10/16-17 Thursday & Friday
Rai, our guide in Deli, was more than gracious. We were met at the airport with a barrage flower lays. The red-rose fragrance was nearly as overpowering as the hospitality and humility of our hosts. We were taken to see some of the major archaeological sites of the city of Deli. Most impressive was the Qutb Minar, a five-storey tower built in 1193. This was a thriving Muslim culture 300 years before any European had seen America. Also impressive was the Lotus Flower Bahai temple, one of the seven in the world. We also had a demonstration of how these wonderful Indian carpets were made. I was so thrilled to be able to purchase a 3X5’ silk carpet that they say is an item that should last (with use) for 200 years. The highlight of our day, however, was a Saturday evening meeting where about 120 people attended in a theater at the YMCA (where we stayed). The colors and faces had a beauty and diversity the was as vibrant as the singing. And we could see it all since we were sat in a line on stage like dignitaries facing the audience with more flower lays placed around our necks by children. It was beautiful. What we didn’t know about the service until the following day was that it was a special service where about half the people were invited guests. That’s a pretty good way end our first day.
This was a day of travel for us. We took a two and a half hour train ride to Agra, where we visited the Taj Mahal. This is clearly the most perfect building I’ve ever seen. It was not the largest, nor the most expensive, but clearly the most perfect. Words are incapable of capturing its majesty or the mystery of the love-story behind it. We returned to the train to complete our trek to Damoh for another 8 hours. Our quarters are plush: Clean sheets, sodas and tea, marble floors and a guarded compound. Most of the team is still waking at 2-3 a.m. from Jet lag. But that will pass quickly as we start running through our days.
It was a full day of teaching beginning at 8:30 and going to 5:30, six one-hour sessions interspersed with tea breaks and lunch. It was both rich and exhausting. My session was right after lunch (2:15-3:15) I will cherish in my memory for life. During one of the morning sessions Brenda came and got me out of the session with the startling words "Your presence is necessary outside.” I couldn’t imagine for what! Well . . . it was for an Elephant ride! A group of little guys passed by the complex with a couple of Elephants and Indu contracted them to come in and give rides to a bunch of gringos. This evening we went to a Hindu temple and monastery where boys 14-21 are trained to be priests.
This was the second day of the International School. While the others were teaching, before I got up in the afternoon, I got a special treat. Our friend asked me to accompany him to a home to talk with a 22 year old young man. The interesting thing was that his mother is appreciates the work with the poor and would be glad for her son to find something that would bring him happiness and stability. After lunch we were also able to take a city tour. It is simply not possible to describe the menagerie of humanity. Ten minutes in downtown Damoh could take a lifetime to assimilate. After the teaching we had a very special certificate ceremony for all those who completed this two-day course. To us it was simply a simple piece of paper. To each of these students, however, it was a treasure to be kept and cherished. The evening wound down with two parties. The first was a dedication of a new house – the street was packed with friends, dressed in their best, and a spread of food to match the auspicious occasion. Then we were off to another home for a 13th birthday party. The Americans sang happy birthday to her. She immediately ran to the phone to tell her friends about the honor. In every possible way we are being treated like royalty.
Today was a tour day of all the various aspects of Central India Christian Missions. (1) Children’s Fund Program is helping 2,000 children with education, food, and medicine. Six hundred of these have been rescued out of bondage (for an average of about $20 each). Ninety six children formerly helped are now serving the communityl. It takes $12 a month to supply the needs for these children. Indu says, "They bloom like flowers through the simple message, ‘God loves you.’” (2) There are now 400 full-time co-workers in all these services. (3) FAME has helped establish 2 hospitals, one in Damoh and one in Kansa. There are 22 doctors, and 20+ nurses. The are now doing a cancer detection camp with 300 people each time. (4) International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES) has partnered with CICM to provide disaster relief. (5) A radio service reaches 38 Asian countries with two weekly broadcasts. Listener clubs (popular in this part of the world) gather before the broadcast then have a discussion afterward. (7) Literature and Teaching Ministry (LATM) has partnered with CICM to produce printed resources in Hindi. After all this we ate lunch with Ajai and Indu in their home. They served us like we were dignitaries and they were our servants. I sat next to Steve Meyers; both of us were literally humbled to tears. I now know what it means to be served by the Apostle Paul. We are unworthy servants whose lives and ministries must now be changed.
The camp is in a beautiful, secluded jungle area about 30 miles outside Damoh. We awoke this morning with a walk down to a river, punctuated with a flock of Bright green parrots and a million dragon flies. The birds are familiar but each exotic: a crow, woodpecker, blue bird, finch, flycatcher, etc. The students arrived around noon as excited as they could be. They slept in a massive tent on straw and mats. The "kitchen” is a massive outdoor event. The cooks were contracted from the community and won’t sleep for three days. The meeting hall is an open air tent with an opening flag ceremony from all the towns and districts in attendance and a firework display. The most impressible sight to me, was the meditation, the women all cover their heads with honor and devotion to God. J.J. Peterson shared a wonderful message on giving your heart. We took a drive to see the old campsite and ran across a wild band of monkeys.
The day began with a 5:30 am wake-up call and 6:00 calisthenics for the whole camp. It was awesome to see 1500 students, boys and girls separated, doing stretching. We then had a time of devotions and meditation before breakfast. I lectured from 10:30-12:45 under the big tent- it was suffocating hot; but Ajai and I had such a wonderful time and the teachers (150 of them) were so excited by our discussion. Bath time followed as the students all went down to the river- men and women to separate locations, of course. After lunch, I slept for two hours straight. The singing competition lasted for two hours in the afternoon and it was taken very seriously, but with a great spirit. Evening session was from 6:00-7:30 followed by dinner. Dave Case shared a wonderful message and hundreds took it to heart. The team had the special privilege of hearing dozens of needs. A highlight of the evening was a native musical group from a nearby village. ! Their music was unbelievably moving and their hearts were as pure and as joyous as fawns skipping in a spring field. The late-night event was a huge bonfire where the students shared skits, music, and dance.
We had the extraordinary privilege of meeting with 13 men faithfully serving their communities.
My assigned topic to preach on was "Surrender." This had a far different ring to it in India than anywhere else I've ever shared. After the three hour meeting, we marched (literally) down to the river in a triumphal procession. I must say, it was a striking way to conclude our momentous trip to India.