The heat is unescapable in India at this time of year. Air conditioning only goes so far, especially when the government cuts the power for several hours during the hottest part of the day. But I have to be honest, we have a great team of evangelists who have not been complaining about it. It’s pretty hard to whine about enduring a little bit of heat when you look around you and see masses of people who have next to nothing in this world, and who really do have no escape from the relentless heat. We are pretty pampered in our air conditioned cars, our fresh drinking water, and all the other conveniences we enjoy. These poor people will never experience many of the comforts that we take advantage of every day.
Our first bit of ministry today was to visit the home for special children. Basically, its a home for mentally handicapped people. The men and women who work in this place are like the angels of God in my eyes. We tend to look at popular, influential Christian leaders and think that they are going to get some awesome rewards and positions in the kingdom of heaven, but I have to say that after seeing the work that these people do, I know the Lord has different plans. The amount of love and patience they have is absolutely astounding to me. I have a deep, heartfelt respect and admiration for them, probably more than I have for pretty much anyone else in any ministry I can think of.
There are about 40-50 handicapped people living here, with the severity of their handicaps ranging from simple Down Syndrome to a few guys who literally couldnt even get off the floor. It was really heartbreaking to see people who couldnt speak, walk, crawl, chew their own food, go to the bathroom, etc. Honestly, I think I did an alright job of holding myself together on the outside, but inside I was pretty broken up. If you see just one mentally challenged person its something that is easy to look with compassion on, but seeing this whole group was really hard to deal with. There are a lot of people suffering, and very few of us take the time to notice or show them any love. The building where they house these people is way out on the edge of town, where they wont be a bother to anyone. If the wonderful people who serve here did not have the heart to do what they do, I can guarantee you that every one of these people would die. They just cant take care of themselves.
We came and brought what we could to show them a good time. We walked around shaking hands and high-fiving, smiling and giving hugs. Then we got them all together and sang a bunch of songs to them. We even produced a couple of guitars for Jami and Zach to strike a few chords with. They simply loved it. They got involved with the singing and even began dancing. Some of them were giggling and having a ball of a time. I think every one of us wished there was some way we could just come up with a fix and make the overall situation permanently better for them. If there’s anything we could bring to them, it was to give them a few moments of joy and happiness in the midst of a hard life. They absolutely appreciated and enjoyed our time with them. I’m pretty sure that all of us left a little bit of ourselves with them. We traded a piece of our hearts for an unforgettable memory.
Every year, we have some sort of problems come up that threaten to shut down our crusades. Satan hates when the gospel is preached, so he thwarts it in any way he can. Our big crusades in Chennai had originally been planned to be held in a large, open field next to the highway, with huge billboards and a booming sound system that would carry the worship and the message out into the city. We had expected crowds up to 4-7,000. Then we started having problems at the last minute. The land-owner who had given permission to use the field suddenly got nervous about potential backlash from the the local government. Apparently, a couple of years ago, he had leased it out to another Christian group for some sort of event, but after it was over, the government came and gave him a fine of the equivalent of $2500 USD. So, at the last minute, on Thursday, he called pastor Christudoss and told him we couldnt do the meetings there unless we guaranteed we would pay the #2500, in the even he got fined again. After they confirmed with me that we could generate the funds if needed, they set up a meeting to sign the document. But, the landowner’s attorney was present and insisted that it was a bad idea, so he gave us the boot. We lost our meeting place!
Big problem. We lost a bunch of money because we had already reserved tons of seats, staging, sound, lighting, etc., and those deposits were nonrefundable. It looked as though Satan had scored a victory. But we all know that our God is greater than any dart or arrow that may fly at us! A local pastor with a huge church offered to hold the meetings in his church. It was just a short walk from the original crusade grounds. It is a smaller building than what we would have liked, since the expected crowd turnout was going to be rather large, but we really didnt have any choice at this point. We gratefully accepted his offer and moved the crusades indoors.
Friday night was the first night of those meetings. There were a few hundred people present, most of whom were Christians involved in the crusades. Billy preached the message of the gospel from Colossians 1 about who Jesus Christ is, followed by what he did for us at the cross. When it came time for the altar call, the strangest thing happened. I have never had this experience in all the years and all the meetings we have had here in India. Not one single person came forward to receive Christ. 0!
Now, I dont know what was going on in people’s hearts or minds, but I can say that this was definitely unusual compared to the response we are used to seeing. After the call to repentance, we called them forward for general prayer, and still, not a single person got out of their seat. What? Usually there is a rush of people swarming the altar for prayer. Not tonight. It was really strange. Once I finished the final prayer of the meeting, however, several people did make their way down to the front to receive prayer. We were happy to lay hands on them and ask for God’s blessing on their particular prayer requests.
Some people in the leadership were visibly discouraged. I wasnt. Of course, looking from the outside it would be easy to get really bummed out. We had put in months of advertising and planning, lots of financial resources, etc., into holding the meetings at a certain venue, and it was pulled out from under us at the last minute. Then, when we do hold the meetings in a different place, hardly anyone shows up in comparison to what we had expected. Sure, if one focuses on the problem, it is easy to get discouraged or defeated.
The truth is, this situation is giving us all an opportunity to put into practice the message I spoke on at the pastor’s conference the day before. We can make our best laid plans, but God has a way of fulfilling His own plan in the midst of that. We dont always recognize what He is doing in the middle of a difficult situation, but He does have a plan. He works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. Do I believe what He says, or dont I? God doesnt always expect us to come up with solutions to the problems in our lives, but He does choose to use us in the fix He prescribes. For all we know, the present situation doesnt even require a “fix”. God has something going on under the surface in this that He will inevitably work out for the furtherance of the gospel in some awesome way so we will look back and thank Him for this whole thing.
We are not giving up. We have two more nights of crusades here, and we are going to charge forward and do our best. God can do whatever He wants with the whole thing. We leave the results up to Him. We will see what kinds of exciting things I will be telling You about in the days, weeks, or years ahead to show why the Lord has chosen to do things this way. I had a good discussion with Josh about some of the things the Lord did with me through this experience. We talked about some of the obvious lessons that are in it for the three pastors and their large churches who are behind the crusades, and how they would grow from it and move forward, but I am not going to discuss those things in detail. We will move forward prayerfully and in faith and see what God does in the rest of the crusades and the future of outreach here.
Hope to catch you up again tomorrow on what’s happening and how the team is doing. God bless you and thank you for your wonderful prayers!