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 11, 2011

Grand Canyon and More

What a rocking month it's been. There's so much that I can't even remember it all...and I don't keep a daily journal that I can cheat off of like I had in India. Anyways, here's some of the cool stuff in my life last month.

First, while flying back to Colorado from Idaho, I had a very interesting conversation with the man next to me on the plane. He was probably early 50's and looked like a hunter. We talked about general things at first and then we moved on to spiritual things (I forget how we got there). He took a very passive approach to it. Like, “I believe this, they believe that, and you believe whatever and that's great for you.” I questioned him about truth for a while and then the topic went to evolution and eventually we ended up at the Bible. I would take him back to it and then he questioned it...which was funny because I had just gone over all that stuff about “Why Christians choose to believe the Bible.” From the things he said, it was obvious that he had no idea how we got the Bible although he claimed to have read all of it and “been there done that” and “of course I know where we got it.”At this last statement I asked him if he would explain where and how he thought we got it to which he said, “Oh, so now you're quizzing me?!” Not exactly the “got saved right there” type of conversation. We covered lots of area's, but it was mostly centered around “How do you know you have it right and every other religion has it wrong?” So..interesting.

Then I got back to Gunny and started going on campus with a couple dear brothers. They set up a book table with free booklets and free Bibles. One of them leads Cru on campus and had Soul-arium set up. This is a tool that uses pictures to start spiritual conversations with people and proved to be incredibly effective. We did this several weeks in a row and God blessed us with many AMAZING opportunities. I could write forever talking about just the conversations that happen in one day. It's just amazing to see the doors being opened. I'll share one special story. One guy about my age came over to the booth. I'd met him before once at the Brushfire. Even though I had only seen him that once, I remembered him because I'd had such a difficult conversation with him. He was arrogant, atheist, cynical, and confident. Just seemed impenetrable. I'd seen him around town just a couple times in the three years since then.

We talked for a while at the table and he asked about what the pictures were for. I explained it and asked him if he wanted to do it which he sarcastically did. However, in our conversation, before we mentioned anything spiritual, he would throw out little jokes about how much he drinks. He would laugh a little after each joke. After (literally) the fifth time or so, I just thought “This is really buging him.” So, quickly the conversation turned to God. I asked, “where are you at with God.” He responded that he sometimes goes to the Lutheran church and is pretty good. “So if you were to walk out that door in five minutes and drop dead, what would happen, would you go to heaven or hell?” “Well, I hope I could to go a confession first.” “No, I mean, no confession, like you walk out and your dead.” He was silent and struggling with his answer. “Well, I think I'd go to heaven, I'm pretty good and I stick to my principles.” “Well, do you think God will judge you by your principles or His standard.” More struggling until he admitted “His standard.” I asked him about if he knew about God's standard of the Ten Commandments. I walked him through several of them in a Ray Comfort style. He came to see his sin and see how far away he really was. Then...I got to share GRACE with him and explain how Jesus took all that sin and gives His righteousness as a free, totally undeserved, gift. I explained that God takes him as a wicked sinner and doesn't say clean up first. But to come to Him with all your problems and let Him take care of them. I could see the message was hitting him hard. He finally looked up at me (he had been staring at the ground for a while) and said, “Are you going to be a preacher? Cause you've hit me harder than the last three pastors I've heard.” Of course it's not me, but the Holy Spirit was hitting his heart. I encouraged him to repent and believe in Jesus—to trust in His righteousness. He took a Bible and I gave him some good places to start. He asked about the Brushfire and the times it's open. “I'll have to stop by, it'll be better than hanging out at the bars.” What a blessing to see this change. Several years before he seemed so hard and now he was like a sponge! Praise God for his mighty work. I haven't seen him in the Brushfire yet, but I pray that God would continue His work and that he would come to repentance.

There are many more conversations like that each week and it's simply amazing to see. I've also been given the chance to teach Sunday school at church. Wow, those kiddo's are just such a blast. After Sunday School, the church had baptisms which were great. One of the kids in my class got dunked! The pastor explained that when he had been talking with this little guy about baptism, he'd asked him, “so what is baptism?” to which the kid responded, “It's swimming in Jesus.” “that's some pretty deep theology,” the pastor said to us. Haha, it was great.

Saturday night services have been going well and I also had the chance to teach there one night and play music another. Making music certainly isn't my gift, but all our musicians were gone. But God is good, one dear lady loves to sing but doesn't play anything and I can (sort of/more or less/kinda) play guitar but singing's not super good. Sooo...we teamed up and it was really fun. The women from Saturday night are just rocking it right now. They have “caught the blaze.” And you can just about see the flames of godliness shining on them. To say these ladies are ON FIRE would be an understatement. They are so hungry for the word and have multiple Bible studies throughout the week where they continue to press in deep. Then they have prayer meetings on top of that and conferences and a desire for their husbands to know Christ as well as a desire to be more godly wives. However, you could definitely pray for the men. There are certainly some very faithful men who are wonderful servants, but in general it seems like most of the men aren't that stoked on it. Some are not yet saved, while others may be saved, but seem to be content just sitting. Please be praying for the men who come consistently but aren't saved. There are several who look like they're trying to get as close as possible to being a Christian without actually being one.

The Grand Canyon:

While I was in Idaho, I received a phone call from one of my kayaking buddies from CB. He said he got a permit to float the Grand Canyon and I was invited. I prayed about it and then agreed to go. He said it would be self support, meaning that there would be no rafts going to take our gear. So when I got back, I began the logistics of getting a larger boat in which I could pack all my camping gear and food for 13 days. Everything came together and we launched from Lee's Ferry on Oct. 23rd to paddle to 226 miles down to Diamond Creek. What an incredible trip! The Grand Canyon is truly breathtaking. The water was a little higher than last time I did it which made it pretty fun. We only had one guy swim the first day (kayaks are harder to roll when they're weighted down), and then one guy swam in Lava Falls. Other than that, it was pretty clean. We boated a lot and hiked a lot and climbed some. Such a blast! It's hard to even describe everything. The weather was pretty nice the first couple times and then it became windy one night and rained on us a little. The next morning there was strong wind and lots of rain. Definitely chilly. The good thing was that the wind was downstream. We almost literally flew down the river. We paddled nearly 18 miles in two hours without hardly trying. After that, the weather was pretty nice.

Spiritually, it was a difficult trip. While I grew closer to these guys and I want them to know Jesus so desperately, the opportunities seemed non-existent. Pretty disappointing except for one small conversation I had with one guy while the others were gone climbing. God gave me some encouragement on the trip home while I was reading “The Savage, My Kinsman” by Elizabeth Elliot. In the final pages, she talked about “success” and “failure” in ministry and how we try to measure it, but God often measures a totally different way. She mentioned that you don't want to glorify something trivial, but you also don't want to label something as a “failure” when that may in fact be something that God wants to use for something great. So that was encouraging. I hope that if nothing else, they were able to see something different in my lifestyle. Haha, one of the funniest compliments I received was on the last morning while we were playing hacky-sack. One of the guys said, “you know, Paul, You're the best non-pot smoking hacky sacker I know....I mean, you're even up there with some of the top stoners.” Haha, it was so funny. So I entrust them to God and if He gives me more opportunities with them, then I pray that I will be bold enough to share the good news with them. It was a wonderful trip, but it is nice to be back and not eating dehydrated meals for dinner every night.

Lastly, I had an email from CBMR when I got back that said they had decided to hire me as a ski instructor here this winter. Woohoo! Praise God for that! I'm excited to try out a new mountain and see what God has for me up there. As exciting as all these things have been, God has reminded me in multiple ways that my goal in life is nothing more than knowing Him. It is not service for Him or anything I do or accomplish, it's about knowing Him and that's it. That is a wonderful truth and has given me great peace.

“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Luke 10:20

As always, I haven't proofed. If I really did, then it would be another 3 months to post probably. So, if there's lots of typo's and poor grammar and writing, then you can practice some grace. :) haha.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A "Summery"

Talk about an adventurous summer. There have been several trips to Pueblo, several others to Pagosa, good kayaking and some preaching opportunities, and work on top of that. We’ll start out with work.

I’ve been guiding rafts and duckies again this summer which has been wonderful. Admittedly, it’s a rough job—having to go out on the river every day in summer sunshine down a canyon that’s absolutely gorgeous…yeah it’s tough. Anyways, there are always lots of adventures because the customers are always different….and some are…more different. Good times though. It was also great working with my fellow guides. I held a “Beer and Bible study” after work once a week which went…okay. It was nothing spectacular, but there was a guide here and there that would show up. Most of the time they did show up, there was good discussion. So praise God for that! There were also many small discussions throughout the summer with my co-workers and many with customers. One really sticks out in my mind. I was teaching a kayak lesson and we had decided to take a break. I asked him many questions to get to know him. I was hoping for him to return the favor…but he didn’t. So I prayed and asked God to direct the conversation if He wanted me to share with this man. We ended the lesson early, and as we were putting gear away, he began to ask questions. The conversation quickly went to the gospel and we had a wonderful conversation for about an hour. It was wonderful. He was super interested and asked lots of good questions. There are really too many good stories to write down all of the cool opportunities that God gave me.

God gave me several opportunities to preach this summer which was super cool. The first one was in Pagosa. One of the elders of the Cowboy church there called me up and asked if I would like to come a preach there one week. The pastor had recently passed away and they were looking for transition speakers. I was so blessed by the opportunity to go down there and share with them. Then, for the 3rd of July, I had another opportunity to speak at a church out in Sargents. The main guy they had asked was out fighting a forest fire, his backup was preaching in Missouri, so they got me. Haha. I guess you could say I was the sub for the sub. Either way, that was also a huge blessing. Aside from that, I’ve also had the chance to teach at our Saturday night services a couple times randomly throughout the summer. So that’s all been great.

Of course, there’s gotta be some good kayaking in every summer. This summers’ fun runs were Daisy Creek, Pine Creek, and the Black Canyon. OBJ was crazy (previous post), but other than that, it was a great summer. The Black Canyon was super intense and involved more hiking than I prefer, but still an epic adventure…and I didn’t get poison ivy!

The men’s conference in Utah was spectacular and I loved seeing the brethren in Logan. Idaho was great as well. Wonderful times catching up with the believers here and I got to go out on campus with them to witness and pass out free literature. We passed out lots of free espresso cards and God blessed us with some good conversations with everyone from atheists to solid believers.

Also had a great river trip down the middle fork of the Salmon for 5 days with some cool Idaho boaters. Last night the Nuart showed a film called “why Christians choose to believe the Bible” which had a good turnout. One agnostic friend that I had the chance to talk to last week on campus showed up and seemed really challenged by the material presented. Praise God!

“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Goody's pinned!"

It’s been a crazy summer. This is the story of one of the most intense situations I’ve ever been in that happened about a month ago:

“Goody’s pinned!” Ethan said to me in a rushed voice as he jumped out of his boat, grabbed his throw bag, and began running through the woods upstream. It was hard to imagine that two hours earlier we were chilling at the Smokehouse restaurant enjoying a beer together after work. Ethan received a text from Goody saying “Obj @ 5:45?” Ethan glanced at me and said “Wanna go boat?” “Yeah, let’s do it.” We had met up with one of our fellow raft guides, Adam, in Crested Butte who said he would come and take some pictures. After driving out into the beautiful valley, we met up with Chris and Goody at the Oh-be-joyful campground and prepared to run the 1 mile long, Class V creek. We had all run this creek multiple times before and were pretty comfortable on it. As we hiked up to the put-in, we talked about random stuff, about Ethan about to become a dad, and Goody spoke about his wife and one year old son. We put on and ran the first several drops fine. I happened to be in the back of the pack. Things got interesting as we approached Triple Drop, three fairly consecutive 5-6ft drops, before the Big Drop, a 25ft waterfall. I lined up for the first of the Triple Drops. When I went over it, I noticed a blue boat (goody’s) which was pinned underwater in the drop. Immediately I looked for Goody swimming downstream….but didn’t see him. Instead I saw Chris and Ethan eddying out and I knew Goody was still pinned in his boat.

I jumped out of my boat and grabbed my throwbag, I set up just a little upstream while Ethan and Chris went up to where Goody was. I knew that I would be the last safety bag for Goody if he popped out and the other two couldn’t get him before he would be going through the other two drops and possibly the big one. After a short time, though, I heard Ethan yell, “Paul, we need you up here!” I ran up the bank over to where they were. We tossed throwbags into the spot where we knew Goody was..although we couldn’t see him because of all the water pouring over his body. At one point, we could tell Goody had grabbed onto the bag, but as we slowly pulled, it popped out, and Goody was still stuck. Things started looking really grim for the next few minutes. We tried several other quick methods with no avail, not knowing if Goody could breath or not. The situation intensified as the minutes slowly ticked on and Goody remained stuck under the falls. We knew that, if he couldn’t breath, we had maybe a minute and a half, or two max before we would just be pulling out a body. As our efforts were continually ineffective, we thought we were watching our friend drown. However, we were given a little hope after several minutes when Goody’s arm reached up to grab a paddle that we were reaching in with. We kept pressing hard, knowing that he was still alive, but still not knowing how long he had to live while trapped there. We took some time to set up a more complicated ropes system. After trying several methods that didn’t work, we tried one that seemed like our best option. By this time Adam had come up and become a part of our rescue. We hooked up one guy in the river (it was fairly shallow in some spots, but still swift) to two ropes, one on each side. He was also roped on the back by another guy in the river behind him. I manned the rope on the far side, while Ethan and Chris switched off in the middle with Adam manning the rope on the far side. At one point, we needed an extra rope which was in Ethan’s kayak. I tied off my end and began going for it when they called me off. I didn’t know why, but somehow the system was set up. The guy on the ropes would walk out as close as he could get to Goody and then leap into the water where we knew he was pinned, trying to grab him and pull him out. After several failed attempts, moral began to decline again, but the work continued. I began praying, “Lord, you know what we’re doing and it’s not working. Lord, you need to pop him out. Please pop him out, Jesus.” A couple more leaps failed and then Chris went in again. As he disappeared into the falls, we could tell he had grabbed Goody, because he didn’t flush out like before. No sooner had we said, “He’s got him!” when Chris flushed out… without Goody. As Ethan and Chris began to brainstorm again and recoup for another leap, all of a sudden Goody and his kayak had popped out and was floating downstream. Chris was immediately grabbing Goody with both hands, as we held Chris with the ropes. Goody’s boat however was filling up with water and pulling everyone harder downstream. We were able to get the boat pinned on the rock and Ethan began trying to pull Goody’s leg out of his boat, which took longer than it should. Another guy, Nick, a kayaker who showed up just to watch had also been around for most of the rescue. He had helped Adam with the rope and now helped Ethan and Chris pull Goody out of the water on that side. We had just gotten Goody out when another kayaker showed up who had received the emergency call that Adam had phoned in earlier in the rescue. Just behind him was the Crested Butte Search and Rescue Team. I saw Goody move his head as they pulled him out and was relieved that he was alive. Search and Rescue took over and transported him to the hospital. Later, we were able to calculate that Goody was pinned under the water for thirty-three minutes total.

Eventually, everyone left and Ethan and I just sat on the back of his truck at the campground for a while. It was the toughest situation either of us had ever been in on the river, and truly a miracle that Goody came out alive. The “circumstances” that came together were to great to deny the hand of God in it. We got many of these details later. For one, we wondered where the extra rope had come from that we needed. Turns out, several weeks earlier, Goody had used that bag to tie a log off on shore and just left his bag there. It just “happened” to be right in that exact spot on the creek. Then, there’s the manpower. Chris and Goody were just planning on running it by themselves, but Goody decided to text Ethan and we decided to go. Also, that Adam wasn’t planning on coming, but then decided last minute to join us. If we had had any less people, the last system we had set up wouldn’t have worked, we needed every hand. Lastly, Adam had planned on just bringing his camera, but his battery was dead, so he decided to bring his cell phone to take pictures with. This is what he used to place the emergency call early on which helped SAR get there as quickly as they did. All these circumstances just “happened” to come together. No, God was definitely taking care of us.

On the drive back, Ethan looked at me and said, “I just can’t help thinking, ‘What if that had been one of us in there.’” “Well,” I replied, “that’s really where the rubber meets the road for me. There’s lots of religion out there that’s okay for a hobby or decent principles to live by, but with Jesus, I know that if that was me, and I didn’t have an air pocket, I know where I’m going.” “yeah, I guess it would be nice to think there’s something more, but I think I just believe that we just sort of blot out, or just stop existing…that’s kinda bleak I guess,” Ethan responded. “yeah, it makes sense there’s a God though, and I think one of the greatest evidences for it is where we are. When I see a painting I know there’s a painter, when I see a building I know there’s a builder, and when I see Creation, I know there’s a Creator.” “That’s a good point.” That was pretty much our conversation. There was the thought of, “Is now the right time to talk about this?” Then I thought, “There’s no better time. We have just seen two great things. 1. Man’s mortality. We came face to face with the fact that death can happen any time and very quicky. 2. God’s love. We just got to witness, first hand, God arranging things according to His plan in order to save Goody. While many of the guys could only direct their praise to “Luck” I know that Goody was not lucky, it was that God had His mighty hand in that rescue and it is to Him that I give all the praise and the glory. I couldn’t help but saying, “Praise God!” Praise God for His awesome protection and for the opportunities He give to us to share His good news with those who don’t know.

As I think about it, there are many parallels to Goody’s situation and ours as mankind. We are pinned under our sin and are helpless to free ourselves. Although we may live on this earth for a little while, if something doesn’t change, we are destined for death. There is no hope for us if we stay the same. We need an outside force to do something for us, or else we will perish for all eternity…and that’s exactly what God did. He sent us a glorious Savior. He sent Jesus to save us. Now, not through our being “good enough”, but only through faith in Jesus, we can be saved. Praise God that He saves sinners!

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

P.S. Sorry for the typo’s. Posted with basically zero proofing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unfinished Business

So sorry this is only a couple.....months...late. Yeah, I guess I got back and got busy with life and everything and never bothered to update all of you on my last week in India. Although some books/movies kinda leave you hanging, I feel like I should close up my trip. As I read my journal from that time, the memories come flooding back and it honestly doesn't feel like all that long ago that I was there. So here's the last update about India if any of you were waiting for the end.

The last week there was really incredible...and really hard at the same time. We had one last procession in the village with the church building that is small and in poor condition. The processions are always a blast. It was cool to see the boldness of the pastors as they would stop at a street corner in the village and give a mini-sermon to the people around there. Truly amazing to see how the people would stop and listen to what they were saying. I was greatly encouraged to see this. That night, we gathered in the tiny building and started praying. As we prayed, more and more people began to show up. They just kept coming, and coming, and coming. The place was super crammed and it was AWESOME! I got to give the message here. What a privilege! After the meeting was over and we were just waiting, I had a joyous time with the pastors. It was tough realizing that I will probably not see many of them again until heaven. We had fun joking with each other though. One of the pastors (Moses) and I had a good time dancing outside. Haha! He's a lot like me with goofy dances. He showed me the dances of doing dishes, laundry, flying a kite, etc, which is equivalent to our “lawnmower” or “sprinkler.” Haha, just super fun.

The hard part the last week was realizing that I was having the “last” of many things. The last pastors meeting, the last Friday prayer, the last Saturday worship, the last Sunday, etc. The hardest part of that being that I was seeing some of those people for the last time.

One cool thing that I don't think I mentioned is that a couple weeks before I left, Tabitha opened up a little shop by her parents house. It's really small...like 6' by 6'..maybe. It's out by the road and she sells little snacks and miscellaneous things. I went by there a lot the last week. I didn't want to just hand out money to people, but now I could help her out by buying stuff. I went to her shop the first time and of course she wanted me to pray. I did and she wanted to give me some homemade sweets. I then told her I wanted to buy some biscuits (cookies). I figured I could buy them and then just pass them out to the kids around there. So I pointed to them and gave the number I wanted while she put them in the bag. Then I asked how much and pulled out my wallet. Haha, sweet as Tabitha is, she says “No, take them.” Of course I refused and tried to give her some money....so I get in this argument almost with this dear woman because I want to pay and help her out and she wants to give them to me. This is incredible, it's like lots of people in India see white skin and charge extra, while the believers I know don't want me to pay for anything! It's awesome. Tabitha tried to give them to me saying, “You prayed.” I responded (through her daughter translating) “Prayer is free, I want to buy the biscuits.” Eventually I won and was able to pay for them. This happened more than once that week. One day I was there and Kashoor (a man from church) came by in his auto-rickshaw and bought me a bag of chips. It's often the small things that mean the most.

We had an awesome prayer time the last Saturday evening. Plus, the dad of the new family that was hired to help with the orphans showed up which was awesome because I don't think he's a believer. Haha, after prayer, Pastor Daniel and myself had to go catch one of his chickens that had hopped over his wall. This was quite the task and took over a half hour. I would have to stay back while Pastor Daniel tried to guide it towards a bush, then we would both move in and try to grab it. It would often escape and PD would have to circle around it again. We eventually got it. Fun experience anyway.

The last Sunday was also great. I was given this message as well and spoke on joy. It was a great time of worship but really hard to say goodbye to my church family.

Monday was the last day there and was rough. I had a tough conversation with PD and could tell that he was a little worried about my “report” when I got back. It was tough just to see him stressed out. Lots of stuff got cleared up though, which was really nice. Packing was difficult. As I took a break in the afternoon, I was walking outside when Chandralahka ran up and grabbed my hand and wanted me to go with her over to the school, where Tabitha was staying. Tabitha was at home with her youngest and oldest, Jahnavi. Of course, we had to pray. I guess everything didn't really hit me until that point. It wasn't until I was praying for them that I realized that I was really leaving. My heart literally broke for this family and the tears streamed down my face. There is no way to describe how dear that family is to me. It was definitely the hardest to say good-bye. Of course she made me tea afterwards. Here's what I wrote in my journal that day, “How could I possibly explain this time? To be with a family like this. Sitting there with the small one playing with his top. I can't describe the impact that Tabitha has had on my life, and what it means to sit and drink tea she made for me. I know she will probably never be popular or famous in this life, but I still can't be here without thinking that I'm with one of the great saints of God.....Even if there was nothing else this trip, just meeting her and getting to be around her makes it totally worth it.” Even as I sit here months later, I can't help tearing up as I remember that day and that special time. That last night Pastor Israel had invited us to his house for dinner. This was really cool. Really special time there as well.

After we got back to the house, Uncle Levi came over to say goodbye. This was way difficult as well. I was trying to hold things together, but not doing a very good job at it. It was so hard to finish packing and realizing that I was really leaving. It was late and the kids were in bed and I had to leave the next morning before they woke up, so I didn't get to say goodbye to them..but it was probably better that way. Every single one of them would have been too difficult.

Early the next morning we had to leave for the bus station. It was so hard saying goodbye to my family. Mom gave me a huge bear huge and started sobbing. We had developed such a special relationship. I knew it would be hard to leave, but it was really hard. I had some good conversation with PD as we rode the bus to Chennai. Saying goodbye to him wasn't easy either, but easier because he comes to the States and I hope to see him this year.

The trip back took a really long time. From leaving Eluru to arriving in Denver, I clocked it at 55 hours of traveling. There was not much opportunity for conversation, but I'm not sure I would have had the brain power for it anyway. Transitioning back was a lot harder than going there. Even though my body was so tired from staying awake, I got very little sleep the first week.

After about two weeks I was pretty much back to normal in Pagosa Springs and stayed there for a couple months. This was a great time with family and teaching skiing at Wolf Creek. God also gave me some awesome opportunities to share with a couple different churches and a couple Bible study groups there about my experience in India. It was a blessing to see God using the things that touched me and pushed me closer to Jesus doing the same for some of the people in Pagosa.

One of the questions I've been asked a lot has been, “so, are you going back?” I would absolutely love to go back. As you've read here, they are like my family over there. Although it was offered for me to come back long term and take some of the leadership for this ministry, I never got confirmation from God on that. It is certainly is an amazing ministry and seemingly what any missionary would want. But here's what God brought to mind. The whole purpose of a missionary is to equip the local people to do the work. Although there is a gap right now in the leadership of this ministry, it is functioning under the native people. I believe if I were to go back, I could be of help for 10-15 years. However, after that time of taking leadership upon myself, I would then have to spend the rest of my time there trying to give back that leadership to the native people. This seems backwards to me. As I read through the book of Acts, I saw Paul and his companions doing the pioneer work. Sometimes, after they had established the church in a certain place, they would return. I saw that when they returned, they did not take back the reigns from those they had put in leadership. Instead, I saw two words come up again and again...support and encourage. This is how I feel with India. Would I go back short term? Absolutely, even short term as in months. I would love to go back and see everyone and encourage them. However, to go back long term and try to take the reigns I think would be counter-productive...but if God tells me to, it won't take much convincing.

So what am I up to now? As one of my good friends said, “Well, I mean, you just got back from five months in India doing all this awesome stuff, aren't you going to go start a church on top of Mt. Everest or something?” Haha. The answer to that is no. I guess Mt. Everest will have to remain churchless for a little while. It does express a struggle that I had coming back though and I could write pages about that. But here's the really short version of things that went through my head. 1. We have to battle selfish ambition and church glory. For example, if we feel the call to serve in vocational ministry, there can easily be a temptation to establish OUR empire. Or to make some cool, flashy, ministry that is big and “successful.” Then we can be seen as “great men of God” or whatever. This ties into church glory. I've seen this a lot from this trip. There is a lot more glory in doing ministry in India than there is in doing ministry in Pagosa...or Gunnison. 2. People go to the same Hell from America as they do from India. There is a temptation to think that the condition of sinners without Christ in India is more desperate than those in America...just because we don't wear it as much. The fact is, without Jesus in this life, all men, everywhere, are destined for an eternity without Him—in Hell. These things and others have helped lead me back to Gunnison. I am helping out a man who discipled me when I was here before. I am able to help him with Ministry Breakfast and Saturday night church services as well as having some opportunities to visit some people in the hospital and jail. This has been such a blessing to come along and learn from him. God has given be some absolutely incredible opportunities to share Him with some of the lost people here. He's also given me a couple guys to disciple. I'm back raft guiding again and God opened a door there for me to do a Bible study with my fellow guides. Next Monday is week one! I'm super excited for it, but I need lots of prayer for that as well.

Right now it's just an awesome time for me to learn the “head knowledge” as well as get the hands on experience of ministry. If God sends me overseas to the unreached, I will gladly go, but if He chooses to keep me here and reach the people of Gunnison or wherever, I will gladly stay. What it boils down to is this: “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” 2 Cor. 5:9

I decided to just keep this blog going and will try to update it...although it definitely won't be once a week. I couldn't say how much it meant to me to have all of you praying for me when I was over there. You are all a great blessing in my life. Thanks for everything.

“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 Cor. 5:14-15

Pray for:
--Continued opportunities
--God to work on hearts of fellow guides
--God's continued work in Ministry Breakfast and Saturday nights.

Praise for:
--Good travels
--Wonderful opportunities
--God's working on hearts in India, Pagosa, and Gunnison.
--His continued faithfulness shown in every situation.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

God is Awesome!

Oh man! As I looked at the date from my last update, I realized that was a couple weeks ago. Sorry I'm behind.

Unlike some of the previous updates, the past couple weeks have been a little slow..kind of. We had a prayer meeting last week in one of the villages. A family from the church there was having a remembrance meeting for one of their sons who passed away tragically a couple years ago. Like I said last time, they have meetings for just about everything. I was given the opportunity to preach there. It's a wonderful encouragement to see the believers searching their Bibles and following along. Of course, there was food afterward. One of the coolest things was meeting an older gentleman there who's about 70. His name was Abraham. I learned that Pastor Curt (who visited India from Pagosa) had noticed Abraham outside the church on the road when he was here eight years ago. Pastor Curt invited him into the church meeting that day. From then on, Abraham kept going to church and got saved and baptized. Since then, Abraham has been a faithful member of the church and continued in his walk with God. It's amazing. We don't always get to see the fruit come from the seeds we plant, but God uses it whether we know it or not. Praise God!

This last week I got the chance to go to Bangalore. It seemed like somewhat typical confusion. We (Pastor Daniel and myself) were going to take a train there to see Stella (his eldest) since she was planning on taking the GRE. The train was full and the bus would be long. So, he said that maybe I should stay behind since I have long legs. Okay. The next day he called from the bus station to see if I really wanted to go or stay. I thought, “how many times do you get the chance to travel 12 hours crammed in a bus and go to Bangalore?” So I decided to go. The bus ride really wasn't all that bad (maybe I'm getting shorter). It was an interesting day though. Stella arrived in the afternoon and it was good to see her again. In the evening we went to the testing center to check on everything. When she checked in though, the guy told her she needed her passport in order to take the test. She didn't have it and didn't know about it. So she was super bummed and I felt bad for her. Anyways, then we ended up getting bus tickets back that night. Two totally different mindsets. Mine was, “Let's stay the night and check out the town and head back tomorrow sometime.” Theirs was, “Well, if we can't take the test, there's no point staying here. We need to leave ASAP.” So we rushed to pack our bags and cancel everything and try to catch the buses. I guess it was more exciting that way (because P.D and I barely made our bus). So the trip seemed unproductive, but at least an adventure and if nothing else it was good to see Stella again before I leave.

One hard thing is that several of the kids have been gone for a while. Their relatives work in the fields and this is the harvest time for the corn so the relatives take the kids to help them during this time. They will bring the kids back at the end of this month for the year end exams. It's hard because I don't know how kids are supposed to do well on their final exams when they've missed the last month and a half of school. I don't think there's much we can do about it though.

The rest of the two weeks has honestly been just all the regular stuff which I've already talked about and isn't all that exciting. I've had some really memorable times with the families here as well as with the kids. I was given the opportunity to preach last Sunday and P.D said I have the messages till I leave, which means one at the pastors meeting on Wednesday and the last one here next Sunday. In one way it's very hard because I know that I have very little time and I want to leave them with the best thing I possibly can. There's also that feeling were people on missions start going home before they start going home (if you know what I mean). The way I see it, some mission trips are only one week long anyway (which it's hard for me to imagine only going one week now), so I'm just getting started!

Way Cool! Last night I had an amazing opportunity with one of the older kids (18) who is almost ready to leave the orphanage. His name is Mexy. God is greatly convicting him of his sin. He also speaks English so we didn’t need a translator. God opened the door for the gospel. He has not accepted Jesus’ forgiveness yet, but it’s obvious God is working on him. Please pray that he would surrender his life and receive God’s wonderful gift.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:5-11

Pray for:
-Tabitha's husband—salvation
-The believers to continue to grow in grace
-Me—wisdom and God's words this week

Praise for:
-The fruit we do get to see
-Good Travels
-His continued grace and faithfulness.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's a privilege!

Well, this was an interesting week to say the least. Some good ups and some tough downs. We'll go with the ups because, after all, I've said that I give the highlights...which are different from the lowlights.

So, Wednesday was one of the coolest days ever. One of the village pastors was celebrating being with New Covenant Ministries for three years. How do you celebrate? How about evangelism all day with a church meeting at night! Sounds good. In the morning, the ladies from the church made all the food that we would have for lunch—lots of food. Anyways, we started out with a solid group—several families from “home church” along with most of the village pastors. We had one van and two auto-rickshaws. One of the auto's was rigged with a speaker on top and a mic inside. The pastors rode in this and sang praise songs and preached as we drove along. Of course all the vehicles were singing. We would stop at all these tiny villages and pass out tracts, sing some more, and finally, one of the pastors would give a short message for the people. We did this all day until we came to the village where Moses (pastor who was celebrating) pastors. Here, we walked through several streets doing the same thing, only we were joined by people from his church for this outreach. It was an awesome time with believers and encouraging to see the church stepping up once again. Everyone from the small kids to some of the very elderly women were reaching out. So cool to see and be a part of.

As we gathered at the church in the village, I got to meet the kids. They're always excited to try and practice their English with me. I met one young boy of thirteen, maybe, by the name of William Carey. Haha. Great kid..and a good name. So now I've heard John Wesley speak and met William Carey. If I meet Charles Spurgeon I might need some new clothes. Haha. Anyways, the meeting that night went really well. The place was packed out. We had a great time praising God together, even though there were some electrical problems so we sang for a while in the dark. I also had the message here and they made me sing a song. Moses played the keyboard and they had a drummer on the congas who added to the song. They didn't know the song, but kind of felt for it. You can imagine “Awesome God” Indian style. Haha. Loads of fun..and good times for sure.

I don't think they're any particular denomination, but if they were, I have a feeling it would be Baptist. We can't seem to have any meeting in the villages without food afterward. It's always a joy to eat with them, but it's always more spicy and they always insist on you eating enough rice to stuff a camel (phrase borrowed from old roomy and not necessarily supposed to make sense, but it's still a good description). The curry was good. Sometimes I think I should have paid more attention in tenth grade Biology so I would have a better idea of what part of the goat I'm eating..but then again, it's usually better not to know. Most of the time you can't tell anyways, but I'm pretty sure I got the intestine on this night. It's easy to see. Oddly, it tasted pretty good...kind of like sausage (sorry, hope none of you are eating dinner while you read). Good stuff all around.

Anyways, the next day I had the opportunity to go to a family reunion of Pastor Daniel's family. We all met at the church his older brother founded. It was a lot different. Much bigger and much more fancy. It was cool that it was like a church meeting though. That's one thing I love here. They seem to have a church meeting for everything. It's like, “My dad passed away four years ago from this day” church meeting. “I joined the ministry three years ago from this time” church meeting. Family reunion—church meeting. It's pretty cool. Anyways, it was nice to meet Pastor Daniel's older brother. He's much older, but very cheery and energetic. He was a fun guy to be around. As he saw me helping serve the family for lunch (see? I told you there's always food), he said, “Oh? So you're serving?” “Yes,” I replied. “It's a privilege!” he said smiling. “A wonderful privilege,” I answered. I don't know if he knows how much of a privilege it actually is for me here.

Other good stuff is that we've had some more new people in church and more people showing up for prayer meetings Friday mornings and Saturday evenings. This has all been good.

Okay, so that's all the good stuff. As I said, even with all that good stuff, it's been a pretty difficult week. There's been some smaller things that have come up and some minor conflicts. Nothing major though. It's hard because I can't really talk about them here. I would like to be totally open with all of you, because I'm not a huge fan of those updates that portray everything as butterflies and flowers. However, there's just some things that I can't write about and I'm not sure they're worth writing anyway. In all the difficulties, I am pressed to rely on God's wisdom and grace. It is so wonderful to have such an incredible Rock to lean on. His lovingkindness and guidance are shown all the time. It's great to have such a Savior that I can cast all my cares on and trust Him with. It seems like sometimes I see all these huge problems, but they all get taken care of when I look to Him. It's as if He says, “I've got it, Paul. You just be faithful to the task that I've given you.” Then I feel like an idiot for being so bothered by it. I wish I could say that I always, immediately give all these things to Him, but I don't. Sometimes I do try to carry it and then I wonder why my back is sore and then it's like, “oh yeah, I don't have to carry this. Sorry God, You can have it.” Anyways, God is always faithful. I'm learning a ton and it's great.

Well, the mosquitoes have hatched and come out with a vengeance. I told my family the other day that I decided to stop being nice so then the mosquitoes won't like me so much. They have all sorts of stuff to try to keep the little devils away, but if you've been around them much, you know that they find their way to you no matter what you do. It helps with keeping up my ninja skills at least.

As always, you guys are all great and I really appreciate your prayers and encouragements. I'm so blessed in so many ways.

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' And they said, 'Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt. 16:13-16.

Pray for:
--Tabitha's husband (Nageswara Rao)--salvation
--My barber—invited him to church, hasn't come.
--God's grace and forgiveness to be shown in all things.
Praise for:
--His work here (churches reaching out)
--The tough times that push us closer to Him
--His wonderful faithfulness and goodness.
--The faithful believers here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hyderabad and more

Pizza Hut, Subway, Domino's, KFC, welcome to Hyderabad. What a totally different India. Big, nice buildings and westernized shops. So weird being there. We arrived at six in the morning to the Best Western to meet a guy (Bruce) from the States whom Pastor Daniel had known for a while. He was there on business. The hotel was pretty fancy, even by American standards. We traveled around the city most of the day. Possibly the most encouraging part was when we visited a Christian college where Bruce had an appointment to present his business plan to the teachers. We drove around for a while and weren't able to find it. Finally, after many phone calls, as we were about to give up, I spotted a small sign in a third story window that read, “Trinity Christian College.” We were welcomed by one of the staff and went upstairs. He sled us to a room where the staff was having lunch. There was nothing fancy about this place and it had a small staff of about six or seven people. I noticed a book cabinet and began looking at some of the titles (I kinda like books). I was greatly encouraged by what I saw. They had some very solid books by authors I recognized. Bruce gave his presentation and the staff asked good questions. I was so blessed talking with them afterward. They showed us around the floor which was very small and simple—a couple offices, a couple classrooms, and a room where they made curtains and candles to support the college. As I was talking with the Assistant Director of the college, he asked me what I did in the States (sort of a weird question right now). I told him a little bit about the Brushfire and immediately he called David (guy who greeted us at the start) in. Apparently, David and his wife have a desire to start that kind of ministry in Hyderabad. He was really anxious to hear about how it worked. Great time with those believers.

We had lunch at Subway which was really weird and then went to do some shopping...that is, Bruce did shopping. We went into a store that sold all sorts of souvenirs. It was hard to see this side of India—the extravagance. As we walked in, we were greeted by the main salesman who immediately began pulling out beautiful (and expensive) scarfs, explaining the quality and everything else about them. The store had nice gold things, nice cloth, nice carpets, nice jewelery, etc. Each section had it's own salesperson. I wandered around the store while Bruce began bartering. Once salesman, about my age, came up to me and tried selling me stuff. He realized I wasn't interested and we began talking casually. We talked about America how he would like to go. He then asked how I liked India. I said, “Some things I like, some things I don't.” He asked what I didn't like. I said, “All the idols.” He asked what I meant and I explained that it's hard to see people worshiping an object made with human hands instead of the God who made them. He agreed and mentioned he was Muslim. We had a short talk about sin and forgiveness, but Bruce was done and we had to leave. Not everything I would have liked the conversation to be, but possibly a seed was planted and either way it's better than talking about scarfs. Praise God!

We went to a couple other shops and they were all kind of boring. At night, we had some of Hyderabad's famous Biriyani (which was delicious) and then caught the bus home. So, there were ups and downs for the whole trip (some which I can't mention), but overall it was a good trip and I learned a ton.

On Wednesday we visited one of the village churches that was having a prayer meeting. Pastor Daniel gave me the message for the service. The church was very kind and encouraging. The coolest thing happened when the service was over. They started bringing out bags of rice and passed them out to the widows in the church. What a blessing to see the Indian church reaching out to it's own people. We prayed for many of them during this time. It's always hard to see though. One young lady asked for prayer because she has three small kids and her husband recently passed away. It rips your heart out, but I'm glad to know she has a solid church to help her out.

Thursday was also amazing. We had a pastors meeting in the evening at a different village church. We arrived early in the evening and hung out with the kids while we waited for other pastors to show up (they run on Indian time). The kids where all great. The meeting was absolutely spectacular. After we had a good group, we had a “procession” through the village. We walked through the streets together singing praises while a couple guys played drums. The adults would pass out tracts to people along the way. The procession was led by the kids. This was AMAZING! This little army of God would dart in and out of each house leaving tracts and mailbox club invites. It was an experience that I just can't explain with words to see these little evangelists running and skipping and singing and delivering their goods. Another great example of the church being the church. After it got dark, we gathered back in the building and enjoyed praising God together. I had the message here as well. I pray it was an encouragement to them. It's always fun to be with all the pastors and see them joking with each other.

Pastor Daniel also gave me the message on Sunday. I'm always blessed to be around the believers here and to see their faithfulness. The prayer meetings on Friday morning and Saturday evening continue to encourage me. There are battles for sure, inside and outside. It's definitely not all peaches and cream, but through everything, God continues to show His faithfulness. His grace and love continue to amaze me each and every day.

It seems like most missionary letters have the typical, “thanks for your prayers and support..they're really a blessing and encouragement...blah blah blah” in them. It's true though! It means so much to have all of you standing with me in prayer. What a family! I'm so amazed and thankful for all the wonderful people God has placed in my life. Please don't stop! I desperately need your prayers every day.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

Please Pray:
--Tabitha's husband-salvation
--Unity and openness
--Satesh--salvation (and that he would come to church)
--Ifran (young Muslim)--that he would know Jesus is the only way for forgiveness.

Praise For:
--Good Travels
--His work in the Indian church
--His guidance in making decisions
--His faithfulness and grace day in and day out

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Incredible Train Ride!

Well, I keep saying to myself, “I'll wait till things calm down a little and then I'll give and update, but they never do. So, I just have to buck up and do it. There's so much (have I said that before?), but here's the latest highlights.

I'll mention last Monday just because I promised it. Bottom line is prayer meeting at a house. Message, prayer and really spicy food. Spice scale: stings mouth-little spicy. Burns lips-kinda spicy. Runny nose-pretty spicy. Tears-really spicy. Good time though.

Well, this last week was super fun. Stella had to go back to college, and Sallie, Samuel, Abhi, and myself got to go with her and had a mini “vacation.” Lots of riding in buses. Bus from Eluru to Vijayawada=2 hours. Vijayawada to Chennai=13 hours. Chennai to Coimbature=12 hours. Taxi from Coimbature to Karunya (college)=1.5 hours. We stayed at the college for a couple days. It was a very nice college. It's a Christian college and fairly big (6,000) students. Good aesthetics, poor theology. In short, lots of health, wealth, spiritual feelings, material blessings and very little about sin, repentance, the cross, and Jesus' sacrifice. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” 2 Timothy 4:3-4. On the plus side, they had good coffee and it was nice meeting a couple of Stella's friends.

After two days there, we got on another bus to Ooty (forget how many hours). Ooty is like the Pagosa of India. High in the mountains and very beautiful.....and a tourist trap. I saw lots of white people there. Probably four or five every day. It's kind of funny to see them and have your mind go, “Weird, a white person.” Anyways, there was lots of good mini-adventures. Got to see botanical garden, rose garden, tea factory, waterfalls (missed my boat), hand woven flower garden, rose garden, monkeys, and lots more. I still felt weird being a tourist. It was a good time with the family though. Lots of good memories made. The coolest part, though, was one night when Abhi and I went to get food. While we were waiting for it to be made, a man came and sat down with us to eat his dinner. He spoke decent English and wanted to talk with me. We found out he grew up in Ooty and was a policeman. He asked what I did and why I was in India. So, I got to tell him. I was able to give him a little of my testimony. He asked if I was Protestant or Catholic, Abhi and I explained that it's not like a club where you just sign the card and “I'm this now” but that it's about really knowing and having a relationship with God through Jesus. We said we were simply, “Bible believing” Christians. When we asked about him, he said he was Hindu. We talked a little more, but it was off the topic. Not the best witnessing conversation, but still amazing to share a little with a Hindu policeman.

The trip home was absolutely incredible. We took the bus back to Coimbature from Ooty. Stella went back to college and we got on a train (much better) to Chennai. It was night when we arrived. We checked to see if we could catch the train back to Vijayawada. The train was full and had no room. So then we traveled around town in an auto-rickshaw to the bus stop. No room on the buses either. We checked several other spots, but all the buses were full. So, we decided to stay the night (it was already 11:30pm) and catch the early morning train (leaves at 5am). We got a couple $10/night rooms that looked like it. So we got a couple hours of sleep before walking to the train station. Train was pretty full but we were happy just to be on it and have seats. About halfway there, it started to thin out and a man named Satesh sat down with us. He spoke English and was pretty outgoing. He also asked me what I did and why I was in India. So, I got to tell him too. This was an absolutely amazing conversation. We got to talk about the gospel for over and hour and a half with him. He had some Catholic schooling mixed with Hinduism..so basically like people in Gunnison. jk. After Abhi told him I was a pastor (although I don't know if I would claim that title, but whatever), he said, “Yes, please bring Jesus to India.” I told him I can't do that because God has already given Him for the whole world and I'm here just to proclaim that. Then he said that he had been praying and meditating and asking to see Jesus face to face and that he hoped to one day. I told him that one day everyone will see Jesus. For some, it will be the most glorious thing ever, but for those who have not believed in Him, it will be the most terrifying thing ever. We talked much more about the gospel and what it means to be a Christian. I got to share my testimony with him as well. It was so exciting! What a wonderful time! Sallie gave him a Bible and I highlighted a couple key passages for him. He was very touched and kept wanting to pay for it. I told him it's like Jesus. If you pay for it, it's no longer a gift. Sallie asked him when he would start reading it. He said, “Right now” and opened it up. Praise God! It was easy to see that he was eager for it.

Then the battle became apparent. The man who was sitting next to me (across from Satesh), who had been silent nearly the entire time. Looked at him and insisted on seeing his palms. Satesh opened up his palm while the guy “read” them. They both spoke in Tamil so we couldn't say anything. We prayed while the palm reading went on. The other guy stopped for a second and Satesh went back to reading the Bible. Then the guy said something more and kept reading his palms. It was so obvious to see the spiritual battle. It was frustrating at first to see this happening right after we had just shared the gospel with him, but then I couldn't help but smile. It's funny that even though the two things are opposites, they are not by any means equal. The best thing the powers of darkness have to offer is just wish-washy speculations and guesses with the stars etc, whereas God has given us the solid truth of Jesus-a Risen Savior! God offers real, solid, forgiveness now. He gives us the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Not some wish-washy feel good guess, but a finished work. He has also given us His word. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” Hebrews 4:12. We were able to give Him the solid gospel and the word of God. I pray for him, that the Light would shine in his heart and that there would be a block to all the darkness and lies that will come across him. We also gave him a card for New Covenant Ministries and he said that he will try to come to church next Sunday. That would be great! Please pray for him!

It was so amazing. It's a great reminder that when things don't go according to our plans, it's often because God has something better in mind. It's not hard to see that God had us miss the train and buses the night before so that we could share His Good News with Satesh. It's incredible to see God's mighty hand at work in all of our circumstances. God is sooo good!

Well, I've had one day at home and tonight I leave for Hyderabad with P.D. A friend from the States is there for a couple days so we're going to go see him. More bus traveling. I'm a little weary, but still looking forward to the trip. As always, you all continue to be an overwhelming encouragement. Thank you for your faithfulness in lifting me up in prayer. I need it every day. I'm sorry I can't always respond to each of you to thank you for all the encouraging emails and comments, but I really do appreciate them. Also, this is again last minute with little review, so sorry for the typos. :)

“Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

Please pray:

-Tabitha's husband-salvation
-Satesh-salvation and that he would come to church on Sunday
-Suresh (policeman)--salvation
-Wisdom in one more decision

Praise for:
-Good travels
-Guidance in one of two big decisions
-His faithfulness!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

Happy fourth of January! This is the newest fourth of January that there has ever been. And...it is the newest day the world has yet seen. And....it is the only 1-4-11 that there will ever be. Isn't that incredible?! Wow. Anyways, here's my last week in a nutshell..at least some of it.

Earlier last week we heard that Ramesh (village pastor who is about my age) was sick and in the hospital. He was in the Eluru hospital so we went to go see him. I guess it was pretty bad stomach problems. His brother also had the same thing and was coming to the hospital as well. They said that some other people in that village had the same symptoms, but they did not know what the cause was. It was sad to see Ramesh feeling so terrible. It was there that I had a very interesting thought. As I looked at him lying there, I thought, “To pretty much everyone in America and most of the people around the world, he is just another sick Indian in a hospital bed, but God has somehow placed us together where I look at him as a friend and brother.” It is impossible for us to know everyone in this way, but it brings much insight into John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I cannot know all people everywhere in a close, personal way, but God does. He sees each individual Indian lying in the hospital or in their houses or wherever and knows everything about each one and He loves each one. And not just Indian, but African or Asian or American or whoever. For us, we have to group people together, but God does not. He knows us all individually and He loves each one of us enough to give us His Son. How truly amazing this is! That God offers eternal life to each one of us individually if we will believe in Jesus. Wow! Anyways, Ramesh was in the hospital for a couple days and then recovered. Praise God!

Everyone was really busy on Thursday and Friday doing New Year's cleaning and some of the ladies were making sweets for the church dinner. I helped out a little with the cleaning and setting up for the cooking. I helped cook by getting out of the way. It's not hard to figure out that they have their system down and you just stay out of it and watch. I also got to spend a lot of time in the Bible. On Thursday, Stella and Sallie (my sisters) both seemed a little quieter towards me. I wondered if there was something I did that upset them. I could not ask them because they were both busy. I was a little down about it and was sitting by myself praying and singing softly. All of a sudden three of the kids came around the corner and shouted, “Brother Paul!” and ran up to me. Little Joyce (who's probably like 20 pounds) ran up and literally threw herself on me, giving me one of the biggest hugs ever. It was such a blessing and encouragement just when I needed it. Later that night, I talked with Stella and she said they have a saying, “If someone makes you happy, you don't need to tell, but if someone makes you sad, then you must tell.” So she said if I do something wrong, they will tell me about it and that they were just busy that day. Good to know.

New Years was good. We had church from 10pm on Friday to 2 or 3am to bring in the New Year. It was a good time of singing and prayer. After the service we had cake, which was sweet, both ways. Turns out people love smearing frosting on each others' faces everywhere. Haha. There was one thing that happened that greatly disturbed me. However, I got clarification on it later and it all works out.

Anyways, we also had another church service at 11am on Saturday. Pastor Daniel had given me the message. He had Abi (Levi's son) translate for me. As we started, he began sweating a lot and seemed very nervous. He passed the mic to Pastor Daniel after a couple sentences. I felt bad for him. After the service he apologized and I assured him that it was okay. He told me it was his first time translating. I told him that I was honored to be his first translation. He didn't seem to down about it which was good to see. After church, we had FOOD! It's pretty cool how it works. They all eat in rotations. So one group of them will eat while the others wait on them, serving the rice and curry and water. When that group is finished, they swap roles. I also got to serve which was a lot of fun. It is very difficult to serve people here. They are very hospitable and they see me as the guest and so they tend to not want me to serve in any way. This was one of the hardest things when I first arrived. So things like this mean a lot when they at least put up with me serving. Mostly they just laughed about it. It was fun anyway.

Pastor Daniel had given me the message here on Sunday as well as in one of the village churches we would visit in the afternoon. Message in the morning was rough. I felt like maybe I was trying to go too deep too fast. It was hard because I know the way I explained it to make sense in English did not translate well, although Pastor Daniel did his best. Well, I figure there was Scripture read, so the people got that as well as a good opportunity to practice grace. Haha. jk.

After that, we went to the village church where they honored Pastor Daniel and Annamani (his wife). This message went a lot better. Stella translated for me which was different. I feel like Pastor Daniel translates my ideas, which makes the translation longer. Stella translated more word for word and it was much faster. This was good. It also helped having a more basic message. A huge praise is that there were many more men in the church than when we had visited before. One of them was possibly the tallest Indian I've seen. He was as tall as I am. Maybe..maybe...a little taller. Makes me realize how much tall people really stand out. Anyways, we had cake and banana's here too and then went to one of the families houses for lunch. This was nice but they kept insisting that we keep eating more. We were all so full that we didn't have dinner at night.

Well, there was more stuff today (Monday) but it'll have to wait. You are all such a great encouragement to me. There is some other more serious stuff that I wish I could share with you right now, but I can't. I'll just say there are some very important decisions that need to be made and I will need God's wisdom in the days ahead. Thank you so much for praying for me and standing with me. I got blasted with encouragement from some of you last week and it was...well, encouraging, and much needed! God continues to be faithful in everything.

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

Please Pray for:
--Tabitha's husband-salvation
--Wisdom in decisions
--Jay Raju's family (lost mother last week, then had both sons in hospital this week)

Praise Him for:
--A New Year of life!
--Ramesh's health
--Men in village church
--Closeness with the people here
--Good health