What an amazing day flying from Delhi through Mumbai to Vijayawada – where Jim and I arrived at 1:30 pm to be greeted with a shower of flower petals and brightly colored garlands draped around our necks. Raj and his brother and father were there to meet us and a few other members of the church. We all crowded into the one vehicle and began an 80 kilometer drive through villages scattered amongst the vast green quilt of rice fields. The roads are narrow, crowded, and pock-marked with holes in places. It is shared with goats, cows, water buffalo, pedestrians, bicycles, and everyone is on the move. Villages are crowded with people trying to eke out a living in little sidewalk stalls and shops covered in dust and constructed from all manner of material. The poverty is obvious as the main source of income is working the fields.
We arrived on the day the local politician was arriving in town so a parade was beginning with hundreds of people on motorbikes waving flags and assembling for a rally. We stopped at a hotel for a meal of rice and curry. A hotel is the name for an eating establishment. This one was in a large back room, darkened and lit with a dim purple light (the kind in dance floors in the sixties). We wiped down the plates with a napkin, washed our hands and scooped up the food in our fingers. This is rural India and as our guide said yesterday, in the south we will experience the real India. It feels as if we have gone back in time but the sense of community is so strong.
Raj and his family are very authentic. The testimony of his father being in prison over 20 years ago for two months is compelling. He was wrongly charged for theft and while imprisoned prayed that if there is any God please help… No sooner had he been released when his prayer was answered. In despair he was planning to kill himself and his wife and two children, instead he was touched by Jesus and thus began this humble and powerful journey. Twenty years later his two sons have each spent four years in Bible college displaying a love and appreciation for their father’s sacrifice and vision that I have never witnessed before. We arrived in the village and the children were lined up to greet us and shower us with more flower petals….. They were all smiles that cover up the incredible poverty here. There is barely enough for food and they have two sets of clothes to wear for a year.
The two sons have vacated their bedrooms to enable Jim and I to have rooms….. while they and their wives stay with the children. I can at least send a few updates to share our adventure which is yours as well. Just had a shower… bucket and pouring jug. Tomorrow I’ve been informed that I’ll be ‘preaching’ for an hour. I’m too tired to think about what the content will be but trust the Lord will reveal something….. This family have testimonies of his provision and display a level of sacrifice that is unheard of in our part of the world. So I’m confident that the blessing, ministry and learning will be flowing strong in both directions.