I had no idea how many languages people spoke in India until my visit. When I visited Chennai, Ongole, and Nellore, we encountered two of them – Telegu and Tamil. But let me start my story about sharing the gospel on this trip.
What We Did There
Last November was my first trip to India. It was a 10-day event with Global Hope India – an dynamic mission organization dedicated to sharing the gospel, pastor training, village development, and child outreach. Ten of us traveled together, directed by my sister and her husband, Rebecca and Chris Ayers.
Our activities were varied, and included visiting orphanages, attending village gospel meetings, and most importantly, two pastor conferences to edify these leaders and their wives. Before the trip, we worked with Nancy Keel to prepare 100 MicroSD cards (2GB) that contained an audio Bible, clips of the Jesus film, and a few other media, all in their language.
We knew these pastors would be excited to put this card in their mobile. More importantly, we knew they would want to share the same files with church members or new converts by putting it in their mobile devices. To assist with explaining the download and sharing process, we created a document with instructions on how to do this when we distributed the cards.
Challenge After Challenge
This trip was quite eventful on many occasions and had many challenges. It was clear that spiritual forces were attempting to work against our goal in numerous ways. One event occurred in relation to the sharing of the audio Bibles we brought with us.
Just before flying out of Raleigh, North Carolina, we discovered that our mobile WiFi device carrying the files was inoperable. It worked the day before, then it stopped. What we wanted to accomplish with this device was to make it easy for multiple people with mobiles to connect and download files while we were visiting with them.
We decided at the last minute to take two laptops with all the files along so we could perform data transfers (1-2 at a time) directly to MicroSD cards handed to us from people’s phones. I took mine, and Chris took his. He was hesitant since his “world” of computer files resided in that device; he didn’t want anything to happen to his data. Losing it would be very unfortunate, and we didn’t have time to back-up his device. Our hopes rested on the 100 MircoSD cards we had prepared to pass out.
Not long after we started passing around the MicroSD cards at the first conference, it was discovered that another major mistake had been made. We learned that the wrong language had been sourced for the SD cards. We needed Telegu instead of Tamil.
How we selected the wrong language isn’t very clear. The city we flew into spoke Tamil, but we didn’t have any ministry activities set up there. This made testing the materials with the people unavailable. The other cities we visited spoke Telegu. Somewhere in the communication between our team and the church, this piece of information was missed in regards to the different languages in the other cities. As much as we wanted to correct that on the spot, at that juncture, it seemed impossible to fix.
It seemed all our plans for sharing the gospel with the 100+ audio Bibles we’d brought with Christian community leaders in India was not going to happen.
At this point, it would have been easy to give up, thinking nothing can solve the problem. We had audio Bibles but no one we could give them to.
Later in the day, after the mishap had been discovered, Chris decided to search his computer to see if any old files existed from one of his prior trips. Surprisingly, he found something! He found files my father, Stephen Keel, had given him for his first trip to India from two years prior.
My dad had created these files because of a vision he had about getting God’s word in the hands of remote populations. In fact, they were previously taken to India on a different computer. In a file transfer process, they were transferred to the computer we had on hand when Chris was moving other files. At that moment, we knew that God’s hand was in our mission – the files he found were in the Telegu language we needed! With all of the different languages spoken in India, this was a coincidence and real blessing!
That evening, and for the next two days, my sister and I worked in our down-time to transfer the correct audio files to the MicroSD cards. Our plans to pass them out at both conferences came true (minus the document with instructions). We watched as people erased files on their mobile cards to make room for the Bible and give the additional cards away to others that could use them. The smiles and joy on the people’s faces conveyed their excitement. The doors that God opens, no man can shut.