Thanks for being patient! Between jet-lag and getting caught up at the office I am just now getting some thoughts together to share on India. I will also have some pics scattered thgroughout as well.
What an incredible journey! The travel part was definitely the hardest. We were 10 1/2 hours ahead of Houston but the hardest time to deal with it was after we returned home. Half our team was bumped that Friday from our original flight and had to wait until Saturday to leave. We arrived in Chennai about 1 am Monday morning. The half of the team before us only arrived about six hours before due to late and missed flights in Frankfurt. They had to fly to Mumbai, wait 5 hours and then fly to Chennai. After our group arrived, we found out that one of my bags and all the luggage of one of our lady's was left in Frankfurt and wouldn't be in Chennai for 24 hours. She had nothing. I had my clothes in a carry on but did not have toiletries and snacks. Steve, our leader, and I would leave a few hours later for K.Kota so I would not get my bag unitl the end of the week. Donna and I were dealing with the airline until 3 in the morning at the airport, then finally we went to our digs at HBI in Chennai. As steve said, we went from flexible, to fluid, to being "poured out as a drink offering" pretty fast!
After a short amount of sleep and orientation at HBI (Hindustan Bible Institute), Steve and I left for K.Kota, a village in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh, about a 9 hour train ride through the night. The original plan was to leave the night before, have a day at the HBI Learning center in K.Kota to get ready, and then began teaching on Tuesday. Due to our flight changes, we arrived Tuesday morning and went straight to teaching! Steve trained about 100 pastors and I trained about 25 youth workers. And I mean "youth" workers! their average age was 15-23, but they looked anywhere from 10-17. These youth also preach, teach, and have major leadership roles in their churches. Amazing! Our training looked at the discipleship strategy of Jesus with his "small group" (disciples), basic Bible Study Methods, and basic training in how to do small group ministry. Isaac, my interpreter, was amazing and became a good friend. He is a pastor with a heart for youth and runs a school as a ministry of his church in his little village. Santha Kumar, our HBI host who went to K.Kota with us, sat in on my classes. He works with the youth in his church as well as over 250 slum kids in Chennai. No one else with reach out to these untouchables, Dalits, the lowest of the low in the caste system. But Santha loves on them in the name of jesus every week. These guys are rapidly becoming my heroes! It was a grueling experience, teaching with a translator ov er six hours each day, but an incredible experience to see the body of Christ in action and so different on the other side of the world.
We left Thursday evening by train for Chennai and arrived back at HBI in the middle of the night. Went through debrief Friday as well as a ministry tour of HBI and a authentic Indian celebration dinner together. Saturday was a fun day of sight-seeing and shopping in Chennai. We saw the traditional site where Thomas the Disciple was martyred and buried. Sunday at 4 am we boarded a plane for London amidst the British Airways strike, but still made to London on time. Sunday was a fun but quick day around London. Exciting for me since I've never been to that side of the pond. I've gotta take Anna there sometime, it's avery cool place. The highlight for me was seeing the Chelsea football stadium, Stanford Bridge. I got me and Ben a Chelsea jersey. No game there that day, though.
Now, Some not-so-random thoughts and lessons from the trip:
1. God is alot bigger than the "American" box we put Him in. He is also working in huge ways in India and alot of other places much greater than we see Him moving in America. I understand even more about "contextualizing" to your culture that God has placed you in to reach them.
2. India youth workers are hungry to learn how to get into God's Word and disciple in greater ways. I mean, Hungry! My group even skipped state exams in school to stay for the final day of training. In comparison, we feel very satisfied.
3. Curry-based food is exotic and very good, but nothing beats a good burger. Burger King in London on Sunday night was a huge blessing.
4. The train ride from K.Kota was the hardest thing for me. I was very hot and tired and dirty, and sharing a small sleeper car with 5 other ppl was not fun. Especially for 9 hours. We Americans like our personal space. In the Eastern mind, there is no such thing.
5. Never under-appreciate the power of a hot shower. Or air-conditioning. Or sanitation.
6. 150 personal movie choices sure make a 10-12 hour plane ride go faster and more bearable. I got huge insight into youth culture by watching "Twilight: New Moon". Although I'll never get that two hours of my life back. Ever.
7. The bond of the body of Christ is strong and vital when you meet other brothers and sisters and see what God is doing on their side of the world. We will have a part in every person they lead to Christ. Awesome!
The next post will be pictures of the adventure. Maybe later today or tomorrow am. I just tried and blew about 45 minutes trying to get them on this post and then losing them.
Thank you all for your support, prayers, and encouragement during this trip. If I get the chance to return and continue the investment in the youth workers in K.Kota it will be worth it!