Last Sunday was awesome! We worshipped at our host’s church, which is the mother church to more than one hundred branch churches. As we entered the sanctuary, we were shown where to leave our Sunday dress sandals and then we were seated in guest seats in the front of the church. The sanctuary is in a building with iron gated windows with no glass. The windows are shaped in the traditional shape of church windows – tall rectangle shape with the top sides rounding to a center point. The pulpit is located on a small two step platform. At the foot of the platform lies a couple of bamboo mats for those who prefer to sit in the traditional Indian manner with their legs folded. The children from children’s church join the others on the mats when they join the general assembly to hear the preached message. Everyone else is seated in red plastics chairs arranged in two sections of rolls. As I took in our surroundings, from the guest seats, I noticed that while we are visiting a Christian church the members honor Indian traditions. Both in the general service and children’s church the men/boys sat on one side of the church and the women/girls on the other. Seated in the back of the church are hindu women who visit the church. Hindu men may have been present, but I did not see them. The main sanctuary is cooled by electric fans. Though the ceiling fans were generous in their humble hospitality, I made a desperate attempt to take on some of the responsibility by pulling out my AARP gift fan to wave it for additional air, but it’s desire was to simply praise the Lord.
Children’s church is located 4 flights above the sanctuary with each flight getting hotter then the last. But the trip is well worth the elimination of fluids from head to toe on the way up. I don’t remember if there were ceiling fans, but it would not matter it is so hot in their assembly. The children and their leaders don’t seem to even notice the heat. They have been waiting patiently for me to arrive, as their guest, so they can share how they praise and worship the Lord in their own way. The song shared, sang at a up beat tempo and demonstrated by dance steps proclaims that, “Jesus’ love is bubbling over. Jesus’ love is bubbling over. Jesus’ love is bubbling over. Oh oh wonderful love! Higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, wider than the universe. Oh oh wonderful love!”. The children are humored by my gesture to learn their song and the choreography. We are all blessed by the experience and I am no longer considered a stranger though I am from a distant land.
The general service was very lively, which began with scripture reading, prayer, singing and clapping, and testimonies, which are supported by keyboards and other unexpected technology. Today was a welcomed reminder of the day of pentecost with people worshipping the same God in our native tongues – us in English and them in Tamil. We are welcomed and introduced to the congregation by the pastor and each of us are presented with shalvai (shawl). My sister (picture not included) is draped by the pastor’s wife, I am draped by one of the Chennai’s intercessors (pastor’s sister-in-law), and my niece is draped by the assistant pastor’s wife who is also another sister-in-law. The members are extremely welcoming and we are treated with great care.
My sister, Jacqui, preached from II Kings 6:8-18 while the pastor interpreted the message. Her message was about asking God to open the eyes of our hearts so that we can see by faith and not with our natural eye. She challenged us, as life difficulties, uncertainties, and unknowns surface in our lives, that we ask God to open our eyes to who He is as our protector, our provider, and He who blesses. When we see with the eyes of our heart, then we see our stations in life as inheritors of the kingdom of the true and living God who is able to do the possible in impossible situations. Her closing question to us was, In what areas of your life, do you need God to open your eyes to see the invisible possibilities of His provisions in impossible situations?
I was able to share the Friday evening before with the Women’s group that meets every Friday night. It was a time of singing, praying, and testimonies. The pastor’s wife opened the meeting with a song and encouragement from Joel 2:26. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.”. After her presentation, women from the audience shared their testimonies. Common among women across the world, these women are praying for their children and shared how God was answering their prayers. I shared about the benefit and importance of sharing our personal experiences while not being ashamed of our failures. The benefit is in growing from our mistakes and helping others finding hope and faith in God in spite of our errors. Noting that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:31-39).
God is clearly present in our journey in mission and ministry. We will visit a leper colony and three other communities approximately 2 hours away in the rice fields tomorrow to share the gospel, distribute rice, tooth brushes and tooth paste, color books and crayons, and clothes. I cannot wait to share the experience with you. In the meantime, please continue or begin to pray for us and the people we are able to touch. As usual,
Peace and Blessings,