1st Stop, Chennai, India and a three days with Friends Missionary Prayer Band. This is a total indiginious mission organization. It was started by Indians, lead by Indians and resourced by Indians. The organization started 40 years ago with a small group of prayer warriors and now it has 2000 missionaries and started 5600 churches.
- Monday- met with 9 leaders at the HQ of FMPB. A good time of listening to their concerns and challenges. It was humbling as one of the participants quoted a few of our points from the last training 7 years ago. Also reunited with Dr. Paul Swamidass. He is partnering with us on this training. His organization FEED funded the expenses for the missionaries to travel to the conference.
- Tuesday- started day 1 of the workshop. It was a beautiful morning on the coast of India in South Chennai. (Bay of Bengal). Around 47 missionaries joined the training. Some of the missionaries traveled three days to reach Chennai. I thought my 24 hour flight was long! Dr. Swamidass started the day with opening the workshop and presenting his topic of organizational effectiveness. Dr. Swamidass was one of my teachers at Auburn. He has taught at Auburn for 18 years in the Engineering/Technology department. His books on management and effectiveness/efficiency have been sold around the world. He is also highly respected in his homeland in India. The connection with FMPB is that he was one of the groups that sent the first missionary for FMPB 40 years ago. The only way I have the great honor to serve FMPB is because he has given me his full backing which gains credibility with FMPB leaders. It was a joy to work with him again. (As we broke for tea during the morning session, my brother text the words “We are Nat’l Champs.” Dr. Swamidass and I gave high fives and “War Eagles” It was a special moment.)
- My part of the training started after lunch and I focused on the mission/vision of FMPB along with the challenges and opportunities for FMPB in the future. The exciting part was at the end after numerous group activities, all six groups had the same “opportunity”. The openness to the gospel in India. Many of these leaders have been missionaries in India for over 30 years and they have never seen people so open to hearing God’s Word. Praise the Lord!!!
- Tuesday night was filled with distractions, despair and fustration as I could not sleep. I only slept for about 1 hour the entire night and Wednesday morning was my time to do devotion and the first section of training! It was a start of what I think was spiritual warfare. The warfare around FMPB is intense and I was not exempt from it. It reminded me I should ask for a prayer team to cover me with prayer throughout my journeys overseas.
- Wednesday morning finally arrives and I am exhausted. God encourages me in my quite time and I truly have to rely on His power. The devotion was on Habbukuk and I pray it was encouragement to the missionaries. (you can watch in the previous post.) The training again was very encouraging as we discussed becoming an organization that models and mentors future leaders.
- We drive back to Chennai that night. I arrive at the airport at 10pm, but my flight does not leave for Hong Kong until 3am.
- I am excited about doing more training with FMPB. We scheduled the next training in June where I will train 20 regional leaders in New Delhi.
- Tidbits from my personal discussions with missionaries.
- One coupled praised God that in 2010 their family did not have malaria. First year in memory they did not get malaria.
- One man was struggling because he fasts and prays three times a week but yet still no movement among his people group. (Do I have that discipline? No is the answer.)
- The 47 missionaries at the workshop were responsible for 300 people groups and 400,000 1st generation converts. (blows my mind!)
- A young couple just took a zonal leadership role in Calcutta where they are struggling to connect churches from many different backgrounds. They were encouraged in the workshop and I saw the joy in their faces. The challenge was they had to send their 9 year old son to boarding school. (they still follow this process that many western missionaries had to do before 1970s/80s).
- The most joyful couple was actually the ones in the hardest place to minister. They have lost six team members in the last few years to malaria. They are constantly struggling with sickness and with being threatened by Maoist (rebels to the gov’t). Yet, they raise sons who come back to the jungles after finishing medical school to be a medical missionary. I am not certain but I believe they lost a son to malaria and when she came to tell me she was praying for Sarah she had tears in her eyes. She knew the pain and loved me even though she did not know me or my daughter. That was Christ likeness in the flesh. A wonderful thing to experience.
2nd Stop: Hong Kong
- Arrived in Hong Kong around noon on Thursday. I was completely exhausted. I slept for six hours which totaled almost the entire time I slept in India. Thursday night went to a lifegroup of Tung Chung Church and was reenergized by fellowship with the Daunceys. We are so blessed to be loved by wonderful people.
- Friday, spent most of the day with Cedar Fund. We had a great time. Cedar Fund is a different type of project. I am not really training, but instead I am coaching/advising which I really enjoy. We are making huge strides in developing their leaders to expand their reach around Asia. Since they are primarily a funding organization they do not have as many front line stories, but they understand how vital they are to the front lines as they fund great projects. It is a blessing to serve them.
- Sunday, have a wonderful time in fellowship at Tung Chung Church. I always enjoy preaching to them. I was encouraged to see new faces in the crowd and the numbers continue to grow.
- I go to the airport to depart for Cambodia at 4pm. The time in Hong Kong was refreshing but not without it’s own emotional drain. The 14th marked the year anniversary of Sarah’s diagnosis. Seeing the orange trees to celebrate Chinese New Year made me so nauseous as the flood of memories from last year. I praise Jesus for guarding my heart and mind in Him to not allow despair and anxiety to overwhelm me. It did not help that Sarah had to go to the ER at this time!! One of my worst fears of traveling that something like that would happen. Thank God for an amazing wife who handled the situation with grace and gentleness.
3rd Stop: Cambodia
- Arrive in Cambodia completely empty. In God’s goodness, a group of guys from 2nd Presbyterian Church in Memphis arrived on the same plane. They are part of the World Relief Church partners. We had a fun time laughing and checking in the hotel. It relaxed me to get me ready for the training the next day.
- Monday morning- 1st day of workshop. This is the third workshop with the participants in 2010. This was is really hard because it is on Problem Solving and Decision Making. We are teaching techniques that challenge their critical thinking skills. The scary part is Nareth, my train the trainer project, became sick and might not be able to come. This was really bad news. I was going to rely on him a lot. After our morning song and prayer, Nareth walks in and I say a loud “hallelujah”. The day was hard but the participants worked hard which made me really happy and reminded me how blessed I am to work with these guys.
- Tuesday- 1st day of the partnership meetings. The day was full of testimonies from the field. This is a mixture of joy and pain as you see the power of Christ in very hard situations.
- 12 year old girl had her parents leave her and four younger siblings. She now lives with her grandmother but had to wake around 5 am each morning to try to sell vegetables to provide for her siblings. She then comes home and helps her grandmother take care of the house. She is no longer a child that has been removed from her with the situation, but a few months ago she watched a puppet show and through the story she met our Savior. She now has hope. Her situation has not changed, but her heart has and her smile was very contagious.
- 55 year old woman was blind because of the side effects of HIV/Aids drugs. She had HIV/Aids because her husband frequently visited brothels on his trips to the city. He died and she was left mainly alone. She wanted to die and so was going to commit suicide by not eating. A person from a WRC cell church visited her through their HIV/AIDS ministry. They brought the woman into their home. Nursed her back to health physically and introduced her to our Savior. She now is filled with Hope. Again she still has AIDS and is blind but had a wonderful smile.
- 27 year old girl shared her testimony. Her parents died when she was a young teen. She was living with her oldest sister when one day they were traveling to her Aunts. On the way, she noticed it was not the road to her auntie’s house but instead she was taken to a brothel where her sister sold her to sex traffickers. After years of being treated the worst possible ways, she escapes from the brothel with one of her clients. She becomes pregnant and is diagnosed with AIDS. In the meantime, she meets a cell church from WRC that ministers to her and she meets our Savior. She still is in the same situation but she has Hope.
- All of these testimonies from the field reminded me of why we want to continue serving WRC as they desire to develop leaders so these programs can grow throughout Cambodia. Currently WRC has started over 1000 cell churches with a network of around 8000 members. This is done in a country with less than 2% believers and in an organic grassroots setting. What a joy to work with this staff!!
- Wednesday- 2nd day of Problem Solving and Decision Making workshop. The second day is much easier as they have fun in their teams. I meet individually for coaching session with the 14 participants and I see their faces as they training is starting to click for them. Their eyes are excited about how God is starting to develop them as leaders.
- Thursday and Friday- Day 2 and 3 of partnership meetings. I was able to push forward through the power of the Spirit and the meetings were a success.
- As I go to the airport on Friday afternoon to start my journey home, I am completely empty physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Arrive in Dallas at 6pm on Sat, 22nd. As Sarah and Hannah ran to me, I quickly forgot my emptiness and God started again to use my family to restore me.