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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas! I guess it's merry in America and happy in India. As usual, there's lots of stuff and I've been slacking a little on the updates.

The pastor's meeting went well. It's always fun to get together with them. Pastor Daniel had the meeting in one of the village churches to try to encourage the local church as well. I was encouraged by the local church there. They have some men and youth there along with the women. Pastor Daniel had given me the opportunity to give the message. I pray that it was an encouragement to them. We also had dinner after the meeting—potato curry and rice. This was by far the most spicy food I've had so far. It packed a good punch. The interesting part happened after the meeting. One of the women got in the car with us to ride back. As we were going, I jokingly asked Pastor Daniel if the other pastor (Israel) didn't want her anymore or what. He laughed and explained that Israel and his wife had come to the meeting on the motorcycle and that it wasn't safe to ride back at night with a woman. I understand that, but what really hit me was what he said next. He said that Moses and Ravii (also pastors) would also ride back on the same bike with Israel to up the manpower. This is interesting because when we were going to the meeting in the daytime, Sallie (P.D.'s daughter) had to catch a taxi back to home. It amazes me that at 5pm it is perfectly safe to leave your 18 year old daughter in a village to catch a taxi while at 11pm you need 3 men on one motorcycle to be safe. This seems to be a theme here. On the surface, some things look good or okay, but underneath they are not so good.

Mom was sick last week. She didn't look good at all and didn't act like herself. Everything seems to take a hit when she's sick. She does so much that it's hard for others to pick it up when she's out. It took a couple days to finally convince her to go to the doctors. They gave her some drugs and she's pretty much back to normal. Praise God!

Last Sunday was pretty fun. The older kids play a game called “Christmas Friend” for every week in December. Basically, you get a note from your “C.F.” and have to do what it says or else buy them chocolate. My “C.F.” said that I had to sing a Telugu song for a special song on Sunday. It was sketchy at best, but still fun. I also had the opportunity to give the message during the service. God has given me good thoughts on strengthening the church. At night, Sallie, Stella, and myself went to a Christmas candlelight service at the other side of town. This was a huge meeting. There was lots of singing as well as a dance team (or whatever you call it). The speaker was basically the Indian version of Louie Giglio. He taught the Bible using science.

This past Thursday afternoon, P.D. Informed me that Jay Raju's (village pastor) mother had just pasted away and asked if I would like to go to the funeral. “Sure.” “Okay, we'll leave in an hour or so.” Yeah, they just do everything themselves and so they do it that day. We arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon and waited till about 7 for one of the brothers to come back with a coffin. Although I got some surprised looks from some of the family members when they first showed up, I was amazed at how they welcomed me in to be a part of it. I was wondering if any of them would feel weird about having an outsider at something that was so personal for them. There was absolutely none of this attitude. I'll spare you all the details, but some are very interesting. After everything was packaged (for lack of a better term), all the men carried the coffin to the grave while the women stayed back. As they carried it across the village, they sang hymns. We then walked a ways into the middle of the jungle to the place that they had dug earlier. We buried the body and then returned home late at night.

Christmas was good. We had early prayer service at the church at 5am. Yeah, early. Then we had regular church service at 10am. It was amazing to see the regular congregation plus some for both services. P.D. Gave me the message for the 10am service. This was a blessing. The interesting part came in the afternoon. Uncle Levi's family stayed and had lunch with us. After this, they had the whole wedding arrangement meeting for Stella and Kanukarao (Levi's son). Of course I had no idea what was all being talked about, but it was still cool to see it take place. Some things in India are very similar to the States. This isn't one of them. The whole thing is just really strange. Yeah, I've just had all sorts of cultural experiences this week!

There's also been some very hard times the past couple weeks. There are always difficulties, but they have seemed especially intense the past couple weeks. However, as I look back, they're not really bad because I've seen God's faithfulness more and more in the midst of them. He is so faithful in everything.

Bonus: Here's a little bonus for you just because it's Christmas. There are typical phrases that most of you heard this past week. “Jesus is the reason for the season” etc. This is true, but I think many times we miss the true meaning of Christmas because we stop short. I'll give you an example. Most of you probably heard this verse in Luke 2 where the angel says, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (vs 10-11). I've heard this so many times that I'm beginning to think maybe it's a sin if a pastor doesn't use this passage for a Christmas sermon. It is a wonderful passage, but we often stop too short. Most people, even unbelievers, will most likely enjoy this verse. “Good news.” Everyone loves good news! “of great joy” Everyone loves joy! “for all people” Yes! Wonderful! “for today in the city of David there has been born..” Oh boy! A baby! Everyone loves babies! So now we have good news and great joy and it's for everyone AND there's a baby! Everyone just feels great and lets go home.

Sometimes I think people believe that the angel came and said, “I have come to bring you good news of great joy for all people; you can now have Christmas, a time when everyone should be happy.” This is not what it says. It says, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” It's not just a baby. I have joy when someone I know has a baby, but I have little to no joy knowing that right now someone somewhere in the world just had a baby. So, why would this baby be good news of great joy, for all people?

To look into this. I would like to look into the first mention of Christmas. We find it in Genesis chapter 3:15, “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” This is the first reference we see for a Redeemer. A Savior. This is the first reference for Jesus. It came right after Adam and Eve had sinned against God. Right after they had chosen to obey the devil instead of God. When they chose to sin, they separated themselves from God. Man could no longer experience a close relationship with God. This is the reason for all our suffering in the world. This curse was also hereditary. Everyone since Adam and Eve has sinned. We have willingly rebelled against God. We were lost and without hope in the world. It's good news to have a Savior, because we needed to be saved! It's of great joy because it means our relationship with God can be made right again. It's good news for all people not because all people love babies. It's because all people are sinful and need a Savior. If I'm playing in a mud puddle and someone runs up to me and says “I'm here to save you!” it's not good news. The only joy I will have is laughing at them. However, if I'm out in the middle of a storm-tossed ocean and I'm drowning and someone comes to save me, then it's truly good news.

Talking with some people, you would think that the purpose for Jesus coming was just to say that everyone should get along and set a good example. Jesus did not come to earth just to check up on things. He came with a specific purpose. In Matthew 1:21-23, we see, “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The reason Jesus came was to redeem mankind. He came to do for man what we could not do for ourselves. He came to make right what we made wrong. He came to give His life as a sacrifice for our sin. He came to take upon Himself the sin of the world and death. He came to conquer sin and death so that it would not hold us captive anymore. This is why His birth was good news of great joy for all people.

I've heard many Christmas messages and one thing that seems to always get left out is the very thing that Jesus preached and Paul preached, and Peter preached, and all the disciples preached—repentance. The birth of Jesus wasn't good news of great joy only at Christmas. It's all the time! We have true joy by being free from sin and at peace with God. We get this not by just believing in the baby Jesus, but in the crucified Jesus, and the resurrected Jesus. When we repent. When we turn our minds from trying to get to God on our own, when admit our rebellion against God and believe in Jesus' sacrifice for it. Not when we hide our sin, but expose our mess and filth and cry out for the Savior. This is when Jesus comes in and we are set free and filled with joy. If we will repent and believe the gospel, we will be saved. “And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21). THAT is the meaning of Christmas.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Please pray for:
--Tabitha's husband-salvation
--Wisdom for the future of this ministry
--Believers here—that they would be strengthened
--Jay Raju's family

Praise Him for:
--His vision
--Good health

P.S. I did not have time to proof read this update, so I apologize for the grammatical mistakes. It'll give you all a chance to practice grace. Haha, jk.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Last Saturday night we had prayer meeting, like every week. After wrapping things up around 10:30pm, we came upstairs into the house. Everything was pretty quiet until I heard Pastor Daniel begin yelling something in Telugu from down below. Sallie started running down the stairs. Mom looked over the railing at Pastor Daniel and ran towards me saying, “Snake! Snake!” It figures that the family member with the least English would be the one to tell me what's going on. I ran down the stairs ahead of Mom and rounded the corner to find Pastor Daniel pinning the back half of a king cobra to the wall while the front half was unseen in a drain pipe. Pinning the snake, Pastor Daniel was unable to beat it. Tabitha's husband had just showed up when I got there. I glanced around looking for a beating stick but couldn't find one. Mom showed up behind me with a solid 4 by 4 block of wood. Someone hit the body of the snake. As soon as its head came out of the pipe...BAM! Mom jacked it up. I think she stunned it and Pastor Daniel used the stick to pull it out. Mom gave it a couple more good crushing blows to the head just to make sure. It was sick! Moral of the story: when someone yells “Snake,” you bring your own beating stick. God protected us and no one was injured....except the cobra. Now that I think about it, the curry did taste a little different the next day...haha, jk.

I was given the opportunity to preach twice on Sunday, once at home church, and once at a village church. This was good and I pray that it was an encouragement to the people here. We also got to take communion at the village church. It's so amazing to see the Church. I never would have imagined that someday I would be in this little village in India joining believers there in communion. It's pretty incredible. After the service, one of the ladies in the church had prepared food for us so we got to eat there. I think it was chicken. It's one of those things where you're like, “huh, never seen that before. I don't know what part of the chicken that is, but I'll eat it anyway.” It was good though. I saw the same trend in this church as far as demographics. There were maybe twenty people there (not counting kids). There were only two men aside from the pastor.

We had three days the past week with lots of rain. It was so cold I had to put on a light jacket. P.D. Got sick during these days and was then kind enough to share it with me. I thought it was kind of ironic that I got sick while I was preparing a sermon about the lie of the prosperity gospel.

The family here jokes about how it was “by mistake that I was born in America.” it came up the other night when Mom put a little more spice than usual in the curry. I noticed it had some good kick, but of course I'm used to just eating what is put before me. Sallie said it was too spicy for her. So they joke that I'm actually Indian. Since then, Sallie will sometimes just shake her head when I do something and mutter, “by mistake.” Haha, I guess that's encouraging.

I have lots of time for prayer and study. It's been great. Just when I start getting bored or feeling somewhat useless, God gives me opportunities to do something. It's incredible to be driving down some bumpy dirt road blocked by goats and buffaloes knowing that you are in who-knows-where and will have the opportunity meet believers and preach the gospel. However, just as special are the small things, the stuff that happens everyday. It's holding hands with one of the kids as they walk around pointing at everything in sight and saying the name of it in Telugu. It's not learning the Telugu that's important, but the time with the child. It's playing “Acha mena” (Indian patty-cake) over and over with the girl orphans. It's the piggy-back rides and decorating the Christmas tree. It's playing tag and trying to cook tortillas. The most special times, though, have not come with any of these. It has been the times when I can get alone, by myself, in my room and kneel down against a chair and have no care in the world for how long I can be there. It is this time of praying that is more special to me than anything else. To have time to just press into God has been the greatest blessing.

I am convinced that what India needs most is not schools and hospitals, but Jesus. They need to know the real, living, life-changing Jesus. This is the only hope for it. I am not against schools and hospitals, but I know that it's quite possible to be rich, healthy, and educated and still go to Hell. Jesus says, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and foreits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). I read a short blurb in the paper a while ago about a girl in ninth grade who committed suicide after doing poorly on her exams. She believed a lie that told her that if she doesn't do well in school, her life was worthless. The kids, more than anything, need to know Jesus, and know that He loves them no matter how they do in school. Their hope must rest in Jesus and nothing else.

The question seems to be getting asked more and more frequently, “Do you know about the future? Are you called to India?” The answer is “Naku teleadu” translated means, “I don't know.” I could probably write fifty pages if I were to describe all the different aspects of being a missionary here or not and everything that goes on in my head. However I look at it though, it has to be God's leading and His guidance. We'll see where He leads me. Right now I have two and a half months left and that gives God plenty of time.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

Please Pray:
-Tabitha's husband-salvation
-Men to be saved
-Pastors meeting tomorrow (thursday)--for unity and encouragement
-Sudir (orphan)--doctors looking to see if they can fix his speech impediment.

Praise for:
-His consistent goodness and faithfulness

Friday, December 3, 2010


Here it is, the next couple of days. jk. Here's some more highlights, there's just no way to include everything.

On the last day that Pastor Dempsey was here, we were able to travel to most of the village churches. We didn't get to see the church (the people, that is) but it was still nice to see where all of the pastors work. Some of the church buildings were small and in very poor condition. One in particular sticks out to me. It has some cracks in the walls, but the biggest problem is the roof. It is made of tiles and supported by wooden beams. These wooden beams are being eaten away by termites. The beams look very weak and about to collapse. On top of that, the building sits in a low spot and water drains to it. This is also taking it's toll. Pastor Daniel says that this building is his main issue right now and he needs to fix it because it is very dangerous for people to be meeting there. The man who pastors the congregation in this building is very faithful. He has his main congregation in a nearby village, but shepherds this flock as well.

There were usually a couple believers or the pastor at each place we visited to show us around. Of course, they had to give us something at each church. In some places it was pretty simple, like a coke or a couple biscuits (cookies). Other places were more exciting. At one church they brought us warm buffalo milk. I've thought it might be the milk that caused my stomach problems in the past, but you can't really refuse the people's offer. So I prayed and drank it thankfully. It was actually pretty tastey. We visited a house after this and they brought out a tray with chips and buffalo cheese (kind of like pudding). Pastor Daniel told us to pick one. I started going for the chips, but the ladies pointed to the cheese and said, “This one, this one.” So I ended up with the cheese. More prayer and thankfulness. It was a little different but still pretty good, and my stomach felt good the rest of the day. Praise God!

One of the harder parts of the day was visiting the widow who couldn't make it to the meetings. We walked from the church to her little grass hut. She was sitting on her bed and in obvious pain. She has chicken fever (gout) which is extremely painful. She also had a broken leg. Dempsey asked if she could go to the doctor. Daniel said that the cloth with sticks in it wrapped around her leg was from the doctor (obviously not a professional doctor, but the local doctor). We prayed for her. It would have been great to see miraculous healing, but in His ultimate, sovereign wisdom, God chose not to. I don't always understand why, but I only see a small part of the picture. I thank God though, that He has saved this woman and that her sufferings in this world are only temporary and seem so incredibly small and short compared with the glory and joy of eternity with God.

In another church, I had the privilege of meeting an elderly man who was the first person in that village to come to Jesus. This was so cool. He kept talking to Pastor Daniel about something. I learned later that he wanted to have Scripture verses painted on the inside of the church building. Haha, sweet old dude. I also met two young men in this church who are now in college and had grown up in the orphanage. It was very encouraging to see the span of generations in this church.

The next day we took Pastor Dempsey to the airport and had some excitement, but the bottom line is that he made his flight and called us later to let us know that he made it home safely. Praise God!

Since then, things have gone back to “normal,” which is a little slower...sometimes. There's been lots of good times in prayer and having fun. After prayer with the church one Friday morning, some of the ladies mentioned Dempsey leaving and asked Daniel how long I would be with them. He jokingly replied, “till Jesus comes back.” They laughed and then said that they would arrange my marriage for me. Haha, glad to know I've got that taken care of. I also tried making banana bread one day (failed), but Mom was daring enough to try it anyway and said, “not so bad.” Tried round 2 a couple days later and I'd give it a solid C+. Considering what there is to work with, maybe a B+.

In other news, one of the N.C.M. pastors has a house church that has grown and is now looking at building and raising funds for it. It's good to know that the church isn't stagnant, but moving forward and growing. Praise the Lord for that!

Another blessing is that God has placed my mind in serious OVERDRIVE this past week. It's been one of those weeks were everything I read in the Scripture seems to stand out to me. I can hardly keep going on one thought because the moment I turn to look at another reference, a different passage catches my eye and another line of thoughts and references with that. It's like I can't keep up with it. It's wonderful. I've also learned to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Pastor Daniel asked me Friday night to preach twice on Sunday, once in home church and then in a village church we would be visiting.

So, Sunday was pretty busy but good. Preaching went well. The village church was encouraging in some ways, but also showed some weaknesses. It has over a hundred members, but out of this, only about 10 or 15 men. The men and women sit on opposite sides of the church, which makes this contrast that much more apparent. It was still good to be with them. After the service, we got to pray with people. One in particular was very encouraging. He is an elder in the church (good to see a church that actually has elders). For two years, this man has chosen not to sell his tobacco, which is the main crop in that area, and is now having financial difficulty because of it. It is one thing to be poor because of circumstances that you can't control. It's something totally different to be poor willingly. It's powerful seeing a man follow his conviction in obedience to Christ.
Another praise is that we have to buy more chairs for the women's side in the home church. We did not have enough on Sunday. Praise God! What a good problem to have!

As always, thanks for your prayers and support. You have no idea the impact they have. I'm so blessed by all of you and the emails you all have sent. I'm sorry that I can't respond to each one individually in a timely manner, but I'm still encouraged by them. I pray for you often.

“And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.'” Luke 16:15

Please Pray for:
-Tabitha's husband-salvation
-More men to be saved and lead these churches
-Wisdom and finances for the building in poor condition
-30 to 40 sponsors for kids

Praise for:
-Pastor Dempsey's travels
-God moving His church forward
-Faithful men here
-More people in home church
-Opportunities given
-Continued physical health
-His teaching me His word