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 (Manna 36: Prayer)
God Will Make a Way: Impressions of a Trip to India
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Despite the gospel having been preached to India for around thirty years, there is still no proper religious education (RE) system there. RE classes in these churches have only started in the recent years, and they are still in infancy. The India Mission Committee hopes to implement a concrete RE system, and they have started by holding a Religious Education Training Course from May 16 to May 24, 2001.

Four church members including a pastor and a sister from West Malaysia, a sister from Taiwan, and myself from Singapore were the lecturers for this training course. The purpose of this seminar was to train at least one member from each church to impart some form of RE to the children through proper RE classes and set up. Approximately twenty trainees from five churches (Thirunelai, Thiruvittyor, Chengalpet, Pammal, Ambattu) and an orphanage participated in this seminar. Their ages ranged from the early teens to the sixties. The theme of the seminar was "All for Jesus and the Next Generation," and topics covered included psychology, counseling, children's hymns, activities, pedagogy, and the RE Teacher’s Manual.

The training seminar was held at the India Theological Training Centre located in Ambattu (a small town in Chennai, India), but we did get to visit our churches in Pammal, Thirunelai, Ambattu, Thiruvottiyur, and Chengalput church. The Pammal church has the most comprehensive RE system, with classes from kindergarten to intermediate youths. The Ambattu church has RE on Sunday morning, but there is only one class for children between the ages five and twelve. Only 8-10 of the children are baptized members of our church, and the rest are non-members, mostly relatives of church members. They enjoy listening to the Bible stories and singing hymns. The rest of the churches do not have RE classes, but sometimes there is someone to tell Bible stories to the children.

Permission Granted

This trip all began with an e-mail: "...can you please help out in the Special Religious Education Teachers?Training course in India. We need someone to take charge of the music and activity sessions. The course will be conducted in May...

When this message popped up in my in-box, I was a swirling cauldron of thoughts and mixed feelings. I was really happy because I was finally given an opportunity to help out in the divine work in India. I was also very thankful to God for giving me this opportunity. Yet, there was a sense of fear—for one thing, this would be my first time lecturing RE teachers. All along I had only been teaching RE students! For another, I was afraid that I would not be able to adapt to living conditions in India.

However, above all, the most crucial point for me was obtaining permission from my parents for the trip. Although my parents are believers of our church, their love and parental instinct naturally make them very protective of their children. They were extremely worried that I would not be able to take the living conditions in India. I was worried that their worry would translate into adamant refusal to let me go, and I did not want to defy them. So I knew that only God could move them to allow me to go, that only God could make a way for me. The testimonies of sisters who had been to Africa were also a great source of encouragement. My co-worker shared this with me, saying, "God looks at our hearts. When He sees that you sincerely want to serve Him, He would surely make a way for you." Indeed, if we stand on the side of God, would He not make a way for us? With this simple belief, I put this matter into my daily prayer.

One month passed very quickly. I soon received another e-mail requesting an answer. I knew that I could not push off seeking my parents?consent anymore. Hence, one evening, I plucked up all my courage and brought it up. To my amazement, all they asked were, "Whom would you be going with? When would you be going?" That was it! No interrogation, no hesitation, no objections at all! I was truly amazed at how quickly they agreed. Deep down I knew that it was indeed God who had paved a way for me.

Each of us is but a useless vessel (2 Tim 2:20-22). Our strength and abilities are insignificant. But God looks not at how much we can do nor how capable we are. What He looks at is our heart. Is there a burning desire to serve Him? Is there a willing heart? When we have a willing and sincere heart, He will surely make a way for us. He did for me.

Preparing for the Trip

After my trip to India had been confirmed, I set out to find out more about India, a country located in the South Asian sub-continent. Reading through the International Assembly handbook, I came across this description about India: "The temperature in India between May and June can reach up to and above 45ºC (113ºF)." Prior to this, I had heard preachers who had been there talking about how hot Indian weather could get. One might even become dehydrated!

I have suffered from a serious case of eczema since childhood, and heat has always been my greatest "enemy". (Eczema is an itchy, dry, hypersensitive skin disorder. It appears in the form of an inflamed rash, which is often accompanied by an intense itching. Hot weather and dust often worsens the condition.) In hot weather, I would start perspiring, rashes would surface on various parts of my body and I would start to itch. Even in the tropical climate of Singapore where the temperature rarely rises above 35ºC (95ºF), this was a serious problem--what more India where the temperature could exceed 45ºC (113ºF)! Again, I knew that only God could help sort out a way. Hence, I added this to my daily prayer list.

Knowing my condition and how hot India could be, many loving sisters hunted down ways to cool me down and relieve me of my itch. They gave me "prickly heat powder," a cap, "Magic Cool" (a spray which cools the body), Fisherman Throat Lozenges (one sister taught me to suck a lozenge in my mouth and then drink water, which would cool me down considerably. And it worked indeed!). A sister also recommended a kind of bath lotion that curbed itchiness. Many hands of prayer were lifted up for me. Even a little 3-year-old church sister told me she had asked God to help me be less hot and itchy. I was really moved by their gestures of thoughtfulness and love. May the Lord remember all their kindness.

Furthermore, I gathered from travel guides and hearsay that it was normal for one to run for the toilet the first few days of stay in India, as one’s stomach might need some time to adjust and adapt to the spicy food. So I brought along a considerable amount of diarrhea pills and dehydration salt just in case?/p>

One day before I left for India, a deacon who had just returned reported that the temperature on the day he left was already 43ºC (109ºF). (That was at the beginning of May. The weather was supposed to get even hotter in June!) No doubt I was scared, but I knew that God would take care of us.

Nothing Is Impossible with God

During my two-week stay in India, I truly experienced that "With God nothing is impossible" (Lk 1:37). Often I could feel perspiration dripping down my body even when I was seated, lecturing in the classroom. But the heat did not bother me nor hinder me in my work at all. And the most amazing thing was that there were no rashes and no itch! To many, this might seem like nothing really significant, but to me, it was miraculous. God had made possible what had seemed impossible to me!

Deep down inside many of us, there have been times when we thought of doing something for the Lord. However, before we have even begun, we come up with a long list of the possible difficulties and problems that we might encounter. At the end of the day, we become so overwhelmed by this list that we decide we would never be able to do it. So we give up without even giving it a try. We do not give God a chance to work; we do not let Him make a way for us!

In order to acquire the promised land flowing with milk and honey, the Israelites needed to cross the river of Jordan. According to human logic, one should cross the river only when the depth of the river is at its lowest, when the current would not be that strong. But God wanted the Israelites to cross the river when it was overflowing (Jos 3:15), when the current was the strongest. The Israelites must have been worried about how their children might be swept away; how their foodstuff might get wet; how the ark of the covenant might be damaged by the current…but when they believed and trusted in the Lord and took the first step, God made a way for them: "And the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water, and the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam... (Jos 3:15,16).

It is often difficult for us to take the first step because we tend to walk by sight and not by faith. Frequently, we look at the strong current and the overflowing water, not at the omnipotent power of God and his omnipresent help. Let us therefore be resolved to take this first step to serve the Lord. Believe that "God will make a way where there seems to be no way, He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me!" God can stop the flow of the river water (Jos 3:15,16), He can also give rain (1 Kgs 18:41-46); God can raise the dead to life (Jn 11:38-44), He can also take away one’s life (Acts 5:1-11); God can give the blind eyesight (Mk 10:46-52), He can also heal the lame (Acts 3:1-10); God can walk on water (Matt 14:25); He can also calm the wind and the waves (Lk 8:22-25). God can heal a woman of the flow of blood (Matt 9:20-22), He can let another not itch…what else is there that God cannot do? Hence, let us just trust in Him, take the first step, and see how He makes a way for us.

Spirit of Learning and Love for God

Something which left a great impression on me was the spirit of learning of the students, especially a few sisters who were in their 50s and 60s. The lessons began at 6:40 a.m. and often stretched into the night, about 8:30 p.m. Because time was short, sometimes sessions were even conducted after dinner at 9:30 p.m. But the Indian brethren continued to listen with intense concentration. Rarely did they doze off, not even in the hot, summer afternoon. This is indeed worthy of our emulation.

Because of the shortage of working personnel, some of the students also had to double up as duty personnel. One morning, I noticed that one of the elderly sisters came into class quite late. I was quite surprised because for the past week, she had always come to class early, even before the lesson had begun. As the students were supposed to have their practical sessions that day, I thought that she might have been busy preparing for the session. It was only when I spoke to her later in the day did I realize that she had actually rushed to the market early in the morning to get all the food needed for the day before rushing back to attend lessons again! She went to bed late after preparing for the practical sessions but woke up early to go to the market and was still attentive during the lesson. Her love for the Lord and spirit of learning truly touched me.

How many of us are guilty of not wanting to take part in church courses or seminars because we would have to wake up early and go to bed late? How many of us are guilty of dozing off during lessons? Indeed, we have much to learn from our Indian brethren in their spirit of learning and love for the Lord.

Little Grace + Blessings = a Great Miracle

When I returned to Singapore, there was a sister who asked me to recount any great signs or miracles which took place during my stay in India. I thought for a while and replied that there was none. No doubt, I did not see nor experience any great signs or miracles during my stay in India. But to me the little grace and blessings that God had showered upon me daily added up to a very great miracle indeed.

God’s little gifts: Getting up every morning. (This was something I appreciated anew especially when I heard one day during my stay in India that once, more than forty people died from the intense heat.) Not itching. Adapting to the food quickly. Health and wisdom to conduct lessons everyday. Enabling the participants to concentrate even in the hot afternoons. Rain to cool the surrounding. (May and June in India is supposed to be the driest and hottest season when there would be very little or no rainfall at all. But God gave us "showers of blessings" during our stay there. In our two-week stay there, there were four days of downpour. As the Indian brethren said, "This kind of rain only comes during the monsoon season. You have brought the rain with you!" God was indeed gracious to us, to give us these showers that made the weather much cooler.)

The list of God’s grace is endless. Here then is the great miracle, a daily reiteration of God’s presence. As hymn 90 says, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!" God has truly given more to us more than what we asked for!

In Jesus Christ We Are One Family

Although I came from Singapore, a multi-racial country, apart from my few years in primary school, I had hardly any contact with Indians. And the few occasions that I actually did interact with them were unfortunately all unpleasant experiences. Hence, it was with much apprehension that I made this trip to India.

However, the spirit and love of Jesus Christ is amazing indeed--it truly binds us as one family in Him. The older brethren treated me like their daughter, pinching my cheeks from time to time, buying fruits and cakes for me, making my rice into balls for me (because I had difficulty eating with my hands!). The younger brethren treated me like a sister, sharing their life of faith with me, putting jasmine flowers into my hair for me, teaching me how to make Indian coffee and tea. Knowing that we were not really used to spicy food, some kind and thoughtful brethren in India went to the trouble of preparing less spicy food for us. With this, coupled with God’s care, none of us needed to make frequent visits to the toilet.

It was truly wonderful how the spirit of the Lord enables us, His children, to become one in Him regardless of nationality, skin color, or language. Though this was only a short trip of two weeks, the close relationship developed with these brethren would always be cherished and fondly remembered. For all this, I truly thank the Lord for His grace and wonderful arrangements, as well as for the love and care of the Indian brethren.

May all praise and glory be given unto our heavenly Father. Above all, let us never forget that "God will make a way, where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me."

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Publisher: True Jesus Church