I had the opportunity to spend 10 days in London, England working with World Harvest Mission reaching out with the love and message of Jesus to south Asians. Here is my experience, thoughts, reflections. Pictures are also available at: http://jason1365.dyndns.org/gallery2/v/England/
Today wasn’t very busy; we spent the morning trying to figure out how to adjust 5 hours of time difference. We arrived in Heathrow at 6AM London time, when we left DC at 6PM DC time. We weren’t very tired on the plane and then we arrive here early in the morning. So, we napped through lunch and got up at 2pm to visit a Hindu temple (called a Mandir).
The temple was very ornately decorated. There were several thousand volunteers over a three-year period that constructed the Mandir. The Hindus at the temple took great pride in the detail etched over the entire structure of marble. This is a little hard for me grasp, because it is only a building. It will deteriorate back to dust. We had the opportunity to be there when the gods were unveiled at 4pm. This was quite interesting to me, because there were statues of people. These statues apparently are believed to actually be God by many. I watched as Hindus would go and pray to each of the statues and drop money in the box in front of the statue. Maybe it’s just foreign to me, but seriously, anybody can carve an image and claim it has powers. This just seems so stupid. It’s a manmade image said to have powers of a manmade religion. There is nothing of substance that should make anyone believe that praying to some stone is going to do anything.
We also had a Q&A session with a Hindu teacher. This turned out to be mostly a waste of time, because (as typical with many Hindus [and other eastern religions]) the man did not have solid answers to questions. He talked only in analogies, but could not give a real response worthy of contemplation.
Q: What does one do if he/she has wronged somebody out of selfish motives and feels guilty? A: Karma, there isn’t anything that needs to be done. You should do more good to offset the bad.
Q: What about those people born with mental illness or inability to do good for others? A: Karma, it’s the punishment from a previous life.
Q: What about those reincarnated as animals that only eat meat? It would seem that these animals could never be reincarnated as anything better, because killing other animals is bad karma.
Q: It doesn’t make sense that before the world there was God (an existence of energy with no attributes) that would then create lesser gods (even though the ability to create seems like an attribute) with attributes. If this first God was perfection, why would he/it create imperfection? Then the lesser gods created the universe filled with beings of many lesser levels. Each being was a part of the original God, but is now imperfect. The lesser beings strive for enlightenment and to become part of the attribute-less God again. This makes no sense – why would a perfect God divide himself into lesser beings? How could perfection choose to become imperfect? Why would perfection morph into imperfection only to struggle to get back to perfection?
Q: Since our karma is determined by what we do, what happens when somebody else believes I did something bad yet I believe it was good? How is the karma (credit/debit) system to account for this? It seems that there must be an arbitrator making the final decision as whether our action was good or bad. If not, then bad karma could never exist if I choose to believe I am always doing good. If there is an arbitrator, that arbitrator must be God. The arbitrator must be perfection. If not, then the karma system is worthless and cannot be ultimately kept in check.
Today was more of an orientation day again and just getting to understand where we are, the people, the backgrounds, etc. I have a really tough time staying awake in lecture-type environments. The weather was gorgeous today though, so that was a big plus.
The morning started with breakfast, two sessions discussing more of the Hindu culture along with background about the organization we are working with (World Harvest Mission). After that, we were on a bus to go to Wembley to experience the Hindu environment. This area of London seems to be exclusively for Indians. While there we ate some fantastic (and expensive) food, visited a Mandir (Hindu temple), shopped, and asked questions about the Indian culture to people in the stores and on the street.
We returned to the school, ate dinner, and then had more teaching on the Hindu Sikh religion. I find the history of these religions quite interesting. It seems as if Sikh, Jain, and Buddhism are variations of Hinduism. However, Hinduism is such a broad term describing a vast number of differing sets of beliefs. I suppose to me, that seems suspicious because for anything to be really true, it has to be true for all time. Without a constant, I don’t see how real truth or any reliability can exist in the world. If Hinduism was right when it was founded, then the derivatives (since different) could not be ultimately true. If one of the derivatives were true, then the others can’t be – not even the predecessor.
I suppose the issue I have with any religion that was ever founded is the simple fact that it’s seems unfair. How you may ask. Well, a religion is founded by some teacher at some point in time. Well, what about those people before that point in time? These people had no chance to know the truth. They would be stuck with whatever consequences for not following the correct religion. This is where I find great confidence in having a relationship with the one true personal God and creator. Man existed with God at the beginning of time because God cares very deeply about each individual. Then man chose to reject God, which broke that relationship. But, as soon as the relationship was broken God had already set into motion a plan to restore the relationship. Everyone (from the first man and woman) has had the opportunity to experience this exciting, fulfilling, and confident life through Jesus Christ. There is nobody left out throughout all of time.
I came to a better understanding of this Hindu mindset today. It is very much like our post-modern culture in America. Basically, very few people have any real beliefs. The mindset is that if we do more good than bad, then we are doing good. They seem to not consider the post-death part of life. The goal is to do good, so that bad things don’t happen to you. Entirely self-centered motivations for acts of kindness – an interesting twist on kindness.
I still have a hard time grasping how these Hindus come into the temple and bow down to statues. Even more difficult is to see people leaving food for the statues, or pouring water and milk over the head (and mouth) of the statues believing that the god drinks it. Even still, the fact that the gods have a naptime where they put nightgowns on them for a time seems even stranger.
As I watch these people, I have much pity on them. This fear of evil, bad karma, poor rebirth, etc drives these people to perform rituals frequently. What oppression, if only they knew the freedom that is because of Christ. It’s no longer about doing things, being good, or anything like that – it’s about enjoying a relationship with God. There aren’t rules, traditions, rituals or anything that needs to be done. My friends don’t require me to do any rituals for them so that they will like me – that wouldn’t be a relationship. How can life be worth living in fear, in confusion, with questions and uncertainty?
I am beginning to understand the fact that Hindus and many people define their identity in the teachings of their family. The fervor to practice the family religion is very strong. Understandably so, they love their family and their family is Hindu. It is almost unthinkable for a child to say that he/she isn’t Hindu when the parents are. The child was born Hindu and will always be Hindu. That is the mindset of the parents and the child because not only is it a religion, but Hinduism is the culture and even part of his/her ethnicity. I see religion, culture, ethnicity as all separate things, but not so in this eastern mindset. There would be as much or even more scorn for a Hindu child to claim to be something other than Hindu just like it’s preposterous for a Jewish person to depart of Judaism. The decision to change religions would be incredibly disrespectful to the entire family, it would seem like the child was disowning his/her parents and family; it would seem to the family that the child is denying his/her ethnicity/heritage/blood. What a fear that seems insurmountable. But, why be a lemming? Yea, it’s hard and unpleasant to depart from the teachings of loves ones/family, but just because someone you may care about wants to die a horrific death, it doesn’t mean you should go down with him/her. Save yourself and plead with your loved one to save him/herself as well, but if he/she choose not to save him/herself that is not your fault and it would be significantly worse for you to die needlessly as well.
Quick thought before going to bed (from Phil originally). God is love, huh? How often is that our perception of the god of Christianity or similar monotheistic view? But, it seems that we say, “God is love,” we actually mean, “Love is God.” See the difference? I may explore that a little more tomorrow.
It’s late again. There is more I’d like to write, but maybe that will be saved for tomorrow. We will be out talking to people for real tomorrow. I know I will learn much more. I’m excited.
Today started with an early morning run as usual. I found a trail today that runs into several parks; there must be at least 5 miles of trails. I’m pretty excited about this. So, I’ll check those out tomorrow morning.
After breakfast, we had two more sessions of teaching about Islam and how to do door-to-door evangelism. We then quickly picked up bagged lunches to get on the coach (bus) to head to a Gurdwara (Sikh temple). As it turns out this is the largest Gurdwara outside of India. We had the opportunity to have one of the teachers there spend an hour with us to learn about the Sikh religion and give us a tour of the Gurdwara. We finished by having some meal of sorts on our way out that is special somehow. I also learned about the origin of the Sikh religion.
The origin is a bit dodgy (sketchy) from the version of the story I heard. Apparently, this great teacher asked if any of his followers would give up his life (head) for him. One did, and was led into a tent with the teacher. The teacher came out moments later with blood on his sword and asked for another. Five men in total agreed to die for the teacher and his teachings. The teacher went back into the tent after this and brought the five men out. As we were told, what happened in the tent is left to our imagination. It is implied that a miracle occurred causing the men to be brought back to life. Many believed this miracle and followed the teacher.
We walked directly to a Mosque after this. We were led around by the man who leads the daily prayers. He spent quite some time explaining the pillars of Islam and then opened the rest of the time up to questions. The Mosque was incredibly simple and nothing like the other holy places we had visited. There were almost no decorations. The only thing I found interesting was the separation of women from the men for the prayers. The teacher answering our questions was clearly not ad hearing to the stricter Islamic beliefs. He told us that to go to heaven, all one had to do was believe in a supreme monotheistic god and do more good than evil. Other than that, we can just ask Allah for forgiveness and we would likely get it. There was a caveat though, it seems that Allah would like grant forgiveness of sins against him, but others may not grant us forgiveness of sins against them. So, it was implied that these sins would have to be paid for somehow. I also found the fact that the Muslim is directed to enact revenge on someone that had wronged him/her as long as it is the right payment for the sin.
>From what he said, he made it seem there was no reason to be Muslim because pretty much everyone was OK as long as you tried hard to do good. Intentionally doing evil though was a topic he wouldn’t speak about. He also expressed that if a person couldn’t follow any of the directions of Islam (praying, going to Mecca, etc.) for whatever reason, that it was totally cool and Allah would understand.
After leaving the Mosque, we went to the Asha (Hope – Hindi) shop. This place is a charity shop (like Goodwill). It is incredibly small, but generates needed revenue for the missionaries here. It is also a great way for some of the missionaries to connect with people in the area. We then had pizza and organized ourselves for going door-to-door to share about Jesus.
The time going door-to-door was great. These people are nothing like Americans. These people are friendly, willing to take time to talk, enjoy company, and are just overall great. We even started the intro that we were “Jesus-followers” and told them we were from a Masih Ghar (church/temple). There was only one out of the eight people we visited that didn’t want to take the survey. The rest took the survey and we talked about their community and religious background. We had one guy answer the door in his briefs only. He couldn’t speak much English so it was even more awkward to communicate that we appreciate his attempt to talk with us. The family at the last house we went to was great. He was the most friendly, easy-going, jovial guy. He basically believed everything every religion said. That was interesting. But he invited us in for juice after we finished the survey. We took the mango juice and then his wife offered us come curry. I was more than happy to accept, but my partner realized it was 8pm and we were supposed to be back at our meeting place then. She seemed to start panicking, but I told her to chill out and that we were going to enjoy the food and their company. I can’t stress how friendly these people were – all of them even. Nothing like America.
As we all made it back to our meeting place, each pair shared stories of how much fun and exciting it was to talk to the people and share about Jesus. I mean, these people are totally cool with talking about religion and beliefs and enjoy having you come to their homes. How cool is that? Boo America for not being as cook as these people were.
It was also interesting that each of them identified themselves as Sikhs, but all of them said they didn’t follow any of the teachings or even go to services/worship. The prevailing belief “try hard to do good and you’re ok,” seems to be the prevailing belief of not only America, but also in London. This was interesting because we were in an entirely Sikh neighborhood. Also, the children demonstrate much less of any belief in the traditional Sikh teachings, but the young adults were very eager to hear about Jesus. We could see that they knew something was lacking for their life and that their parent’s religion was nothing more than praying to pictures and statues and desperately wanted more and to know the Truth.
Tomorrow we will be out on the streets during the day. This is going to be really cool, because we will be in a largely Sikh and Muslim area – like nearly almost all people claim to believe with some to many practicing.
Fantastic. Goodnight. I’m tired.
Today started again with sessions of teaching. The first on prayer and the second on how to do street ministry type stuff. So, as usual, I had a difficult time staying awake because I’m not great staying interested when people talk at me. After the sessions, we loaded up on a coach to head to Southall. Today, we were on the streets talking to people and praying over the area.
Arriving in Southall, we unpacked and started setting up the table. We setup shop right beside a bus stop and in front of a KFC. As soon as we start setting up the table, this Muslim man approaches us (knowing we were Christians) and starts yelling at Hamed. I thought this was very interesting – he was rebuking Hamed for forsaking his heritage and religion to follow a lie. This person was in his face, yelling for about 10-15 minutes. Some of the other guys who are here permanently began to divert his attention so Hamed could get to doing what he was supposed to do – distribute literature and talk to people.
The person is continuing to yell at a couple of the other guys in the group. But even so, the rest of us had setup the table and were beginning to talk to people and hand out literature. We have a person about 20 feet each way down on the sidewalk handing out pamphlets and telling people to stop by the table. After a little while, I decide that I will take over the handing out the pamphlets to passers-by. As I take over for whoever was there before, the Muslim man thought it would be good to yell at me. (Mind you, he has been yelling at the other guys this entire time.) So, before I can hand anything out, he is in my face yelling at me. He is telling me how the Qur’an is the holy book for this generation and that the Bible is outdated and no longer supreme. This goes on for maybe 10 minutes. Then one of the other staff guys is able to get the attention on him and off me. So, I walk away and resume my handing out pamphlets.
I must say that these people are awesome – nothing like Americans. You hand them a pamphlet and they say “Thank You.” They immediately open it and read it as they are walking away. Many times people walked over to me out of their walking path to get a pamphlet. People waited to get them if there were several people around. Totally cool. I think I probably only had around a 10% rejection rate. Nearly everyone took a pamphlet.
When I was walking the table itself, there was one sweet old woman who was so excited. A guy handing out the pamphlets told her to stop by the table. She comes up and just looks at me and says, “Some guy told me to stop by” (in not so good English). It was great; I gave her some info on activities for her kids.
Pretty much the rest of the day was spent in prayer. I spent and hour with Nicole walking around the Southall area praying over the businesses and the people in the area. After we got back home and ate dinner, we spent another couple of hours praying over the mission efforts in general and then our Frontline team broke off to pray for each other and the mission team to Lebanon. I met up with many of the other people here at a pub down the street. I met new people and was interrogated on how to handle male attention appropriately. What fun.
Tomorrow will be a day to learn a little about the post-modern culture and how to reach these types of people followed by some tourist activities. I’ll be seeing Les Miserables tomorrow evening – how cool.
Thoughts on the day. I’m not sure my thoughts on this Muslim man attacking us. I can’t really imagine why. I suppose he was attempting to show us the error of our ways, but that really wasn’t his motivation. I believe he was just looking to validate his own beliefs by attacking others. This happens very much in grade school – where one attempts to embarrass or intimidate another simply to feel like he/she actually is better. I imagine that he was going to feel validated by attempting to make us look like fools. I was proud of the responses of everyone he yelled at. Nobody argued back, or was harsh, etc. But, as a phase I’m so fond of says, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care,” his approach showed no concern for me or my well-being. If he in fact cared about my beliefs, and me he would have asked them and then expressed his concern because he believed they were wrong. He would not give me time to speak – always interrupting, asked questions without waiting for responses, and told me that I shouldn’t exist. I suppose it is these people that I have the most pity for – the people who are set in their ways not willing to examine and question other information. It goes both ways though, like the man I met yesterday. He was set in his ways to believe absolutely anything (covering all basis), which fails logically of course, and this Muslim man whom would not listen to a caring voice. Pride sux huh? It keeps us from admitting we are wrong in our beliefs and actions. Or maybe fear – from being though of was wrong or unreliable or unlovable. No matter what though, truth is right and anything other than that will only bring about turmoil, confusion, and ultimately destruction.
I’m excited about tomorrow. Goodnight.
So today was our day off. You’d think a day off would be relaxing and the like, but it definitely was not. It’s tough being a tourist – for real.
The day started was I went with some others to Camden Town to see the place. World Harvest is going to be placing a team there later this year to reach to the people in that area. This area was definitely pretty cool. It is an interesting mix of punk, Goth, and young professionals. We spent the time checking out the many shops mostly, and then a little while praying over the area.
The punk and Goth shops were definitely interesting. I enjoyed all of the cool sort of t-shirts and cloths of the punk places. The Goth places had really unique outfits. Very creative (as long as it is black). I thought it was interesting how most of the shops were selling all sorts of marijuana (weed, pot, 420 …) paraphernalia. You wont’ see that in the states.
After this, we went to Piccadilly Circus to eat at a Japanese place. That was fun and good (and expensive of course). It’s funny how the numbers are just slighted lower than what you’d see in the states for a meal, but it actually costs about twice as much. Boo that. I picked up the tickets for the show later in the evening and then Ryan and I dropped Mimi off to meet up with the other girls. Ryan and I caught the tube to visit Westminster Abby. 10£ to see a bunch of dead people and high ceilings. I suppose if you like history and dead people then cool. Not so exciting for Ryan and I. We then walked around St. James Park down to Buckingham Palace relaxing on the way there in some chairs apparently you are supposed to pay for.
After a while, we made it back to Piccadilly Circus where we grabbed dinner at an Italian place and scurried of to the theatre to see Les Miserables. Wow, what a cool musical. The stage rotates around and the props transform to setup the different scenes. The singing was grand (of course), but the storyline was wonderful. It’s been a while since I had read the book, but I do remember very much liking the (incredibly long) book.
From the start, you see a man (Jean Valjean) dejected and oppressed by the law. Then out of nowhere, a godly man invites him in. Jean steals from the godly man only to be caught again by the law. The man not only tells the police that he had things that were given to him, but also gives him even more. The godly man says that his soul has now been purchased for God. Throughout the show, each scene pointed to man’s depravity and then to God’s grace – giving us what we don’t deserve, not just pardoning, but giving above and beyond. The police officer, who had lived his entire life trying to punish Jean for his past crimes, was then placed in Jean’s hands during the rebellion. The rebellion would have quickly killed him, but Jean freed him. The police officer then was unable to live with himself because he had been shown grace and had throughout his life never shown mercy to any prisoners that he couldn’t accept it. He committed suicide because he knew he owed his life to Jean, the one he hated most. I see the everyday man here in the police officer. As we live life, we adhere to what we are used to and what is comfortable because it seems right. But when we are shown there is more than what we know, we cannot comprehend and deny it. The grace shown to the police officer by Jean was so far out for the police officer that he couldn’t take it. I have noticed that this is also true of Jesus. Jesus is so far out for what’s comfortable or understandable that we deny that anything so amazing is possible. It doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t fit my mold; it isn’t how I view the world. The stubbornness drives this man suicide. I feel like in the world in which we live, our stubbornness drives us to denial of Jesus and the possibility of a truly fulfilling, fun, peaceful, and content life. We may not die immediately, but we live without assurance of tomorrow, with worry, and in misery. That may as well be death, how is that life worth living?
Well, there is a lot more to the book, movie, and show that I’d recommend you see for yourself. If you do get into more of the story, see how you can see your life represented in the characters. You can also see the results of poor choices, but then you can see the opportunities for the characters to change and see the hope that ensues when they do.
It’s been a long day of checking out the city. Feet are sore, I’m exhausted, and there are three days left. I’m excited about tomorrow to go back and visit some of people we met when going door-to-door the other day.
Again, the day started with mow more sessions of teaching. Again, I seem to be good at dozing off in the front row. Everyday of the conference are sessions. Being the type of person I am, a doer, I’d rather be out working. So, sitting being talked at isn’t all that exciting for me. I am preached at quite a lot. Learning is great, but nothing is really learned until it is tested in real life with action. So, I have heard much, but have practiced much less. Sure, I can think I’m all wise, smart, etc, but that is just my ego. Just wait until I try to do it myself – guess what, I’ll fail – yay humiliation. Then we know that I’m just a poser. Life is where it’s at, not in the hypothetical.
After the sessions of teaching, we had a four-hour break. This was really nice. Mimi and I ran down to visit the cows and then walked around further talking and the like. We found a small beach and family hang out area, along with more running trails. That was really cool. When I saw we ran, I mean that Mimi ran and I walked briskly.
The relaxation was crucial because I was exhausted after the day of sightseeing and the like. We grabbed our dinners (they are either being stingy with food or the English just don’t eat much) and got on the coach to head back to where we had done door-to-door.
Jennifer and I got our materials back together and headed back out to our street we had visited before. We ran into the one woman who wanted The Jesus Film on our way there. Her mom was in the hospital and the family was going to visit her, but her 21-year old son was still at home. We found him, Guv, and had a great time. As soon as he opens the door and hears us introduce ourselves he says, “Your American?!? Wow this is great, it’s not everyday I get Americans at my front door. I’ve never had Americans at my front door.” He was great fun to talk to and showed us around the religious background of his family and his own perspective on life, God, etc.
We did some more interviews, and ran into another man who we talked to for half and hour. He spoke at least six languages and said he was going to learn two more simply because the languages were spoken somewhere in his community. He was well read and educated as well. I must say, that I enjoy the candor of these people. As we spoke to this man, there was no concern about being politically correct. He stated things the way he saw them. I’d like to share one I thought the most funny/absurd. He was discussing racism, specifically between white and black. “Have you had Guinness? Ever notice how the foam and white and the beer is black? That’s because whites always have to be on top.” What a fun guy. He said he’d also like to see the Jesus Film on DVD because he was on the cutting edge.
Most of the people we interacted with said, “Jesus is the Son of God.” Yet, even though they said this, it did not seem like the teachings of Jesus were esteemed highly. I’d expect someone who believed that Jesus is the Son of God that anything Jesus did or said would be regarded as scared, truth, real, and the ultimate scripture to follow. I don’t know; it just follows. How can you say that you have God with you teaching you and yet you are still going to look to the many gods of Hinduism, the teachings of Buddha, the Qur’an, or the Sikh teachers? It just doesn’t follow.
There is so much happening in the lives of those we meet. I very much envy the lifestyle these people have here – at least the friendliness and the condor. I hate being politically correct.
Listening to Casting Crowns, these resonate:
Living on my own, thinking for myself
Castles in the sand, temporary wealth
Curse this morning sun
Drags me in to one more day
Of reaping what I’ve sown
Of living with my shame
Welcome to my world
And the life that I have made
Where one day you’re a prince
The next day you’re a slave
And I’ve held out as long as I can
Now I’m letting go and holding out my hand
Breakfast and a morning session – only one this morning. Again, Ryan had to poke me a time or two to keep me awake. I’m not if the fact that I sleep six or fewer hours a night has anything to do with it, but I really believe it’s just sitting in a chair in a room with people talking.
We grabbed food for lunch and hopped on the bus to head out to Wembley. We reached Wembley and setup table. But, wow, today was much different from when we did table outreach earlier. Maybe it’s because it was Sunday or maybe it was the area or maybe it was us – who knows. Today, I don’t think anybody stopped by the table to pick up any of the materials. It was definitely different. Most people still took the handouts, but that was it. It seemed like many had their kids with them and were shopping for groceries for the week and the like.
Nicole and I went to the Mandir and the Mosque in the area to pray over the people there, the various shops, and the like along the streets as well. But there was a totally different feeling today, but I know that it wasn’t because I wasn’t valued. I wonder if there was some unaddressed issue/resentment in the group or something. I don’t imagine that God is thrilled to use people whom cannot love their own brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s not being an ambassador for Him by any means.
After this, we got on the bus to go to New Life Masih Ghar for the weekly Sunday service. The woman shared her story, which was so amazing. We followed that with much food and dancing to celebrate her 4-year birthday. She said, “I’m celebrating my real birthday today – when I was born into life, because I was born before that, but into death.” How amazing? This woman clearly had an understanding of God. But, how did that happen? Well, the rest of her story is filled with much pain, sorrow, and joy. She looses two brothers and the last is deathly sick. She cries and prays over him every night. He lives! The rest of her family hates her – her children, parents, siblings, etc. She was very ill recently as well and in much pain. She asked God why, then she was ok with the pain and death, then she was happy to have the pain, and then she desire more pain and suffering, but God said, “No more for you.” She is so grateful that she has agonized of the deaths in her family, the rejection of the rest of her family of her, and the scorn of friends. She shares parts of her story with others and listens to other women’s issues. She can relate because she has had much sorrow and pain in her own life. What a blessing to be able to show Christ’s love with others!
Why is it that we have life so easy? Why is it that we as Americans can choose to follow the One True Living God without reproach? How easy we have it. I can see the words of Jesus played out right here. Turns out the God of the universe wasn’t playing around when he said:Matt 10:34-39; Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
All I know is that we have it so easy to follow Jesus. I hear of the oppression of Christ-followers in other countries and cannot fathom what it is like. But, not only is government oppression one fear, but the fear of rejection from family, friends, and society would be much more of a fear for me. I suppose that some do reject me because of my faith and my relationship with God, but nothing to the degree of what others deal with everyday around the world.
Jesus, Bless those around the world who are oppressed and have sacrificed much because of your name. But, what is a sacrifice anyways? Sacrifice: giving up something of value for something of greater value (Brentwood Bible Church). Jesus, life with you is better than anything in this temporal, mundane, unfulfilling world. Assurance of heaven and being able to hang out with the creator of the universe after this world passes is so exciting. You have placed me in a time and place that is much easier to endure than many others around the world. I’m grateful, but sorrowful for those who suffer and do not have what you have given me. “Blessed be your name, you give and you take away, but my heart will chose to say, Jesus, Blessed be your name.”
Grace, Faith, Hope, Love, Mercy, Justice – Perfection, God.
Guess what the day started with? Yes, you got it – more learning sessions. But this morning we were only supposed to be in session until 11AM, but we ran over until 11:50. One speaker said that it was his last chance to share in front of us, so he wasn’t concerned with the time. They did leave in 45 minutes for us to relax before heading out; that just didn’t happen today. We grabbed lunches as usual to get on the coach. Then, off to hang out on the streets of Southall again.
Arriving in Southall we setup the tables at the same spots as a couple days earlier. After this, my group of eight headed down for a prayer walk / tour of the area. On our way around we were told about an honor killing in the area the night before. Apparently, a woman born here in London from a Pakistani background had her marriage arranged with somebody in Pakistan. The woman refused the arranged marriage, which is apparently very disgraceful on the family. The woman’s father and brother(s) then attacked her. At some point the woman managed to run out the front door covered in blood, but was dragged back in by the father. Neighbors saw this and called the police. The police arrived on the scene where the men gave themselves up saying, “She is dead in the other room.” The mother of the woman watched the entire thing; I am not sure if she condoned the “honor killing.”
Injustice? How can this be? Are we so depraved and vile in our current society? This type of stuff still happens? Wow?!? But, we discussed it further as a group. From the western mindset this seems absurd; how can the father and brother slaughter their own flesh and blood over a disagreement such as this? But this is a disgrace on the entire family? This action that this woman has done has tarnished the family name. She brings shame on each member of the family. How can she re-establish the respect of her family name after such a crime? Can she ever restore the family name to it honor it once held? It’s important to remember that the honor/respect held by the family name is ultimately important over any individual. Quite honestly, I cannot see any why for this woman to reject the arranged marriage and somehow provide an alternative that would be as honorable on the family as a whole as the arranged marriage. I mean, the arranged marriage has another family committed and of course all of the relatives know about it (Asian families are vary large relative to American families). How are these dozens of members of each family going to talk about the rejection in an honorable fashion? I don’t see how it is possible.
So, the only option is a killing. A stern punishment is out of the question because it will not seem strong enough to ensure that she will not continue to shame the family. It’s interesting how after such a disgrace to her family, the only way to restore the family’s honor is death (or blood). In the same way, this is how God works. Each of us had disgraced God, our Creator, our original Father, our everlasting family. We have disgraced God by rejecting him, seeking to honor ourselves and not Him, refusing to acknowledge Him in our lives, ignoring the moral conscience set inside each of us, etc. And, how can we honor God in such a way after our disgraceful/shameful actions that will restore that respect of him. We cannot. There is nothing we can do to restore His name after we have disrespected him in any way.
Guess what, God is in the same predicament (funny how that works considering He created everything and created us much like himself). He also requires death (our blood), an honor killing to sustain His good name. That is why we as humans will die someday. But even worse than this is the notion of spiritual death – separation from God forever. Complete separation from God forever is pretty much the worst thing ever because evil is merely the absence of God (where God is good).
Sounds dismal, until you know the rest of the story. God requires the blood of death to restore honor to himself. Well, this is where Jesus comes in; he died (gave up his life for his friends) to restore honor to God (the Father) in our place. We don’t have to forfeit spiritual life to pay for our disgrace because Jesus has done this for us. How cool? The only thing we have to do is to honor Jesus by acknowledging his selfless act of love for each one of us. We must identify ourselves with him, and establish our identity through him. On top of that, Jesus is actually risen. He is not dead anymore, because death could not hold him down. We can have an ongoing relationship with him which brings joy, peace, contentment, excitement, etc. to our lives while honoring God (the Father), whom we disgraced.
How awesome a picture is painted of God’s love and grace when viewing the gospel from an eastern perspective. I am beginning to become more comfortable with the eastern viewpoint even though critical thinking, logic, and the modern mindset aren’t critical to the story – whereas that is where I many times find myself.
Even though reflecting on the honor killing and just how beautiful the story of Christ is from the eastern perspective took much time, it was not the conclusion of the day. When our group returned from the prayer walk/tour we took our posts to man the tables. I spent most of my time handing out the pamphlets. Again, it’s really cool to see how many people take them. It’s even more funny when somebody who picked one up from another table we had setup will show me that they already have one and that’s why they aren’t accepting another. Maybe this has something to do with the eastern mindset/culture and the importance of respect – I don’t know.
Much to my excitement, I saw the Muslim man who had visited us the other day. He was coming my direction and of course recognized me, and I him. I greeted him cordially, and he felt the need to share his mind with me again. Much less yelling this time. He pushed the same argument that since the writing of the Qur’an, the Bible should no longer be considered the holy book. I find this rationale a bit unreliable. What if I get a revelation from God and write my own book? Does then the Qur’an then cease to be the holy book to follow? How can one claim that the Bible was once holy and contained the truth about God, and then say that Qur’an takes its place? If the Bible was once true, it is always true. A truth that changes isn’t truth. The Qur’an claims to be the final authority and so does the Bible; coexistence is not an option. God is described differently and the path to salvation (being saved from hell after physical death) different. Both cannot be truth.
Nonetheless, the man concluded his argument and would walk off, then immediately return to restate the previous, and then again, and again – five times. Finally, he made his way to the book table to take one of everything on there, even though they were in various languages along with a Jesus Film. He then stated that he wanted to speak to our leader and have a debate on the coalition of people waging a war against the people of Islam. It sounded like a he was looking for a political debate with a premise that was likely not seen by us. He also seemed to believe that we followed some sort of leader. Who knows, we just follow Jesus not some learned man.
After the book tables we packed up and had dinner at the school. Following dinner was a final session of debriefing. This time was truly awesome, because throughout the room people would share of their experiences and interactions they had throughout the week. So, there were some very encouraging stories about people who talked to two friends where one thought constantly about the Devil and the other about God; a sisters possessed by demons; a man saying he has been searching for somebody to talk to him about Jesus; many others where people were eager to learn about Jesus because they had tried the Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim religions only to find that there was no love only rules. Many more stories were shared, what an encouragement. I’m excited to know that the team that will continue here will get to follow-up with these people and share the love of Christ with them.
The following morning, I went out for a long run, and then we packed up and headed out for a day of relaxing in London. After checked in, Ryan and I headed off to check out parts of the city and then relax in St. James Park. Relaxing in the park was awesome because we took naps, read, wrote, and played Frisbee. Ryan and I met up with the rest of the team for dinner. After this most of the team went to watch Guys and Dolls while I spent the evening writing and replying to emails that I hadn’t been able to get to for the duration of the trip.
After a night spent sleeping in sweat, Ryan and I rose early to spend the morning hanging out in the park again until our plane trip back to the states. We are both excited to get back home where there is air conditioning, friends, our own beds, and work. I’m glad that we have been busy on the trip because I get bored easily, but I do enjoy working and it will be nice to get back into that. A little more time in the park, then we’ll head back to catch our flight.