I just returned from my 12th trip to India, and our national director in India summed it up well: For the past 9 days, our international team has been on a whirlwind tour of 5 locations, ministering to 200 pastors and leaders through seminars on launching The Basic Series, and providing winter covering for 500 old and young people who live in vulnerable and harsh situations. We had a fantastic time meeting and interacting with pastors at the seminars, visiting with the children at our lighthouse centers, graduating the skills training students and conducting a medical clinic for more than 100 patients in a rural area.
Obviously, there is much more that could be said, but I have it on my heart to write a “different” kind of report. Instead of focusing on what we did, I want to focus on how we saw God on this trip. My prayer for this entire trip began at the airport with the prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers in Ephesians chapter 1 verse 17: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
The Christian life is not primarily about our service to the Lord, but our walk with him. It’s not about “doing more”, but knowing him more and better. I want to know him better, and I hope in some small way, as imperfect as it always will be, that others might come to know him who is perfect, better too through me. This was my focus in prayer and in every message that I preached. For all of eternity we will never grow tired of worshiping him, because he is so glorious, so beautiful, so worthy and so holy beyond what we could possibly comprehend! There are such depths of God, and we have barely begun to scratch the surface. There is never a point where we cannot come to know God more and know God better. More than anything, this is what God is after: That our hearts may know his heart, and that we may know him as he knows us.
As God himself once said through the prophet Jeremiah: This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”
Usually when I go to India, I am overwhelmed and even find myself despairing over the sheer number of people (1.3 billion people!) and how many are yet to be reached with the Gospel. India actually now has the third largest Christian population in the world but 80% are still unreached! However, this trip was different. I had a strange (supernatural) calm and peace as I “saw” and understood that while it may be overwhelming to me, it’s not to our Sovereign God. He created every single person, he knows every person, and he is able to reach every person (though not all will seek him or turn to him in response). Nevertheless, God has means and ways to draw people to himself, and I witnessed that as we walked among lepers in a colony. It was ironic to think that while some were worshiping gods that are not real at a Hindu temple, the living God was walking in their midst through those of us who came in the name of Jesus, the living and risen Savior!
Secondly, I saw God in the faces of his people as they worshiped and as they listened to his Word being proclaimed. The beauty of God could be seen on the faces, glowing with childlike joy and yearning for him through their tears as we focused our attention on him and engaged our hearts in the revelation of who he is.
When we served the poor, I saw God in the smiles of joy. Their genuine, humble gratitude in the simple, but sometimes life-changing, gifts they received. They received the gifts as an evidence of God’s compassion. Whether it was winter coverings to endure the cold winter or basic medicine for their families that they are unable to afford, you could see the tenderness and kindness of God touching their hearts through these small but profound physical gestures that became symbolic of something much deeper that reaches the soul.
I saw God in the faithfulness, devotion and sacrifices of the pastors. Some of them had traveled as much as 4-5 hours just to be at one of several pastor conferences we arranged. Others labor in very challenging, difficult or even dangerous circumstances. Yet they are passionate, bold and committed in their service to the Lord.
I saw God in the generosity of those who had made this trip possible. Even though many have never been to India, nor meet the people I met, their hearts have been touched by a generous God who gives abundantly.
I saw God in the children we spent time with. His love for children, especially the orphans and victims of abuse, was obvious in the way they are cared for at our centers and homes for kids. Their playfulness, innocence, laughter and child-like faith, despite all they have been through, truly reflects the heart of God.
I saw God in our staff as they work long days and long hours, patiently serving those in need. I saw his grace as he takes us as imperfect people and yet works in wonderful ways through his servants to bless others in His Name.
I saw the God of hope in the eyes of the graduates of our tailoring/cosmetology courses as their new learned skills will help them earn a living. These were girls who never had the opportunity to learn a skill. Many do not have a Christian background, but through these programs they are exposed to a God who has a plan, purpose and future in store for them; a God who pursues their hearts and whose kindness leads them to repentance and faith.
That is what mission trips and serving the Lord is truly all about. The takeaway should not be what we do, but the beauty of what he has done for us and in us and through us by the Spirit of Christ. Serving God is simply one way to enhance our walk with him and help us come to know him better. Service is not a substitute for relationship, but it provides an opportunity for deeper intimacy with our Savior as we co-labor with him in touching people’s lives!
Words will always fall short. Even pictures do not do justice. In fact, the best I can say it is simply what Philip said to a skeptical Nathaniel: Come and see. Come and see for yourself! Come and experience for yourself. Come and have your eyes opened to a world in need of God’s love. Come and join where he is working. Come and serve where he is saving. Come and see…and have your walk with God enriched and enhanced as you behold his beauty and glory and witness his heart for the world.