After leaving Taiwan, we make a brief stop in the Philippines, during the middle of the night. It is Saturday afternoon back home. I just spoke on the phone to my wife, Shelly, before the busy day in India. The next time I speak to her will be on Monday, from France. This trip I am circling the globe.
A few hours later, at about 8:40 on Sunday morning we arrive in Mumbai's airspace. Already, I am seeing answered prayer: Not only have I had a safe flight, but we are ahead of schedule!
Route of flight: Taiwan - Philippines - India
March 14, 2004
Welcome to Mumbai (Bombay), India!
Pastor Chacko Thomas and I are in a vehicle just like the one in front of us. He has met me at the hotel and we are on our way to the church service -already in progress. On the way something exciting happens for both of us!
"It is in God's plan!"
This is a phrase I have heard Bro.Chacko say from time to time. But today, when he says it, it becomes very personal for me. You see, when I left home I did not know what I would be speaking on today. I had only decided what I was not going to speak on: Intimacy In Marriage. (If you have been keeping up with the ministry, then you know that this has been a regular topic lately, as I have preached in other countries.)
There were several reasons why I was avoiding this message. A couple of them had to do with culture (in India, marriages are arranged by the parents) and presentation (I was not sure if some of the concepts would be understood.) I was so confident that I would not be preaching this sermon that I did not even bring those notes with me to review in the hotel. Instead, I brought notes for several other messages.
Well, I am sure glad there were people praying back home (and around the world, for those of you reading this from Korea, Philippines and Brazil); because it was while I was in Taiwan that God began to direct me away from every other message and to the sermon on marriage.
As I thought about the cultural challenges, I realized that God's principles cross cultural barriers. God's way for marriage is God's way for marriage in every culture.
To be honest, I was avoiding the idea of preaching this message because the presentation held more challenges than I wanted to face. But once I embraced God's direction, He brought to my mind the creative ways I needed to properly present the concepts.
And so, here I am on my way to the church service with Chacko, and I ask him the question: "If I say the word 'intimacy' (as in "Intimacy in Marriage") do you know what that means?"
His answer is, "No." (My greatest fears confirmed! I am getting ready to preach a sermon on a topic that I am told there is no word for in their language!)
So, we talk about the word for a minute and it begins to make sense.
Then, while hoping inside that I am doing the right thing in speaking on this topic, I tell him, "Well, today our subject is 'Intimacy In Marriage." And then it happend: I felt this overwelming God-confidence that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at this moment, taking this sermon to this church, because....then Chacko looked at me and said, "Today, we are celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary!"
Pastor Chacko and Susan Thomas
When I heard him say that, a big grin came across my face. Wow! I was amazed how God had brought me all the way over here to encourage the church in marriage on the exact day that the people would be celebrating it! We were both in awe at what God was doing. And then He looked at me and said that familiar phrase: "It is in God's plan." And with that, a tremendous confidence was in my heart!
The girl went on to say, "The great thing about that message is that it was not presenting marriage from the perspective of any culture -Indian or American. It presented marriage from the Word of God. It was all based on the Word of God."
At the end of the message, which also included a Gospel presentation, about 10 people indicated they were praying for the first time to become a Christian!
Now, it was time for more singing and then the anniversary celebration.
The cake was brought out (in the box), and Chacko and Susan listened to their children sing a song for them.
After feeding each other a piece of cake, each of their three kids were to cut a piece of cake and feed it to Mom and Dad.
Nissy is their youngest daughter.
Blessy is their oldest daughter.
Once Mom and Dad are fed by the kids, then the kids are each fed by the parents. There was a lot of cake eating going on! To the right, Chacko and Susan each feed a piece of cake to their son James, as he attempts to keep playing the keyboard.
Now it is time for the presents. I was given gifts to give to Chacko and Susan, on behalf of the church. Shortly after, they presented a gift to me.
Then we all had a time of prayer as we asked God's continued blessing to be on their marriage.
After prayer, they brought out the food for everyone: fresh bread with a stuffed torilla-like pastry.
I wish I could tell you what was in this, but I am not sure. But there are two things I can tell you about it: 1) it was very good 2) It was, without a doubt, the spiciest food I have ever put in my mouth!
My bottled water, and the mango juice that came next, helped my mouth to recuperate from the spices after each bite, and eat the whole thing. The people, however, were used to this. Chacko seemed to be doing just fine, even before the juice arrived.
This was a major celebration event for the church. And I am still in awe at how God coordinated there to be a sermon on marriage, brought from the other side of the world. Praise the Lord that He orders our steps!
Sunday evening, I went to the children's Sunday School class. This is at a different location than the church.
After receiving this gift of a flower arrangement that the kids had made for me, and then singing some songs...
...it is time for the message.
My friend, Danny, interprets for me as I speak from Luke 18 and 19.
Following the evening service, I spend some time with the orphan boys that the church cares for. To learn more about these boys and how you can help support them, you could check out their link on our home page.
God has given us a fruitful day in India with Christians encouraged and souls being birthed into the kingdom!
After a time of singing, we begin the message from Genesis 2. It seems that everything is making sense to the people. I found out later that, indeed, it was clear and refreshing to their ears. I was told by one college age girl something like this: "Usually, all that we hear about marriage is from our friends. We hear about the Indian tradition and wonder who our parents will put us with."
The Traditional Indian Way
In case you are wondering: The Indian tradition is for the parents to decide who their sons and daughters will marry. However, their is an opportunity to reject the potential mate. The two families come together and the proposed couple gets to go in another room for five minutes. After the five minutes are finished, each responds with a "Yes" or "No." They need to talk fast because they have a lot of ground to cover in five minutes!
It is exciting to see how, together, we are able to be used by God for His work. Thank you for doing your important part through praying.