Sunday, August 5, 2007

Evening Villages...

We spend the evening in two of the villages where Pastor Samuel is working currently. Both have very low concentrations of Christ-followers, and for the most part, there are high-caste Hindus living in both. Pastor Samuel has done a lot of “walking” in the villages and has spent quite a bit of time going door-to-door, but the few people who have come to Christ in the process have experienced significant persecution as a result. However, when they heard that we would be coming, they made sure that we knew that they would be slaughtering a goat to prepare for dinner! I tell you, the Bible comes alive here in India. When we read about a “fattened calf”, we kind of have to stretch to think about what that might be like. Here, however, they still do it.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a large group of people, the most notable of which were 6 – 12 enthusiastic teenage girls. They were quick to want to practice their English, smile and laugh at our attempts to mimic some Tamil. When we asked about them, one of the village members told us that the girls were all new brides in the village, and had been married for between 1 and 3 years. When we asked how old they were, we found that they ranged in age from 16 – 19. Wow! One or two already had a small child as well, and were performing all the duties commensurate with wives and mothers.

As we walked through the village, we stopped by a lady named Ravina’s home. She was very kind, and asked for us to pray for her. Pastor Samuel told us that was one of the first people to come to Christ in the village, and that she and her family have experienced significant persecution since. When I say “persecution”, I don’t mean the verbal kind (though that certainly happens), but rather the “we’re going to beat you up, and then, if you don’t leave, we’ll come back and finish you off” kind. We prayed that God would guard her and her family, and that through their peaceful steadfastness, would win others to faith.

We also had the opportunity to pray for a number of other people along the way, and my heart broke as we prayed for a group of women I came to call the “Ladies in waiting”. I don’t know all their names, but their stories made it difficult for me to move beyond. Three of the ladies were related, and live in a single home together. The eldest (the mother) has been sick for some time and has tried a number of remedies suggested by doctors and Hindu priests, all to no avail. Her daughter-in-law asked that we pray for her and her husband as they have tried to get pregnant a number of times, but have only experienced miscarriages. In India, much like we read in Scripture, to be childless is a significant hardship, and while losing children is its own extreme pain, to continue without them carries ramifications far beyond the current generation. The other daughter’s husband left her six months ago, and has simply “vanished” without sending support or help in any fashion. In India, that’s particularly difficult as it will be culturally taboo for her to ever re-marry, and due to the patriarchal nature of the culture, will limit what she can “do” for income or career options as well. She is simply “trapped”. The next lady was diagnosed with TB six months ago, and is not able to afford therapy or treatment. The final lady’s abusive husband left her recently (they have 2 small children) and has not returned. While the abusive nature of the relationship is terrible, the fact that she no longer has any means of support causes her more pain as she has to scrap together whatever she can for herself and her children. None of these women know Jesus, but all are waiting on God to show up. Hence, “ladies in waiting”.

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