Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Last Blog Update

I am back in America! I know this update is a little late. I've actually been back in America for about a week. But the last two weeks have been quite an exciting adventure. We'll travel back a couple of weeks to my last week in India. Our last week was really great time. We were able to spend more time with the Muslim Background Believers that we previously met. This was such a great time of encouragement for both us and them. We spent a long time just reflecting on how we can come all the way around the world to a culture that is so different from our own and find believers who welcome us into fellowship. It was so good to see that the Community of the Body is so much more than cultural hospitality but is actually a spiritual connection with other believers made common by Christ's presence in our lives. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in the world that compares to this. That is because the community of Christ, the Body of Christ, the Church, is rooted in a Kingdom that is not of this world. We were also able to spend time with our Muslim friends that we had met during our time in India. We were able to make a gift basket for them with some different foods that are very Muslim culture specific. In the basket we were also able to put some DVD copies of the Jesus film and a New Testament. This was really encouraging to see them interested in the things we had given them. One of our friends immediately opened the New Testament and began reading it. Most likely his primary goal is to read it and try to find errors in it to support Islam, but how many testimonies include people's attempt to battle the Word of God which ends up in their eventual submitting to Christ and entrance into the Kingdom of God. Mark and I are confident that the Word of God is living and active and we trust that His Word will cut through to the hearts of our friends in a way that our words just could not have the power to do.

After this we left Ahmedebad to return to Delhi for our three day debriefing. Surprisingly I had very mixed feelings about leaving. We had spent so much time pouring our lives into some people in that city. We struggled, we were tested in Ahmedebad. I was definitely more emotionally attached than I thought. However, I was so excited to get back to Delhi and see all the other students who were all over South Asia and to hear about their experiences. It was a glorious reunion. It amazes me how people we only knew for five days before we were sent out to our projects seemed like such close friends. This again represents the uniqueness of community in the Body of Christ. Our debriefing was such a great and necessary time. It is really difficult to just return home without actually thinking and working through many of the experiences involved with missions work. It was during this debriefing that I began to realize that I had really been changed by these 7 weeks in India. God had worked on me more than I could have expected or imagined. It was also during this time that I realized the hard parts of our trip were what really defined the learning experience that I had. Now during those trying experiences I would have told you that I really didn't like India and just wanted to be home. I would have told you that I couldn't really see myself coming back to India at all. But after my time of reflection and debriefing, God really showed me that He was with my through all of those hardships and He used all of them to make me exactly who He wanted me to be. I can also say that I am not opposed to returning to India. I don't exactly know what that means for my future, but I am definitely open. Even now, a week after being back in America I am still processing all of the things I learned and experienced. This process will continue for a long time.

I can say with complete confidence that God is working in India and it was amazing to see just what He is doing. I am glad to be back home with my friends and family and I am more excited about beginning life as a college graduate. Where I am in life now I have a opportunity to use all that God has taught me to teach and influence those around me while they are still in the fragile developmental stage of college and early post-college. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey. Your encouragement and prayers are appreciated with the deepest gratitude. I hope by your commitment to being involved in His work he has shaped and formed you to look and act more like Christ. Any encouragement you received from my words or my experience in India is to the glory of God Almighty who has made His wonderful Kingdom open to us through Jesus Christ. My final encouragement in light of what I have learned through this whole experience is to always look to Christ. If the patterns of your life are not actively shaping you and making you more like Christ then question their worth. As His disciples, Jesus has confidence that we can actually be formed into his likeness and He promises that we will never be alone in these efforts. He promised that His very Spirit would be with us. The Kingdom is at hand! This is great news. Proclaim it to everyone. Through Jesus Christ we now have access to the very Kingdom through which God rules and reigns. This is good news both for this life and the next! Be assured that God is at work in His Kingdom. He calls us to be a part, to be a co-heir of what He is doing. I encourage you to consider your life. Take some time to really think about what your life is patterned after. Are you growing to look more like Jesus? If not, then remember His Kingdom is among you, it is at your hands. His great desire is for you to join Him.

Grace and Peace

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Found: Disciples in the Uttermost Ends of the Earth

Wow! Less than two weeks left in India. We have even less time here in our city before we go back to Delhi. Things have been going well here. I have been able reconcile in my heart some of the cultural differences that I struggled with when I first came to India. God has begun to show me some of the reasons he brought me here and this process will surely continue long after I am back in the U.S. Something that I have learned and continue to have confirmed in my life is that God wants to use everything in our lives to teach us how to rely on him and teach us that in every situation the rule of the Kingdom of God is simply “ask.” We have still been able to regularly meet with some Muslim guys. We have a good friendly relationship with them. They have been so generous in making sure we experience some of the best of the culture. We have talked with them about religion and on a few occasions both them and us experienced some frustration with difference in beliefs. To be honest, it would just take us more time in this culture to really understand better how to approach the subject. These men have been raised in Islam and from their childhood have been told what is truth and what is false by their teachers. They have never been encouraged to seek out truth themselves or to actually read what the Qu’ran says because amazingly there are several passages that point to Jesus. This being the case, if the subject of religion is not approached with much care then it can become more of a barrier than a bridge. This is somewhat our situation right now. There has been a sort of unspoken agreement to not talk much about religion any more. While this makes me feel a little sad or that a door is closing, I feel like now I can focus on being a friend to them. I believe that the light of Christ will shine out brighter than any well crafted argument that I could ever create.

We did however have another unique experience a couple days ago. We went and visited a MBB (Muslim Background Believer) family that we were put in contact with. This was a truly amazing opportunity to see Christ at work. This family had previously lived about two hours south of where we are now and after becoming believers they were asked by their family to leave the community. Their story of trusting God for everything would be an example to anyone. Lately I have been learning a lot about discipleship to Christ and how he does not call us to just be a convert or a church member but he calls us to be disciples or apprentices of him. Naturally, the main objective of an apprentice is to actually, at some point, become what the master is and to actually be able to do what the master does. This was Jesus’ intention when he told the disciples to go out make more disciples, teaching them to observe everything he commanded. In light of this I was so blessed to meet this family who is doing just that. They are not receiving any special training in how to just be a good Christian or good church member. They are learning directly from Jesus and his word. They have got it. They have learned and are learning how to live within God’s Kingdom. Kingdom principles are written all over their lives and the most beautiful part is that they have not learned these things because they have been to school or seminary or special weekend seminars. They understand that Jesus is their ultimate teacher and learning to obey what he commanded is true discipleship to him. They have learned to trust God like a child would a Father. They live and rely on the Kingdom principle of asking. They have come to believe, to the point of action, that this universe is a perfectly safe place for them to be because they are trusting in the God who created and controls this universe. This family has served as a wonderful example of Christ-likeness and I think their example will be with me for a long time. This kind of encouragement makes it possible to work through some rough aspects of the culture and gives me perspective about the work we do here. There is so much work to be done but when I see what the result of that work is, I can’t help but be excited to see what God has in store.