“India Running Journal”

I always implore anyone who will listen to journal. Hoping to convince them, I share of the ways God has blessed me over the past six years; the time span that I have been a journaler (I know, I know, “journaler” is not a word). I then add jokingly, “And don’t call it a diary.” No one ever laughs.

The entire team will be sharing about their experiences in Sunday morning, July 11th, at Parkland Chapel. At the risk of driving you the reader from journaling altogether, I decided to share with you a glimpse of our mission trip to India from the vantage-point of my journal, to hopefully lend some context to the testimonies that will be given July 11th.

Here we go…

Wednesday, June 16: Our eight team members meet at church at 9:45 a.m. and depart for the airport. At 1:50 p.m. we lift off from Lambert Airport in a Delta Airlines jet.

Thursday, June 17: After 24 hours of travel, including layovers in Detroit (where we added another to our team, from San Diego: Lauren Wood) and Amsterdam, we arrive in Mumbai, India at 11:50 p.m. We are now 10 hours ahead of Central Standard Time in Farmington.  C.V. Vadavana, founder and director of Sathyam Ministries, met us at the airport.

Friday, June 18: Arrive at our hotel in Mumbai at 12:45 a.m., and after showers we get some shut-eye. Up at 7:00 for breakfast and team devotions (I led the devotion. Each day someone on the team was assigned this task), then back off to the Mumbai airport to catch a flight to Vizag. (Several days later I saw a huge banner in the domestic terminal of the Mumbai airport that read, “Mumbai, the Hub of India.” After pointing it out to Dave Williams, he remarked, “They should have made the word ‘the’ BIGGER.” You can hardly fly anywhere in India without connecting in Mumbai.)

We arrive in Vizag at 12:30 p.m., disperse into two cars with hired drivers, and embark upon a 1 ½ hour ride that must be experienced to be believed. Just envision the greatest car chase scene in any movie you’ve ever seen, that involves high speeds going against traffic on a one way street, and then insert into that scenario water buffalo’s, goats, pedestrians, bicycles, a zillion Honda Hero motorcycles, rickshaws, and animal pull-carts; then you will just about have it. Almost immediately we nicknamed our driver Dale Earnhardt.

We finally come to a halt at the VSN Lake Palace (palace is a generous term) in Vishakhapatnam and crash for a couple of hours before dinner. After dinner we were to attend worship at a village church. It was raining—monsoon season. All the roads to the village were impassible, so the meeting was cancelled. We took the opportunity to have an extended time of worship, devotion (Vanessa Calvert led) and prayer.

traveled all day very sick. He was feeling better by the evening. What a trooper.

Saturday, June 19: Breakfast and devotion (Lance Calvert led) at 7:00 a.m., then a short car ride in the rain to Sathyam School and regional offices. The bulk of the team partnered with the local staff, performed the KING OF HEARTS drama, and held VBS for a couple hundred children (beautiful and well behaved children, I must add), while and I shared at a pastors conference with 80-100 village pastors.  After lunch, Paul and I taught until 4:00 p.m., while the team assembled wheelchairs for the disabled and visited with people. Back to the hotel for dinner and then team prayer and sharing.

Sunday, June 20: Breakfast and devotion (Lauren Wood led) at 8:00 a.m. It is Father’s Day. Several wives had sent cards along for their husbands. There were some guys crying. This is always a good thing.

Off to church. Pastor Prim led worship with his seven year old son assisting on the bongos. Fervent, passionate, up-tempo worship.  I spoke. Dave and Lauren gave testimonies. C.V. spoke. They closed with worship and prayer. It was a wonderful service, made even better when the electricity came on half way through and the ceiling fans were able to stir some air.

Back to the hotel for a shower and rest. Dinner at 7:00 p.m., and then off to a Bible Convention (outreach) at a local church.  After another vibrant time of worship, the team performed the drama and I spoke. Lance and Jason both shared their testimonies. Blessed evening. The Indian Christians are beautiful people to worship with.

Monday, June 21: Breakfast and team devotion (Paul Earhart led) at 8:00, and then off to Vizag to catch a plane back to Mumbai. We had a couple of hours to kill so we visited the beach. The beauty of the ocean was greatly diminished by the sights and smells of open sewage running into the ocean and people defecating in the water in plain sight.

As we were exiting the beach parking lot, Dale Earnhardt and the parking lot attendant got into it. The best I can tell the parking lot attendant was trying to squeeze extra money out of Dale. Dale took this in stride until the attendant began to poke him through the window. Dale put the car in gear and began to move. The attendant countered by moving in front of the vehicle and pounding on the hood.  Dale continued to move the car forward. And then it happened…the attendant went one step to far. He rushed to the driver’s window and grabbed a hold of Dale by the shirt. In the early eighties Muammar Gaddafi began to push his weight around in the Gulf of Sidra, claiming it as Libya’s territorial waters. Ronald Reagan bombed Gaddafi’s house and then flatly stated, “They counted on America to be passive. They counted wrong.”  The same was true of our parking lot attendant and Dale Earnhardt. Once threatened, Dale grabbed a gear and hit the gas. This was unfortunate for the attendant, who thought if he maintained his grip Dale would halt. This proved false, and as a result he was unable to extract his arm when it seemed a good idea. After a running drag of about 15 yards he shook free and we left him in our dust.

Flew out of Vizag at 1:25. Back to Mumbai at 4:30. To the Savoy Hotel. Took the evening to get some much needed rest.

Tuesday, June 22: Breakfast and devotion (Mike Minghi led) and then off to airport. Flew out at 1:05 p.m. and arrive Bhuj at 2:45. 1 1/2 hour ride to the Kandla Inn, in Gandhidham. At 7:00 p.m. we went to service at the slum church. The pastor led in worship and I spoke. We kept it short. The Hindus in this area persecute the Christians heavily. They burned another church in the same slum last year. They, dominating the political landscape, would not allow the Christians to put a window in the little 15’x20’ building they have erected. It was an oven in there.

Vanessa and Dave both became ill today. Vanessa recovered quickly. Dave was plagued on and off the rest of the trip, but performed admirably.

Back at the hotel, C.V. talked the manager into letting us use the pool for a half an hour. It was warm but refreshing.

Wednesday, June 23: After breakfast and devotion (Jason Samples led) we headed to Sathyam Mission School and Orphanage. The school and the orphanage were birthed out of a 2001 earthquake that killed 80,000 people in the city of Gandidham. The team performed the drama for 500 school children. We then spent an hour playing with them at recess. (There was a dirt basketball court with 8 foot rims. A game ensued. I now know that there is little better than slam dunking on Indian grade schoolers.) Later, Mike M., Paul E, Lance C. and I served the children at the orphanage lunch, while Todd, Dave, Lauren and Jason spoke to the teaching staff. Afterward, we held VBS for the 48 orphans that are sheltered there.

At 6:30 p.m. we were the guests of honor at a Cultural Program, put on by the school, to celebrate the inauguration of the new school building that is being constructed. The children performed cultural dance routines. I spoke from Proverbs right before a Hindi Member of Parliament spoke. She (the Member of Parliament) performed the ribbon cutting and I prayed a prayer to inaugurate the building. To have a Christian and a Hindi on the same platform in this area is a major ordeal. Furthermore, over five hundred parents, mostly Hindi, were in attendance. Their kids are being educated by Christians in a place where Hindi’s typically persecute them. God is amazing.

Thursday, June 24: Breakfast and devotion (Todd Varhalla led), then over to the orphanage to wrap up VBS. The kids are so precious. To hear them sing stirs the heart.

At 11:30 we left for the airport. Flew out from Bhuj at 3:15 and arrive in Mumbai at 4:55. We had dinner a KFC and then some shopping.

During the day’s travel, Dave and I had been asked by C.V. to fly down to Kerala with him (where Sathyam Ministries Headquarters’ is based) and spend the last day or our trip there. We would meet back up with the team at the airport around 9:00 p.m. on Friday night.

We left the shopping district, in two cars, to drop the team back at the hotel. In my car, the driver was new and didn’t know where the hotel was. A 45 minute ride took 1 ½ hours. But God redeemed the time; as the guys prayed in the back, I was able lead our driver to the Lord (it took nearly the whole ride). He prayed to invite Jesus Christ into his heart in Mumbai traffic!

Friday, June 25: We dropped the team off at the Savoy Hotel, then C.V., Dave and I raced back to the airport and caught a flight out at 12:20 a.m. to Kerala. We landed in Cochim, Kerala at 2:20 a.m. and then drove for nearly three hours, to C. V.’s home. As the sun was coming up we sipped coffee on the porch, and then followed up with showers—it felt to be clean. Ate a magnificent breakfast, and then went over the offices, bookstore and publishing house to speak to the staff. After lunch Dave and I piled back in a car for a 2 ½ ride to the airport and then caught a flight out at 5:45 p.m. for Mumbai.

We arrived in Mumbai at 8:45 p.m.  and readied ourselves to board the bus to the international terminal, to meet the team and catch our flight out to head home. This would have worked well except that Dave could not find his international flight information. They wouldn’t let us on the bus. Oh well, maybe we could just walk to the international terminal. We are told it is too far. We stood in line to purchase a pre-paid taxi; they are all taken. We begin to walk. A couple hundred yards from the domestic terminal a taxi offers to take us to international terminal for 300 rupees. The terminal is miles away. We arrive at our departure point nearly an hour late. As we scurried out of the taxi, wondering how we would ever find our team (who had our checked baggage), there they stood. They too were running late because their corporate prayer went long. Had we taken the inter-airport transport bus we would have missed them and left them with our baggage to check at extra cost. The Providence of God!

Saturday, June 26: We departed from Mumbai at 12:45 a.m., and, nearly 24 hours later, after stops in Amsterdam (where Dave Williams led devotion) and Detroit, we landed safely in St. Louis.

The team that represented Parkland Chapel in India was superb. I could not have served with a finer group. They battled exhaustion, sickness and sensory overload without as much as one spat during the whole trip. They encouraged one another, served one another, had grace on one another, and collectively shared God’s love to our brothers and sisters in India in a genuine way.

Thanks to all who prayed for us and supported us. God is doing a great work in India. What a blessing to be a part of making disciples in all nations.

God bless,
Pastor Mike

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