With Saturday came the monthly remote preachers meeting where over 300 preachers with whom Paul works and helps support travel to the Preacher’s school in Chennai for a monthly encouragement gathering. Wow! 340 showed up and the ministry provided a hot lunch and one way transportation funds. I have never seen more excited, encouraging men and women in all of my life. It was overwhelming to be crammed into a schoolroom with over 340 Indian Chrisitan preachers and their wives. They sang at length songs in both the Tamil language and the Telagu (?) language loudly and with much fervor. It was deeply inspiring and would have been doubly good if only we could have understood anything. :). It is quite the experience to find oneself surrounded by hundreds of people few of which speak your language. Paul had us sing and share some simple words of encouragement. I reminded them of the solid biblical promise that Christ is with us always in every situation wherever we go. It must often be a lonely experience to be a pastor and preacher in an isolated place scraping out your existence while preaching the gospel and, in some cases, in areas where people are outright hostile to the gospel. I pray that the small amount I shared brought the encouragement of the Holy Spirit to these amazing people.
The deep need and sheer numbers of people here is overwhelming. The needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ is profound and yet they move along every day filled with the hope of Christ that transcends any physical discomfort they face. They were gracious to us at every hand. It was deeply humbling.
After a very rousing sermon by Brother Paul, once again none of which we could understand, all of the participants made their way to the third story for a traditional Indian lunch of super spicy, ‘burn your tongue off’ chicken and rice and then came back down and joined the line/swarming multitude that was waiting to receive the promised travel expenses. It actually got a bit hostile at times much to our surprise. Paul said that they tend to act differently when not in church and there is money involved. In other words, they are no different than us. People are people with the same joys, struggles and temptations. They just tend to take on different forms. There were several men who served us specifically and went out of their way to get us whatever we needed or wanted that was within their power to get. Paul has overwhelmed us with his generosity and hospitality. It has been totally crazy the way we are treated – nothing short of the royal treatment. We were able to convince one of the men who served us, with Paul’s assistance, to receive from us 500 rupees ($8)for his train trip home. He was very gracious. There was literally no way to provide anything that seemed to make any difference whatsoever. The need is tremendous.
We finished up a plate of chicken and rice, wiped our noses and the sweat from our foreheads and headed out for the next adventure. It is literally one adventure after another here. No time to just sit an soak it in. Paul at 63 years of age is running rings around us and was planning things for Satturday that were set to blow our minds in a way we had never experienced. All the while he is ministering to and providing for preachers, teachers, widows and orphans. The work and reach of God through him is more than I had imagined.