India Missions Trip Recap: Part 2
I went to India for the first time in 2008. It was an incredible experience to share the gospel halfway around the world. It was also exciting to witness so many people who came to the Lord, many of whom had never heard of Jesus and the gospel before. While my trip to India in 2008 was amazing, this most recent trip had a completely different level of impact on my life. For one, my wife Candy was able to come with me this time, and two, I was unprepared for my heart to be captured for India in two ways:
- To experience the orphan children’s desire to love us and their authentic desire for us to love them in return.
- The privilege I felt in meeting and encouraging many village pastors at the Pastoral Training Conference we provided.
But there is one experience that was even greater: watching God powerfully work in and through Candy on this trip. I witnessed a boldness in her that surpassed her being stretched outside her comfort zone like never before. I also watched her heart being stolen for the people of India, especially the children. I’ve shared with friends upon returning from India that I witnessed three miracles in India: one, Candy actually came to India, two, a man who was blind for 10 years received his sight again, and three, Candy wants to return to India!
Here is Candy’s story:
My trip to India began on a Sunday morning at GracePoint Church in February 2019. I was listening to Barry and Tony Rodriguez inviting people to an upcoming informational meeting for a trip to India. I listened, as I usually do regarding mission trips, and wondered who from our church might go. I’ve watched other people over the years go to foreign fields and come back with stories of changed lives and testimonies of God’s strength and power. Up to this point, my season in life had been to stay home and care for my girls. I’d even watched each of them write support letters, raise money, and leave for mission trips of their own. This time though, I listened to the opportunity and my heart began to race – could God want me to go on this trip? My season in life had changed and I had an empty nest and a desire for God to show me what was next. Maybe this trip was “what was next” for me. I had no idea a seed that grew into a life changing trip was planted in my heart that Sunday morning. After church, my friend Cindy came up and asked if I was going to go on the trip with Barry this time. I remember telling her I’d never been able to go in the past but that God might be asking me to go on this trip. I believe God used her as the first confirmation that He was truly calling me to India. By telling Cindy this, I couldn’t keep it to myself or ignore it. Telling someone about what God might be asking you to do is a form of accountability. I couldn’t ignore it now – I had to take the next step.
Obviously when I told Barry about my desire he was surprised but excited that I might go with him. I told him I’d need to talk with my boss about the time off for the trip. We were already planning a two-week trip to Virginia in July and I wasn’t sure if she would want me gone so soon for another two weeks in September. This was the first door I needed opened so I could continue discerning God’s will for me and a trip to India. I shared the opportunity with my boss, and she didn’t hesitate to let me have the time off. She also showed excitement for me. Her response gave me the added assurance I needed to continue to walk forward.
So, for the first time in my life, I began the process of writing out a support letter. This was an exciting and humbling experience. Asking people for money was hard for me, but necessary. As support came in though, I continued to be encouraged that God was using so many people in my life to send me to India.
Choosing to go to India was a step of obedience. I had to continue to walk through the training, getting shots, applying for a Visa, and practicing sharing the gospel with the knowledge that I was obeying God. I had no idea what was in store for me because of this one small step of obedience! I’d like to share with you my trip to India and how I felt God’s presence and power in my life as I’ve never experienced before. So, hang on, here we go…
Departure day, Thursday, September 12, had come and I wish I could say I was excited. This was frustrating but each step along the way was made out of obedience. So, in obedience I made the step onto that plane for my 20-hour journey to India! We landed late at night and stepped out into hot and humid air. We boarded a small van and began our 90-minute white knuckle drive to Yellamanchili. They drive on the opposite side of the road in India with horns beeping. Weaving in and out of traffic is as normal to them as changing lanes is for us. There are no turn signals used and playing chicken with oncoming trucks to see how close you can get without getting hit seems commonplace. We arrived at the New Life Children’s home ready for some sleep and to cool off in our air-conditioned room. But Barry and I weren’t able to have either. Our air conditioning was broken and neither of us slept much. By early morning, we were frustrated and tired. My first ministry day in India was beginning and I was exhausted. I remember leaning over grabbing my phone and turning on my worship music. God began to infuse my spirit with truth from these songs: He is faithful, I will never walk alone, He’ll provide power and strength, His presence will be with me, as I listened to these truths I began to praise and worship God asking Him to use me for His glory. Before we left the room, Barry and I stood under the ceiling fan (no air conditioning) and claimed God’s power and strength for the day. And then we opened the door…
Again, hot humid air greets you and the sweat begins. Children begin running up to you asking your name, touching your white skin, and crowding around as if you were a celebrity. When a girl grabs my hand and says “come” what am I supposed to do but go with her. She speaks broken English, but I learn her name is Monika and that light blue is her favorite color and she learns my favorite is pink. She shows me their new dining hall, takes me to her classroom and shows me their hopscotch game etched into the dirt and their pet water buffalo. After my impromptu tour, I head to breakfast. I learn quickly that my mouth does not like spicy Indian food and that asking if something was spicy was futile because they don’t think any of their food is very spicy. Most of the spices made my lips burn uncomfortably and I had to learn to eat a lot of Chapati bread (Indian tortillas). Indian foods I liked: Potato Paneer curry, Indian cheese called Paneer, and Gulab Jamun (donuts) I’d probably like donuts in any country! Oh – and I ate tons of rice too!
After breakfast, we prayed and divided up into two ministry teams for the day. We then loaded into cars to begin our 2-hour white-knuckle trip to our first village. We drive through beautiful country with palm trees, green hills, rice and sugar cane fields. The towns are filled with brightly dressed people, motorcycles, tuk-tuk vehicles (rickshaws), and crumbling and half-finished buildings. My senses are overwhelmed as I try to take in all the sights and smells. I can’t believe I am halfway around the world in India! We finally arrive at our first village and small children throw flower petals on us as we walk down a narrow lane to their church. We take off our shoes at the door and walk to chairs set up for us at the front. Little children sing praise songs for as we sit and wait to speak. I’ll admit I was a little nervous as this would be the first place I would share my testimony. Again, as I stand to speak, I struggle to grasp that I am actually in a church in India. The entire day felt like this as we travelled to four different churches giving our testimonies and sharing the gospel. Many people were saved, and it seemed everyone in each church wanted you to pray over them. After our last church, we began to travel back along many winding village roads filled with potholes. This is when I learned I needed to take two Dramamine a day. I was extremely car sick most of the 2-hour drive back. I skipped dinner and went straight to bed! Lesson learned: take a second Dramamine at lunch time each day!
Our second day in India is Sunday. We attend the children’s church there at the Children’s home. We are each given an Indian Flower garland (this is a tradition in India to give to honor special guests) Barry shares with the kids about David and how God had a purpose and plan for each of their lives. After the service, we rest and then later go and pray for several people with leprosy and HIV. The afternoon is spent playing with the kids, the boys all wanted to hang from trees, but the girls wanted to talk and dance. Later that evening, we take Tuk-Tuk’s into the small local town to do a little shopping. There are no malls, just different business all crammed next to each other. We were looking for Saris, Punjabis, silk scarves, and bangle bracelets. It was extremely humid, hot, and crowded with people. All of whom stared at the white American tourists. We were able to find most of what we were looking for before heading back in our Tuk-Tuk’s.
Our second day in India is Sunday. We attend the children’s church there at the Children’s home. We are each given an Indian Flower garland (this is a tradition in India to give to honor special guests) Barry shares with the kids about David and how God had a purpose and plan for each of their lives. After the service, we rest and then later go and pray for several people with leprosy and HIV. The afternoon is spent playing with the kids, the boys all wanted to hang from trees, but the girls wanted to talk and dance. Later that evening, we take Tuk-Tuk’s into the small local town to do a little shopping. There are no malls, just different business all crammed next to each other. We were looking for Saris, Punjabis, silk scarves, and bangle bracelets. It was extremely humid, hot, and crowded with people – all of whom stared at the white American tourists. We were able to find most of what we were looking for before heading back in our Tuk-Tuk’s.
Monday was an extremely hot day and each church felt like a sauna! Even our hosts stated that it was unusually hot for a September day. The heat took its toll on several of our team members and robbed us of much needed energy. But God was faithful to strengthen us and still people were saved.
Tuesday morning, I woke up burdened, distracted by news from home, and drained. We still had no air conditioning in our room and it was very sticky getting ready. I was very teary and weak. So, Barry and I huddled under the fan again and prayed for God’s strength before we walked out the door to face the day. We were late to the first house church we visited that day. Because of this, all the people had left and we needed to wait for them to return before we could start. This gave me time to take pictures of the huts, homes, and an up-close picture of a water buffalo just eating grass under the clean clothes hanging on the clothesline. It’s not something you see every day and it made me chuckle. After everyone gathered back on the roof-top church we began to share. There were two Hindu sisters sitting in the front who sat listening to me intently. As the gospel was shared, both sisters trusted in Christ. The oldest sister came up to me with a huge smile and gave me the biggest hug. She was truly excited about her decision to reject all other god’s and follow the one true God!
Our last church for the day was next to a busy road where there were many distractions. It seemed every time the gospel was shared there was some kind of distraction, but this seemed more than usual. As I was sharing the gospel, a tuk-tuk stopped right outside the open window and let off school children who were very loud and animated in their conversations. This was very distracting but I knew my team was praying for me, so I just kept sharing. I watched as two girls stopped and looked into the window and started listening to what I was saying. They continued to listen and then started to lean into the building as I was finishing and asking if anyone wanted to accept God’s free gift of salvation. They both accepted Jesus and prayed the prayer with me. Afterwards, they came into the church and asked me to pray for them. These are just a few of the stories from the day I felt my weakest. God truly gets all the glory because I had nothing and He gave me everything I needed to be used by Him that day.
Wednesday was a different day as Barry, Ron, and Tony left to speak at the Pastors Conference. This meant we had different people in teams and different translators. We had begun a rhythm within our teams, so it felt a little like starting all over. The first church we visited only had a floor and walls, no roof. This was a prayer request from the pastor that they would be able to get a roof soon to finish their church. But they had a beautiful multicolored awning held up by four poles covering the middle of their church. It’s a good thing too because just as we began sharing it started to rain heavily. All the people began crowding under the awning and by the time I got up to share the gospel they were all huddled close to me as I shared. This was a little distracting, but again people got saved and we were able to pray over many people before we left. Our next church was the first time I encountered a woman who was saved but was being harassed by a demon in her dreams. I was able to pray over her proclaiming she was God’s that Jesus bought her with his blood and the enemy had no power over her. I felt a little unprepared for this and was able to talk with Tony Rodriguez about it before we went to our last church. He told me it was important for the person to confess any known sins and renounce any idol worship they had done in the past and then to pray God’s presence and possession over them.
Our last church though, was different from all the other churches we had been in. We sensed from the beginning they were mostly believers and knowledgeable about growing as Christians. We still shared our testimonies but gave a more encouragement in the faith type of challenge. After we shared, Tony asked through the interpreter if any of them had been having terrible dreams and feelings of being attacked. Almost everyone raised their hands, so Tony explained to all of them the process of renouncing sin and proclaiming truth. A man then walked up to Tony in tears saying he wasn’t able to sleep at night at all because of a demon attacking him and making it hard for him to breathe. He said it started when he and his wife and children started attending the church. Tony walked through the process with him one-on-one and prayed with him. The man stood there with tears streaming down his face as Tony talked with him. I could tell he was so burdened and weak. My heart just went out to him and his family. Here he was trying to do the right thing and bring his family to church and he was being attacked, I believe, because of it. It seemed to me that the light of Jesus was really beginning to shine in this village and the enemy was not happy because his territory was being taken from him.
After this, a man came up to be prayed over who had been blind for 10 years. Tony and Adam prayed over him as Dennis and I stood nearby. Then I heard Tony say, “This man is looking right at me. Does he see me?” Tony again confirms with the pastor that this man had been blind but now he could see. I remember this once blind man looking over at me and giving me a huge smile. Did God just do a miracle? It was so quiet – just a simple prayer of healing and the man sees. It’s still hard to wrap my human brain around the fact I saw God perform a miracle. However, I don’t believe though that this miracle was for my faith or for my team’s faith. I believe it was a sign from God to the people in that village that He is the one true God. Confirming the testimony of the church members to their neighbors and shinning even more light into that village. Wow! Even as I process it a week later, I am amazed but also burdened with how to share it and with whom. Right now, I haven’t shared it a lot and will continue to pray about how God wants to get the glory through the sharing of this miracle. When we arrived back to our room, we learned our air conditioning had been fixed! This was a relief to be able to sleep comfortably that night.
Thursday looked a little different for me. The Pastors conference for Barry, Ron and Tony this day was held at the Children’s Home while the rest of the teams headed back to villages. Tony needed to update the orphan’s information he’s responsible for, so he asked me to stay behind and help with this task. This was a challenge to communicate to children who barely speak English to look at the camera and talk. My translator was a big help, but it was still tough to get clear and understandable sentences from them. But close to an hour after we began, I interviewed the last child. Even though it was difficult, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the children and trying to get them to relax and smile. With this job done, I was able to go listen to a little bit of the Pastor’s conference. It was exciting to see Barry encouraging the pastors in India. They seemed to really connect with many of the things he was sharing. Even in a different culture, Pastoral challenges are the same. The conference ended with the encouragement that whether you are Paul from the Bible, Barry from the US, or Moses from India, each of their Pastoral calls from God was the same. Everyone then headed outside for a big group picture!Just a beautiful sight to see different cultures standing side by side as servants for God.
Our hosts this night prepared a beautiful meal for us to enjoy. We were served our food on green banana leaves as we ate outside under the stars. This type of meal is served at Indian wedding ceremonies. What an unexpected and memorable surprise!
Friday, our last day in India. We head back out to share in villages one last time. On our way, we drive through a huge thunderstorm. Wow, the thunder was loud. At times, it felt like it was right on top of us. We enjoyed visiting the village churches then we headed back to pack up to head home and debrief before leaving. After debriefing I was anxious to be able to have time to see Monika before I left. She was the one who grabbed my hand on that first day and then proceeded to grab my heart as well. I wanted to video a little bit of me talking with her and recording a bit of her voice and Indian accent. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. As we were talking, Barry encouraged me to ask her about her relationship with Jesus. So, I asked if she knew who Jesus is and she nodded yes. I then asked if she had accepted His free gift of salvation. When she said she no, I was surprised and then saddened as she was not ready to accept Him as her Savior. I asked her why and she seemed to be fearful to make a decision because of her family. This truly broke my heart! I couldn’t help it; I began to cry. One of the children watching us film reached over and wiped my tears with her finger telling me not to cry. This act was so precious. I could tell my sadness bothered Monika and I didn’t want her to feel I was upset with her, so we went and played hopscotch together one more time. My spirit was grieving though, and it was difficult to say goodbye. Barry could tell I couldn’t handle any more and helped me get away and into our car to leave. I cried in the car begging God to bring someone to Monika to help her see her need for Jesus! As you read this story, I ask that you pray for Monika’s salvation.
It’s hard to believe we were in India for only one week. I have so many memories from these past 10 days in September. I sense I will be processing things for months to come. I had no idea that this step of obedience was going to lead to life-changing experiences and a greater understanding and application of Ephesians 3:20 – Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.