Update from Steve Martin from Merchala, India and Pastors Conference with John Ebenezer
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by Steve Martin, Vision For Israel and MFM member.
Today the pastors began coming for the "Holy Spirit Conference on Israel." Many had already arrive by the time Edgar and I were driven the 25 minutes from our hotel to this country village.
When we pulled up onto the church property, we were surprised and delighted to see a 3' x 12' banner over the gated entry, with our names, photos, Vision for Israel & The Joseph Storehouse displayed on it.
The host pastor John Ebenezer also gave later me copies of the conference flyer to bring home. I only recognized my picture but couldn't read anything else, so he translated all as I wrote above each word.
It was a real joy meeting these pastors, and seeing their smiles. Many, if not all, had come from Hindu backgrounds. After believing on the One True God, the Lord Jesus for salvation, once they turned from the millions of Hindu gods (John said over 3 million) they were then given new biblical names - Isaiah, Joseph, Jacob, Paul. I guess "Stephen" is too much Greek in origins, so I haven't met another one yet.
The Holy Spirit began moving early, even before the start of the meetings. Our driver, Sri Vayuputra, has been with us now for all three days. Edgar asked him this morning to pray to receive the Lord, which he did, after hearing the Gospel shared with him from Edgar.
With the pastors relying on the bus system to get them here, scheduled meeting times are just "goals" to shoot for. Our 9:30 am meeting actually got started after 11 am. These two Americans just have to get used to reality in the other parts of the world.
Pastor John Ebenzer assumed the duties of pastoring this host church, Emmanual Church in Mercaler (in east India, five hours by car east of Hyderabad), after his father passed on many years ago. It was his grandfather who first became a Christian in his then Hindu family.
John travels from Hyderabad every weekend for meetings here. He also pastors many other pastors from the surrounding villages, the attendees at this conference.
They are heartfelt in their worship expression, singing loudly with only bongo drums and one tambourine. Different pastors were given the opportunity to lead in singing. Edgar and I knew not the language/words nor the tunes, so we just clapped along.
Of the four sessions today, I shared at three, all on Israel. In the second time right before lunch, I used 40 photos, held up one at a time, printed on 8"x10" paper, which had been taken by me on the October 2009 Vision for Israel Succot tour. This gave them a visual of the Lord's transformation of the people and land as I explained each scene. The joy in their eyes of seeing what they had only read or heard about from their Bibles encouraged even me during this session.
I didn't have use of a Power Point on a laptop, or a projector and screen. Even as it was, the power went out once today, which is common I was told. Not one of them have a computer, Internet service in their village, nor a Blackberry to retrieve and send e-mails, so basic photos worked fine in this setting.
At the beginning of the photos I had included ones of Laurie, my children, and a large family shot with Mom, Mr. Bill and all. I wanted these to help give me further personal connection with them, and not just be some "preacher from America" talking at them.
They enjoyed this even more so than my sharing of Derek Prince's study on "Our Debt To Israel". As I told a few people back home before I even arrived in India, I will do best using "the tools" the Lord has given me, and not get out of my realm of gifting by trying to use someone else's.
I have to admit I was a bit surprised though, during the photo descriptions, when they didn't even know who Elvis Pressley was. When I showed them one of my favorite spots in Israel, The Elvis Restaurant near Abu Ghosh. I guess that this "king" isn't as known as some would think. To them his legendary fame elsewhere had no effect on their lives here in this remote part of India. How often we value useless things in our lives. (Ok, I am guilty as all with...)
At the end I prayed for each one, laying one of my hands on their heart and the other on their head, asking the Lord to give them the faithful commitment to bless Israel and His people. They too were grateful for this expression of His heart for them.
Thanks for allowing me to share these journal entries with you. It is a real joy writing them, and sending photos too, to you back home. My heart is to share a glimpse and small measure of what the good Lord, God of Israel, is doing in "these parts" of the world.
This mission trip is also fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine. Maybe some of you have had that desire placed in you too. May this then help give you a deeper passion to love the nations the Lord is drawing after Himself.
Shalom from India,