Monday, February 27, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: India

From Katie: If you know someone who would be interested in being interviewed or guest posting for Jesus Worldwide, I would love the chance to chat with them. I have no problem visiting the same country more than once. After all, we all see the Lord work in different ways.

This week I got to chat with my friend Kevin, also sometimes called Jesus Shoes, and his chance to be the Lord’s feet in India. It is hard to whittle six months down to a single blog post, so check out more stories here (including the play-by-play of the war against the rats).

Katie: How long were you in India, and what were you doing there?

Kevin: For six months I lived in north India with several other Americans as part of a discipleship program to help continue the work the Lord had already been doing through the local church as well as two American missionaries living there.

The town has a mission hospital and school, so all of our different roles were centered around those places. One person in pursuit of a nursing degree worked at the hospital. I was exploring the possibility of becoming a teacher, so I taught and assisted in music classes, taught math to several sixth grade students, as well as history.

We were also involved in the local church. For me that meant writing the Bible study for the church youth group, discipling the guys of the youth group, teaching guitar lessons as a way to build relationships, and modeling mature Christian behavior.

I feel like that’s one of the biggest needs there. The church is there and it has some numbers but within the church there is a lack of discipleship. The older believers do not put much effort into training new believers, and the younger believers do not have much in the way of adult role models as far as how to walk with Christ and how to grow their faith.  

Not that I have arrived as a believer (nor will I ever), but I have been walking with the Lord and there are a lot of practical things I could share as well as life experiences to pour out into them. 

Katie: What is the relationship between the Christian hospital and school and the rest of the community? 

Kevin: The area I was in is definitely hostile towards any kind of evangelism, as is most of the country of India. Normally one might think going to an area like that might not be the best of ideas but in this case the church is welcome and respected. It’s almost like the church has earned the right for its voice to be heard. 

The Gospel initially came to this area with healthcare. It’s a very rural area in India that’s difficult to travel to. It’s not as difficult now as it was 30, 40, and 50 years ago. The Christian hospital was the first healthcare in the town and because they were providing healthcare to the people there, the locals welcomed and responded to the Gospel. 

After some time the people working at the hospital began noticing a lot of preventable diseases and began to realize that if these people had education, they would not be seeing those patients. So they started a school, and it was the first school in the area. It started off teaching basics but also things that allowed students to go on to universities.  

There are now multiple hospitals and multiple schools in town; however, the best healthcare comes from the Christian hospital and the best education comes from the Christian school. 

Not all of the students are Christians. Some of them are sent there by their parents who want them in the best school and are able to afford it. It was interesting because they are in a situation where they hear the Gospel on a daily and their teachers are believers.

It was also interesting because the school has the learning center, the ability, and the space to help special needs students which is not common in India. It’s not a large program at a tradition school but they have the space to offer to students who are struggling which is unusual. 

Katie: How did you see the Lord work while you were in India? 

Kevin: I saw Him work in lots of ways. 

While we were there we made a point to let students know we were available and if they wanted to talk about things or study the Bible together, we would do that. There was a teenage girl who was on the very edge. Her family situation wasn’t great but through the work of one of the other Americans and their building a relationship, this girl came to faith in the Lord. Her life has really changed, and we’ve been able to watch her grow through email updates from the missionaries who are still there. The Gospel is bearing fruit in her life, and she is being changed. It’s really amazing. 

Another way was through the relationships with several students. Many of them are young and as they’re growing into adults they need to know that they’re loved. Just like here in the States, I saw a lot of bad parenting. Parents weren’t being parents, and their kids wanted attention and deserved it.  I could never fill that role, but I could at least give the kids some attention. They weren’t just seeing me but they were, hopefully, seeing Christ in the ways that I treated them and the ways I treated the people in my house. 

Typically in the local culture, the women do everything in the house and the men do not help. It was funny for them to come into our home and be seated, and then for me to make them chai that would actually be good. It’s not that difficult to make good chai; I enjoyed turning that cultural norm on its head.  

Most of the time you try and respect their culture. Guys and girls don’t really spend a lot of time together in public. Even if they’re married, they don’t show any affection in public. Coming from a small, private college in the rural South, you get used to there being affection all of the time. It was a big adjustment but it’s something you do because you have to. 

Another way I saw the Lord work was in my own life. You don’t go to a place like that for yourself, at least you shouldn’t. There are a lot of needs for the people there, but ultimately I think the biggest mark left from a trip like that is on you as the person who went rather than the people who are there. I would definitely say that was true for me. 

Katie: What are some challenges you faced? 

Kevin: We faced all sorts of challenges; you’re always going to have them. 

For example, our plane ride was followed by a fifteen hour bus ride from Delhi. It started snowing while we were on our way. About three miles from our destination, the snow was a foot deep, and the bus finally stopped. We had to wait for a four-wheel-drive vehicle to take us the rest of the way. We were without power for our first two weeks. Our tap water went out, and our main water source in town went out. 

The house we stayed in was old and not very well sealed, so there were rats that lived in there. We declared war against them and won! Not without losing some sleep first. It was kind of scary at times. 

The church was also challenging in that there was a lot of immaturity among believers. In the New Testament we read Paul’s letters to various churches, specifically the letters to the people of Corinth, and he’s pretty angry. You read it, and you’re like, “Why were they doing that? They were crazy!” 

I saw a lot of those kinds of things happening in the church. We would see things, and you want to react in ten different ways, but you can’t. It was a challenge to know how to love the church because for those problems to go away it isn’t going to be something an American outsider does to change it. It’s going to be the Holy Spirit changing peoples’ hearts. I can tell someone that he’s sinning but until he breaks down and says, “Yes, I’m a sinner. I’ve been doing this, and it’s not right,” no words I say will make a difference. 

Katie: What can we learn from Christians in India? 

Kevin: Well, we definitely won’t learn punctuality. 

One thing I found that was essential was the church’s commitment to study and meditation. The maturing believers there study the Bible, not just the Gospels or the New Testament but the all of the Bible, and know and understand the details and to meditate on them. The spiritual discipline of meditation is huge. It’s something that’s being ignored and that’s not ok. 

The focus they have on study is something noteworthy and worth doing ourselves. If we’re not really studying the Word and knowing the God we follow, then what? 

Katie: How can we best pray for our brothers and sisters in India? 

Kevin: It’s hard to speak for the entire country with a population of a billion because my experiences are limited to one small town. 

For the country as a whole, that the Gospel would pour out because it’s what’s needed. 

In the small town where I spent my time there are a lot of cultures and religions mixed together. Tibetan Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, and people that mix them all together. My greatest prayer would be for them to know Christ.

Also for the church to be unified and truly be the body of Christ, to be unified and love each other. And that true discipleship would happen because that’s what we are commanded to do: make disciples. I would definitely pray for that.

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