Our Bethel Sent Missionaries, Jeff and Julie, were recently on a multi-month trip meeting up with global partners that they work alongside and serve. One of their stops included a visit with a partner couple that are also the leaders of Bethel's Global Partner Organization in India. Julie captured this reflection of a weekend spent with them that gives you a glimpse into their lives and ministry. Due to security reasons, some names are changed and abbreviations used.
Hannah hugged me before we went out into the darkness to catch our flight. It seemed like a long time since we walked and talked, pushing the stroller, watching neighbors string lights for Dawali. I've walked alongside Hannah for many years, since Prakash and Joy were young and the first ch plant was small too. In our recent visit to India, our first since Covid began, Jeff and I were grateful to walk alongside the M family again. When it came time to depart, I reflected on our last weekend together. It had only been a weekend, but a full one, like most weekends in the capital city.
We woke up Saturday morning on the futon in the family room at the M family house. Hannah had arranged breakfast and made the good coffee, since we were visiting. Worship music played next to the kitchen table and two-year-old Andrew sat in his highchair. Home from several days away speaking to chs in Northern India, Paul had gone to a soccer game with Prakash and Joy. He took a young man with him, always making the most of an opportunity. The house needed to be transformed; it would be a full day.
The M family home serves as a sort of ministry center, so a helper arrives to help change the space from a home into a ch setting. Hannah trained her to prepare Indian dishes for a fellowship meal, to mix a large batch of chai, and to set up rooms for fellowship, the service, and childcare. As the lady of the house and Paul’s partner in ministry, Hannah directs the transformation of the house from top to bottom.
The day before, she made sure laundry was finished and floors were cleaned. On this Saturday, the sofa and table must be moved and chairs gathered to prepare for the service. In what was our bedroom, the futon is moved and alphabet mats cover the floor for children. Along the wall, bookshelves hold resources for those coming to the new ch. Some are just starting their journey of exploring Christianity. Others are leaders Paul and Hannah are developing.
My friend, this mom of teens and a toddler, manages to make it to part of a soccer match to continue developing relationships with other moms. For Paul and Hannah, even school is a strategic part of life and ministry. Before Paul returns from the soccer match or cups can be placed on trays for chai, the toilet backs up. That happens a lot in the capital city, so during Andrew's naptime, Hannah arranges for a plumber. All of her work reminds me of how the Proverbs 31 woman “looks well to the ways of her household.”
While it’s still afternoon, Hannah changes clothes, combs her hair, and checks the chai tray. It still seems early for ch to begin, but Hannah explains how families arrive hours early. They come to fellowship, to drink chai, and to ask questions about life as a follower of Jesus. As people arrive, Hannah greets them at the door with Andrew on her hip. Everyone exchanges cheek kisses before they settle into chairs, receive chai, or chase children in the small backyard with artificial turf. Hannah follows her own toddler and others, squirting mosquito spray.
When the service begins, Joy and Paul lead worship, along with an intern from the United States, who spends weekends staying with the M family. Hannah gathers the children to the basement for a Bible lesson and craft. After the service, over the chicken biryani she planned, Hannah talks with a group of women about an upcoming cross-cultural marriage. It’s an informal opportunity encourage and counsel young wives and the wife-to-be. She will help plan for the wedding, and she and Paul will provide premarital counseling.
Finally, when the chai is gone, Hannah walks each guest to the door. Checking to see if we need help to reset our futon for the night, Hannah runs upstairs with Andrew to prepare him for bed. He’s been fighting a bad cough; many people in the capital city deal with respiratory issues from poor air quality. Hannah and Paul prepare for an early start Sunday, heading out to their first ch. Paul texts the ch ministries team to confirm the plans.
Weekends overflow in India life and ministry, and I am thankful for the interlude Hannah and I shared earlier in the week, when we could walk and talk together.
Early Sunday morning, Hannah organizes breakfast, packing leftovers into a tote for the day in the northern region of the city. She finishes feeding their toddler and their teenagers on the hour-long car ride. It’s an exciting day as the established ch plans to "dunk" new believers. It sets them apart as those ready to follow Christ, despite the cost. The dunking ceremony happens before the sun gets too hot, in a secure setting on the rooftop. Afterward, everyone wants a picture with Pastor Paul and Hannah to remember the important day.
While the grownups walk down six flights of stairs to the basement for the ch service, Hannah prepares for the children’s ministry in one of the apartments. She gives directions for lunch preparations; later, she coordinates serving and cleanup between the service and the annual ch meeting. With her own toddler, Hannah sits in the back during the meeting with other moms, helping each other, so they can listen and participate. After two hours, the meeting ends and Hannah works with Joy to clean up the family ministry-day gear.
Together, the five of them pile in to the car to head home. After an hour and a half in traffic, they reach the only drive through McDonald’s in the capital city and pick up a treat to celebrate a full, fruitful weekend as they head home. Everyone is tired, and there are a few pieces of homework to be finished.
Paul and Hannah set the alarm to wake up and bid us farewell. While it’s still dark and the streets are quiet, they wake up to exchange hugs. We knew they would go back to bed before their two teens get up for a new week of school and the first visitors of the day arrive. A small group of young men will come the next morning and stay for lunch. "Aren't you worn out?" I asked my friend. Hannah doesn’t mind, because they enjoy building into the lives of the young men so much.
As our taxi pulls away into the India night, the light narrows and the door of their ministry house closes. A weekend is only a few days, but a weekend with Paul and Hannah is full and fruitful.