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I was overwhelmed by all that surrounded me, and even now in writing this I find it difficult to convey my thoughts, except as quick "snapshots." One is immediately engulfed in the swarming masses of humanity, and then you quickly become aware of a putrid odor hanging in the air. I was later to find out that this emanates from burnt cow dung, as cows are venerated as a regular practice of Hindu worship. In conjunction with this custom there are idols everywhere set up to millions of "unknown gods." My eyes then surveyed the other scenes around me...the many beggars with their downcast eyes and countenance...people urinating in public places, (When we could find a facility it was sometimes only a hole in the floor.)...teeming cars, blowing horns...vendors yelling and selling their meager wares...a young child with beseeching eyes pleading with me to give him a few coins...the poorest of the poor lying in a doorway or a gutter seeking a brief respite from all that surrounded them. I knew I could escape to the sanctuary of my hotel. The majority of these people weren't allowed entrance to the driveway of my enclave.
I stood in the midst of all of this and wept groaning in my spirit, unable to articulate what I was seeing or feeling. However, at that moment, the assuring thought came to mind that:
The Lord is watching everywhere and keeps His eye on both the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)
A few days later I boarded a train from Madras in the company of Gordon Robertson and Elsie Reyes. Gordon is Pat Robertson's son and heads up CBN Asia, which is based in Manila, in the Philippines. Elsie is the first missionary to be trained in Manila and sent from there to Madras. Normally I enjoy traveling by train; however once again we were overrun by hordes of people. Even with reservations, our train compartment accommodations were not adequate for the three of us. Since we were heading "in country" to an area known as Antarvedipalem, which was a fifteen hour trip, we needed a sleeping compartment. After a flip of the coin, I ended up on the floor for the night. Ah yes, the joys of missionary life!
Approximately fifteen hours later we arrived in Rajahmundry where we were met by Pastor John Lazurus. After lunch, we set off by car on a hair-raising trip to our final destination. The roads are basically two lanes of hard dirt and are shared by pedestrians, bicycles, trucks, carts, wandering cows and water buffalo and the ever present idols dotting the small villages and countryside. With the horn blowing incessantly, the trick is not to hit anything as you careen down the road. My prayer life increased instantly.
Upon our arrival in Antarvedipalem, we were met by "Apostle" P.L. Paramjyoti and his wife, who have been laboring among the people in India for more than forty years. He led us immediately to his new church facility that had been made possible by contributions from Pat Robertson and CBN partners...Although the church was built to accommodate over a thousand people, the throngs were overflowing onto the road outside. I accompanied Gordon Robertson as we dedicated the building to the purposes of God and then we sat back to listen to twenty-six speakers who were also asked to participate. We then walked to the adjacent field where a large tent was jammed with a few more thousand people waiting for "the men of God," as they described us in the introduction. In the next five days we were to participate in twelve meetings, to crowds that varied from five thousand to upward of ten thousand in each meeting. There is a definite thirst for the things of God.
India is a secular state, where approximately 82% of the population are Hindu. Some of the more radical factions are militantly intolerant of other religious groups and are physically violent against them. Muslims constitute approximately 12% of the population (88 million people). Popular Hinduism is idolatrous with 200 million holy cows and a pantheon of 33 million gods. This is also the land of origin for Buddhism, although they constitute a small segment of the population (0.7%). In addition, there are Sikhs and other tribal religions who lay claim to a knowledge of God. Christianity makes up anywhere from 2% to 4% of the population. Very few of the 600,000 villages have churches and in North India there may be one church for every 2,000 villages. The task is daunting.
Although a number of the people we were about to address were Christians, this group in microcosm represented the challenge our small team was up against. One man commented that he felt sorry for us as they had millions of gods and we only had one. As I cast my eyes on the audience before me I saw beautiful people. The crowd was seated on the ground with the men on one side of the tent and the women on the other. For many of them this tent was also to function as their bedroom for the duration of the meetings. Their smiles were shy, yet many appeared to be downcast and oppressed. These were people who needed encouragement and hope. These were people who need a champion. These people "living in darkness, needed to see a great light." These were people who needed to see a demonstration of the living God. We were not disappointed.
The actual teaching topics that Gordon, Elsie and I proclaimed included matters pertaining to the Kingdom of God, which included a summary of the Gospel. We spoke to the leaders about the absolute necessity of being with Christ in "the school of prayer." We spoke of giving honor to women and their role in society and the church. This held a great deal of importance in this culture, as India has a highly developed caste system that treats women as second class citizens.
Our word took on even greater significance when Elsie Reyes ministered in her role as a "citizen" of the Kingdom. Her living example spoke far more profoundly than anything we could say. We then began to speak on the fact that the Kingdom is more than words but also deeds, especially as it pertained to spiritual warfare and healing. Consistent with the Scriptural commissioning that is ours, we then stated that our God would back up our words because,"The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." Much like Elijah and the prophets of Baal, we were pitted against a religious believe system that consists of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and a pantheon of 33 million gods. Out of this maze of religious expression, all claiming to have the truth, which god is truly God?
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew definition for idols, is elilem, meaning "nothings...worthless nonentities." However, operating behind these "nonentities," are hordes of demonic powers that animate them. As we began to take authority over these spirits in the name of Jesus, demons began to manifest themselves through the people who were their captives. As it occurred in the New Testament, many of the demons came out screaming.
At one point, I spoke a word I believed to be from the Lord that the Holy Spirit was present to heal people. As I spoke to various kinds of sicknesses and diseases, all sorts of healing began to transpire among the people. One word in particular pertained to an individual who was deaf in one ear and that the Lord Jesus was miraculously healing her at that moment. After a period of silent expectation, a beautiful young girl, with her mother at her side, walked down the long aisle from the back of the tent. The mother was weeping and the young girl's eyes were wide with astonishment. They explained to us, through our translator, that this girl had been deaf from birth in one of her ears and that she was scheduled for an operation in just a few days. However, as I had spoken the word in regard to the healing of an ear the girl's ear had instantaneously opened. The young girl was a Hindu and the mother a Christian who had been praying for her family. The girl was repeatedly proclaiming "Jesus, Jesus!" Truly our God is the Lord over all the so called gods of the earth!
This began a literal stampede of people rushing to the front of the tent, asking us to minister to their multitudinous needs. Many grabbed our hands, placing them upon their own heads, and crying out,"Man of God,...pray, pray!" Some exposed their maladies, deformed bodies and physical handicaps to us so that they too could receive healing. The incidents of this occurring in the Scriptures came to mind as we attempted to respond to the needs before us. We tried to direct the people to the local pastors and leaders. However, due to lack of training in ministering to the sick and infirmed, many of them were unable to adequately assist us. Furthermore, in a quick survey I conducted of the leadership, better than two-thirds of them were unhealthy in some capacity themselves! As we returned to our living quarters the people followed us, knocking on the door and asking for prayer. The needs are many and the workers are few.
In a dramatic event that was to occur the next day the Lord Jesus was to make clear to us, his heart of compassion for these people's needs.
Before daybreak, I was awakened to the blended voices of a rooster crowing and the prayers from a nearby mosque ringing out across the countryside on loudspeakers. Since the year 1000, Muslim prayers have been offered up to their god five times a day. These people do what we Christians are exhorted to do, "Seek the Lord early." As I entered into intercessory prayer, it became quite clear to me that this was more than just a so called "quiet time." This was spiritual warfare that was pitted against "persons without bodies-the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit." (Ephesians 6:12) Thanking God for those intercessors who personally stand with us in prayer for times like this, I took a quick shower in the dark by candlelight (the electricity had gone out) and then set off on a prayer walk through the small hamlet in which we were residing, continuing on with my spiritual wrestling.
As I began my trek, I felt as if I had almost entered a time warp walking in the footsteps of Jesus and His disciples. Once again the visual snapshots...A young girl with great effort pumping water from a nearby well...two women pummeling rice with large wooden mallets, the rice then being boiled in a large iron pot over an open fire...water buffalo wandering freely past me, the dust from the road rising in the early morning mist.
A small group of people, who apparently recognized me from the nearby meetings we had been conducting, began to cry out,"Pray! Pray!" As I approached them, a teenage girl caught my eye. She was beckoning with her hand pointing to her head asking for prayer. Not knowing what to do, I simply gestured toward her without touching her. Instantaneously, she swooned and landed in the middle of the road...out! The people were astonished. One man, wide-eyed with fear of these inexplicable events, began to respond with angry gestures. I was attempting to explain that this was "an act of God," and that the girl was all right. Of course all our communication was rather fruitless in that none of us were able to speak the other's language. Quietly under my breath I was also trying to explain to the Lord that this could get me into real trouble and that everything in the book of Acts didn't turn out so well...like Stephen and Paul being stoned and Peter thrown in jail! My basic prayer was something like, "Lord do something!" Just at that moment Pastor John Lazurus, emerged from a nearby house and observing that something was going on, came over to the gathering crowd. I explained to him what had happened. In the Telugu dialect he began to assure the people that the young woman was all right and that this was a demonstration of the power of Jesus Christ. As the girl recovered and shakily stood on her feet, we were given an opportunity to share with the still amazed group the ways of the Lord Jesus.
It became quite clear to us from this living example why Jesus, and for the most part the disciples, seldom had to call a meeting. The Lord, and subsequently the disciples, just "went about doing good" and "the signs followed." In turn the people gathered around these exhibitions and opportunities were made available to present "the good news of the Kingdom."
I believe these dramatics are a harbinger of things to come. However, the challenges before us are great, with "multitudes, in the valley of decision." By the year 2020 India will become the most populous country in the world with nearly 1.3 billion people.
Gordon Robertson and his team of people at CBN Asia in Manila need your prayer. Elsie Reyes is the first missionary sent from CBN Asia to India and, although she is only one individual, is seeing wonderful success. Pat Robertson and CBN are committed to the objective of 500 million people coming to the Lord Jesus, throughout the world, by the year 2000. That is quite a lofty goal. However, with God"all things are possible," and He has not called us to be passive. Rather, we are to go in the power of the Holy Spirit, and get the job done.
Join us in partnership, whether by prayer or financially, or by traveling as a short term missionary through your church or any other creative course the Lord may take you on...but get involved! As Pat Robertson said to me a number of month's ago, "There's a whole world out there...prayerfully, choose the countries the Lord will reveal to you and go!"
"And this good news about the Kingdom will be preached all over the world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally the end will come."(Matthew 24:14).
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