Friday, November 3, 2017

On American soil

Jai Masih Ki! Praise the Lord! We have arrived in Newark after a very interesting and long trip. We have one more flight until we are home. 

The journey so far has included a blown out tire on our bus, a little trouble finding the parking area for our bus, a 2 1/2 hour delay for our first flight, and a few other bumps along the way. But it also included several moments of noticing God’s mercy and love. He has carried us through al of the trials of this journey and has continued to sustain us. 





Thank you again for your prayers. We are looking forward to sharing our stories with you. 

See you soon! 
Your India Mission Team 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Journeying home

The journey home has begun. We have spent all day in a bus driving to Delhi. We will board a plane headed back to the other side of the globe. (Pre-posting revision ... we couldn’t get WiFi so we are posting this from 32,000 feet and more than 2 1/2 hours behind scheduled flight departure.)

We are eager to be home to see our families and friends and to share all of our experiences with you. But we are also sad to be leaving these great people. We have shared so much with them and the bonds continue to be strengthened. 

We will fly home. They will get on the same bus and drive back north to their home. Our parting is sad but we know we all have much to do in our own communities. Our mission resolve has been strengthened and encouraged by the zeal of our Christian brothers and sisters here in India. 

An example of the encouragement we’ve received is to see how the Dasuya community is softening to the message of the Gospel. Vision told us of a neighbor that was drawn to the church because of the eyeglass clinic. She had many wrong ideas about the beliefs and teachings of Christians, but she felt comfortable talking to Vision because of the open arms the church was showing the community. Vision was able to sit and talk with the woman and clear up those misconceptions. The woman was very open to hearing of God’s love and said she wanted to come back for worship but her husband wouldn’t let her go for 3 hours (yes, the church is so on fire that they gladly praise our Jesus for hours). Vision gently told her she was welcome for any amount of time, even if it was only for 15 minutes. The woman was excited and said she would be joining them for worship. 

It’s so encouraging to hear how small acts of kindness and a willingness to listen opens doors for people to respond to the Holy Spirit’s whisper in their hearts. 

Please pray for this neighbor and for all the people that heard of Jesus’ love over the last week. We thank you for your prayers for our safe journey home. And we look forward to seeing you soon!

Blessings, 
Your India Mission Team 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Team pondering

Well, this blog post started about 30 hours ago when we were discussing who would write yesterday’s post after our last day of clinic. Ray had a great story he wanted included and we got to talking about the day and the week. We decided it would be fun to share a few thoughts from different members of the team. So, here we go...

Ray’s translator was Rosie and I noticed in the afternoon that she was wearing a winter coat inside he clinic. It struck me as odd because I was sweating. I asked Ray jokingly if the Americans were freezing her out with the fans. She told Ray that she wasn’t feeling well. He asked if she wanted to go home and she declined. He said as the afternoon went on, it was obvious that she felt terrible and he tried to make her go home. She replied that she was working for the Lord. What an incredible young woman with incredible faith and a willingness to do what god calls her to do even when she’s feeling her worst. 


Next are a few thoughts from Clay:
I would like to take a minute and thank my roommate on the trip. I don't know how many of you know Ray Riggs and his lovely bride Tracy, but if you don't you should seek them out and introduce yourself. 

I'm an 8:15er. He plays in the Prayer and praise. To my knowledge we have never met before. He and Tracy are professional musicians. Ray is a retired firefighter EMT and fits perfectly into our team for prescreening clinic candidates for infectious diseases. While he fills that slot so well he also fits into the team, which he only joined so we could hit our minimum of 8. He can follow the pack or when asked, take the lead. He spoke from the pulpit with about 10 minutes advanced warning. He prayed with the sick and took pictures for all to see. Something about Ray makes the locals want to get a picture with him. I'm not sure if it's because he is White, wears a Detroit baseball hat, carries a camera around, or just that infectious smile. Maybe the locals can see the heart of the man deep inside.

Regardless, Ray is da man that stands in the gap. He tells a great story or two or three. We love them all. He loves people and has a heart of Gold for God

Lord, bless Ray and Tracy and their family in all that they do.  


Janet included the following thoughts to share:

     This trip has been an incredible experience. It is truly a land of striking contrast... big beautiful houses next to makeshift tent living, trucks on the roads with bike pedaled carts, every woman dressed in beautiful colored clothes in a land of dirt and brown, religious temples and shrines outnumbering churches. 
     Yet I have seen such a similarity in the people’s hearts. Every person expressed such thankfulness in receiving their eyeglasses, the young ladies serving as our translators working so hard to help us understand, the joy of the church members worshipping our God.  This is truly all about sharing God’s love and the gospel to a people so different from us, but so similar to us in need of His grace and salvation. I pray for their hearts to be changed as much as mine has been changed.


And Sandy added this:

Over the past several days, I watched as 8 individuals, each with different gifts and talents, come together and work as a well orchestrated team. Each with our designated task of serving at the eyeglass clinic. And, it reminded me how we, as the body of Christ, come together with different gifts and talents to serve others. This has truly been a life changing journey and I pray the seeds we have planted here in Punjab will grow and bare much fruit. 


The last day of clinic was our strongest day. We worked until the last person outside came through. Our grand totals for the week have us seeing 633 unique individuals who heard God’s love shared with them. And we distributed 846 pairs of glasses to those individuals. God is good!

Those 633 people now have the gift of better vision. But they have also have a greater gift! They heard the gospel of Jesus! They heard that Jesus loves them. They heard there is salvation through Jesus. There is no better gift than Jesus. 

So, you might ask if the eyeglass clinic really makes a difference in the community here. We ask the same thing. It makes a difference. While we don’t get to see all of the ripples from our 4 days of distributing eyeglasses, we get to hear little bits of how God has already moved. 

Pastor Daniel has a neighbor across the street that has been very opposed to his family and his ministry for many years. The person never speaks with respect to him and tried multiple times to get the police to stop the church from meeting here. That person came to the eyeglass clinic. And for the first time, she called him “Pastor.” She sought him and Vision out to specifically thank them for the eyeglasses. Did it make a difference? Was her heart softened a bit? I think the Holy Spirit is working in her heart. 


Vision shared other stories of other people that were impacted. Maybe we will share a few more stories in the coming days. 

For now, we are just a couple of hours away from departing here and beginning the journey home. We continue to thank you for your prayers, support, and love. Please also continue to pray that those 633 people would seek to know Jesus more and more. Pray for God’s love to be displayed to the many people of this great city. 

In His grace,
Your India Mission Team 






Monday, October 30, 2017

Sowing seeds

India blog 10/30/2017

Another beautiful 85 degree day in the making. I finally figured out how to get hot water out of our shower. It is going to be a great day. Couple cups of coffee in my room hot pot. Instant Starbucks Italian Roast. yum. Watching another beautiful sunrise come up over the sugarcane and rice fields. Beautiful green and blue birds flying from electric lines to balcony railings. The smog cranks up the color of the morning sunrise. We are refreshed from the grueling schedule of the previous day. 

The India team is picked up promptly at 7:30 at the hotel, by pastor Daniel. We are ready to serve the Lord helping bring the good news to the local Indians.  Pastor Daniel takes us to his home, adjacent to the church. His wife Elizabeth and other Christians have prepared another feast for breakfast. Yummy. We have another wonderful meal. I feel so out of place. A big fat white guy who never misses a meal in a land where most of the population would blow over in a stiff wind. I am spoiled. Lord, have I got it good. Thank you. 

We all go upstairs to the adjacent church. The team prays together with the Indian nationals hosting the clinic. They have done a fantastic job of translation and set up, and driving, and a host of things I'm sure we don't even realize. Kathy opens us in prayer. 

The clinic begins and Gods children come strolling through. Beautifully adorned newlyweds to men who are contractors to young kids with the biggest whitest smiles to 80 year old ladies to teen agers and everyone in between. 


They climb the stairs and wait outside the door peering through the window. Once inside, they are pointed to Ray and Rosy who give them a medical history exam of sorts. Looking for any infectious disease that would keep them from continuing through the clinic. 


Then they proceed to the flippers, lenses used for identifying their proper prescription needs. Lynn and Meenu quickly get their reading and distance scripts. Sandeep and myself do the same. It is rewarding to see their smile as you increase the prescription one lens at a time. And they see better with each step. Those smiles get bigger and bigger.

Once they complete our station, they visit the witness table where Sunita shares the good news with them in their mother tongue, be it Hindi or Punjabi. Today 172 souls heard the word of God. Shared by a finger puppet, a wrist bracelet, or the folding picture box. Some for the first time. Some for a repeat account of God’s love.

Then they move down to have a selection of glasses, that Sandy pulled while they were listening to the Gospel. Karie, Josh, Vision, and others pop in and out to make the magic happen. Once the proper pair of glasses has been decided on, they move down to see Janet. She massages the glasses onto their face for a perfect fit. She bends the arms, fixes nose pads, and gives them a good last cleaning before they head off with their new sight and the word of God fresh on their heart. 


272 pair of glasses today.
Lots of seed sown
Laughs and smiles
All to Gods glory.


It was a Great Day!
Clay Donnell

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hallelujah!!

Greetings brothers and sisters in Christ!


Sunday has come and gone and we enjoyed many opportunities to praise God and experience Indian worship! Our itinerary for the day was as follows: Eat, worship, eat, travel, worship, eat, travel, and then, God willing, sleep! I say this as we are still driving to home base as I type. 


Also of note, this is the first blog post of my humble existence and I feel all warm and fuzzy that you took the time to read it!


Now saddle up, here we go!


‘Hallelujah’ was the word of the day as it seemed to be incorporated in all phases of our day. Truly, we thank God for giving us the opportunity to experience so many moving testimonies and joyous worship of the one true God!


We gathered for breakfast at Pastor Daniel’s house where most of the team was surprised to find two of our group decked out in formal Indian suits! Karie and I were gifted these clothes from the Masih family to celebrate our engagement. Their kindness knows no bounds! 



Apparently, an Indian custom involves introducing newly engaged couples at church to celebrate their pending union. We thank God for the Christian love on display in this and many other acts to us and our team. 



Breakfast was delicious as usual. As we ate our turnip-infused roti (bread), eggs, sweet potato pancakes, and many other delicious items, we could hear the congregation as they began singing, clapping, and praising God upstairs long before we joined. They typically worship for well over three hours. I don’t know how anyone would not be humbled by their passion and joy for our Savior!


When we joined the service we noted the room was split along very traditional lines. All the men were sitting on the concrete floor on one side and all the women were seated in the same fashion on the other side. Fortunately for my knees and back, we were given chairs. To see their worship in what we would say were uncomfortable conditions was again humbling.



After a few more Indian songs sung mostly in Punjabi with a little English mixed in (all written by Pastor Daniel), the team was invited to introduce ourselves, lead the congregation in a couple of songs, and then give a quick lesson. Our song leader, Janet, had prepped us, with inspiration from Lynne and others, to sing a joyful VBS favorite ‘Allelu, Allelu’. We did throw in a twist in that our verses alternated between ‘Praise ye the Lord’ and ‘Jai Masih ki’, a Punjabi phrase meaning ‘Praise God’. With so many of the church members greeting us with that phrase and the number of syllables matching, it seemed too perfect to pass up! After that we sang ‘Haso, Haso’, another song by Pastor Daniel in Punjabi, but simple enough that even a foreign language neophyte like me could belt it out! 



After singing, Ray gave an excellent lesson on Romans 10:12-15. Poor Ray! He’s done such a wonderful job in his team devotions, that he’s become our go-to whenever a prayer or lesson is asked from the team!


After that it was back to your regularly scheduled worship with more singing and a sermon from Pastor Daniel. We were blessed in that Pastor spoke his sermon in English and allowed a translator to convey it to the congregation. We hope it was as moving for them as it was for us as Pastor recounted how he was called to Christ’s service along with a vision for the spread of Christianity in India. Amen! With Christ’s help we pray it will be so!


I mentioned ‘Hallelujah’ as the word of the day as it seemed every song, lesson, and prayer began with it spoken by a leader and enthusiastically echoed back by the congregation. God be praised!


In an effort to stay on schedule, we then left the service around noon while the congregation continued their worship (already over three hours strong!). We were treated to another delicious lunch (curry chicken, rice, roti, saag, etc) and then we returned to the church as the congregation was enjoying their meal to experience some fellowship with the church members. We heard many moving stories and the people were very excited to talk with us. Many a selfie was taken and we left with our hearts filled by their excitement! 





Next, we squeezed 15 people into a 14 seat van (child’s play for these folk!) and travelled to Chandigarh, where another congregation of believers was eagerly waiting. It was a long ride, around 4.5 hours, but at a pit stop on the way, we were lucky to catch a glimpse of an Indian wedding. A band was escorting the beautiful bride and groom and the sight prompted an interesting discussion on arranged marriages and the low divorce rates in India. Sorry, no data on that, all anecdotal stories.


Again, our ‘Hallelujahs’ were heard as Pastor Daniel and the team have developed a routine of shouting ‘Hallelujah’ every time we go over a particularly large bump. Trust me, there were many opportunities for praising God on the ride!


When we arrived in Chandigarh, we found a sanctuary closer to what we would call normal with pews, a stage, and men and women intermixed. We were told this city is much more Westernized than other areas in India. 



This was the hometown of Elizabeth, Pastor Daniel’s wife and we were greeted by her brother, two of her sisters, and many other excited members. The service began with music, lead by some excellent young musicians, and had us quickly shaking off any travel lethargy to join in the clapping and praise.





We again came forward and did our song and lesson routine (you’re awesome Ray!), and then had a seat to hear some amazing testimonials of the healing hand of our Lord. We know Satan is alive and doing his best to disrupt people’s lives and faith, but hearing these testimonies of God’s power in their lives was truly uplifting!





Pastor Daniel then gave his sermon, this time in Punjabi. While there was no translator, it was obvious what a powerful orator Pastor Daniel is in his native tongue. The congregation was clearly moved and we thank God for this ministry!


This congregation has quickly grown. The last time one of our teams visited, they were meeting in a living room. Now they have grown large enough to rent out a sanctuary. God is good!


Afterward, we were honored to be invited to Elizabeth’s sisters house for refreshments before the long ride home. There we were treated to potato samosas, soda, and pickle flavored chips. We also found out that Clay is responsible for the shade of blue that M&M’s are colored, which was suspiciously similar to the color of his clothing 🤔



We then drove home, making a quick pit stop at McDonalds, where the chicken nuggets were just like back home! We arrived back at the hotel safely at 1:00 AM (I almost finished in the van, not quite though 😉)


As I reflect on the day, if I tried to re-list all the adjectives I’ve used to describe today, I would probably be up another hour! I’ll just say I’ve been blessed by this experience. Though it was a long day, we were all rewarded by seeing God’s light shining brightly in these communities! May His good work continue until the blessed day he calls us to everlasting life with him!


In Christ’s service,

Josh

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My cup runneth over

What an incredible day! We shared laughter, joy, prayers, and tears. Our hearts have been touched by so many things. 

The second day of clinic was another great day. We saw many people and gave out many glassses. We continue to be grateful for our translators and the many people serving alongside us. 










The real highlight of the day for us was that we got to go to a house church meeting with Pastor Daniel and Elizabeth and join them in worship. These amazing people had been singing and worshipping well before we arrived and were enthusiastic in their worship, prayer, and offerings to God. 

They were worshipping outside (we were slightly chilled and we are from Michigan; the temperature is quite cold for them), sitting on the concrete ground, not far from the family cows (the farmer was very proud of his cows and insisted that Ray took photos of them). It really hit me while worshipping with them how incredible their faith and joy for the Lord is. I have never worshipped while being cold and smelling farm animals and I’m thinking I wouldn’t be excited to do that all the time. Yet they were all so filled with passion. 


And then two families welcomed us into their homes and shared food and fellowship with us. We enjoyed their company and hospitality. The second was the home of our driver for the week. After sharing some time with him and his wife, they took us to his 27 year old daughter. She is a beautiful, young woman that had complications after surgery and has a chronic bone infection. We had the distinct privilege to pray for her and try to encourage her. She wept after prayer and many of us did, too. Please join us in praying for this young lady ... for her health, for the medicine and medical team treating her, for her strength, and for her spirit to be renewed. 

We had another incredibly long day, but every lost minute of sleep was worth it to witness how God is working among the ministry here in Punjab. 

Today, we are getting ready for a day of worship. We are excited to join with the family of faith here and lift our hearts and our hands to our mighty God! 

May your time of worship be uplifting! 

In His love,
Your India Mission Team 

Friday, October 27, 2017

The clinic starts!!

Today was the first day of the clinic, and we are excited, tired, and even a bit overwhelmed. 

Approximately 100 people came through to have a quick medical screening to attempt to identify serious or communicable eye diseases (Ray and his translator Rosy) followed by vision testing for glasses that would best serve their needs, (Clay and Lynn with their translators Sonia and Meenu) then while their glasses are being pulled from stock (Sandy who has no need of a translator since she is fluent in multiple languages, well, maybe not) then most important step in the routine and the reason we came, the Witness Station. 


At the witness station, an Indian National, Sunita, who is a member of Pastor Daniel’s church shares her faith and presents the gospel. After that, it’s the job of the Holy Spirit. THAT’S why we’re here. We are not tourists, we are not on vacation. While we’re enjoying each other and the wonderful sights we’ve seen, that is only a distant second in importance. (Maybe a distant third, with the delicious food prepared by Pastor Daniel’s wife Elizabeth being second.)  

However our earthly work is not finished.  Following the witness station, Karie and Josh, along with their translators Ruby and Vision do a final check with the glasses that have been selected for them. Janet and her translator Neetu adjust the frames, and send them out with the finished product. The cost to the visitor to the clinic is 10 rupees. (To save you the trouble of looking that up, it’s 15 US cents.)






It is very rewarding to see the expression on their faces when they put on their glasses and see better than they have for years or maybe even ever. However we are very aware that improved earthly vision means nothing in eternity if they are still spiritually blind.

It is our ferverent prayer that their spiritual eyes would be open, and they would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Please join us in that prayer.  

Today’s blog was written by Ray!