The last days in South India were sweet and memorable. What a blessing to study the book of Romans with these men! They did so well and made such progress and we all profited from the rich teaching Paul gives us in this book. It was an intense week as we worked very hard together and worshiped over what we were learning. I have studied this book more than any other over the past 40 years and I still learned many new and precious things. We had a great strategy session on Thursday. The men are so enthusiastic about training others that they have taken on far too many groups to really follow through with for the whole course. I encouraged them to do less but to multiply their training through those they train. We talked about this last time, but this time they really understood. They were already making plans to implement a new strategy as we left on Friday.
Edie and Linda had a great time with the ladies studying the book of Esther and learning principles of study. There were a few bumps in the road along the way, but the women made good progress. At the end they had a really sweet time as the ladies shared what they had learned and then some of the struggles of their lives. One lady has three bulging discs in her back that are quite painful but she did not miss a day. Another came with a fever one day because she didn't want to miss. They are just a beautiful group of women.
Our farewell was like leaving family for a few months before we return in June. I was keenly aware that we are entering our last year of training here and am already anticipating the difficulty I will have in saying goodbye for the last time. One precious pastor named Peter privately gave me a love gift on the last day. He is an older man, yet younger than I, and struggles a bit more than the rest with English. He was orphaned at a young age and grew up in a Christian orphanage. He attended a Catholic seminary until he realized they were not going to teach him the bible, and then left and went to an evangelical one. He served as a pastor and later started a mission and orphanage, and now does the most training of anyone in the group. He gets up at 4:30 in the morning to come to the class, riding in several buses for three hours, and is the first one at the training, always smiling and ready to learn. I agree with Mike who said, "When I grow up I want to be just like Peter." I struggled to receive Peter's gift because I know he is not wealthy and we train these men out of love, not for any personal profit. But I could not refuse his offering of love, as he put it. Later when I opened the envelope I found the equivalent of a month's salary. I was stunned and brought to tears at his sacrificial love and appreciation for what we have taught him. I am keeping that money aside and asking God to lead me to use it for something special as a blessing somewhere as we train others.
Our trip up north was grueling. We had to get new air tickets the week before we left for this part of the trip because the airline we were flying on decided to stop flying to the city we were in. The last leg of the flights was the worst. The seat backs were so low that Mike and I could not rest our heads on them and we couldn't scrunch down enough because there was no leg room to spare. We were all so tired after an intense week that we all thought we would go nuts before we arrived here a little before midnight. We finally got to bed around 1 am and slept well, but not long enough as we had to get up and go to training the next morning.
By midday I was completely worn out, but the Lord helped us and we all managed to make it through the day. I preached a demonstration sermon in the morning and felt I was running on half empty, but Mike said it helped to slow me down and be more of a teacher than a preacher, just the thing needed this time to demonstrate the new tools we were introducing. I knew this would be a tough day as we had just finished an amazing week, and had to travel and then jump right back in on the same material with a different group. It is really not possible to maintain the same intensity with that change. We really needed a down day, but the Lord is good and helped us. The men here did well and picked up the material quickly, so we were happy with that. I slept well last night so I am better prepared, physically and mentally for the day.
Edie and Linda came hoping to work with a group of women here, but only two showed up. The others invited couldn't come for various reasons, including 4 or 5 who just gave birth, and several who couldn't come because it was too cold in their area to walk to the train station. One woman traveled for 48 hours to come, the other "just" 24. Edie thinks just having two is a little intimidating for them to open up so it will take some gentle relationship building to make progress.
I hate to mention it to all you in the cold Midwest, but the weather here is almost ideal. Cool in the morning, warm but not too hot the rest of the day. We never need a jacket or a fan. I have to admit, life is tough sometimes, but not always.