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
--God to work on hearts of fellow guides
--God's continued work in Ministry Breakfast and Saturday nights.
--God's working on hearts in India, Pagosa, and Gunnison.
--His continued faithfulness shown in every situation.