Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rajasthan - Day 11 of 14

Our second day in Rajasthan was very full! We had breakfast at the hotel and then took another long trip in the two Jeeps to a church over the hills and across the sand.
Amazingly enough, I recognized this church too! Do you know how awesome it is to walk into a church you've seen on a video? It is wonderful! (To see the video I watched, follow this link to watch a Jesus Well Video.)
Yes, those are idols in the foreground and the church on the hill in the distance. Click the picture to enlarge. (You will also see them on the video mentioned above.)

This particular church sits on a hill and can be seen from far and wide. There is a Jesus Well that sits out front and people walk long distances to come pump fresh drinking water. While we were at the church, a group of women dressed in bright colors came to the Well.Look at the woman in the distance carrying a water pitcher on her head. After a few more minutes she disappeared into the horizon.

We joined the meeting as 48 pastors gathered for encouragement and prayer. Each pastor introduced himself, shared about his family, and told us about his church. It was awesome to hear one after another as they said things like "I have 20 people in my church. Please pray we can reach more", "I live in a village and have 53 worshippers. Please pray for us", "I've been a pastor with Believer's Church for 12 years and have 54 baptized believers in our church. Approximately 120 people attend our church. Pray for my family to grow in faith and serve effectively", and on and on.
Some of the pastors graduated from Bible college just a year ago while others have been sowing seeds and watering this sometimes very dry soil for a long time.
This particular church in which we sat had been destroyed by anti-Christians twice. It was rebuilt. And, hanging in the rafters is a chunk of the old roof--to remind the people that God is faithful. Those who led in the persecution fell sick and within a year were dead. Villagers were afraid and doors were opened to share the Gospel. This church is now home to 80 baptized believers who meet regularly to worship the Lord!

We had lunch at a restaurant back in town, where we were staying. We all marveled at the presentation. It tasted as good as it looked!
In the evening we visited the girls Bible college, boys Bible college, and a Bridge of Hope center.

There were 30 women studying at the Bible college. They recently went through a transition in some leadership and the woman who was now the warden is the wife of one of the men who drove us around to all these neat places! It was neat to meet his wife!
The men's Bible college has had 211 graduates and currently enrolls 33 students. The number one prayer request from the principal was that they would reach the unreached villages. He said only 13 of 33 have been reached. That's 20 villages where people have never heard the name of Jesus!
Did you grow up singing "Jesus Loves Me...this I know...for the Bible tells me so..."? I did.

Children in Rajasthan don't grow up singing that song. In fact, most of them have never even heard His name! They don't know there is one true God who loves them. They have no idea He went to Calvary for them.
Later in the evening, we stopped by a Bridge of Hope center. This is a place where children are definitely hearing about Jesus' love! We got to help serve dinner, which was a real treat to our whole team. We brought candy and got to put a piece on each plate. I helped close to the kitchen and the students on our team handed the plates to the kids.
One student on our team, Emily, got to meet the child her grandfather supports. She was elated! We couldn't believe that of all the centers in Rajasthan, we were visiting the ONE this boy attends!And these cool guys drove us for LOTS of hours in two cool Jeeps (on L above and the man below). It was a lot of fun to hear their testimonies and be recipients of their humble service.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back to Our Trip -- Rajasthan

Today is actually past the dates of our tour from a year ago. But, I'm not done walking through my trip. So, bear with me as I continue this look back at our tour from last January. Our trip now has us in Rajasthan, in north west India, bordering Pakistan.
I find that I'm learning a great deal as I process back through our journey. I never blogged much about the trip. I think I was too overwhelmed with it all. Now that it's been a year, certain things are just as fresh in my memory but have been enhanced by another year of walking with the Lord.
Our time in Rajasthan was incredible. We met missionaries, visited Bridge of Hope centers, met Bible college students, learned more about Jesus Wells, and experienced some fun unique to the region. (like monkeys...roaming the desert)
On our first day in Rajasthan we drove out to a church where many missionaries and pastors were meeting for a time of encouragement. We drove through a river bed to reach the church. I took one look at the pastor and his wife and couldn't believe my eyes. I had watched a video about their life and ministry during the months we raised support to join GFA staff!Their story is one of God's provision and faithfulness to sacrificial giving. The pastor's small hut was packed with believers every week for worship and teaching. In the video we watched, the pastor was explaining his belief that God would one day build a church on the land he was giving. This pastor dedicated prime farm land for a church to be built. Not even two years after we watched the video, we stood inside that church! It was neat to come home, watch the video again and rejoice in all the Lord is doing in this pastor's church! Their fellowship is growing as more people from the surrounding area hear of Jesus' love and commit their lives to Him.Outside the church building stands this cross. The black pieces of leather are a symbol of those who were in need of healing, sought answers in Hinduism and were wearing "magic strings" given to them by witch doctors. (In trying to figure out how best to explain this, I went to the GFA website and searched around. Click here to read more about this particular pastor, Hirla, and the awesome ministry of prayer he has through Jesus!)
They welcomed us with flowers and much joy. What an encouragement they were!
Rajasthan is is not an easy area to share the Gospel. It's a desert land physically and spiritually. But, it's amazing how God can take humble, faithful servants and use them in powerful ways.
There is much darkness. We went to a temple while there. It was sad. I can't say much else about it except that it just felt hollow and empty and the people who were there seemed to have hollow eyes. We prayed. May the Lord captivate the hearts of the people and draw them to Himself. He gives life abundantly. We don't have to strive for His love; He has given it freely and completely. My heart just aches for them to know Him.These were taken inside that area.Our first day in Rajasthan was only about half full of seeing ministry and life in this area. We had spent the morning flying in from Mumbai because of those flight delays and then the church we went to visit was three hours away from where we were staying.
We had some fun along the way to the church. As I mentioned before, monkeys were all along the roads. Since I love monkeys, they let us stop and take some pictures. And, I make a mean monkey noise. It's very cool.
I really can't say enough about the missionary leader who hosted us. It was during the long car rides with him that I learned the most about life and ministry in this parched land. God is Living Water--and the people of Rajasthan so desperately need Him!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Birthday Fun!

Happy Birthday Jenna & Asa. Yesterday we celebrated all day long!We gave Jenna and Asa some presents after they ate breakfast. I was actually on the ball and had a few things wrapped the night before. That's pretty amazing around here!
They each got some new books from Uncle Chris for the Tag reader he got them when he was here visiting for Christmas. Asa loves Spiderman, so he was pleased to see some skates. I added a heart with Dora on it to a shirt for Jenna. She was excited to wear it all day.
We spent the morning playing with friends while the mommies prepared some things for a Saturday morning LIFE group brunch.
Then, we all went to Chick-fil-A for lunch. We invited some of Jenna and Asa's friends to join us. We were blessed to have them come play and celebrate! The manager brought out a toy cow and a balloon for each kiddo. So cool! (And, it was a totally easy way to celebrate!)
We came home for an hour before afternoon carpool and I iced the cupcakes I had baked in the morning. Don't they look so yummy?!
Jenna and Asa opened a few gifts from their friends and started putting together puzzles and playing with action figures.
Rylee had gymnastics, then we headed to Uncle Jim and Auntie Pam's for dinner and playing the Wii. Seriously...it's a lot easier than we think to entertain young children and make them feel like their day is special!
We looked into going bowling, but it was just too expensive. Have you seen bowling prices lately?! I had no idea!!! So, we bowled on the Wii. Too fun!
Since the candle wouldn't stay lit at lunchtime due to the wind, the twins finally blew out a birthday candle on the cupcakes!
We came home exhausted, but blessed. So many friends celebrated with us. I have to say it was a very fun day that brought me immeasurable joy!