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 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. . . James 1:27 NKJV
 
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
One September, a friend came to me and offered a special airline ticket ($400-$600 round trip, standby from San Diego, USA to India) if I ever felt prompted to visit my friend, Ruth Singson of the Widow Welfare Association (WWA) in India. I began to pray and ask the Lord if I was going to India. Though the fare was remarkably inexpensive, more was needed to finance the trip. I felt the time was not right and continued to wait. A few months later I was approached by some friends who offered to bless me with $2,000 to cover expenses in the event I should want to visit my friend, Ruth. I concluded it was the Lord's will that I go and that I would be on my own as no one else I knew seemed compelled to go. Jesus, of course, would be with me every step of the way. I had to set the date and trust Him.
 
 

At that time Ruth was in need of administraion help to organize some of her records and with my experience as an office manager and bookkeeper it appeared to me that this was the purpose of the trip.  However, the Lord had other plans and it quickly became apparent I was not writing the agenda. A week before my departure, Ruth sent an e-mail requesting I prepare to speak in about half a dozen places. Most would want a 30-minute message, and in one place, an hour would be considered a short message.  My goodness, I had never been a speaker and now with limited time to prepare I was a bit overwhelmed.

 
Due to flight delays the connecting flight from Paris to Mumbai (Bombay), India was missed by minutes. I would have to stay overnight. Yes, it sounds exciting; however it was extremely cold and I had packed for the warm weather in India, not winter in Europe, so with no winter clothing was confined to the airport and my hotel.
 
The Lord arranged a roommate for me that night. She was a woman about my age from India on her way home and had missed the same flight. Soon our conversation settled on the Lord. She asked many questions, and I felt Father guiding every word as I answered. This, I felt Him impress upon me, was the whole point of the delay. We ended the discussion with her professing a strong desire to read the Bible. She was very appreciative of our time to talk. She also extended and invitation to visit her and meet her family. She was an educated woman, an attorney by profession. And she was Hindu.
 
Ruth and I had been invited to preach to 150 widows in a slum community far from her home, about 5 hours ride by bus. Much to my surprise this was a meeting where I was expected to pay $700 to cover the expenses; of transporting the widows from various slums to the meeting place, to provide a meal for them; and to pay several pastors for the privilege of ministering in their community.  Ruth informed me that paying pastors is a cultural aspect among many Christian churches, one which was difficult for me to grasp. This seemed to be an exorbitant cost, particularly for India. I felt taken advantage of as a westerner, as many believe all Americans are wealthy.  I could not bring myself to be a part of this practice and refused several times over the course of three days.  Then suddenly the price dropped ~ it would not be more than $100 - $200 USD. Oh! I learned this was to cover the cost of transporting the widows and to provide a meal. Though I had not prepared for this additional expense I knew the Lord had a special place in His heart for widows and orphans and agreed to go, trusting somehow the Lord would cover.
 
There were approximately 200 people the night Ruth and I spoke. I prayed earlier in the day asking Father if the message I was preparing was what He wanted. I felt Him say, "Tell them what you know about Me, just tell them what you know." So I did. I spoke of the first time I had visited India years prior when God revealed to me His love for the people of that country. I had witnessed an infant child and his three-year-old brother abandoned on a median on a very busy street in New Delhi, and it broke my heart. Father expressed how much His heart was also broken. I also told them how God revealed Himself to me by healing my son when he was an infant.  My son had become very ill and nearly died in my arms.  The LORD healed him when I had cried out to Him even though at the time I was not a true believer following His ways. God changed my life over the years.
 
The Lord then led me to tell them about the reliability of Scripture, 66 books, 40 authors who lived over a period of 1500 years, prophecies that had been fulfilled and prophecies that Jesus fulfilled. I used the scriptures which told about sin, the wages of sin, and what God did for us through Christ. I closed with:
 
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12
 
and
 
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20
 
The presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable as He waited patiently for those to receive Christ. When the invitation to accept Christ was extended, a sea of hands went up, and the Holy Spirit descended, enveloping the entire area with His love. Heaven had opened, and the beauty of Christ's forgiveness swept over those gathered. It was truly one of the most holy moments I have ever experienced.


 
My words that night came out with such authority and conviction that I felt God had taken over my mind. As He was speaking, I was humbly thanking Him for plucking me from the other side of the earth and placing me in such a place to give His word to these very, very desperate people that He had called there. I had not orchestrated any of this. He bypassed those who wanted to profit and made it His night for His glory. I was humbled and grateful for the awesome privilege. What a mighty God we serve!
 
Later, not only were Ruth and I able to evaluate her administrative needs, but the Lord opened opportunities for me to teach in a school for slum children, preach at three churches and preach and pray in two additional slum outreaches. There was also a baptism for many, a birthday party, and a wedding reception. All this, plus traveling half way around the world and back again in only two and a half weeks!
 
All-in-all the funds provided specifically for this trip by my friends and others came to $2,150.00. Total cost for the trip which included the incredible round trip ticket came to $2,112.02. Cost for the dinner paid out-of-pocket came back ten-fold by the time I returned home through others who felt compelled to give to the ministry.
 
There are many facets of this trip to tell, but what I have shared powerfully demonstrates how God took care of every detail. Isn't He a wonder?
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...”
Isaiah 61:1-2a NKJ V
 
With this verse coming to me repeatedly and others of like direction, as well as sermons that told me to ’Go’ to the poor and needy, how could I refuse when Ruth extended another invitation to assist her with in a “Widows Conference” to be held in her home state of Manipur, India?  St. Peter School, Imphal, Manipur was venue for the Widows Conference in addition to the 25-year Silver Jubilee celebration of Ruth’s outreach to the widows of India. 
 
Times of worship, dance, Bible teachings, fellowship, and many meals were enjoyed by all.  During the Jubilee, an “Ebenezer” (1 Samuel 3-7) stone was dedicated to the Lord to praise and thank Him for His help to those who are devoted to Him.  He did not let us down and kept us covered in the midst of a time of uncertainty due to violence in the area which I will explain, but first let me tell you of the Lord’s marvelous provision.
 
  1. A wild 'mithun' was generously donated and prepared by skilled cooks.  This animal, which is well known in the region though quite unknown in the West, appeared from my observation, to be a cross between a cow and a water buffalo. 
  2. The Indian Army donated several bags of rice, oil, tea leaves, lentils, milk, sugar, salt, potatoes, mats to cover the ground where the widows slept, partitions and portions of the sound equipment.
  3. The army also brought five doctors, a dentist with a mobile dental unit, and a plethora of medicines much needed by the widows and members of the local community.  It was a tremendous, gracious, generous and most unexpected gift, and was gratefully received by the Widows Welfare Association. 
  4. The army also provided security during the conference as a 'bandh' was in place, meaning all transportation is forbidden.  The bandh was in response to a violent skirmish that took the lives of 15 people in the township of Moreh just prior to the gathering.       
 

There are 19 rebel groups active in Manipur, bordering Myanmar, whose demands range from secession to autonomy and the right to self-determination. Sadly, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives to these insurgent actions during the past two decades.  It is estimated that approximately 600 - 800 widows were not able to attend the conference due to this outbreak of violence.
  
However, spirits were not dampened as this celebration allowed for more examples of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ who is able to do more than we could ever hope or plan.  His ability to supply our physical needs in addition to healing and restoring many broken lives gave much hope as the widows turned to Him and allowed Him to bless their lives.  I was thrilled to see speakers come from many places around India to assure the widows of the deep love of Jesus Christ and to trust Him in all circumstances. 
 
It was on my heart to speak on the sacrifice of Christ as demonstrated through the cross and why He suffered.  The call to begin or renew a relationship with Christ resulted in hundreds (it appeared to be all) coming forward to receive Him for the first time or to recommit their lives to Him.  What a powerful work of the Holy Spirit.  Praise God!   It was a beautiful sight to behold.
 
We also celebrated the Silver Jubilee for the Widows Welfare Association.  Much to her surprise, Ruth was given the title 'Mother of Widows' for her work through WWA and a crown bestowed upon her by her family as a reward for her compassion and good works for the suffering widows.  A Jubilee Bell rang 25 times.  Ruth honored me with the privilege of unveiling the Ebenezer memorial stone to honor the Lord for His faithfulness in meeting all the needs of the WWA. A blessing prayer by Rev. Rudy M. Torres was given in closing. Eight hundred people enjoyed the beautiful celebration lunch together. What a great testimony it was to God’s goodness.  The WWA is now able to plan to expand further into Asia
 
Whether their relationship was initiated or renewed during the conference, the widows came to a deeper understanding in their faith in Christ as their faces glowed with peace in the midst of their most trying circumstances. 
 
Following the Silver Jubilee event, Ruth and I along with Pastor Rudy and L. Haokip, who had been assisting Ruth, traveled to Churachandpur, a neighboring town about an hour away.  This was where Ruth was raised, married, and birthed five children.  It is also where she lost her husband in a tragic accident when their youngest child was still a baby.  Ruth was left to raise all five children and where she had to rely on the LORD to make provision.  At that time, the LORD spoke to Ruth and assured her that if He could feed 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish then He was very able to help her raise her children ~ she was to trust.  Our time in Churachandpur was spent with Ruth speaking at a local church and sharing many meals with beloved friends.  The outpouring of love was amazing.
 
However, it is important to note two weeks after I returned to America that Rev. Pau Za Khen (62), pastor of the Upper Myanmar Evangelical Lutheran Church who was visiting his daughter in Churachandpur, was kidnapped by an “unidentified group” bound with hands behind his back and beheaded.  Please pray for his family and congregation.  India was recently identified as fifth highest in the world for the persecution of Christians by Voice of the Martyrs. But the Lord’s word continues to go out powerfully, changing lives despite the persecution. Jesus Christ is calling hearts to Himself. Even threat of death in this life will not stop the work God is doing, and it never will.