This morning I sat on the rooftop and read about the comings and goings of the ancient kings of Israel. Descendants of David who followed the Lord with all his heart even as he lived less than perfectly along the way. Nevertheless God promised that he would bless his family line because of David’s heart being open to him. But those that followed were double-minded and created shrines and symbols of worship to other gods that revealed their betrayal of heart to the God of David and Israel.
In India there are many gods. Some men are wearing black for a month because they worship a particular Hindu deity created only 20 yrs ago. If you can’t find one that meets your liking you create another (in the West our shrines can be what we drive,where we live; or maybe money, sex, power, leisure – you get the picture. We’re not that different in tendencies, just in means of expression). Shrines line the roads and temples are dripping with grotesque figures who are the representation of gods made with human hands.
From the rooftop I can see two temples and I want to declare the love and power of Jesus over this region and the very friendly people who call this home.A wonderful hallmark of the region is that everyone coexists no matter what their belief. Rau said, “We’ve all grown up together and we respect our differences…. No problem.” It’s a more troubling story elsewhere.
The rooftop, after another story was built, is now level with the treeline. The early morning mist is warm like the vapor of a Turkish bath but not as hot or humid. Spiked palms and the more traditional palms thrust their sharp fingers in every direction softened by the gentler evergreens interspersed between their lazy leaning trunks. All manner of birds chirp and flit from tree to tree and next to me two parakeets screech as they tug greedily on the foliage. Many of them live amongst the figurines of the nearby temple and are easily spotted by their luminous green feathers.
I asked Brad, Jan, and Ken how their visit is impacting them. None of them could express an answer in words other than to say that being here is overwhelming as they experience the love and emotion of the children and the family. Why do we make the trip? Why not rather send the money airfares eat up? Because presence is priceless. If you’re not here it’s hard to imagine the conditions and witness how few material possessions each person has – and yet as we often hear, they are so rich in other ways. Those are easy words to utter and quite another to witness. For instance, the humility of Sanjeeva and his wife Esther who’s home is a 10’x10′ room abutting the orphanage – big enough for a bed and cupboard and that’s it. A few houses away their sons live in the new complex they have built without their parents displaying any sense of jealousy or demanding what is rightfully theirs. The sons and their families have one room each and both couples are sleeping on rice mats on the floor so we can enjoy beds. There’s no complaint and the thought of doing anything else is the furthest thing from their minds.
Presence is what God gave us in his son, Jesus. It’s easy to be religious and theoretical when we get angry with God about the strife in the world. But when we experience the presence of Jesus everything changes… and what we struggled with melts under the warmth of his love and our identity as beloved sons and daughters. It’s that presence that changes our hearts and then spills over into the lives of others and causes us to care enough to travel….. And we receive more than we give as others whom we visit are present for us as well. Information, facts, principles, and doctrines are the stuff of religion…. if ‘being personally present’ is absent nothing is as compelling. So we travel and come to be present…. it’s the greatest gift we can give isn’t it? And the greatest gift we can receive from another….. in the exchange transformation is inevitable.
This evening half the village has walked into our compound to say hello and follow Ken, who has become a photographic Pied Piper… taking pictures of everyone and displaying the digital result to shouts of laughter and joy. Once again it feels what I imagine a biblical village to have been when Jesus was around… not equating our presence to Him of course. In fact I’ve just been ‘interrupted’ by a neighbor who walked into my room and tried to talk to me. I had no idea what he was on about until I was rescued by Raj who said that we had visited his home last year and prayed for his daughter… so he came to say hello.\
Around 10:30 this morning Ken and I set off with Rao to a village church about 25 klms away while Brad and Jan went with Raj and most of the children to the local church where they were the speakers. All of us are sharing a simple story of our testimony… what Jesus has done in our lives illustrated by one event. Ken was brilliant this morning as I interviewed him about one of the greatest mysteries and losses in his life (the disappearance of his first wife) and how he has known the comfort of Jesus and the Christian community through such a tough experience. His words touched those who listened as some of them had recently sustained deaths in their families. In the end we are so similar in our core desires and needs. I followed with a synopsis of what I’ve been talking about at Jericho Road… the extraordinary friendship Jesus offered those he met in the first chapters of John… and how he patiently wooed me back to himself.
We arrived back mid afternoon and Brad and Jan shared gifts they’d brought for the children and we played games with them. They loved all of it and spent at least an hour playing with the game sent by the Christian School. Ken is constantly surrounded by kids who delight in his humour and playfulness (at last he’s found a home and an audience :-)). Jan is connecting with the women and was swamped with girls to play ‘pat-a-cake’. Brad is always engaging someone in a conversation that gets lost in the lack of translation but is appreciated with a smile and gestures of friendship.
Tomorrow we will be attending the medical clinic from 11 am – 3 pm and no doubt praying for many healings….