Final India Post (Pt. 8)

I just realized I completed put down the wrong days in my last blog. I guess I wasn’t lying when I mentioned that everything seems to blend together here… Regardless, TODAY is actually Thursday and yesterday was Wednesday. Now that we have that straight, let’s begin.

Wednesday, August 6th:

The morning meeting/devotional time with the IGL staff seemingly went well. I shared out of Colossians 2 and mainly tried to talk about the gospel since a lot of their workers are unbelievers. It was fun. Right after that we were able to meet Laura’s sponsored kid, which was awesome. She asked Craig to take a box full of presents and stuff for him and he was so excited when he saw it. If you’re considering adopting a child through IGL just go ahead and do it. I wasn’t doing so before this trip but am going to after seeing the real impact it makes.

After that, we went to the YMCA in Salem where they were having a regional pastors meeting. That means that all the pastors there are leaders of other pastors. Craig taught on worship and did very well. Logan and I both were able to share our testimonies, which was (again) humbling but awesome. After that and before we left all the pastors together prayed for the three of us. Remember that verse somewhere that says “the prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much”? Well, these dudes are incredibly righteous. I don’t remember a time feeling more empowered after someone prayed for me. After that, we went back to the IGL office to help edit some websites. They need a lot of help with that because most of the people who work there speak English as a second language. It was nice being able to help in a way that we could see was for sure beneficial. Later that night we went back to the boys’ hostel to teach our last devotional. Craig was all prepared for it but we ended up (thankfully, as you’ll see later) getting it pushed back a day. We did play some cricket with them, though. I tried to teach them football but that was pretty much a disaster. The language barrier can be pretty frustrating.

Thursday, August 7th:

This morning we went back to the office in order to finish up editing those websites. Then, Jeremiah, one of IGL’s workers (who also graduated from seminary and helps lead the boys in Sharon), took us out to some stores. We hadn’t been able to buy much of anything until today, so it was cool. I liked being able to see where people buy and sell things. Salem is so big and we’ve mainly been in villages and churches so I feel like our perspective is widened with every new experience. We all kind of hate shopping, though, so yeah.

After shopping, we asked them to take us up a nearby mountain. We’d heard it was awesome and wanted to do so before we left. So, Logan, Craig, Demi, Jeremiah, Raj and I all ventured up there. Like almost literally everything else we’ve done here, it far surpassed anything we could have expected. I thought we it’d be some 15-minute ride up to look down from an overlook. Instead, the drive took an hour and we saw probably 1,000 monkeys along the way. Once we got up there we were so surprised to find a whole entire town! From the bottom of the mountain one can hardly even see a single road, so this was a shocker. It wasn’t only a town, though, but some sort of fancy tourist/vacation spot (at least part of it). There was even a lake (?!) up there. So, we went on a 10-minute motor boat ride on the top of a mountain in India. It only cost 350 rupees for all of us combined, which is a little less than six dollars. Afterward we did end up finding a sweet overlook, which was also amazing. All of this was hidden quietly in the mountain we’d all been looking at regularly. Who knew? Like I said before, after being here for a few weeks I’m only beginning to see what’s actually going on around me. I wonder what else we are all surrounded by daily but don’t see.

We were late getting back as usual (“Indian time” plus “Xenos time” isn’t the best combination) so we weren’t able to play sports with the boys. Craig was still able to teach his last devotional, though, and he did well especially considering that he didn’t know he’d be teaching to all the ages until he sat down to begin. He thought it’d just be six or so college guys but it ended up being about 30 altogether. I’m so glad we were able to get the gospel out to them one last time. After the teaching we hung out with them for a while and took some pictures since it’s our last day. It was heartbreaking to see how sad they were for us to leave. It’s not like we’ve really done all that much for them, either. They are just completely longing to be loved. Perhaps the saddest part was that one of the fairly older boys started crying before we left. A lot of the others started making fun of him for doing so, but it was sweet. Well, I think it was mainly really, really sad. Craig did a good job of reminding him that he has Asap and Jeremiah there still. That’s the huge, blaring beam of light that we noticed in the midst of being so sad to leave… these boys really are in great hands. Praise God that there are people here who are loving them in a real way. As I was starting to be grateful for that I began to think about all the kids in the world who are without it. These kids here, who are now being taken care of, loved, and given the opportunity to know Jesus, were still so sad when some people who had invested just a small amount in their lives were leaving. It made me think about the millions of kids who don’t have anything like that. Who is going to love them? How? I don’t have the answers to that but I can tell you that seeing these kids faces (and seeing them excitedly sharing what they know about the Bible to us) is one hell of a motivator. There are so many people dying for love- why not share it? I’m not that good at that or anything right now, but I want to be. This place is contagious.

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Anyway, this is probably going to be my last blog post while in India. I’d write more but I’m really tired. We leave for Bangalore tomorrow, where we will be staying in a hotel in order to take a plane early Saturday morning. From there we’ll be taking a 23.5 hour layover in London so we can see the city. I’ve never been to Europe (besides the one hour layover on the way here…), so that will be fun. I can already imagine the contrast.

I don’t think I’m going to write anything summative just yet. I need some time to digest it all. I do want to say, though, that I am so grateful I was able to come here. I’ve learned more about the world, God, and how I might fit in to all of it than probably any other three-week span of my life. Our stay here has been filled with everything from seeing God working in the most amazing ways to witnessing some of the more heartbreaking things we’ve ever seen. I don’t know what it all means just yet but man am I glad I came.

P.S. Thank you all for your love & support from afar. It’s been incredibly encouraging to hear from people as well as read the comments on here. I can’t wait to see everyone soon.

India (pt. 7)?

  Wednesday, August 4th (yesterday):

     We taught about 40 pastors in a village three hours from Salem. I’d tell you the name of it but I always forget. Everything is so foreign here. I can’t get over how humbling it is that they’d even let us get up and say anything, let alone teach. Craig and I realized our teachings were fairly similar the night before so I ended up teaching on a different topic. I was a little worried about that but have learned much more to trust that He will say something if I’m available. It wasn’t AWESOME but man did He come through. It’s a cool feeling to be given words that you didn’t know you had. Both Craig and Logan’s teachings were very good. I told them both but I’ll tell you all as well, they’ve both become much better teachers just over the last two weeks. We’re all learning how to speak more boldly. Another cool thing is that we were able to hear some awesome testimonies from different pastors at lunch since Demi, a girl from Texas who is here, is interviewing people on behalf of her family’s radio ministry back home. I’m still learning how to adjust to eating spicy food. It makes it harder that we have had to do so (sometimes) without silverware. But hey, it’s an experience.

    Earlier in the day, we all realized that we forgot our passports in Salem. This would sound stupid regardless but much more so if I mention that we all did this on our last trip, too. It was funny but not really because when we arrived at the hotel they wouldn’t accept our emailed copies. Benny said we might have to drive back to Salem (three hours) and then come back in the morning (another three hours). To be honest, I was pretty frustrated both with myself and the whole situation. I was in a pretty bad mindset (complaining both internally and outwardly, woe-is-me kind of thing). BUT, then, Benny took us to the pastor’s house who was to have the Bible College training we were going to the next day. Long story short, he ended up finding us a place to crash at some “guest house” that seemed sort of like a motel but I don’t really know. All I know was that we were all grateful we didn’t have to drive six extra hours due to our silly mistake. I became grateful we forgot our passports when we were at his house, though, because we had the chance to ask him about his story. He told us that he has been a pastor for over 40 years. Back then, in the beginning of his work, it was just him and his wife. No one else in his area believed in Jesus. Back then they would go door-to-door explaining the gospel to people and offering up their prayers. He said it was a slow process of growth. But, now, his church has over 270 members and he said he has baptized over 1,000. Probably the most encouraging part of his testimony, though, is that over the years he has raised up 70 people who have went out and become full-time pastors themselves. SEVENTY! That’s amazing. He also told us that this past year his church is being persecuted by some Hindus in the area. They told him if he didn’t stop playing Bible verses over his loud speakers that they would tear the church down. He stopped but is praying if he should start up again. I thought the whole “play verses over a loud speaker” thing was silly and cheesy until I heard his testimony the next day. He told us that his parents were Christians but that all through his young-adult life he did not have a relationship with God. He didn’t go into a lot of details, but he said he remembers countless nights vomiting due to over-drinking. This led him to consider suicide. One night he was on the verge of doing so and decided to walk down to the train tracks. When he was almost there, he himself heard a Bible verse over a loud speaker. Instead of killing himself, he decided to follow the sound. He went there, talked to the local church members, and decided to accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. Not long later, he decided to become a pastor and tell as many people as he could about this hope one can have. I pray that at least some of the “amazing-ness” of his story got through here, because it was so encouraging to hear.

    After we put our stuff in our rooms at the “guest house,” Benny and Raj, our driver (who is awesome), took us to a mall. We’d been talking about how we haven’t had a chance to buy much from India yet. We were hoping they’d take us to some of the more local places we always drive by but instead they took us to this super fancy place. I was blown away. Think of the nicest mall you’ve seen back in the states and this one either compares or outdoes it by a mile. I didn’t even know they had that kind of thing in India (probably because we have spent most of our time in villages). We were all almost sad that it existed, actually. How can so much wealth be so close to so much poverty? All of the people inside the mall seemed just like the people one would see shopping back home, going from store to store seemingly oblivious to all the pain that surrounds them. It didn’t take me long to consider that the same thing is probably the case for myself as I go about my daily life in Ohio. Maybe the contrast isn’t as apparent but I don’t think the comparison is that big of a stretch.

Thursday, August 5th (today):

    After eating at some restaurant for breakfast, where I was still trying to learn how they do this weird pouring method with their coffee, we went to the church to teach the Bible College students. We were able to reuse the same teachings we did at the last one so it wasn’t as stressful. It was really cool, actually, because I think we all did much better than the first time we taught.

    As usual, the most noteworthy events occurred at random times today. While we were eating lunch in the church, one of the pastors at the table began to tell us how another nearby pastor was recently beaten, along with his wife and kids, by some political group that is very anti-Christian. He said it very matter-of-factly, as if it is to be expected. He said they are all alive and everything (the father is in the hospital still), but we were definitely more shocked than the other Indian pastors who heard the news. I asked Benny if he’d seen much persecution personally and he went on to tell me a few stories. One was about how a mob ran them out of a church service years ago. Perhaps the most striking story was when he and three others were preaching the gospel in a village, open air style. People literally started to stone, like throw-rocks-at-you kind of stone, them until they were forced to leave. He said their speaker equipment was tied to the roof of the car and was destroyed. All of this was told to us as if he was telling some story about what happened to his dog the other day. He was smiling, laughing, chewing his food. No big deal. Anyway.

    Now we’re back “home” at Sharon Gardens. It really does feel like home in a weird way. A team of four vets arrived today, though, as well as two 18-year-old German guys who will be here for ten months. That’s a long time. Again, it was good to see fresh faces and it was nice being able to welcome them in. Tomorrow I get to speak and testify at IGL’s weekly meeting. Then, Craig will be teaching at the bigger pastors’ conference. They told us today that all of us aren’t going to be able to since we need to help them with some website stuff in the afternoon. Logan and I get to share our testimonies, though, so it’ll still be a blast and an honor.

    I say it feels like “home” here and I only mean so in a relative sense. I miss everyone back “home home.” It has been an absolutely awesome adventure here getting to see all we’ve seen and learn about God in a whole new way. It really has. The main thing I keep thinking about, though, is how can we share it with those we love back home? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I miss everyone.

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So, I was just having a “leaders’ meeting” with Logan (insider, I guess) and we realized that we’re both done teaching. Well, I’m sharing tomorrow but it’s not an official teaching. The reason I say that is because it seemed so incredibly overwhelming when we first looked at the schedule and saw how much we were to teach (not to mention that we were teaching in India, through a translator, mostly to people who probably are more qualified than we are). It almost seemed impossible- like we wouldn’t be able to do it and/or that we’d hate every second of those six or so days. It’s just so funny looking back on that because it was the complete opposite. Yeah, it was a lot. Yeah, it was stressful. Yeah, we didn’t always know what we were doing. But damn did God come through in some amazing ways. So much of what happened is only because of Him helping us out. What a privilege it was to be a part of that on a daily basis. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re struggling on whether or not you should trust God then, well, you should.

India (pt. 6)

     I was trying to think of some sort of condensed message to write regarding the last few days but, I can’t. All of this is still soaking in and I’m not sure I have developed any pocket-sized lessons thus far. So, I’m just going to tell you what happened.

Friday, August 1st:

     We left Salem early in the morning to go teach at a “Bible College.” They call it that, but as it was explained to us later it’s more like a leadership training course (like LTC, for those of you in Xenos). Craig planned to teach on evidence for the resurrection, Logan on Satan, and I on making disciples. None of us were that ready to do so. Again, we had no idea what kind of audience we’d be teaching to or what their needs were exactly. We just had to trust God that He would in some way make our time useful for them.

     Craig taught first. He was (at least vocally) the least prepared but it was really, really good. After he taught he said he ran through his whole outline quickly and went ad-lib for 20 more minutes. I would have never guessed. I went second. I tried to use experience back home to teach on the importance of making disciples (and not just converts) as well as not just inspiring people to follow Christ, but convincing. I know they probably know most of that already seeing as they are growing so quickly, but they responded well to it. The translator (who is a retired pastor) was very charismatic, which made it so much fun for me. I usually trail off on the boring side of things but he even made me more excited about my subject. Another cool thing about that is that I completely re-arranged my teaching five minutes before I taught, as Craig was concluding his, and it made the whole thing make so much more sense. I had stared at that outline for hours before, so I swear God was telling me something. Logan went last. There were a lot of distractions during his and he admitted that he was getting annoyed up there. We think it was because he was teaching on the existence of Satan. Still, he delivered a solid teaching that they needed to hear. It was so cool to be able to witness God moving there.

     Pastor Benny (sp?) was along with us the whole time as well as another intern here, Demi. Throughout our two-day-voyage, we stopped at multiple places to say hello to different family members of his. One stop that was especially memorable was when we met his father. We were all welcomed into the home and given seats. As we were waiting on them to bring out food and drinks (they always are so hospitable here), Benny’s father comes bursting into the room smiling and saying “HALLELUJAH” repeatedly. The whole time we were with him he was all smiles and laughter. It probably sounds super cheesy from afar, but this dude was so joyful. He’s 92 years old and was giggling like a little kid at being able to welcome some guests. That would have been enough in itself, but Benny went on to tell us that his father planted 28 churches. 19 of them are still going. He was never professionally trained or anything, he would just go into a new area and tell them about Jesus. Once he got a few people dedicated enough to continue on, one of his disciples would take over. Amazing. Oh yeah, he also didn’t start full-time ministry until his mid-thirties. He has 11 kids and quit his job without having any idea was to how they’d survive. He just felt God wanted him to do it so he trusted Him. It worked out. Now, seven of his kids are in full-time ministry and all are committed Christians. When we asked him how often he reads the Bible he simply responded by saying he can’t sleep if he hasn’t done so that day. His vision is going bad so they bought him a (really loud) audio Bible that he listens to daily. The most awesome thing about meeting him was seeing the joy he had and realizing that it was simply from a lifetime of having a blast with God. We could tell he was so incredibly happy only because of what God has allowed him to take part in.

     That night we stayed at a hotel that was located directly next to a huge Hindu temple. We almost walked in but then were stopped because we didn’t realize you have to take off your shoes across the street in order to do so. So, we decided not to go in. Anyway, we could tell from looking at it (from our hotel roof was an amazing view) what we were fighting for. People are being oppressed here so openly. There are so many forces that are trying to hold people back. That’s also the case back home, but it’s not as in-your-face.

Saturday, August 2nd:

     We woke up at the hotel early and left for a church dedication ceremony. I, like always, did not know what to expect. I was also given the privilege to teach at said ceremony, which made about no sense to me.

     When we arrived we were immediately greeted by about one hundred people who had formed some sort of procession. There were dudes playing the drums and everything (as well as a guy in a bear costume- still haven’t figured that one out). Immediately all of our expectations were blown out of the water. They asked Craig to cut the ceremonial ribbon on the front door of the church; so, he did so as they recorded it on some big video camera. Then he prayed over them on a microphone as we were all standing outside. Next, he unrelieved a plaque on the front of the church. Much to our surprise, it was inscribed with “Dedicated by: Craig Smith & Team.” We literally did nothing for them except show up. I’m not sure if “humbling” does the feeling justice.

     After we were seated in the front of the church along with some pastors, the ceremony began. Craig said he counted 165 people there but a lot more poured in as time went. We think it had to be around 200. During the ceremony, at least five or six people took turns either speaking, praying, or singing before any of us did. One thing churches here seem to do well is get a lot of people involved. It never seems like you’re the big-shot teacher person here- everyone really does seem like they’re just playing their part in a much bigger picture. After probably an hour of this, Logan gave his testimony. He did well. I think him sharing about how his relationship changed with his mother (and how she eventually came to know God) really hit them. Once he was done it was my turn. I probably should have mentioned this before, but I almost completely put this teaching together in one night. I mean, I had been studying the Great Commission the whole time we’ve been here, as I’ve given some smaller teachings on it, but nothing like this. But, we were up so late preparing for the Bible College teachings that I wasn’t able to devote much time to this one until the night before. I also was assuming we would have WiFi at the hotel (which was wrong). So, I just had to use my Bible and a few old notes to prepare. I definitely would not recommend that method as a model but it was actually so much fun. I was a bit anxious about it but as I went to bed (late) I simply had no choice but to trust that God would work. The teaching was certainly not great or anything but it worked out well! I almost want to say I can’t believe it but I totally can. One thing I’ve seen up close so far is that the Bible isn’t joking when it says His “power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). It’s funny right now to even think about the Bible joking about something. What a silly concept when you really know Him. Yet, we must learn our lessons…

     After we departed we stopped at pastor Benny’s father-in-law’s house. I swear this guy has family everywhere. His father-in-law is a semi-retired Hindu priest. I say “semi-retired” because he’s on bed rest right now due to a heart problem. When we met him he looked exactly like you’d think an old Hindu priest would look like (mixed with an old hippie). He was shirtless and had a big marking across his face. Their house has a big ‘ole Hindu idol?/temple? in the front. I didn’t think people had their own temples, but this thing was really big. The contrast between this dude and Benny’s father was ridiculous. Instead of being all over the place with excitement, he was very stoic. Instead of being joyful, it seemed like was he trying to put on some notion of being “at peace.” All I can say is that it was weird. He called us his “brothers and sisters” but it didn’t seem right. At the end, Benny asked Craig to pray over him to get better as well as for his soul. Internally, I was like “What? Are you sure?” He was. So, Craig did. Craig literally prayed over a Hindu priest and prayed that he would come to know Christ. He did so boldly, in this man’s house. I’ve never experienced anything like it. We left right after. As we were on the way out there was another priestly looking man cautiously standing outside. When we were driving away Benny excitedly told us that the priest was mad at him because of all the Hindus becoming Christians. He said they have a festival each year and lately the numbers have dropped from 1,600 to around 800. Benny isn’t usually rambunctious but in this moment he seemed like he had just won a million dollars. He was so thrilled to hear it. One thing I took away from the experience was how bold Benny is to just go into a Hindu home like that and talk about Jesus. He was very polite and courteous as we did it, but still. It also made me think that we are doing the exact same thing back home, regardless of the fact that there are not big temples in front of our neighbor’s houses. A battle is going on for sure and the only question is if we are willing to stand up and tell it.

Sunday, August 3rd (today):

     We didn’t get back to Salem until around 11 last night. Craig was up to teach at a college church of a guy named Asaph today. When we woke up, both Logan and Craig were feeling really sick. Craig told me I might have to teach for him (since Logan was going to stay back). I was willing to but had no idea what I’d do. Usually I’d be anxious about something like that but I felt pretty peaceful about it. Thankfully, though, Craig came down a few minutes before our driver arrived and said he was going to do it. He asked me to bring my notes just in case.

    Asaph’s church is cool because they’re college-age and are mostly medical students from other countries. They all speak English. This was our one-and-only English speaking teaching. They were all dressed in “American” clothes and it seemed very much like we were back home. Craig ended up delivering probably his best teaching yet, which is amazing. He again brought up the evidence of the resurrection but related it to them in a good way since they are mostly graduate students (as he is and has been for a while). I could tell they were all about the fact that he works at NASA. I also was able to give my testimony, which was fun. It’s awesome getting to share about what God has done in my life with random people from different parts of the world. Who knows how it’ll impact anyone, but it’s an honor.

     When we got back we were so happy to run into the women who just arrived from our church. We showed them around the campus (it’s funny that we can give a tour now) and had lunch with them. It’s amazing how great it was to see familiar faces. After tonight we won’t be seeing them again (until Ohio) since we’ll be traveling tomorrow and they will be afterward.

     Tomorrow we leave to teach a pastor’s conference. Then, we stay in a hotel and teach at another Bible College the next day. Wednesday we do another, bigger pastor’s conference. We’re in over our heads but it’s such a privilege to be so.

Some take-aways (I know I said I wouldn’t…):
  • Humility. All of the “big-shot” pastors we’ve met almost never bring up anything about their ministry until we ask. There have been so many times when we thought a guy in our car was “just some dude” and it turns out he’s done mind-blowing things for God. It’s cool, though, because when we do ask they almost always boldly and without apologizing tell how great it’s been to follow Him and all the sweet things they’ve seen.
  • Patience. There is a lot of waiting here. Waiting on drivers, waiting to go to the bathroom (when you have to teach and are in the middle of some village…), waiting to talk to people back home, etc. I don’t like waiting… never have. But, I’m beginning to see how cool it is to be content in more and more circumstances.
  • Big picture. I’m continuing to see how HUGE this world is and even more so how many needs there are out there. There are SO MANY needs. If you want to do something big for God then please, please do it. Yesterday I taught on the passage that “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” and I’ve never been more sure of it.

India (pt. 5): Expectations

     Remember how I said “the last few days haven’t been (that) crazy” and how we thought things wouldn’t start heating up until Friday? Well, yesterday we found out we were wrong. We walked over to hang out with the college guys around five last night and after we played some volleyball we ran into the principal…

     She told us 1) we were supposed to teach some classes that we missed and 2) we are teaching all day Thursday (today). We were completely caught off guard and pretty frustrated. But, after looking at our itinerary, we realized we could have asked more questions about things we didn’t understand.

     SOOOO, right now we are halfway done with our day of teaching. I led the morning devotional (which was an hour long), and then we all taught the first class period together. The topic they gave us was “Group Discussions.” We threw something together last night and it actually ended up being a lot of fun. My inner high school teacher came out a bit, I guess. I’m so grateful I get to teach students here about Jesus and about English on the same day. My topic for my next class is “Spoken English.” As I type this, Logan is teaching on “Positive Thinking” with Craig as his sidekick. I hope they’re surviving, haha. We decided to split the rest of the day up that way so we all teach one class with a “helper,” are said “helper” for another class, and then get one break. Right now, I’m on mine. Craig will be teaching on “Leadership & teamwork” later on.

     The morning devotional time was especially cool because we all got to share our testimonies. I taught mainly on James 1:27 regarding the fact that Jesus changes us into people who care about others, especially people who are “lower” than ourselves. I wanted to do so because that is so much different than what Hinduism teaches. I seriously don’t think I did that well, but it’s really sweet that we got the opportunity to share the Word with them. There are about 55 students, boys and girls, ranging from age 16-27 with most of them being around 18. The principal said most (if not all) of them are non-Christians. I think what impacted them the most was the words of the Bible itself (you could tell they listened more when it was read) and our testimonies. Some good questions about Jesus were asked afterward, which was encouraging. Well, it took Logan yelling “QUESTIONS?!” with excitement three or four times in order for them to speak up… but, still.

     I guess I just wanted to get all that out now while it’s fresh in my head. I can’t really describe to you the feeling when you find out you’re teaching college students for a whole day one day prior. It was actually very cool, though, because the three of us have had to band together and tackle this task as a team. I’m sure that will help us as we get ready the next five or six days to teach the Bible to pastors and churches.

     This whole trip thus far has been such an adventure. I keep saying it, but everyday is a whole new world and we HAVE TO start it without any expectations. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Who knows what will happen this evening, really? As I think about it, we never really know what circumstances are coming our way.

      This reminds me of James 4:13-14.

     “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’”

     I tend to worry a lot about what will happen in the future. Instead of doing so, this passage is suggesting that we go into each day without our own, man-made expectations and rather trust in what God is going to do. Really, we have to be ready for whatever. It’s a hard lesson but damn has it been a fun one so far.

     Well, they just got back from their lesson early and we’re about to have lunch. Logan walked in and said they got kicked out because they talked about the Bible too much. He was joking, but for real it sounds like they did well! I guess he incorporated Romans 8:28 into the lesson somehow. Cool things are afloat.

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Addition: Lunch wasn’t ready yet and I forgot to add something important. Last night, after Craig taught the college guys during the devotional time, it started to pour. Two of the guys decided to walk us all the way back to our room, which is about 15 or 20 minutes away from their hostel. We told them multiple times they did not have to. But, they insisted. Craig was talking to one of them the whole time about different music and they were essentially beat-boxing together, haha. Logan and I were with the other and he was shivering and kept saying “oh! wow!” as we were evading mud and puddles. The reason I’m bringing it up is because we could tell how desperately they sought companionship, especially from us since we are a little older (& I’m sure the novelty of our race plays a part, too). Regardless, it showed me how much people long for love and how much these people, especially, really need it.

India (pt. 4)

Random things from the last few days:

  • We walked around downtown Salem with just us white people for the first time yesterday. It’s so funny seeing all the stares we get. I definitely felt guilty for being white and wealthy.
  • I broke a window of the boys’ dormitory yesterday while playing cricket. It was my first time and they were teaching me and I guess I hit it too far? I still don’t get the rules. I felt terrible but they just laughed so I think it wasn’t a big deal.
  • Three of the interns/eyewitness people who were here when we arrived have left. Now, it’s just Logan, Craig, Demi (a girl from Texas), and myself. It’s been cool getting to relate with people from other churches. I’m not really used to that. We also can’t wait for the ladies from NeoXenos to get here- it’ll be refreshing to see familiar faces.
  • Logan fed a monkey a Smartie today on the way to see the Community College guys. It started to come towards us and it looked like it might attack. So, he threw some more further away and we quickly escaped.
  • The college guys asked us to sing them a song tonight and since we were caught off guard we sang “Amazing Grace” because it was the only one that came to our minds. We didn’t know all the words but I don’t think they noticed. I was reminded why we don’t usually sing, haha.

More “serious” thoughts:

These past couple of days haven’t been as crazy as the first few, but I think that’s a good thing. Starting Friday, all of us will be either speaking or teaching everyday for six straight days. We’ll all be doing two teachings for Bible College students (to about 40 people) and two at pastors’ conferences (the first will have around 40, the second 100-200?). The numbers are very much estimated. Who knows, really. Craig will also be teaching at a church service and I’ll be teaching at a church dedication ceremony. Whoever isn’t teaching will most likely be sharing his testimony, too. Logan is also giving his testimony at IGL’s weekly staff prayer meeting tomorrow morning.

The reason I say all of that is because we’re all feeling a weird sense of being in over our heads but also that God will take care of us. I guess it depends on the moment which of the two feelings is more present, though. We appreciate any prayers. None of us have ever taught this frequently before, let alone to people from a whole different culture.

We’ve started to get more of a taste of what He wants to do already. Logan and I have now both taught to the Community College guys and Craig will tomorrow. They were short teachings; he taught on John 3 and I on Matthew 28. It was funny going in there yesterday because we, again, had no idea what to expect. We were told it would be anywhere from 5 to 50 people. We found out it was a smaller group, which was a little disappointing at first. However, these guys are all non-believers and are seemingly interested in who Jesus is. It’s actually a lot of fun getting to have a more intimate conversation with them. Logan did a good job of laying down the gospel yesterday and it seemed like by the end of the time tonight they were starting to warm up to us. It’s really sad we only get to spend five nights with them. It’s also sad that there’s such a big barrier (language) between us. The translator helps, but still.

One big thing I’ve been seeing thus far because of such things is how much more I need to talk to God. I don’t have any clue what effect my words had on those dudes tonight. Did they really “hear” what the verses I was presenting were saying? Or were they just nodding to be polite? I’m starting to see how I should see that as the case all the time. I don’t have the ability to change lives myself. I forget that sometimes back home. Here, it’s all too apparent.

One passage is especially sticking out to me today that I’d like to share. It’s when Paul is taken to King Agrippa and is asked to make his defense for why he should be let go.

Acts 26:27-29:

“’King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do-‘ Agrippa interrupted him. ‘Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?’ Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

Agrippa asks Paul if he really thinks he’ll be prompted to become a Christian after one short talk. Being here, I often feel like I would answer “no” to that. Do I really think what I, who am only here for a few weeks, am saying will really impact someone? Who am I to think such things? How am I so arrogant? Can someone even be changed that quickly? It goes against all the things I’ve learned and became convicted about regarding establishing deep, personal relationships with people.

However, I love Paul’s response and it has been such a comfort to me. He’s like “I have no idea if it’ll have an effect now or not, but I pray you’ll see how much God frickin’ loves you someday. If I get to be a part of that, then that’s awesome.” That’s how I feel about all these people here. I don’t know what my role will be in their lives, but I do know that I care about them a lot and that Jesus does even more so. It’s even harder seeing the devastation they’re coming from, too (which I’ve talked about in previous blogs). It’s hard for me since I want to be in control over everything and know what is happening at all times, but I’m starting to learn to trust Him with it.

Theme of everything thus far: “Starting to…”

I think I’ve said and thought “starting to see” or “starting to learn” a million times this past week. There are so many things I’m only beginning to understand. I’ve seen a decent amount in my 23 years, but I can’t help but realize how much more there is to grasp and know and learn and apply in this life. I know I won’t ever be perfect or anything, but it’s intimidatingly exciting to realize that there is so much more to come.

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

India (pt. 3)

I wrote this yesterday and almost didn’t share it because it’s hard to find the words to show all we’re seeing. I want to describe everything but I simply cannot. But, hopefully this will do it at least a smidgen of justice and be in someway helpful.

I woke up this morning and was literally shocked to find the Indian ocean staring back at me. That probably sounds crazy, but yesterday we seriously just got onto a plane without really knowing where it was going. We knew the next day someone would drive us to Sariki (the village our church sponsors), but that was about it. So, when I walked outside this morning it was a COMPLETE and WONDERFUL surprise to see the ocean. I don’t think I’ll ever experience walking outside and being surprised by THE OCEAN ever again, haha. It was amazing. As I thought about it later, that whole experience sums up our trip thus far pretty well. We have no idea what we’re doing at all, but we keep on walking into experiences more delightful than we could ever imagine.

We left the hotel at 7:30 am (so, 8 am “India time”) to head toward Sariki. The drive was about three hours long but man did it go by fast. We stopped for tea which was funny because I’ve never “stopped for tea” anytime in my life, let alone on some random street in rural India. They had weird toilets there.

Anyway, the reason the drive was so short was twofold. First, the scenery. I wish I could describe it to you with words but I’m not that skilled. We’ll be posting pictures soon. But in an attempt all I can say is trees and hills and mountains and animals and commotion. I’ve never seen anything like it. The trip mainly flew by, though, because I had the chance to talk to our translator. At first I figured he was just some dude who could speak English and whatever language people in Sariki speak. Turns out, though, that he is a pastor who has been involved in church planting for the last 40 years (by the way, he looked like he was barely 40). He talked to me about how Christians in India have been almost forced into the house-church model because of the increased pressures and persecution from the government. He then went on to tell me that his main conviction is to make disciples, not just converts. He says that when people are fully committed to following Christ they should be able to reach 28 (not sure where this number comes from) areas in his or her lifetime. It probably sounds farfetched as you’re at home reading this, but this dude was on point. He was not okay with the idea of sitting back and hoping somehow things will be alright. At the same time, he understood that he is small and God is so big. He kept shaking his hands at himself when I tried to encourage him and instead pointed up toward the sky and said “no no no, not me- Him!” I’m not sure if I’m articulating this well enough, but it was incredibly comforting to hear his balance between seeing all the problems the world faces (especially India, where he said 0.5 of the 0.6 million villages in India haven’t even heard of Christ) and trusting that God is going to come through. I might blog more on him later, because I could go on and on.

Fast forward and we’re in Sariki. This place is literally in the middle of the wooded, rural mountains of India. When we first got there we went on a little tour of the village, which didn’t take long since it’s so small. Two older, sick ladies asked us to pray over them so Logan and I did so. I still feel weird and humbled about that but I’m realizing it has nothing to do with me anyway (“no no no, not me- Him!”). Probably my favorite part of the whole trip was getting to see the kids in school. It only goes up to 5th grade, which is sad, but it was so nice to see their faces. After Craig, Logan and I had fun with the kids (mainly with our iPhones- they love them) for a bit I was asked if I wanted to say anything to them since I’m a teacher. So, I did. I don’t know if what I said had any impact but I am so grateful I had the privilege to communicate.

After the tour we went into the small church building to get ready for some ceremony of sorts. It was a decently long ordeal, where all three of us had the chance to speak and pray for them multiple times. I would describe it all but, again, only so much wifi! The main thing I saw was how much God has transformed those people already. Even in the village you can see the difference on the faces of the people who know Him. Oh yeah, they also played some pretty dope “worship music.” I normally want to pull out my eyeballs when I hear church music, but theirs made even an uptight guy like me want to “get down.”

After lunch and whatnot we took part in a Transformation Team meeting Becky, one of the leaders of IGL, put on with the help of others. The whole goal of it at this stage was to empower women to have a voice in the village as well as the means to make some sort of income through a micro-loan program. It was cool to think about what change it could make for those people. It was also funny to see the looks on their faces when we sat “Indian-style” (sounds even more racist of a term now, haha) next to them as it was apparently only the second time many of them had ever seen white people.

That’s one thing all three of us randomly shared about at the service- that we are all one in Christ. I’ve always loved that no matter if you’re a man, woman, black, white, Indian, Jew, Gentile, etc. you are seen as a completely forgiven, child of God if you have accepted God’s offer of a relationship based on Jesus’ death for our shortcomings. But, I think the whole idea I just mentioned came alive today when I saw how different I am from these people. Not different in a good or bad way, just different. Yet, God loves us all the same and will work for our betterment.

Anyway, I don’t want to get all preachy on you. It was just such an amazing day and I wanted to share what cool things God is doing. Seriously, if it was not for that church in Sariki the place might as well be named “Despair.” But, God is there.

I figured I should share about today, too. Most of it was spent traveling, but we finally had the chance to play with the kids who live at Sharon Gardens about an hour ago. Upon our arrival we were literally swarmed by them the entire time (especially when Craig brought out candy and some balloons). I began to think my name was “Uncle, Balloon?” Craig and Logan were really good with those kids. I bet Logan lifted them up about a thousand times. I’m not quite as good with little ones but it was still so cool to see their happy faces. I’m so glad they have a place to live now. As has been a theme throughout these few blogs, the contrast between their lives and the kids we see on the street is almost unbearable. Thank God that God is moving and doing these kind of things, though.

P.S. Thank you all for your comments! I’m still figuring out all the settings on this thing (something seems to not be working correctly) but I’ve seen and read them all. Thank you so much for the kind words, please feel free to continue with any feedback. They’ll show up on here eventually if they haven’t already, ha.

India, 7/24/14 – 7/25/14

I missed a day already! Well, kind of. You guys back in the states are just now going to bed I believe. I guess this whole “warm culture,” “don’t worry too much about being on time” thing is already rubbing off on me. Right now it’s about 9:30 in the morning. Craig, Logan and I all couldn’t sleep past 6am so we got up and read outside. It’s beautiful here. We’ll be gone visiting the village our church sponsors, Sariki, the next couple of days. Like everything, we don’t know what to expect with that but are excited.

Anyway. Yesterday (India time) was awesome. After breakfast, we were taken to a village church and had the privilege of taking part in an induction ceremony of sorts for a daycare it runs. The kids, around ages 3-6 (I’m guessing), greeted us with these little flowers as we came in. The whole experience was a good first taste of what things will be like as it was humbling to have these people who work so hard for the Lord treating us so well. I’m starting to see how inhospitable I am already. We were asked to introduce ourselves and pray over the children and women present. Another team from Florida, who left last night, was there as well and they led the whole thing. Still, it was nice to be a part of and to get our first experience speaking through a translator.

The next part of our day consisted of a dude named Asaph, who leads a church in the area and also helps lead the college ministry here, taking us around and showing us what India Gospel League (IGL) is all about. We saw the office building in downtown Salem toward the end of the tour but the coolest part was getting to see the students. He took us around the different schools Sharon Gardens has (ranging from elementary age to community college) and it was such a joy to see those kids. He literally just interrupted them in the middle of their lesson and introduced us. The kids were always in the middle of some intense-looking lesson but then dropped everything and started waving, smiling and jumping around. One class of sixth-graders got “into formation” and did some crazy sing-song-dance for us. Part of me felt bad for the kids until I realized what they are being saved from. I cannot overemphasize the poverty we have seen in the streets as we drive up to Sharon Gardens. Seeing these kids who get to be in school (annnnd learn about Jesus at the same time) is such a drastic difference. You can see the joy and liberation in their faces. This was mostly contrasted for me when Logan and I were walking around outside the campus this morning and saw a little girl going to the bathroom near a bush. We looked away right when we saw her, but I can’t get the image of how sad she looked out of my head.

Oh yeah… We also visited the hospital in Sharon Gardens that IGL operates. The manager of the place showed us around and even asked us to pray over four different patients who were in critical care and are at risk of dying. It was incredibly humbling as I felt incredibly inadequate to do so. I’m grateful Craig and Logan were more bold than I and took charge with it right away. As I saw how grateful the patients looked for their prayers I soon followed suit. Most of the patients are not Christians but are willing to accept any spiritual help they can get. The hospital also gets the gospel out there, so I want to continue to pray for both the physical and spiritual needs of those people.

Later in the day, when we were at the IGL office, Asaph explained our itinerary in more detail. We told them we were willing to teach but damn, we are going to be teaching a lot! Haha (can I use “haha” in a blog?). But, yeah, right after we got done asking every question in the book we all kind of sat there staring at each other. How are we going to be effective at all? Seriously, it’s overwhelming. I feel like I’ve been using that word a lot. I think that’s my “word of the last few days” so far. Not really in a bad way, though. As I said in the last post, I think I’m just continuing to see how big the problems of the world are and how small I am. In order to make any change I’m going to have to be on God’s wavelength.

That’s another thing- I’m starting to see how vastly different every single person in this world is. I mean, I’ve seen that back home. But coming here is showing me that at a whole new level. Although I am indeed overwhelmed, it’s comforting to realize that God loves each and every person where he or she is at. Really it’s painting a bigger picture of how hugely widespread His love is. He loves the poor little kid in a wheelchair we met last night with as much intensity as He loves me, some overprivileged white guy from the United States. Amazing.

I’ll end this on a verse again. Like I said, we’re about to go to Sariki and have no idea what to expect. I’m continuing to learn if we trust in Him and are boldly available, though, things will be okay.

Matthew 6:27, 31, 33-34:

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?…Do not worry then, saying ‘What will we eat? or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Oh yeah, here’s a picture of the streets of Salem.

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First Day in India

So, I decided to make this little blog in order to document this trip to India of Craig, Logan and I. My goal with it is to start with simple observations and leave the “heavier reflection” until I get home. But, we’ll see. One thing I’ve learned from only being in India a day is that a changed plan does not have to be such a big deal. I also want to write in this every day but, again, we’ll see.

I could write a whole book on our travel here, but I’m just going to say a few things. First, it was so cool to have our friends with us at the Cleveland airport as we departed. We really are so fortunate to be in such a loving group of people. Second, the London airport sucks. Our flight was delayed for about five hours, but Logan and I were lost for two or three of them. Somehow we had to go through security twice… One would think it would be easy there since they speak English BUT NOPE. Ha. But, it wasn’t that bad. We made it to India.

A guy named Michael and another man, whose name I cannot pronounce, picked us up in Bangalore. The drive to Sharon Gardens, where we’re staying (which is in Salem), took around four or five hours. Below are some things I saw, heard, and thought that I tried to jot down in my journal as we drove on the bumpy roads:

Noises… Smells… PEOPLE… Honking… Temples… People staring… Unfinished buildings… Advertisements everywhere… vendors… Big statues of gods/goddesses… I wish my phone didn’t die so I could take pictures… People walking and urinating wherever they damn please… Monkeys on the side of the road… Beautiful mountains…

Logan is writing in his journal next to me and he said the “word of the day” for him would either be “humbled” or “I’m a rich a-hole.” Funny, but so true. Seeing all the immense poverty as we drove down the streets was something I have never experienced. I’ve seen poor people throughout our country, but this seems so different. I wish I could post a picture of what I saw but, again, my phone was dead. Soon, hopefully. But, I cannot overemphasize the drastic difference between where I come from and where these people live. I read all about that in multiple books leading up to this trip, but seeing it for yourself is incomparable.

One specific instance that brought this to light was when we were waiting in line at a toll booth. A pregnant women, obviously poor, came up to our window holding her hand out looking for money. We had all read in books, and even talked about before, that we shouldn’t give money to people because a lot of the time they are being used by bad people as a front and if we give them money we are perpetuating the cycle. But when we looked into her hurting eyes it was just too much. None of us really even spoke a word to one another, we didn’t know what to say. For myself, I was thinking about all the thousands if not millions of hurting people in this country and throughout the world. Seeing some of it up close and personal was almost too much to handle. How are we to keep ourselves from becoming numb to all the poverty and pain in the world when it is EVERYWHERE?

I don’t have many answers yet, but one thing I came to be thankful for is that we are not here on some feel-good crusade against poverty. If that were the case, it really would be too much to bear. Instead, our only mission is to help spread God’s love a little more to people who desperately need it. If it were our own humanitarian help we were offering up it would be oh so limited. It’s true that the problems we’re seeing are overwhelming to the point of us realizing that we cannot do much at all. Thankfully, though, that’s actually a good position to be at with God. He’s the one doing the work, anyway. And I trust Him.

That thought reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

      “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”

Even though it has only just begun, I think I’m thankful now more than ever that I don’t have to rely on myself to love people and that Jesus died and came back so I can live through Him. Although all of this really is so new, different, scary, and overwhelming, it really isn’t that bad at all in knowing that the loving creator of the universe is there alongside of you.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Sorry if that was sort of stream-of-consciousness-ish. It’s all still so new.

On “Out of the Silent Planet”

So, I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet” and realized that I need to reflect more. Often I simply finish a book, story, etc. and quickly move on. I like to think that I reflect “in thought” about the things I read but usually the distractions of living keep me from doing so. A lot of it is laziness, I’m sure. Regardless, I want to write more. I like writing. It helps me come to grips with what I’m thinking. One of the problems I have with writing is that I’m worried what people will think about it (and probably more-so, me) if they get their hands on the piece. However, I’m coming to realize that it just doesn’t matter. I need to reflect. Without reflection, will I ever really learn anything? Or be able to share with someone what somehow impacted me? The answer is an emphatic “No,” so I am going to reflect.

This newfound appreciation for reflection is actually one of the main things I took from reading “Out of the Silent Planet.” On page 74 of the book, Hyoi explains to Ransom how beings, or hnau (I think), on his planet Malacandra do not constantly seek out pleasure because they are content, or even happy, with simply remembering. He says, “A pleasure if full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing.” I like this thought a lot. On merely simplistic grounds, this section of the book shines light on the idea that we find pleasure in remembering, and that if we do not remember we will be bound to repeat ourselves over and over again. It seems to tie memory, or reflection, with contentment. I find this to be true, which is partly why I decided to jot down some take-aways from my reading of this book. Hyoi then goes on to say “and how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back? – if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?” (75-76). Anyway, that was really just a part of the book I liked the most, so I wanted to get it in here somehow. So, yes… reflection, reflection, reflection.

Moving slightly backward, now I’d like to take a look at the overall message of the book. After reading it, it’s pretty obvious that it’s one big metaphor for us as Christians fighting against the devil’s strongholds. However, it’s more than that, too. I especially like the commentary on how evil, or “bent,” we as humans are. Lewis’ use of dialogue between the different types of beings on Malacandra and Ransom does such a good job of depicting just how silly some of humanity’s problems are. Here are some of the lines of such a conversation-

“…They were astonished at what he (Ransom) had to tell them of human history- of war, slavery and prostitution. ‘It is because they have no Oyarsa (god),’ said one of the pupils. ‘It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself,’ said Augray. ‘They cannot help it,’ said the old sorn. ‘There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil. These creatures have no elida. They are like one trying to lift himself by his own hair- or one trying to see over a whole country when he is on a level with it- like a female trying to beget young on herself’” (102).

Another passage from earlier in the book does a good job at showing our problems, too. Here, Ransom is attempting to ask if Hyoi and his people experience war (and in doing so has to describe what war is)-

“It was difficult to explain. ‘If both wanted one thing and neither would give it,’ said Ransom, ‘would the other at last come with force? Would they say, give it or we kill you?’ ‘What sort of thing?’ ‘Well- food, perhaps.’ ‘If the other hnau wanted food, why should we not give it to them? We often do.’”

In such a simple way, Lewis shows just how trivial humanity is at its core. Our world is filled with conflict and strife. Why? Because some groups of people have what other groups want, and then said group goes and tries to get it. It’s like we’re all stuck in elementary school or something. Lewis knows that this problem arises from us being “bent,” or fallen, or, in other words, imperfect and in need of rescue. He does such a good job of showing this simply though that even if I was not a Christian I would be inclined to take on his worldview.

One other aspect of the book I want to touch on is the “resolution” Ransom makes on his journey to Meldilorn. Right before he makes this resolution, Ransom is experiencing widely ranging emotions that, at times, make him seriously contemplate halting his trip. Ransom realizes this, though, and decides something- “He made a strong resolution, defying in advance all changes of mood, that he would faithfully carry out the journey to Meldilorn if it could be done” (85). So, even when Ransom later goes through these different emotions, he sticks to the course. This small, little part of the plot is hugely significant to me as a Christian. It reminds me of both the “second decision” and simply having real faith. As people, our emotions vary too often to even realize. At least, that’s the case for me. So, if we let these emotions run our walks with God, we’ll end up essentially embarking on a path in the midst of a maze. Instead, if we have made such a decision to trust in Him no matter what we “feel,” things just simply work out. I’ve seen this time and time again. I love how Lewis explains this through Ransom, later saying that “But all the time the old resolution, taken when he could still think, was driving him up the road” (88).

I want to talk about that last thing further, but honestly I’m getting tired. It’s late, and I’m at my parents’ house for winter break. My first winter break post-college, actually. It’s quite odd. Nice, but definitely odd.

Anyway, I really did enjoy reading “Out of the Silent Planet.” I was going to touch on this further, but another of its great qualities was how vividly Lewis describes the scenery of space. Er, wait, the “heavens.” Damn. One last thing. That whole “space” vs. “heavens” thing was also helpful to me. Ransom makes the distinction between the two, saying he thinks he thought of the vastness outside our own planet as “space” before because of his fear for the unknown. Now, though, he prefers to call it the “heavens” because of how beautiful it is and how it’s actually OUR planet that is to be feared. I like that and think it’s partly true. I think we call it “space” because we think what WE are is good and whatever is out there, unknown, is bad. Maybe what we need to realize is that we aren’t actually that good. Maybe once we realize that what we need is something we can’t provide, something that is outside of ourselves- things will start to make sense. Maybe “space,” or emptiness, despair, unknown fear, is innately inside of us & we need to reach out to the “heavens” for the cure.

 

Death, God and Funerals

Why do people change their otherwise-indifferent attitudes to God when they are faced with the reality of death? How does it make sense that most would rather not discuss God on a normal day, but fleet to churches for funerals? Are people actually interested in God but are only awakened to this concern when death occurs? Do people not see that people are dying every day? So, then, are the questions of God not present/worth considering every day as well?

These questions I hope to answer, or at least address, with what follows. You may ask, “Why?” My answer: Because death has been on my mind. Recently I have attended two funerals, one for my grandmother and the other for the father of a high school student I study the Bible with. Let there be no mistake… funerals can be devastating. Death can be disturbing. Beyond the tears that fell and the emptiness that was felt at both these funerals, one persistent idea came to mind: why are we talking about God?

To start, it seems most people lead a life as if no God exists. There, I said it. I’m not saying my grandmother or my friend’s father did not believe in God, their examples merely serve as a jumping point. Instead, I’m placing my claim onto people as a whole. To test my theory that most people live as if no God exists (or at least as if He is insignificant), try to start a conversation about God with someone. Not just a superficial, short, nice-to-meet-ya conversation either. Try starting a deep conversation. Chances are, it will not be easy. Why is this? Simply because people tend not to care.

Why do they not care? I mean, the Bible says people are being shown that God in fact exists:

“…because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

This passage describes how people innately see that there is a God. Evidence abounds. Here lies a possible answer to the funeral question. Death both shocks and awakens us. We realize, deep down, that there must be something afterward. How can life just end? So, when death occurs, people (with their innate knowledge of God) revert to Him. Although they may have been living as if He does not exist, death is too sharp of a reminder that He most likely does.

However, the passage goes on to say how many people react to this truth in their daily lives:

“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” Romans 1:25

Although God makes His existence evident to us, not all people choose to believe. Since we are prone to living selfish lives, it becomes almost natural to live as if no god exists. While this is philosophically easy enough to practice on the daily level, when a hardship such as death occurs the sentiment comes up dry. It is simply not enough to base life on. Do we all just live, die and feed the soil we are buried in?

Here’s where the good news comes into play. We don’t have to just rot after death:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:12

Simply put, God wants to come into a relationship with you. He wants you to experience a full, significant and eternal life. All you have to do- all you can do- is ask for His forgiveness and for Jesus’ death to count for you. After that, you are set. You are then viewed as His child.

If a person has done this, his or her family has something real to put their hope in upon death:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

This is amazing! Instead of a sense of utter despair upon death, we can delight in the fact that the person (who put his or her faith in Jesus) is going to heaven. Sometimes, I think the phrase “good news” puts this too lightly. It is amazing, awesome, beautiful news.

Overall, I guess the whole purpose of this little blog is to hopefully serve as some sort of wake up call. Instead of considering God’s existence when dark times arise, why not do so now? The sad fact is we all are going to die. Luckily, though, it does not have to be sad.