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Well, I’m back! After a long, 18 hour flight home, I stumbled through the door of my home, bleary eyed and tired. My dear wife greeted me, and I fell into her loving arms. It was wonderful to be home. Thank you Lord!
But I knew that once I gained my bearing, I needed to write down some of the lessons learned before the memory of them faded. And so, let me share those with with you.
For me, the chief lesson is not to be thankful for all the good things we have in Canada. Indeed, thankfulness has not even made it to my list of things to remember. I have tried to make worship and the practice of gratefulness a part of my life. I don’t feel I need the experience of witnessing poverty and overcrowding to remind me of appreciating what I have been given.
But there are indeed lessons that overwhelm me.
First is the overwhelming sense of millions of people who have never heard the saving message of Jesus even once. Standing on a sidewalk in Hyderabad, looking down a crowded street in which thousands of people passed by every minute, left me overwhelmed with the human plight. If the gospel is indeed true – that apart from Christ there is no remission of sins – then I find myself overwhelmed and profoundly convicted by my complacency over the eternal future of countless millions. Failing to respond to the crisis of the hour is a great sin indeed.
And so, the reason for this trip was to partner together with Back to the Bible India in re-establishing a Bible teaching ministry on the airwaves. Even if we succeeded in no more than establishing one FM radio station with a 50 kilometre radius, we would potentially reach 10 million people alone!
Secondly, I’ve been thinking about the use of the term “missionary.” When William Carey arrived in India in 1793, he established the first modern protestant mission in a non-English speaking world. He translated the Bible into six complete languages, and portions of the Bible into 29 other languages. He suffered illnesses and lost his hair. He was an illegal alien in India. Clearly, his sacrifice cost him much.
In contrast, many of us have become very comfortable with the use of the phrase, “short term missionary.” We come and we go, suffering no more than jet lag. I personally would be more comfortable if we abandoned the term “missionary” to describe what we do. We might speak of a short term oversees service assignment. For how does the term “missionary” apply, when what we do has no resemblance to the work of men and women like Carey? Perhaps we should learn humility in the words we use. And perhaps we should pray sincerely for those who are truly missionaries.
A third and final impression left upon me has to do with the command to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in that country. Since 2014, India’s prime minister has made strong anti-Christian comments. Radical Hinduism continues to grow. Intolerance is on the rise, while the government signals it will do nothing to curb it. In some states, anti-conversion laws are so enforced that leading someone to faith in Christ results in a 10-year imprisonment. If we are to believe there is only one body of Christ, and that when one part suffers, we all suffer, then we must act. The call to prayer ought to be on our hearts. Further, we might even be called to
write to our prime minister, and encourage him not to abandon the idea of an ambassador for religious freedom – thus protecting Christians who face persecution in countries like India.
Thus, in conclusion, my short term service assignment to India has awakened me to these realities. I pray I will not forget them.