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Encounters on the Testing Ground

by Lori
March 10, 2009
        In recapping the last six weeks of life in India I realized how very much God desires us to love one another, not just the unlovable but everyone we encounter daily. I should already be doing that, right?
        Landing in Mumbai in the middle of the night after a 24 hour day of flying, I was assaulted instantly with the total confusion and mass of people as we walked out to wait on our ground transportation to the city of Pune, India and our home for the next five weeks.
        A man held up a sign with our name and flight number on it but it took an hour of haggling over price and contact information to find out if he really knew where we were to go. Turned out he didn’t but he did get us there and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride had nothing on what we experienced. The uphill drive for four hours coupled with the constant honking, passing on both sides of the vehicle ahead of us that we had just tailgated, the loud Indian music blaring and the smells of exhaust mixed with the heat from the open windows and pollution was enough to make a girl swoon! I prayed for super sized angels to cover the too small vehicle we were in and closed my eyes knowing God did not bring us that far to die in the middle of the night.
        I didn’t know there were so many people who just like to hang on the streets at night. Bunches of men, gathered around little fires built on the side of the street seemed to be everywhere as well as the endless barrage of rickshaws, scooters and dogs. It’s 2:00 AM in the morning! Where’s the party? These guys make L.A. look sane.

        Safely arrived at the Nav Sadhana in Pune  and squared away, we were ready for the early morning welcome. There we met the personalities behind the sixteen nationalities we would be living with for the next few weeks.
There is nothing quite as comforting or refreshing as worshipping with old YWAM buddies. You may not know them personally – yet, but the common thread runs deep and straight to the heart. One mind and one purpose unite as we come together from our different worlds to center on one thing: Knowing the Fatherheart of God and sharing that with others.
        Here in these settings, purity and simplicity rule. No amount of glitzy music can accomplish what plain, unadulterated worship and spontaneous prayer can do when everyone is there for the same purpose.

        The kids were ready to explore our very safe surroundings and we were grateful for the compound feel to the facility.    One of the great things about YWAM has always been the family. Ten kids rounded out our group, so we were never lacking for reality checks. Our mix included another full family like ours, singles of all ages, some couples, priests and teachers coming in and out and even grandparents. It doesn’t take long to get cozy with a mix of YWAMers.

        From the start we were there to learn and school it was. We were able to ask questions and get plenty of feedback from teachers and students alike. The depth and range of teaching was excellent as we learned to minister to different cultures and be sensitive as well as to contextualize the gospel. As Protestants and Catholics working together, we should be about learning to grow into unity as we grow into Jesus.
        As different nationalities expressed preconceived ideas of others who were not like them, we began to minister to one another, pray together and seek forgiveness for differences – real or perceived, that might separate us from all that God would call us to be.  There were no denominational lines there. We were brothers and sisters in the Lord who were thirsty for more of God. It is good to be with those who are as thirsty as you are. Thirsty and hungry people want relationship with each other and Jesus.

        We learned how very reverent many of the Hindus and Muslims are. They have prayer rooms in their homes.  These sweet and gentle people put many Christians to shame with their reverence and devoted prayer time. They are looking for God.  They need a savior, and so do a lot of our friends. Is what we do and live making them thirsty? That is a good question to ask ourselves anytime we have unsaved loved ones or neighbors. If we aren’t making them thirsty, then we are not letting Jesus really use us. I don’t think that I am salt and light to enough people, are you?

        Bishop Valerian D’Souza  of the Diocese of Poona, shared with us that ecumenism based on love and prayer between believers should be happening now. The division among Christians is seen as confusion to the unbeliever. They will know we are Christians by our love but not if we don’t have any! Christians have fallen prey to the enemy’s lies and chosen to divide themselves instead of love one another. Pope  Paul VI states in his encyclical Announcing the Good News ( http://tinyurl.com/aw3q) that true evangelization must spring from true holiness and the Christian must be evangelized before they can evangelize.

        Our times on the streets showed us people in every situation of life, much more intensified and out in the open because of the millions that were there living an urban life. It is so easy, even in five weeks to become numb and lack compassion on the masses but Jesus looked on them as sheep without a shepherd.   Everyone needs a savior. We cannot save ourselves. How easy we forget those simple words!

        If the normal Christian life is defined by scripture, then most people are satisfied being sub-normal Christians. Personally, I like to put Jesus in a safe and acceptable box that everyone can relate to. Who wants to be the weirdo that does everything different from other Christians around them?

        Our encounters on the testing ground of Poona, reminded us that Christianity comes with a price for many.  A Hindu convert shared her conversion experience with us. Jesus came to her in a dream. She finally saw the same picture of the Jesus of her dream in a church. She began to find out who Jesus was. She was willing to make the supreme sacrifice for a single, Indian, Hindu girl from a good family to make, she was willing to give up her family if she must. She went through many trials and beatings by them but eventually they relinquished and she was baptized. She had to go before the city magistrate and register as a Christian. Her signature had to be notarized by a witness as well as a statement from her that she was not forced to become a Christian against her will.
 
        Most of us have not gone through anything like that and prayerfully, our children won’t have to either. We heard many stories like this and also those of suffering in the state of Orissa, there many are renouncing their Christianity out of fear of the Hindu extremists and certain death. The extremes cause one to speculate which side of the fence we would be on if this kind of persecution ever came to us here in America.
 
        We saw Christians keeping a united front, no matter what their level of spiritual understanding was. When people are in a situation where it is Christian against non- Christian, most don’t ask which flavor you are,
The Catholic World is not easy but we saw dedicated believers in India that would put most people who claim to be Christians in America, to shame. They know the price of their salvation.
We have dedicated our lives to work in the evangelization of the Sleeping Giant in America. We want to see American Catholic youth on fire for Jesus their Savior. Will you go with us?