This is #4 in this week's series of reflections from our recent team to North India. Read down the page to catch some more.
We've known Sean & Lindsey Cheney for over 15 years. Sean, as punk high school student, was in the very first discipleship group I lead at my former church. Lindsey came along and started babysitting our kids. I had the joy of marrying them and then dedicating each of their kids. When we were called to the Central Coast, they felt called to the Central Coast, too! Going to India together was really just the next step in following Jesus through life together. Here are their reflections . . .
To our friends and family, of which we are so thankful for........
We are writing to tell you of our great experience in India. To tell you about this trip is hard to even know where to start, but we want you to know your support and investment in us is not returning void. Our personal lives and world perspectives are changed forever. We come back completely blown away by the Empart organization and their strategic approach to spreading the message of Christ to God's people in India, Nepal and other surrounding regions. (http://www.empartusa.org/) We are so thankful for the support you all provided us, both financially and in prayer. Thank you! Below are two letters, one from Sean and one from Lindsey. Our apologies for the delay in getting this out, between illnesses, both of us having to take separate business trips just after getting back, etc..... its been a long re-entry process. Glad to be back and here we go......
The trip went smoothly for all 10 of us that went, with no major hang ups and no major sicknesses (at least while we were there.... we all ended up with Delhi Belly once we returned home). We began our trip in Delhi, then over to Varanasi, then to Patna, then to Agra (site of the Taj), back to Delhi and home. India is a crazy place compared to the American culture we are used to. It is crazy busy (highest population density per mile), noisy (non-stop honking by all), dirty (they have no trash system), smoggy (weather was "clear" every day, but we seldom saw the sun), spiritual (Hinduism and worship of many idols/gods seen everywhere), chaotic (no traffic lanes/laws, lots of people and various animal types in the streets).......... just overall so radically different!
The intention of the trip was to "see and serve" our brothers and sisters within Empart..... beyond our culture shock, this is what we did. For most, including myself before this trip, this is a hard "missions" concept to understand as Americans. We are typical "do'ers" and short term trips usually have a building type event to speak of. We were not building any homes, working in a hospitals, painting at orphanages, etc...... These are all good things to do, but this trip was different. The reality is that Empart does not need Americans and our ideals of what missions typically are, rather they are doing missions already in a way that understands Indian culture far better than we do and responds to the great commission and the call to reach the unreached, to make disciples that make disciples. Our "mission" in going was to see the what and how of Empart and serve by coming along side and encouraging them in what they are doing. We had great opportunity to do so with lots of time together with the pastors in training at the various training centers. We were able to sit in and hear them worship, which was some of the most passionate worship I have experienced, even through the language barrier. We got to hear the pastors leading the centers preach to the pastors in training, with translation, and we were impressed by the quality of the biblical teaching these guys are getting. All of us on the team got to teach as well and offer encouraging words to the pastors in training. We got to go out to a village where a pastor, who had been through the Empart training center, was back in the field and has a handful of churches established within the local villages. We visited the home of a pastor who has taken in 8 orphaned boys and is caring for them as part of his ministry to the local community, these boys were so precious and obviously so loved. In the village we went to, there was also a sewing center in action. This sewing center was a highlight for us to get to see for obvious crafty connection reasons, but also another example of such a great strategic ministry Empart is undergoing, this time with the women of the village, women teaching women, both trade skills and the gospel at the same time.
I come back convinced that supporting an indigenous organization like this is an effective use of missions funds. An indigenous organization has a cultural "get-it factor" that outsiders do not always have. India has the highest number of unreached people groups in the world today and is an emerging nation as we all know. The church planting movement is alive and well in India. Therefore, India holds a crucial place in regards to the effort to spread the gospel and the advancement of Gods kingdom. That said, I believe our church is investing wisely.
As for our personal experience, again it is hard to put in to words, but Lindsey and I are both changed forever, both life perspective in general and also in regards to perspective of God's church.....God's people in every nation, tribe and tongue around the world. Even though we were at great odds with the Indian people due to differences in culture, language, looks, etc... we were unified in Christ through the Gospel and through worship together. And though it looks much different here than it does in India, I cant help but see the same need in the states to reach the lost right here at home. We all share in the same calling.
A few additional take-aways:
- God's hand is at work in huge ways, all around the globe. Experiencing the immensity of this makes me realize more than before that He does not need little me at all to accomplish His will/plan in this world. Even though He does not need to, the Lord uses His people in many different ways to accomplish His redeeming work. What a pleasure to be a part of it if we are so lucky. This is the mentality our friends at Empart are living out......
- We learned much about Hinduism and it was very interesting. Like most all other religions in the world, the concentration of their worship is based around works and working one's way up a ladder of favor to the gods. In this case, in the belief of reincarnation/kharma and the hopeful positive effect on the next life. But for now, the last life has called its destiny upon the current one and everyone is stuck where they are in this life. This also shed some light on the ability for the caste system to remain so strongly. All of this also highlighted the freedom and opportunity we westerners have and take for granted every day.
- I am so greatful for Christ's redeeming work on the cross. The "work" has been done, now we are free to respond joyfully.
- Our hearts are clearly being tugged towards the sewing center ministry within Empart. It is obvious to see the close connection it has to Lindsey's business and skill set. But also, it is such a strategic opportunity to minister to women who might be otherwise hopeless in culture and status. Empart can put a woman in place, gathering a dozen ladies at a time (2X per year), providing them with a sewing machine ($75 ea) and training them up in both trade skills and the gospel simultaneously. Its counter-cultural, its underground, its strategic, its effective. This is a place we are confident God has called us to connect the dots, come along side and support. (Yes, this is a mini plug for an opportunity to come on Lindsey's blog for you to also support this cause.)
So there is so much more to tell and its hard to put it all in to words. I want to attach a few images from the hundreds we took on the trip, but too hard t just pic a few. You can check into Lindsey's blog as she has started to post about a day at a time and will continue to do so. She'll tell you more about that in her letter below.
Please feel free to call or email back with any further questions you have about the trip, about the Empart organization, or otherwise.
Thanks again for your prayers and support, we are so thankful.
(Extra special mention to those who helped us with the kiddos while we were gone!)
Through Christ alone,
Dear friends and family!
I first want to say thank you. Thank you to all of you who supported us on this trip, both in prayer and financially. I have been humbled by the support we have been given, the encouraging words via emails and in person and over the phone. God’s timing was perfect in placing so many of you in our paths to say just the right thing at the right time.
To summarize our trip in just one letter would be impossible, but I am going to do my best. I will be much more long-winded on my blog over the next few weeks (or more), so if you’d like play-by-play details, be sure to check in there (www.thepleatedpoppy.com). You can click the button that says “India” towards the bottom of the right hand side bar. (Or link here: http://thepleatedpoppy.com/category/india/)
I think the word I used most on this trip was “overwhelmed”. As we drove from the airport in Delhi to our hotel on the first night, we were thrown full force into the chaos of Indian life – unbelievable traffic (pedestrians, bikes, motorcycles, bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, taxis, cars and buses, not to mention a handful of cows, goats and dogs thrown into the mix). We sped past children wandering alone, tiny shanties leaning against the walls, small groups clustered around fires to keep warm, and wedding celebrations parading in the middle of it all! We moved so quickly I had hardly any time to see it all, let alone process it quickly enough.
Again I was overwhelmed by our first visit to a training center, where about 25 men welcomed us with leis and praise music, clapping and dancing. We got to sit in on their training to be pastors with a vision for multiplication and church planting. Empart’s goal of planting 100,000 churches in northern India is going to be reached by these men! I was overwhelmed by the sacrifices these men had made and will make, and their dedication to the vision and the gospel. I was very challenged to reconsider aspects of my own life and how I can make more sacrifices in order to propel the gospel, both in India and back at home.
The highlight of our trip was visiting a sewing center. We traveled for about an hour outside of the city, past a number of tiny villages, finishing in a small community where brick making was the primary way of life. We walked down a path past the brick-makers (all made by hand), between mud huts and other small homes, and saw a group of colorfully dressed women in the center of the small village, sitting on a mat made of grain and rice sacks spread out on the ground. With only 3 sewing machines and 1 teacher, this was the sewing center. Ten women were learning a trade so they could rise from poverty and support their families, to become tailors, all the while hearing the gospel from their teacher. Ever since first hearing about this ministry I knew this was something I wanted to support. I am going to set a plan to support these women regularly through my business, most likely beginning with a commitment of buying one sewing machine a month for the graduates of the Sew & Sow centers.
Before we left for our trip, we found it difficult to explain why we were going. Typically, when westerners go on a short term missions trip we are going for a specific, tangible purpose, like to build an orphanage or something of that sort. But we were to “go and see”. We were sent to encourage the training pastors and catch a vision of what Empart is doing in Northern India and to bring that vision back to you! Empart doesn’t need us to teach them how to spread the gospel, how to worship, or how to plant churches. What they do need is 1) our prayers and 2) our support. As white people in India, we were seen as rich, just because our skin is white. And they were right. We are rich beyond measure, not only in our ability to simply provide for our families, but in our freedom to worship whenever and wherever we want, to not fear for our lives as Christians. As a 3rd world country, the Indian people need our support to further the gospel in their world.
We’d love to share the details of our trip with you in person (got a spare 2 hours for a slideshow ?) or for you to check out more detailed posts on my blog. Again, thank you so much for sending us and for making it possible to catch a vision for what God is doing in Northern India!