India: Stepping out of the Crowd
by Kim Parker ('07), India (Ethos) Team Leader
Its brilliant colors, festivals and celebrations don’t hide India’s desperate need to hear the gospel. With less than 1% of the population taking on Christianity, the believers there are outcast and crying out for people to know Jesus. Whether it was encouraging the Christian churches, telling people about Jesus in villages who have never heard it, or visiting the homes of the sick and needy, our trip to India opened our eyes to a world you would think only existed in history books.
It made scripture come alive for us. In America, we read about people worshipping idols in the Bible and we apply it to our lives as metaphorical “idols”, but there people are actually worshipping idols. You drive through the city and just around every bend there is an idol temple. People are singing, sacrificing, and burning incense to these wooden and clay sculptures built by their own two hands. The country cries out for hope, love, and salvation and yet they are completely missing it. In Acts 17 the Bible talks about how Paul walked through the city and was deeply troubled by all the idols and shrines that he saw. He told the people they were truly religious people, but for artificial gods designed by craftsman and made of gold and silver. He wanted to tell them about the one true God - the God who created the earth and everything in it.
This was the main purpose of our trip. We wanted to tell people about the God they so desperately needed and to love them with the love of Christ. Jesus desires all people of every nation, tribe, and tongue to know Him and we loved getting the opportunity to take part in that adventure with Jesus. There is something so thrilling about sharing the gospel with people who have never heard it. We went into different villages around the West Bengal area in India sharing the Good News of Jesus in open-air meetings, small group devotionals, home visits, and VBS with the children. Some hated you for it and some couldn’t thank you enough. We saw people get healed, barriers begin to break down, and saw how much knowing Jesus changed everything for them.
The believers in India very quickly became like family to us. They grew up in about as different circumstances as possible from us, but love us more deeply than we could ever imagine. The believers in India are strong. I’ve never grown so much and learned so much about what walking with Christ should look like as I did when we were in India. They had to be strong because they lose everything when they decide to follow Jesus. Many are thrown out of their houses, cut off from their families, berated, and persecuted. Yet, they joyfully live by the verse in Matthew 5 that says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. I can barely handle someone being slightly upset with me and yet they boldly proclaim the Gospel knowing people will hate them for it. Our goal with the believers was to love them, encourage them, and let them know they are not alone. They needed to know there are believers 8,000 miles away serving the same God and praying for them often.
The children of the villages we visited show a spark of hope amidst the darkness. This next generation has the potential to rise above and change India. We spent a good amount of time loving these children and sharing Christ with them. They are still so pure and innocent and can hear the words and believe them. I’ll never forget a moment when I saw more boldness in a little girl than I’ll ever think of having. We held an “open-air meeting” one night where the whole village came out to the market square to watch some dances the children performed and hear what we had to say about this unknown god. We told the village how there was only one God and this God made them and loved them deeply. The message was bold and taught against what they had been told their entire life. After the message was over we asked if anyone wanted to follow Him or for us to pray for them. A minute or so passed and a weak thought ran through my mind, “maybe this wasn’t worth it, no one is even listening”. I knew that to step out of the crowd and show you believed in what we were saying could mean you would lose so much. And then a little girl around the age of 7 boldly came forward out of the crowd. You could see it in her eyes that she was serious and desperately wanted prayers. She truly believed God could heal her and asked to be healed of her blindness in one of her eyes. The look on her face and the boldness she had will never leave my mind. A couple days later we went to visit her at her hut and her mother who was not a believer told us that she had been healed. I can’t even imagine the implications of this. Such a little girl with such great boldness will impact and change so many lives.
I could go on and on for days telling stories about how this trip to India transformed lives, both within our team and those we befriended. I know our whole team is so grateful for the opportunity to go on this trip and thankful that God let us be a part of it. Our eyes were opened, we will never be the same and will always carry around a little piece of India in our hearts.