ARGod Will Make a Way: Impressions of a Trip to IndiaImpressions of a sister’s trip to India to assist in a training seminarA sister describes how God paves the way for her to assist in a training course for religious education teachers in India. She ends up learning from the students’ conscientiousness and their love for God. This trip teaches her that God’s Spirit enables His children to become one in Him regardless of nationality, skin color, or language.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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."