This was an Easter Sunday to be remembered for the rest of my life. A group of about 50 men, women, and children met in the same facility as yesterday’s conference. They sang several English songs that we know from back home, and those were okay, but their enthusiasm rose to a new level when they broke into a Hindi chorus. I couldn’t understand a word but I could understand the joy that flowed from their hearts. With guitars and a bongo-type drum accompanying, they sang for probably five or six minutes. I just closed my eyes and joined them in spirit.
A group of about eight children participated in the program by doing a pantomime to an English song. The lyrics may be familiar to some: “Thank you for giving to the Lord…I am a life that was changed….Thank you for giving to the Lord….I am so glad you came.” The oldest child was perhaps 10 years old; the youngest was only three. It was so touching that I couldn’t hold back my tears.
As the song went on, I was challenged afresh to be faithful to God’s calling on my life. Life is about loving others, not collecting stuff or a bulky bank account or even building an impressive platform. It’s about serving and encouraging and building up. It’s about leaving a legacy that impacts others for eternity.
Minutes later I was given the privilege to encourage through the spoken word. I spoke from Psalm 138 and listed the reasons for why we can celebrate God: His unfailing love, His faithfulness, His answers to our prayers, His care for the humble, and His mighty power. A skilled translator interpreted everything in Hindi for those who spoke no English.
Afterwards we enjoyed an Indian lunch with several OM leaders and their wives. These wonderful, talented men and women are passionate about serving their own people. While Gene spoke with the men, I learned more about the work being done among the women. One of the most effective things they’re doing is called Women Empowerment. They send out teams to rural villages to educate women (especially Dalits) about their legal rights, literacy, health issues such as immunizations, family planning, TB and HIV awareness. They also visit women in prison and have had the opportunity to present Christmas programs to them.
The women in these prisons are there because of the dowry issues. For instance, when a girl marries, her family must pay a demanded sum to the groom’s family. The payment is made, but the groom’s family often returns to ask for more. These demands are not small; they might even include land, a motorbike, or even a new car. If the bride’s family cannot pay, the groom’s family will seek revenge by torturing or killing the girl. That’s what the bride burnings are about – dousing a woman with gasoline and burning her alive to punish her family for not meeting the dowry demands. The prisoners (the bride’s female in-laws) might have been directly involved in the killing, or they might be paying for the crime committed by the male members of the household. In any case, the living conditions consist of an outdoor facility (no protection from the chilly winds in the winter), and a concrete floor to sleep on. Bathing facilities are practically non-existent and the food would be less than sufficient. Whether they committed a crime or not, their hearts are heavy and they’re hungry for someone to show kindness.