Twenty minutes ago we thought it was funny. But now there was nervous laughter. This was the fifth time our dilapidated, open-hulled-scull had motored past the same anchored boat.
We were lost on the Ganges.
The Ganges River wanders 1,560 miles from the Himalayans to Kolkata and the Bay of Bengal, finishing as the third largest river delta in the world. But the tiny section that we were on, flowing through the ancient city of Varanasi, was only about 900 feet across. Getting lost on this part of the river was quite an accomplishment!
Our little group was in India to experience firsthand the incredible things being done through Mission India and their local partners. MI does one thing three ways: they bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of India by training church planters who plant churches, offering adult literacy classes where people learn about Jesus, and providing year-long and short-term Bible Clubs for children. While supported by the church of the Global North, the work is all done by the church of the Global South, indigenous leaders in India. It is amazing! The things that are being accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit are happening on a scale that is hard to believe. It needs to be seen in person and you need to meet the incredible people that God is using to make it happen.
Todd VanEk, President of Mission India, tried to prepare us for what we’d experience. His words stuck with me then and they stay with me now: “Look for the light – the darkness is easy to find.” He wasn’t kidding.
Before arriving in Varanasi we spent time in Kolkata. The contrast between the spiritual darkness and the light of the Gospel was hard to miss. We arrived at the Kali Temple on a high festival day. I have never seen anything like it: buyers and sellers in temple stalls offering items for purchase, Kali’s favorite flowers, live animal sacrifices, people frantic in their attempts to push their way through the crowds to stand for a moment before the idol and offer their worship. Panic and fear etched their faces – there was no hope. It reminded us of the Indian Jones movie, Temple of Doom where the boys, working as slave labor in the mines, are held captive under Kali’s power – there was only death in their eyes too. Kali is the Hindu goddess of creation and preservation (one of 30 million Hindu gods and goddesses). But it is her role as destroyer that makes people flock to her altar to fearfully offer sacrifices to appease her.
Next door to the Kali Temple was Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying. The contrast was striking. We saw people in their last days of life, regardless of their religious background, being cared for with compassion and the love of God. There were smiles and gentle touches. It was a house of peace.
Both of these places, the Kali Temple and Mother Theresa’s Home, affected people who were dying. The difference was, one group knew they were dying – the other was clueless.
“Look for the light – the darkness is easy to find.”