Monday, July 17, 2006

Vapi church

Yesterday presented a new challenge. Pastor Linus Justin arranged for me to come to his church and preach in the morning service. I had brought a few sermons along for just that eventuality, so I wasn’t too stressed (although I wasn’t really sure what the best approach for this particular congregation was). I had to preach through an interpreter, but I’m getting lots of practice teaching with translation in our Bible class. This was a little different, though, because Linus’s native tongue is Gujarati, but he was translating from English into Hindi. Can you imagine trying to translate from your 3rd language into your 2nd language? Of course not. You’re American; you only speak one language.
Preaching wasn’t the challenge, though. The congregation sings songs in both Hindi and English, but Linus wanted them to learn some new English songs. So he asked me to teach them. Some of you have had the distinct, um, privilege of hearing me sing; some of you perhaps remain yet unscarred. At any rate, I plunged ahead and taught them “Holy, Holy” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” A capella, no less. As part of my welcome, I was again presented with flowers—this time, a heavy garland to wear around my neck.
The church meets in an apartment building. Most of the residents are Hindu, but they have not given the church any problems. The church has over 50 members. Most of them are migrants to Vapi from other parts of India; that’s why the service is held in English and Hindi. Vapi is a major industrial center, drawing workers from around the country to its factories. Often, church members have to work on Sundays, so we had about 35 in attendance. Honestly, that’s about all the chairs there were. Some latecomers sat on a carpet in the front of the church, until they were invited to take the last available chairs.
Most of the congregation came forward and shook my hand after the service. After many had departed, Linus introduced me to several of the non-Christian visitors to the service. One was a Hindu family that he is meeting with each Friday. Linus brought each member of the family to me and told me a prayer request for them. I would then lay my hand on that person’s shoulder and pray over them. One was beginning a job as a teacher; one was beginning college. Another was suffering from physical problems; another looking for a job. Finally, he introduced another lady to me who still has not converted but is reading the Bible every day. She asked me to pray that she would understand what God is trying to tell her through the Scriptures. It was so incredible to have that one-on-one contact with these people and to pray over them.
We stopped for soft drinks on the way home and chatted some more and then came back to Pardi for lunch. We had a bit of a nap, and then I had a good chat with the Turners about our future ministry endeavors. Tiffany and I will still have a lot of conversation and prayer about this before it’s all over, but I felt like this talk really did help narrow my focus a little bit.
For the evening meal, we went to the house of Seema’s family. Seema is Linus’ wife. The food was excellent, and topped off with some ice cream. We spent some time looking at the wedding photos of Seema’s brother Anand and his bride Joyana (who was there also). It looks like there are a lot of similarities with American weddings, but a few differences.
This morning, I led the devotional time. I talked about the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. I have used this a few different places, so I may have blogged about it before. If so, just hear it again. Here’s the short version. 1. Elijah preaches a sermon. It’s a great sermon, but the peoples’ response is silence. 2. Elijah proposes a program. He suggests a contest between Yahweh and Baal; the peoples’ response is: “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” 3. Elijah prays and God shows up. God sends fire that consumes the sacrifice, the wood, the rocks, the dirt, the water. The peoples’ response? They fall on their faces and say, “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!” Moral of the story: You can preach great sermons, you can have wonderful programs, but if you’re going to really see people respond, you’re going to have to pray for God to show His power.

2 comments:

Tiff said...

When I told the faculty you were teaching songs, they said it was a miracle.

Lenity said...

I am also impressed. Plan on teaching us some songs in Tagalog when you get back.

When we were in Thailand, I preached my first sermon with two interpreters in candlelight. It was mostly just a bunch of Bible verses strung together, but it was ok. Maybe you can give me some pointers.