In October this year, I had the opportunity to travel to India with a few people from my denomination, the American Baptist Churches of the USA.
This 15 day trip was a life changer for me. I admit for the first few days I was thinking that I probably would never want to come back — it was in the 80’s (degree Fahrenheit) with 80 percent humidity and I was sweating badly. My companions all knew various people at the convention we were at in Hyderabad, and I felt like an interloper. But as time went on we eventually got to spend time with the group of church planters and something changed inside me.
I heard their stories and they were no longer strangers. They became family to me, 40 plus hours of travel to visit, but nonetheless family who live across the globe! Someday, I hope I get to go back to India.
One thing which I knew intellectually, but really did not understand it viscerally is that the thing which ties us to each other is the Gospel of Christ. In fact the Gospel is what breaks down the language barrier, the culture barrier, and all other barriers. Just like it says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
My eyes and heart were opened to the full truth of the Gospel message. The people I met were joyfully living the gospel daily, and being persecuted for it. Yet, this did not deter them from doing their best to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus. I realized that over the years I had gotten busy for Jesus, letting the things of ministry take over the joy of ministry.
You know — the day-to-day stuff that just needs getting done, but is not truly fulfilling. Now don’t get me wrong, I preach the gospel, but the day-to-day operation of being a solo pastor in a small church had gotten in my way of finding the joy in the privilege of ministering in the name of Jesus.
The Good News of Jesus is that God created us so that we would choose him. He gave us free will, and we chose disobedience instead. We chose the promise of expedience or the quick fix, instead of choosing God and his timing for our lives.
But our God was not satisfied to live without us. So He made a way for our disobedience to be temporarily redeemed through the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. A price needed to be paid for our sin, but you and I could not pay the price ourselves. God’s ultimate plan was for his disobedient children to be forgiven and saved, then welcomed home to Him. That is why Jesus came to earth — He was the only sinless human being (fully human and fully God). Only he could be the perfect sacrifice to take all of our sin and remove the stain of it from us. When you and I
acknowledge Jesus as our Savior, ask Him to forgive our sin, and ask Him to be the leader in our lives, and then we can truly be free. Free of the sin which holds us back from living the lives God intends for us, free from the bondage of sin which binds us, and free to love as God intends us to love.
Today I am choosing joy and thankfulness. I came home from India with a renewed spirit. This trip was transformational for me, and life changing. I want to thank each and every person who prayed for me as I was travelling to and through India. The impact of your prayers was that I felt like I was not only covered in prayer but lifted up for the 15 days I was gone. Even the heat and humidity did not make me crabby!
It was a busy trip. We had places to go every day and I felt emotionally good with no physical issues (like old youthful injuries that always crop up when not wanted or needed). The travel was long; 40+ hours of travel each way — between waiting in the airports and flying on the planes, and the trip home was six flights!
God is good and I had a sense of His full protection on this trip. If an opportunity like this presents itself in your life, I highly recommend taking the trip. God will change your life. And, from my experience, your life will be better in ways you would never imagine. Blessings and peace.