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November 2006 trip to India & Latvia

 

Report from Bill:

This has been a year filled with special events using music as a tool to bring the news of a loving Saviour to the lost. Concerts across the U.S., plus two foreign field trips, made a year that Marie and I will not forget. The time and space of this newsletter cannot give much of a picture regarding the ministry abroad. Hopefully I can give a little insight into the exciting things we encountered first in Latvia in July and in India just 2 weeks ago - the last part of October into November.

On arrival in Latvia, since we had a few hours before going to Saldus where we would have our headquarters, our friend Gunta Irbe, who set up our schedule, asked if we wanted to go to the "downtown square of Riga". We visited the famous Dom Cathedral where I made my eighth recording with the pipe organ. It was wonderful to visit the Cathedral again. When the man at the door was informed who I was and that I had made a recording with the pipe organ there, he seemed to remember me singing a concert in the cathedral and he asked me to sing something right then. After traveling for more than 15 hours to get there, I did not feel like singing, but it was too tempting not to try a few notes. Without accompaniment, I sang a few notes of the "Verdi Requiem" just for fun. I loved hearing the notes bounce off the walls. Some of those who heard the little that I did, asked me to sing more, but I declined.

Six concerts were scheduled for the almost 2 weeks we were there. All of them were highlights, but the 2nd one which was on the Baltic Sea in an outdoor amphitheater had almost 700 in attendance. Every chair was taken and people were standing all around the back. It was a very exciting time! The next concert was held in a very old church, probably 12th century. We had a full audience which was very responsive. They encouraged me so much that I decided to sing an opera aria. They went into a rhythmic clapping for a very long time. The best thing, however, were the dozens of raised hands for salvation.

A first for me, in Latvia, was the next concert which was held in the largest Pentecostal Church in Latvia. After only 4 hours of sleep due to the length of the previous night's concert and travel, I was very tired at the morning service. The pastor encouraged me to do a full concert and then give an altar call. I was only able to get through six songs and then handed the microphone to the pastor as I could not continue. I asked him to finish the service. He spoke great English, but to his audience, he only used the Russian language. I'm not sure about the altar call, but trust some said yes. The pastor asked us for a return visit.

The next concert was in the city where we were staying. It was another old cathedral. I was suffering from being vocally tired from the hard weekend of singing and travel, but the audience was great, almost full, very enthusiastic and many raised hands to receive the Lord. Our last concert was in a church built in 1495. Many hands were again raised for salvation. People seem to be so hungry for the Lord. It is very exciting to see the Lord working in Latvia with pastors and people. The last few years has brought a new thing to them in accepting Jesus and not having only a form of religion. These trips are made possible by those who help to support us. The foreign trips are never supported by anyone in that country as they are too poor. Thank you to those who helped us.

Looking back on the trip in India, we can confidently say, we have gone through many dangers, but the Lord was faithful in protecting us. Arriving at the Kochi, India Airport, we were met by a pastor and 6 others who were to take us on a five hour drive to a small village way up in the mountains where we were to have four concerts. After getting all of our luggage, sound equipment included, we were set to go on an adventure of a lifetime! Traveling through town after town, the next curve we thought would be the place where we would be staying and having the concerts, however, we kept going on a very small one lane road filled with large muddy holes. It was very slow going, to say the least!! The bus trip included seeing a 6 foot snake cross the road, also an area where tribes lived and constant, big drop offs that definitely looked alarming as we came so close to the edge. The pastor was the only one who spoke English and it was not always understandable, so all we could do was trust the Lord realizing He had called us here. As we finally made the last turn, we saw the area where all of these people lived. It was so far back that we didn't dream such a remote place existed, much less in India.

   

 

It would be easy to go on and on with many details, but maybe you can imagine a missionary trip without inside plumbing - the little "house" was outside, down a steep hill It was quite an adventure going out in the middle of the night not knowing who or what was waiting for you. There were no refrigerators, no stoves, no conveniences like we have, but the people seem to have such happiness.

The whole time we were in India, we saw a total of maybe 15 white faces. Guess that is why we were stared at so much. Of course my size was also quite unusual. Even though there was a language barrier, the Christian people overwhelmingly showed us love from the minute we walked into the church. The concerts were well received - people continually sang, praised the Lord and responded when I gave remarks concerning the Lord or sang about a familiar Bible story. I was able to pray with many after the concerts. Their smiles so big and friendly gave us such relief realizing the Lord was also in this far away village.

We were almost sad in leaving the people here in this village. We were told 95% who live here had never seen an airplane and most had never seen themselves in a photograph. They really enjoyed seeing their pictures on the digital camera. The day we left to fly to Bangalore, India for the next concerts in Mysore City, several from this village traveled the 5 hour drive with us to see us off and also to see their first airplane.

We were now half way through our trip in India and we looked forward with great anticipation to being with our friends, Pastor Samuel and Esther John and family in Mysore City. Definitely a big city filled with over a million people. We stayed in a modern home with inside facilities, plus refrigerator and stove, although the neighborhood surroundings looked as though not all had this life style.

Concerts were scheduled for us in Mysore City and Bangalore. The first one in a large civic auditorium in Mysore and one in the Campus Crusade Auditorium in Bangalore. We were warned that Hindus in the audience would pull me down and beat me if I did try to convert anyone. So the concerts were somewhat constrained. I was warned to be careful what was said. A pastor there had been beaten that very morning and two years ago, a medical missionary and his two young sons were burned to death in their van. The trial is still ongoing. I told, and sang, about Jesus, but did not have a time when I asked them to know Jesus as Savior. Many asked for prayer after the services however, so I was then able to lead at least seven to the Lord. There may have been 500 at the first concert. It was well received and I prayed for a very long time for people on different concerns they had. Before praying for the person, I would ask if they were a Christian. If they said "no", I asked if they would like to be. The second concert was not too well attended, but those that were there were very responsive. Two young men, one married with 2 children, are going to school to be missionaries to a very dark, dangerous place in India. They are quite concerned about their safety and I was able to pray with them.

We took chances with eating the food and drinking the water throughout our stay in India. The Lord was gracious and protected us from getting sick. He was so real and we felt His presence with us continually. We were warned in both areas not to let anyone know our address here in the states as they could do something bad to us. It was very disconcerting when thinking about the dangers in India for the Christian, but made it even more wonderful to return to the U.S. where we still have freedom. We can really say, "through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, but God's grace has led us home". I could write pages, but you might get tired of reading, and I didn't want to bore you. To us, the experiences were so real, as we lived them, but to you, details could get long and boring. Thank you for your prayers. We know they were heard!

We are eternally grateful,

William Harness

 

     

 

 
     
     

William Harness Sacred Concerts, Inc . PO Box 328  . Washougal, WA  98671
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