I hope to blog more soon, but since our team leader Cassie recently shared an overview of our trip experience, I thought I would pass it along! I will also add a few pictures for fun 🙂
Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying for us! I want to give you a final update and backtrack a bit to cover what we missed when we didn’t have internet access. If you don’t have time to read it all, I completely understand, but I definitely want to let you know how crucial your prayers were to the success of this team’s mission in India! We could not have done it without your support! Thank you!
Monday morning in India we woke up at 5:30 to watch the sun rise over the mountains. It was so nice to listen to the world wake up, the sun light everything up slowly, and to just be still before God. After breakfast we were taken on a tour of IGL’s campus and offices as well as given the opportunity to feed some lepers from the community. All of this was very emotional for the team, and it was hard for them to process since we were in such a rush to fit everything in before we had to leave for Chennai that afternoon. Right after we had finished lunch Danielle became sick from the heat of the day, the emotion of the day, and the bumpy car rides. Fortunately, we were able to send a prayer request out for her before we took off for Chennai and lost internet connection for most of the rest of the trip. She felt better within a few hours of hydration and sleep (in the car).
Tuesday was a travel day, going for the hotel in Chennai, to the airport in Chennai (which was miraculously almost empty of people), to the airport in Hyderabad, to the hotel in Warangal. Thankfully, many of us were able to sleep for at least some of the travel, but we were also able to see the state of Andhra Pradesh. There are more Muslims in Hyderabad than in Salem, and many more women covered in the black burqa/burkha walking the streets. During the trip, Prati was able to talk to us about our notes. She was very pleased with them, but encouraged us to rely on the Holy Spirit for what to say, not on what sentence comes next in our notes. She is a very good motivational speaker! We were almost all in tears, but ready to trust in the Lord while we taught.
Wednesday was the first day of the State Women’s Conference we taught at. Prati Stephens
started the conference off getting the women excited for what they would learn about Worship (the topic of the conference). After lunch, Mandy taught the first lesson of the conference “The God Worthy of Worship.” She did a wonderful job, especially as the first of our team to teach. Danielle followed Mandy with her lesson “The Mandate to Worship” covering how we are created to worship and why we should. We then had a break before I gave the first sermon of my life and of the conference. It was about trusting God over everything else and not worrying. Afterward Prati got up and followed the Holy Spirit’s leading continuing the topic of trust and calling on the women to lay their burdens before God and trust Him to take care of them. It was beautiful as many women came forward to relieve their burdens to God. The team has the privilege to pray over them and even give our own burdens to God.
Thursday, the second day of the conference, I started with the lesson “The Method of Worship.” I know I talked too fast, because the translator had trouble understanding what I was saying at times, but overall I think it went well. Katrina then gave her lesson on “The Heart of Worship” and she did a wonderful job! Later, when the women were able to use a translator to let us know what they had learned from the conference, many said this was one of the most impactful lessons for them. Great job Katrina! Lauren followed Katrina with the lesson “Worship and the Word” and engaged the women so much they cheered twice for her. After lunch and a talk from Prati about the women’s ministry holding the conference, Courtney gave her first lesson “Worship and Gifts.” By that time, many of the women, and us were tired, but the illustrations she gave kept us engaged. Prati finished day two off with a wonderful sermon.
Friday, day three of the conference, Katrina gave a devotional for the women on God working things out for the good and being joyful in all circumstances. It was very well done (of course). Courtney then finished off all the lessons with “Worship and Works” or “Does your Work Matter to God” and Prati said it was the best lesson out of all of them. The women were very engaged, and the lesson seemed to summarize and build off of all the other lessons for a great take-away for the women. Afterward the women were able to respond through a translator to tell us what they had learned at the conference. Many, many women pointed to this lesson as one that taught them a lot about worshiping God through their daily lives and work. Excellent job, Courtney!
Prati then finished up the conference getting the women excited to share the Gospel and what they had learned with their villages, friends, and family. We then left for the long drive back to Hyderabad where we stayed in a hotel for the night. Saturday afternoon we left for the airport and the trip home began. It included an hour flight, a four hour layover in Mumbai (which is a horribly large airport with SO many security checks and long lines), a 15-hour flight (yes, you read that correctly), a 3-hour layover in Newark and customs, and finally an hour and a half flight to Cleveland where we were finally reunited with family.
While most of the team did experience some stomach trouble at one point or another during the trip, Pepto Bismol helped a lot and we were mostly sick-free. Please continue to pray for Danielle and the rest of the team as we get all of the spices out of our system and readjust to eating American food again. I still smell like curry.
Thank you all again for praying! It has meant so much for me and the team! We really felt covered and protected while traveling and in India. Knowing how many prayer warriors were on their knees for us, was so comforting and empowering as we knew God would provide everything we needed when we needed it (including the words to say). Please know that your prayers were answered many times over in India as one problem after the other was solved.
Some funnier moments of the trip (for those of you who really like to read):
- On Wednesday night, two of the four rooms we were staying in at the hotel had their air conditioners break, thaw, spit ice, and pour water and black mold into the rooms. Two of the team had to share a small twin-size bed for the rest of the night because one of the beds was directly in the line of fire (or rather ice and water). They were both fixed the next day, and we were able to use all four rooms by evening.
- Prati realized the first night we had dinner together as a team with her that Danielle and I could eat a lot! She was so she took a picture of Danielle and her food for on her phone. From then on, we were the ones to clean up the extra food left on the table after the rest of the team finished their meal. It was almost a guarantee that we would want more naan, there was no need to ask. When a server tried to take our cleaned plates and offer us the warm water bowl to wash our hands in, Prati told him to put our plates back and that he picked the wrong girls to clean up after. We were simply waiting for everyone else to finish before getting seconds. We even made it into one of Prati’s sermons as she explained that Satan was trying to keep us from “eating” the Word of God and the manna given us daily. “He doesn’t eat naan,” she said, then gave us a look and explained to the women that we ate so much naan!
- As you may or may not know, Indian traffic and driving is an adventure in and of itself, especially for those who aren’t used to it. The “traveler” we took to drive to Chennai had a bathroom in the back of it with a western toilet that could flush toilet paper (a rarity in India). Using it while the “traveler” was moving through Indian traffic was quite an accomplishment for everyone!
- Courtney ended up being the “one that got away” for many Indian boys we encountered. Somehow they must have known she was the only single woman among us. It was very funny to watch them try to discreetly (or not so discreetly) take her picture. She also became the best buddy of a little girl names Jesleah, who was the daughter of the couple heading up the conference. She absolutely ADORED Courtney! Every chance she could, she would sneak up on stage when her mom wasn’t looking to draw with Courtney. Jesleah made the trip much more entertaining as she made us all smile constantly! She wants to be a missionary doctor when she grows up.
We had many more, but these stick out the most in my mind. Thank you all for supporting us and making these moments possible!