Bridge to India

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Season of Rejuvenation by Caleb Rayapati

Season of Rejuvenation by Caleb Rayapati
And Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:31.
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The day of rest was commanded by God so that our bodies could be given sufficient time to recover and rejuvenate. Keeping the importance of this principle of rest and recovery in mind, we at Harvest Ministries have always encouraged our team of pastors to take time off from their busy schedules. I managed to squeeze in students from 8th class also on the trip besides besides Geetha and Sirisha.
As has been our practice over the last few years ( once in every three years)  , this year too we had a Pastors’ Family Retreat last month. But it was a special one this time around as we went on a much longer trip – Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal). The trip proved a great time of bonding, fun and learning for all. It was also a time to pray for our country and learn new spiritual truths.

Getting all the families together in itself was a huge task but it turned out to be great fun. The pastors and their families came to the Secunderabad station on May 29 at 6 a.m. and then we undertook the 26-hour ride to New Delhi.
The train experience was awesome as several of the families had never travelled for such a long distance. We had to pass through five states and everyone enjoyed watching the changing landscapes.
When we were crossing the Nagpur area, we could feel the terrible heat. Later, we checked the temperature and found it to be 118 ! . God was with us in providing a safe and comfortable travel all though the trip. Some of the infants had to endure the heat and long ride but they came through quite fine.  We left Hyd. on the 29th April morning and returned on the 4th May night.

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We had packed food provided by our school kitchen on the day one! The catering department volunteers did a wonderful job in keeping everyone fed and happy during the long journey.  
On arrival in New Delhi everyone seemed to be as fresh as a cucumber. We had planned to take some rest and then walk (2km) to India Gate (a War Memorial built by the British for the soldiers who perished in World War I & II). It is an impressive monument in the heart of the city.
However, seeing the enthusiasm of the team, I took them on a Metro train trip. We walked half a kilometer to the Metro Station and then took a train. We traveled five stations up and down. It was an experience by itself - a fantasy ride.  Several tried to click photographs even though one is not supposed to take pictures.  Some did not even know how to go through the counters.  It was a joyous experience. 
As the temperatures became a bit cool, we walked to the India Gate. It was like the congregation of Israel crossing the roads!   When we reached the monument, we were in for some disappointment as we realized that we couldn’t walk close to the monument. Yet, we did not loose heart and instead sat down in a huge circle on the lawns and had some fun – singing, praying and also a quiz competition. I reminded the pastors that we had been praying for thenation, rulers and those in authority but now we had the privilege of being in the very centre of the power and pray for the leaders. We all prayed with much burden. To me that was indeed a moment to cherish.  Again on the day we were to leave, we did the prayer walk on the corridors of power.

After that we walked down to Andhra Pradesh Bhavan where we had a tasty and sumptuous dinner and then walked back to YWCA. It was a tiring day but everyone was thrilled.

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The accommodation at the YWCA was good and pastors felt cozy having air-conditioned rooms. I ensured that the pastors had privacy by providing for the grown-up children separate rooms.  Christopher, one of our pastors, had a serious problem. After returning from India Gate, he found that his room has been re-arranged and an additional bed put in it. He panicked as he was not sure how a bed could walk into his room. He rushed to the reception and questioned the staff there about it. I had fun listening to that conversation.  The staff explained that they do have a duplicate key and as per instructions had put an extra bed in the room. It took some time for Christopher to understand it. There were several such instances during our long trip.
The next day we took a tour of Delhi. We wanted to have a Telugu guide t so that he could help the pastors and their families to understand things properly. To our surprise, the only Telugu guide we could find was the General Manager of the Tourism department. Samson, who happens to be a Telugu, was usually deputed when the heads of the States and Diplomats visit the city.   
When he met the group he was amazed as in all his 30 years of service, he did not come across a pastors group on such a trip. As such he took extra care of us and we got special privileges which are very amazing.  It was surely a miracle.


We went to Qutub Minar, Red Fort and Rajghat - the Memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, who is the Father of the Nation.  Some of them had issues walking but every one thoroughly enjoyed the trip, which was quite exhausting.  Dinner was again at AP Bhavan where I could give our brothers home food. People in north India eat lots of wheat and less rice and so food at AP Bhavan made a whole lot of difference to our team.
The next day we embarked on the four-hour drive to Agra. We paid extra money tohave our A/C buses take the Express Way.  Can you imagine the experience of the people at the Taj Mahal? Well, I better not talk much about Taj Mahal but I should mention something about KFC! I had no choice but to lead the group into a KFC seeking 97 meals. Usha came up to me and questioned my decision to feed the group at KFC.  I too pondered over it but it was too late as we had already walked in to the hotel.  I told them to enjoy the meal remembering our brothers and sisters from Kentucky. I was told that almost all of them enjoyed the meal! Kentucky all the way!!

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At the end of the first day, I had found out that the house of a Member of Parliament, who represents our constituency, was located just across the YWCA.  I suggested to one of our pastors of going and meeting the MP. We tried to secure an appointment with him but instead found out that the MP was eager to meet all of us. He even offered lavish breakfast for the entire group- unbelievable!. It was a very touching experience for us as most MPs are not accessible to ordinary people like us. He met all the families, who were delighted to take pictures with him. He personally served the breakfast to every member of the group. The MP, who is a Hindu, sought our prayers and also said he had heard a lot about the work being done by Harvest Ministries in his constituency. He said he would be glad to help us in any matter. The MP’s name is Ponnala Prabhaker from Karimnagar constituency.
Few of the pastors wives that I talked to express the fact that their Hindu relatives always looked down on them, because they do not get to go anywhere like them and see places – on pilgrimages etc. Now our ladies are thrilled that they too got privilege to see great places. Few of them expressed how grateful they are for getting good quality time with the husbands on the retreat and it was indeed a great refreshing time- it was certainly a time of bonding and blessing.

Check out more photos from the field trip
here!