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India Trip Report: A Convenient Lie

India just has its way. It assaults the senses, and then stubbornly defies description, leaving the visitor simply at a loss for words. It is a nearly impossible struggle to reduce India to words on a page, to confine it within the structure of sentences and paragraphs. India simply won’t have it. The unrelenting chaos, the noisy confusion set to a constant simmer, rampant suffering, atrocious pollution, all of it and more, hits you hard in the gut and then dares you to try and describe what you feel. Good luck.

The inadequacy of words aside, what India will not deprive me of is reporting that our team trained close to 50 local pastors and church leaders on how to shepherd with love their families, ministries, and communities. In addition, on the cusp of a new school term with a new school building, we were blessed to affirm the commitment of Alpha Mission School to bring gospel-based education to the children in their community. And, we cried tears of joy as we celebrated over 20 women of the tea plantations coming to new life in Christ at our {em} women’s conference. None of this would be possible without you, our prayer and financial partners who sent us and who will continue in the coming months and years to faithfully serve our brothers and sisters who are half a world away.

In all of that, throughout our trip, one thought dangled like a loose strand in a tangled ball of yarn in many of our conversations with our ministry partners. At first, we resisted pulling this thread of thought, knowing it would only lead to more and greater tangles. It refused to be ignored, however, and so when it presented itself for the umpteenth time over our two weeks, we tugged on it and soon found ourselves deep within the twisted and snarled mess of India’s heart: karma.

Karma is the basic principle that dominates India’s collective religious thought: the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence decides their fate in future existences. In other words, everyone always gets what they deserve, like just desserts, if you will. If you are born crippled and are forced to beg for bread on the streets, you have only yourself to blame. You have gotten what you deserve, and thus no one will feel any compulsion to help you.

For many, Karma says there is nothing to be done for the 270 million people considered “poor” in India, especially those who spend their days in the degrading destitution of slum communities. They are simply getting what they deserve, and thus there is no impetus to help them. Their women need not be protected from abuse. Their children need not be educated or nurtured. Their sick need not be cared for with even the simplest of medicines or remedies. There is no point, says karma.

And that’s a very convenient lie.

Standing in stark contrast to karma’s lie are India’s Jesus-following Christians. These are those who believe not that suffering in this life is the result of wrongs done in a previous life, but instead that suffering is the result of a created order tragically broken by sin and evil. The fortitude of our friends and ministry partners in India is staggering as they look at poverty, suffering, and injustice done to the most vulnerable not with the eyes of karma, but with the heart of Jesus, not with a religious pass tucked away in their pockets, but with the compassion of our Savior.

It was Jesus who felt compassion when He looked at the crowds, hungry and far from their homes, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. It was Jesus who gave instructions to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, care about the sick and visit those imprisoned. It was Jesus who said let the little children come to Me, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them.

And unlike karma, the compassion of Jesus is a most inconvenient truth, but it is one we are all called to live out as we emulate Him in our daily lives. Not complicated, but definitely not convenient.

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