“This is the best day of my life. Jesus took control over my life…” That was the last bit of my Israel experience where a young man from a camping tip texted me that. How amazing is the Holy Land! To go to where all the Bible stories really happened makes my faith that much more real. To see the real and sweet faith of believers there in Jerusalem was bliss. I am now in India and my brain is on sensory overload. So many needs in so many places, lets break it down to what I have barely learned and what simple answers can be found for complicated questions.
Israel built me up more than anything and challenged me to go deeper into God’s word. I gained a renewed love for the local church body and their desire to be set apart. To love and welcome without condemnation but also to represent Christ’s love in purity and truth. It was refreshing and fun to be with the male youth and the amazing Christian leaders of the assembly in Jerusalem. I will forever remember the peace Jesus brought to me in the midst of so much animosity from those who don’t know Jesus. That is why my heart longs for them to know Jesus, longs for them to know true love and peace everyday. I pray God’s grace finds the hurting and angry in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.
I would take the bus everyday and of course talk about Jesus with the right person God had sit next to me. One day though I worshipped and prayed and rode the bus till it shut down. I can reach one person a day or a million, and that is amazing but I cannot change their hearts. Only the truth of God’s word and His love can change the stubborn heart of man. Prayer and worship break down the walls and do the impossible. I do not need to try more, or strive to reach more; God does that with me already. I do need to have more faith to allow miracles to happen and equip me with supreme peace. With peace I stand different and set apart, with peace I am free and confidently secure of the truth that I am so loved by God.
With confidence and strength I arrived in India and I was immediately hit with spiritual attacks. Old hurts 20 years old and new hurts were brought to the surface. I saw poverty, hurt and suffering. I felt alone, even when the team from home arrived. It was complicated to say the least. All the circumstances that made things difficult and the swirling battle of emotions directed me to pray and even though I was not ok yet, I knew truth was needed in the battle. I brought as much light to every conflict as possible in myself and with others. I was not the Light; I was far from behaving like love and Jesus. But when truth is brought in, the dark and doubt have nowhere to hide. Nothing can fester or nag at the back of a person’s soul when it is no longer secret. It was all laid out and up front and despite my feelings of confusion and anger God brought love in. The truth was that love covers over many issues. The truth was compassion was needed even if it looked like it could fix nothing. In faith, the team and myself prayed and brought all feelings and problems before the Lord. And He fixed it, not by our efforts or problem solving but by the faith that God is at work here in India and in us. And the evidence is in our love for each other, which comes from Jesus alone.
India has been amazing with God’s presence here daily. It has been an extreme battleground. I am exhausted but also excited often. I have loved preaching to people who are hungry for God’s Word. They are hungry to know what love looks like and they hold onto every ounce of encouragement and joy that they have an opportunity to participate in. I have been humbled witnessing the lives of the pastors and their families here. They have given everything to love their people, most of which mock them and hate them for their faith. They see needs to feed, cloth and encourage and they give whatever of themselves to make it happen, no excuses. The hospitality honors me in a way that makes me want to honor others. In all the evil, confusion, and filth that India can portray. The men and women of faith in Jesus shine bright! They are in the darkness here and they do not waiver in their brightness. India is beautiful too, with beautiful colors, and beautiful people. But the love and beauty of the sweet souls following Jesus are a masterpiece.
We have journeyed to villages, churches, the coast and the mountains. There has been heat, cold, rain, and bugs I have never seen before. We have seen many monkeys, a few elephants and a wild tiger. We have been with the poor and sick. We have been with the orphaned and hungry. We have seen the loving church here see needs and take action. We have brought the best gifts of love and truth, prayer and compassion. The goodness of the people here is humbling. I literally had a young boy, whose father had died, come to me and wipe my tears. We have seen so many colors and crazy things. Experienced so many tastes and smells. And we have been thrust into a world of so many people, so many needs, and so much faith.
It is hard for me to describe all that has happened and all that I have experienced. I have learned more than ever that the answer to life’s struggles is certainly more faith. Faith is the only thing needed to supply all I need. Faith conquers fears and gives peace. Yes it is hard sometimes, and yes God will help when our faith is weak. But faith requires action, it requires suiting up and stepping forward, then seeing God work. Hope is another key factor. To see what God has done and have supreme hope in His goodness for the future is necessary for peace and joy. Hope that is seen is not hope. Of course we can’t see or know the future and if God showed us everything then He would rob us of the gift of faith and hope and experiencing His goodness in action. There is also no shame in holding on to hope. To hope is to be brave, and He makes us brave. Whatever God is showing you through the truth of His word and revealing of His Spirit, go for it! There is no shame in hope, no matter the result. Because ultimately our hope and joy come from knowing that God is there and God is good. Hope in the Lord and His never ending Kindness. As great as faith and hope are the greatest answer to India and every hurt, evil, and broken part of this world is love. Faith and hope are only worth anything with the excellence of love. Love is the reason, love is truth, and God is love. Love softened a orphan boy, living on the streets. The boy was fighting and scared and I got down on his level and with gentleness I said in a broken mix of English and Tamil “no fighting, no hate, just love”. The boys body softened and in an unfamiliar way he wrapped himself in my arms and we prayed. I imagine that might have been the first time he has experienced gentleness and love. He received a moment of safety in his life that has never been safe while living on the streets. When there are no words, and no solutions, love will conquer all. True love I have known most assuredly from God. Look up 1Corinthians 13, and just meditate on that for a while. Know that God loves you so much more than you think or imagine Him to.
I am off to Africa in the morning. I have many more adventures to experience. I have more lives to touch through the love of Jesus. I have more preaching to do, more learning to soak up, and more faith, hope and love to exercise. I go because Jesus said go; I love because my Heavenly Father loves me. God is good, and the sweetest thing is to that I am learning the truth of that more everyday, and it blesses my soul profoundly. India, I will never forget you or how this time has changed my life forever.