Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Village Church

It's been a while since we've posted to this blog, and so much has happened. Most of the posts about the India trip went to our Facebook page. If you want to catch up with the events between our efforts to gather shoes and today, take a look there.

One of the most memorable days in India was spent in the area around the village of Daburuvaripalli, near Kadiri in southern Andhra Pradesh. Our plan was to tour the area and finish the day with a village meeting where we would visit homes, preach, pray and distribute blankets to the elders. (The blankets were purchased with the money donated to us by all of you - thanks again!) After a delicious breakfast of idlidosa and spicy peanut chutney, we set out into the countryside in a borrowed church van.  The landscape is beautiful, full of peanut fields, banana trees and granite hills.

Between Kadiri and Daburuvaripalli
Our first stop was a property that was donated to Nathaniel's ministry by YWAM not long ago. It is a rectangular plot near the village's water tower surrounded by peanut fields. On the site there is the shell of a building with concrete walls and floor, currently used by the village church as a place of worship. Nathaniel and Pastor Chandra also conduct an annual youth training retreat there.  Nathaniel's goal for the property is to complete the church building, then work on some basic dormitories that can house larger groups of youth for longer periods of training. In the future, this center will train young families who want to pastor the young churches growing in nearby villages and in need of leadership.

The church building
Nathaniel draws out his vision
Taking a tour of the property

Waiting for us at the church was a man named Abraham. Nathaniel introduced him to me as an elder of the Daburuvaripalli church. He is a layman who has a love for the people and the heart of a pastor. He spoke very little and didn't speak English, but it was easy to see how deeply invested he is in the lives of his neighbors.

From left:
Manjula, Todd, Jennifer, Pastor Chandra, Nathaniel and Abraham

When we returned that evening for the village meeting, Abraham was there assisting with preparations and escorting us as we visited with families. Jennifer and I split up for a time - I went with Nathaniel and Jennifer with Pastor Chandra, Manjula and a group of boys who had attached themselves to Jennifer. The homes were closely placed, made of concrete and stone. Most of them had a family room in the front and a kitchen in the back with a bedroom or storage room beside.

Jennifer's escorts
The last home we visited was the family of a man named Reddy. Nathaniel briefed me on Reddy's situation before we went in, confiding that he had been praying for him for some time. Reddy was in the final stages of a battle with cancer, and his family had already begun grieving for him. The front room of the house was very much like the others in the village. Around a dozen people filled the room, and Reddy was reclined on a bed off to the right. An IV bag hung from the ceiling and the line ran down to Reddy's arm. Gaunt and weak, he sat up when we walked in. We exchanged looks with the family, attempting to be reassuring, but Reddy's gaze paralyzed me. His eyes were wide with fear and white as a sheet. We began to pray - I led in English and Nathaniel translated, and the words weren't easy. As I asked God for his comfort and mercy on Reddy and the family, Nathaniel translated and the family wailed with hope and grief. I thanked God for his goodness amid suffering and the promise of eternal healing, and the family wailed again. When we left Reddy's home, we were all overcome. We found out later that on the day we arrived back home, Reddy died.

We sat for a time while dinner preparations were completed. We showed the boys pictures of our family on our phones. After a delicious dinner prepared by women from the village church, we held our meeting. Nathaniel introduced us, and I spoke to them as he translated. By that night I had grown accustomed to the rhythm of having my words translated into Telugu. I thought the language was far more verbose than English, but Nathaniel explained that he needed to include much more information about what I was saying than I had thought, so vast was the cultural gap between us and them. ("If you had said 'computer,'" Nathaniel said, "I would have described a TV into which you could put information.")

I told them the story of the prodigal son, and as Nathaniel translated, the people grew more animated. As I described the actions of the son who squandered his father's inheritance, they started to push back, asking questions. When I told them of the father who saw his lost son down the road, leapt down the step and ran down the road, they roared in disbelief. How would a wealthy man, an owner of land, stoop so low as to run and embrace the one who had disgraced him so? It was another powerful moment for us. I have no doubt that the day's events had a far deeper impact on me than I had on anyone I encountered.

After a few days' stay in Kadiri, meeting people in the village churches, we sat down to talk about how we might be able to help them. We all agreed that there were a few projects on which we could concentrate our efforts. One of them is the development of this church property. The first phase is to complete doors, windows and floors along with a few other enhancements to the existing building.

Please consider helping us with this effort. One way to help is to give us the opportunity to speak to groups in your church or community about our trip and the work that is ongoing.  Thank you all for your prayers and support, and continue to remember our friends in India in your prayers!

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'" Matthew 9:36-38

The following photos were sent to us from an event in early November at the church building in Daburuvaripalli:
Prayer with the elderly of the village church. Abraham is front left.

Sharing a meal with the village


Much-needed rest for the young people from Bangalore
who traveled with Pastor Chandra and Manjula for village ministry

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