After two weeks in Kulpahar we returned to Damoh for a few more days. It felt like a homecoming to be with these good friends once again. (We felt the same way in Kulpahar. You can tell we like India.) We had no assignments in Damoh; we came to enjoy hanging out with–that is, take further advantage of–the Lall family hospitality. We have had a long and cherished relationship with them. Mostly we overate, whether with mission leaders
David and Sheela Lall
or Vivert and Neelam Lall
or Josh and Lashi (Lall) Howard
or Ajai and Indu Lall.
We Americans like to boast of Southern hospitality—and rightly so. But nothing in America surpasses what we experienced in India.
A highlight—among so many highlights—was our trip to the Christian hospital. There used to be an American mission hospital on this site but it closed decades ago. Central India Christian Mission reopened it as an entirely India-operated facility, and it is now recognized as the premier hospital for this whole region. Some American individuals and churches contribute to the operating expenses, but it is 80% self-sustaining. We met several of the doctors.
We even had the opportunity to observe a surgical operation to remove a very large abdominal tumor. This experience is not for the faint of heart.
We saw so much more: several schools for disadvantaged children and youth, most of whom would have no other opportunity for an education. We visited a hostel for girls who have been saved or rescued from prostitution and sex slavery.
Everywhere we went we were met with singing and dancing and joy. And just about every ministry we visited welcomed us with an almost overwhelming presentation of leis. Fortunately (for the sake of the allergy-prone among us) we could take them off after a bit.
There were other ministries, like the Mid-India Christian Mission video-IT ministry which prepares teaching materials and broadcast-quality videos for TV and social media. It’s manned by the crew we saw doing such a good job at the World Convention last month.
Then there’s the nursing school. And the Bible college and leadership training institutes that prepare young preachers and evangelists for work in the villages. Joy and I have been modest supporters of Mid-India Christian Ministry and Kulpahar Kids Home for decades. Ask me if we think we’re getting our money’s worth!
Host David Lall made special arrangements for us to attend a regular worship service at a nearby Hindu temple. He’s good friend of the young man who gave us a guided tour of the building and grounds, explaining what gods (of the 32 million gods in this religion) were represented in the various little statues.
This was a first for us. We benefited from the experience and appreciated the kindness with which we were treated, but we’ll stick with monotheism.
THE DAY IN JABULPUR
Before leaving Damoh we were treated to a touristy day in Jabulpur, the nearest large city (about a million and a half in population), a couple of hours away. We joined a group of twenty-or-so Americans for the outing. On the outskirts is Marble Canyon, famous in these parts for its marble cliffs and photographic vistas.
We were hosted here by Mercy Home. This safe haven for at-risk girls makes it possible for them to attend a nearby school, escape the threat of the sex trade, and prepare themselves for life under the care of people who love them.
You’ll have noticed several references to persecution in our reports from India. The theme has been on my mind during our entire stay here. It came abruptly to my attention while I was lecturing at Kulpahar. I had used a familiar illustration from something I had read years ago, that Americans were most afraid of snakes (the #1 fear) and (#2) of public speaking. Then I asked the class of 30 or so what they were most afraid of. The first one mentioned was “persecution.” Many heads nodded in agreement.
It caught me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. 80-85% of Indians are Hindu. The next largest group is Muslim. Christian are a minuscule 1% to 2%. This is a religious country and the inter-faith tensions run high. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the practice is something else. In many places minorities are not suffered gladly. We heard too many stories (and met the story-tellers) of incredible suffering for the faith. (Being here makes me more concerned than ever that America never be guilty of doing the same to our minorities, religious and otherwise!)
While in India I heard a guest speaker at a conference I sat in on. Both are Christians now. The first was from the lowest of the castes (“outcastes”). When he became a Christian he walked into a maelstrom of trouble. 34 charges were trumped up against him. He was beaten, jailed and banned from speaking. That didn’t stop him. His courage in spite of all that was done to him attracted a following. The nation’s anti-conversion law dictates you must have government permission to change religion. That permission that is never or at least seldom granted. Still people are following this man.
In the Q&A following his talk, he was asked, “What about Jesus is most attractive to you?” He answered, “Jesus loved us. Nobody else loved us.” Proof? Pointing to the friend who invited him to the conference, he said when they met, “He sat with us and ate with us. Nobody else would.” Christians here believe there is only one God and only one class (“caste”) of people and only one way to treat each other in the name of God, and that’s with love.
Then when he was asked the biggest change in himself in becoming a Christian, he said that before, “They hated me and I hated them.” Now, “They still hate me but I don’t hate them.”
A NEW FEATURE…
Below are a couple of Joy’s favorite photos. They don’t quite fit the narrative above, but she doesn’t want you to miss them. Neither do I. We plan to include more of her choice pictures in future blog posts.