Looking back at our recent trip to India, many things come to mind that I could write about, but what keeps coming to the forefront is “masses”. India is a land of almost 1.2 billion people and while traversing the roads and walking the city and village streets, the number of people is indeed evidenced. Of course our church services were not attended by millions upon millions of people as we experienced only a small percentage of the Christian population, notwithstanding the entire population. However, the services were large and the amount of people that we were in contact with was also large and many, if not all, desired to have contact with us, their guests. Many services concluded with the entire congregation (at times over 1200) coming forward for prayers, laying on of hands, and blessing. At times like these, my mind went to the life of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 14:22-23: And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
Verses like this remind us of the humanity of Christ; Jesus got tired and needed some time alone. But this scripture also reminds us that Jesus did not just get away from the people and spend selfish time, but rather he spent time with his Father in prayer. So often after a difficult day, our team would gather in the quietness of the evening and after prayer and reading from the Bible, we would share of our experiences, cares, and concerns, both for ourselves and for others. This important time spent together in fellowship availed us of the opportunity to share one another’s burdens which has a biblical foundation. God knows of our needs and it is His desire to enter into those needs through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 5:7)
In the midst of the masses, God enters into the hearts of individuals through the Holy Spirit. We looked out upon a sea of faces but yet were reminded that the church of God is built up of living stones, each fitly framed together for a dwelling place for the Lord. At the first pastors’ conference that was held in Dr. Kumar’s area, there were approximately 150 pastors in attendance. The conference was held for 3 days under a large, colorful, canvas tent. Just to the side of this large tent was a village “community center” complete with a well. Needless to say, this area was frequented by many of the ladies from the village as they came to attend to their daily needs which required water. As I witnessed the ladies coming with their needs and burdens, I thought of John 4:6-7: Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
The second Sunday of our trip found us at God’s Peace Temple, a church located in a village a couple of kilometers from the home of Pastor K and his wife, Ruth. After the communion service, we were invited to a birthday party a couple of blocks’ distance from the church. It seemed as if the entire congregation migrated over to the concrete-walled, thatched-roof simple house where the party was to be held. The 10 members of the team were ushered onto the front porch, given seats on the omnipresent Indian plastic chair, and then handed the common drink – a cold soda, this time an orange Fanta. The birthday boy was one year old that day and as we broke into song – everybody knows “Happy Birthday” – the little guys eyes widened with awe, maybe for the fact that so many people were at his house or maybe because he had never seen white people before, especially 10 of them sitting on his front porch! After singing, the mother gestured that she had something to say. I was thinking of what she might say: “What an honor to have the entire congregation at our son’s 1st birthday!” or “I am so thankful that God has given our little boy a year of good health!” or “I would never have thought that I would have guests from around the world at our house!” or I am so thankful that we have a house to invite people into.”
No, none of the above, but with tears in her eyes and a catch in her throat she pleaded that we would all pray for her husband, that he would become a believer. She had all that she needed in that humble, primitive village – a good, sturdy house; a husband who cared and provided for her and their children; a vibrant, active church family; health…but her husband was an unbeliever, a Hindu at that. I saw no anger in her eyes; I saw no resentment; I saw no envy in her eyes for those who do have Christian spouses. I saw no anger in his eyes; I saw no disdain for those believers who sang blessings for his son and prayed for his salvation. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, was given wisdom concerning these situations: And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (I Corinthians 7:13-14) We must leave this in God’s hands also.
So now we are back home. Soon the culture shock and sensory overload of a foreign land will be gone and our typical lives will resume; I will forget about the masses as well as the individuals while other, more pressing issues enter into my life. But we are assured of One who does not forget any within the cares of this life, One whose desire it is that none should perish, One who gave His Son, who lives that death may die.