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Encounters on the Testing Ground

by Lori Harris
March 10, 2009
In recapping the last six weeks of life in India I realized how very much God desires us to love one another, not just the unlovable but everyone we encounter daily. I should already be doing that, right?
Landing in Mumbai in the middle of the night after a 24 hour day of flying, I was assaulted instantly with the total confusion and mass of people as we walked out to wait on our ground transportation to the city of Pune, India and our home for the next five weeks.
A man held up a sign with our name and flight number on it but it took an hour of haggling over price and contact information to find out if he really knew where we were to go. Turned out he didn’t but he did get us there and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride had nothing on what we experienced. The uphill drive for four hours coupled with the constant honking, passing on both sides of the vehicle ahead of us that we had just tailgated, the loud Indian music blaring and the smells of exhaust mixed with the heat from the open windows and pollution was enough to make a girl swoon! I prayed for super sized angels to cover the too small vehicle we were in and closed my eyes knowing God did not bring us that far to die in the middle of the night.
I didn’t know there were so many people who just like to hang on the streets at night. Bunches of men, gathered around little fires built on the side of the street seemed to be everywhere as well as the endless barrage of rickshaws, scooters and dogs. It’s 2:00 AM in the morning! Where’s the party? These guys make L.A. look sane.

Safely arrived at the Nav Sadhana in Pune and squared away, we were ready for the early morning welcome. There we met the personalities behind the sixteen nationalities we would be living with for the next few weeks.
There is nothing quite as comforting or refreshing as worshipping with old YWAM buddies. You may not know them personally – yet, but the common thread runs deep and straight to the heart. One mind and one purpose unite as we come together from our different worlds to center on one thing: Knowing the Fatherheart of God and sharing that with others.
Here in these settings, purity and simplicity rule. No amount of glitzy music can accomplish what plain, unadulterated worship and spontaneous prayer can do when everyone is there for the same purpose.

The kids were ready to explore our very safe surroundings and we were grateful for the compound feel to the facility. One of the great things about YWAM has always been the family. Ten kids rounded out our group, so we were never lacking for reality checks. Our mix included another full family like ours, singles of all ages, some couples, priests and teachers coming in and out and even grandparents. It doesn’t take long to get cozy with a mix of YWAMers.

From the start we were there to learn and school it was. We were able to ask questions and get plenty of feedback from teachers and students alike. The depth and range of teaching was excellent as we learned to minister to different cultures and be sensitive as well as to contextualize the gospel. As Protestants and Catholics working together, we should be about learning to grow into unity as we grow into Jesus.
As different nationalities expressed preconceived ideas of others who were not like them, we began to minister to one another, pray together and seek forgiveness for differences – real or perceived, that might separate us from all that God would call us to be. There were no denominational lines there. We were brothers and sisters in the Lord who were thirsty for more of God. It is good to be with those who are as thirsty as you are. Thirsty and hungry people want relationship with each other and Jesus.

We learned how very reverent many of the Hindus and Muslims are. They have prayer rooms in their homes. These sweet and gentle people put many Christians to shame with their reverence and devoted prayer time. They are looking for God. They need a savior, and so do a lot of our friends. Is what we do and live making them thirsty? That is a good question to ask ourselves anytime we have unsaved loved ones or neighbors. If we aren’t making them thirsty, then we are not letting Jesus really use us. I don’t think that I am salt and light to enough people, are you?

Bishop Valerian D’Souza of the Diocese of Poona, shared with us that ecumenism based on love and prayer between believers should be happening now. The division among Christians is seen as confusion to the unbeliever. They will know we are Christians by our love but not if we don’t have any! Christians have fallen prey to the enemy’s lies and chosen to divide themselves instead of love one another. Pope Paul VI states in his encyclical Announcing the Good News ( that true evangelization must spring from true holiness and the Christian must be evangelized before they can evangelize.

Our times on the streets showed us people in every situation of life, much more intensified and out in the open because of the millions that were there living an urban life. It is so easy, even in five weeks to become numb and lack compassion on the masses but Jesus looked on them as sheep without a shepherd. Everyone needs a savior. We cannot save ourselves. How easy we forget those simple words!

If the normal Christian life is defined by scripture, then most people are satisfied being sub-normal Christians. Personally, I like to put Jesus in a safe and acceptable box that everyone can relate to. Who wants to be the weirdo that does everything different from other Christians around them?

Our encounters on the testing ground of Poona, reminded us that Christianity comes with a price for many. A Hindu convert shared her conversion experience with us. Jesus came to her in a dream. She finally saw the same picture of the Jesus of her dream in a church. She began to find out who Jesus was. She was willing to make the supreme sacrifice for a single, Indian, Hindu girl from a good family to make, she was willing to give up her family if she must. She went through many trials and beatings by them but eventually they relinquished and she was baptized. She had to go before the city magistrate and register as a Christian. Her signature had to be notarized by a witness as well as a statement from her that she was not forced to become a Christian against her will.
Most of us have not gone through anything like that and prayerfully, our children won’t have to either. We heard many stories like this and also those of suffering in the state of Orissa, there many are renouncing their Christianity out of fear of the Hindu extremists and certain death. The extremes cause one to speculate which side of the fence we would be on if this kind of persecution ever came to us here in America.
We saw Christians keeping a united front, no matter what their level of spiritual understanding was. When people are in a situation where it is Christian against non- Christian, most don’t ask which flavor you are,
The Catholic World is not easy but we saw dedicated believers in India that would put most people who claim to be Christians in America, to shame. They know the price of their salvation.
We have dedicated our lives to work in the evangelization of the Sleeping Giant in America. We want to see American Catholic youth on fire for Jesus their Savior. Will you go with us?

We’re not in Pune anymore Toto.

February 25, 2009

We left Pune after 32 days and headed to the west coast of India in Vasai. Our trip here passed through the mountains that we couldn’t see in the dark when we arrived a month ago. John sat in my lap and the other four squeezed in the second seat. Our new friend from Nairobi, Kenya, Rosemary, came with us.
Vasai is beautiful, cooler, quiet, and has the ocean. It reminds us of San Clemente California, complete with Spanish Tile roofs and coconut palms. We have bananas at every meal because they grow right outside the window. We’re being treated like kings and queens in gorgeous marble floored homes. We are staying in a lovely three story and have visited several others.
We had dinner Monday night at the Bishop Dubre of Vasai’s home where we attended an ecumenical pastors fellowship and dinner. WE were very impressed when the local Assembly of God pastor got up and shared that he believed Bishop should be Bishop of all the churches in Vasai! He is well loved by all because he has embraced the Catholic Charismatic Community and ministries and attends and hosts so many of the ecumenical events for this area.
This is a large Charismatic Catholic community, spread out all over town. There are 250 families and growing. They are very well discipled They are very dominion minded and many own their own businesses and their Christian community is growing.
Mostly we are resting before we head home at the end of this week. We’re meeting sweet families with kids and grandparents resident. Lori is learning a lot about Indian food prep techniques, since we didn’t watch that in Pune.
Today, Tuesday we toured an old Portuguese fort near the ocean that at one time held seven Catholic churches. This is the port where St. Thomas came and established the church in India. These old church and forts are now being restored by the government. My children enjoyed climbing the stairs and exploring as we realized how very industrious these old civilizations were.
We got our feet in the water at a boat launch on the shore line of the Arabian Sea.
We heard the movie Slum Dog Millionaire, filmed in Mumbai, won best picture last night. We watched it here in India and plan to show it some day in our home for an India party. It is very representative of some of the lifestyle we have seen here. Actually it didn’t shock us as much as it does most people. Mostly answers some questions of what these people think on the inside.
We were able to get some photos and videos sent to Juanita and she loved them. We miss all our big kids and all the rest of you too. Keep praying for us. We are still loving on the Indian people. They are very kind and generous. We’re not home yet. The next post will be from home.

We wanna go home

by Alan Feb 17, 2009
What does it take to be equipped to be a leader? Good teaching that makes you think about and discuss all the factors of leading. We’ve studied the history of YWAM and Kerygma Teams, the core values unique to our branch of YWAM, and our vision. We’ve looked at the structure of how we get it done – the various schools and activities we offer to the ecumenical world. “Thus equipped, we go back to our homes and God puts us to work. That’s what we’ll be doing at the end of this month. Will you still stand beside us? You were so good to get us here. The work’s just beginning. What will your participation be?

God Change My Life

By Alan. Feb 11, 2009

To our loving supporters.

We feel you are all here in India holding us up. Thankyou for your prayers and encouragement.
Having been here about 20 days, I felt it would be good to re-explain our mission. I feel some of our sweet supporters still don't understand what we're doing. First of all, we have not become permanent missionaries to India. We’ll be coming home to dear old Texas at the end of February. We have been at a leadership training for world wide Kerygma team leaders and members. It's going quite well.

Feb 10 We heard from Juanita!

Our oldest daughter, who turned 25 on January 26, sent letters to us from her outreach location somewhere in Europe. The courier also had videos from Christmas time and still photos that we have copies of. These people were with us for about a week and are leaving today. We made a special video for her and sent it back on a flash drive for her to view, as well as a lot of the photos on this website, which she has been unable to log onto. Pray for her. She's very homesick. Moreso than us! She will not return to Texas until May 1.

Alan wrote something new: Feb 8, 2009

Here we are at the mid-point of our trip. We’ve made our adjustment to the humidity, the noise, the smell. Actually we don’t hear the noise anymore or notice the smell. When we lived in Fillmore, California, everyone who came said,” Wow, what’s that smell – like perfume?” It was the orange blossoms. Our olfactory senses had become numb to those odors. Same thing in India. We can’t smell the pollution anymore.

Today in class, Bruce Clewett, one of Kerygma’s leaders, said if you were asked to name 10 good things about Pune and ten bad things, you could name the bad things instantly. Is that our nature? I’m sure I’ve named that many in my web postings. But ten good things? Lets see.

Had a nice talk this morning with Zeger. He’s from a charismatic Protestant fellowship in Holland. The two pastors have former YWAM experience. Their church is very open to YWAM, and sends their youth to Kings Kids, a YWAM youth singing ministry that operates all over the world. One YWAMer in the church had his birthday party at the local YWAM base. Zeger attended and saw a YWAM base for the first time. He was very interested, which led to him participating in GO Teams one summer during High School. Go Teams, he says, is a four-week short term missions outreach.

Harris Update January 24, 2009

We were so spiritually prepared to come to India. I remember praying on our couch at home with Lori, ”God we don’t belong here. We’re already in India.” Our bags had been packed for days. I felt like our spirits had already come here and our bodies just needed to come here to catch up. Now that I’m here I feel that same feeling, except now I’m really here.

I knew when we came to India and would be around Indians. I thought only if we went out we would cross paths with some Indians. My main emphasis would be learning the K-Team way. Now that we’re here, if you want to see the people, look out the window. When you go in our courtyard, they stick their hands through the bars, and sometimes wander in. They think we’re all rich people. They follow you down the street with their hands out. How do you talk to these people, Lord? How do you relate Jesus to them? How do you live Jesus to them?

I thought the heat would be a problem or water. I just didn’t realize how immersed we would be in noise. It is totally insane. It’s like we’re in Max Headroom or Blade Runner or the Terminator. I never in my life expected to live in an environment like that. It’s so filthy. At Mercy Ships I constantly sorted through images of poverty in Liberia. Not even that could prepare me for this. This is so urban. It’s almost a nightmare.

I was not prepared for pollution. We’re trapped in it. It always smells like someone just set off a large package of firecrackers. We somewhat have blocked the smell in our room, but as soon as you walk into the hall you are knocked over by it.

We took a rickshaw downtown Friday during our half-day off. I was telling Lori about all the scrawny dogs I had seen living on the street. “I wonder where the cows are?” We pulled up at our destination at the clothing district and there were two cows nuzzling through the street garbage.

Downtown there were more predictable streets than right next to our property. It reminded me of Chinatown in San Francisco or of St. Martin, Virgin Islands. In the V.I. Lori and I wanted to get off the beaten path and see the real people on that vacation. Here you don’t have to leave the pretty tourist area. There isn’t one. Its like Honolulu mutated into a horror film. I have seen not one patch of grass. There is no beauty. There may have been mountains we passed through on the way, but that was in the middle of the night.

We soon met YWAMers from India, Germany, Belgium, Papua New Guniea, Australia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Canada, Holland and Seattle, WA. The kids are happy having a few young children to chase around. James has Canadian teenage girls from his YWAM Tyler SST here. He got a quick dose of what a small world this is.

Even on the plane the food has been Indian. (What did you expect?) There’s lots of neat sauces, mystery meat, seasoned rice, tortilla type bread. We were a hit at morning tea break with our gallon zip locks of American chocolate chip cookies. They said the sweet fellowship matched the cookies. The lady from Ghana said, “Your cookies were beautiful.” Thanks Amanda for the last minute baking tizzy!

Our bodies have not adjusted to the time. Lori and I laid down at 2:00 for a nap and woke up in time for supper at 6:45 pm, but the kids never woke up the rest of tonight.

We wish we could share everything we did, with you at home, and this is only the first day! Please continue to pray if you are to participate in financing our time here. You may contribute online through our website.

Pray for us. We will bring so much information and experience back with us, and maybe a few staff members for our new K-Teams base in Texas!

In Christ,