The haunting sound of a lonely train whistle traveling through our quiet town now produces a different internal reaction because of spending two weeks in northern India. Instead of it seeming too loud and unnecessary, pictures of communities come barreling forth with memories. Densely populated, crowded, bustling, filthy, colorful, oppressive, hopeful, creative places people call home were either just off the train tracks or housing boys rescued from life on the train. The movie “Lion” will give an idea, on various levels, of what exists yet today.
Our group of seven, sent from CPCC, was invited by partner ASSI to provide “member care” to long time leaders and new believers in several cities across India. Traveling by plane, train, various types of taxi cabs, tuk tuk, and boat on the Ganges river, every God-given sense was heightened and overwhelmed. We spent time on their turf, listening to their stories, eating their food, breathing in their heavily polluted air, seeing their dark colored eyes and matted hair, feeling the garland of marigolds as a welcome to their life.
Member care was carried out by first just being in their situations to then be able to “be with”. While time was short, a level of trust had already been established through previous visits and relationships by CPCC giving us a lead into being listened to. We took turns giving personal stories to support topics of abiding in Christ, surrendering, how to juggle career with volunteer ministry, listening to God, acknowledgment of idols breaking intimate relationship with God, resting in God, remembering a person showing us Christ.
We mingled among the Indians sitting with them, worshipping in a different language with arms raised and maybe even dancing a little J, joining the orchestra of audible prayer, kneeling on the floor together, washing one anothers’ feet in a powerful moment of servanthood – us to them and then them to us. It was all a taste of Gods’ kingdom yet to come, though obviously possible now on earth.
We witnessed the power of love in tangible ways through the ministry of ASSI, who purpose to understand the needs of a community then set out to meet those needs. One neighborhood located by a train track discovered they could earn money by collecting plastic water bottles. It doesn’t seem like much to us in a land of milk and honey, but the simple act and ownership of a way to provide empowers and does bring change even if slowly. We witnessed the excitement in that same area of a girl sitting in the top seat nationally in math who has her sights set on becoming a nurse. Her proud mother beaming, the young teen has become a role model for other children. They, too, gain hope of rising out of their oppressive poverty.
The power of love through relationship was obvious in every aspect of ministry we participated in. Men and women, older and younger, have tasted how good God is through willingness to count the cost of being a disciple of Christ; for some, it has meant being beaten and locked out of a house. For others it has meant being a voice of example and change for boys. “You don’t have to keep ingesting drugs. Take care of your bodies to be a stronger “football” (soccer) player.” An inroad is made to then talk about Jesus.
While we went to encourage and support our Indian brothers and sisters in their relationship with Christ, I am most certain we all came away challenged to walk humbly and in awe of our great God. The transformative power of the Good News of Jesus has changed our lives, too. We are thankful. And when the train whistle blows in our quiet town, a prayer will be offered for our friends and partners in northern India.