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India - light and hope

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

India - light and hope

Tom Elenbaas

My last post from India was about the darkness and heaviness of Hinduism and the religious oppression that comes from beliefs embedded in ritualism, ritual sacrifice, reincarnation, and action based atonement. The oppressive and inhuman realities of Karma, Darma, Moksha, and Samsara are overwhelming when seen in their most expressive forms religiously. However, that is not all I am experiending here. 

In the midst of this great darkness shines a great light. It started 2000 years ago when St. Thomas (the one we know as the doubting disciple), made his way to India and established early Christianity throughout the south or India, where Christians today still trace their roots. In fact, two days before leaving for India, I met an Indian man and his wife whose family traces its Christian faith to the time of Thomas at our churches most recent church plant, Walker Harbor. My own tribe, the Reformed Church in America, also has deep roots in India and has deeply affected, particularly, the South of India with the gospel of Jesus. The Scudder family as early as the 1800's was influential in the development for 150 years of hospitals, medical colleges, schools, and churches. And yet this country remains one of the most unreached places in the world with the gospel.

At present, however, the Christian church in India is experiencing explosive growth. This is largely happening through the power of indigenous Christians planting churches all throughout the country. Churches are being planted in some incredible places both rurally and in urban centers. I was privileged to not only visit several church plants, but meet catalytic, apostolic church planters. I had the opportunity to preach at a small village church in a rural, communist town and was received with tears and laughter. We celebrated communion together - one of the more powerful things I have experienced. We shared meals, prayers, and learned about one another's families. I was so encouraged by the faith of these amazing Christians - many of them daily persecuted for their faith. Here they are experiencing miraculous healings and powerful testimonies of deliverance from alcoholism, violence, and physical ailments. The faith and power of prayer in these environments is not only overwhelming, but also humbling. 

I was able also to visit some incredible adult literacy programs for women. Women in this culture are often forgotten, abused, oppressed, and neglected. Very few are educated; poverty and illness can be incapacitating. These literacy programs, however, empower these women to be able to do simple things, like learn about and sign for their own finances - helping them to come out from under oppressive and abusive debt systems. Many of the women are able to gain a trade or get a job, providing empowerment and to begin to stand as strong women made in the image of God. (I'll post a video on this article later when I have better internet that shows a women proudly reading for me after only 4 months of literacy classes.) It always amazes me how much a little education can empower people in such powerful ways.

I was also able to visit some Children's Bible Clubs, where children are singing, dancing, and being kids. Here they are learning the powerful stories of the bible and are often bringing faith discussions to their families. These Children's Bible Clubs often become the front lines, the leading edge, the tip of the spear for the gospel to break into communities. They, along with Adult Literacy programs, often lay the foundation for the opportunity for people to begin to see that the world in which they live is not a closed, cyclical system in which darkness prevails unless good deeds release you from the cycle of life. Instead, they can hear - and read - the beautiful story of God's love for them, and the amazing power of the gospel available in their lives. 

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