Dear Bayshore Family,
Greetings to you from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. It is Friday night as I write these words, and we have just completed our first full week of work here. So far, we have had three days of the Pastor’s School we are conducting. In addition, we have spent two days visiting in some of the rural villages where churches have recently been planted as well as visiting some incredible social ministries like schools and orphanages.
Though I have been here before, nothing could have prepared me for the intensity and the richness of the experience I have had over the last week. I have seen things that I can barely comprehend and that I will spend a lifetime reflecting upon. In the last few days, we have conducted a funeral for a woman who died of AIDS after being sold into prostitution by her parents, we have participated in a demon exorcism, I have prayed over a cow who had been bitten by a Cobra (the cow was the family’s only means of income), and we have laid hands on more sick people than I can count. We have walked and prayed and shared the gospel in villages where until just a year or two ago the name of Jesus Christ had never been heard. And this is just a sampling of some of our experiences!
Just today, I facilitated a discussion with village pastors on 1 Corinthians 8, in which Paul talks about the issue of whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols. That’s not exactly a burning issue for those of us in the United States, but I discovered that it is very much a live issue for these pastors. In every one of their villages, animals are still being sacrificed to idols, so the conversation was very intense. As I listened to them talk about what it means to follow Jesus a world very different than mine, the Scriptures came alive for me in a new way.
Over the last week I have seen levels of human misery that are unimaginable, and yet I have also witnessed a joy and a sweetness of fellowship that is often hard to find. My prayer is not only that our time here will push back the darkness just a little bit in this land, but that it will also make me more aware and more sensitive to the darkness right there in Tampa. Our God is alive and at work reconciling the world to himself, and my experience here will hopefully help me to see that more fully when I get home.
Please know that you are on my heart and my mind. I am keeping in touch with at least some of the challenges you are facing and I am holding you up before God’s throne. I am looking forward to coming home and enjoying a sweet reunion with you next Sunday.
God is good and is greatly to be praised.
Grace and peace,