Final India Update

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I've lived a lot of life since coming home from India two weeks ago, but the memories are still vivid. Reading all your encouraging comments and heartfelt prayers was so moving. Thank you for going with me to India through the miracle of prayer.

The previous eight updates captured most of the challenges and rewards our leaders in South Asia face every day. They also communicated most of my strongest memories from our trip.

There is, however, one more special moment I want to share with you.

As the conference was winding down, an idea appeared in my mind. At first I tried to push it aside since it wasn't part of the carefully built agenda that characterizes our gatherings in South Asia. But when the idea sunk its nails into my frontal cortex, I decided the impulse was from the Holy Spirit and went for it.

I placed a chair in the middle of our 25 person circle and asked our Regional Director, Vallab Sathyabal, to have a seat. He gave me an uncomfortable look as if to say, "I don't know what you have planned for me, but this is not our way, Pastor Phil."

That was music to my ears!

Our Atlanta headquarters team knows how much I love creating spontaneous moments that move people beyond their comfort zones. In fact, they've coined a term for such awkward encounters. They call it being "Tuttled."

Apparently our staff's exaggerated descriptions of these glorious experiences had made their way to Sathyabal's ears halfway around the world!

I assured him these activities rarely prove fatal, and he reluctantly took his place.

The rules were simple. As the microphone moved around the circle, each person was to look Sathyabal in the eye and tell him what they appreciate most about his character and leadership.

It took several reminders to get our trainers to look at Sathyabal rather than me, and to switch their pronouns from "he" to "you." When they finally embraced the idea, their affirmations were far more powerful than I'd hoped. Here are a few sound bites I managed to capture.

"You are younger than me, but you've been my role model for many years."

"I appreciate that though you demand high accountability, you do so as a brother rather than a boss."

"I'm serving in a position of great influence and responsibility. There's no way I would be ready for my current role if you hadn't mentored me for the past ten years."

"I love you because you gave me a second chance. You were right to release me years ago when I fell far short of my goals two years in a row. But three years later when I pleaded with you to reinstate me, you took a risk and gave me a chance to make things right. I'll never forget that you gave me grace."

2015-02-09 image-2Every man and woman spoke truth into Sathyabal's weary spirit as he slowly rotated his chair around the circle. His tears flowed freely as did mine. And then we gathered around, laid our hands on his trembling shoulders, and prayed for his personal walk with God, his marriage, and his ministry. Hearing Sathyabal describe the experience to his wife, Anitha, over dinner cemented the power of that moment in all our minds.

Someone once said, "encouragement is the oxygen of the soul." Sathyabal and the rest of us got to experience that truth in the final moments of our conference.

In the middle of more than a billion people, I got to see and hear just how much impact one person can have if his life is fully committed to daily discipleship and the miracle of mentoring.

Our brothers and sisters in South Asia plan to impact 1.2 million people through Walk Thru the Bible live events in 2015. That number is absolutely attainable because Sathyabal has chosen to lead by serving. He's the kind of leader others won't hesitate to follow.

The kind of leader I hope to someday be. How about you?

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