The sun sank with us on our descent into Vijayawada… a modest airport with one runway and a small reception area; army guards standing watch at strategic points. Our flight was delayed by an hour out of Delhi bot otherwise all went smoothly on this last leg. Sanjeeva, father of Raj and Rao, met us with his sons at the airport with the customary floral garlands pungent with the fragrance of fresh flowers.Their greeting was warm and genuine… they are so appreciative of us coming back and I find their thanks humbling.
Baggage was tied to the roof and we all squeezed into the Scorpio for the two hour drive to Kotipalli along potholed roads, bright lights of oncoming vehicles, and an enduring game of chicken… who will be the first to move over?
When we arrived in Kotipalli we heard the sound of singing from upstairs in the house we would be staying in. This was the recent addition the family had added since I was last here, subsidized by a generous gift from members of Jericho Road. As we entered the courtyard the children tumbled down the stairs with screams of delight and showered us with petals. I recognized many of them and it was a joyful reunion.
We were invited upstairs where I was asked to bless the new rooms, so I cut a ribbon across each doorway and gave thanks for God’s provision – asking that this home would be a blessing to all who lived there and who visited. Then we were asked to introduce ourselves and Brad, Jan and Ken did a great job and were blown away by the enthusiastic and loving embrace they received. Again I was told they’d like me to give a short talk. Help! I spoke of God’s love, that he has a room for each of us in his mansion, and that the best room for him is the one we give when we invite him into our hearts.
Earlier that day before we left Delhi I read Psalm 115 where it talks about people building many gods with their hands… gods that cannot speak. This country is filled with shrines and gods for every persuasion and taste. We are here simply to declare the love and reality of a God not of our own making who is much more powerful, kind, and caring than all the others.
The new rooms are very pleasant and there are now showers and a flush toilet – so all the horrors of ablution challenges facing us squeamish westerners are no more.
Today we headed over to the bustling town of Tenali to be fitted with shirts and trousers for the conference… a gesture of thanks that we cannot refuse. Jan was offered a sari and experienced the pleasure of being surrounded by men as we sat in a circle having the many options displayed. This is a culture that we lost maybe 100 years ago… the time when there were multiple jobs and skills to generate a service and an income. One shop sold the cloth, another took the measurements and handmade the shirts, trousers, and sari with great skill.
Everything takes a while to happen so patience is essential. It was a great way for us to experience the everyday life and customs of rural India. Tomorrow we visit two of the churches and will speak at the services. On Monday we host a free medical clinic which will be open for 4 hours providing treatment for those who need it. We will be praying for healing as well… expect some miracles!