“Children of the Light”
This is a story from my trip to India last summer. My life was changed, and I have realized it more now as I look back than I did while I was actually there. This is the story of one of the most memorable nights in Coastal Andhra Pradesh, India.
We had passed the half way point of our trip. We were all getting a little tired, a little weary, but into a routine. We had spent the day serving with special needs children, an activity that always tested us all to our limits, but was incredibly rewarding. But it was evening now – which means outreach time. Outreaches weren’t every night, but many of the evenings we loaded up and headed out to a church in a “nearby” village. (nearby could be anything from 20 minutes to a few hours. :)) We would be the “featured guests” for the evening, often sat in chairs on the stage behind the pastor. At the outreaches, we would clap along to Telugu worship, then lead a few English worship songs of our own, then two or three of us would speak (through a translator).
This particular outreach evening did not start out all that well, at all. When we left our hotel in Ongole, the weather was fine. However, this village was one that was pretty far away. As we drove, it got dark, and it started to storm. It got darker and darker, and the rain kept getting heavier and heavier. We, non-Telugu speaking white people, had no idea where we were or what was going on. All we knew is that we were driving very far out into rural India (think Western Kansas), it was very dark, and it was raining very hard.
After what seemed like hours of weaving down narrow, tree lined, dirt roads in the dark, (which were turning to mud behind us), we stopped. A frantic exchange took place (in Telugu) between our van driver and Pastor K, our Indian translator who was with us. Eventually, Pastor K said (in broken English with an Indian accent) “Wait here. I will come back for you.” and got off the van. We were left in a van, in the rain, in the middle of nowhere dark India, hungry, with NO idea what was going on.
By this point, I think we were all a little frustrated. I know I was. I had been chosen to speak that night, and honestly really didn’t want to. I was tired. I hadn’t spent much time thinking through what I would say. So I was secretly hoping that the service would be cancelled and we would just go back to the hotel, eat the yummy chicken soft noodles, chicken roast, and buttered naan in our restaurant, and get to sleep early. We sat on the van for awhile, just chatting and all wondering what was going on. Eventually, we started telling stories. It was a great bonding time for our team as we laughed together and listened to each other. At one point, the van driver told us that we were almost out of gas in the van, so he was turning it off. Remembering how far we had driven on DRY roads since we had last seen a gas station freaked us out a little as we thought about how we would get back to Ongole if we were almost out of gas. With the gas shortage, we turned the van off. Which means we had NO lights. Thank goodness our trusty team leader had a really awesome water bottle with a flashlight lid! :)
We sat on the bus for awhile longer, when Pastor K finally came back to us. He said that the rain had mostly stopped, that there wouldn’t be a church service, but we were going to go in and eat because the Pastor’s family had prepared a meal for us. We got out of the van, one by one, and stepped directly onto VERY muddy ground. Remember, average attire for us in India was long maxi dresses/skirts and sandals. Namely, flip flops. SO. We climbed out of the van in our long skirts and flip flops and took quite the adventurous trek down a muddy ditch and back up a muddy hill, led only by flashlights and the arms of wonderful men from the church. We made it up to the door of the church, removed our shoes (as is custom in India) and went inside. The only people in there were the Pastor’s family, but they greeted us with warm smiles and joyful chatter. The children spoke English quite well, and gathered around us, talking and singing for us. Such sweet girls; but my heart wasn’t right. I was cranky inside that we couldn’t just go back. I was tired and wanted to eat NOT village food (which was very different from the Indian food in our hotel’s restaurant). It had been a long day and I was ready to be done with it.
Much to MY dismay, people started trickling in from the village, and we were informed that we WERE going to have a church service that night. Which meant an even longer evening (as it was now after 9:00) AND that I would have to speak. We waited awhile longer, then began our service. I was on deck to speak first, and my friend Adam was going to speak after. I got up, and I don’t remember exactly what I talked about. I know that it centered around living in the light and I focused on verses from Ephesians 5. As I talked, more and more people kept walking in, and by the time I was finished, the church was full of people. I can’t tell you how effective my message was, nor can I tell you that I was glad to be there.
After I spoke, Adam shared what he had to say. In India, the electricity isn’t all that great. Usually we found ourselves in the dark more than once a day. Perhaps because their power lines literally look like this:
Anyways. Often times, when it started raining (which seemed to be a lot while we were there) the power often seemed to go off as a precaution. SO. Back to the evening this whole post is about. Since it had been raining, the power was a very back and forth thing. We had waited to start the church service until it seemed pretty stable. As far as I can remember, it stayed on the entire time I spoke. However, Adam got up to speak, and when he was just a few words in, the world went black and silent. The pastor and his sons began to light candles, but then the lights came back on. As Adam continued, this same thing happened a few more times. We later found out that one of our other team members, Annette, was fighting some intense things with God about a burden He’d placed on her heart to speak about, but the opportunity wasn’t coming. That story is her miracle, but I can share how you can see her side with you if you want. :) I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I spoke about living in the light, and that Melissa and Annette both felt incredibly convicted to get up and speak about being children of the light on this evening when there was NO light several times. Oddly, you can literally feel the darkness looming in India. That country needs Jesus major time.But, God used the power outages to relate to the things He had placed on our hearts to say to encourage the Indian Christians in this village church.
We finished the service, and then did what we always did after a service – prayed for individuals of the church who wanted us to pray for them one on one. After this and the normal mingling was done, we FINALLY got to have our dinner! Though we spent most of the meal eating by candlelight, it ended up being a joyful evening for our team (though I still was definitely cranky about being there.)
A lot of things happened that night that glorified God. The lives of Indian people were changed. The lives of our teammates were changed. We were able to encourage these Christians living in a very dark nation. I’ve been struggling with this post over two days now. I felt like I really needed to write it, but I’m not sure what the purpose of it is. This story is not my miracle, it was Annette’s. My part of the story is that I was cranky and didn’t want to do God’s work. But, I think the purpose of this post is to show that God can have glory no matter WHAT the situation is. He spoke through me that night, even though my heart wasn’t in the right state. He moved in that church building in the middle of rural India, even when there was no electricity. I think it also goes to show that we need to be willing ALWAYS to do what God wants us to do, because you never know what great victories will come out of it. Looking back, I am definitely ashamed of my attitude that night. I wish that I had put my heart into what I had to say more than I did. I wish that I would’ve spent more time with the people of that church, really listening to them instead of being tired and frustrated. But, despite everything I did wrong, God won. He had the victory that night.