Sunday 4 December 2011

Incredible India: They came to Jesus

Take me to the church, not now

I was up quite early with the view to going to church because I thought I could catch the morning service at 10:00AM. At a few minutes to 9:00AM I called the pastor and found out that the early service serves a deprived community as I would rather not use the less salubrious word and it was the evening service that catered for the “city” people.

The plan was to pick me up at 1:00PM but the pastor ran into a problem that I thought would be a serious one when I first noticed it yesterday. My hotel, or inn that aspires to hostelry in an area of Delhi called Karol Barg and the conurbation is called West Extension Area or W.E.A. for short.

The roads that interconnect in this area are barely named except for the really major arteries and everything else falls into divisions of plots that an outsider will not decipher even if clairvoyant. Suffice it to say, this complexly ineffective street numbering system meant my pickup was delayed a good two hours before he found my hotel.

My hotel however had done the sacrilegiously reprehensible, it had no sign to indicate what the building was, and it was basically hiding in plain sight.

Out of town to worship

In the end, the pastor found me, his church is a new addition to our global church movement and it met in a hotel towards the boundary of Delhi to the East and so after introductions we got in the car and were driven the 28 kilometres to the venue.

The service was to start at 5:00PM, we arrived in sufficient time and over time I got to introduce myself to most members of the church with basic information of where I was from.

India, being a stridently Hindu country seems to have a serious aversion to conversions from Hinduism to Christianity, the pastor who is also a medical doctor suggested missionaries are not looked favourably upon by the immigration authorities for the fear that certain enlightenment that would raise the many condemned to societal ostracism by reason of religious caste systems might gain the quality of humanity for egalitarianism and sense of worth worthy of the 21st Century.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is however not bound, the seeds sown about the revelation and power of Jesus Christ will pollinate the fields of trees (souls) in season eager for new truth and elevation to a better standard of life and outlook of hope.

Making acquaintances and establishing friendships

We, in countries where the freedom to assemble and worship is protected and constitutionally enshrined are sometimes unappreciative of what we have as the numbers of people who have converted hunger and yearn of much of what we take for granted.

In conversation on the way to the church, I told the pastor about my bout of cancer and how I believe that my miracle was mostly in the efficacy of medicine and the speed at which the serious symptoms subsided that the medical staff all concluded my recovery was miraculous.

The pastor seriously thought it was a testimony to share with the congregation and he was there and then purposed to call me forward to speak.

After having a drink of water and a coffee courtesy of the hotel owner who is also a church member, we gathered in the meeting hall where chairs were setup, the pulpit put on the stage and to the side were a triple set of Indian drums.

I shall sit amongst my brethren

To the right of the stage, facing the congregation two chairs were placed and the pastor invited me to take a seat. As it was traditional for Indians to honour guests in that way, but I could not be persuaded to take such a prominent place, I was just a guest; I was quite content to sit within the congregation, if I was not already conspicuous enough.

They did relent and the service started with strong fervent prayer with much thanks given for my health and wellbeing. We then had a time of praise and worship helped with the percussion of the drums which had a conga cum Bollywood sound to them and the clapping of hands.

The songs were all in Hindi so I basically clapped and rocked to the music, being clueless of the words but gripped by the spirit of the moment nonetheless.

My story of faith, medicine and miracles

After the songs, I was introduced to the congregation and called forward to share my testimony at which point I was presented with a gloriously colourful bouquet of flowers; I could only blush.

I started to speak by thanking them for a wonderful welcome and the warmth expressed to me then confessed that I am not familiar with being called up on stage to speak. The pastor stood by translating what I had to say and I was quite surprised at how I measured my sentences for the interpreter and how I was able to keep the story in flow.

I talked about how my health failed, the diagnosis, the treatment including chemotherapy, the recovery, the verdict and my improving health. I paid particular attention to the interworking of faith, medicine and miracles especially the need to engage doctors as part of diagnosis and continued assessment process no matter what is learnt from religious leaders.

I probably spoke for about 15 minutes and it appeared I had told a rather compelling tale of survival, at least the pastor believed that it was necessary for the congregation to learn about cancer not being the precipitous termination of life.

A message in our stories

After building on my testimony, he called forward another man who had been cured of kidney problems after prayer and we all thanked the Lord for His mercies and grace.

The message concerned Jesus the helper of the deprived and somewhere it there was woven the tale of my rejecting the seat of honour for a place amongst the congregation – it was all in Hindi but I had a witness that I could follow the drift of the conversation.

After the sermon, there was the offertory and as the youth gathered on stage to offer the opportunity of singing an English song, an assistant pastor offered a solo song of praise before we all sang “All to Jesus, I surrender” first in English and then in Hindi before the service closed.

Then we all shook hands saying the grace to each other and even engaged in conversations with many who were moved by my story.

Another fellowship

We then left for the pastor’s house for dinner, his wife prepared rice and peas, a chicken curry, a cheese curry, a salad and chapattis. Dessert was an apple and pineapple fruit salad and at the end we had sweetened milky coffee – I think that is how coffee is served in India, I had on two previous occasions in different places been presented with coffee of that recipe.

We then drove back to my hotel which seemed a longer distance than on our way out, the roads were quite busy – New Delhians appear to revel on Sunday nights too even if they had to work on Monday where they apparently tardily arrived at work after 10:00AM.

Despite the fact that the pastor had found my hotel earlier in the day, it was just confirmed to be how inscrutable the addressing system was that I hope it was not a nasty carryover from the colonial times. We probably asked 5 rickshaw men before we found my hotel – I was safely delivered to pen this piece.

They came to Jesus

For all that Incredible India offers, spare a thought for the minority whose religious do not attract favourable safeguards for the propping of a majority religion that does not confer rights we all hold dear and espouse in other lands. They are the true believers, in a way.

For amongst those I could now count as brethren were people who were born Hindus and Brahmins whose love for the simplicity of the gospel and experience of the power of the love of Christ has become a witness if not a judgement on the many who have injuriously manipulated our religion for ulterior ends or negated the power of it with lukewarm adherence.

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