Monday, November 9, 2009

Asking the hard questions

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17

I'm sure over the coming weeks and months the seeds and thoughts God has planted in me on this trip will grow and flourish. Everyone expects to come to a place of great poverty and be deeply affected. It's almost a cliche at this point. I came with some expectations, but really tried to just be open and let God bring what may come.
Am I thankful for the country and culture I come from? Absolutely. More than ever. We have an incredible society that provides basic necessities like clean drinking water, trash pick up, nice road systems, and accessible health care (for the most part) for every citizen. Certainly there is much we take for granted. But the simplest thing to do would be to look at America as the rich older brother who wallows in its amenities.
The real conversation has to do with money, missions, and the Church. I can't hold a country responsible for something God has called His people to do (knowing the US is not God's chosen nation). It's a difficult, uncomfortable conversation we much have.
First, the Christian pastors, leaders, and lay people of India are smart, intuitive, and more than capable of reaching their country for Christ. They are loving, joyful, and pray far more than most of us for their people. They are PASSIONATE about seeing people know Christ and for God being glorified. In fact, they are better equipped to do so in most cases than we are.
Why do I mention this? Because often what they lack are the basic resources. Training. Building materials. Cost of living. They need an investment in the lives of their pastors and families.
So where are those resources? Right here in America, in our churches. We have the money, the training, and the resources to equip and empower the Church in India to grow and thrive. For 30 dollars a month, the basic needs of a pastor and his family can be met so he can give his life to ministry and provide for his family. Before I left for India, I spent that on a shirt. I spend it in a week on coffee. It sounds like a pitch, but it's a reality. What we throw away is enough to supply more than we can imagine.
God may call you to go to India. He may call you overseas to live. But more than likely, he won't. He's call you right where you are. But if we truly see the need, literally or through the eyes and pictures and stories of others, and we do not act, well... I'll let Scripture speak for itself.
Bottom line: the biggest hindrance to the Gospel spreading in the rest of the world is not radical Muslims or hostile countries. It's the lack of involvement and support - financial and spiritual - for the Church in the rest of the world within the US church. Plain and simple. It may be a tough medicine to swallow, but it's one we need to take.

More to come. Praise God for what He is doing - the things we see and those we don't. May His kingdom continue to come in our midst.

Elephant Rock and the greatest leader I've ever met...

We've been in Madurai for two days now. It's a city on the southeast corner of India. All, for the most part, is well.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak and sing at a village church for their Sunday services. The Church was called Zion Church, and they we're second and third generation Christians (which is not common around here). The pastor's father was a Hindu priest who came to Christ and started the Church. He has since passed, but he wrote several books throughout his life, including concordances and Bible study materials in Tamil (the local language). This was evident in that the Church had a high regard for the reading of the Bible, and every member was eager to turn to each passage I mentioned. They are trying to build a new, larger facility, which they are very proud of, so pray for them. I have an email contact with them and will keep in touch to measure the progress.
That night we visited the home of Paulus and Rosie, two of the leaders of the overarching ministry that we are supporting. After listening to Paulus' story, I think he might be the greatest leader I've ever met. How so? 5 years ago, he saw a local need to form an AIDS clinic, and so he organized it and built it to a successful clinic. The Indian government approached him about leading the movement across the nation (something that would have meant a huge paycheck), but he wanted to have the freedom to share Christ with the patients, so he turned them down. Later in 2005, a group in Holland approached him about doing the same in other countries. They wanted him to start and establish similar AIDS clinics in 7 Asian countries. by 201o. What does Paulus do? He built, led, and creating teams in place, and now has passed off leadership to local leaders in all seven countries - a year early. This man has established 7 fully functioning, successful Christ-centered AIDS clinics across Asia in 4 years. Amazing! And what is he doing now? In his own words, waiting to hear from God about what is next. This, my friends, is a great leader (with a huge, if not equal help from his lovely wife Rosie).
Today (Monday) I helped Zach, of filmaker, get shots across India. He and I have become good friends in our time together, and he's an awesome, very talented guy. We took a sketchy adventure today throughout the region, which included pushing our broken down van, seeing our first monkey, getting borderline shaken down in a shady carpet store, and listening to a driver who spoke English, but did not understand it. It was, and will be quite the story. But in the process we filmed two of the most prominent landmarks in the region, the giant temple and Elephant Rock. Here's some pictures (I didn't take).

Well thats all for now. God willing I will update tomorrow. Keep praying. God is doing some great stuff!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Update (FINALLY) from Madurai

I apologize for the lack of updates. The hostel we stayed in the first night with internet was a little too mosquito prone, so the fear of malaria moved us to another hotel across town. This hotel was a little better - kind of dark and shady, but nice considering the alternative. Hard to believe that was 5 days ago. So much has happened in the past week it's hard to grasp it all, much less capture it in a blog post.
Ranchi is a city with over 2,000,000 people, which is small by Indian standards. It is comparibly underdeveloped with very little infrastructure. However, somehow in the midst of poverty and 3rd world development, it's a beautiful city. The Indian people are beautiful - not just metaphorically, but simply physically beautiful people. They are also incredibly kind and genorous. Traffic in India is a mess of chaos. No signals, no rules - only the biggest vehicle wins. Just go and honk at every moving thing. The streets are teaming with people and little shops and children in their school uniforms. It is unceasingly noisy with the honks of horns and the yelling of drivers.
We woke every morning to the trains across the street and the Muslim prayers being sung over a loudspeaker. Definitely a forboding sound to wake up to, reminding you of the spiritual mountain Christians in Ranchi still have to climb. The state Ranchi is in is only 4% Christian, and this is one of the most Christian places in India. Still, pastors and Christians face literal and financial persecution on a regular basis. For the pastors and village churches we encountered, following Jesus was a decision with great cost. But they are certainly a community with an irrepressible joy.Pastor Job, the pastor who oversees many churches in the surrounding villages and cities, is an amazing leader who left his home in southern India as a missionary. He gives His life to encourage and equip these rural pastors day in and day out.
Our second day in Ranchi, we got to travel to two villages outside the city about 10 miles away. We visited these pastor's churches, getting there by off-roading in a Jeep. The first village's church greeted us with a song, a necklace of flowers, and they washed our hands as a sign of welcome. The second village was similar - they sang songs of worship for us and then they washed our feet. Visiting these two village churches was an incredibly moving experience for me. I fought back tears during each visit. I felt like I had seen God's heart for His church in the middle of rural India; a joyful, grateful, suffering, yet hopeful people.
Randy finished his classes by Wednesday, and I had Thursday and Friday. I taught "The Ministry of the Kingdom" on thursday, finishing it in one day. This was good, but then I had nothing left to teach the next day. I asked the pastors what they wanted to hear from me. They said worship. That was convienient. :) I spent the next morning writing a theology of worship to teach. I then breezed through that in one session and finished the last session teaching on the heart of the Gospel in Ephesians 2:1-10. I hadn't prepared, I just taught expositorily.
These pastors remind me what it means to be a pastor. Counting the cost. Facing discouragement and hardship. Mission-focused. The front of the church we taught in had a full demographic of their state in our for them to pray for their state, city and country. That's how they decorated. With mission. The truth is, when everything is stripped away, when all the bells and whistles and everything else is gone, the only thing left is mission. The heart of the Church, locally and globally, will always be mission. There will always be a people to reach for Christ.
And these pastors and their families - they live this mission of Jesus with great cost - and live it with great joy. We have more to learn from them than we know.

We are now into week two - with internet - and so updates God willing will be daily. Pray for me tomorrow as I will be preaching at a church here in the morning. I just found out. The night before.

Welcome to India.

Thanks for your prayers. The mission continues...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small update

Hey there! This is the wifey. Justin asked if I would post an update.

Everything is going great! He is really enjoying his days in Ranchi, India. Today he started teaching on the Kingdom of God. Everyone has been very receptive, and they are really enjoying the teachings. His next topic of discussion is on Worship. He asks that you keep him in his prayers. They will be leaving Ranchi tomorrow and heading to Monteri (sp?). There he will continue to teach the Kingdom of God as the others will be serving in different capacities.

My days are kind of messed up because he is like 8 hours ahead of us.

They have recently moved from the hostile to now a hotel with running hot water.He was able to take his first shower this past Wednesday. He does not have internet access which is why he has not been able to post. He claims the food has been awesome and the chai tea is incredible! He says he has so much to share and has been humbled by the whole process. He will be blogging as soon as he gets into a place with internet access.

Thank you for supporting and praying for the both of us!!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Generators, Mosquito nets, and Travel Nightmares

Hello - FINALLY- from India. We arrived early this morning (monday in india) and arrived at this weeks destination - Ranchi. Getting here was one of the most challenging issues we've ever faced. EVERY single flight was either delayed, canceled, or the plane was broken. We missed a whole day of ministry in Delhi as a result, which was disappointing. Delta, throughout, has been consistently horrible. But despite the constant setbacks, our spirits are up even if oujr body is tired.
I sit here now under a mosquito net in a room with a bucket for a shower and a sometimes working toilet. I'm rooming with Jason, who you'll see and hear more about. How we are getting wifi when we have no phone signal and no electricity apart from a generator I have no idea.
We've spent the day with Job, who's full name is Watchmen Nee Job (how cool is that??). He is an amazing pastor and overseer of literally thousands of pastors in this part of India. He spoke to me about how his music team translates their hymns into 27 dialects into order that the every people might hear the Gospel. How refreshing and challenging to see music in the Church in a way that evangelizes and unifies the body, many of whom have suffered mild persecution (if there's such a thing as mild). Job is the picture of a missional lifestyle, doing whatever it takes to see the Gospel reach every people, even in his own country.

How can you pray for us?
- Pray for our health. We are very weary from traveling and need rest. Pray against mosquitos and malaria and stomach sickness. Pray for our digestive health and the transition to Indian food/drink.
-Pray for Classes as they begin to start. Randy and I are teaching Foundations (Randy) and the theology of the Kingdom of God (me) and Jason and Jessica are teaching public health. After being here for a few hours - I can see what a huge need this will be. Zach is filming and hopefully making us look good :).
- Pray for the pastors and churches of this region, scattered throughout as an overwhelming minority. Muslim prayers can be heard on loudspeakers every few hours. Pray that the Gospel of Jesus would outlast and overwhelm the forces of darkness.

We truly covet your prayers moving forward. God is here - He was long before we were. Let us join in praying that His kingdom becomes a reality right here in our midst.