This story takes place on the roof of our hotel in Ongole, the Ramya Residency on our second day in India last summer. Our beloved home away from home will be referred to simply as the Ramya from here on out. So remember that. :)
The day had consisted of a Vacation Bible School at one of the Covenant Children’s Homes, a fun game of cricket, “village food” (aka, chicken curry or something along those lines), peeing in a hole in the ground toilet, and “bread toast” with water buffalo butter.
That evening, our team met on the roof of our hotel. We were right in the heart of this “small town” of 400,000 people, so there was hustle and bustle in every direction, even though it was late and well past dark. And this, my friends, is where this story begins.
First of all, here are some pictures of our view from the roof (during the day).
(I’ll blog about this “amusement park” another day. :) )
This evening, our plan was to meet on the roof of the Ramya and worship and pray over this city that we were engulfing ourselves in for the next several days. It was dark, but I can still hear the sounds of literal hustle and bustle everywhere. Horns honking, ritualistic music being played from loudspeakers, animals, motorcycles…thinking about it takes me right back to that roof.
Before we began, our team leader Josh told us of the darkness surrounding the very building we were standing on. India is a Hindu nation, with over 330 MILLION different gods. Throughout India, there are idols, shrines, and altars to these various deities EVERYWHERE. It is impossible to not feel the darkness of this nation when seeing the idols in the midst of everything these people do. Josh told us that on the other side of the wall, there was a shrine to the god Ramya, who was a thunder god. We were a few feet away from one of these shrines, and the area where we were sitting to worship THE God was used by the hotel staff to come pray to that shrine when “necessary.” The very place we were sleeping was full of darkness…this shrine, the (terrible smelling) incense that was burned and the flowers adorning the lobby were done as worship to the Hindu gods.
This next part is the good part of the story. The first song that we sang that evening was “Stronger” by Hillsong United. Check it out here if you haven’t heard it…it’s powerful! Anyways…the SECOND the first note of that song came out of the guitar, raindrops started falling. Not a second before, not a second after. As we reached the chorus — “You are stronger, You are stronger, sin is broken, You have saved me. It is written, Christ is risen, Jesus You are Lord of all!” — it began pouring with “You are stronger.” I can’t describe the power of that moment. For our team, it was just affirmation that God IS stronger than the darkness gripping this nation. He IS stronger than the hustle and bustle around us, and He IS crying for the hearts of these people as well.
We spent the next few hours praying over, shedding tears for, and singing worship songs over this city in the rain. This evening will forever go down as one of my most powerful worship experiences ever. God was WITH us that night, on that roof. It was like He was standing right there, in his khakis and sandals like the other guys on our team, leaning over that wall, crying out for that city. In that moment (well, those hours) God was SO real. On one of the first morning we were in India, my Bible flipped open to the book of Hosea. This verse (Hosea 8:6) sticks out as God’s direct opinion of the darkness of India, and became m prayer for this nation:
“This calf you worship, O Israel, was crafted by your own hands! It is not God! Therefore, it must be smashed to bits.”
One of my favorite songs is “God of this City” by Chris Tomlin. I will end this story with the lyrics. Of course, we sang this that night as well and I can’t think of a time it’s ever been more true.
You’re the God of this city,
You’re the King of these people,
You’re the Lord of this nation,
You’re the light in this darkness,
You’re the hope to the hopeless,
You’re the peace to the restless,
There is no one like our God.
There is no one like our God.
For greater things have yet to come,
and greater things are still to be done in this city.
Greater things have yet to come,
and greater things are still to be done here.