As I said in the previous post, this is only the final chapter of 2009. In fact it's better analogized that these last 2 years are the first 2 chapters of a long, thrilling novel. And wondering after each page, "What's going to happen now?" or "What will God do next?" So it's really just the beginning.
As a disclaimer... I believe that God is doing an amazing work among the Dalit people right now and especially through BFM. We've spent a number of posts sharing about God's heart to bring spiritual and social liberation to an oppressed and often silenced people group in India. This continues to be the over-arching narrative of our relationship with Bishop and family and our connection to India. These final stories focus in on what God has been doing in us as we've followed him.
Let me expand on a few that sum up our entire trip:
I don't want to embarrass Dave. But I'm pretty proud of him. Yes, *tear*. He led well, enjoyed the kids, was a total team player. But that's not what I'm most encouraged by.
Dave's a diamond in the rough, a passionate guy with a huge heart and fighter's spirit. But the last few years have been challenging for him for a lot of reasons... juggling the responsibilities of taking care of his family, dealing with the pressure of living the Silicon Valley life and wrestling through things in his past. It's as if he's lived the last few years with a 50lb weight vest. It's hard to fight when you're carrying extra weight.
But India was in many ways a "rebirth" for Dave, if not a turning point. The turning point being Dave discovering that God does in fact know what he's doing, that he is faithful and that his love for him is unquenchable. And when you see that about God, you can't help but to be free. Dave and I have spent many hours talking through what freedom really looks like in Jesus... it's simple, but not easy... to embrace the freedom that Jesus has secured for us on the Cross. Like all of us, it's not hard to understand; it's just hard to live out. But beginning the few months before and then continuing into India, Dave started to "get it"; he began to really understand freedom and living with a reckless abandon for Jesus. He preached powerfully, led with conviction, shared with honesty. But even better... he began to hear God again. I mean really hear him... feel his presence, enjoy his embrace.
There's something about trips like these where you wake up and your goal is just to listen to God and do what he says. And when you start listening to God, you discover he's not an abusive disciplinarian, he's not the distant/uninvolved father-failure, he's not an ultra soft teddy bear. You discover that he deeply and passionately loves you and that he wants you to run with him on an adventure that'll stretch every part of your being. You'll experience God and life in such a way where you'll never want to turn back. It's not easy, but there's a truly intoxicating feeling of trusting and following Jesus.
There were many moments where I thought Dave wasn't going to make it on this trip. A few times where I thought his fear might do him in. But Dave's journey reminds me that God is constantly at work in us to root out the things that keep us back and help us take hold of the things that will give us life. I'm reminded that God doesn't give up on us, that he doesn't lose sight of our potential and that he's excited for each step we take towards him and his purpose for our lives.
I considered not returning to India earlier in the year - because I really didn't know why we were supposed to be there. Not that there aren't great reasons to be in India. But I just didn't know why WE were supposed to be there. If Dave was the reason... than that was reason enough. I'm excited to see what God has in store for him and this truly is just the beginning of his book. Keep reading.
BTW - I could share a story like this about each person on our team. Maybe I'll do that on anther post.
:: Puzzle Pieces - Sarah and Keren
We were on the mini-bus to Kanyakumari and I was sitting next to Promoth, Keren and Sarah. And Sarah asked Keren about this building on the BFM campus with a sign that reads, "Women in Rural Development." [WIRD] Keren shared that about five years back, she felt like God was giving her this vision of training and employing Dalit women in hopes of developing a people group that's long been marginalized in India. She bought several sewing machines and began employing local Dalit women to make clothing to sell in the local market. The problem was that they were able to produce, but had trouble distributing and selling. After about two years, the project came to an end and now the machines and building are largely unused and unoccupied.
After hearing that, Sarah then shares how she has had this long held dream of starting a baby clothing business. But she wanted to run it as a social enterprise where she'd employ people in distressed areas and a portion of the profit margin would be reinvested back into the local community. Sarah shared that she wants to do the design, will work on the marketing and distribution, but has never really known where to produce the items. And after Keren shared about the WIRD project, Sarah thought that maybe we could produce the items with Dalit women.
Keren shared that when the WIRD project came to end, she got a lot of criticism for investing in the machines and she personally experienced a lot of grief for her failed endeavor. She knew however that God told her to buy the machines, but she just didn't know what was to come of it. But God repeatedly told her to "wait". And so when Sarah began talking about her vision and the idea of producing the products in India, God reminded Keren right then, "This is why I was telling you to 'wait'."
As I said before, after the first trip, I still wasn't sure why we were supposed to be there. I gave a lot of thought to not going back. But God has been teaching me a lot in recent months about perseverance, about the value of "slow and steady". That often the real fruit comes only after seeing something to completion even when you're not assured of the results. In an "ADD" culture, it's really hard to live out.
I remember listening to Keren and Sarah's conversation and thinking to myself, "Man, I'm really glad we came." That even if we didn't do the medical clinic, the kid's camp, the pastor's training, that this was reason enough. We could not have orchestrated this; this had been in the plan all along. I had no idea... but God knew all along.
And again it was a sober reminder that my role is to follow. It's God's role to make things happen.
:: Not Here For You
I was slotted to give the opening message at the EMOS training gathering. I was actually quite honored that Dr. Selvaraj would ask me. When we got there, he gave me a very ceremonial yet warm and humorous welcome and I then went up to speak to a very select gathering of pastors and Christian leaders.
When I got up, two other men got up along side of me to translate into two different Indian languages. It didn't seem odd in anyway since we had everything translated for us whenever we spoke. But as we got started the rhythm [or lack thereof] of having what I was saying translated twice was throwing me off. It's hard to describe - all I can say was that I was flustered. And I ended up giving a very disjointed message and didn't really say what I felt like God was leading me to say.
On our way back to the BFM campus, I had to confess that I was feeling pretty down on myself. I was even thinking that I messed up a connection with a very innovative and intriguing organization that would have boosted Haven's mojo by just being connected with them. That's how pathetic and self-seeking I think sometimes.
As I was working through all those thoughts, the rest of the team was talking about Dave's last few months and his story of how he got here [India]. And Dave mentioned that his wife had shared a prophetic word with him but he couldn't remember it. And of course I remembered it. So I interjected and told them what Rachel said... that Dave would eventually have enormous influence and that the work that God was doing in him now would yield amazing fruit in the future.
And right then God whispered in my ear, "Remember... you're not here for you. You're not here to build the 'Kingdom of Elton' or the 'Kingdom of Haven'. You're here to build my kingdom." I immediately felt a bit of shame for having felt so bad. But the shame eased out quickly and I felt free from the pressure of building my own empire and exhilarated again to be a part of what God is doing in the world. Maybe my role was just to bring Dave or Sarah or anybody on our team to India. Maybe I'm just the bus driver. If so, that's more than OK. If that's what's needed for God to accomplish what he wants, then I'm happy to do it.
And again, I realize... I'm glad we came. I needed to understand my proper place - I follow him, he doesn't follow me. To understand that he is God and I am not. I'm glad we came so God could do a work in the lives of our team members. I'm glad we came to hear the testimonies of those women missionaries being sent back into hardest areas of India. I'm glad we came to see how much God has already done at BFM in just one year's time. I'm glad we came just to be with Bishop, Keren and Promoth again; to hear from their heart again and be inspired by their passion and commitment.
Any one of those reasons is reason enough. But really the best reason over and above the rest is that God told us to come... and when he leads we'll get to see what our imaginations couldn't even dream. And we'll get to be the son or daughter that marvels at the grand work of the father and recognize all along his way is always better than ours.
To finish this monster post... I just want to say that I'm very proud of our team. Trips like these push at all the wrong [or right?] buttons, it reveals our character and it forces us to understand the Gospel once again. I sense also that we are playing a small role in God's move to bring revival and liberation among the Dalit people. God is doing a grand work through Bishop Moses, Keren and Promoth and I'm glad we can be a small encouragement to them. We learn SO MUCH from them. I feel very blessed to call them our family.
Thank you so much for praying and supporting us in innumerable ways. Your prayers were heard, your funds well utilized, your encouragement well received. Thank you.
So we look forward to the coming years... we've only finished two chapters in a long novel and we're asking, "What will happen now?" and "What will God do next?" And I believe those are the right questions. We'll follow this post with more info on BFM and how you can partner with them in the near future.
Thanks again and on to chapter 3.