|The Residency Team in front of Emmanuel Prayer Tower before the first service.|
Since starting our time here in Tenali, one of our team focuses has been on college outreach and making relationships with the youth of Tenali. The town has several colleges and the youth are a huge population that Harvest India is beginning to reach out towards. We began our college outreaches with a program at several different colleges in the area…a few songs, a few games, a message on God’s love from John, and prayer for the students. Our first round of events was mainly to be a presence on campus and promote our “Tenali’s Got Talent” event at the end of December. This was a huge event that we invited all of the colleges to, in which they submitted two teams for performances that were judged and at the end of the night one team won a grand prize. The plan was to have fun and get many different colleges represented under one roof to share the love of God and Harvest India’s intention of starting college ministry. It was on December 28th and had over 1000 people attend. All in all, it was a great event and a great start of our college ministry efforts. To see a video of our team performing for the event as well, click here. Enjoy :)
After Tenali’s Got Talent, our team went back to the drawing board, reevaluating our main goal of reaching the youth and how best to move forward…after this first round of ministry, what was the best next right step to keep momentum going for a future college ministry at the HI church still being built on the HI campus. How could we go deeper with students and be more intentional in our remaining time here? The answer came a few days after our team meeting. Pastor Bonuprasad from Emmanuel Prayer Tower church (aka HI Town Church) approached Bishop Suresh with his desire to start a Sunday evening English only youth service at his church and would like the Residency team to be in charge of worship and occasional preaching. When Suresh told us we all agreed it was an answer to our prayers of the next right step for our team.
The first English service in Tenali was on the first Sunday evening in February. We had no idea what to expect. Harvest India was very excited about the potential of this service, but we had no idea how far word had spread about an English speaking service beginning in town, who would come, and really, if anyone would come. We moved forward expectant of what God would do with this new service. Thirty minutes into worshiping together during our first Sunday night service, we had over 100 people in attendance. Cory and Kevin led worship while Angela and I sang back-up vocals. John explained the meaning of one of the songs we chose with scripture and then taught the words to the crowd. The song was, “Set a Fire.” It is a song we love from ROCKHARBOR’s new worship album and has been an anthem in my life lately as we live in India. Here are the lyrics :: “Set a fire down in my soul, that I can’t contain, that I can’t control. I want more of you God. No place I’d rather be than here in your love.” John spoke of how God sets a fire in our souls, that can’t be contained for only ourselves, but that we can’t help but speak of him and his love to others. He illustrated this with the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:9 in which Jeremiah speaks of even when he tries not to tell the words of God and wants to deny himself as a prophet, God puts a fire in him and he must share. He can’t help but speak of the Lord and His righteousness. Likewise, there is no better place than the center of God’s will for us, at the center of his love for us. It was amazing watching faces light up when they sang the two short verses in English with us, trying to say the words and beginning to understand what they mean. I had so much fun making eye contact with girls in the crowd as I “caught” them singing and we would smile at each other. There was eagerness in the room for God and an eagerness for English, as strange as that sounds to me. I thought we would have maybe ten people come and God’s design for this service blew my meager expectations out of the water.
The second service happened last night. We passed out English New Testament Bibles and an English songbook of 12 songs our team has chosen for worship songs. It was so fun and so amazing to sing the same songs we sang during the first service and this time have everyone reading the words. The clapping was missing that is such a huge component of Indian worship due to holding songbooks, but it was replaced with everyone’s eyes inside their songbook and huge concentration on singing along with us. I have never had so much fun in church and felt the happiness of God bridging two cultures together. A Pastor visiting from Sun Valley Church in Arizona preached the sermon and it can be summed up in that there is no one greater than an Indian to bring the good news of Jesus to India. He spoke on empowerment through the Holy Spirit and that even one person can be used by God to change the face of India for generations to come. It was incredible sitting in the audience alongside Indian girls ranging from 14-30 and listening to a message about how important they are in the eyes of God and the advancement of His kingdom in India.
Please pray for a few specific things as we move forward. Our heart, from the very beginning, is to train and equip Indian youth to take our place in leading worship. This is especially necessary, not only for empowering them, but also because our team leaves for Israel and our furlough April-July. We will be holding weekly meetings of some sort soon in order to teach the worship songs to interested people and maybe start some sort of small group through it out of this night service, but we especially need a few boys and girls to lead worship on Sunday evenings. Someone who can play guitar would be awesome to find. Please pray that God brings forward Indians who we can train to work alongside us and take our places. In addition, please pray that God raises up interested youth to serve as leadership for this service. Our heart is really to hand this service back into their hands once we find those who would love to serve. There are several amazing people from Emmanuel Prayer Tower who serve with the small bits of set up and tear down, but finding and walking alongside those interested in leadership would be really great. Pray for the youth to continue to come. We are expecting great things for this service, no matter how much or how little English the people know, God is going to use this service in some mighty ways for His kingdom. I can’t wait to see how He continues to use English as the language with Western worship songs, but also makes this service completely culturally relevant as well. The bridging of two cultures is really fun to be a part of. We are stoked to play our part! :)