I was panicking. Three hours had gone by since I landed. Dr. Chatla said that he'd send someone to pick me up. Where were they!?
After a ludicrously expensive phone call ($30!!) I found my ride. Of course, she had been 10 feet away from me the whole three hours. I felt so bad! Still, we got a taxi to the bus station and then boarded a bus for the 6 hour ride to the Indian countryside of Andhra Pradesh.
We arrived in Vidjayawada around dinner time. We ate at a local hotel and then got in one of the church's jeeps for another hour deeper into the countryside. Finally, at about 11pm we arrived at the church/school/orphanage compound where the conference was to take place and where I would be staying. Exhausted, I crashed hard that night.
The next day the compound was abuzz with activity getting ready for the conference. Dr. Chatla explained to me that more people would show up each day. Eventually 3,000 people would be here! This made me kind of nervous but excited nonetheless.
I was one of two speakers at the conference from outside of India. The other one was a British pastor and his wife. Over the course of the conference I got to know him well and the wisdom he poured out to me was incredible. I felt like I was Timothy listening to Paul. He encouraged, exhorted, corrected, and even rebuked me once or twice. This was a sort of "crash course" in cross cultural ministry. I left India wiser because of him.
I preached once a day alternating from morning and evening services. Then I would talk with and teach smaller groups throughout the day. It seemed we were always being asked to pray for someone. I learned later that many viewed ministers with the same awe that they would view local spiritualists or shaman. I won't make that mistake again.
On the last day of the conference, Dr. Chatla's words became true. Over 3,000 people squeezed into the school's center courtyard. The word was preached and people prayed for God to do amazing things in the new year. We rang in the new year praising Him and praying to Him.
The rest of my trip was spent in Hyderabad with a couple friends I had made at the conference. We did a couple touristy things (at their insistence) and got to explore Golconda Fort. The view from the fort was awesome. I wish I had taken pictures of it. Finally, I boarded my plane home. It had been an incredible experience but it was time to head back to the states.
Feeling pretty good about myself and my abilities in ministry, the Lord was quick to humble me. More on that in the conclusion of my time in India!
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and give you peace.
That's all for now travelers, see ya next time!