We also had opportunities to minister at some of the schools associated with the Cathedral. One main struggle we faced was the “I’m OK you’re OK” attitude. Because India is such a religiously pluralistic society, and because missionary activity is still a taboo thing in some ways, there tends to be a sort of laissez-faire attitude, even among well-meaning Christians. They are afraid to step on toes, they are afraid to recognize the uniqueness of their Christian faith and the sovereignty of the one and only God. In an effort to not offend others, they tend to neuter the power of the Holy Spirit and hinder the spread of the Christian faith. However, God himself knows they are well-intentioned. He knows their hearts, and he knows the difficult condition that they as Christians have to face. And because I am optimistic and because I believe God can make lemons out of lemonade, I know that he will work with this and through this and that he will ultimately triumph. This is where our ability to radiate God’s spirit and joy works to our advantage. It will be in the smaller meetings/assemblies and in the one on one interactions that I believe true progress will be made.
Another big blessing of ministry here has been on the more laid-back path of building relationships with the locals. There are tons of opportunities to do spontaneous ministry with poor people we meet on the street, as well as locals who work at the various stores/stalls, security guards at our apts, rickshaw drivers, and various other locals. It’s also a huge blessing for us (The short term missionaries) as well as the full-time missionaries to have local friends and families who are friends and contemporaries. People who we can socialize with. We do young adult holy hours, prolife groups, and all other kinds of spiritual and social events. They invite us over and we invite them over for dinners, parties, and hanging out. Having these local friends and family members is a huge building block that helps us to really build a life here and form relationships. We’ve also had the chance to visit the local market and stores/stalls to get whatever supplies and souvenirs we were looking for.
For our weekly Desert Day prayer time (a time of prayer, reflection, and sharing) we were able to visit an ancient mountainside fort, dating back I think to the 1600’s. As I have during my entire time here in India, I felt a certain heaviness in my heart due to the strong ties this place has to a non-Christian religion (in this case, Hinduism & Islam). Nonetheless, it was still a very mysterious and beautiful sight to behold. The mistiness, dampness, and cloudiness (we were WAY up high, in terms of our elevation) only served to add to the beauty and mystique.
I was blessed to be able to find a perfect little “cubby hole” underneath one of the archways, about 3ft x 5ft x 5ft, where I had some really blessed prayer time. And everytime I’ve experienced that heaviness of heart, I used it as our opportunity to pray for those specific places, all of the people, and the entire country of India, to experience the love and joy of Christ. God loves them just as much as he loves anyone else, and I know he wants to and WILL touch their hearts. Another part of our Desert Day experience that I really enjoyed was the natural beauty. Yes, India does have over 1 billion people. Yes, at times there seems to be people piled on top of people, along with all of the other difficulties facing such a populated place. But, going to this old fort showed me that there were places of quietness, cleanliness, and natural beauty here in India. I enjoyed that experience very much and it was very refreshing for me, and for that I am very grateful.
Later that day, when we returned from Desert Day, we took turns sharing about our prayer time and our entire experience during our mission trip in India. Then, at 4pm local time, we put 3 of the 5 short term missionary girls on a shuttle to the Bombay airport to catch their plane ride back home. (As I mentioned earlier, the other 2 girls’ shuttle leaves later this afternoon.) And for my remaining time here, I’ll just be relaxing and hanging out, and joining the full-time missionaries in their daily lives, ministry, and activities.
To wrap up today’s entry, I have to touch upon the subject of poverty. In Calcutta one of my biggest shocks was the extreme poverty I encountered. It’s the most extreme poverty I’ve ever encountered in my life, even greater than what I’ve seen at other mission posts. And while it’s definitely to a lesser degree here in Pune, it still exists here too. At times it’s intimidating, frustrating, and makes you feel hopeless. You realize that you cannot reach everybody. You realize that your efforts are incredibly small. You feel guilt when you realize that you have or might have passed up someone who was in need of help.
But when I went to confession at the motherhouse in Calcutta, the priest (from Lebanon) helped me to realize that no one indvidual is supposed to do it by him/herself. We are all called to specific duties, tasks, and people, and we need to be open to the Spirit so we can hear the call to help the specific people and do the specific things we are called to do. He also helped me to realize that our other great duty is to inspire others to do the same. Because as Mother Theresa said (obv. paraphrasing here), “as channels of God’s love we each contribute but a single drop of water in the ocean of God’s mercy here on Earth. But if we ALL do our part, and contribute our drop into the ocean, then there will be a tidal wave of grace that floods the world with his live.”