As much as I am learning the limitations of my faith and courage I am seeing the depth and beauty of the faith of these who live and serve in Chennai. Brother Paul is simply amazing. Not perfect, yet a man who sees a need and then engages whoever and whatever is necessary to make it happen for the kingdom of God. Laura and I had a panicked morning yesterday as our fear temporarily outraced our faith. Our immigration stop after arriving in Chennai didn’t go so well and we began to envision an overload of “worst case scenarios”. We spent some time with Brother Paul who, with graciousness, kindness and godly wisdom, allayed our fears. As a result of the conversation, we all felt it best to visit one of the smaller churches in Chennai and have a less public role in the larger meetings here. It was a truly providential decision as the congregation we met with blessed us tremendously.
Our meeting with Brother Paul began at the Faith Hospital where he has an office. It is a three story facility used to meet the medical needs of those here who have very little access to medical care. Trust me, there are many. Due to a lack of funding, however, he has had to sell the upper story and limit what types of care he can provide. A single General Practitioner is on staff as well as an intake coordinator and a pharmacy tech, Benson. When we arrived there were about 8 people in the lobby waiting to be seen by the doctors. Brother Paul introduced us and Laura, Charlie and I encouraged them and then, at the request of a Christian woman in the office, sang them a song. It was well received and there was mutual blessing, trust me. Their humble, grateful spirit and their soft spoken nature moved me. One man who could speak some English stopped me and asked if I would pray for his son who has tuberculosis. It is treatable but basically must be knocked out with the first round of medicine or it will progress. His request was that I pray that his son would receive the medicine and be made well. I held his hands and prayed for God’s healing for his boy. Why should I have such a privilege? I longed for Lord Jesus to simply touch the boy from afar and make him whole. His son was not present so I was comforted remembering the instances of Jesus healing people without ever entering their presence. His authority over disease is not limited by distance. I did not understand the man or his son’s name as it is really difficult to get my mind around many of their names due to the language barrier – even when they can speak some English. The accent is unfamiliar and the names, unless they are Christian names, are also quite unusual to us.
From there we made our way into a very poor area of Chennai. It was overwhelming as the people live along small dirt roads in stacked, cement houses. Once again we were the spectacle as we walked through their streets. Neck craning at a group of visiting white people is common practice and we were met with many stares. I simply smiled and kept moving. We made our way to a small church building built into the wall of houses in this area. It was clean, cool and filled with singing, Christian ladies, a few beautiful little ones and two men of the congregation – Moses and Lazarus, the lone elder of the congregation. As we entered the building, the ladies were singing worship songs in their native language, Tamil, and it was hauntingly beautiful. It was our first encounter here with believers here who were worshiping God in their own language. It always inspires me and simply blows my mind to think about the fact that God comprehends all languages and relishes the beauty of each when used to praise His name. It was so cool! We visited. Sang for them, of course and then prayed for God’s blessing upon them. Moses then invited us to his small, clean, welcoming home and asked us to pray there. We did that and also sang the blessing song over them all and over their home. I was struck by the irony of us ‘blessing’ them as they were consistently the one who were blessing us. My faith is tiny compared to these brothers and sisters. I realize that somehow they see us in some special role with some special connection to Father God, I guess; however, trust me when I say that they are the ones who are walking by faith in a way that supersedes everything about my faith. They have so little and live in such a place of need with people literally everywhere all of the time and yet, their attitudes glow with the love of Christ Jesus. I’m sure they, like us, were on their best behavior since visitors were around; however, the love of Jesus flowed out of them so powerfully and we were the beneficiaries. I cannot understand why Father God has blessed us with so many rich experiences whenever our faith is so limited and so weak. His grace and generosity are beyond my comprehension.
We loaded back into the van with Raji and headed out again. We visited Brother Paul’s home again where his wife Dorethy gifted Laura with a long, beautiful Sari. His daughter, Angie, then took Laura and Charlie shopping while Paul and I headed to the barber shop for a haircut, shave and head massage. Wow! It was an unexpected treat to say the least. My first ever Indian haircut, shave and head massage. We left refreshed, although a little light headed from all of the pounding and rubbing, and headed to a local park for a walk. I continued to pinch myself as it all just seems so unreal. People here live such a difference existence than us. There are cars and people everywhere all of the time. Interspersed with all of these are goats and cattle and skinny little dogs running everywhere. The noise is constant and the only escape from the activity is to step into one of the restaurants, homes or church buildings and that honestly depends upon where you are to determine if you really get a break from the noise. It is almost constant sensory overload, including the food. The spices are pungent and the temperature is hot! The food, temperature, that is. The outside temperature here has been amazing. Paul says it is one of the coolest Julys he has ever experienced. For that we are grateful because many places do not have air conditioning including Paul’s house. The preaching school we visited in the evening for a Malayalam language Bible Study was no exception.
The people of Kerala speak one of the most complicated languages known. Kerala is adjacent to the state, Tamil Nadu, in which Channai is located so there are many here who speak this very complicated, interesting language. It was so cool to be in their presence and hear them speak and sing in their language. As I wrote earlier, it always speaks to me of the amazing omniscience of God that He has no language barriers. The building was really quite large compared to the previous edit building we had visited. There were probably about 35 folks there most of whom were men. All were gracious and very, very glad to have us there yet also very intrigued by us. Charlie didn’t attend as he wasn’t feeling so well. Laura and I sang again and shared a number of songs with them. We encouraged them as much as we could and, of course, took much encouragement from them. The most interesting aspect of this gathering was the fact that the building was located no more than 3 feet from the major road that went through the neighborhood. Major as in the only road. It was a small, dirt road teeming with people, cars, scooters and trucks. Since every driver uses the horn as much as the steering wheel it made for some interesting assembly time singing over the rumbling and honking of the traffic. It was quite unusual and definitely illustrated these believer’s determination to gather and praise God. Just another blessing on our way.