Anticipation, excitement and fear best describe my emotions as departure of my first adventure to India approached in 1999. I had been invited by a friend to travel with him to teach Christian counseling classes.
During the first of many flights, my fear blossomed into panic attacks and fright. I attributed it to be spiritual attack, however, it was later discovered that I was having an allergic reaction to the malaria medication I had taken and the symptoms lasted throughout my two weeks in India.
As you can imagine, my first impression of India was that it was a very scary place! Upon arrival in Mumbai (Bombay) I was informed that I was scheduled to preach the next day. While I’m not sure what my message was, I’ve not been invited back! My traveling companion jokingly said it was the best sermon he ever hard me preach. I’m still not sure it was a compliment. Regardless of my condition, God demonstrated His love and strength as He touched the hearts of many.
On the journey home I reflected on the events of the previous weeks. I concluded that I never wanted to go back to that dreadful place! God had other plans however. “We make our plans but God orders our steps.” Proverbs 19:21
Since 1999 I’ve returned to India several times. Memories of the Lord moving on the hearts of the wonderful Indian people, during each trip, flood my mind. What a privilege it has been to develop and grow in Christ with my Indian brothers and sisters! My primary focus in India has been to help equip local pastors. Most Indian pastors have little, if any, access to formal biblical training.
As any teacher knows, it is often the teacher who learns the most. It has certainly been true for me, on many levels. Some lessons have come with great joy. Other lessons, I’m convinced, are only learned through pain and suffering. These experiences however, open the door to the possibility of a deeper level of intimacy with the Lord. Allow me to illustrate with a true story.
Indian pastors, who attend the training conferences, are from various theological and denominational backgrounds which obviously create a teaching challenge. An elderly pastor had been in attendance at each conference I taught over the years. He always sat the end of the same aisle, same seat, made no eye contact and never smiled. I don’t recall seeing him connect with others during the breaks between sessions.
While teaching, during a trip in June 2015, God began speaking to me about this pastor. Clearly and gently He said, “Randy, do you see that pastor over there? Seems to me you have been judging him for years. You have unconsciously labeled him as an ‘old school’ legalist who is set in his ways. You have wondered if he even listens to you and why he keeps returning.”
Gulp! The foundation of sand, under this self-appointed “guru” began to sink and I could not finish teaching the session. I was broken but not condemned. As I regained my composure my words came from my heart instead of my head. I felt led to share some of the loss, grief and pain that had recently been a part of my daily experience. I told them I often wondered “Where was God?” and “Does He really care?” Many of my prayers seemed to go unanswered.
Tears began to well up in the eyes of many of the pastors as I shared with them I was discovering God as I had never known Him. He is the God on the mountain and the valley! I was coming to know with my heart things I had only believed with my head about God.
A hush came over the room. The elderly pastors’ eyes connected with mine and he began to sob. He ran towards me, embraced me and sobbed for several minutes. When he was able he shared with the group that he had been a missionary in some very difficult areas in India for 18 years. He had fought the “good fight” but sensed that God was far away. “How could God leave me after I’ve served Him all these years? God, why don’t you answer my prayers? How long will you leave me in this brokenness? What have I done to deserve this?”
Then, he said something to this effect, “Today God has come and answered my prayers, questions I’ve had for years and filled me with the awareness of His presence!” One by one several pastors came to the front to testify as to how God had touched them in similar and special ways. Tears and God’s Spirit filled the room, while another portion of the “old man” in me departed.
Perhaps my brother RS's words capture the moment best, “Truly and intense visitation of the Holy Spirit where much convicting and brokenness was present. I’ve not seen a meeting where men and women cried like this for a long time . . . something is happening.”
I’m excited, but not fearful, as I make plans to return to India, God willing, this coming July 2016.
Continuing the journey,
Randy C. Rodgers