May 26, 2012 3 Comments
We have the honor and privilege to serve cross-culturally with friends that are all over the world. This post is the convictions, testimonies and stories of two of our dearest friends serving in India. We hope and pray that this will allow you to experience world missions the way many people do throughout the world. We pray this will be an eye-opening post and will change the way you view missions as a whole. Read, enjoy and please pray for our friends as well as people all over the world that are bringing the gospel to the unreached. This is their experience…Imagine living in a place that is vastly different than the place you call home. Imagine a land that looks like that one area of town that everyone stays away from, the dump. Try to imagine experiencing this mysterious place with all 5 senses. A land of 1.2 billion people with no concept of the green movement or environmental conservationism leads to lots of trash and pollution. Imagine smelling all of those things as you travel by public transportation or are walking home with your groceries. Imagine seeing people contribute to those smells by polluting it with their own human waste. With no concept of shame related to bathroom habits, many people take any and every opportunity to use the bathroom no matter where they are and no matter how bad it will be. Imagine hearing car and bus horns consistently as you try to walk down the street or ride in a car. With no concept of enforced traffic laws, the roads are filled with drivers that pull out into oncoming traffic and cut you off at any chance they get just to get to their destination a couple of seconds faster. Imagine feeling the exhaust from a bus pour out onto you as it pulls away from the stop light, leaving black soot on your skin and clothes. Imagine tasting both exhilarating and disgusting dishes that you know will have you struggling with the dreaded “Delhi Belly” as you succumb to cultural pressure to eat whatever is put in front of you while in a national’s home.If you can begin to imagine these things, then you have only begun to skim the surface of what life in south India is like. Life in south India is extremely difficult. Cultural norms and social mores are completely different than anything I have experienced in America. What is considered normal and acceptable to Indian culture would be absolutely frowned upon in the culture which I grew up. These experiences don’t lend themselves to creating a warm and fuzzy feeling inside of me. Oftentimes, these feelings culminate in anger and ethnocentrism.
So, why did I come to India? My wife and I lived in a very nice apartment in a very nice neighborhood in Louisville, KY. We would go on walks with our dogs almost every day and enjoy cooking food from scratch. We would get in our car many nights and just go for a ride with our windows down. All of those things are gone now. The life we once lived is completely overshadowed with chaos, dirt, and everything else associated with India. Again, why did we come here?
Without sounding cliché, God brought us here. And the truth is, he brought us here more for the work he would do in us rather than through us. As Balaam very well knows, God can use anyone or anything to carry out His work. Gary Thomas asks the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” I have often thought of that question about missionary work: What if God brought me to India to make me more holy than to make me happy. The concept behind this question makes even the most devout Christian tremble. It is the one thought that prevents many believers in taking that “next step” to surrender to God’s will for his/her life. The idea of giving up temporal happiness for the opportunity to be made purer through the fires of various trials is something that shakes most believers at their core. However, there is so much glory that the Lord receives when the trials we face produce endurance (James 1:2-4). This has been a key verse that my wife and I have focused on to get us through the hard times.
Many of the presuppositions I had behind missions have been completely obliterated since coming to India. John Piper coined the phrase, “Missions exists because worship does not.” I used to understand missions as the necessity to see as many people saved as possible because that is the most loving thing to do as one who knows and is a messenger of the truth of the Gospel. While that is true, it is incomplete. God has to be the reason why we go. We cannot get the two greatest commandments out of order. An overwhelming love and devotion for God is the first and greatest commandment. If I came to the field first and foremost to save Indians, then I would have left after arriving in the Delhi airport and dealing with the unfriendly customs agent. But, God brought us here to conform us more into the image of Christ. He brought us here to rely on His grace every day. He brought us here to, by His grace, make worshippers of Him.
The road has been terribly hard, and I have contemplated giving up many times. However, it has not been in vain. God is doing a mighty work in me and my wife. He is stretching us in a way that we never thought we would be stretched. But, it is producing endurance. What once was anger and resentment towards God is now turning into a complete reliance on His daily grace. At the end of verse 4, James says that the endurance that is the product of these trials will make us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” That is what we are shooting for. I would rather have that right now than the comforts of complacency.
I think our time in India will not be long-term. We believe that God has brought us here for a season. Our main focus is that we would not squander the season that He has given us. We want to leave this place emboldened in our faith and see the fruit of our labors from the seeds we sowed here in India. We want to see people come to repent and believe in the Gospel. We want to see churches planted. We also want to live and act a lot more like Jesus than when we came.
I’m not one of those that tries to guilt people into doing missions by giving statistics or using depressing stories. The only advice I would give is to live out the Gospel in your own life. Love God first. Love you neighbor second. All that will culminate in you being a great commission Christian. You can do that anywhere. But, if you think that God is commanding you to be a great commission Christian beyond the borders of America, then you cannot ignored that either. God wants to do a sanctifying work in us. For me, that involved moving me to the last place on earth that I would ever want to live. For you, it may be different. All I know is that I would rather be sitting on the shores of Nineveh knowing that I submitted to what the Lord was commanding me to do, then laying on the shore in the great fish’s vomit.