I'm sorry for such a long time between the last blog and this one (almost two months!). I have been busy and lazy and all of the above. I WILL finish up chronicling this journey. It's important to me. I just hope that I can continue to find time to work on it. I hope you enjoy this one. It's about a life-changing moment. Sorry for the lack of pictures, I should get them soon. They're "lost" for right now.
After a long drive (a distance and direction that I cannot tell you) over dirt roads, we pulled up to a small town. It was unremarkable from any of the other towns. Removing our shoes, we walked into a one-roomed church. It was a relatively nice building with actual flooring and many ceiling fans. It had to be one of the nicer buildings in this small town, but it was still a far cry from the lavish churches we have in America.
We were there with Christina, Suresh’s wife, to lead the service at this small church. Church started with them singing their worship songs and liturgies. They then welcomed us to their church with flowered leis and introduced the team. John B was the emcee for the service. We did the normal routine of worship and then giving testimonies. Soon it was time for me to give the message. I asked Shawn to pray over me to help prepare me to give the message. When he was done and I was announced, I went up there to give the message that God had placed on my heart months earlier.
The message I gave was about how God uses the most unlikely people to do His work. I started out with talking about David and how a shepherd was made into one of the greatest kings of the Jews and a man after God’s heart. I then went on to talk about how the first disciples were just lowly fishermen and when Jesus called them to his side, they dropped their nets and followed. I followed that up by talking about my own experience and how God had used me, a man who wasn’t a Christian two year prior and now was up there speaking to them about Him. I ended up on the point that they are all a part of the same story as David, the disciples, and me. I asked them what they will do. I told them that God can use the men, the women, and the children. I even pointed out how the pastor was just a simple man who God was using to do his will. I ended the talk just by asking them if they would put their nets down and follow God. All in all, it was a cool message and I was proud to give it. To be honest, it wasn’t the same type of experience as the previous night, but it was still cool. I don’t think I was as fired up as I was the previous night. I think that I did a little less preparation than I should have and my exegesis wasn’t spectacular, but these are all things that I’m looking at in hindsight because I want to get better. Also, my message was shorter than most Indian church services are.
The message I gave was very appropriate. I mentioned earlier that there were three churches that we did the services at, and interestingly someone else from the team gave a very similar message to the one that I did without comparing notes with me. That same message and the same passage in Matthew were also used in my church the weekend I got home. It was an appropriate message.
After I gave my talk, John B got up and said a prayer over the congregation to seal in my message. I thought it was a great tag-team effort. When he sat down, the pastor over the congregation got up and said that it was a great message that I gave. He even added a few points about humility to my message that I didn’t quite think about. He then mentioned that the fact that we were there doing service with them was a spectacular blessing to them. They got to celebrate the New Year with us and it was completely a blessing to them and they would have a great year because of it. The church then did the liturgies for the rest of the service and church was over.
At the end of church, someone brought in chairs and some chai and some cookies for us to eat. We sat down and were talking and relaxing. I sat by Christina. She looked at me and said in broken English, “Very good message. Small message, but good.” I was delighted to hear that Suresh’s wife thought I did well. It was great encouragement for me in my early adventures in preaching. We talked about how it was a little short, but it was good and then she said something that changed my life.
She looked me in the eye and pointed at me and said, “You Pastor.” I was shocked. I stammered, “What?” She said it again confused, as if she thought I didn’t understand her. I stammered again and she looked to someone to translate for her. I told her I understood, but I was just shocked. It was the biggest compliment that anyone could have given me at that point. It was the second time in as many days that I had preached and it was the second time in as many days that someone had told me that I am/will be a pastor. At the time I wasn’t convinced that God was trying to tell me something… but now I have more clarity on the subject.
We all got into the van and drove back to Suresh’s house. We just relaxed and practiced a dance that we would be performing later in the week. We hopped in our vans and drove out to a small village to dedicate a water well.
Dedicating water wells is fun because we are bringing such tangible support to these small villages. As we piled into our cars a man stopped someone from our team. He said that that well was a huge blessing to them. Before, they would have to walk half a mile to get water for their house and bring it back. This new well was less than a football field away from them. Hearing that touched my heart.
We went back to Suresh’s again and then went to the orphanage to hang out with the kids. We watched Anastasia with them for a while. I went and sat in the middle of the boys. They crowded in close to me and were really interested in the fact that I was there. It was fun. We left before the movie ended because people got sleepy, and we went back to Suresh’s to get a snack. While there, the men got their panjabis and some of the tailored clothing we ordered. Finally, we drove home and went to sleep. The following morning was the beginning of Vacation Bible School.