Apologies that this post is a bit late; we were without internet last night.
I suppose one upside of jet lag is that 4:30 AM doesn’t feel so bad; your body has no clue what time it is any way! By 5:00 we were on our way to the Ganges; this river is quite holy to Hindu peoples. The short summary of our morning would be “sensory overload”. Our hosts arranged for a boat (think “rowboat” as opposed to yacht) and an oarsman to take us upriver a couple of miles. On one side we experienced a beautiful sunrise over the waters. On the other we saw literally tens of thousands of people taking a dip in the Ganges. They come to bathe in the river with the (false) hope that the polluted waters will somehow wash away their sins. We saw many fully immerse themselves, and the comparison to baptism was poignantly apparent. Thankfully, we have a Savior truly able to not only cleanse us from our sins, but He also took the punishment for them in our place. The spouse of one of our team members described our voyage as “a boat of hope in a sea of darkness”.
After breakfast we went to a shelter for railway (think “throw away”) kids. This was followed by a meeting with nearly 20 church leaders. About half of them shared testimonies of their work – or I should more accurately say – the Lord’s work through them. To give a sense of the multiplicative nature of the work here, at the end of the session each was asked to share how many first generation churches he was currently overseeing. The total was around 350 churches! With an average of about 30 believers per church, this totals approximately 10,000. Now, multiply that by 500 locations similar to where we visited today, and the number is 5 million believers in this church planting movement! And, that’s only first generation churches; some have planted over 20 generations of daughter churches. Les summed this up well in his observation that this is “multi-level marketing at its finest.”
One of the pastors we met Monday, Vijay, has been used in some miraculous ways by the Lord, and, not surprisingly, he’s experiencing some spiritual opposition. Please pray for him as he has a court date Tuesday; the local authorities are manipulating laws in an effort to tear down the building where one of his churches is meeting.
Today (Tuesday) is a travel day. The anticipated travel time for the 150 mile drive to Gorakhpur is 5 to 10 hours.
Keith contributed this beautiful sunrise shot.