Greetings from India!
We left Canada on a warm November day, surrounded by a circle of friends who prayed for our safety. We flew to Toronto where we boarded our flight to Delhi, India. Unfortunately, our first airplane had mechanical difficulties and we had to de-plane and re-board another aircraft. After a three-hour delay, we were safely in the air. Our flight to Delhi was almost 14 hours. It was a very full flight and we didn’t get much sleep. We were so thankful to land and get to our hotel. It took us two hours to get through customs, retrieve our baggage, and exit the airport. We stayed overnight at a hotel quite close to the airport.
The next morning, we returned to the airport and boarded another airplane for the trip to Bagdogra airport. We were able to see the majestic Himalayas as we drew closer to our destination. Shakti met us at the airport and brought us to the Siliguri Christian Centre. He gave us a tour of this large facility where we would spend the next six days.
On Sunday, we attended an amazing worship service at Jalpaiguri Baptist Church. The church greeted us warmly with flower necklaces. They fondly remember all the previous team members from Whyte Ridge Baptist Church and enquired about each one. We were so humbled to be asked to pray for various members of the congregation who came forward with concerns. Doug gave a message on unity. Later that evening, our retreat participants began arriving. They came by train and bus.
On Monday morning, we began our first retreat. Each team member has a teaching slot every day lasting an hour and a half. We have a translator for the women – Shini – and another for the men – Biplap. They are excellent translators and often add their own flavour to what we say. As I write this, we have nearly completed two full days of retreat.
We are enjoying meeting many new friends, sharing what we have prepared, trying new foods, and coming closer as a team. We are learning to eat and enjoy new foods including something called daal and a vegetable called Bitter Gourd. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? We have also learned that Andrew is the most likely to be mistaken for an Indian; someone even said that he looks like a Punjabi rap star. We can’t quite figure out how he passes as Indian with those blue eyes.
We so need your prayers for us each day. There are things that we struggle with including sleep, unfamiliar food, and discouragement . Many of you may have heard on the news about the currency crisis here in India. The government decided to eliminate the 1000 rupee notes and are replacing the 500 rupee notes with a newer version. They are also adding a 2000 rupee note. Unfortunately, the new notes have not reached the part of the country that we are in. It is a concern because our accommodations and drivers need to be paid in cash. Shakti also needs to reimburse the pastors for their travel. Please pray that God provides the money we need in a miraculous way.
This evening we had the privilege of enjoying some of the culture of India as many of the different groups at the conference shared a dance or a song. It is a special blessing to see how they worship in this way.
Wednesday was our last day of the first retreat. It was sad to see the pastors and women depart as we made many special connections with them. God moved through each of us on the team as we poured our hearts out in the teaching sessions. It was a humbling and learning experience as we depended on God to speak through us each day. Our prayer is that God uses the teaching from our sessions to transform these leaders and their churches over the coming years.
On Thursday we will be taking an early train to Alipurduar at 6:45am. We are looking forward to experiencing transportation as the people of India do on a daily basis. It should be a scenic ride through the beautiful rural countryside of West Bengal.