What a week in Kota! We have had such a special time. Nothing has become more apparent to me than this: I need to somehow bring India home and share it with the Hopegivers' team (sponsors worldwide). This is such an amazing ministry and I had no picture or idea until I got here. It is huge, amazing, and God-sized!
It is also very sad because we have viewed the schools and orphanages here in Kota that only a year ago had close to 3,000 orphans and students, and now are down in the 600-800 range. It's truly heartbreaking. Most of those orphans were chased out of the orphanages while the staff were being run off, beaten, and/or put in jail. The kids had no one to feed them or take care of them and many were being threatened, so they ran away and have not been found yet (and some have not been allowed back due to the revocation of the licensing). Sadly, many children found wandering around or unwanted by parents are taken as temple prostitutes (under the guise of temple servants) or sold to middle eastern countries as slaves or sex slaves. So many of them may have already been casualties of this most recent persecution.
I've had quite a bit of precious time with M.A. Let me tell you (those of you who don't know). Here in India, M.A. is as important as the Pope is in Rome (only M.A. is completely unassuming, humble, and approachable)! He is so well respected by the main India government and most of the people. The only people against him are the anti-Christians which, from what I can tell, is a relative minority albeit a loud, powerful minority. But for the most part, the federal government gives Sam and M.A. their seal of approval. It is all very complicated to understand or even explain the dichotomy!
Anyhow, this man who has met with many world leaders and has positively impacted a whole country, spent quality, unhurried time with little me. That is how M.A. is! He is not pretentious or hurried about his day but, kind of like Jesus looks for the divine appointments in his day and then makes time for them. In our many leisurely hours this week he has shared so much of his heart, vision, and wisdom in such a gentle and warm manner. He has the most adorable laugh, and I just love this strong but gentle leader!
Three memorable things happened with M.A. this week. First, since he has expressed interest in having me work with him on various projects, I told him I would only do it if he prayed over and anointed me for my part in this ministry. So right in his office, I got down on my knees and he put his hand on my head and prayed anointing over me. I WISH I had recorded his prayer—it was so powerful.
Next, he was wearing this beautiful blue wool shawl and he gave it to me. I prayed that it would be like Elijah passing his cloak to Elisha! I will need it to do this big work.
Lastly, this morning I woke up at 5:30 and couldn't sleep. I wanted to visit M.A. in his room because he said he's always up early, spending time with the Lord, and since it is my last day here I really wanted some more time with him. I felt bad about interrupting him, he previously told me to come to see him any time, that he would welcome it. So I took a risk and knocked on his door. Of course, he welcomed me in and we sat on the floor, drinking tea and sharing more of his vision for the book he and Sam want me to write. We also shared from the Bible and in prayer, and it was truly one of the memorable experiences I will cherish in my heart. M.A. has so much love, that you feel a little bit like you've been with God after being with him. Don't get me wrong. I'm not deifying him, but he just reflects so many of God's qualities, and he is such a man of prayer and the Word.
Again I felt as if this was another divine appointment! He also prayed for me again and told me he would pray for me every day now that I am beginning to work on all these projects on behalf of the ministry and the orphans. God sure doesn't waste any time!
So now I am starting to put pieces together in my life. I don't know what God has in store, but I can't help but wonder if all this amazing stuff that has happened to launch me into the speaking and publishing world in the last 5 years was "for such a time as this." Sam and M.A. have needed a writer for specific projects (they've worked with others who have also done a great job in the past but there are some new roads ahead), and it really feels as if this is what God has been grooming me for.
This week I have also spoken to many pastors who have been beaten, imprisoned and threatened with death in recent days. I feel unworthy to sit in the same room with them. One man yesterday was imprisoned because he baptized 150 new believers in his village in 2005. Because of it, he was beaten many times and imprisoned for a year from false allegations, and just got out last month.
While in prison, do you think he moped, whined, and pined away, even though they beat him continuously, tried to kill him, and even gave him horrible sewage cleanup duty? NO! On the contrary, he shared the gospel with 800 prisoners and ten of them have become believers and asked for baptism when they get out. They also asked him to tell their families the GOOD NEWS and most of their families are now going to his village church!
Today, we will leave Kota, and I will leave a part of my heart here. The orphan girls have cheerfully served us daily, and we have grown close to so many of the people, as is such a wonderful possibility in the body of Christ. I can't say enough how serving and gracious they have been to us and have lavished us extravagantly with gifts and love.
One last memory. M.A. asked me !three times! to share a somewhat spontaneous message in front of groups. For those of you who know me, that is usually cause for great anxiety, including the potential need for paramedics and oxygen. But miraculously, in the parting of the Red Sea kind of way, I didn't feel nervous at all! I felt as if God gave me a clear, confident message to share each time. Once I spoke at the morning devotions at the business office and the other two times I spoke to the Bible College students (I also shared a little bit in Delhi on Sunday with the orphanage kids). It was such a great experience—a real faith builder! Thanks for your prayers, I know that is the only reason I had the passion, focus, and confidence to share with them.
While I am excited to come home, I am sad to leave these new friends. I cherish my time here in India and I have to say, of all the things I've done and places I've visited, this has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life! I've had no trouble adjusting.
I hope these letters have blessed you in the smallest way as I've tried to share our experiences. I will continue to give you a good picture in my future writings and I hope you can all find it in your heart to begin regular support of this ministry that is truly changing the world, one child at a time! Thanks again for your love, support, and prayers. We owe this experience to you!
Here's a precious response from Dad:
We got your e-mail about leaving Kota and know that your are overly excited about returning home. Wow, you have really hit it off well with your new friends, and it sounds like you are really getting involved with the Lord's work. Thank you and we are so proud of you. Funny how we are all destined for different paths in life. Seems to me that yours is especially wonderful!
We will look forward to your homecoming. I have not been so good about writing to you but I have sent off a couple notes. Please check your baggage for
baby snakes and critters. We love you, and have a good trip home. You are exciting!