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...