I10 Team: HOME.

March 20, 2010

2.54p local time.  My expectation is that by now, all 8 members of the I10 team (7 from NHF & our honorary NHFer, Anna, from Virginia) are home, showered, comfortable, sleeping?   We landed safely at JFK about an hour late, and said a brief prayer over Anna as we sent her off to her connecting flight home to her family in the D.C. area.

Spending this week with Anna was yet another facet of happiness.  Her church in VA has long been associated with JVI and Jeff Pankratz, as well as Freeset & Sari-Bari, and so it was really great to have our 2 churches linked this week so that we could brainstorm future trips, more projects, better ways to support & fund Freeset and justice ventures like it.  (Please, when you have 6 women who love to shop sharing a room and talking together all day, what did you think was going to happen?)  It occurred to me in the middle of the week that as much as I10 was God’s gift of awareness to us, it was also His gift of intimacy to our churches — that even while the 8 of us were on the ground in Kolkata, He was doing a bonding work on the East Coast, creating a line between VA & NY along which His Spirit can travel back & forth in power and love.  Isn’t He something?

After sending Anna off, we prayed together once more as a team, and emerged to the happy welcome of so many NHFers.  Thank you all for coming out to meet & greet us, to help us with re-entry.  Some of the most dark & hurtful things we felt in Kolkata was an apparent lack of looking out for each other; whether this is actually true or not is not for us to judge, of course.  But our general feeling was: there are so many people; there is so much poverty; there is so much dirt, diesel, soot, noise in the air; there is so little clean water & so few resources . . . self-preservation and just moving forward each day was enough on its own without having to look out for anyone else.  What a stark contrast to arrive home to a beautifully motley crew of men, women, children & babies who just wanted to love on us because we were us, and who just wanted to share a meal with us for the sake of good company, and who just wanted to take a little time out of their mornings to display love!  Makes us so happy to be here, so happy to be in your company . . . and so sad for those who have no taste of this, who have no idea what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such unsolicited, extravagant, selfless care.

Familiar smells, familiar tastes, familiar comforts . . . aren’t they wonderful?  We really, really thank God for them.

All of us who were so ill in India, are now back to about 90% or better now.  We joked that our miraculous healing occurred as soon as we entered international airspace.  But one can’t help but wonder if there might be some meat to the joke . . . . Kolkata was a spiritually dark place.  Hinduism, a religion of 3-million gods . . . . even though not even the greatest of these has the ability to deliver any sort of sucker-punch to our great and only real God, one has to be concerned about what happens when an entire people opens itself up to false gods.  That’s 3-million doors opened to the enemy, inviting him to come in and muck things up, and boy, he sure has — we’ve seen the effects of spiritual impoverishment with our own eyes, and believe us, it’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen here or anywhere near here.

Our team never felt abandoned by the Lord.  We were always aware of how very much the Spirit was with us, how very closely He was covering us, how very dearly He was holding us close to His chest this entire past week.  At the same time, it wouldn’t be a surprise if what befell our team in the form of sickness & exhaustion was a sign of what was going on in the spiritual realms.  Or, as one teammate put it, what if God wanted to give us a more visceral glimpse of what these people’s lives are like without Him?  Dark.  Feverish.  Malnourished.  Dehydrated.  Cramped.  Aching.  Just not right.

No, this is not to say that the Lord has geographical boundaries, and once we hit Dubai, His healing kicked in.  Of course that’s not how He works . . . and if there’s anything we’ve learned this week, it is that His Light is at hand for Kolkata, and His favourable time for that city is now.  So we continue to insist, “Come, Lord Jesus!” . . . . but whatever He wanted to teach us this week in our sickness, infirmity & discomfort . . . well, we just want to learn His lessons well, and inscribe them on our hearts.  Not for our own sakes, but for the sake of our prayers for Kolkata, and places like it.

Our stories started emerging over the lunch table.  At first, we didn’t know how we’d be able to tell anything of value.  Thank you for not asking, “How was it?”  That question would’ve broken our hearts.  Thank you for just listening, as we’ve learned to do this past week.  We sat & watched & listened to Kerry, Annie, the FS staff, the wonderful FS women . . . and we learned.  We hope we can transmit their stories & their lives accurately to you, and that you will feel the Spirit captivating & enlivening you just as we were captivated & enlivened.  And as the stories flow, we hope you’ll be able to picture FS & its women, a small but strong flicker in the middle of Kolkata ready for the fueling breath of God to blow it across the city to cleanse, purify, refine.  We hope you’ll be able to see & smell the dirt, the poverty, the misery, the deadness . . . and moan with us the groaning cries for Jesus to come and redeem & repair.  We hope you’ll join with us in carrying FS & Kolkata on our hearts.

One personal thing I noted mid-week . . . every year, the team that returns from Ukraine is noted for coming back with shining faces, looking happier than ever.  That’s because being in Ukraine is easy, it’s great.  There is a vibrant church in Kremenchuk, filled with people who LOVE their city and LOVE the people in it.  NHC is a bright beacon in Kremenchuk, and the Spirit is flooding the streets because of NHC & Pastor Sasha and all of our brothers & sisters there who pour out good deeds, great love, amazing grace upon their neighbours in the Name of Christ.  The U-team members would be dumb rocks if they didn’t come back from those trips looking indeed as if they had seen the face of Jesus Himself!  Kolkata is the utter opposite.  There is no such equivalent church, no such equivalent love, no such equivalent pulsing of the Spirit there . . . . YET.  And that concept of “yet” just reminds me that something is to come, then.  If it’s not there yet, then it will be there sooner or later . . . and so I look forward to watching the faces of subsequent I-team members as they return from trips in years to come.  If the glimpse that God gave us of His heart this week is true — that He hasn’t given up on Kolkata, that He hasn’t forgotten or turned away from this city, that He hasn’t abandoned its people, the very ones He Himself created — then at some point, there will come a year when both our Ukraine & India teams will return with the exact same glows on their faces.  Hallelu-jah!

Well . .  now it’s just tired babbling.  All my other teammates are probably napping; I should be too.

Thank you for your support and for your prayers, everyone.  I wish there was a way to inject iodine into each prayer so we could all see the paths they traveled, how God received them & routed them, and how & when & where they were used by Him to buoy us and preserve us and protect us.  Certainly, we are all feeling much better.  Certainly, we are home safe.  Certainly, we were multiply blessed.  If your prayers did that just for the 8 of us, I wonder what miracles they are doing right now in Kolkata, in FS, in the lives of the women we met, in the nation of India . . .

Please pray, continue to pray for the 8 members of our team: for God’s icing on our healing, for upcoming debriefing meetings, for how we act as ambassadors to you, for how we continue to receive from the Lord His Word & wisdom.  Please pray for FS and all who work there, and for the 10,000 women yet to be rescued . . . and then the next 10,000 after them . . . And please pray for Kolkata & India.

India-2010 concluded.  Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

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