I’m back with the next chapter of our whirlwind mini-missions trip to India, and I’m excited to share about our time in the villages. Now when I say “villages”, don’t for one minute picture a rural little farm place with fifty people living in sprawling fields (because that’s exactly what I had envisioned). The villages in India account for around 75 percent of the population, and are very happening places. Incredibly poor, but hustling and bustling like you would not believe. And the people— oh the people…
I left off my last BLOG with us taking our first village church service, and we spent the following 2 days at 6 more churches, all unique and full of the faithful. There was something raw and real about the folk there. Most of them are Hindu converts— some of the churches were 100% ex-Hindu people, and their newfound Christian faith was vibrant and sincere. One of my faves was The Flower Church (my own nickname for it—I’m pretty sure it’s real name has at least 12 syllables).
It was set in a very poor area, but when we arrived, the sheer joy of the people was contagious and warmed our hearts instantly! A darling little boy presented me with a beautiful floral bouquet, and the guys were presented with slightly more macho versions. They continued to bring us flowers from I-don’t-know-where until we left. It was their way of showing love and gratitude, and it spoke volumes to me. Eyes sparkled, voices soared in India-style worship, hearts were eager to hear from the Word of God, and the warmth in that church was way beyond the balmy weather conditions. Hospitality and love doesn’t begin to explain it. I get goosies now just thinking about the women desperate for us to pray with them after the service, and the children in awe of the simple stickers we gave out. You merely have to spend a few minutes here to know God is working miraculously in this part of India. Once bound in Hinduism, these people have been set free and now live fully. For them, poverty might be a daily struggle beyond our imaginations, but it doesn’t touch their hearts or dampen their faith one little bit.
God’s light in the village? They most certainly are.
So why bother with actual brick buildings when the church could meet in the open air or a home, especially where some congregations are still quite small numerically? Apparently, if a non-Hindu religion meets together without an appropriate physical building, it’s considered a cult. These little churches NEED to be built for credibility in the communities. Two had popped up in the past couple of years, and my dad had the privilege of being chief-ribbon-cutter/ dedication-man/mayor-wannabe. Very cool, seeing as how last time he was there he was chief-breaking-ground-man-with-a-shovel/ mayor-wannabe for those same churches. (He’s somewhat of a celebrity in these parts, which is amusing to observe, as my dad is the humblest man I’ve ever met!)
Oh goodness, another special moment was when a group of young boys “gave us choreography” during worship time. It was AWESOME. Somewhere between Bollywood and Zumba, they started dancing wholeheartedly to some beat-filled number, and it was mesmerizing! I SO wanted to get up there with them. Don’t worry— I fought the urge.
We saw and heard all sorts of things during our village time. It was like travelling back in time with the oxen and the paddy fields and the women working in the beautiful oceans of red chilies. Markets were a cornucopia of glorious colour and spicy aromas. Temples are situated all over the place, and we came across a very interesting six-foot-tall anthill complete with an idol. Villagers come to pour milk into the great big holes at the bottom, to appease the snakes, their gods, which reside under said anthill. Uh-huh.
Do they need God’s light in the village? Desperately.
Also, there was much Hindu chanting to be heard via loudspeakers at any given time. Even when we were trying to lead a service (churches don’t have windows with double-glazing—or any glazing at all come to think of it) the ah-ahhhh-ahhh warbly, repetitive sounds would sometimes be overpowering. On one such occasion, I managed to yell my way through singing “Grace Like Rain” for the congregation, but we were a bit concerned when Lyndon got up to preach. The chanting had been super loud, and unbelievably distracting, even during the music. But Pastor Nelson prayed (in the native Telegu language), and as soon as Lyndon opened his Bible to start speaking, the chanting from outside stopped immediately. Silence. Lyndon ploughed on seamlessly, and it wasn’t until afterwards we learned that Nelson had simply told the people they had to pray during the preaching, so the Word could be heard. Prayer answered. Boom. One of soooo many. These people believe in prayer utterly and completely. They have seen the power of prayer at work in their communities, and they have tremendous faith.
God’s light in the village? Umm yes.
I learned so much from our time with the village churches. I saw love in action over and over again. I saw joy, pure and glorious. I saw a faith so simple yet so profound, it took my breath away. I will never forget these lights in the villages. These people with a message of truth to proclaim. It was a privilege to be a part of their lives, even briefly.
And the challenge over and over— how much of a light am I in my “village”?
Until the next Indian installment…
Linking up with some fabulous encouragers. Check them out: