Greetings from Chennai (Pastor Ude's apartment with internet!),
We spent most of Friday with me meeting with Jyothi and Nireeshana Benjamin discussing the work while Pastor Ude worked on computer problems. It was a day well spent.
In the evening we stopped off at a place called the Pizza Corner for supper and then headed out to a CLCI congregation about 45 mintues away. The first congregation we stopped at showed us the current condition of their prayer shed, as they call them. This is where they meet for worship. Their prayer shed had collapsed about two months earlier. This particular prayer shed was constructed by setting four large posts in the ground at the four corners and then they dug a trench between the posts and set several small sticks upright between the large posts. The bottom of the sticks in the trench were then packed with mud to keep them upright. The stick walls were then packed with mud leaving small openings for airflow. The roof was constructed of bamboo rafters that were then layered with either straw. I asked Jyothi what it would cost to rebuild this prayer shed and he estimated about $250.
We then traveled to another village a few Kilometers away where there was another prayer shed of the same type of construction but it seemed to have more support logs set in the walls rather than at just the corners. But you could see that the mud waddle walls were not in good shape and were begining to lean in. These types of buildings require constant upkeep I would imagine. About 70 people packed into the prayer shed. Following the singing accompanied by drums, that is broadcast over loud speakers (which serves as a sort of call to worship for the village), the service began. Pastor Ude and I were both given the opportunity to share the word of God. There is just such a love of the Gospel in these small village congregations. It is hard to put your finger on what it is...but you can just tell that they are hungry for the Word. I preached on the story of the raising of Lazarus and before I began I asked how many had heard the story and almost all of them raised their hands. As we were driving back to Guntur I was asking Jyothi about the pastor because he looked very familiar to me and seemed to remember me. Jyothi said that he had graduated from the seminary a few years back and remembered me from when I had taught there a few years ago. Then Jyothi went on to tell us that this particular congregation was started by this pastor after he finished seminary and that all the members were Hindu converts. When this pastor was sent to this village after seminary there was no Christian church and no Christians in the village. I asked Jyothi to give me a rough estimate of how many CLCI congregations were in villages with no other Christian witness and after thinking for a couple of minutes and running through the many villages in his mind he said probably 60% of the villages with CLCI congregations had no other Christian witness. Praise the Lord for opening the doors of opportunity for our brothers of the CLCI to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ! And thank the Lord for moving the hearts of KINSHIP sponsors who assisted this pastor and many others with their financial resources so that they could attend the CLCI seminary to be properly trained for the Gospel ministry in these heathen villages of India!
Our car was repaired enough to make the trip back to Chennai. The engine needs rebuilt and continues to overheat so our driver Kumar kept the speed at 60 Kilometers per hour (about 37 miles per hour) the whole trip. We also had to stop to let it cool down a couple of times. Which reminds me...it is funny sometimes the expressions they come with here since English is not their native tongue. Our driver speaks good English and that is a real blessing. But when we pulled off the road to let the engine cool down, he said: "we must find shadows to park" instead of saying we need to find some shade. It made me smile.
Anyway, we are safely back in Chennai. Pastor Ude has a bad head and chest cold so we are going to take it easy today and maybe run a few errands. Tomorrow (Monday) we meet with some pastors from the BELC. On Tuesday morning we head to the airport to fly to Nepal to meet with Pastor Raju for a few days.
Thanks for your prayers.