After a day training for pastors and spouses. The extended family of Pastor Steven, after the end of a long
day of training for pastors and lay leaders hosted in his home.
Our first week, in Delhi, we had few expectations in terms of ministry. We simply hoped to adjust to the time zone, climate, and culture, while teaching final class sessions for courses in Malaysia and continuing a few other non-formal courses in China and India. We did have the honor of meeting two wise and inspiring men while there. Saji Easo is the General Secretary of UESI (IFES) for all of India, and he and his wife welcomed us warmly. Harsha Shringla is the former Foreign Secretary for India; he also hosted us graciously and shared many insights into India. We also learned a lot about the history of India through visits to the Red Fort and the National Museum. The week was not easy—I (Lisa) got sick, the heat and humidity were extreme, and the crowdedness of the city was challenging to navigate.
In stark contrast, our second and third weeks, ministry opportunities have abounded! We’ve been in a much more rural setting. About ten people came out to the small regional airport to greet us with hugs and choruses of “Praise the Lord!” while placing floral garlands around our necks. Rich has been teaching the pastors in Pastor S_______’s network for two years, and they were so excited to finally meet him in person, often remarking that he was much taller than they’d imagined from his little Zoom tile! Pastor S organized a three-day gathering for leaders in the area. We taught three sessions each day, in a simple church building with wavering electricity and with chickens, goats and cows grazing right outside.
On Sunday, we preached for Pastor S's church in town and then headed out to his family’s village, where we preached for his parents’ church, of which his brother was serving as pastor. This visit was so lovely. At one point it began to pour, and several ladies dashed out to bring in their laundry. I stopped preaching and shared about how that had happened to me in Thailand more than once, and we connected over that simple shared reality. I was struck by how remarkably undistracted they are, downpours aside, as they listen to sermons seated on the ground, with unbroken eye contact. After church, a grand-uncle demonstrated their village’s distinctive weaving techniques, the children showed us their art projects, and the parents showed us their wedding photo album—sweet ways they could connect with us without a lot of language in common.
On Monday we got up at 4:30 AM to visit the church of one more member of Rich’s zoom cohort, 150 miles away. We were on muddy roads for many miles of that journey, and the cows here firmly believe that the roads are theirs, which is cute at first but really slows progress. I will admit to wondering if it was worth it as we bounced through endless potholes. But again, the welcome was incredibly warm and folks were so excited that we had made the journey to be with them. The pastor had gathered his church leaders and several local pastors for a day-long seminar on leadership, and they held a special evening service where I preached. I said to Rich later, “I think that was my favorite time preaching ever.” It was mostly the sheer intentness with which listeners engaged with the sermon.
Essentially everyone wanted prayer afterwards! We each snagged a second translator and prayed for them one by one. Several people in the very rural and poor places we’ve been in the last ten days come with the complaint of feeling weak, and the sobering likelihood is that they are simply malnourished. But we’ve also heard a range of hard stories of bereavement due to Covid, infertility, etc. So, prayer is both a delight and a burden, as we can feel overwhelmed by the sufferings we hear about as we pray. But love compels us to pray boldly and hope alongside them for all for which they hope.
After another long hours drive, we are now in Nabrangpor, another small city where Rich has been teaching via Zoom. It is a mountainous region, so we are enjoying a break from the heat. The first day (Thursday) we preached for two house church gatherings, again praying for nearly everyone afterwards. Friday we had more of the same kind of meeting, including bringing a message to children in an orphanage, and several church services. We are enjoying Pastor Maher’s insights into India and stories from his own life. We have now received marigold garlands in at least five settings. We are humbled by the generosity, kindness, and warmth of our hosts here.
Next week, we head to Visakhapatnam, where Lisa will guest-teach a mini course in homiletics for a seminary cohort which essentially lost that course due to the pandemic. Rich will continue teaching a course in Biblical Leadership, meeting his Zoom students for the first time in person.
We are so grateful for your prayers for our time here. It has held much joy for us, and some challenges as well: interesting showers, internet access, incredibly spicy food among them. We ask your prayers for stamina as we continue to teach, pray, and hope for all things for those we meet.
Rich and Lisa in clothing given by our local hosts. Pastor Santosh and his wife and the door he carved. He learned this skill to help support his family while in ministry.
India is...everything! Hard to capture it in a few words; hence my looong post, an A to Z summary of our first week here:
Rich and Lisa Lamb