I am now back in the Kingdom, safe and sound, and spending time with my wonderful family just before Christmas. As I wrote in my last post, my trip to India has left its impression on me.
were some of the key qualities I experienced that left the deep impression on my heart.
During my first few days, we traveled to many different “hostels” where young people live while they are going to college/school. In these places, we found young men living 30 to a small room and sleeping on the floor. Their few posessions were placed around the walls of the room and their clothes hung up the windows to dry.
Each place we spoke, the boys and men listened to our message with their full attention, moving very little. At the end, most if not all of them responded with prayer and asked us to pray for them as well. Their humility stood out to me.
Many of them were first generation Christians who had lost much for deciding to follow Jesus Christ. One man who was studying to be an engineer was identified by his friends as their leader. He would not recognize himself, but they pushed him forward.
He told us that he had been disowned by his family for becoming a Christian and they cut him off from his inheritance. He told them, “It is of no value to me anymore, but Jesus is worth it all.” Then he told us that God had comforted him through the scripture that says, “It has been appointed for you to not only believe in Jesus, but to also suffer for His name.” This brought him the courage he needed to press on. Many we met faced these same challenges with similar resolve and strength. To me, this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are willing to face the loss of all things for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ. There is no half-heartedness allowed and these brothers knew it and were walking it out.
As we traveled to the field to see the preparations that were taking place for the large outreach, we heard of Pastors who had been working night and day for two months to see this event become a reality. Most were away from their homes for this time, eating whatever was placed before them, and sleeping on whatever spot they could find on the ground. We found many who had been up all night sleeping in the grimy concrete stadium on the ground with nothing under them or on top of them.
At least fifty women had been fasting and praying every day for a month from morning until 3pm for the event. When they pray there is no sound system or worship music in the background, just prayer with weeping. I was able to see some of these women sitting on the floor crying out to God with tears for Him to move in the city and save people. These beautiful women of God were not adorned merely outwardly, but with “a meek and gentle spirit which is precious in the site of God.”
The churches had gathered together to pay for this event and many of the members were sacrificing their gold which is like a savings account for them. The Indian ministry idegenously raised $20,000 to put on the outreach in a city that is six hours drive from its main base. In India, that cost is staggering, but because everyone was sacrificing to reach people who were far from God, it was achieved. At the end of the day, 70,000 people showed up!!
At every home we visited, we were served. Our hosts would serve us a meal and made us eat until we refused to eat anymore. They watched and waited for us to eat then they themselves ate, but in another room. This was their custom we were told. If we mentioned liking something, they would leave to look for it and wouldn’t return until they had it. We had to watch what we said! It seemed that everyone prefered the other before himself. No one wanted to take the best seat. No one wanted to take the best piece of meat. They seemed to want to die before they embarrassed their guest or made them feel uncomfortable. I don’t think this was just Indian culture, but that it was their Christian culture.
As we would travel to churches, we were always warmly received and after we spoke the Word of God people always asked for prayer. Most of them would kneel, others would bow with their face to the ground.
It was most humbling when the Indian Pastors would ask us for prayer. They would be willing to kneel in the dirt, hands on the ground before us to ask US to pray for THEM. Some of these men had been in the ministry for 25 years or more, lived in a thatched grass roof hut as they sacrificed to plant the church in their village. They were the ones paying the price, we were here to learn from them, but they asked us for prayer. It humbled me deeply to see this.
I was only able to hear a few testimonies but the ones I heard were staggering. Dreams, visions of Jesus, deep heartaches before coming to God, supernatural scriptures being given in dreams, being illiterate but only being able to read the Bible, and even raising the dead were just a few of the themes. Many others had suffered the loss of all things for the name of Jesus, but were joyful in the sacrifice. I wish I could have heard many more testimonies. I know there were more to hear, but the time didn’t allow it this time. What I thought about after this was the fact that I would be standing next to these believers in Heaven before God. What would my testimony look like?
With my own eyes I saw, the places where Pastors were living as they worked to plant a church in a nearby village. We wouldn’t even put our pets outside in such places in America. One place was made of mud and looked like a large oven or igloo. Inside was all of the Pastor’s meager possessions and outside was the nicer “prayer hall” where the new believers gathered to meet. It was basically a shed with open sides and a thatch roof. I wish I could have taken a picture of this, but I was too caught up in the moment to think about it. I was a little shocked.
On the other hand, we met believers who were wealthy and lived at a different standard. One of them was a business man who had a wholesale food business. It wasn’t a large business and it was run out of the back of his home, but it was enough to keep a few of his own shops open as well as supply other local businesses. This man provided 2000 packages of food for the workers of the outreach and a place for us to stay while we were in his city. He joyfully fed us, no-feasted us, until we were ready to explode. He also helped the ministry much and gave as God prospered Him. Still others we met were more highly educated, had “good” paying jobs, and lived in apartments. We also met Indians who had been songwriters and producers from “Bollywood” who had been become Christians within the last few years. They were now using their talents to serve God and bless the Indian people. I guess the point is that everyone we met was all in with the vision and each sacrificed as God led them.
These are just some of the things I saw and learned from. I have not yet talked about the night of the big outreach event and many other things I experienced, so stay tuned for the next installment. Which one of these things do you think would affect you the most if you experienced it?