At Varanasi we visited a conference at the Training Centre, where we met the training women and men of the community. Feeling like a lost ‘fish in the ocean’ amongst a different culture, language and style of living, I anticipated we were going to hear and feel the presence of God in that unknown place.
As the word was preached and taught during the day the rain came down over us. The land was being blessed with rain and as it grew heavier and louder the bible teaching continued. The power cut out and we sat there listening amongst the rain as preaching and interpretation continued even louder and more passionate than before.
They read from 2 Corinthians 1:10 about our reliance, not on ourselves, but on God who raised Jesus from the dead: “On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us”. As this was happening, there was a connection not just by the place we were in but by the Holy Spirit.
We could see God’s work in the people at that point in time, these people were no longer strangers but brothers and sisters in Christ. We had a living and present God that was comforting us in times of need and the unknown, always being there making new opportunities to rely on him.
After the morning of worship and prayer we visited a place of darkness, most commonly known as the Ganges. I vividly keep this picture in my mind to remind me of what we are fighting against and who we are looking to.
Walking down crowded streets full of people in their small houses, shops, and rickshaws we passed through traffic and animals to find ourselves staring poverty in the face. The further we walked the more in darkness I felt, not only the peoples’ fear and lost look in their eyes but their physical structure. I passed beggars, young children, men and women who were asking for money in desperation.
We passed a group of older men with deformed bodies and limbs missing that were lying on a pile of dirt. This image made me feel sick inside. Some sat there in physical weakness and others with only the will to live. As we came past, a few crawled over to us with a hand up reaching for money or something that would make them feel human again.
Then came the spiritual darkness, people holding bowls with tea lights in the centre who were ready and trying to mark us with a red dot, like some type of ritual.
The sight of these people clinging desperately onto life itself, and false Gods, had me asking God why, why is he putting these people through this? Where is his light in this dark place?
My final day in India was spent at a Leadership Centre, a training centre for men. A group of us joined with 30 other trainers in worship, teaching and praying. Once it was time to pray for our brothers we paired up and laid hands over them to show our encouragement and partnership. This was a highlight and struggle for me as I tried hard to “not leave India yet” as we neared the end of our journey before heading back to life in Australia.
I wandered up to the front. I had already prepared a generic prayer for all the brothers and had planned to only pray for a few. I assumed my brother beside me would mostly pray for them, as being a man there would be a stronger connection. We began an open time of prayer, with my scarf over my head (which was a sign of Christian modesty) we began our time to talk to God.
India is a place to be open to cultural experiences and the presence of God in the words you speak. At this moment I felt reliant and trusting of God to say the things that he was putting on my heart. Prayer for strength, courage and confidence. It felt so natural that even I couldn’t own up to what I was saying, for each brother there was a consistently different prayer that began a rhythm.
With my brother beside me, we flowed off each other in tongues of praise and guidance, not knowing these men or their lives or even if they could understand English. We were breaking down those barriers and connecting.
We sat down afterwards to hear some final teaching. I sat at the back speechless, shaking, and full of emotion. I prayed by myself… why did we have the privileged of praying for these people who dedicate their lives to Jesus? I am so hypocritical Lord; how can I show this passion and type of worship and prayer back in Australia? What will my faith look like back at home? What can I change now I know these things?
Through most of my experiences in India, God was reminding me of this verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,
‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” …. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’