Okay, I know reviewing a restaurant in India is ridiculous, but I can’t help myself. It was amazing. And what if someone who reads this blog happens to end up in Chennai looking for somewhere to eat. I would kick myself for not having mentioned it.
The restaurant is called Kokom. It is located in the MRC neighborhood in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. They serve food from the southern coastline of India. The basic idea is you have some sort of base, a sopping up material. It’s like a bread but very different. I think many of them are rice based. Let’s go ahead and admit now that I’m an idiot. I don’t know what anything was called. I don’t know what was in it. But I do know it was awesome. So, you usually order the base (the dipper) and also a few of the gravies. One of the best was a chicken stew. But it wasn’t even my favorite, just the one I remember the name of.
Anyway, everyone there was friendly. The place was beautiful. And most importantly, the food was incredible. I might have to go back to India just to eat there again. Okay, that’s not true. But it was really good. I’ll check in with some of my new friends that ate with us that night and see if anyone knows the name of anything that we had. Because otherwise, you’ve read this whole thing and have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.
But at least I’ve done my job and passed along the news. So just in case you’re ever in Chennai, India. Remember the name… Kokum.
TIll our next meal,
I saw college students do motions to songs. I mean, Big House. They were unashamed and if this was worship, they wanted to be a part of it. I saw students sit for over two hours on the ground, worshipping and being taught. There were no side conversations. Their attention did not drift. Because they longed for what they found there. There were very few cool illustrations and no jokes. They didn’t need to be entertained. They wanted to be taught. They wanted to be transformed. It was challenging to me.
Everyone was kind. They took care of us so well. One young man wouldn’t even let me fill my own plate. He always served me, every meal, all week. But in their kindness, they didn’t avoid the truth. If they had a hard question about something I said, they asked it. And if they didn’t get it the first time, they asked again. I was grateful for the atmosphere of truth and love that I found there.
Once the camp was done, a couple of guys took Aaron and I to see some sights in that part of India. We saw some of the ancient carvings and such, but the last stop took the prize by far. The tomb of the apostle Thomas is in Chennai. We went to the church built on the site. It was amazing just to be that close to the stories I’ve always heard. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go to Israel. I was so humbled to be there. It is over 3000 miles from Jerusalem to Chennai, and that’s measuring in a straight line. It must have taken most of his life just to travel there. But in a land where Hinduism reigns, there are sincere Christ followers. And it started with him.
I’m not an apostle, but I can’t imagine having that kind of dedication, that kind of impact. It pushes me to study, to prepare, and maybe to take risks.
And then it was time to come home. I ended up traveling for longer than I was actually in India. But it was well worth it. I hope to return. And I hope that you will join me in praying for these fellow believers, these brothers and sisters across the world. They need strength. They need wisdom. They need courage. And soon, I’m going to find a way for you to give to support this camp in the future. So that’s coming soon. Until then, pray.
And maybe you can let me know what part of the world is on your heart. And what ideas you have about God’s heart for there. I’m looking forward to hearing about it.
The camp was called SummerTree and the organization was Sishya. It’s a Christian camp for students south of Chennai in India, in other words, very south in India. There were college and high school students there. About 450 of them. I couldn’t believe how many students were there. And each one desired to hear from God that week. I was truly honored to be a part of it.
I must admit at first I noticed all the details that were different from our camps. The long transitions. The amount of solo/performance songs. The types of skits. What people wore. But after a time I started to realize that these people were truly waiting to hear from the Lord. And I have found that when people wait on Him, He shows up. Maybe not in the way we expect, but He is faithful. I never saw a big emotional response, but I heard stories one on one and in the group about what God was doing in lives.
I taught two sessions on worship, about how God is worthy of honor in every area of our lives in every moment of our lives. And the music we listen to and the music we make is merely a part of that. They really soaked it in and had great questions. When dealing with the issue of whether or not you can listen to secular music, we spent a great deal of time talking about what is really our goal in life. If it is to be with Christ, to be like Christ, then we don’t really need to spend a whole lot of time figuring out just how far we can get away from him. We need to pursue Him and love Him. Whatever music helps you do that, listen. Whatever doesn’t, don’t. Then we started applying it to other areas of our lives as well.
I also taught two sessions on recovering from sins in our lives. We talked about humility (understanding who we are in relation to who He is), submission (putting Him in charge because of who He is), confession (surrounding ourselves with strength because of who we are), and continuation (wash, rinse and repeat, meaning you’re never done healing, God always has farther to take you). And we spend a lot of time on hope. We have a loving God and He completely understands us. So it’s okay to be where you are and to take that first step. Again they asked some great questions.
But I must admit, I probably learned more than I taught. One of the speakers was amazing. His name is Sunder Krishnan. He was born in India but is currently a pastor in Toronto. I took more notes than I’ve taken since we were with Dr. Robert Smith two years ago. And anyone who has heard me rave about that camp knows that is a compliment that means something.
I’ll finish up next with a bit about the end of our trip and some of what I learned.
I couldn’t think of a catchy title that would make you want to read about my trip to India. I couldn’t come up with a clever phrase that would somehow encompass a weekend of Christians training themselves in a land where they make up less than 3 percent of the population. I couldn’t find the words to describe God moving among a people who are unashamed and devoted to Him. So I apologize for the title, but I believe the story that follows will both challenge and encourage you.
About a month ago, I was playing a show in Plano, TX. Afterwards, a guy walked up and told me he had already been out to his car about to leave. But God had told him to come back in and invite me to go with him to India. Naturally, I am usually a bit suspicious when people tell me that God has a message for me. But God didn’t send a message for me, He just instructed Aaron to invite me. So I politely declined, saying that I was busy through July but would he email me and tell me more about it because I would like to pray for the trip. He had told me he was going to India to participate in a Christian camp for students. It sounded really interesting and I did want to know more about it.
Fortunately, he actually did email me. And invited me again. He said he understood I was busy but he really felt led to invite me. Now, that starts to mean more when you get to know Aaron and realize that this isn’t something he does all the time. He is not often led to approach people he doesn’t know and invite them around the world. But this time he listened. And extended the invitation again. So I looked at my calendar and surprise, it was the one weekend I was home. But I was supposed to lead worship at my church. So I called the church and found out that the worship leader I was supposed to replace was actually going to be back, so they were hoping I wouldn’t mind not playing that Sunday. So suddenly I was free. I talked to Jenny (my wife) and she said, “Well, you can’t NOT go.” After correcting her double-negative, I agreed that it was something that must at least be looked into. So I emailed Aaron back. By this time, Aaron had had a death in the family and was unavailable for a few days. So I assumed this was going to fall through. Then suddenly he emailed me back and we had about 48 hours to figure out the travel details. They all came together and I went to an office here in Austin that was able to quickly arrange for a visa for me. I was going to India.
Now if you had asked me a month ago, which major nation in the world do you know the least about, the answer would have been India. I knew nothing. Hinduism and something about cows. The sum total of my knowledge. But now I was going. And the camp already had a worship band. They wanted me to teach. Two session on music and two session on addiction.
So I got on a plane and went. I left on Wednesday at noon and got there Friday morning. I’ll tell about the camp tomorrow…