Before heading to Minjur, India, we knew there'd be opposition. First, within this area of half a million people, there are only 3000 known followers of Jesus Christ. Second, in Minjur, there is a temple to Shiva (the Hindu god of destruction). Third, the field we were using for our festival outreach, belonged to a local Hindu high school. Going in, the deck seemed stacked against us.
On Wednesday evening, we were to go to the field to pray over it and dedicate it to the Lord. Due to the outbursts and disruptions caused by teenage boys playing soccer on the field, that night of prayer was canceled. Rumor was, we were not even sure we could use the field on the rest of the week.
The local pastors prayed and fasted...and "in the 9th hour" we got permission for the field on Thursday (but not until that day about noon). The stage, sound and lighting was to have been set up 2 weeks prior - and because of all the opposition, it was not allowed to be assembled, until the day of the first night of the Festival.
We left our "resting" house, and wound through the very active evening life of town. Cows wandering about while dogs and goats scrounged through the immense amounts of garbage on the side of the road. Autorickshaws, bicycles (with 12 dozen crates of eggs stacked on the back), scooters (carrying families of 4), bullock carts and cars dodging one another in complete disarray that has a strange rhythm to it.
There were mostly men out in the intersections - grabbing local snacks, and hanging out in the streets. Most of their foreheads colored with various Hindu markings. The women who were out were carrying heavy loads - sometimes atop their heads or gathered up in their arms.
When we arrived (about an hour into the preliminaries - once again, they waited to bring us until there was a more significant crowd) we were glad to see the field lighted and amplified. A somewhat saggy stage was assembled - but it was sufficient.
After we all gave a short greeting, I sang a song, and then started to give my testimony. When I got to the part about sharing about how I invited Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and rose again to forgive my sins, into my life - the power went out. I wasn't surprised at all, actually, and think I even laughed under my breath, "So this is how the enemy is going to try to interfere. Sorry, Light of the World - time for you to shine!"
The power stayed out...five minutes, ten minutes...I watched young men scramble back and forth across the field. They were running toward the bus off to the side which seemed to be what was powering the event. About ten minutes into the wait, the pastors on the stage - from about 10 different denominations, gathered at the front and held hands. They began singing together and praising God. Their praises were so beautiful - their show of unity powerful.
Though it seemed like the event was thwarted, the stance of these pastors, who had never before worked in a unified fashion, was the beauty and light that brought light into the darkness that night. After about 20 -25 minutes or so of power outage, the lights came back on and the festival continued. The One True God - the light of the world - would not be thwarted!
The next day, we were informed that some local Hindus complained about our gathering. They went to the superintendent at the school and asked him to stop the festival. The superintendent, under great pressure to succumb to the local Hindu ruckus, nevertheless decided to grant us permission. He told the local pastors that Mike must not speak against Hinduism or idols. No problem - who needs to speak about lesser gods when the One True God's love and forgiveness is so ravishing? Mike just preached Jesus Christ crucified. But the entire time during his preaching that night, there were fireworks exploding just beyond the opposite end of the field. They continued and continued ... it seemed so obvious an attempt to distract the crowd. When Mike gave the invitation to receive Jesus Christ...the fireworks mysteriously stopped.
There continued to be opposition of sorts - each day there was a new threat that the festival would be shut down. In addition, the lead pastor organizing the event was in a motorcycle accident, and several of us on the team sensed spiritual struggle from time to time. On Saturday night, however, we sensed a tremendous spiritual breakthrough...we all felt it...we felt that whatever evil spirits were "resident" in that Hindu space were stomped on. That night many more people seemed touched by and responded to the gospel message.
What is always interesting to me, is that when I get home from a missions trip, some of the people who have been praying share how God prompted them to pray during the week. So I was completely humbled and unsurprised, upon hearing one friend say, "God would not let me sleep - and I was up till the wee hours of the morning praying. I could not not pray."
How remarkable to note that those wee-hours-of-the-morning prayers were obviously the first line of prayer defense all week. When some of you were praying at 3, 4, 5 in the morning, 13 1/2 hours ahead of the West Coast, was the time when the permission for using the field was being argued about. Who knows how we were carried forth on these midnight prayers...
Rumba nundre (Thank you so much) for your prayers!
Karther periaver (God is Great!)