The Holy Spirit…at work in a mighty way in India

See the woman standing quietly in the doorway, looking on as the scene before her unfolds?  Her story of devotion is woven into the fabric of God’s faithfulness to His people in India.  This woman, Pavani*- a Christian, was arranged in marriage to a Hindu man.  She met with other Christians and read her Bible in secret, hoping her husband would not find out.  Her husband was not a Hindu in name only, but a radical Hindu intent on India being a purely Hindu nation.

One day, her husband – Manyu*- found her reading the Bible.  He became violent, tearing up the Bible and threatening divorce if he caught her with a Bible again.  Yet, she persisted in her faithfulness to Jesus.

In time, her husband became seriously ill.  After medical consultation, he was told his kidneys were failing and that he would die.  His family offered sacrifices to Hindu gods and consulted Hindu priests to no avail.  Pavani boldly asked Manyu if she could have her pastor pray for him in the name of Jesus.  Manyu agreed, with the condition that if it didn’t work, he would divorce her.  She brought him to the house church she attended where her pastor and fellow believers prayed for Manyu.  God was at work – Manyu was healed!  His pain left and he has not had any kidney problems since.  Manyu became a believer in Jesus.  This was at a high cost – his family kicked him and Pavani from the family home.  In prayer, they heard God asking them to move to Bihar as missionaries.

Several years later, the now-Pastor Manyu was asked to pray for a young Hindu man’s brother, who had been sent home to die.  That brother was healed in the name of Jesus, and the young Hindu man (asking for prayer on behalf of his brother) was MK, now a believer in Jesus and the leader of New Life Mission Church (NLMC).   Pavani and Manyu now work with NLMC establishing house churches, bringing Jesus to communities through literacy groups like the one in the photo.

It was a tremendous blessing to visit NLMC this past month with a team from BelPres.  We met and encouraged the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, worshipped in house churches and prayed with many.  We heard testimony after testimony of healing – physical healing and/or freedom from evil spirits.  The Holy Spirit is at work in a mighty way in northern India.  As people are freed from physical or spiritual sickness, they (and their families) are accepting Jesus as their Savior.  They are bucking their culture to live and follow Jesus, forming house churches to worship and learn together. New leaders are being raised up and becoming church planters and pastors in neighboring villages.  We witnessed Jesus’ power transforming lives in the smiles of formerly untouchable orphans now at home in an NLMC orphanage.  At every turn of our trip, the Bible came to life before my eyes.

God invites us to be part of his rescue mission for humanity.  Jesus clearly asks us to “let your light shine before men” (Matthey 5:16), but how often have I kept Jesus hidden away?  In India, I met person after person who accepted Jesus not only as their Savior, but as their Lord, orienting their life to serve Him.  I met a man whose home was tormented by evil spirits banging all over his house each night.  When he accepted Christ and began reading the Bible in his home, the banging stopped.  A short year later, he now works as a church planter.  I saw this same passion in MK – feeling such thankfulness to Jesus for saving his brother, he could do nothing less than launch a movement and a vision to establish a church in every village across the Ganges plain.  I saw this in Manyu: hearing God in prayer asking him to move across the country and doing it.  And I saw this in the steadfast faithfulness of Pavani, risking all to share Jesus with her unbelieving husband.  So the questions loom: Would the church planter have accepted Jesus if it weren’t for MK leading a group of believers to spread the Good News across northern India?  If it weren’t for Manyu praying for MK’s brother, could MK have come to know Jesus?  Would (Pavani’s unbelieving husband) Manyu have come to know Jesus if Pavani hadn’t sought prayer for him?  Only God knows the answers to these questions. How fulfilled are their lives now knowing they are helping to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth?

What nudge is God asking you to respond with a “yes?”  Our individual action does make a difference.  On a Saturday afternoon in October, I sat in a conference room in Bihar, India hearing MK speak of the incredible vision that God has for India and beyond.  I wondered: Why was I, a mom from Redmond, hearing this vision and feeling so inspired?  And yet, I knew that joining the India Impact Team was saying “yes” to a nudge from God. I’m still not sure of all the consequences of that “yes,” but I know my life is bigger now that it includes all I experienced on the other side of the world.   My heart is chastened and broken and full – all at the same time as it never has been before.  I know it is impossible for me to speak of our experience in India without mentioning Jesus, so my light is shining brighter these days.

The Holy Spirit is working in miraculous ways in northern India. That same Spirit is at work here.  I am so thankful for the shining examples of faithfulness witnessed in the lives of our brothers and sisters in India.  As I pray Colossians 1:3+ “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you since we heard of your faith in Christ and the love which you have for all the saints because . . . the gospel which has come to you . . . is constantly bearing fruit and increasing . . .”. The “you” looks like the beautiful faces of men, women and children gathered tightly together in the room of a house in Bihar.

There is so much more to share, but you can come and hear of it first-hand as MK, director of New Life Mission Church, and his wife Punam will be visiting BelPres – Sunday, November 25, 12:15pm in S-140.  Be prepared to feel inspired as MK shares the vision that God has given him and excited as you learn of God’s faithful work in India.

 *Names have been changed.

 

 

A BROKEN HEART!

 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Last year, my wife and I traveled to Guatemala’s Mission Campus to share in special outreaches and celebrations. While preparing to leave, we heard on the news about a home in Guatemala where at least 18 children had died in a fire. Needless to say, we were greatly disturbed and prayed for the families. Little did we realize how this was going to impact us; indeed break our hearts!

In Guatemala, we heard various stories and read reports that included the following statements:

“These are the dumping grounds for people who are not wanted by society, whether they are disabled or gay or happen to get there through the criminal justice system.”

“Guatemalan human rights officials said Thursday that they believe the 35 girls who were killed (when a fire swept through a childrens home dormitory) had been unable to escape because they were locked inside. Legislators also heard that only three of the 64 security cameras were working in the home which housed 750 children in a space meant for 500.”

Driving to the Campus, our Director said “Pastor, one of the 40 girls (the number continues to rise) who died attended our school.” We were stunned as we heard this and our hearts began to break. Tears quietly began to flow. Her name was Milenie and was, in fact, one of our sponsored children. From the age of 6, Milenie displayed behavioral difficulties and her Mother tried everything to help her. The Mission did its best and, of course, we are grateful to her sponsors who stood by her for years. In January, she ran away from home, was picked up by Police who placed her in the City Government Home and tragically lost her life in the fire. Yes, our hearts were broken! We prayed for her family and the families of all who lost their lives.

As the week continued, I shared the story with our entire student body, encouraging them not to be led astray, to realize their potential and the plan God has for them. It reenergized our commitment to help the children and young people of Guatemala. Recognizing the need for kids in trouble or faced with abuse and problems at home (some who are even wards of the court), we opened a special fund to provide help. An example: children in a home close to Campus (run by a wonderful Pastor and his team) are wards of the court who struggle in public school. From this special fund, they will be able to attend the Arms of Jesus (AOJ) School and will be blessed in so many ways by our ministry. (It is difficult to find sponsors for them because the Court can remove them at any time.)

We are so blessed! Please pray for the children who are ‘placed into the dumping grounds of society and pray for us as we seek to be ‘the arms of Jesus to them.’

Feelin’ so Extra

They would normally be on tour. They have turned down multiple gigs to be here. The time is non-negotiable. These children are a priority. They said they want to do it for ten years. This is year six.

To play basketball, you need a court. We didn’t have one. After the earthquake, one of the young Port-au-Prince refugees staying with a pastor showed up with a basketball and was dribbling all over Passe Catabois. All the boys in Passe Catabois followed him for a chance to hold or dribble that ball. Pretty soon, a five-gallon bucket with a hole in it, a two-by-four and some concrete disappeared from one of our construction sites. Using the rim of a plastic bucket, they created a makeshift hoop six feet off the ground.

Being mesmerized by a basketball is better than dwelling on the immediate trauma or the aftershocks still ongoing. The news from Port-au-Prince was horrid. Basketball is much better than thinking about the earthquakes that keep happening.

Not long ago, the church elementary school in Passe Catabois started the outline for a basketball court. Compassion, the child sponsorship agency, decided every school needed a court for an obscure game people vaguely knew about. The construction hadn’t gotten very far and things happen. Sometimes the ground shakes and things are very different afterward.

I tell the boys about the remains of a basketball court foundation buried somewhere in the schoolyard. With the pastor’s blessing, I promise, if they will dig it up and get everything ready, we will pour fifteen feet of the basketball court and put up a goal.

By 10 am the next morning, the work was done. It was now “put up or shut up” time; and the perfect time to divert attention from the earthquake. Shortly, we had a fifteen-foot concrete basketball court and a half court in packed dirt.

Over time, we got the half court done in two pours. And then someone said: “Let’s just pour the other half of this basketball court.”

The Boca Raton youth group came to basketball camp that first year afterward and brought two Haitian Americans who have played a lot of ball.

By the third year, we had a second court and a second program at the Poste Metier church five miles away. The two Haitian Americans increased to four and formed a music/ministry group. Local boys are more familiar with soccer. We had to convince them to quit hitting the ball with their head…use hands only and don’t kick the ball. This is basketball.

A bus pulls up. There are 60 cheering boys inside and 60 cheering boys outside waiting for them; all in reversible “Upward Basketball” jerseys. The home team is blue; the visitors, cream.

This is the big day. For a week, these boys have been learning basketball fundamentals and Bible lessons. The Poste Metier ball players travel to Passe Catabois for a ‘tournament.’ This is a competition involving basketball drills like dribbling and shooting. Then they let the older (11-13 year-olds) play some full-court sessions.

“K4C” (or Knights for Christ) is a ministry and a musical group of first-generation Haitian Americans with a heart for at-risk young people in America. They do concerts in schools and churches wherever they are invited, investing in youth, telling them about Jesus and trying to help them stay out of trouble. The leader of K4C says that Jesus saved him, but basketball kept him out of trouble.

They just put out an album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alaxH0YEXQ0&feature=youtu.be.  Footage from basketball camp is on the video. A friend from Georgia is with them who last played competitive high school basketball and comes out of retirement to coach and organize the camp. I wasn’t sure he was going to make the video. He did, but it was basketball coaching that got him in and not singing. Along with the 120 boys are a dozen volunteer coaches from the two churches, some parents, a sound system and a lot of excitement.

Deb and I don’t know much about children’s ministries. But we receive the teams and provide the venue. Over recent months, we have been shipping everything necessary for a basketball camp:  uniforms, basketballs (many children win their own ball either in the daily competitions or when they graduate at 13), peanut butter for breakfast before camp and other paraphernalia. For the past two weeks, boys in faded uniforms from previous years have stopped me on the road and asked if Sammy, Dee, Lucson, or Hobbs are coming for camp this summer. You can feel the excitement building.

One of the beauties of the Passe Catabois basketball court is that it has trees all around it. I sit in the shade watching the two teams’ race up and down the court. Most of these children are natural athletes and have caught on amazingly fast to this recent addition to Haiti sport. Over the years, many have come to Christ during basketball camp while listening to the story of salvation.

One of the eleven year-olds is blocked by a bigger player in front of him. Without missing a beat, he does a behind-the-back pass to a teammate and they press in toward the goal.  Another amazement is seeing them pass – a lot. Watching local soccer is painful. When one guy gets the ball, too often he tries to take it all the way to the goal himself. It is one against eleven. When someone on the other team takes the ball from him, he runs the other way – one on eleven -without passing.

That doesn’t happen here. This is a profound change and something to take to other parts of their lives: teamwork. They are passing it off, keeping it, moving around and looking for an open man rather than personal glory.

I see all manner of sneakers patched up, sewn up or otherwise improvised. More than several have feet jammed in shoes that are way too narrow and no laces because there isn’t room. Some have street shoes or work boots. Who knows what sacrifices the parents made to find something for their boys to put on so they can attend camp? And someone at home is covering for them collecting firewood, carrying water, or tending to the animals so they can be boys for a week to do basketball and Bible study. And it is all forgotten in the excitement of these boys on the court.

Deb and I just got the new K4C CD. One of the songs is called ‘So Extra.’ For those who, like us, may need a translator to communicate with the younger generation: in rap/jive/hip-hop, it translates to ‘so blessed.’  As I sit in the shade watching these boys play basketball and have fun, I am feelin’ “so extra.”

We are so thankful for you, your friendship, prayers, and support.