But what hit me the most of this Pastor's letter were the conditions our brothers and sisters are facing over there. Yes, those are our brothers and sisters in Christ! When is the last time any of us even considered that notion? I really don't have a clue. We're too caught up in our comforts and culture and national pride to even begin thinking on a global scale. But Revelation makes it clear that every tribe, tongue, and nation will be represented before the throne. And there is a whole world waiting to hear God's Good News who have never heard it before. There are fellow believers who are facing honest-to-goodness life and death persecution just on the chance to meet together and talk about the Bible. We sit over here and brush off going to church if we're too tired from staying up too late on Saturday. We go to all the things that entertain and provide things for us, but end up "busy" when we're called to participate in discipleship and worship. We leave talking about how the songs didn't really do it for us today.
I just can't tolerate this anymore. I long to be in the places where there are no hindrances and preconceptions of entitlement. Just a people who need to know God. We don't know what it means to depend on God. Maybe we think we do, when we can't pay our cable, cell phone, internet, or car bills. And if we don't have one or more of these things, we are considered poor. That may be an American definition, but I'm sorry, that is not poverty. Real dependence on God, I think, comes when faced with what these people in India face. Here are a few of the conditions from the Pastor's letter:
- Malnutrition is commonplace for children.
- High illiteracy rates; less than 25% can read. Those who do attend school have a drop-out rate of 60%.
- Improper sanitation leading to all sorts of health issues. Malaria, hepatitis, and tuberculosis are all common.
I'm deeply, deeply humbled that this man would end his letter saying HE was praying for ME! And through this small act of generosity, he is able to provide hygiene supplies, run a care center where children learn manners, sing songs and dance, explore their talents, and receive tutoring! Vijay's family lives on less than $22 a month. That's 4 cups of coffee to me. I know Vijay is not going to school because his family needs him to be working. At 8! Seriously, I think I have a clue on God's global perspective? (Why in the world did I struggle for two months on how to come up with $38 to sponsor this child?)
We're free to worship who we want, when we want, where we want. A lot of the world is not so fortunate and we don't get that. Pastors in India ask us not to pray that their persecution would stop, but that they would persevere through the persecution for His name's sake! What boldness! Who among us who have lived in first-world comforts could pray such a bold prayer? I'm fascinated by such boldness in those who truly have nothing--not the American sense of nothing--really nothing.
When I pray and things don't turn out for the better, my faith wavers and I wonder where I misstepped! I have no clue. Our "persecution" is worrying about offending someone by bringing up Christ in a conversation. They are being killed! God never promised that when we pray for something, things will get better. He said all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. What's His purpose? To make His name known among all people groups. So when something goes the opposite way in which I pray, and I have the audacity to question God, well just maybe that's because His way is going to lead to Him accomplishing His purpose. (This is a whole other post, so I'll move on.)
All I know is God has radically changed my life in this last year. I'm not the same Benjamin I was January 2011. I don't know if we haven't kept up together a lot or if you know what all has been going on with me. All I know is, my perspective is completely flipped right side up (see what I did there?) and God is showing me generosity for the sake of His Kingdom. Most assuredly, though, He is massaging in the notion that this is not my home. I am blessed beyond measure to live in America. But our definitions of being Christ's disciple have been absolutely marred by our entitlements, comforts, and wealth.
Our churches need to stop wasting millions on programs and productions as if we're trying to lure people in, cater to their sense of entitlements, and convince them to buy into Christianity on false pretenses. We need to draw on the presence of Christ and allow Him to work, so that we're not just having people say an ABC prayer and toss them back into the world, but so we are honestly creating disciples who learn the Word in order to share, show and teach it to the next person!
We need to shirk nationalistic pride and this American dream mentality, and develop Kingdom pride! We are citizens of heaven!
We are not a poor people. We do not have what we have to live our lives in comfort and complain about it when they go away.
In America, we have been put in the context of having heard of Jesus, having clean water and food, hygienic sanitation, and medical care. Two BILLION people out there don't.
No matter what safety, security, or comforts we have to sacrifice, our God is worth it. I have wasted 15 years as a "Christ follower" before finally getting it. He alone did what I could not do. He alone loved me when I was still His enemy. He alone made the way for me to be adopted as His son and share in Christ's inheritance!
Even knowing those things in my heart like I do now, I'm still only crawling in this journey. I'm scared to death! I can't even pray the words I know I need to pray. I, in my flesh, cannot give up my home, family, or even my pet. But God is moving and preparing me on some capacity to be part of His Kingdom work. He didn't have to include us in His plan to save His people. He could have used big signs in the sky or given people dreams and visions. But He didn't. He chooses to use us! This is a PRIVILEGE, not an obligation!
I may live here and experience the freedoms we enjoy, and God may or may not be asking me to move to somewhere else in the world, but what I do understand is this is not where I belong.