Our India Reflections

India 2016

One night, sixteen years ago, my husband Brian and I gathered with some friends in a basement with the intention of worshiping God with spontaneity and abandon, seeking to know a sliver of what was on His heart and mind that He was willing to share with us.  As we prayed and sang our hearts out, a new, spontaneous song began to flow that I believe was inspired by the Holy Spirit because it certainly was not a result of anything currently on our minds.  The new lyric was, “There are some things I want to write on your heart that I can only write in INDIA INK.”  It seemed as if God was speaking to us, through us saying that someday He would impact our hearts with the country of India.  Last month, began the unfolding of that prophecy as we landed in India with our team of White Fields Missions leaders led by Chuck and Shelly Pifer joined with MorningStar/CMM leaders Jorge Parrott and Nancy Daniel from South Carolina and pastors Mike and Roxie Ann Ginn from Alaska.  Our hearts were full of faith that it was the right timing, much anticipation for what God could do, a little trepidation of the unknown and admittedly, also much naiveté.  After having been home for week, we are reflecting on some of the highlights that we would like to share with those who supported us through financial contributions and prayer covering.

The first leg of ministry for Brian and I and our friend Julie DeRung was in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.  Long-time friends of Christ’s Mandate for Missions greeted us with over-whelming hospitality (leis, rose petals, hugs and smiles in grand, Indian style!) We got to see first-hand the church building project that our ministry family was supporting, and conduct a two-day women’s conference in Tadepalligudem (try saying that three times fast).  This was a bold, revolutionary step for the pastors there, and my deepest respect goes to them for breaking with some oppressive traditions and working so hard to prepare a special occasion solely for women who are typically seen as second-class citizens—even building faith in the men to help cook and care for the children while their wives received ministry!

There was a beautiful mix of Christians, Hindus, and Muslim women.  Some came out of hunger for the Lord; some to see the strange, white people.  We preached the gospel there through the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, emphasizing the love of Jesus that still breaks through cultural, religious, and gender barriers as well as the barrier of the shame of our own sin.  We had the privilege of leading some to the Lord for the first time and many received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and a new freedom to relate to the Lord with intimacy and boldness and hear His voice.  We prayed prophetically over many women that were experiencing devastating circumstances that only the Lord can change. Since returning, we have received reports that one woman heard the message that was living the hellish reality of the woman at the well, and after being touched by God, was able to come forward and admit her circumstances and begin receiving help and support from the wonderful pastors Jai and Yori and their powerful ministry team.  We have also heard reports of women that were healed of desperate conditions and set free by the love of God.  God is so good, and it was a great privilege to partner with Him. 

The following two days were spent ministering to a remarkable group of tribal pastors that came from the nearby jungle areas to receive encouragement and prophetic ministry, and the rest of the church family there as visiting the women’s sewing center that provides training so that women can obtain valuable jobs, and children at the children’s home, playing games and giving them individual prophetic prayer–God has a bright hope and future for each of them.

The next week we were joined by seven more team members.  Together, we ministered to over one hundred pastors.  What many of them overcome on a daily basis to serve the Lord is staggering and challenging.  Pastor Samuel in Rajamundry supports 42 children that live with him in his small house and unfinished church.  The weight of responsibility to be a life line to widows and orphans that we saw him and the other pastors faithfully embrace is a beautiful tribute to the grace of God, but also a huge challenge to be make some sacrifices in order to be a very real help.  We have become unashamed solicitors of their sponsorship. Just $30/month supports a child; $25 helps to supplement a tribal pastor’s family that is barely surviving.    (Email me if you want to get in on this.)

One of the most life-changing experiences was the day we piled into a large van and made a circuit through rugged hills and grass huts in the very poor jungle regions.  We took part in the dedication of wells that had been dug through the previous contributions of MorningStar/CMM donors.  One to five thousand people in each village received the on-going blessing of fresh, disease-free water.  These wells change a community.  Children joyfully slurped up the water as we prayed and shared the good news of the spiritual, living water that Jesus also provides, and prayed for the sick.  It is remarkable that just $2500 makes possible such an on-going transformation.  We are raising funds to do more of these as well.

During the evenings, we pulled into dark little alleys with a few light bulbs strung, and a tarp on which people sat, cross-legged, praising God to the strange beat of tribal-sounding drums to conduct small, evangelistic crusades in forgotten places.  The Lord dramatically reminded us and them that they were, in fact, not forgotten by Him.  After the gospel was preached the first night, I had a slight impression that someone in the meeting was experiencing chest pain.  I asked if that was in fact true, and a man way in the back stood, saying that he was the one.  We declared that Jesus was healing him.  In the loud chaos of praying for others and the ever-present drums, the man came forward a few minutes later to testify.  He said, “after you prayed, a man in white walked through the crowd toward me and healed me.  I am completely healed.”   The man in white, Jesus Himself, chose that dark, small place to walk right up and heal one of His lost sheep.  I’m still so stunned and over-whelmed at His goodness and mercy.  I’ve heard of the “man in white” appearing to Muslims and others in dark places all over the earth and speaking and touching lives in a way that turns hearts 180 degrees from being anti-Christ to falling deeply in love with the living Savior.  And here He was.  (I think I need to take a worship-break; just recalling this undoes me!)

After two weeks, Brian returned home with most of the team.  I was able to travel with Shelly Pifer, Jorge Parrott and Nancy Daniel to visit some amazing leaders in northern India.  PG and Lily Vargis are generals in the faith and leaders to thousands of churches.  Our visit to their home, soaking in their stories was breath-taking and truly inspiring.  The last few days of our trips was spent a mere 20 miles from the Nepal border on a historic, Christian compound in the midst of a predominantly Muslim area.  The Christian schools, hospitals, and church there are truly a light shining in the darkness.  It was a privilege to encourage the believers there, speak in the schools, and pray for the sick in the hospital.

In the after-glow Brian said it well, “God really did write some things on our hearts in India Ink.  It was as if he was introducing us to some of His most cherished friends.”  With all of its social challenges and overwhelming need, we are reminded that “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.”  One-sixth of this “so-loved” world is India.  And now we can’t help but love her too.

Brian and Brenda

women’s conference
well dedication
Julie and I staying hydrated
visiting sewing center
Shelly preaching at wells
The home of PG Vargis
Pastor’s conference
loving on women
Indian clothes
fresh water!
Evangelistic crusades
At children’s home
Brian, the kid magnet

Renegade Sheep?

As I quickly scrolled over my facebook news feed this morning, I felt the Holy Spirit stop me on this one posted by PBS.org on 8/25/2015: “Renegade Sheep that Avoided Shearing for Six Years by Hiding in a Cave.”  What?  It’s true.  Apparently in New Zealand, a shepherd found a sheep that had evaded his shears for six long years by hiding in a cave to finally emeyk2sj-shrek-sheeprge with enough wool on him to make twenty men’s suits!  That’s a lot of wool.

W. Phillip Keller’s “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” explains that “wool in Scripture speaks of the self-life, self-will, self-assertion, self-pride” (W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), p. 117).  In the Old Testament law, priests were not allowed to wear wool in their priestly duties (Ez. 44:17), because it symbolized man’s effort rather than God’s grace.  The number six in prophetic, biblical language symbolizes man’s ways in contrast to God’s.  There are also many prophetic voices that see each 1,000 period of civilization as a day in the Lord’s eyes with the seventh being the Millennial reign of Jesus.  Hiding means, well, hiding. (It can look so many ways, can’t it?)

There is conjecture that the hiding sheep  perhaps came out because he was distressed and miserable in his condition.   I’m seeing a prophetic lesson here.   As we stay close to Him, we can be sure that Jesus, the Good Shepherd  will faithfully shear some things off of us that are not consistent with His nature.  He loves to heroically separate us from everything that hinders our love for Him, which let’s face it, is ourselves, self-life, self-will, self-assertion, self-pride.  This process can by confusing and unpleasant to our maturing souls, but we can trust Him.  He wants us to dwell, “beside the Shepherd’s tent” (Song of Solomon 1:8) with the Lord and with our fellow believers, not hiding out allowing our self-lives, our pride, our addictions, our avoidance, our offenses, our denials to grow to bazaar proportions.   I don’t want to stagger out of a cave of isolation to meet Him and find that He does not even recognize me as His sheep–that a compromise here, a compromise there has completely eroded my true identity as His daughter.  It is so much better to settle my soul down in the confidence of His love and let Him deal with me and change me.   He has created us to live gloriously free in the circle of His arm.  That is where we thrive!  In hearing His voice every day, following Him.  Constant transformation is the overcoming life!

Greatness or Gray-ness

In the prophetic book of Biblical poetry, Song of Solomon, there are many references to hair.

How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead. (Song of Solomon 4:1, ESV)

This ancient, agriculturally-based, poetic love language wouldn’t do much to stir my heart now, but it is rich with prophetic meaning. Many times in the Bible hair symbolizes one’s dedication and loyalty.  For example, Samson took a vow of dedication to the Lord as others had before (Num. 6:1-5), and because of it he did not cut his hair. (Judges 13:5); When Solomon praises his bride’s tresses, He represents Jesus, the Bridegroom King praising the dedication and loyalty of His Bride, which is especially applicable to those in the end-time generation before the Lord returns to the earth.  These are the days light shines in the darkness, when darkness does not, cannot overcome it. This light is Jesus, the love of God poured out.  “Rivers cannot overwhelm this love.  Although a man may be offered all the wealth and security of this world, he will despise the offer, counting it as nothing in the face of the Love of all loves.” (My paraphrase of Song of Solomon 8:7)  This is the end time test that is upon us.  This ultimate love coupled with ultimate testing creates greatness.   To know Him is to love Him wholeheartedly.  The enemy of our greatness is gray-ness.  Any place in our lives where we allow ourselves to live in the gray, interferes with our perception of the love of God, which then causes us to make all of the little, woman washing hair in bowldaily decisions as well as the big ones out of a false beliefs about His kindness as well as His severity, which then leads to compromise.  I find I need to daily let the water of God’s Word wash over me, renewing my mind and bolstering my strength and dedication to Him in a world cultural climate that is increasingly anti-Him.   The king Himself has hair as “black as a raven”, never wavering in intensity, vigor, and dedication to those who have been made His own by the power of His blood.  (Song of Songs 5:12) Our charge is to become like Him.   It’s time to “…wash that gray right out of our hair…”. (Click at your own risk ;))