Saturday, May 24, 2008

Kashmir - Day Ten

Another day of ministry among the Muslims. This is our last medical camp and our last day of ministry. We traveled for almost 1 ½ hours to a farming village where the people were waiting for us at a school. The team had much experience setting up so things were in place quickly and the medical staff was hard at work in no time.

The local people, all very poor, continued to come from all over the area and we lost count at 177 the number of patients we ministered to. Even as we were loading up, one doctor was seeing patients from the back of the van and another doctor was re-opening the boxes of medicine and filling prescriptions.

Again out of respect for the local pastor, Pastor Paul, Pastor Daniel and I stayed among the people and “quietly” blessed them and prayed for their salvation and healing.

One of the organizers of this particular medical camp is a former Muslim who is now an evangelist, spreading the Gospel among his people. He was disgraced by his father (who burned his Bible), and severely beaten by his brother, but he persevered and his brother has since come to the Lord and many others are finding Christ through his witness.

Kashmir is a very tough area to penetrate with the Gospel because of its strong Muslim influence, but there are small pockets of light that are growing stronger. No church could be built because any construction would be immediately burned to the ground. The hard work of the local pastors and the support of Pastor Daniel and Ecclesia Ministries (which Immanuel’s Church in turn supports through our support of the Immanuel’s School of the Bible in India) is making a difference.

Again, amid all of the hard work and seemingly slow progress these last two days, I was blessed to be a part of it!

Tomorrow after a worship service with Pastor Paul’s church, I will be dropped off at the airport to begin my 40 hour journey from Srinagar to Delhi, to Hyderabad, to Dubai, to JFK in New York and finally to BWI. Pastor Daniel and the team have a day’s drive to Jammu where they will catch the train on Monday night and then travel almost 48 hours to Kazipet.

It has been a privilege to serve alongside of Pastor Daniel, and to see his vision and heartbeat for all of the people of India. His compassion, sensitivity and humility have been a great inspiration to me. What an incredible 18 days of ministry!

Kashmir - Day Nine

Today (Friday) the team traveled for about an hour away from the city, then went on a mile-long mud road (we only got stuck twice), entering a farming village. Our local pastor contact had been building relationships with the local social work agencies and they were open to a medical camp being held in their completely Muslim village.

Over 300 patients were seen by the team, and of course Pastor Daniel and I “assisted” as best we could, while at the same time laying hands on the people and praying for them to be healed and to come to the knowledge of Jesus (without them knowing what we were doing!). All of this punctuated by periodic fly-over patrols by the Indian Air Force.

We did not want to ruin the months-long work that “Pastor Paul” had done in building relationships and opening doors with the people. These medical camps are a way that the people will see the love of Christ in us and ultimately be open to the Gospel.

The owner of the home who allowed us to use his courtyard to set up the camp also invited us into his house and served the team an authentic Kashmir lunch of rice, chenna, mutton, chicken, radishes and some other kind of vegetable. I, being a vegetarian, skipped the mutton and chicken, but did try the “other kind of vegetable”. We performed a tash from a nur (rinsed our hands with water poured from a kettle for us) and used our hands to eat (well, a spoon was offered to me – I haven’t eaten with my hands since I was a kid). It was quite an experience!

A great day of ministry, a great day with the team, a great day with the Lord!

Kashmir - Day Eight

Pastor Brad writes:

Today we took a break from ministry and refreshed ourselves with a bit of local sightseeing. None of the team had been in this region of India before, so I wasn’t the only one looking around with wide-eyed wonder.

The mountains are beautiful! The local people are definitely different from their countrymen in southern India. The cultural influences of Pakistan and the Middle East are very prevalent in the market places and villages. In the city of Srinagar mountains, an average winter snowfall of over six feet, combined with the multi-storied houses with sharply pitched roofs, area a bit of a “Scandinavian” flavor.

Of course the constant military and security presence color the culture with a darker hue, but I think I have gotten used to it. Every 100 meters or so in the city, and every 500 meters in the rural areas is a heavily armed solider or machine-gun bunker. Ah, life in a terrorist-ridden area!

Tomorrow we conduct a medical camp in a Muslim community. That ought to be interesting!

Kashmir - Day Seven

Pastor Brad writes:

We left our humble hotel in the mountains this morning and began a short (1 ½ hour ride higher up, this time to a church that Pastor Sadiq’s brother has started. His brother, Pastor Yaqoob, had begun the church only two years ago and already there were over 200 believers, all but 15 of there were Hindu converts. Imagine our excitement when we rounded the corner on the mountain road and across the ravine saw his church with people lined up for medical treatment and prayer.

We entered the building and seated on the floor were over 200 people already engaged in worship and prayer. Like the people we ministered to yesterday, these are very poor mountain farmers who own little more than the clothes they were wearing. I was asked to bring a short message and I chose to encourage them with the story in John 6 where the boy offered his lunch to feed the 5,000. God can use even the little that we have to offer. I also shared from the end of the chapter where Peter confessed that only Jesus had the words of eternal life and He was the holy One sent by the Father (you’ll see why the Lord prompted me to share that last thought in a moment).

Well the teams were again organized with the registration table, the Doctor’s examining area, the pharmacy and of course the prayer corner. We immediately got to work. All told, 198 patients were seen by the doctors, and with the help of Pastor Sadiq translating, I laid hands on and prayed for well over 200 people.

Wombs were opened, fevers were brought down, hearing was restored, pains were evaporated and even a demon was cast out. One of the men who I prayed for said that this was his first visit to the church (he heard that doctors were coming). I asked him if he remembers what I spoke about Jesus being the holy One sent by the Father. He said he did, and I proceeded to share the Gospel with him. Then he, I and Pastor Sadiq (translating) prayed and he asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. Another Hindu convert for the Kingdom!

We left the church and began a six hour journey through the mountains to Srinagar, where we will conduct our final medical camps. The trip was again exciting and adventuresome, as we whipped around sharp curves and through traffic, rarely a guardrail and only the Lord keeping us on the road and preventing us from falling thousands of feet into the valley below (I hope my Mom isn’t reading this part!).

Just as the sun was going down we entered a tunnel that went through a large mountain. We emerged three kilometers later and there beyond the next tier of mountains were the Himalayas! I never in my lifetime dreamed that I would ever see them with my own eyes. It was a small blessing for me from the Lord.

Every kilometer or so I noticed fully armed Indian soldiers in full battle gear (think US troops in Iraq) guarding in outposts along the road. Periodically there were six-man patrols visible also. Being on the border with Pakistan, Kashmir is a hot-spot for Islamic terrorist activity, and although it doesn’t get the press that other places in the world do, it is nonetheless a “hot-zone” (I hope my wife isn’t reading this part!). All the way into Srinagar we saw soldiers, forts, patrols and many check points. We were safe, and never once did I have any fear (even on the mountain roads) for His grace and peace guarded my heart and mind!

Tomorrow we have a rest day, and then on Friday and Saturday we conclude with our final ministry days. This is definitely an exciting life!

Kashmir - Day Six

Pastor Brad Lewis writes:

Tuesday saw the team leaving at 5:00 am for a five hour trip up into the mountains. The last two hours were spent on a sometimes paved, usually potholed, rarely smooth rock and sand one-lane “track” that took us to about 12,000 feet above sea level. When we arrived at the farming village of Humbol, it was obvious that these people were in need.

These are the poorest of the poor in Kashmir, the mountain farmers who scratch out a meager existence by coaxing crops from the rugged, rock-strewn mountainside. I asked the host pastor, Pastor Sadiq, what the population of the village was. I was astonished to find out that there were 50,000 people tucked away in mud houses all over the side of the huge mountain.

Pastor Sadiq had recently quit his high-paying job in communications to return to his birthplace minister, and although he has no established church yet, he pours himself out for the people building bridges and gaining their trust.

Once again the medical team showed its compassion and love by examining 194 patients, most of whom were malnourished and sick. Because this is again a radical Hindu stronghold, we didn’t preach or offer to pray for the people. The radical Hindu people are very passionate about keeping other faiths away from their millenniums-old traditions. We wanted to respect their home, keep doors open for Pastor Sadiq, and allow the medical camp to open doors for future ministry.

I was frequently asked to “look at a problem” and had to keep replying that I was not a doctor. Finally, one of the village officials asked one of the team what I did and it was mentioned that I was a pastor. Word got around and Pastor Sadiq was asked if I would pray for a woman (who was a Christian). I did, and then three young Hindu ladies asked for prayer.

One of the prominent men in the village saw me praying for the girls and began to follow me around. I thought he was keeping tabs on my movements to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong. Finally, he asked Pastor Sadiq if I would come to his house and pray for him. Pastor Sadiq later related that this was a HUGE thing because the people do not trust westerners (aka the only white guy there), and inviting me into his home showed that he felt confidence and trusted me.

Well, we trekked another 500 feet up the mountain on foot to his house. He offered the two of us tea and came and sat with us. We had a bit of small talk (the man understood English quite well), and I broke the ice by saying, “I know that you wanted me to pray for you. May I first tell you a short story?” He agreed, and I simply but plainly shared the Gospel with him.

When I was finished, I asked him if he would like to commit his life to Jesus. He nodded emphatically yes! So amid idols and pictures of Hindi gods in his bedroom, I led him in a prayer to receive Christ. I then told him that I wanted him to share with his family what I had shared with him. I asked if he understood what he needed to say and he said he did. He said he would share with them that evening.

He gathered his family (wife, four daughters and a son) and I laid hands on them, asking for various healings and of course for their salvation. After I was finished I told them that their father had something to share with them later and for them to expect to hear a great thing.

With one influential man and his family now believing in Jesus, I believe that the farming village will be transformed and become a center for evangelism for the region. I encouraged the pastor to get ready for a great harvest.

It wasn’t a huge day of evangelism, but I believe that it was a huge day for the Kingdom. And once again, I got to be a part of it!

Kashmir - Day Five

Pastor Brad Lewis writes:

We headed north into the mountains of Kashmir, towards a small village that has no Christian influence except for a pastor and his wife who arrived here three months ago and began to pray for the area. The young lady holds literacy classes for the poor mothers and children of the village, and teaches them Christian songs to help them learn. This is their strategy to begin to draw the strong Hindu population towards Christ.

The medical team set up shop and the crowds gathered. We were privileged to use a school (it was a holiday today) and right there on a porch of one of the buildings, patients were seen, diagnosed and given medicine. Again the good Doctor showed his manner and character. All told, he saw 150 patients.

We were invited to have lunch at the home of a prominent Hindu family, which happened to be the same home where the literacy classes are held. After lunch, Dr. Srinivas was asked by the father of the house if he would see him. As the Doctor was giving the examination, more people began to gather and we had a spontaneous medical camp!

The mothers and their children began to assemble for the literacy class. I was invited to share a very brief Gospel presentation. Then, some of the women asked for prayer. As I was praying for them, the father of the house came up to me and asked for prayer also. This was HUGE! Not only was he an influential person in the Hindu community, but his home also housed the only temple in the village. Well, of course I prayed for his salvation and that his home would be a lighthouse in that community.

We loaded up our gear and proceeded up even further into the mountains (think mountains similar to the Grant Tetons in the U.S. - very rugged, and very scary as we drove over the roads, curves and switchbacks!).

Tomorrow we get up at 4:00 am to travel about five hours to the next medical camp and the next unexpected opportunities to share the Gospel with the people here!

Kashmir - Day Four

Pastor Brad Lewis writes:

(Sorry, no pics! I am posting on borrowed time!) Sunday dawned bright and hot here in India! we began with a time of worship in a house church. This is one of the churches that Pastor Daniel supports. We had a great time of worship with a little over 60 people, then Pastor Daniel and I again tag-teamed the teaching. After a brief lunch the medical team hung out their shingle at the grounds where we are holding the evening crusade.

The team saw right at 200 patients in the afternoon. Dr. Srinivas R.L., our lead physician, shows an incredible "bedside manner", taking the time with the patients and listening to their needs. His gentle "touch" has a great calming effect on all the people, from the oldest to the babies. We are blessed to have him on the team.

In the evening, we held our final crusade meeting here in New Colony, Jammu. Again a crowd of over 1,000 gathered for worship and the preaching of the Word. Pastor Daniel and I both spoke on the simplicity of the Gospel, and invited the people to commit their lives to Christ. Hundreds came forward and I had the privilege of leading them to invite Jesus into their hearts. A time of ministry followed. As we were leaving, two policemen stopped us at the back of the crusade grounds and asked me to pray for them. They had heard the message of salvation and responded!

Kashmir - Day Three

Pastor Brad Lewis writes:

Today (Saturday) was filled with two different medical camps and then the evening crusade meeting. Our first camp took us deep into the heart of the mountains where we traveled broken roads, through dry river beds, and on paths made of softball-sized rocks.

The people of this village of 1,500 were very poor farmers and herders. There are two schools in the village, and the children were dismissed to come and receive medical treatment. The children along with their parents comprised a crowd of people that kept the medical team busy with examinations and medicine distribution.
This was a bit of a different atmosphere from the previous day, where there were many Christians who organized the camp. These people were predominantly Hindi and Muslim, and although the Spirit of God was just as strong, we were a bit more selective about praying for the people and children as to keep the doors open for future ministry.

We met the assistant principal at one of the schools (who was also a teacher) and he invited Pastor Daniel and me to tour his school. After our tour, the man and I continued a conversation as I asked about the people, the area and the religious influences. As we talked, I knew that God had set up that "appointment" for me to engage in a conversation with the man.

For almost an hour I listened intently, and then at one point in the conversation, I asked him about his beliefs. He stated that he was a Hindu. I told him that I believed in Jesus, and asked for permission to share how I became a Christian. I proceeded to share the Gospel with him as a personal story of my life, and then asked if he would like to commit his life to Christ. He said a resounding "yes", and I led him to faith in Jesus.
Knowing his belief system, I told him to pray to Jesus, and that Jesus would speak to him. I am believing that the Lord will show Himself strong to the man and he will see that he no longer needs any other gods. Pastor Daniel (who knew what I was up to as I conversed with the man), said that he is a man of great influence in that village and he will be used to bring Christianity to the people there.

Next we proceeded on an hour-long trek across even worse roads to the next village and medical camp, this one held outdoors in the 100+ degree heat. As was earlier in the day, the people lined up for treatment and prayer and the team ministered healing in Jesus’ Name. Again, I cannot think of any place I’d rather be than right here, right now.

This evening we held the second night of the crusade in the middle of the city. Word had spread about the things that God had done the night before and the crowd swelled to just over 1,000. Again Pastor Daniel and I shared the preaching responsibilities, and at the time of the altar call, hundreds came forward to receive Christ.

The spirit of evangelism was strong, and Pastor Daniel asked me to lead those who came forward in the "Sinner’s Prayer". I first told the crowd that there may be more who wanted to receive Christ and asked everyone to pray with me. After we prayed, I asked who prayed that prayer for the first time and many, many hands in the congregation went up along with those who had come forward. We began to pray for people and many more came forward, declaring their faith in Jesus.

Another incredible day for the Kingdom! Thank you Lord that I got to witness it and be a part of it!

Kashmir - Day Two

Pastor Brad Lewis writes:

Friday was a very diverse day, as we held our first medical camp and then began the crusade. The team traveled about 30 minutes up into the mountains where we started our ministry among the poor, giving free medical check-ups, medicine and prayer. When we arrived at the empty building, the temperature was already in the 90’s and promised to climb even higher.

Word-of-mouth is a great marketing tool, and within 30 minutes, over 50 people had gathered and formed a line on the porch and onto the ground as people with all kinds of ailments gathered to see the doctors. We opened the medical camp with an introduction of the doctors and myself, and I proceeded to tell why we were there: to administer healing in the Name of Jesus. I gave a very brief Gospel presentation, prayed a blessing over the people and then we began.

People were first "registered" (recording their name, sex and age). Then the nurse would take their blood pressure. Then they met with the doctor who ask what might be ailing them. He gave a quick "physical", prescribed a medication if needed, and then released them to the "pharmacy" where another doctor filled the prescription and gave instructions.

I said to Pastor Daniel, "This is good, what we’re doing." I really sensed the Spirit of God strong in that little hot building that was crowded with the poor and sick. Pastor Daniel felt it also, and asked if any of the people wanted me to pray for them, and with the help of a local believer who was able to translate what their need was, I began laying hands on the sick in the Name of Jesus. After a while the line for prayer got longer than the line for the doctor! Simply put, the people had needs and they wanted their needs to be met. All told, the team ministered to over 185 adults, plus more than 90 children.

The pic at the top shows the doctor and nurse in action. The pic on the left shows me praying for a mother and her 18 month old child who appeared to be like a one month old baby. The child wasn’t keeping any milk down and her life was slowly being drawn from her. My heart is being wrenched from my chest, as I see such need and such suffering.

Amid the 100+ degree heat, the dust and the work, I told Pastor Daniel that I could not think of any other place that I’d rather be, right now.
In the evening we held our first crusade meeting. It was an opened-air affair right in the middle of shops, narrow streets and apartments – where the people were. Several local churches are sponsoring the three-day meeting. Pastor Daniel and I tag-teamed the preaching with me beginning with an explanation of what Jesus did to reach us from Philippians 2, and then he took over explaining what one must do to be saved.

The crowd of over 700 consisted of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians were then given the opportunity to commit their lives to Jesus, and to receive prayer for healing. People immediately came forward and Pastor Daniel and I ministered to several hundred people. We saw many receive Christ and many receive healing. It was a glorious ending to a great day!

Kashmir - Day One

Guest Blogger Pastor Brad Lewis from Immanuel's Church writes:

After 48 hours, 2,300 kilometers, and lots of bottled water and mango juice, we finally arrived in Jammu, the winter capitol of Kashmir. the team was no worse for wear as we weathered the kilometers, the heat, a dust storm, and even a delay while a large storm complete with tornadoes passed by.

I passed the time by reading, praying, engaging in some great conversation (some with people I met on the train), and even finished a song I had been working on. The toughest part of the trip for me was having to stay still for so long. There were not many places to go on our car, and I can sit still for only so long. No worries, though!

The team got checked into a hotel (no we are not living in luxury... simple accommodations for a few days while we begin our ministry here in this region). I finally got to take a shower - the first I'd had in over 60 hours! (I'd say the second hardest part of the trip for me.)

Tomorrow (Friday). we begin the day with a medical camp in the slums. I hop-e to assist the doctors and nurse any way I can, perhaps by entertaining and comforting the children and of course praying for the sick. Then tomorrow evening we hold our first crusade meeting in the city, where I will preach the Gospel and then pray for the sick.

Stay tuned... I know tomorrow is going to be a great beginning to the northern leg of our ministry time in India!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jammu & Kashmir Mission

Tomorrow we will be taking a team of twelve members including doctors and nurses to Jammu & Kashmir from our home in Kazipet, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA.

We will be holding Medical Camps in Jammu slums on May 16th and 17th and also we will be holding Open-air Gospel meetings in New Plot, Jammu from 16 thru 18 May.

On 19th we will also hold Medical Camps in Katra, near Kashi Vishwanath Temple, a famous Hindu Pilgrimage Center. On the 20th we will be holding Medical Camp in Doda, and in Srinagar Valley during 22,23 and 24th.

We have a guest minister from Immanuel's, Pastor Brad Lewis.

We probably would encounter resistance and antagonism as we present the gospel in this area of India. We need your prayers 2 go with this mission.