Journey to Judah: Part 11 - The Church
May 12 & May 19, 2018
During our 18 days in Hyderabad, we were able to go to church twice. Did you hear that? We went to a gospel preaching, Bible-believing CHURCH in INDIA. TWICE! We were actually in Hyderabad a total of 3 Sundays, but that first Sunday was the day we met our son. Being at New Life International Church with Pastor Ernest and his congregation blessed our hearts in so many ways.
It was going to be Judah’s first time at church, so we dressed him in his “Sunday Best.” The khaki pants we brought him were too big around the waist and about 3 inches too long, but he still looked so handsome in his collared shirt and khakis. Of course, you should already know that he wouldn’t be wearing any shoes, but we did put some socks on him, which probably looked a little crazy to everyone in southern India. We took some photos before leaving for church, and I couldn’t help but remember our girls’ first Sundays at church. Coincidentally, both of our girls were born on a Thursday, and they both attended church for the first time at 10 days old. I still remember the tiny little blue and teal dresses they wore. 10 days old was a stark contrast to our 13.5-month-old baby boy. I had a feeling that he would sleep less, play more, and be a little bit louder during the service than his 10-day old sisters who had each slept through Pastor Bob’s entire sermon.
On our first Sunday at NLIC, we attended Sunday School before the main worship service. Children from the slums, from HINDU families, came to sing about Jesus. We were able to hear several songs that they had learned- some in Telugu, some in Hindi, and some in English. It was so amazing to recognize the melody of a song and hear them sing it in their own language. It was a beautiful reminder that our God is a global God. He hears all tongues. He sees all nations. We were able to see the children do some actions and dances to the music as well because they were working on a performance for the mission team who would be arriving soon.
The kids memorize scripture in Sunday School, and they were so proud to take turns sharing their favorite verses with us. These children don’t have Bibles in their homes, but they are hiding God’s word in their hearts. Could I say the same thing about myself? Sometimes the Lord uses little children to convict us.
The children excitedly come to church each week to grow in community with one another. They come to be with other people who believe in Jesus. Most of their parents are Hindu, so the church is their only support system for their Gospel-centered Faith. It’s a place that they look forward to going each week. That is what the church should be in the United States as well. A lot of times, though, we come to it with consumerist attitudes and make the church all about us and our preferences: I like it when that Pastor speaks better than this one, I prefer to sing hymns, the music needs to be more upbeat, we’ve studied this passage of scripture 7 times already, no one at church talked to ME today, why do we have to stand up so much, the Pastor went 8 minutes over today. Does any of that sound familiar? I’m talking to myself too, friends. In our culture, we have to purposely fight against consumerism and egocentricity, or it can become our way of life, even inside the walls of the church.
After Sunday School each week, the kids bring God’s love, hope, and the transforming power of Jesus back into the slums and back into their homes. They are the lights in the spiritual darkness in India, and I pray that these kids continue to share about Jesus to their families, to their friends, and to their neighbors. It only takes a spark, and I saw that spark in them. I pray that I would also continue to share about Jesus. How much easier should it be for me than for them? Sure, persecution is real in the United States, but I am not in the extreme religious minority. I am not learning things in direct opposition to what my family believes. I am not questioning huge traditions in my culture. I am not hearing stories of churches set ablaze in other parts of my country. Once again, God uses little children to teach big lessons.
We were asked to introduce ourselves and say something to the children in Sunday School. I was so overwhelmed and moved by THEIR Faith that the only thing I found to say was that I had been blessed by them. I thanked them for allowing us to be a part of their class, I told them that they were beautiful, and I prayed that they would keep following Jesus.
A lot of these kids’ parents don’t believe or agree with the message of the Gospel, but they allow their children to go to church because of Kady and her husband’s sponsorship program. Through “Love Like You Mean It,” kids are able to attend school, get clothing, learn about Jesus, learn English, and receive daily essentials. All of these things can dramatically and radically change these children’s lives, both presently and eternally. If you are looking to do some sort of charitable giving, I encourage you to consider sponsoring a child (or widow) in their program or partnering with “The Hope Home,” a safe haven for girls in India (and another one of Kady’s amazing projects in India).
After Sunday School, we went to “big church.” (Anyone else still call it that? Lol) In one of the most spiritually dark countries, we were able to come alongside other believers and praise Jesus! I may not have known all the words sung or spoken, but I know that we were worshiping together because our God is the same in Kansas City, MO USA and in Hyderabad, Telangana India. Marcus was able to share his testimony and give a challenge to the small but mighty congregation. Then Pastor Ernest, our "hospital hero" and now friend, preached the Word. We definitely missed being at our home church, but out hearts were full.
Judah may have eaten his weight in Puffs, but he did very well for being at church from 9:00-1:00, two weeks in a row. As I held my baby boy in my arms, singing to our God of the nations, I couldn’t help but be a little weepy. I will be forever grateful that Judah Mahesh was able to go to church for the first time in his own country and hear about Jesus in his native language. How amazing is that!? As I held him, I had this vision that pulled at my heartstrings. What if Judah Mahesh, who will have an easier time obtaining Indian Visas because of his heritage, comes back to India someday to share the love of Jesus in his birth city? I don’t know how or where the Lord will lead our son, but I do know that at 16 months old, God has already written an amazing story for him. I’m just thankful that I get to be a part of it.