Greetings From Hyderabad, India
By the Grace of our Lord, I made it safely to Hyderabad after an 8-plus hour flight from London.
Praise HIM for answered prayers! My initial flight from Chicago was cancelled, and Ericka and I just so happened to arrive about 5 hours early and they booked me on the first flight out at 5:05 PM.
I arrived at Heathrow around 6 AM local time. Not much to see at all. Shrouded in cloud and fog and all I could see was the airport terminals and aircraft. I did munch on a ‘traditional English breakfast” India style as the ham was not to my liking – so they offer a Traditional English Breakfast India style: meaning two eggs sunny side up, sautéed mushrooms, some poor attempts at hash browns, coffee with milk (no sugar – that is extra) and a fried tomato. Toast I discovered to my horror, is extra. The cost? About $18 US. Anywhere you eat at Heathrow is going to cost you big time since the dollar is very poorly in value to the Pound.
Then after 6 hours, I just so happened to be checking in with the British Airways Customer service as to where my gate to Hyderabad would be about 10:15 AM and it popped up on her screen, so I was first in the seats in the waiting terminal area. As Brian can probably guess, it did not matter that I was there long before everyone else that crowded in there about 15 minutes before boarding. The Indians have the system figured out. Most of them fake an ailment and have staff bring them for early check in so they get boarded on the flight first – all in economy. saw about 100 or so of those. Amazing how they are able to shove and push past everyone to get to the lavatory or to muscle their way to get past you to get their bags. Amazingly strong disabled folks they are.
The flight left nearly on time. And – while I am grateful to be able to go, and thank God for answered prayer – I was tested to my utmost on this flight. First off, most of the flight was all economy, only one or two in business or first class. I had a broken seat and my entertainment screen did not work. No – the Brits and BA will not offer you a better seat – they are sticklers for the rules. There were no plugs for electronics in Economy on BA as there was with the airline I flew in 2010, so I did not spend much time on the laptop.
Besides, there were 9 screaming infants about 6 to 16 months in age, and they put them in every single seat around me. One of them screamed the entire flight as the Indian parents pretty much ignored her (she was a little girl). I had a woman and her 9 month old son, who would not stay seatbelted and enjoyed standing on me while jumping up and down. He knocked over my Bacardi and coke all over my nether regions right after it was poured, and it does indeed look like I soiled myself. So I had to sit in wetness the whole flight. The real enjoyment was that I was so tired, at one point I dozed off sound asleep and this little fella (whose name in Hindi means ‘sunshine’) decided to jump right atop the family jewels. I was – well, my wife can tell you how I am when I get hurt – and from a sound sleep – I was – well, very angry. Then I had a thought pop into my head, and that was that I had not yet asked God to help me with through this nursery flight. I had bothered Him with so much up to this point that I really wasn’t sure Dad wanted to hear Captain Pesterfreak pester Him yet again. But I did.
So in a falsetto whisper while all 9 babies were in a fingernail chalkboard choir, I asked God to please calm them down so we could rest some and enjoy a little bit of quiet.
And in 10 minutes, every single child was OUT fast asleep! I got to doze for about 40 minutes before the woman at the Window seat needed me to get up and out so she could empty her pea-sized bladder. After that the cabin crew kept coming around for seatbelt checks, juice and 2 meals and a snack they served, all of it Indian chow.
I think I have had MAYBE ABOUT AN HOUR OR SO of sleep since I took off Tuesday. So I am at the Hyderabad lounge and going to shower and snooze a bit. I already talked with Chitti by phone right after I got ALL MY BAGS and by a prompting from God to get behind a White family with mega carts of luggage. I was waived through customs and did not have to have my bags searched like everyone else was having done, BY THE POINT OF A GUN I might add. Chitti and Prasad are on their way now to Vizag and after I snooze until 9:30AM Local, I will head out to the domestic terminal and secure my tickets and pay for my luggage to go to Vizag by Air India.
Next time you all hear from me, I hope it will be from the House of God sometime tomorrow.
My love to all. I feel very, very thankful I am here, but now I also feel very overwhelmed.
Greetings From India and the House of God
It is with much joy and happiness that I am able to write to all of you today.
I have arrived safely at the House of God and our Gampala family hosts, who received me with much joy and gladness. I have come and greeted them with all of your well wishes, and prayers, knowing that I am here on your behalf to share your love for the brethren.
Our God is an awesome God, and that is something I have experienced in a powerful way already on this trip. When I went to India in 2010, Brian and I were treated to a first class upgrade, and my first trip to India was in style. This time, it was sufficient enough that I was able to go, and through some uncomfortable experiences on the British Airways Sardine flight from Chicago to Heathrow, and on the Nursery Flight from London to Hyderabad – I had learned that even the menial prayers from frustration can be answered in powerful ways, almost instantly.
On arriving at Hyderabad, the realization that I was back in India did hit me with full force. My first major miracle occurred in the process of my arrival. First of all, ALL of our prayers for a safe trip with no delays and that my luggage would arrive WITH me at my destination were answered. Everything arrived intact and unbroken. After going through Immigration without any problems at all, and after receiving all my luggage – I was to proceed to Customs, where armed soldiers were searching through each bag of the people in front of me, putting all contents on a table and asking questions of the persons about the items. It was at this moment I was most concerned, because of the very strict anti-proselytizing laws that prohibit bibles and Christian materials from entering the country if they will be used for proselytizing, and also, because on my customs form, when it asked if I was carrying “any meat products” I was not sure if all the beef jerky I packed for Sister Ruth and myself was supposed to be declared or illegal, so I just marked ‘no’ to the question.
As the I drew nearer behind the crowd to the guards who were earnestly going through every bag, I said a quick prayer in my head that I would be granted favor in the sight of these officials and soldiers when they opened up all 5 of my suitcases to go through them. Suddenly I saw a family of 5 Americans who had 5 carts piled with bags go past me up a middle aisle where no Indians were standing. I had talked briefly with this family at the airport in London, they live and work in Hyderabad on a contract for the next 3 years and they were returning after a month back in Oregon for the holidays. As I watched them pass by, I felt an immediate urge to get behind them. So I took my cart and got behind the parade of White folks and blended in quite nicely.
To my great relief, a soldier with an AK-47 was waving the White Parade all through, including me, without even having to stop to hand in my Customs declaration! As I looked back after passing the exit gate, I saw another American, having his cases rifled through and I felt a sense of deep gratefulness that God in His Mercy saw me through what could have been a difficult, if not scary situation. Especially when my bladder was overflowing at the time.
I was relieved to have the time to stay at the Hyderabad lounge, which is a pay as you need first class lounge. There was a very tiny room with a bed, TV and shower facilities I could take a 4 hour nap in, and a buffet breakfast by a tall white hatted chef. It was a mix of a western and Indian breakfast and I ate hearty. Following a shower and a quick Skype call to Brian Smith – I was able to nap for about an hour before I got ready to go to catch my domestic flight from Hyderabad to Visakhapatnam.
On my journey from London to Hyderabad, a very active toddler dumped a full rum and coke all over my groin – and I had changed into new pants I bought a few weeks before for India. After having to pay an additional $137 for my bags to go on the flight to Visakhapatnam (they limit you to 27KGs – and I was 47KGS overweight) – I had to go through security again. I think the week leading up to my trip had caused some minor weight loss with me, because as I walked up to the podium to have the soldier use a wand to check for any metal on my body, my pants fell down to my thighs – in one of my most embarrassing moments. I was worried my unfortunate incident might have broken some modesty law, but the soldiers laughed, excitedly chatted in Telugu and waved me on. It was then my first business was to go find and buy a belt. Thankfully the Hyderabad airport is like a shopping mall (they even have a – get this – a McDonalds in the airport! – mostly veg of course). After buying a belt and gift box of sweet biscuit assortment for Pastor John and his family for hosting me – I was airborne again for my flight to Vizag.
In about an hour I had landed and was eager to meet my brother Chitti and son Prasad. I was expecting to have to disembark the plane and walk or take a bus to the terminal building as Brian and I had done in 2010. This time the airport had an upgrade – and it was a much larger airport I was now greeted with complete with terminal bridges where we could walk on right into the building. The other change from last time that was a bit less than I had hoped, was that the public was kept outside the building and not permitted inside while waiting for loved ones. I had imagined seeing Chitti and Prasad waiting and waving at me as I experienced in 2010 – and running to greet them, but alas only a massive throng of people outside could I see as I went to get my bags.
After a long and worried wait for my luggage – I finally received all my bags and pushed my loaded cart out into the very warm and humid air of Visakhapatnam where finally, the smiling faces of Chitti, Prasad and Dina Grace were greeting me. After much hugging, kissing and tears of joy at being reunited, we made our way to the cab hired for our 4.5 hour drive back to Rajupalem.
About halfway home, Chitti had the driver pull over alongside a small road and we exited the cab for a picnic that sister Ruth made for us about 4 AM that morning. Under some coconut and banana trees, we ate together a nice lunch that was very tasty. I never had a picnic of Indian rice and curries, but it was most excellent!
Two hours drive later, I began to recognize landmarks from our daily cab drive from Kakinada to John’s home in 2010. We were nearly home! On pulling into the House of God, John, Ruth and most of the congregation was waiting for me. Prasad had made a wonderful large 8 foot banner that said “Church of God Ministries Welcome Mr. Mrs. Michael & Ericka ”. On getting out of the cab, John rushed to me and smothered me with hugs and kisses and for fifteen minutes of joy, hugs and vandanamulu’s galore, I was reunited with our Gampala family, the Elders and Deacons and most of the children, who were excited beyond measure to hear me explain that Sister Rienne was planning to come see them in May with the mission team.
But my greatest surprise was yet to come – because coming down the Stairs of the House of God, were six of the most precious women I had been praying for; the widows who were expelled from their home at the House of God by the tribal leaders some two months ago. They fell down in tears to greet me, and I was choked up on seeing them, and greeted each one with a kiss atop their foreheads. I was never so moved to tears of joy as I was at that moment save for the birth of my girls.
But the Gampalas were not quite done sharing surprises with me, for they have been hard at work, turning the side room next to the worship hall into a bedroom for me, complete with fans, a desk for the computer and internet hook up. They also remodeled their bathroom just for me, and here at the House of God, probably the only place outside of a five star hotel in Kakinada, they have a working, flushing toilet and a water spigot for me to get water for bathing, instead of having to go down and pump water into a bucket each morning.
At 7:30 a children’s meeting was taking place, and Prasad asked me to say a few words to the children who were there, and on their faces, was a look that could only be described as kids seeing Christmas walk into the room. I asked them to please pray for the Mission Team to be able to come in May – and since Noah Smith, Rienne and Marissa Gonzalo were planning on coming – the children were joyful to hear that news, so young prayer warriors are at work for the fund raising efforts back home.
I was then asked to meet with the widows who were gathered for their evening meal, and after prayer we also went in and ate together with John, Prasad, Ananda and Chitti – together. I will say again, that Ruth is a good cook – and Ericka, she is slowly working me into being able to handle the chilies. She was in tears of thankfulness for my wife’s love and the ointment given to her for her bad neck. The Gampala family is eager to meet my wife by Skype next week sometime so instructions can be given for use of the glucose meters and dosage for the medicines we have provided in bulk for the congregation.
It was about 11 PM, and I was on the verge of collapse with literally no sleep for 3 days. Despite clouds of mosquitoes, the Gampalas put two fans blasting on me so that no mosquito can possibly land on me to bite. In India the mosquitoes come out when it is cool and wet and there are billions of them out now. I hope all those cans of Off last me a few weeks and I am already using the anti-itch balm on my ankles and feet as during dinner last night they were feasting on me. But last night – the power stayed on until 6 AM before it went off and I was able to get almost 7 hours of deep sleep despite a little uncomfortableness with my camp air mattress that went flat about 2:30 AM. I re-pumped it up as best as I could and was able to sleep until Chitti awoke me at 8 AM.
My first 24 hours with our Indian brethren has been momentous, and I am mentally settling in for my long stay here. Chitti and I have had many great spiritual discussion already and I am eager to see God working in my relationship with Christ and our Father and feel that for certain, God will indeed finish the work He began in me, even if He is using our precious brethren in India to do so.
I will write more later, but for my first full day living here – it has been well.
Thank you all for your continued prayers. Keep my health in them as I’m nervous with all these darn ‘squitoes. You’d think I was living in Minnesota in August for crying out loud!
Sabbath in India
It is Sunday afternoon here in Rajupalem, and I finally am having time to sit and write my report on the last two days of my life here in India.
Our God is so gracious to have allowed me to be in His presence among these people. The House of God here is almost always occupied with some form of prayers, instruction or worship. The widows had gathered with some women to pray about 6 AM on Sabbath, and I awoke to what sounded like a chorus of angels singing an unknown melody.
My Gampala hosts have created a room for me next to the worship hall, that is infinitely finer than the hotel I had stayed at in Kakinada with Brian in 2010. I have a fine Persian rug, organized shelves of all my items, and a bed they constructed for me with mosquito net canopy. They now have running water in the House of God, by a large cistern they put on the roof of Pastor John’s that holds about 150 gallons of water. All the water pipes they put in then allow the water to flow by gravity when the spigots are turned on. I put up a Coleman camp shower bag, and it really is much nicer than the hotel we stayed at two years ago, mostly because of the love the brethren here are showering me with.
Chitti Gampala is always here to see if I am awake in the morning about 8 AM. I was working on finishing my sermon at 7 AM, and had already showered and shaved when he came upstairs. The last two days have been absolutely beautiful in terms of weather, highs of about 90 and evenings in the mid 70′s which feel most comfortable. That will soon change in about 2 weeks. The cold water in the mornings is a bit of a shock in the showering, but I will be glad to enjoy cool showers in a few weeks.
Thus far the food from Ruth’s kitchen has been outstanding. I am actually to the Gampala’s surprise, able to handle a bit more chilies in my food than they assumed. This has pleased them all greatly, and Chitti is working on my table manners. I am trying to put the forks down and mash my rice and food up with my fingers and use my hands as they do. There has not been a single meal that was not delicious to me. I have eaten many vegetables that I have never had before and drinking coconut water from the gourds has made me feel almost as if I am on vacation rather than a mission trip. But it has not even been a week yet and I am already learning of the steady efforts that will be required of me, the vacation feeling will disappear soon.
After breakfast and 3 awesome bananas, Chitti and I shared a nice cup of Starbucks coffee that I brought with me. To my chagrin, Chitti prefers his coffee made with water buffalo milk than hot water.
Afterwards it was time to get ready for Sabbath worship. The children were already gathering in the worship hall and I was getting dressed to familiar worship songs in Telugu. The Gampalas were pleased I brought the preaching clothes they gave me in 2010, for I was now “Properly dressed” to preach. Chitti forgot his preaching clothes, and I forced him to break protocol by wearing my extra vestment shawl over his shirt and pants.
As the service began, there was an hour of heartfelt worship in song to our Great God. There was some children’s instruction by Prasad’s wife Anusha, and then Prasad introduced me with a five minute dissertation that sounded like a bio for a movie star coming to visit. The congregation rose in thankful applause as I approached the podium red-faced with some embarrassment at the amount of attention and applause I was getting.
I began with greeting them all in Telugu, and I am pleased to report that I said it correctly – and no one laughed in embarrassment for me. I then handed out three gifts for each main congregation of a small banner and standard with a scripture on it for placement in the House of God, Church of God and for the church Prasad and Anusha are planning to open in Kakinada.
I then had the rare pleasure to give to Chitti Gampala, a gift from Vicki Bryant. Chitti has been asking me for an English version of the New King James bible, and when Vicki heard of this request, she provided me her late husband’s bible. Both Chitti and the congregation were very moved by the gift as they are beginning to feel the love you all have for them.
I then gave the sermon, which was really more sharing of my heart and all of your wishes of love for them. I let them all know how much of an inspiration by their steadfastness to the truth they are to many of us in the USA. I told them our hearts were broken with theirs over the forced expulsion of the widows a few months ago, and provided several scriptures on the topic of comfort and encouragement. I also read an inscription Stephanie Smith wrote for me in a daily devotional they presented me right before I left for India.
After the service, I was again mobbed by everyone wanting to greet me and asking for prayers. The widows again all approached with thanksgiving and tears of thanks for the love all of you are providing for them. I had to perform several anointings for serious injuries and illnesses some brethren were suffering.
There was a congregational meal which is usually not possible, but there is a little bit of extra funds with my arrival and everyone was invited to share in a meal together which is always a joyous event for all the brethren here.
After lunch, Chitti and I sat upstairs on the porch to a light breeze sipping Chitti’s famous chai. Sister Ruth noticed how comfortable I was and suggested that they put a hammock up on the porch so I could take naps if I wanted. While that is completely unnecessary, Ruth suggested that perhaps Ericka would like that more than me when she comes.
A little later, in the afternoon quiet – as I walked by the sanctuary hall, I saw one of the widows on her face in the middle of the floor of the House of God. She was weeping softly in prayer and I was prompted to kneel next to her and pray. After some time, I reached over to lay a hand on her head, and she opened her eyes in the midst of tears and broke out in the largest smile I have ever seen come across her face. We prayed together and I asked God to hear her prayers and I kissed her forehead. As I rose, she touched my feet with her forehead and gave me thanks. I was suddenly touched in my heart that my time with her was more precious than any I have spent in idleness.
In the evening, Prasad and Anusha came up to my room to share their ministry with me, and this is a subject I will need to write a completely separate report for – because I cannot adequately explain what I was presented with – except awestruck wonder. All I can say about it now, is that I can understand in a small way – how 3,000 people could be converted at the preaching of a single person with God’s Spirit. My Christianity in comparison to the fruits I saw with my own eyes, in terms of doing Matthew 28:19-20 is not even a shadow of what my son and his wife have accomplished in just a few months. You will be blown away by what they are doing and how fast the church here is growing. Seed is being planted and watered here, and I can only hope that their example will rekindle a fire in us back in the USA to emulate the fires of first love that they have of the Gospel.
It was then I was presented with glorious and tragic news that requires your prayers. Prasad and Anusha informed me that Ericka and I were to be grandparents, and they were waiting to share the news with me in person. Sadly Anusha miscarried last week, and their anguish crushed my heart in tears. Anusha is suffering a low fever now, and please pray against infection and complications from this event. Also please pray that our Lord will heal her womb well, so that children can and will be added to my son and daughter in-law in Christ.
On the first day of the week, this morning – I actually slept more soundly than before, almost 10 hours of wonderful sleep. A few mosquitoes got me good overnight when I had to use the bathroom, but aside from that irritation, I awoke well rested for a new day.
Chitti again stopped upstairs to see if I was awake and he brought me coffee. After getting ready, I was again downstairs amidst clouds and clouds of flies that suddenly invaded the House of God. Apparently whatever fruit is now growing on the trees is bringing in the flies Chitti explained. They are more of a nuisance than anything as they do not bite. Again Ruth provided me a great breakfast, and as always, 3 of the most delicious bananas on earth.
Everyday life here is hard, especially if you are a woman. Most of the day is spent in food preparation, taking care of the children or cleaning all the pots and pans used to make food. There are 3 main meals and everyone eats in shifts. The children first, then the women, then the men, taking up about a 2 hour window. Sister Ruth is one of the hardest working women I have ever met, (aside from my wife, right honey dear?)
Every day the House of God is busy with prayers, worship or instruction as I said earlier. This morning after breakfast, there was a new bible school program that Prasad and Anusha have started. I sat down on the floor as a student and listened intently as the lesson began. Anusha is a wonderful teacher, and even though I could not understand her lesson in Telugu, I immediately thought that she was like a young Indian Pam Dewey. She is very gifted in teaching the children so they understand completely the biblical lessons presented today.
The students were delighted I was there, especially when it was time to sing worship songs and do traditional Indian dances to them. I look completely retarded on video trying to mimic these dances, and my daughter Rienne might be horrified at my lame attempt at dancing like the rest of the children, but there was gleefulness that I attempted to keep up with them.
It was after the closing prayer that the first real need cropped up for this ministry. Today Chitti explained there was no meal available for the children because Sister Merci injured her foot and was unable to provide the rice and egg they normally provide at their own expense. The Gampalas had not gone to the market today and there was no extra food to prepare. All these hungry kids being sent home bothered me, and I told Chitti to get my bags and break out the 40 packets of instant oatmeal I brought that only requires boiled water.
Suddenly, we received the news that Mr. V’s daughter in law, who is now fully healed of blindness had come with food and Ruth had prepared the meal of rice and cauliflower curry for their lunch. What Joy that God has provided for them again.
This situation brought to mind a need that perhaps the church in the USA can help provide for in the near future, and that is a regular fund for the bible school program to provide lunch and simple teaching materials for the kids here, and those in Kakinada. The classes go from 10 AM to noon, and some of the kids have come from a distance to be here. The costs for this I think might be minimal as the classes are twice a week and usually the meals are simply an egg and rice with milk, which for each child is like 50 cents.
After our lunch, I was invited to ‘play’ with all the kids who came to see me, and who am I to say ‘no’ to playtime? We began with some foam sword fighting, and transcended to several games of tag and freeze! It was a joy to be able to run around and be my true age of about 10 years old.
This afternoon, Prasad was again off with Johnson to go to Kakinada to conduct the kids bible program there. They took the video camera to document tonight’s inaugural class.
Jesus told us to be ‘wise as serpents’, harmless as doves’. John Gampala has demonstrated this fruit in regards to my presence here. I am being restricted in publicly appearing anywhere there is preaching but the House of God for now. The Hindus are on the lookout for me, as they may challenge my Visa if I am caught doing any preaching or proselytizing. So John wants to wait a few weeks to see what the winds of persecution are like before I am allowed to be involved in any preaching. The Gampalas are deeply afraid of anything happening to me, and they are taking many precautions to ensure my safety.
As such, 3 widows are being permitted to stay here intermittently to thwart the watchful eyes looking for any reason to get the authorities here to cause trouble. The other two have had provision made to stay close with distant relatives in this village. All six are here each evening for their meal and spend at least an hour on their faces in the sanctuary, in prayer and song. They all filed into my room just now to greet me, and I prayed with them and they again rejoiced with tears as I am able to share your love for them. They wish to see pictures of you all so they can pray for you, and John Wilson is undertaking part of that task and I am stalking Facebook to provide the rest.
Tomorrow I will go to Kakinada to purchase a bicycle and my first home-visit will take place tomorrow evening.
Sagar Jalli from Hebron Home has contacted us, and he will travel here to worship this coming Sabbath, and to discuss the opportunities for Camp Kardias Mission Team in May.
Missing and loving you all as the Lord’s work here in India astounds me each day. Let me tell you – the presence of the Lord’s Spirit in this place is beyond words, and the fruits of the saints here are nothing short of amazing.
India Report Feb 1, 2012
As time has afforded me the ability and my excitement this first week with sights, sounds, experiences and revelations, my reports to you back home are lengthy and filled with detail for the time being. As time goes on and the earnest work I am involved begins to occupy my time, my reports will most likely be limited to once a week or when a major event has transpired that I am excited to reveal or an situation requiring prayers is needed.
I have a short report of my experiences yesterday – but this report to you is more specifically about the ministry efforts of my adopted Son Prasad and his wife Anusha’s ministry in this spiritually blinded and demonically dark land of India. What they are doing for the Gospel here is nothing short of jaw-dropping and this praise report of their efforts I hope inspires you.
For me, I’m beginning to settle in to Indian life. It truly is alien to just about everything I have known. For a land steeped in backward insanity – it is ludicrous the amount of cultural rules that exist here. Having embarrassed myself more than once, Chitti is trying hard to give me a head’s up before I commit a major offense. After eating with your hands to stuff your face, it is against the rules to rise from the table to rinse the curry from the fingers if your elder is still sitting and eating. As Brian always says – “I don’t know the rules” – and here, it is just crazy the amount of little rules and regulations that govern the culture.
Yesterday, I did what I thought would be an impossibility for me; getting on the back of Chitti’s ‘Gospel Chariot’ and riding 45 minutes to the port city of Kakinada. I stepped out on faith to overcome one of my major fears in doing that and trusted God would keep us both safe. It was an exhilarating experience to sail on through the river delta of East Godavari District with the warm breeze in my hair while Chitti expertly zipped in and out of cars, bicycles, scooters, piles of poo, garbage, bricks and oxen. I did see my life flash before my eyes as a giant truck decorated with all kinds of weird decorations and Xmas lights swerved right into our path to go around a bicycle rickshaw going in the opposite direction. The truck actually brushed my pant leg as it screamed by us and I immediately asked Chitti if it was okay if I prayed out loud. I then asked for a few more angels to be sent to protect us.
India is not only a very filthy place, but dusty as well. The smoke and dust not only irritated my eyes, but my lungs as well. The smell of burnt flesh pierced the air as in two spots, spent funeral pyres were sending up clouds of smoke as the funeral processions were bathing in fetid water next to the smoldering piles of ash.
It broke my heart to see the usually green rice fields I remember passing in 2010 with the hints of jasmine filling the air, all brown and dried up. The only fields green with rice crops seem to be wealthy farmers able to pay for water irrigation.
On arrival in Kakinada, Chitti took me to a bicycle shop to buy my transportation for the time I am here. I had initially budgeted to purchase one bicycle, but the night before Chitti informed me that he would not be able to ride with me anywhere because his own bicycle was stolen two weeks ago, when his son Johnson left it outside unattended after school. Since I did not like the idea of traveling by myself without my Thammadu (Younger brother), I dipped into my reserve cash and bought Chitti a bicycle as well. Now both of us will go visiting and riding each evening after 5PM for an hour.
On return to the House of God, everyone was joyous and excited about the two new vehicles that now can take Chitti, Prasad or Johnson to their destinations. Johnson was most excited, and was definitely making sure that I noticed that he was the one I would leave it with when I come home at the end of May. I told him depending on his school grades, I would reserve my decision until then.
Every evening around 7PM, the Gampalas gather with the widows and have family prayer and worship. Since I did not know the rules, I did not bring my iPod Bible or glasses to follow along with the reading of Psalms. After 8, as the children and women were sitting to eat, the power decided to go out. In the blackness I rushed all the lanterns and flashlights downstairs so they could eat by decent light instead of by birthday candles that they were in the process of lighting when I arrived. They again rejoiced at our generosity to ‘bring light to darkness’, something the Gampala ministry is doing daily in the spiritual sense.
However my evening did was not as comfortable as past evenings, and the local Hindus – decided to have some kind of religious bash about 5 homes over from the House of God. They decided to make sure their loudspeakers were pointed directly at my room, and what proceeded next was nothing short of frustrating irritation. Imagine about 100 or so of the most irritating people you know, all drunk, banging on tin pots like it’s new years, while the men have their privates being slowly crushed in a vice grip and the women screeched like having their toenails yanked out with pliers. This insane din continued until about 12:30 or so when I fell asleep after jamming earplugs into my ears until my brain hurt. Somehow this noise is supposed to appease their gods and put a curse on us.
Promptly at 5:30AM, the racket began anew with fireworks! I was up standing on my cot and air mattress thinking the military just invaded the House of God. Then the scimitar music began with the Hindus all worshipping their false deities. Needless to say I was more than irritated by this, and rebuked them in Jesus’ Name and asked if it is possible and His will, that their loudspeaker would burst into flames and explode. God did not answer that prayer the way I would have liked, as it seems like the Apostle Paul, I need to accept that His Grace is sufficient for me. Tonight – if this goes on again, it’s going to be the iPod cranked with DECENT music and hopefully the Star Wars Saga will drown it all out.
Two evening’s before, after I was teasing Prasad about not writing or getting on Skype to meet me in months, he came to my room with several DVDs and flash drives with his wife Anusha to share with me the reason why he has been too busy to write us regularly.
Last year Prasad had asked to come to the USA for biblical studies for preparation for a pastorship in Kakinada. What Prasad and Anusha showed me is that Prasad had no need to be taught by us whatsoever. Already a youth Pastor for some years, Prasad has become a mighty and powerful tool of the Lord in this place with a mighty wife at his side.
Anusha has the gift of tongues and can speak 6 languages including English, Hindi, Telugu, Bihari, Tamil and one other I cannot pronounce. She is an amazing bible teacher, as I sat in on her class in the House of God Sunday morning. Anusha is also an accomplished classical dancer, and often is able to tell bible stories through teaching the children dances.
Prasad shared several sets of pictures with me, and I have included a few of them in this e-mail. He has three congregations of Believers in Kakinada, and teaches several youth groups in the villages of Muggapeta, Rajaropeta, and had held many slum village gospel meeting with eager children and teens hearing the name of Christ for the first time. Then numbers of children eager to be at his events are very exciting, and as I mentioned to him as he left for another meeting in Kakinada last night: I see that he is planting, Anusha is watering and the Lord is providing a wonderful increase for their ministry and for the Words of Life to be heard among those who have no hope in their false faith.
Both of them are often busy going to preaching and teaching meetings. They have conducted several bible camps at the House of God and he has named his children’s ministry: Save Kids: Out of Darkness and Into Light. On his most professionally designed cards he has listed their activities as: Action songs; bible stories; bible quiz; bible movies; moral skits; choreography; spiritual games; physical games; magic show; puppet show; health tips. The numbers of street children coming to his activities is truly awe inspiring.
Another new activity Prasad and Anusha just began this week, is a bi-weekly Kids Bible School, open to all and for two hours, the kids get to sing, dance and learn the scriptures in an interactive discussion that Anusha and Prasad officiate. They would like to be able to provide a simple meal at the end of each class before sending the children off, and hopefully we can provide for this fund of a few bucks a month for lunch and supplies. While India may yet remain in darkness, I can see a glimmer of a potential future for the church here, if only in the delight of the faces and eyes of the children the Gampalas are reaching anew each week.
The other amazing testimony shared with me by my adopted son, was his own personal mission trip two months ago to Anusha’s hometown in Bihar. Bihar if you do a quick perusal of the news, is an Al-Qaeda/Taliban stronghold of radical Islamists and Hindus. Christians are not just abused here, they are often killed and the church of God there must meet in secret. Prasad took a mighty risk to go there to preach the Gospel, because if he was caught, he could be executed or beaten horribly.
There are pictures and testimony of their mission trip to Bihar that I will write a separate report for in the coming weeks. Some of the pictures and video they have taken are beyond brutal, and I cannot stomach the images of children beaten to bloody unconsciousness. But such is life for some of our other brethren.
Continue to keep us all in prayer and for God’s will for me and this ministry to continue without tribulation.
I will write again in a week.