For various reasons I am going to post all of the days together...I had to write these reports as Word documents and then cut and paste. The electricity goes off here every now and again, and I believe it is even worse in Vellore...so this may be the last time I get to post anything...
Wednesday November 7: Jharsuduga
Strangely enough we were up by 6 AM...after breakfast, we got together in David and Nicky's room for prayer. While we were praying, Susmit, one of the organizing pastors, arrived to welcome us and to give us a basic idea of what would be happening the rest of the day. During lunch we prayed in a way I have never prayed before...conversational style. Looking as if we were talking to each other we prayed for the delegates and all those involved in the GAT seminar. We prayed that the Lord would do something remarkable and memorable during the two days we would spend with the men and women of God. These believers pay a price for confessing Christ in Odisha State...many of them have deep emotional scars we can not even begin to imagine...they have witnessed and suffered rapes, burnings, tortures, beatings, destruction of churches and homes, horrifying deaths of loved ones...these are those of who me the world was not worthy. It is humbling to be with them and a great privilege to give them yet another tool for the very action that brings them so much suffering...evangelism.
This is what makes coming to India so urgently appealing to me...to be one small cog in the great wheel of God's forward movement to save the lost billions of Indians is beyond description. Who knows what will come of this GAT seminar? to me in that the awful filth and squalor can exist quite peacefully right next to the affluent and the
After lunch we went for a walk downtown...whatever that means...India is always fascinating beautiful...and it all is as it should be...an assault on the senses that is at once alarming yet also somehow invigorating. India is India and there is no comparison with anywhere else in this world.
After we returned to the hotel by tuk-tuk, we were met by Jayadeep, the master mind behind and organizer of the whole seminar. We prayed with and for him as he had a cold. then at about 5:30 PM Jayadeep returned with Dinesh and Tushar, two very godly men who helped with translation and other matters. Tushar and I hit it off almost immediately. We left to pray at the venue itself...a Roman Catholic Conference Center.
Thursday, November 8
58 delegates showed up on the first day. After a lively time of blessed worship, Jayadeep, David, and a few local people explained Alpha. This would roughly be the same as Nicky Gumble's Principles and Practicalities talks...I then did a demonstration talk: How Does God Guide Us? After the talk the delegates broke into small groups to discuss the talks. There was good feedback and the excitement level seemed to be rising. Nothing like seeing something you don't know being out into practice and then experiencing the aha! moment.
We then had lunch with Father Philippe, the priest at the compound. Alpha India is trying to the RCC to use Alpha. Father Phillipe seemed very open to the idea. Pray that he will be the catalyst towards their acceptance and use of Alpha. Father Phillipe was personally persecuted during the riots over the killing of a prominent Hindu politician...the Christians were blamed even though Maoists claimed responsibility. During the riots nuns were repeatedly raped and paraded naked up and down the streets. Many were killed in the most gruesome ways imaginable. Father Philippe managed to run away and hide, but many others were not as fortunate. Coming from a world where Christianity is taken for granted, it is hard to imagine what it must be like to live in Odisha where one may pay dearly for simply calling oneself a flower of Jesus. This is what makes me want to return to India again and again to help these brave brothers and sisters of ours as they simply seek to be obedient of the Great Commission in spite of the cost. Christianity means something here...it is real...it is a pearl of great price, worthy of giving up all to secure.
After lunch David spoke about hosting and facilitating small groups on Alpha. Again there was a time for small group discussion. Apparently Alpha felt like there was not enough interaction before, so we tried to set a balance between teaching and practice. Then there was a demonstration talk on How Can We Have Faith? by Tushak....the Indian pastor's presentation of the material is so much better than ours as they do not need and translation and do not need to cross cultural boundaries. This is what teaching and training the leaders is all about. They take the principles and then clothe the talks in their own language and culture. We closed the day sessions with a talk on Alpha and the Wider Church.
After supper, we returned to the compound for further encouragement and equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry. I'm sure many of these leaders could reach us a thing or two on that topic! David read from Revelation 7:9 - the text speaks of people from every people group standing before the throne of God. His subject was the framework of God's mission I history and how we can be a part of that mission. Alpha is one way to partner with God His mission to save the lost. Church leaders are to impart passion to their people...they need to sense God's love for the lost and join Him that passion. He then read from Luke 19:10, 1 John 3:8 and baptizing all people groups...I couldn't help think of the promise in Habakkuk....the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. But the oiin is that we need to partner with God in His attack on evil though the power of love.
We then called for those who wanted prayer to come forward. One of those who came o me for prayer was a young man by the name of Avishek. He has only been a Christian for a few months. He and his brother turned away from Hinduism and his prayer request was for strength to stand for Christ in spite of relentless pressure from his family...he also asked for prayer for his family. Imagine my surprise and, apparently his as well, when he crumpled to the ground while I was still praying for him! This as never happened to me before so I wasn't quite sure what to do. I knelt beside him as he began to speak in tongues with a intense peace (I don't know how else to describe it) on his face. He was obviously no longer I our presence but in some spiritual sense I the presence of His Lord receiving strength and grace upon grace. After he "work up" (again I have not words to describe this) we lifted him up from the floor, but the hand of the Lord was still so heavy on him that he still could not quite stand...we had to get a chair for him. Though rather taken aback by what happened to him, he was radiant with joy. Please pray for Avishek.
And pray for me as it seems my prayer life will never be the same again...later on the same subject.
Friday, November 9
I have a cold...sigh. It has been raining and every time it rains the Indians get colds...and they shared this with me. Generous givers. :-)
We sarted the day two with worship, prayer, and a talk. There was a brif summary of day one and then Tom spoke other subject of how to pray for guests other Alpha course. Then Dinesh demonstrated the talk on How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit. This included ministry time and, yet again, people responded to my prayers by crumpling to the ground and speaking in a heavenly prayer language...that seems the best way to describe this phenomenon as they were obviously not aware of their surroundings and were definately not speaking to me. However, this time I was ready and it did not perplex me anymore. Of course, not everyone responded in this manner...but that was good as it showed me that this was not mass hysteria or pressure from others. However, all were blessed and some testified of immediate healing.
Imagine going to lunch after this! I was exhausted as were the other members of the team. And I was yet to deliver my talk on Presenting the Alpha Course...but all went smoothly and we had a very good response from the delegates. There was a time for questions and, as it became apparent, some were as surprised as I was about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's presence. How does one explain something when you are yourself not quite sure of what happened? Some wondered why we needed ti be refilled with the Holy Spirit when we all already had Him. Did He leave? I explained as best I could with an illustration of a clay pot with a small crack in its base...as it leaks so do I. I guess applause means they understood. David and Tom answered many other questions and, as they have been at this a lot longer than I have, there explanations were great!
After the panel, Jayadeep once spoke on How to Run the Alpha Course. There was some more worship and prayer ministry time. This time Nicky was praying for a young lady when suddenly a demon manifested itself. Exorcisms do not surprise me as Louise and I had to deal with this in Africa. Nicky called me over to pray for the young girl. She was overwhelmed in the Spirit and, when she opened up her eyes she said she had been in the presence of God and had felt so much peace that she didn't want to leave. We called the pastors over and they will follow up...what an eventful seminar! I've never experienced anything like it, but I do hope that this will be the beginning of great things yet to come. God be praised!
David, Nick, and Tom left by train this evening for Vishakapatnam and the on to Chennai. It was great to get to know them and I do hope I paths cross again soon. They are all such wonderful Christians. Tom served under John Wimber...
Saturday, November 10
I left for Ranch I along the same road we came...only this time it was daytime. I saw some of the Maoisits at work...at raod blocks they threatened truckers....pay or suffer the consequences. In broad daylight...weird. they tried to stop us as well,but the driver pressed on through the roadblock...they were afraid that if the Maoists saw a gora (a white man) with them, they might either demand more money or (great thought) kidnap me. It all seems so weird to me...007 stuff...
9 hours later I dragged my sore and tired body into the Golden Tulip hotel...a hotel arranged for me by Mr. Davis, Reena's dad. He really is an amazing travel agent...somehow he always gets the best deals...and this is a really nice hotel.
Sunday, November 11
This was the day for me to do the touristy thing. I felt a bit guilty for not going to church, but where does find a church here in Jharkhand State? Again, Mr. Davis arranged for a trip to BohdGaya, the great Buddhist temple where the Buddha achieved enlightenment under a Bodi tree. The trip was long, but it was well worth it...a tour guide took me through the temple complex telling me more than I could take in at once. There were many Westerners there doing their thing...it was strange to see them going though the motions as they seem sorely out of place.
What was interesting to me was to hear how many times this temple had been destroyed and built up again. Much was restored by the British...one could clearly see the ancient in contrast to the later additions. Ashok, an Indian Price, embraced Buddhism after slaughtering millions in Odisha...the overwhelming slaughter caused him to turn away from violence and to embrace peace. He built most of the temple. I had another unsolicited guide...a young man who claimed to need money for his studies in social sciences. Why then was he not in school? His aim was to make me buy something so that he could get a cut of the sale...but there really wasn't anything worth buying because one can buy all this stuff at World Market in the US...nevertheless for his persistence I bought a small wooden carving of the pillar of Ashok. That seemed to make him happy. Perhaps he is a paid employee...paid by all the stores to direct tourists to them and persuade them to buy stuff...that is all these things are...stuff.
On the way back, I saw a cremation on the bank of some river...this is the first time I witnessed a Hindu crematin first hand. The traffic on the way back was worse than ever. I saw quite a few accidents as people seemed RI be more aggressive and more likely to speed...including my paan chewing driver. Apparently everyone is desperately trying to prepare for the Diwali festival...November 13...apparently, Karigiri will be closed that day and I will get to spend a whole day with Emmanuel and Padmini in Chennai!
Monday, November 12
Got to sleep in this morning and will be leaving for Chennai via Delhi soon.
Arrived in Chennai after 9...the plane from Delhi was delayed. It was such a joy to be with Reena's parents again...Padmini has not age a day since I last saw her. Pity Louise is not here to enjoy the sweet fellowship.
Tuesday, November 13
Today is Dewali...Karigiri is closed for the festival and I will only leave here at about 4 PM. In the meantime, we are going to have fun together!