Saturday, 16 February 2013

Week 9: Until We Meet Again

You might be asking yourself, "is it even possible for the India/Cambridge team to be any more creative than they have been?" The answer is most definitely "yes"! This was clearly displayed on Monday's Faith Day. Our seven DTS students were commissioned on Monday to pray together, listen for God's voice, and then step out in faith according to what God said the day should be like without the guidance of our leaders. We spent time praying for each other and boldly asking God to fulfill the things we wanted to see happen throughout the day. We felt God was telling us to go into the churches and government buildings of the city and to not only pray for revival but also to ask those we met to pray for us. Please pray with us for a reawakening in the church as well as the city. After lunch, we set up a stand (in 0 degree weather) where we handed out free hot chocolate and hugs (some people chose to take one but not the other!). Our team was constantly asked "what's the catch?" and "why are you doing this?," and people were genuinely surprised when we said we just wanted to bless the men and women of Cambridge. The afternoon was filled with a lot of laughter and a lot of grateful smiles.

This week was also Adam's birthday, and as usual, our team walked out our "party-throwing" ministry. After a morning of street evangelism, we had an exciting afternoon of punting on the river Cam. (For anyone who may not know, punting is a sport where you guide a boat along the river using a large metal or wooden pole.) However, we found ourselves faced with a couple of challenges: not only was it super cold, but we had chosen to do the self-guided tour and it was a bit difficult to steer the boat with freezing cold hands while maintaining our sense of balance. It was a memorable 20 minutes filled with a combination of hilarity and misery!

Our last two days of ministry were spent working with a church in another part of the city. Students around the area were on their term break, and the church put on a drum workshop, as well as an art workshop. Several members of our team joined in the drum workshop, and we quickly learned who had rhythmic abilities and who needed a bit more practice. ;-) Everyone participated in the art workshop, and it was such a blessing to converse with the kids.

On our last day, before our team left for the church, we prayed that we would clearly see God's hand on our final outreach ministry--and it was absolutely incredible! The church hosted an event called the Youth Cafe that included games and pancakes for everyone. The team shared our "Mask" skit, Jenny shared a testimony about breaking through strongholds and trusting in God, and Danielle shared the gospel message combined with a stirring testimony about finding her identity in Christ. Two young women responded to the call to salvation, and the team was blessed to pray for several other young men and women. Please pray for the youth ministry and for open doors in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Please also pray for the long-term youth workers that they might be encouraged and have divine encounters.

God has overwhelmed us with personal breakthroughs and team unity. We have become a true family where we disagree with each other, forgive each other, love each other, laugh with each other, and pray for each other. We have been so blessed, and God is so so good.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed with us and for us. May you be encouraged by our testimonies as we leave you all with Jesus' final commission: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28: 18-20 NIV)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Weeks 7 & 8: Cambridge Teachings and London Preachings

This is Jenny, taking over for Taryn...
These past two weeks have been nothing short of a whirlwind for our outreach team. We left Delhi at 6:00am on 25 January and arrived in London at 10:00am on the same day (jet lag took on a whole new meaning as we relived several hours!). We returned to Harpenden to retrieve our warmer clothing and received a most wonderful blessing-Team Thailand/Belfast was there as well! The tears and the smiles ran freely, and the hugs became even tighter as our team left again only an hour later. Cambridge was calling (as were our taxi drivers)!

As soon as we arrived to the house where we were staying in Cambridge, we were whisked into the weekly prayer meeting where lunch was waiting to fill out empty stomachs and prayers to fill our spiritual tanks. We could not have asked for a better reception or blessing.

During our first week in the city of scholars, we spent a significant amount of time at one of the colleges evangelizing and promoting a student ministry event aptly titled, "The Secret of Success". We went around speaking to several students about what their idea of success was and how religious beliefs factored into their answers. The responses were as varied as the students, and it was an encouragement to our team to see a few of the men and women we spoke with attend the meeting.

Our group also spent quite a bit of time in evangelizing on the streets of Cambridge. Youth With A Mission-Cambridge (YWAM) is going to be pioneering their first Discipleship Training School (DTS) in September, and Peter and Taryn will be joining them as staff members. Our team used that information as a platform for discussion with people on the streets and as an opportunity to share the gospel with them.

Although it didn't seem possible, our second week in Cambridge was even busier than the first. Another YWAM team was attending training on the Holy Spirit, and we were able to connect with them for an amazing street evangelism opportunity. Yes, friends, we brought Scottish Ceilidh dancing to the city square! There was lively dancing, heart-stirring testimonies, and the simple gospel being shared with anyone walking by. Everywhere you looked the team was being photographed and videotaped, and we were certainly stopping traffic! Bystanders joined in with the dancing, and we danced until our hands and feet were too numb to continue!

Our team also had the opportunity to listen to a lunchtime lecture series with topics such as meaning, religion, truth, evil, and purpose. The series was thought-provoking and encouraged people to have serious discussions amongst themselves.

We also persisted in our team's pattern of attending anniversary parties and wedding feasts that began in India-we took the train to a wedding in London. We all had our specific roles: Peter preached a fiery sermon, Taryn sang Mumford and Sons' "Sigh No More" as the bride walked down the aisle, Danielle perfected the art of cheese slicing and arranging, Mandi and Bethany artfully displayed salads of every kind, Jan-Jaap and Adam painstakingly heated the cider and mulled-wine, and Jenny and Benjamin ran up and down several flights of stairs with large vats of soup that all needed to be heated! It was an exhausting, fun-filled day in which we were able to bless a lovely couple.

 We have one week left in Cambridge. What is God going to do next?!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Weeks 5 & 6 - Bengaluru, Belatedly

"Get to Bengaluru" - check.
"Poke a passing cow through bus window" - check.
"Crash an Indian wedding" - check!

Yes, we would say our first day in Bangalore was pretty successful. We were invited to the wedding of two Operation Mobilisation staff, and were humbled to realise we were honoured guests. We were ushered to the very front seats, where, unfortunately, we neither understood the Tamil service nor the Kannada translation, and then were invited up to be the first people to take a photo with the newly-wed bride and groom! We arrived at the reception hall early due to the incomparable driving skills of our friend Muthu (he doesn't drive; he time-travels), we sneaked up and took photos on stage, much to the amusement of bystanders.

Another thing we could check off the list is getting in touch with our feminine side - and I don't mean just the girls!

Our schedule was beautifully and thoroughly planned - we went to drug rehab homes, orphanages, a school for underprivileged children, a vocational centre for women from the slums, and small local churches and house fellowships. Although the schedule was remarkably orderly, there was of course the Indian element of surprise, but by the grace of God, the team pulled some remarkable impromptu ministry out of their bag of surprises. There was card trick ministry: "I can find the card you hid in this deck - I know where it is, just as God always knows where you are. You're not lost in the crowd!" There was the 'magic' colouring book: "God adds colour to my life just as colour is magically added to these black and white pictures!"

 There was, of course, lots of singing and dancing, including 'This Little Light of Mine' with handmade paper lanterns.

 We all shared our testimonies, and were moved and humbled by the testimonies of those we met; it turns out God is even more faithful and kind than we realised, and is at work in the lives of people all around the world. We were moved to tears by the testimonies of the orphans we met; one after one, they stood up and shared how the Lord had provided everything they asked for in prayer, even things like Christmas clothes or a guitar. We also had the privilege of sharing the good news of Jesus with just about everyone we met, in as many different ways as we could think of.

Many prayed prayers of commitment or re-commitment to Christ with us, but the story of one girl - Saraswati - is especially exciting. A few of us were teaching a dance to the women at the vocational training centre which they could use at their graduation ceremony, and the rest of us decided to go out prayer walking. Now, the thought that might be crossing your mind is that prayer walks tend to be quite uneventful, in general. Well, this one was an exception! Benjamin sensed that the Lord was leading them to sprinkle salt on the ritual drawings, called 'kolams', in the gateways of neighbouring houses, because Jesus says 'you are the salt of the earth'. Pray for encouragement for the believers and churches in that neighbourhood, that they would know they are the salt of the earth.

As they walked through the neighbourhood, praying blessing and 'salting' the streets, they stopped to talk to some youths playing cricket, when all of a sudden, a middle-aged man emerged from a council housing block about fifty metres away, and made a beeline for them. He took hold of Peter's hand in one of those lingering Indian handshakes, and didn't let go until he had led them into his house! After serving them snacks, he turned to Danielle, looked her in the eye, and said, "You! Sing." The team rescued Danielle from a solo performance by leading the household in a few simple worship songs, and then the man turned to Peter and said with surprising authority, "Pray for us." So they began to pray for this man of peace and his family.

After sharing the simple Gospel, the neighbour, who had entered during the impromptu prayer meeting, invited them to his house. Soon, they were worshipping, praying, and sharing the Gospel there, as well. The daughter of the house, Saraswati, spoke enough English to understand what they were saying, and prayed a prayer of salvation with them that very day! We were able to visit and encourage her over the next few days and give her both a Tamil and English Bible. Pray for Saraswati, that she would grow and be rooted in her new faith.

The team went four times in the next few days. They were invited (or dragged to) four houses the first day, eight houses the second day, and after having spent six hours in the housing complex, had to turn down invitations the third and fourth days for lack of time! Danielle prayed for a lady with a toothache and she was healed. The next day, another lady with a toothache turned up, and this time we got Parvati, whom we had met the previous day, to pray in Jesus' name, and there was noticeable improvement! Pray that every inhabitant of the council housing block will continue praying in Jesus' name and know Jesus personally.

We went to local churches that Sunday, and were mightily encouraged by their faith and zeal.

We learnt later that local churches have been praying for the inhabitants of the housing block we'd been to for years, and so we got to connect local believers up with Saraswati and the others we had talked to. God is doing incredible things in Bangalore - pray for His Kingdom to come and local believers to be encouraged and refreshed.

The last few days were a celebration of our season in India. We went to Mysore Zoo and Mysore Palace, where of course, we acted as sophisticated as royalty. There was, of course, a Ninja Party, to celebrate Danielle's Birthday.

India, of course, had some parting words for the India-Cambridge Team as we sped to the airport, on our way to the Cambridge chapter of our mission.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Weeks 2 to 4 - "It's Obvious!"

Our team has developed a very definite group culture. For example, an appropriate response to any statement, whether mundane or completely bizarre, is "it's obvious!" When I walked into a low doorway the other day, the unsympathetic and laughing response was "you just pulled an Adam!"  If we walk past a shop playing music, then, much to the amusement of bystanders, we dance. Many an interesting tale starts with "Ben put on his crazy eyes, and then..." If we go to a national monument, we routinely get in trouble for suspicious (completely innocent!) behaviour. Observe, for example, this picture of Benjamin chasing pigeons in India's largest mosque.

Various animals have made guest appearances in the narrative of our adventures. The Goats in Sweaters seem to be following Jenny around - apparently she even saw one with wearing a woolly hat! I often hear the mother in me say things like, "Is everyone here? Head count, one, two, three, Benjamin, do NOT poke that monkey!" We are often held up by somnolent 'sacred' cows crossing the road - it's all part of the Indian Experience! But the most outrageous animal encounter was definitely Danielle getting bitten by a belligerent chipmunk with a chip on its shoulder.

The past two weeks were mostly spent in the North Campus of Delhi University, with occasional forays into Central Delhi. Some played cricket with neighbourhood kids, others painted or drew pictures as conversation starters (helpful tip: a good way to placate a security guard on the warpath is to draw his portrait), and of course there were lots of friendly cups of chai with complete strangers. We got to pray for the inmates of the local hospital, and the good news of Jesus was shared many times over, in English and broken Hindi.

We must have handed out thousands of Gideons Bibles to strangers on the streets, after which we all had Bible Elbow (similar to tennis elbow but more eternally rewarding). Many young people responded positively to our invitation to attend local mini-DTS, and one girl prayed a salvation prayer with us! Hallelujah! Please pray for all these seeds to take root and bear fruit.

We had a brief scare on Sunday afternoon, when we realised that the travel agent had booked the wrong tickets for us. By the time we noticed, we would have missed our train by ten hours, and not even Indian trains run that late. However, by the next night, impossibly, we had tickets on a much more luxurious train - God upgraded us! Praise Him for providing nine confirmed train tickets at only a day's notice!

The Bangalore chapter of our adventures have begun - we have thawed out, are in very comfortable accomodation, and are convinced that greater things are yet to come.

It's obvious!

Please pray for continued health, both spiritual and physical. Pray that God will bind us together with His love, and fill us with faith and joy. 

Monday, 24 December 2012

Week 1: The Land of Extremes

We arrived in Delhi at an unearthly hour of the morning, but Indian Extreme Hospitality was undeterred - our host came to pick us up from the airport at four in the morning! After a few hours' sleep, we set out on a quest for sustenance, and stumbled upon the Bread-Omelette Man, working tirelessly at his stand - yes, we are proud to announce that our first meal in India was street food! We have made many fearless forays into Indian food since then - we came, we saw, we ate.

We quickly realised that crossing Delhi roads was something of an extreme sport! Peter would lead the way confidently, and the rest of us would follow him like a trail of hesitant ducklings.

 It was amusing to note, however, that just a few days later, the order had completely reversed. Peter was straggling at the tail end while Jan-Jaap and Danielle became our vanguard, weaving nimbly through fruit vendors and traffic. "It's just like parkour!" was the happy verdict.

We were part of an exciting Gideons Bible-distribution project, during which 30,000 Bibles (many of which were gift-wrapped as Christmas presents) were handed out to people on the streets all over Delhi. We even saw three people pray a salvation prayer! Perhaps the angels danced Bollywood-style as they rejoiced with us. Please pray that those 30,000 people who received Bibles will be eternally impacted.

We've been partnering with a local feeding programme in the slum - two or three members of our team join the long-term staff every morning, distributing boiled eggs and medicine to women and children who have been deemed especially needy. Please pray for encouragement for the long-term staff - their faith and perseverance is amazing.

We have shared about our various cultures at a 'Tourism and Cultural Orientation' class at the local university, and been surprised yet again by the hospitality and openness of the students there. We have made some good friends, please pray blessings over them. 

We have seen India's extremes of poverty and wealth, and felt in ourselves the extremes of sickness and still-overflowing joy, of some physical weariness and yet of energy and urgency. God has been so faithful through all these ups and downs. Please pray for health for those of us who have coughs/tummy upsets, and give thanks to Him for his Extreme Kindness towards us!