bangalore-india

I apologize to my regular readers for the long gap between post.  No excuses!  Most of these India installments are only around 500 words in length. If you would like to go back and read them and are not on that page now you can click HERE TO READ PREVIOUS POST.  

 

I’m not sure exactly what time it was but I think it was around 3am. The streets of Bangalore were quite. There were some street lights and the roads were paved. We arrived at our motel. It cost us $75 per night. The same hotel in an American city would have been much more.  We drove up to the front door under a covering that was supported by huge marble pillars. A door man dressed in what to me looked like a safari outfit, cleaned, pressed with hat and everything bounded down the marble steps to open the door for us.  As we exited the car, bell hops grabbed our four heavy suitcases and the door man opened the entrance door for us to step into the lobby.  The lobby was spacious with fountains, marble pillars and a marble floor.  We checked in and one bell hop helped us to the room.  After our luggage was placed in the room and as he left I handed him a US five dollar bill. He seemed very grateful.  I later learned that the average income of middle income Indians at that time was about three hundred dollars a year.

We fell into the bed. It was hard as a rock but it had sheets, pillows and blankets and we were beyond exhausted. It was about four in the morning and we had been awake for more than two days. We  had no problem going to sleep.

The telephone shook me out of my sleep. It was 6:30am. I’d never heard a telephone ring so loudly.  After about two full days with no sleep and then only three and a half hours of sleep before being jarred out of bed it was horrible.  I had to get awake enough and my head cleared enough to answer. I picked up the phone, “hello..” I said with a hoarse frogieness (not a real word) in my throat.  The room was spinning, the bed seemed to bounce like there was turbulence.

“Praise The Lord pastor Scurlock,” the cheery voice came across the phone line. “This is pastor T.C.George. I am in the lobby of your hotel and have come to make your aquaintance.” It was 6:30 in the morning. Why in the world was pastor George here now?  I knew I would be meeting him, that he would be our contact in Bangalore, but at 6:30 in the morning?  T.C. George was the General Supt. of the South India Assemblies of God.

“Brother George, I will be down in just a few minutes.” I said

“Wonderful, I will wait for you.”

I quickly threw some clothes on, wet my hair (I did have some then) and brushed it, brushed my teeth, washed the sleep out of my eyes and exited the room with Felicia already back asleep.  It was peculiar to me that the same bell hop that helped us to the room at 3am was standing directly outside of my room facing my door. “Good morning sir,” he said with a smile.

“Good morning.” I said with a forced smile.

When the elevator door opened in the lobby I immediately heard his voice again. “Praise the Lord pastor Scurlock.” At six feet tall and more weight than I wish to give details on I was easy for pastor George to spot. Three steps of the elevator and he embraced me with a welcoming hug then while holding my had walked me to a sofa in the lobby. It was a much nicer welcome than the one I had received in the Bombay airport.

T.C. George was a small man. Maybe “5’6″ and about 150 pounds. Maybe. His skin was dark and his thinning hair was gray. He seemed so genuinely pleased to see me.  He welcomed me to India and shared with me some technical things he knew I needed to know. Things like ‘make sure if you drink water it comes from a bottle with a government seal or stamp on it.  He shared with me that he had arranged many preaching opportunities. “But first” he said. “You and your wife take a couple of days to rest. You will need it after such a grueling trip.”  Boy did I!  We talked for about forty-five minutes. Brother George left and I was back on the elevator just hoping I could go back to sleep.  I turned the corner from the elevator toward our room. The cleaning cart was outside of the room next to ours and that same bell hop was outside of my door. “Good morning sir,” he said and I was back in our room. Why was the cleaning cart outside of the room next to ours at such a early time, and why was that bell hop outside of my room?

In a matter of seconds I was out of my clothes and back in the bed. Felicia grunted something that wasn’t coherent, I fluffed up my flat pillow the best I could and……….

The telephone shook me out of my sleep AGAIN. This time it was about 8:30am. I had been back asleep maybe an hour. I answered the phone. It was the gentleman at the front desk telling me that our car had arrived and wanted to know what instructions he should give to the driver.

“We’re sleeping! I said. “I don’t know what to tell him.”

“I will have him park in the garage until further instructions,”

“Good! park in the garage.” I’m pretty sure I sounded delirious.

India – VIII

Jeff Scurlock —  May 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

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Click Here To Read Earlier India Installments.

(The First Paragraph is the last paragraph of the last installment.)

Over in the distance I spotted customs  and remembered that I was smuggling Christmas decorations into India.  I began to sweat.  I had already had a gun pointed at me and yelled at because of a stupid luggage tag. What would happen if they found these decorations.  We finally were to the point that it was time to go through customs.  I remembered what Arvind said. “Pastor Scurlock, go through the green line. They will not search your luggage there.  Now I had a real problem. The green line was closed and everyone was waiting in the red line where everyones luggage was being searched.  ”What am I going to do?”  Felicia and I were only third in line and we were getting closer. Honestly I’m not sure that I was breaking any law by bringing the decorations in but Arvind had made me really nervous by telling me that it would be frowned on.  Now we really close. There is one person in front of us.

Felicia and i had never been farther north than Tennessee, father west than Texas and no father east than Columbia South Carolina.  We had never flown on a commercial flight and most definitely had never had any dealings with customs in the U.S. much less another country. It was all new to us.

My brain is racing as fast as it can after over two days of no sleep. I feel like I’m in the twilight zone as I watch customs zip up the final bag of those in front of us. We were next. My heart was pounding in my chest and due to the humidity and my extreme stress I was sweating profusely.  I prayed under my breath. It might not have been a really big deal. What was the worse that could happen? Maybe they would just confiscate the Christmas decorations. Maybe they would deport us. Or, maybe they would arrest us for this horrible crime of bringing illegal Christmas decorations into India. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I prayed even more. God help me to not get into trouble. Father please…….. Suddenly a customs agent walked up and occupied the green line. I think I ran over someone changing lines with our four large suitcases.  We were in the green line and first in line. The agent looked at me suspiciously.  Asked me a few questions and then waved us through as the poor souls who were in line behind us in the red line were having their bags searched. God is good!

We stepped out of the airport terminal to a mob of rickshaw drivers, cabbies, and men who just wanted to help us with our luggage for a tip. It was maddening.  I did not know, nor had I ever seen a photograph of the man who was supposed to meet us.  On the other hand I’m sure I was extremely easy to spot.

It was comforting when George greeted me by my name. “Hello pastor Jeff I am George and I’m hear to take you to your hotel.” He then hugged me. He had someone take our luggage and then held my hand as we walked to his car. I wasn’t sure about the hand holding but I did feel a little like a lost boy and it was comforting.  By the way, Felicia wasn’t left out. I held her hand with my other hand.

I’m not sure exactly what time it was but I think it was around 3am. The streets of Bangalore were quite. There were some street lights and the roads were paved. We arrived at our motel. It cost us $75 per night. The same hotel in an American city would have been much more.  We drove up to the front door under a covering that was supported by huge marble pillars. A door man dressed in what to me looked like a safari outfit, cleaned, pressed with hat and everything bounded down the marble steps to open the door for us.  As we exited the car, bell hops grabbed our four heavy suitcases and the door man opened the entrance door for us to step into the lobby.  The lobby was spacious with fountains, marble pillars and a marble floor.  We checked in and one bell hop helped us to the room.  After our luggage was placed in the room and as he left I handed him a US five dollar bill. He seemed very grateful.  I later learned that the average income of middle income Indians at that time was about three hundred dollars a year.

We fell into the bed. It was hard as a rock but it had sheets, pillows and blankets and we were beyond exhausted. It was about four in the morning and we had been awake for more than two days. We  had no problem going to sleep.

The telephone shook me out of my sleep. It was 6:30am.

 

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Please Read Parts I – VI Here.

Why was this man yelling at me and better yet, WHY is he pointing that gun at me?   I couldn’t believe that I had planned, spent money and come all this way to die or worse, go to a jail in India.  I felt like I was in a tunnel. Even though there were lots of people in that little room the only ones that I was conscience of was me and the man who was yelling.  It was only a few seconds but it felt like eternity.  Another man in uniform stepped toward me. “Here we go, I’m about to be arrested for something.” The man stood right in front of me, reached his arm past me to something behind me and came back with a luggage tag with an attached string.  He put the tag on the handle of my carry on luggage, stood upright looked at me, spread his hands out and smiled as to say, “that’s all there is to it.”

Apparently when I walked into the room I was to pick up one of these tags and put it on my luggage. How was I supposed to know that? No one had spoken a word of English to us since we arrived in Bombay.  I can’t over emphasis how tired we were. With all the hours we had been awake accompanied by the fact that we had crossed several time zones we had completely lost track of time. The clock on the wall said Midnight but the clock in my head was spinning away, out of control.

Once the tag situation was settled Felicia was taken into a room to the left and I to a room on the right where we were frisked.

I need to point out right now that our experience at the Bombay airport on our return trip was completely opposite.  It was a beautiful, modern facility with smiling people.  I don’t know why our arrival was so rough.

We were finally settled into seats on a airbus waiting for our flight from Bombay to Bangalore.  My experience in the airport had left me rattled. Naresh was finding it funny and having a good laugh at my expense.  All Felicia and I cared about was getting into our hotel room and sleeping for about twenty hours. Before we could do that we still had some challenges.

During our one and a half hour flight from Bombay to Bangalore something very interesting happened. Now understand that for the last few hours I’ve heard very little English but now the entertainment on the flight was episodes of the American sitcom Friends and it was in english. Our friend Naresh laughed at the Friends episodes until he cried. I think he was really tired too.  We would soon land in our final destination, Bangalore India.

I’ve done some research while writing these post. I looked at pictures of the Bangalore Airport as it is today. It’s much different now than when we were there.  There were no gangways to a concourse. Just steps from the aircraft to the tarmac.  Standing in line in the airport to pass through security and customs the thought that came to my mind was, Indiana Jones.  This terminal had very high ceilings with widows around the top that were open and there were ceiling fans every few feet that turned slowly.

Just in front of us in line was an English couple, mid fifties. They looked tired but wealthy.  The gentleman turned to make conversation with me. I had mixed emotions. He was the first person I had talked to since leaving New York that wasn’t an Easterner.  Talking to him settled me just a bit. However, on the other hand I was too tired to talk.  I do remember him asking me if we were in India to see the Dali lama.

Over in the distance I spotted customs  and remembered that I was smuggling Christmas decorations into India.  I began to sweat.  I had already had a gun pointed at me and yelled at because of a stupid luggage tag. What would happen if they found these decorations.  We finally were to the point that it was time to go through customs.  I remembered what Arvind said. “Pastor Scurlock, go through the green line. They will not search your luggage there.  Now I had a real problem. The green line was closed and everyone was waiting in the red line where everyones luggage was being searched.  ”What am I going to do?”  Felicia and I were only third in line and we were getting closer. Honestly I’m not sure that I was breaking any law by bringing the decorations in but Arvind had made me really nervous by telling me that it would be frowned on.  Now we really close. There is one person in front of us.

Get a copy of my book, The Eye of A Needle Here.

India – Part VI

Jeff Scurlock —  April 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

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Please Read Parts I – V

Sleep never came. I guess it was a combination of things. Nerves and the anticipation of what was ahead of us, second hand cigarette smoke and the tight seat.

If my calculations and limited memory are correct it was  2 or 3pm when we arrived in London and 8am at home. So by now it’s been about twenty-eight hours since our alarm clock went off, the morning of departure.  World travel is second nature to some but for us at that stage in our life it was all new, exciting and unnerving.

I remember our approach into Heathrow International Airport. I looked out the window at the neighborhoods and found it quite amazing that I was looking down on the city of London.  It wasn’t long before the airport and our runway were underneath us and I felt our large ship touch down.  Most of the passengers onboard applauded when we landed.  I wondered why. Were they so nervous about the flight that a safe landing deserved applause?

Our time in London would be short.   There was no time for exploration and being  green travelers we wouldn’t have ventured too far away anyway.  I don’t remember the exact amount of time we were there. Somewhere between an hour and three I suppose.   All passengers were unloaded so that the airplane could be cleaned, restocked and refueled.  Our flight from London to Bombay would be aboard the same aircraft.  We had come a long way but still had a very long way to go.

Back aboard the 747 and in our exact same seats in the smoking section we were off. Next stop, India.

Meal time on this Air India flight was interesting.  First of all we were always asked, “meat or veg.” What? Meat! Many Indian’s are Hindu and because we were on an Air Indian flight the option was given. Hindu’s don’t eat meat. Of course Felicia and I always asked for meat which was always lamb. There were other vegetables and items on the tray that were definitely foreign to us but  always delicious!

Our Flight to Bonbay would be about nine hours.  The daylight portion of that flight was extremely interesting.  On a large screen in the front of our cabin was a map. On the map was a line showing where we had come from and where we were, our altitude, speed and the outside temperature.

Germany, Turkey, Iraq and Afganistan were some of the countries we flew over.  We flew between Baghdad and Tehran and I jokingly looked for missiles.  We flew over miles and miles of snow capped mountains.  It was beautiful.  Darkness came and our view was gone. Bombay was getting closer. Still no sleep.

We talked with our seat companion Naresh a lot. He was a Indian native who was attending college in the United States.  He was extremely interested as we talked about our reason for going to India. We talked about Jesus and His work on the cross but Naresh wasn’t ready to accept that to follow Jesus he must have only one God.

I quizzed Naresh as to what we should expect when getting to Bangalore and he prepared us by saying, “it will be like nothing you have ever seen in America.”  He asked me about our transportation arrangements in Bangalore.  I told him we were hiring a car and driver for our entire stay. “Good!” He said.  When I suggested that I’d love to do some driving myself in India he laughed at me.  ”You should not try driving in Bangalore. You have a car and driver, let him do the driving.” Not a big deal I thought. I was just making conversation.

When we touched down in Bombay (now Mumbai) the passengers applauded again.  We taxied to a spot on the tarmac and stopped. No gate in sight the passengers began unloading.  When we got to the door we realized that we wouldn’t be walking through an enclosed gangway to our gate.  It was stairs to the ground where we boarded buses that took us to our gate.

I’m not sure what time it was. Trying to remember and piece the flight times and time changes together is confusing. I do know it was dark.  When we walked into the airport Felicia and I just stuck close to our new Indian friend Naresh.

The airport terminal was old, smelly and looked as though either a bomb had gone off are there was some extensive demolition taking place and it was green. Everything was painted hospital green.   The first thing I remember is that every person who worked in that part of the airport that night was in what looked like an army uniform and they were all men and they all had a rifle over their shoulders.  Our first stop was a desk where we checked in with Passports and boarding passes and yes those behind the desk were men in uniforms with guns over their shoulders.  I didn’t know if the uniforms and guns were supposed to make me feel safe or nervous. I was nervous and it was about to get worse.

We were given a gate number for our connecting flight to Bangalore and many of the passengers including Naresh were taking that flight. Walking to the gate I had my video camera out trying to get as much of this scene as I could. Felicia called to my attention a large sign that said “NO PHOTOGRAPHY.” I was willing to comply and quickly put my camera away but was suspicious.  What were they hiding?

We followed the crowd through a door. Somehow I had managed to get in front of Felicia and Naresh. It was security. A belt that took the bags under the X-ray machine and more men in uniform with guns.  One of those men began yelling at someone which got my attention. As i payed closer attention I was shocked to discover that the person he was yelling at was me.

With his hands on his gun which by the way was pointing at me he yelled.  It wasn’t english. It was either Hindi or one of the six hundred dialects spoken in India. It didn’t matter. All that mattered is that this man with a gun seemed very angry at me and I didn’t know why.

 

India – Part V

Jeff Scurlock —  April 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

 

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Please Read Parts 1 – 4 First

Boarding an Air India 747 was quite an experience.  Smoking was allowed on these flights so we made sure to purchase seats in the non-smoking area.  Three things stand out in my memory about boarding the aircraft. The sights; mostly Indian people who seemed to be right at home on this airplane. The sounds; chatter in the Hindi language, some english and The smell: not to be disrespectful but one thing I’ve learned about Indian people is that they love to cook with strong smelling spices and the aroma of those spices stay with them, on their breath, in their clothes.

We found our seats just three rows from the very back of the aircraft. I would be in seat A which was by a window. Felicia was in B the middle seat and in the isle seat was a young Indian who was a student at New York University. His name was Naresh.

It was late and our decent would be into the dark skies over the Atlantic ocean. I couldn’t help but think about the TWA flight that had gone down over these same waters at about this same time of night. I was still a bit nervous about flying and to make it worse I was on an Air Indian flight, leaving New York in the dark for a thirteen hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean.  I knew the flight would go by fast because I was exhausted and ready for some sleep.

Something wasn’t right. I could smell cigarette smoke. I looked around the cabin and there were several passengers who lit up as soon as the no smoking light was extinguished.  This can’t be right because we purchased seats in the non smoking area.  I was not very happy when I discovered that not only were we in the smoking area but we were in the rear of the aircraft, the place where passengers from non-smoking came to smoke.

My eyes searched the cabin as far as I could see. Looking for empty seats. Somewhere Felicia and I could move to escape the stifling smoke that had already formed a  thick cloud.  No luck. This 747 is packed. I didn’t see an empty seat anywhere.  I asked the flight attendant who was not compassionate about our situation. “There are no other seats,” she said.

This flight would be long.  Thirteen hours to London with a short layover.  Ten hours from London to Bombay (now Mumbai) with a short lay over.  Two and a half hours from Bombay to Bangalore for a total  time including flying from Pensacola to JFK with layovers  of nearly fifty hours.  The seat was tight the smoke was thick and there was a long way to go. Felicia and I agreed the best thing to do was try and relax and get some sleep.

India – Part IV

Jeff Scurlock —  March 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

InsideAircraft

I looked at Felicia and she looked a bit concerned too but as I looked around the cabin no one else seemed to notice the popping noise at all.  There was a gentleman across the isle from me, dressed in a suit and tie. He was reading the sports page of the Pensacola News Journal. He never looked away from his paper.  Apparently Felicia and I were the only ones who seemed to be concerned.  I felt pretty stupid when it dawned on me that the sound I was hearing was the landing gear.  We were approaching the Atlanta airport. The aircraft sped up and then slowed again. Faster, then slower as the pilot lined up for a landing. Moments later we were taxing to our gate.

Looking out the window it was much different than Pensacola. At the Pensacola airport there were only four aircraft parked at the one concourse. In Atlanta there were hundreds parked at many concourses.

We didn’t have to change concourses in Atlanta and there was about an hour in between arriving and leaving for New York’s JFK Airport.  Felicia and I found a snack bar and had a diet coke. It was all new to us. We were tired but excited.

Our flight from Atlanta to New York followed the East Coast.  It took two hours but it seemed like moments and we were landing at JFK.  We were in New York City. Well at least at a New York Airport. I must admit to you that I never saw even the skyline of Manhattan but it was still New York.

It wasn’t even lunch time yet and we were in for a long wait for our nine o’clock flight. To make things harder we had to keep up with our four large suitcases and our carry on bags during the wait.  With the load there was no need to try and leave the airport so we found seats in our departure concourse and waited.  I don’t remember much about that time except it was long.  We had a nine hour wait which would be followed by nearly thirty hours of flying and layovers before landing in Bangalore.  I do remember having my first Nathan’s New York Hotdog for lunch. It was pretty good.

After a long wait the Air India ticket counter finally opened. It was so nice to finally get rid of those four large bags for a while.

Arvind had given me the dress code for preaching in India. “Suits! All Suits!”  he said.   I’m not sure that was the custom as much as that’s how Arvind wanted me to dress.  Having never flow commercial and having heard horror stories about lost luggage I prepared for the worst.  Most of my clothes, including all of my suits and a pair of dress shoes were framed into a roll up garment bag that I was using as carry on luggage.  If our luggage was lost I’d still have suits.

Just a little over a decade before our trip an Air India 747 went down in the Atlantic ocean because of a bomb detonation at 31,000 feet. Not long before our trip TWA Flight 800 went down just off the coast of New York because of an explosion.   The security at the gate of our flight was extremely tense and thorough.  Every cary on bag was being searched.  I didn’t know this was going to be the case or I wound not have so overpacked my roll up garment bag.  When  the poor lady unzipped it, Well lets just say, we had a mess on our hands.  It took me a while to get everything back in place and force the zippers but it was done and we waited in a large waiting room to board.

We were already lonely.  At least ninety percent of those waiting with us were of some eastern decent.  They all appeared to be Indian.  We hadn’t left New York yet but we were already in India.  It sure would have been nice to have had Arvind with us.  Even the promise of an American missionary waiting in Bangalore would have brought some level of comfort.  We were about to fly over eight thousand miles to a foreign country where there would be no familiar faces.  It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now but it was then.  We were leaving the country for the first time in our lives, alone.

 

India, Part III

Jeff Scurlock —  March 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This is Part III in the India series. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.

The preparation was completed and the time arrived that we would actually fly to the other side of the planet.  The morning of departure started extremely early.  An international flight starting in Pensacola required an early arrival.  The flight from Pensacola to Atlanta would depart at seven which meant we had to be there by six.  I’ve never made it a practice to be anywhere right on time. I had to be early so we were there by five thirty.  Felicia was already tired and now aggravated at me because we were the first people in the airport that morning. The ticket agents were not even on the job yet.

I had never flown commercial so even the simple task of checking in with the ticket agent was nerve racking to me. I didn’t want to look green, even though I was.  I managed to check the four large suitcases and get our boarding passes without any unbearable embarrassment.  It was just a little after six in the morning but because of a late night to bed, less than good sleep, an early alarm, a forty minute drive to the airport and the stress of getting checked in we were already exhausted. I had no idea that it would be nearly forty hours before I would get another moment of sleep.  I guess in some cases it’s good to not know the future.

We said bye to our family members who had come to see us off and our kids.  I don’t think the kids really understood what was going on but they seemed sad. Felicia and I were extremely nervous and excited about our trip be we too were a bit sad knowing that it would be fifteen days before we saw them again.  I can’t imagine the emotions that military parents deal with leaving their children for such long times.  I also think of the early days of world missionaries, especially the “One Way” missionaries who packed their belongings into coffins, leaving family and friends behind knowing they would never see them again.  All for the sake of the Gospel.

The Delta MD-80 was not a huge aircraft but fairly large coming out of the small Pensacola airport.  Every seat was occupied and my seat was more than occupied.

I have always been a lover of thrill rides so takeoff was exhilarating for me. I had been in the air many times in small private aircraft but had never felt the G-Force of a jet takeoff.  As I said, exhilarating.

The flight to Atlanta was to take less than an hour. Just long enough for the flight attendants to serve beverages and then pick up the trash.  I had managed to relax and enjoy the view outside the window until I heard a loud popping noise and then felt the aircraft slow dramatically.  To say I was concerned would be an understatement.

India – Part II

Jeff Scurlock —  March 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

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This is part two of the India series. Please make sure you have read part one first.

 

 

We lived at least fifteen minutes from the nearest restaurant and Sunday lunches in one of them were not the norm. Felicia was home long before me that Sunday preparing lunch.  I must have had a look of shock on my face because she immediately knew something was up. When she asked I told her that Betty had given us a donation for our trip to India.

“How much is it?”  I handed her the check.  She looked at it for what seemed like eternity then looked up at me and said with a twinkle in her eyes, “we’re going to India.”

We needed three thousand dollars for the tickets and the check as you have already guessed by now was three thousand dollars.

I stayed in a state of shock and awe for several hours.  Where did Betty get that much money?  My shock and awe was followed by shame. I hadn’t really trusted that God would provide. He did it in spite of my lack of faith.  Why is it so hard to believe that God will make a way? Not only did God make a way for us to get the tickets purchase He used the most unlikely source.  There were people in our church who had lived well and planned well. They drove luxury vehicles and lived in nice homes.   It wasn’t them. It was Betty, the widow who lived in the small house and drove an old car.  It taught be a valuable lesson. A lesson I’ve had to learn again and again. I keep forgetting but God keeps reminding me that He chooses who He will use and it’s not usually the one with the most money, talent or pedigree.  God chooses the foolish things to confound the wise.

The date was set, the airline tickets with Air India purchased and preparation was in full swing.  There was so much to do. We would be gone for fifteen days. We had to make arrangements for our kids. That was the easy part. Our moms agreed to take turns staying with them at our house so they wouldn’t miss school.  There was more money to raise the cost of the airline tickets was half of what we needed for the trip.  I had faith now. I knew God had provided for the tickets. Now I was sure everything else would be ok.

Everything was not okay.  Arvind came by to see me one day to inform me that he would not be going to India with us. “Pastor Scurlock,” he said. “God has something else for me to do. I will not be going to India with you but there will be people who will greet you and take you to places to preach.”

“Hold on just one minute. You invited us to go to India with you. We have spent three thousand dollars on tickets, made plans and now your telling me this?”

“It will be fine pastor Scurlock. You don’t need me. God will go with you.”

In the years since going to India I have traveled and made many missions trips. Now I know how it works. You hook up with an American missionary. He or she makes your arrangements in country and you spend your time with them.  That would not be the case on our first trip out of the country.  We would arrive in Bangalore India at 3 am local  be greeted by an Indian man whom we had never met, and he would take us to our hotel. After that we were to be greeted by T.c. George who was the General Superintendent of the southern India Assemblies of God.  He would make our preaching arrangements. It brought some comfort that an Assembly of God brother would be with us but it was still our first trip out of the country and it was India and we had no American contacts there.

In the 90’s  you could check in two large suitcases per passenger and take a carry on bag.  Arvind asked us to smuggle some Christmas decorations in to some of his family. “Smuggle?” I asked.

“Pastor Scurlock the authorities will frown upon you if they find you have these decorations but it will be fine because God will get you through customs.”  Ok, now I’m worried.  This man of God is suggesting to me that I do something that would be frowned upon and that I should trust that God would get me through.

India – Part I

Jeff Scurlock —  March 24, 2014 — Leave a comment

India

It was the late 90’s. We were serving a church in North West Florida as their pastor.  It was a church of less than 200 people in a small community near Pensacola. The salary was modest.  We had three small children, a dog and one car.

Felicia and I had never even flown on a commercial flight much less left the country.  We were pretty much home bodies, so when our Indian friend Arvind suggested that we should go to India with him to preach the gospel we didn’t really take it seriously.

Some time passed by, we were hosting Arvind and Susan in our home, he was cooking Indian food, helping Adam with his math and chasing our little girls around the house to the sound of squeals in a game of hide and seek.  Our children loved Arvind.  The food was awesome and they loved the way he loved to play.  In a moment of stillness he looked into my eyes and said with his perfect English but with a heavy Indian accent,  “pastor Scurlock you and Felicia should go to India with me to preach.”

“Ok,” I said and he smiled.  While the smile was still large and his eyes sparkled with happiness I’m already having a personal conversation with myself inwardly.   “Jeffrey! What are you thinking? India?”

I was certainly no missionary. As a matter of fact I entered the ministry with the hope and expectation that God would never call me to a foreign country.” I encouraged my church to give to support missionaries, we gave to all kinds of missions endeavors and the monkey was off my back,. I thought.

Arvind immediately began putting the wheels in motion for our trip.  Before I could say “now wait a minute and slow down,” the date was set.  A few days later the phone rang and when I said hello I was greeted with Arvind’s usual telephone greeting,  “Praise the Lord pastor Scurlock.”  Then he pushed us another step closer to India with,  “I have reserved your airline tickets and I need $3000 to pay for them.”

“I don’t have three thousand dollars right now.”

“Pastor Scurlock, God will provide.”

I knew God was a miracle worker but three thousand dollars to me might as well been three hundred thousand.  I agreed with Arvind vocally, “Amen, God will provide,” but I had major doubts. After all I am human and three thousand dollars to fly to India seemed a little extravagant for me.

My congregation knew I was planning a trip to India. What they didn’t know is how little faith I had that it would ever actually happen.

A couple of days later it was Sunday.  Sunday’s are stressful for most pastors. I’m one of those. I’ve often said that my least favorite time of the week is Sunday morning before service begins.  Most Sunday mornings were spent dealing with the anticipation of what the day would bring, some stress usually accompanied by an upset stomach and coffee with men from the church.  The morning rocked along, pretty much normal.  The morning service must not have been anything special because I have absolutely no memory of it.  What I do remember is Betty walking to greet me at the pulpit when the service ended.  She was a middle-aged widow. Her husband had been killed a couple of years earlier in an accident.  She lived a simple life, a small home and old car, a couple of dogs on her front porch and her kids, mostly grown by now. “God told me to help you with your trip to India,” she said while reaching out to me with a folded check in her hand.  I immediately began having one of those personal conversations in my head.  As I’m reaching out to receive the check the conversation in my head goes something like this. “She’s a widow lady! What could she do? I know Betty doesn’t have much so Jeffrey don’t let your expectations of what that check amount is exceed common sense because you might be setting your self up for disappointment.”   As the conversation in my head continued I reasoned in myself that Betty could probably donate a hundred dollars and that would be extravagant for her.

Now with the check in my hand I embrace Betty to say think you and then she walks away.  I didn’t want to seem to eager so I waited until she had exited the building.

frustrated

Yes, it really happened. Years ago at one of our previous churches a little older lady who was not a shut-in called our home. Felicia took the call and had a look of shock on her face as she held the receiver to her ear. Then came her response to the call, “no mam, I don’t think he will do that. I’m so sorry.”  As I wait for the call to end curiosity is getting the best of me. Felicia put’s the phone down and said to me. “You are not going to believe this. That was (name not important) and she wanted to know if pastor Jeff would go to the store and buy her some panties.” It’s funny now but at the time I didn’t take it with such humor. Why? because folks will find any reason to become critical and put their pastors in difficult lose-lose situations. In twenty-nine years of pastoral ministry it never ceases to amaze me what good folks expect from their pastor.

  • They expect him to know without being told.
  • They expect him to always be there even if He doesn’t know that there is a there where he needs to be because he hasn’t been notified or he needs to be somewhere else.
  • And they expect him to do the outrageous, like errands for panties.

Here are a few tips on some things you can do or not do to be a blessing to your pastor.

  • Don’t expect the outrageous.  Your pastor is not your errand boy, your delivery boy and certainly to the fetcher of panties.  Now honestly I have found pleasure through the years serving folks who needed me. I have purchase the occasional gallon of milk because I asked if they needed anything or was just trying to minister to someone who I knew (because they told me) was going through a difficult time.
  • Don’t expect your pastor to know without being told. It always gets me when I ask someone how they are and their response is,” better.”  Why? Because most of the time I’m wondering, better that what? They have been sick and expect their pastor to know it. They didn’t call their pastor they just expect that some little bird told him.  ’t your sick let your pastor or someone in the church office know. If you want a visit for prayer say it. Something like this, “I’m sick and would like pastor to come by and have prayer with me.” Or “I’m sick, I don’t want anyone to come to my home or the hospital room but would love for my church family to be praying for me.” It’s really that easy. Communicate with your pastor. Let him know what the boundaries are. Some people don’t like having the pastor or anyone else come into their home or hospital room.  Tell him that! Most of the time pastors are left guessing.
  • Be understanding if your pastor can’t come right now.  Many times I’ve had (even in small churches) multiple situations at one time and must choose where to be based on what limited knowledge I have.
  • If you are missing church services, please, please, please take the responsibility to let your pastor know where you are and why your not attending church. Please don’t expect him to be pastorPI. A simple call, a voicemail, a text even a Facebook message to let your pastor know. That way he can take the appropriate action or non-action.

It all comes down to communication. Our world has never been more connected. Social media, land lines, cell phones, text messaging, email, etc.  Your church may have one pastor or you may attend a church that has multiple staff members.  Regardless of the size of your church communicate with your pastor or pastoral staff. It will be very much appreciated.

It all come from the memory of the lady who wanted me to buy her panties. Blessings!

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