by Kennedy Mathis
SOUTH ASIA (BP) — Six years ago, I ventured to India. This fall I returned.
Nearly four years had passed. A lot had changed. A lot had stayed the same. The city where I served two years had grown. New malls replaced old abandoned ones. The streets were still packed with two-wheelers and rickshaws maneuvering through tight spaces. Colors and patterns combine in a glorious kaleidoscope of textiles. Sweet spices and sweat fill the senses. No matter how many roads had been built or how many walls had been painted, India was still India.
And the people — I returned as a guest, treated like royalty. Each person we visited prepared chai and snacks. Some prepared entire meals. All welcomed us with open arms and reminisced about our friendship when I was there.
Not everyone gets a chance to go back years later and see the fruit of their labor. But I did. Most leave their friends and the people they ministered to, never to return.
In the marketplace, there was the family of bed sheet wallas [sellers] I had befriended. Even though four years had passed, they recognized me instantly and beckoned me into their tiny shop. As they served my brother and me chai, they told me, “Do you remember the picture you gave us of all of us with you? We still have it. We have it and the Bible you gave us.”
In the same market, I visited my jewelry walla. This old Muslim man’s face lit up as he saw me and my mother and my brother. He told us he considered it a gift from God that we would come so far to see him.
I sat in my friend’s house as she pulled out an old journal that I had given her. She flipped through the pictures I had pasted in the book and stopped at a line I had written to her. My very sloppy handwriting said, “I cannot wait to see the places that the Lord will take you. I cannot wait to hear the stories of how He will use you and continue to open doors for His work in your life.” She then spent the next 20 minutes telling me about the past four years and how the Lord indeed had used her.
I sat down to dinner with a dear friend. When I was in India, she had been a Hindu. Her home had been decorated with gods and goddesses. But for at least a year, I met with her and taught her stories from the Bible. After I returned home, she became a follower of Jesus and, last year, she and her two girls were baptized. As I sat in her home, she told me that she considered me to be her primary school teacher who laid the foundation for the next person to come in and teach her further.
At the same time, I mourned on this trip. I sat down for chai with one of my best friends, whose mother suffers from a debilitating disease. She had become much worse in the past four years, and I knew there was a strong possibility I would never see her again. And my heart mourned because this family had heard the good news of Jesus and had rejected Him.
I sat in the home of a well-to-do family. One of their sons had been seeking when I was there. But now, he was drifting. He was still devoted to a Hindu god and could not fathom leaving his family to follow Christ. The cost was too great.
And I rejoiced with a friend that she, a strong believer, had married another strong believer. Their story had been one of persecution, opposition and God’s faithfulness. But I also mourned over her lost family who had seen the grace of God shining through their daughter and had not responded.
And as I look on the two weeks that I spent in India, I knew that these moments sum up why we go. Sometimes, I think I’m crazy. I moved to South Asia. I uprooted my life and left my friends and family to go to this crazy, loud and colorful country.
But what I found was worth it. I found a country with a billion amazing people loved by God. And in that country, there are some believers who are waiting to be encouraged to go out and share the Good News. There are people waiting to get their hands on a Bible. There are people of peace waiting to hear the Gospel, respond to the Gospel, and produce a harvest of a hundred fold. In India, there are a billion people waiting.
And that, my friends, is why we go.
If you are interested in going, whether short-term or long-term, check out the IMB website at imb.org.
Kennedy Mathis, a master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, plans to move overseas after her graduation in May. When she is not studying or working, she loves coffee, hanging out with people from different backgrounds and all things Bollywood. This column first appeared at the Biblical Woman website of Southwestern Seminary.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com).
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