For those of you who have been to India, or have read about it, you know that it is a country filled with diversity. The plains of Tamil Nadu, the endless rice fields of Andhra, the rolling hills of Orissa, the majestic Himalayan foothills of Northern West Bengal, the pineapple groves spread across the hillsides in Assam…India is a land of great geographic diversity.
Akin to the geographic diversity are the vast number of cultures and languages that pepper the country. With somewhere around 2,500 distinct people groups speaking some 1,600 languages and dialects, India is truly an ethno-kaleidoscope!
But not only does India possess great geographic and cultural diversity, it is also a land which espouses a great diversity of gods. Hinduism ranks among the top religions in the world in terms of adherents. The caste system, karma, yoga, and reincarnation are all terms which find their source and meaning within the Hindu context. Hindu deities are many, and allegiances to these deities may vary based upon one’s family, community, location, or caste. Pujas (Hindu festivals) are common. During my time here I have had the opportunity to observe in close proximity the playing out of one of these pujas known as the “Durga Puja” – a holiday dedicated to the goddess “Durga”. Worshippers, faces painted purple, move in slow procession down the street, dancing (at times almost in a frenzy), while music blares from a nearby audio system. It’s a disturbing thing to observe.
Most of our orphans in India (and Nepal) come out of Hindu backgrounds. In some way – either recommendation by a local church pastor, divine intervention, or good old-fashioned luck – these kids have somehow ended up in a Christian orphanage. They have been given a second chance at life. Colossians 1:13 comes to mind which says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son He loves”. Life is different for these kids now. They have a safe place to live, caretakers that love them, good food to eat, and good clothes to wear. They go to school, and they hear about Jesus and have the opportunity to begin a new life with Him. Many choose to do so.
Many of these kids have living relatives, and it is not uncommon for a visit “home” from time-to-time. During these visits the kids are reminded of the life they once lived. Nothing has changed for their relatives, however. They still live in physical poverty and spiritual darkness. They continue to faithfully perform the rites and rituals inherent to the worship of their particular Hindu god(s), and they expect their visitors to do likewise. Imagine the shock when the answer is, “No! I will not!”
This is exactly what happened in the case of two of our teenage orphans, brothers who have embraced New Life in Christ, and refused (like Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego) to bow a knee to a pagan god. Instead, they shared with their family members about Jesus. Wow – what faith! What courage!
These brothers are living their faith outside the orphanage walls. They are the “light of the world” that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:14. This type of bold, courageous witness is what we desire of, and pray for, each of our orphans in each of our orphanages. We want to see them go forth one day (even now) as His envoys of light into a very dark world. Doesn’t mean they all will be full-time Christian workers when they grow up. Most probably will not. But, no matter where God sends them or how He uses them, it is our prayer that they will be full-time Christians – brightly shining the Light of the Gospel to those around.
“Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘…we have not need to answer you in this matter…let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16,18).
I was inspired by these two orphans that I met, a modern-day “Shadrach and Meschach”. Unafraid to stand up for Christ. Unafraid to say “no” in the face of pressure to bow. Pretty impressive.