Monday afternoon we continued our up-close-and-personal tour of world religions. Our first stop was a Buddhist temple purportedly on the location of Siddhartha Gautama’s first sermon. Varanasi is not only a holy city of Hinduism, it’s also the birthplace of Buddhism.
A short walk away we visited a temple of the Jain religion. A brief presentation by our greeter soon revealed a list of rules that would seem to be totally impossible for anyone to follow.
We wrapped up our tour of contrasts with visits to a house church and a community learning center (CLC). The house church was well attended and happened to be pastored by a woman. The sight of white faces became quite a draw for the entire village, so we didn’t stay long.
At the CLC we were once again warmly welcomed and presented with garlands of marigolds, chai tea, and cookies. The Indian church is so warm and gracious to us. The CLC strategy, briefly, is to enter a village, assess the needs of the community and then open a small (perhaps 10’ x 12’) “office” and provide services to address those needs. In this particular village the CLC leader has focused on alcohol and drug addiction counseling and teaching people how to budget and save. (It’s amazing how much we really have in common!)
In the course of serving the community, CLC leaders seek out the “person of peace” (see Luke 10), share Christ with him/her, and with that convert begin a church. By first serving the people, they build trust and earn the right speak into people’s lives with the Gospel.