Yesterday was a travel day.
I’ve probably written that line before on missions trips, but NEVER with the meaning of this one. It would be safe to say that I’ve never experienced a day like yesterday. We left our wonderful hotel in New Delhi, flew to Hyderabad, then flew to Vishakhapatnam (those 2 flights took about 4 hours). Then we divided into 2 groups and each boarded a Jeep for the drive over the mountains that took about 5 hours to reach our destination, Semiliguda, where we are conducting the Pastor’s Conference. That 5-hour trip was the most treacherous I ever recall – most of us kept our eyes closed the entire time in order not to scream with panic. (Thankfully, the driver kept his eyes open!) I’ve been told it is a beautiful drive across the mountains in the daytime, but it was in the dark of night for us the entire way, so I can’t speak from experience. By the time we did arrive, none of us wanted wi-fi; we just crawled into bed and begged God for sleep! (soft, spoiled Americans that we are)
Today we saw the sacrifice was worth it, as 100 precious church-planters welcomed us with flowers, songs, and a foot-washing ceremony unlike any we’ve experienced before.
After all 4 of us taught 2 messages each, we had the opportunity to hear the testimony of one of these church planters who has been sponsored by CLC for the past 20 months. If you have time to read, it will be worth your while:
While being trained as a literacy worker for the Indian government, he sensed the call of God to ministry. He had a vision of a village he had never seen before, so one day he prayed & asked God to help him find the place. While walking through the forest, he came upon 2 men, described the village he had seen in his vision, and they said, “we know the place”. After they led him there, he asked permission of the village authorities to teach them about Jesus, and they agreed that he could do so if he would teach their children to read and write. Within one year, 150 of the villagers were born-again, baptized believers!
At that point, the fundamentalists joined together with communists and demanded that the people turn back to Hinduism. After he refused to recant, the leader of the Christians was shot to death. He was replaced by another elder, who was hung upside-down and then presented with a sword and a gun and told he must choose which way to die unless he denied Christ. This illiterate villager, who had only known the Lord for a year, replied, “take my life once, or 50 or 100 times, but I will NEVER deny my Lord!”
Although they didn’t kill the leader (for some unknown reason), the fundamentalists threatened to kill every believer in the village, one by one. The news of this persecution reached IET offices, and plans were made to relocate these villagers to a safe place – and by taking a few families each nightfall, the entire group of believers was resettled before the fundamentalists realized what was happening.
However, in this new place there was no real means of support, and these proud believers who once owned homes and livestock, were now reduced to looking for any menial task just to have food. In fact, Dr. Aby Vargis said in one of his first conversations with them, the Christians said, “if we find work for one day, we eat that day. If not, we don’t eat”, before admitting to him that neither they nor their children had eaten in 3 days. The wife of the pastor that we met today then had a dream of houses lined up neatly in a row, on each side of the street. When she told the dream to her husband he told her this would cost thousands of dollars, and seemed impossible – but when he related the dream, Dr. Aby promised to appeal to some of IET’s supporters, and in a few months time, all 60 families were living in a house provided by IET, exactly like those in the dream of the pastor’s wife. The number of believers who now gather for worship is 250 every Sunday, despite all this persecution!!!
I’ll try to post pics tomorrow, and I appreciate your continued prayers as we’re still battling sickness (except for Pastor Matt, who seems to be enjoying every kind of Indian food) - but I just wanted you to know that your giving at CLC is producing wonderful fruit in this part of India!