Yesterday (Tuesday), Kev and the team clearly thought they were going to travel 80km beyond Pangidi into the forest region, but there was a big misunderstanding and instead they went to some villages where there are churches that Michael works with.
Last night (Tuesday), Kev met with six local pastors, whilst I got to facilitate a creative art evening with the women. He was encouraged by the nature of the questions asked and the quality time they’d had together.
I taught about own identity in Christ and then handed out pre-cut masonite crosses, little bowls of blue, green, purple and mirror glass chips, and some glue. I put some music on and they spent the evening designing their crosses which I wanted to be a reminder of the lavish acceptance and love Jesus has for each of them. I was completely overjoyed to see them all so happy. Michael said the women have never ever done any activity like this before! As I watched them I was reminded that it truly is better to give than to receive. I trust the photographs will give you a little glimpse into our evening.
I met two teenage brides who had been part of arranged marriages. One was a 14 year old married to a 26 year old chap and the other a 15 or 16 year old. I was shocked to hear that no one blinks an eyelid at this kind of a happening.
They just look so young, but seem happy enough.
Wednesday had been allocated for Kevin to travel to meet a group of pastors in a town two hours away. I had imagined he’d be back by lunchtime but he only arrived home at 10.00pm. He had adapted to the situation and wasn’t stressed at all, saying he’d met such a great group of genuine believers. After he’d ministered at their church, he hopped on a local government bus and travelled back home together with Michael.
I marvel at Kevin’s stamina and capacity. I can’t keep up with his pace and tire more quickly, but he’s very understanding. He loves the nature of the task here and is so good at it. Not everyone would be as culturally flexible, so very patient and willing to pioneer. He says the door is just so wide open here for ministry. He is using the same approach here that proved to be fruitful in Zimbabwe and that is to slowly build friendship first and grow mutual trust. He’s wanting to get a broader picture of how the guys here think, why and how they do things and so it’s still very much an exploratory stage.
Whilst Kev was away, we got things prepared for the children in Covenant Church, the church Michael leads. We made puzzles, cut out and prepared memory games, picture dominoes and bought educational charts for them. They lack creative stimulation and have enjoyed the resources we’ve given them.
Yesterday, encouraged by Kev, we boarded a local bus and all headed for Rajahmundry, a town 8km’s away. Simple purchasing tasks that shouldn’t take an hour or two to complete back home, take hours here because of language difficulties, plus you don’t know where the shops you need are, e.g. where to find plastic containers to store the stationary we bought for Covenant Church. You have no idea where to find a “safe” lunch! We’re so used to squeaky clean cleanliness and mall-like convenience that market street shopping through congested noisy, colourful streets with beggars and cows and dogs is an experience in itself, as is trying to find a clean loo! So what should essentially be a very simple outing converts to a whole days happening. We were tired, hot and sweaty when we boarded the bus for home.
Something we’ve been very sensitive to en route is praying for people. We’ve build friendship with the staff at our hotel and at the shop we go to just down the road and we’ve had spontaneous opportunities to talk about the living God and His love for people everywhere! This region is scattered with these absolutely huge idols, which is a sad reminder that people actually believe these statues of concrete are God.
Pangidi village rests quietly within a rural Indian setting. Life is hard for most folk here. They live a repetitive, simple day-to-day existence with minimal opportunity for personal advancement. The luxury of creative fun is something few are able to indulge in. People stare at us, fascinated, as the children giggle, touch us and run away.
Michael Brown had the name of a Hindu god before he became a committed Christ follower, after which he changed his name. He’s sacrificed much to follow Christ, mostly the loss of his greater family who disowned him with the exception of his one brother. He loves God deeply.
There are 65 churches in this region that he has influence and input into, including what he calls the tribal “forest churches”. He’s a man with an apostolic heart who at his own cost, travels far to encourage and strengthen the many small churches within the 100km radius of where he lives. He says he’s prayed for 25 years for help and now we are here, so this has to be of God and he is so happy to have us here!
He’s a man hungry to learn and grow but he finds himself entrenched in habits of what he was first taught, which is an Old Testament model of church life that is heavy going and legalistic. Once he sees what true biblical grace looks like and what releasing the priesthood of believers entails, the man is going to revel in a new found freedom! He has such a lovely family who’ve gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.
Over this past weekend Brett, Kristin and Gina enthralled the kids with kindness, fun games, a mini cricket match, egg and spoon races, face paint and balloons. I thought these kids would literally explode with joy and delight! Our young India team have given so much of themselves, enhancing and adding value to what has been a very fruitful ministry trip. Their maturity of character and ability to adapt and be flexibility has evoked our respect.
They wanted to build a bridge of friendship first with the teenagers before diving into a time of ministry and they certainly all had fun. I don’t think these teenagers ever considered that being part of a local church could be so enjoyable. Brett ministered to the teenagers on Sunday evening and it was a memorable time for all.
On Sunday, Kev felt that the first biblical truth he needed to rivet in place was the extent to which each of us has equal value, worth, and total acceptance before God, irrespective of our age, gender, education or wealth. These folk live in a very hierarchical society, so they listened attentively as he explained and gave practical illustrations by calling folk up to the front in an endeavour to reinforce how God can hear them in exactly the same way as He hears Michael or him. They all listened closely as this message was interpreted. Michael loved it and that night invited our tuk-tuk driver friend to have dinner with us! As he said, “before God, we are all equal and that is why Simon is here!” He knew it in theory, but to live it out in this social context is radical and he will no doubt need increased stamina to continue to swim upstream.
We’re as frustrated as you are by the blog situation, and are so sorry! We just didn’t think we’d have these kind of hassles.
The distance between Delhi and Mussoorie is 270km and should take about 3 hours. It took us 8 hours on the way up on a single lane road splattered with collosal potholes. This included a mini accident and repair time.
Despite this, the goal of our trip to Mussoorie was more than happily achieved! The church doesn’t have many teams from outside churches visiting them and they pleaded with us to return for a longer time next year. We had such a sweet and tender time with the folk who make up this local church. We laughed, we prayed and enjoyed quality friendship time. Kev ministered, we spent time at the school and got into homes, so it was easy and very special. Three days shot by in a blur and then we were back on the road again!
It took us 12 hours to drive 270km back to Delhi on the same pot-holed road, which this time included a puncture and repair time. Oh my goodness, we had long stretches of the most completely chaotic, death-defying, nerve-wracking, ‘gasp and cover your eyes with your hands’ kind of moments when either a bus or a truck was literally careering straight towards us on the wrong side of the road and in the nick of time just managed to make it back onto the right side of the road! Replay this scenario, a hundred times over and you’ll get a picture of what our trip back to Delhi was like. We all agreed it was the last time we ever drive to Mussoorie!
Then, as we neared Delhi, red-eyed with tiredness, we hit the mother of all traffic chaos, and it took us 3 hours to travel 70km. We saw traffic congestion like none of us had ever seen before! At one point, the two lanes we were in, became five lanes of crazy traffic, seemingly all intent on doing their own thing! When no more buses, trucks, buffalo carts, motor bikes and tuk-tuks could fit in on our side, the traffic simply overflowed onto the other side of the road, creating seven lanes all headed in one direction! It was almost unbelievable to watch them drive straight into oncoming traffic!
We got into Delhi at about 8.30pm exhausted but there was no time to rest. We had to have a quick dinner, shower, wash and blow dry hair, and repack our overweight suitcases according to the weight restrictions required by Jet Airlines, and head off for the airport. Whilst us girls just wilted, Kev arranged the taxi, tried to attend to some admin, found a scale and did all the weighing of our suitcases to ensure we complied with our 20kg each restrictions.
We were all sad to wave Carrie farewell and we’d miss her, but knew it was the right decision.
RAJAHMUNDRY / KOVVUR
We had a super easy flight to Hyderbad but nearly missed our connecting flight to Rajahmundry. With just a slice of time to collect our cases, hand in our heavier luggage for storage and check-in for our connecting flight, we missed the check in deadline by about 4 minutes. The man in charge was adamant nothing could be done. We pleaded with him to have compassion but he refused and so we prayed and then he found a way.
When we walked out on to the tarmac at Rajahmundry, we were surprised by the intensity of the heat because it’s winter here! Michael Brown from Pangidi village was there to meet us with his family. They presented us with garlands of yellow flowers which they draped around our necks! We all hugged each other heartily and hopped into the taxi Michael had arranged for us.
The girls were able to stop at a shop and buy some lovely longer tops to fit in with the more conservative cultural norm in this region and we then got dropped off at our residence in Kovvur, 8km from Pangidi village. Whilst our rooms were on a lovely roof top, it wasn’t clean, there was no shower in our room – Indian hotels generally don’t have baths - and the place looked like a dingy down town Bangkok hotel to me.
We’d Googled “Travel Advisor” for accommodation options but all that came up was “no information”. Kev said as soon as he could find something else, we’d move. The heat was unbearable, the was no power so the aircon and fan in our tiny rooms didn’t work and there was no where else to go. As things turned out, we had to spend three days there.
As fierce and depleting as the heat was during the day, when evening came it brought with it an exquisite gentle breeze that refreshed us. An unexpected beauty emerged that helped me begin to want to make friends with this town.
As we putt-putted our way gently along the bumpy road to Pangidi village, I drank in the calender-like scenes of a rural farming region dotted with water buffalo pulling carts, palm trees and women walking along the road in their colourful sari’s. The 8km trip went by happily and having Brett, Gina and Kristin with us was unbelievably meaningful for Kev and I. My heart felt content.
There hasn’t been a year that we’ve come to India when we haven’t ached that all of NHC couldn’t be here to get just a hint, even a little peep or a weeny “glimpse” into the massive delight it is to befriend and encourage such a genuine group of Christians from India and Nepal. That’s why having Gina, Kristin, Carrie and Brett here has been WONDERFUL … we’ve been soooo proud of them!
Whilst Kev had pre-booked the finest details of this ministry trip on the internet - right down to our menu selection on the plane - something he couldn’t book was our train trip up to Mussoorie. So after we’d all huffed and puffed our way through crowds of people, squashed into tiny half-loaf taxi’s and f-i-n-a-l-l-l-y located where the tourist office was, in what seemed like the centre of Delhi, we discovered the train was fully booked and we were in a queue of 176 people!! The only other option was to book a driver and a car, which we’ve done and presumably 176 other people have too!
We’ve had unexpected internet hassles at our residency but we will be sending a whole wad of photies through tomorrow.
Love you all xxx