. Lots of bugs everywhere and all over us.

When we had dinner around midnight (hmm, feels like I'm back at the Brushfire), the bugs apparently thought it would be great fun to have a sporting event on our plates. They dropped on our food twice as fast as we could pick them out. It was seriously raining bugs. Eventually, we stopped trying to pick them out and just went for it. We had the lights off, to attract less bugs, and also so you wouldn't really know when you were eating them. I'm sure there were more than a few unlucky bugs that ended up in my stomach. However, as Pastor Dempsey told Samuel, “It'll put some grit n' ur' craw'.” (Did I mention he's from Mississippi?) Uncomfortable? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely! I haven't seen the verse in the Bible that says we're supposed to be comfortable at all times. I pray that there were some good seeds planted.

Saturday night was incredible. Right before the meeting, it began to rain. We covered up all the sound equipment and began praying for good weather. The rain soon let up and we began the meetings. We had no rain for the rest of the night. We found out afterward that there had been heavy rains on just the other side of town. God is so awesome! Everything else seemed pretty much the same as Friday night, only there were more people there. Pastor Dempsey gave a good message. Again, much different style, but still good.

We had the same speaker from Friday for the second message. I didn't sit on the stage tonight which was good for several reasons. One of them was that Sallie translated a little bit of his message so I could at least follow where he was going. I was very impressed. I knew he was very entertaining to listen to from the night before, but I didn't know if there was a solid message with it. Tonight cleared all that up. He had good content and presented it in a great way. I praise God that He has raised up men like this here. It's amazing to see how God has worked. It was a wonderful night. Also, there were less bugs, partly due to Indian “fly paper.” That's another story though.

Sunday was AMAZING! We had baptisms in the morning during church. There was one other man and two women who joined “Uncle” in getting baptized. It was great to witness. They do some cool things with baptism too. First, they give the people Biblical names. The people actually go to the government and get their names changed to this name officially. They also take communion during the service after they are baptized and get a Bible. What a cool time. Also, I can now call “Uncle,” “Levi.” Pastor Daniel also told me later that there were a couple ladies in church who hadn't been there before. One of them came up to pray with him after the service. She said that she had heard about salvation before, but she came to the meeting Saturday night and the Holy Spirit spoke to her through the messages. She would also like to take believers baptism. Praise the Lord!

Pastor Dempsey's message was very good this night. I felt like maybe he was beating around the bush a little the first couple nights. Sunday, he gave a good, simple, and straightforward presentation of the gospel. He has a wonderful heart for these people and it showed on Sunday night. I only felt bad for Pastor Daniel who was translating. He had been getting more and more sick from the lack of sleep and stress from the Campaign and it showed more Sunday night. He still belted out the message like a champ though.

We had a different speaker for the second message. He is an older pastor who is part of N.C.M. (Pastor Daniel's ministry). His name is also Paul. Good name. jk. He was not as engaging as John was, but he was also much older. Sallie translated a little, which I thought was pretty good, but Pastor Daniel told me later that it wasn't as good of a message. I guess Paul used to be better, but isn't as good now. It seemed like his message and presentation were not the best. This was sad to hear. However, I know he did use a fair amount of Scripture and God will use that for the hearts that He's prepared.

The meeting ended around 11:30, but the night was far from over. Around midnight we went into the church to pass out the new clothes to the widows in the village churches. The church was packed out. It was a bittersweet time. Before passing out the clothes, Pastor Daniel asked the people how many of them were in their local churches for worship this morning. Maybe half of the people raised their hands, maybe less. This was very hard for all of us to see, but especially hard for Pastor Daniel. He was already stressed and now he had to do some discipline. I could tell it was very hard for him to deal with this while being so frustrated. I was glad that he did it though. I couldn't help but wonder what would happen in some American churches if the pastor got up and said, “You call yourself Christian. What do you have better to do on the Lord's day than be with your family in Christ worshiping Him?” This is essentially what Pastor Daniel told them. After the clothes began to be passed out, it was a much lighter and happier atmosphere. This was bittersweet too though. It was great to see some of these old widows, some dressed in very dirty, worn out clothes, getting new ones. It was very hard to see the young widows. At first I was surprised to see a young woman come up when her name was called, but it broke my heart when it sunk in that she too was a widow. We then passed out a pair of clothes to each of the pastors and their wives and dismissed everyone.

The hardest part happened after everything was over. Some of the pastors were lingering and having a somewhat heated discussion with Pastor Daniel. It was not super heated, but it was definitely arguing. Sallie said that this seems to happen every time. She said that the issue is that Pastor Daniel had taken the stance that the widows had to come tonight in order to get clothes. He made an exception for one widow who is very faithful in one of the churches but has some leg pains and there was no way she could travel. So, naturally, as soon as you make one exception, everyone else feels cheated. That's what the arguing was about. I felt terrible. It is so hard to see God's children fighting. Pastor Daniel was not in a good condition to deal with it either, but he did the best he could. It was a long day, we got to bed around 3am.

Monday morning we had a pastors meeting. Pastor Daniel had Dempsey and Paul and myself sit up front. While we were waiting for all the pastors and their wives to show up, thoughts on Christian love and unity were going through my mind. At one point after the meeting had started, Pastor Daniel asked me if I had anything to say. It was clear that God had given me a message for them and I was supposed to say it. It was not an easy message to give, but I pray that it encouraged them.

When the meeting finished, we got to hang out with the pastors and their families. One of the most special things was that I got to meet a pastor from the persecuted church in Orissa who had come to visit. His son is one of the kids in the orphanage. I couldn't talk with him at all because he didn't speak English or Telugu, but it was still a joy to meet him. I've also had some great talks with Pastor Dempsey this week and he's been a great encouragement to me.

Well, there's so much that I've left out, like Pastor Daniel having me sing a song with my guitar each night of the meetings, but it'll have to go in a different update. It was interesting to say the least. I'll try to get another update out in the next couple of days. God is faithful in everything and He is worthy to be praised. It's good to know that even when we have ups and downs, God is consistent. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

You are all very special to me and I appreciate your prayers and encouragements. I love you very much and I am so blessed by you.

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.” Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Pray for:
-Tabitha's husband-salvation.
-Sponsors for kids.
-Unity among the pastors.
-More people's eyes to be opened.

Praise for:
-Holding off the rain on Saturday.
-The people who want to be baptized.
-The believers who were baptized.
-Good Campaign.
-Continued physical health.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sick Week!

It's been a sick week in several different ways. The first way (and least important) is the literal way. I feel like the only person to ever get sick on a missions trip....okay that's a lie. I've heard it happens sometimes. The downside of being sick is that you feel terrible. The upsides to being sick are much more abundant. 1. You get to pray a lot more. 2. You're much more grateful when you're not sick. 3. You get to see if your joy is circumstantial or not. 4. You realize that 3am actually exists. Well, it was certainly exciting times, but it was only for one night and a small part of the next day and I feel splendid now! Praise God! I only ate bread and banana's that one day and I'm very happy to be back on rice and curry.

I spent a lot of the week praying and reading. A super-cyclone hit the lower part of India this past weekend. If it had come farther north, it would have put a real damper on the Gospel Campaign this weekend. We were praying for God to redirect it. We only had some wind and mild rains. There's a bunch of other stuff that are all stories in themselves, like Diwali, getting fitted at a tailor shop, and today which is worship a snake day. There's always funny stuff with the kids as well and we got a baby water buffalo. However, I don't have time to go into all that so I'll just share the most important story. It's about a man named something that I still can't pronounce much less spell whom the kids call “Uncle.”

Uncle's family was all Hindu. About three years ago his wife and son accepted Jesus and got baptized. He was holding out though (the men are a little more stubborn). He began coming to church and helping out Pastor Daniel about five months ago. He has been a great help, but seemed unaffected by the gospel. Anyways, Sunday after church I went outside to help some of the men move a concrete slab for the baptismal. When I went back into the church, I saw Uncle and his wife praying with Pastor Daniel. Uncle was sobbing and praying. After that, they joined us for lunch and tea in the afternoon. Although I already knew, Pastor Daniel asked me to pray for them before they left because Uncle had accepted Jesus that morning and wants to be baptized next Monday. WOOHOO! Praise God! I'm super-stoked to see God bringing people to Himself.

I guess there's other stuff, but it's all pretty small in comparison with that. Man! God is good! This weekend is the big Gospel Campaign and we're pumped for that as well. I can't tell you how cool it's been to pray with the women nearly every day for this event. They are so faithful. There is also a pastor coming from the States for this event. Pastor Daniel went to pick him up in Hyderabad today and they will come back tomorrow. I'm very excited to meet him. Please pray for Pastor Dempsey that he would have good health as well and God's words while preaching. There are TONS of things that all have to come together in the next couple days, but none of that matters if God does not move. PLEASE continue to pray for God to prepare people's hearts and that they would come to Him. Because I know some of you are very connected to us in prayer, I have a special request for all of you. Would you please fast for one meal and use that time to pray specifically for the Campaign this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? Thank!

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Pray for:
-Tabita's husband—salvation
-Sponsors for kids
-Pastor Dempsey—health and message
-Gospel Campaign—souls to be harvested

Praise for:
-Redirected cyclone
-Physical Health—no more sickness.
-Uncle's Salvation! Woohoo!

Monday, November 1, 2010

What the Portland?

Portland has been very nice the past couple of.....er...wait. Sorry, I got confused for a second. It's been raining continuously for the past several days. Personally, I don't mind it, but it's bad for the rice farmers here. It's harvest time, but they need dry ground to harvest and the rain has ruined some crops.

I've heard that some people are wondering how I'm doing with eating all the rice...well, I feel great and I'm not sick of it, so I'd say pretty good! The secret is to just find out, what I call, the right “spice-to-rice” ratio. I don't always know what I'm eating, but that's okay. Even though it's not what the passage is talking about, I've still found good advice in 1 Corinthians 10:27b “eat anything that is set before you without asking questions for conscience' sake.”

Earlier in the week I traveled with Pastor Daniel to see his brother in law (also a pastor) in some village somewhere in India. As we passed through one of the villages along the way, there was a crowd of people in the road. As we crept through the crowd, we learned that there had just been an accident where two people were killed on the spot. These accidents seem to happen fairly often. A little later we came across a large truck that had rolled over. Finally, we arrived at our destination. Jaydodge (sp?) was very hospitable and kind. We ate some chili things and then some kind of dessert that's made from water-buffalo milk. They were both delicious. Anyways, as we were driving home at night, a policeman redirected us to a different road saying that the people had gone on strike where the accident had happened before. I guess the whole community comes out and won't let traffic through until they get the information or payment they want for their lost loved ones. This redirected traffic from the two way highway to a one way backroad that almost doubled our time getting home. It was crazy seeing buses and shipping trucks and everything trying to make room for each other on the small one lane road. This was actually a blessing though because it gave me some great time to talk with Pastor Daniel.

It's hard to explain what's going on with me spiritually. God has helped me realize more of what it means to abide in Christ. It's not any new feeling, but certainly a knowing. I know that I am in Christ and He is showing me what all that includes. For example, this week I was battling lots of thoughts about the future. I knew it didn't matter and knew I wanted to focus on the here and now but it seemed like I couldn't get rid of them. Then God gave me the realization that I'm IN Christ. I belong to God. That means my future also belongs to Him. Then I look to Him. Is He worried about my future? Haha, the thought of it just cracks me up. No way! So why should I be? That's just one area. This knowing of being in Christ goes in every other area as well. I can't explain it here, but if you really want to know about it you could just read “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee or “Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret,” or both of them. It's no coincidence that God had me read both of those back to back. It's just so incredible that I can't describe it. God is good!

Preaching was a joy on Sunday! It's a whole story in itself, but basically it's just awesome to trust God to speak and such a privilege to be here proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Pray for:
-Tabita’s husband—salvation
-Sponsors for kids
-Gospel Campaign Nov. 12, 13, 14—hearts to be prepared

Praise for:
--Continued Health
--Spiritual Guidance and Opportunities