I am in India this week. My husband, Terry, is teaching pastors and their wives. I am supporting with video, pictures, prayer, and the like. I like my support role. I find it peaceful to record the stories as I listen to the people talk. I love watching their faces as they connect through the translator with Terry’s American stories.
Yesterday, we listened to them tell us their stories. I have done this in the past when meeting new pastors. Many of them are heartbreaking…almost beaten to death, rejected by their families and cast out to live on the streets by their own parents because of their faith in Christ, being sold into prostitution, alcoholism, drug addiction, attempts at suicide and much more. I have found a single thread that runs almost every story. They just wanted peace.
Life is pretty simple here. You work to get your food and clothing for each day. Your expectations, if you have any, are low and simply based on improving your life. You don’t have many other possessions. Although they drive like maniacs, it is a much slower pace of life in some sense. But many of the people don’t experience any rest or peace.
Perhaps their lack of peace is due to the fact that 3.2 million people live in the same land area as my hometown of Corsicana – population 25,000. The city literally never sleeps. Or could it be because they have no assurance of what tomorrow will bring and no way to plan for it? The day before we arrived they had an unseasonable amount of rainfall accompanied by a hailstorm. Now their crops are ruined and the cost of food has gone up 100%. Their lack of peace might also be due to their religion that offers the impossible task of appeasing a variety of gods that are “unpleasable”. They have a deterministic outlook on life, because that same religion teaches that everyone will get another chance in their next life.
Another common thread in their stories is the sense of instantaneous peace they find when they meet Jesus. The look on their entire face as they share that experience is both breathtaking and overwhelming. The local pastor, Trevor, says that people can recognize a believer just by looking at their face. He says it is because they see peace and light.
In the midst of this newly found peace, their life circumstances still do not change. They still work every day for the food they need. Some days they go without. They wear the same clothes every day. They travel hundreds of miles for 2-3 days just to hear someone teach God’s word, always in very rough conditions and sometimes experiencing persecution. But they are at peace.
Maybe that is why I like coming here so much. I sense God’s peace in a very dark place. I wish I could bottle it and bring it home with me. When I return home, I always find myself starting to rush and be anxious about the things I need to get done. And I am supposed to know better! I am praying that God will give me peace as I return, and remind me to bring my anxious thoughts to him like my brothers and sisters here in India.
So as I am finishing up, I’m thinking, “Do people who are in darkness around us see peace and light when they look at our faces?
John 14:27 My peace I leave with you….
Tina Jacobson is founder and CEO of The Barnabas Agency.