Saturday, July 3, 2010

Something To Think About

A story from a missionary to India...

My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. this morning... way too early for my exhausted, jet-lagged body. But this was one morning I didn’t want to sleep in. I wanted to be on the River Ganges by dawn... I had traveled half way around the world to witness the sights and smells that were truly unbelievable.

By the time we arrived at the riverbank, thousands of people were already busy washing themselves in the filthy water. Hindus believe that if they ceremoniously bathe in this most holy of all rivers, their sins will be washed away.

But the waters of the Ganges are polluted by raw sewage, trash, dead bodies and ashes of cremated humans. Every day over 100 bodies are burned in Varanasi and their ashes sprinkled in the river. Hindus believe that this allows their loved ones direct access to heaven. I saw piles of wood . . . the smoke from the burning bodies . . . family members weeping . . . with little or no hope.

My heart was broken. Everywhere I looked there were people in the water, pouring water on their heads and actually drinking it. Some had brass pots where they scooped up water, held the pot over their head and slowly poured it into the river. Many folded their hands and prayed . . . Hindu holy men with painted faces and bright orange clothing chanted . . . music was playing in the background . . . all this was being sincerely done in an act of worship . . . asking for forgiveness.

As we glanced all around us at the masses of people . . . our hearts were broken.

Yesterday, we had met with about 70 of our World Help church planters in a secluded location. We had driven through over 100 isolated villages on our way to this meeting and I counted more than 75 Hindu temples and shrines . . . but no churches.

World Help’s senior vice president, Tom Thompson, brought greetings as we prayed with them, worshipped with them and encouraged them. They had seen over 5,600 new churches planted just in the last year in Northern India and thousands of new Christ followers have been baptized.

These church planters get together once a month for three days of training, strategizing and encouragement. They told us incredible stories of how God is building His kingdom in Northern India.

One of our church planters, Zul Fakar, was working in a very dangerous and persecuted area, when militant anti-Christians ambushed him in an alley and beat him to death . . . He died on August 10. He had been a believer for only 15 months, yet he already had 25 converts and two churches established in unreached villages. His wife, Rabia, was encouraged to deny her faith and come back to her home village. She said, "My husband died for his faith in Jesus Christ . . . the best way I can honor his memory is to spend my life serving the one he died for."

It was a sobering reminder that these church planters are in life and death situations every day as they take the good news to villages that do not have a church of any kind.

As I floated down the River Ganges early this morning, overwhelmed by the spiritual darkness that totally enveloped these truly "religious" people, I couldn’t help but think of these church planters. I was actually looking into the faces of thousands of sincere idol worshippers and realized that no one had ever told them that it was not the dirty, polluted waters of the River Ganges that washes away their sins, but only the shed blood of Jesus Christ. They have never heard of Jesus . . . they have never heard the Gospel . . . they are totally unreached.

And then I prayed for our church planters . . . asking that God would continue to give them boldness and courage and use them to shine the light of God into all of this spiritual darkness. Please keep our team in your thoughts and prayers and please pray for our church planters who pay such a high price to follow Jesus Christ.

Thank you and God bless you,
Vernon Brewer

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