When we first arrived on Monday I told Sheila that I would love to talk to and encourage some women here in Chennai. I didn't know what that looked like, but knew that I had to do it. She arranged for that to happen today. At first it was to be Mano's staff. We were going to have devotions with them and pray before they started their work day. Then she called all of the pastor's wives in Tamil Nadu (the city state of Chennai). Oh boy! Here we go. She told us that there could be upwards of 30 people. Can you say panic zone? Well, it turned out that the torrential rains – yes, it is still raining, deterred many of them. In the end we had the 6 staff members and about 15 pastor's wives.
We began the morning with our devotion time and prayer with the staff and a couple of the pastor's wives. Then we broke that session for tea time. They are very strict about tea time here! Nothing stops it. But, blessed be the name of the Lord – Mano loves black, brewed coffee. When I heard they were making him a cup, I asked if I might have spot of it. Oh glorious, glorious day! It was so delicious. The ladies were all laughing at the expression on my face. I have no idea what it looked like, but I am sure it was probably like the expression of biting into a most heavenly dessert or something like that. What a nice treat.
After tea (coffee) time we found more women made their way to our meeting spot. One woman traveled 200km to be with us. I found the women to be hungry for the Word. They have no idea how much that was a ministry to me. After a brief devotional, I wanted to know more about the women and how to pray effectively for them. What transpired next blew me away. The first woman got up and introduced herself. Then she began to share her testimony. She was so hated by her mother-in-law. (Let me stop here and interject that when a woman is arranged in marriage, after the ceremony she goes to live in her in-laws home. Many times they are treated very poorly.) She had her first baby and at three months old he developed an ear infection. Her mother-in-law took him to the Hospital and they told her to put drops in his ears. The mother-in-law proceeded to the pharmacy where she bought sleeping pills. In the end, she basically drugged the baby to it's death. The heartbreak in this woman's story wrenched at me. I wanted to leave the room and sob for the pain this woman had endured. Then she told of how she came to Christ. About how He revealed Himself to her in a dream and she woke up and went out seeking the village pastor's wife. She converted that day. Her husband also converted and now they are both in ministry. This was story number one.
One by one each of these women shared stories of immense loss, sorrow and abuse. And yet, each one all shared about the victory of converting to a walk with Jesus. Each and every one of them asked prayer for their children. They pray fervently that the children would follow Christ and serve Him. Again, I am humbled by the intensity of this desire. For that is the prayer for my own children. Every single one of them asked that their ministries would expand and more people would learn to follow Christ. Oh, that it would be my prayer every day as well. We closed our time together, and I came back to the hotel room completely shell shocked. I was equal parts encouraged and saddened by all I heard. In the end I found myself praying prayers of gratitude that I was born into a loving, Christian home, in a country that offers much more opportunity for growth in the Word. At the same time praying that I would not be allowed to become stagnant in my faith even if that meant being pushed into my panic zone.
A few hours later we were picked up by our driver and taken to Mano and Sheila's house for dinner. She made us an incredible dinner of fish curry, chicken, shrimp and the whole works. We enjoyed laughing and eating together, we also enjoyed some time spent in prayer together asking God that He would continue to bless the ministry in Chennai. The girls also enjoyed their time playing with Rathini. Then came the witching hour for little ones and we had to be off for the night. When we got back at the hotel, Rachel had a major meltdown. But I will save that story for another time. Let's just say it was all over a toothbrush! Good grief – Good night.
*A quick shout out to my faithful prayer warriors, I love you and thank you, thank you, thank you for you prayers for this day.