Mike Schrage, Executive Director
You can see similar sites in many cities in India. Along the sides of its busy streets, you find skinny dogs scrounging in the garbage, boisterous cows with broken horns owning the roads, and the constant barrage of tooting horns from cars warning riders on two-wheeled transportation of who is faster, bigger, and very close.
Those who aren’t speeding by from one place to the next go about their lives too. A few fortunate citizens who are part of shining India talk on one of the multiple mobile phones they use, shop at local malls, or get in their Toyota SUVs. Then you have the members of suffering India. They struggle for a few rupees each day by picking up garbage, driving rickshaws built for two, or doing dangerous construction for a new downtown freeway.
These diverse paths converge onto a shared religious heritage. Monks trek from Myanmar to visit the elite temple where many of the world’s half-billion Buddhists believe Buddha delivered his first sermon. Other visitors pay homage to prayer wheels, a holy tree, scores of statues, and exceptional artwork on the temple walls which depict heavenly stories.
Located a short 15 minutes away we find a ghat or a broad set of steps leading down to the Ganges river. Wealthy families built these paths, which for 2,000 years have led families every hour of the day, as they bring their loved ones who have passed away to the water’s edge. They believe you can place a burned body in the Ganges to ensure a fast track to Heaven.
These complex Hindu religious systems for Buddhists and the billion Hindus who call India home aren’t alone among the people’s beliefs. Though they number a billion throughout the world, Muslims who stop to pray at the booming call from the mosques are much smaller in number here. There are even fewer of the poor but dedicated Christians.
A new day for India is dawning, though. It appears the Christian movement, seemingly ineffective for 2,000 years, is beginning to gain momentum. Disciplined prayer and work by faithful believers over the long season has sparked a small flame in a culture, which seems to find a connection with the humble baby born in a manger so long ago.
Out of the fog that hovers over the worship on the Ganges, there’s a clarity emerging from the “guru” Jesus to whom Christ-followers pledge their allegiance. In India’s quest for spiritual answers, this sinless man who lived a seemingly poor and insignificant life for 33 years inspires hope. This new flicker in the lives of a searching people is quietly finding traction among so many who can relate to the suffering Savior.
Spiritual darkness covers India. Yet Christians who meet, often secretly, in small groups to pray, serve, and disciple are bringing light. Hope is dawning for a future, spiritually shining, India.