I returned, together with the rest of the India Team, a week ago today to JFK Airport on a massive Emirates airliner from Delhi via a surreal and bleary-eyed turn through Dubai in the middle of the night. Everything was as we had left it–except the snow had melted. Thank you, New Life, for sending us and blessing us on our way, and for your prayers for us throughout. We’d like to invite you to join us on Sunday evening, May 31, for a delicious Indian dinner and thorough report. But for now, just a few thoughts from me.
I joined the team for the latter part of what was for the others nearly a three-week sojourn through several locations. (The day by day reports and photos as things unfolded are still available at http://helpingindiatogether.blogspot.com/.) During this last leg of the journey we spent four days each on the grounds of two Christian mission hospitals, which both received groups coming in for teaching during our visits, and also served as launchpads for excursions out to other locations. We spent time with numerous dedicated lovers of Jesus (mostly Indians), who serve him in a variety of ways in the places he has called them–as health care workers and hospital administrative staff, as pastors and evangelists, as teachers and vocational trainers. Unquestionably the Lord has been and continues to be on the move in India in an unusual way, and this is a moment of great opportunity for the gospel now in that nation, even as the Indian government increases its scrutiny and harassment of Christian ministries.
Two central thoughts:
First (and we need to hear this over and over), Christ’s kingdom is bigger than you think. It is present in every nation on the planet, in good soil and rocky soil, in cultural wrappings that are different from our own. Even in our own context, the Lord is doing much more than what we know about or that is contained in the community of New Life. The Lord said, I will build my church. He will do it; he does not need us to initiate that, manage or control it. It is already underway, and that kingdom-and-church work is not a tame pony you can saddle and ride. But, he says, you may come along. You may be present, with your eyes open, prayerfully alert. You may even labor with your hands, with your words, with your mind and energy, to advance what he is doing. We met many who are enlisted in doing this, each in his or her own way. And what they are doing in their place, we too may do in ours, in parallel to them, serving the same Jesus.
Second, another lesson that is always true everywhere: We are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit to do anything. What I feel here all the time (can I actually understand and communicate anything effectively to anyone?) is all the more so in another country, where the distance of culture and language and experience makes effective communication that much dicier. We went to encourage and strengthen those who are laboring there; only by God’s grace is that a reasonable thing to set out to do, and something that can be a reality in space and time.
There’s more of course, still in process in my mind and heart. Others who know the people and places better than I can speak more completely. But it was a great privilege to go and see, to pray for people and speak to them from the Scriptures; their work continues as does ours, as Jesus builds his church.