Monday, December 16, 2013

Emmanuel: God-With-Us

Well, my first STM to Pravaham in rural south India is officially over. Thanks for all your prayers and good wishes. If I was allowed to say only one thing about my visit it would be this: God's powerful love was present throughout my visit to Chennai and Pravaham, a miraculous and unforgettable experience. I can't wait to share my tons of videos and stories. In the meantime, here are the opening highlights of my visit and my first video. It is of Hari sharing his faith story as he drives me (and others) up the hill and down into Pravaham on Saturday Dec. 7th.

Uncle Jeff hosted a reunion last Friday evening to celebrate my visit and my younger sister's birthday. It turned into a touching and deeply satisfying memorial for Dad too. (I was not able to go for Dad's funeral in 2009 but had a memorial with his family and friends instead.) We watched a video of Dad taken when he had last visited us, a decade before his death. Daddy's friends and cousins shared stories and we feasted on all the specialties Uncle had his cook and caterers prepare. Many were special dishes (e.g. idiappam and nutton stew) that Mummy too used to prepare. I've not eaten them for 3 decades or more either! It was very good to reconnect with extended family. Our God is truly one who reconciles, redeems and perfects.

Then, onto Pravaham. I spent 3 nights and 4 days in Pravaham, Sat - Tues. God's presence is oh, so tangible in this place! 

During the drive up through the peaceful countryside I chatted with Hari, the driver, and towards the end asked his permission and recorded his faith story. 

"I grew up in a Hindu home, but when I got married I became a Pentecostal. In the beginning, as a Hindu, Jesus was just one more God among others but slowly over the years that changed." Hari began to hate the others, and began to consciously affirm "Yesu appa" (Jesus Father), as the only God, no other, pre-eminent in his life. 

How did your parents come to Christ? I asked. "My parents were Hindus," Hari replied.  "They died at a young age.Grandparents, parents, all were villagers. In villages, even today, change comes slowly but change is happening. Today, we're more aware of the larger world, the world outside our village and the importance of education. We see how people live and we see how Christians live. This changes us, as children. Everybody who becomes a Christian prospers and does well. Hari has never seen a true believer suffer for long. He has only seen them prosper in the long run. His parents' generation did not understand the power of Jesus, the true God, but his own generation has become aware of the larger world and the values that help Christians do well.

Hari continued, "This does not mean that we will face no troubles, once we accept Christ. New believers will face fierce trials. They might even get to the point where they feel like hating Yesu appa." The extent to which they will face persecution, suffering, and troubles may even become unbearable but we have victory and must not become discouraged. We must keep our mind strong."

"Did this happen to you? How many years did you suffer?" I asked. "How did you overcome your troubles?"

Hari replied, "My suffering lasted 4 to 5 years. The way out of trouble is to pray without ceasing and to study the Bible diligently. Reading God's Word comforted my mind. But even praying and reading the Bible were difficult. We must persevere. This is the only way to overcome the world and all its troubles." You can watch the video here (in Tamil, I've yet to subtitle it).



By the time Hari finished sharing we had arrived at Pravaham (you can see this in the video). Hari's story is a powerful reminder that God is faithful and always protects and provides for us. He will never allow us to be tested or bear more than we can and in everything He will give us a way out, as the Apostle Paul reminds. The lesson for me too is this: It was totally worth waiting all these years until God was ready to send me. When God finally sent me on his mission, his timing was perfect. He had prepared everybody, including my own heart, to give and receive perfect love. I was surrounded by so much of his love and powerful presence in every single person I met. It has made this season of Advent, as I wait to celebrate Jesus coming down from Heaven to be with us on earth, so much more meaningful. I pray that Emmanuel, God-with-us blesses you as He has blessed me. Amen.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing Hari's story. At first I thought, "That's really an Indian experience - growing up believing in many gods". But then it occurred to me that in the West, we also grow up believing in many gods, too. Only they're not named like the Hindu gods. We worship movie stars, wealth (think Lotto), luck (gambling), and x-factor thrills, to name just a few. Many people in the West also gradually come to realize, like Hari, that there is only one true God, who showed us what he was like in a way no other god could. Merry Christmas, Hari - and Anita!

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    1. Well said, Jon! I too thought this is a Hindu propensity to worship many gods but what you're saying is so true! Unwittingly, we all have many gods as you rightly point out. Thanks and a blessed Christmas to you too!

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