I got this letter from a fellow believer who lives and ministers in India. It has been edited to remove references of locations and names. May it stir your heart for God’s work as it stirred my own.
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Last weekend I got to take a sightseeing trip. We went to a couple tourist cities and got to see a tea factory, beautiful botanical gardens, the church where C.T. Studd pastored, the Maharajah Palace (built in the late 1800’s), and the coolest zoo I’ve ever seen. Most of the trip was through or in the mountains, and the views were breathtaking.
The trip was relaxing and refreshing (although we were all beat when we got home!), but I think the best part for me wasn’t one of the tourist attractions we visited.
You know, when you first arrive in a new place, everything is starkly different from what is familiar to you. Your eyes are wide open as you take in everything. As time goes by and you adjust to living in the new place, however, that changes. As the sights become familiar, you don’t really see them anymore.
Driving for hours over the last three days, I think the Lord allowed me to see India again. The tigers at the zoo were awesome. Driving through the jungle taking pictures of wild elephants, bison, wild boars, mongooses (or is it mongeese? :D), sambar deer, spotted deer, red monkeys, langur monkeys, and peacocks was an unbelievable blessing (seeing that many wild animals by the road is unheard of – our driver was amazed, and we were in his home place!). Touring the palace where an Indian king lived a hundred years ago was a great experience.
But seeing those things is not seeing India.
The children crowd the vehicle begging for something to eat, and there’s never enough to give to all of them, and you know that giving them money is most likely giving money to a very wicked man somewhere. Giving them the snacks I have and walking away, I feel like they’re tearing my heart out.
The woman herds her chickens in the yard outside her house. She’s a pastor’s wife, and she happily shows us the edge of the jungle on her property where elephants have broken branches to eat bamboo and left footprints the size of pancakes. Her joyful heart is visible on her face, and her fellowship is refreshing.
Another woman trudges alongside the road, carrying a load of firewood that looks like it weighs more than she does. The deep lines on her face are shouting at me that she’s carrying burdens heavier still in her heart.
The schoolboys see my camera and start jumping and shouting and waving and overall acting like the monkeys I took pictures of earlier that morning.
The man stands, head bowed, whispering prayers as he lights a candle for a dead relative before a statue. Flower wreaths adorn the idol – only this isn’t in a Hindu temple, and the idol doesn’t have seven arms like Shiva or the head of an elephant like Ganesh. The man calls his idol by the name “Jesus” – Jehovah saves – but he has no idea who Jesus is or what it means to be saved by Jehovah.
In a dark shrine, another man bows and prays to a life-size statue of a man lying in a tomb. Again, he is calling the name of Jesus. I want to shout, “He’s not dead!!! That’s not HIM!!!”
The man stands outside all day, every day, playing the flutes he’s trying to sell. He follows us, playing in my ear all the way to the car, only taking an interlude to tell me about everyone I need to get gifts for. I laugh, “Well, I don’t have a sister. Sorry,” but I finally buy his flutes anyway.
The tour guide’s eyes are dark, angry. The paint on his forehead shows that this morning he knelt before a demonic statue and prayed to a Hindu god.
The boy walks back and forth the length of the restaurant, carrying a big bowl of rice and long handled spoon, refilling plates of hungry patrons. When I catch his eye and smile, his eyes light up. They look hungry – but not for the rice that he serves all day.
The family looks happy to be together, and the woman’s black cloak and head covering tell me they are Muslim. I’m amazed that they are all smiling – the two usually don’t go together. They are happy to have their picture taken, and we visit for a few minutes.
Peering into the doorway of a temple, I see him collecting offerings from the worshipers who enter. His eyes are almost frightening. I wonder what he looked like as a little boy at his mother’s knee, before he entered the dark world of a Hindu priest.
Seeing them…that’s seeing India. And seeing India is painful.
You can’t see India with dry eyes.
You can’t see India and not be convicted of pursuing frivolous pleasures.
It breaks your heart with thankfulness.
You can’t see India and not wonder why you weren’t born here.
It leaves you in awe of God’s power.
You can’t see India and not be amazed that even here, in this darkness, Jehovah is building His kingdom. He is gathering worshipers from every tribe in India.
It gives you a glimpse into the burden of Jesus.
You can’t see the multitudes of India and not be moved with His compassion.
It moves the heart to worship.
You can’t see India and not be driven to adore a God who sacrificed HIMSELF to rescue His enemies and make them His sons.
I know this is a pretty long email, but I want to encourage you to ask God to show you India. Some people come here, look around, and never see India. I think in some ways, God can let you see India without ever stepping onto an airplane and coming here.
And I want to encourage you to see the people you encounter every day. The bag boy at the grocery store needs Jesus too. Maybe the lady who rings you up at Wal-Mart is broken from a divorce. The driver who cut you off might be an angry teenager with an alcoholic father. Perhaps that rude bank teller is dealing with the grief and guilt of a recent abortion. Those arrogant young men and women are probably enslaved, worshiping their idols of money and power and lust.
We hold this treasure of treasures, the unsearchable riches of knowing Christ. More often than not, however, we are more concerned with being treasured ourselves than pointing people to Jesus by treasuring Him. Well, maybe you aren’t, but I am.
And seeing India last week was exactly what I needed to bring life back into focus.
God is great. Jesus is worthy. And He is enough.