Seeds on an Island
We crossed over to another island this morning on the ferry boat. Almost 300 people were jammed on the boat with many standing. I didn’t get a seat, but sat on a box of Bibles we were bringing to pass out to the church planters. After docking, we rented another taxi and off we went to a small house church. Most vehicles live by the horn here. The air is filled with a cacophony of sound as different vehicles warn each other as well as pedestrians that they should get out of the way! Ponds dug out in front of most houses here in the Sunderban Islands are prevalent. On average they are 60 x 40 feet in size and 10 feet deep. As the dry season soon ends and the rains get ready to fall, many ponds have a low water level. The water gets used for raising fish, watering gardens, washing clothes, and maybe swimming for teens. Honestly, the ponds look very stagnant and uninviting. This part of India is quite tropical, with banana trees, coconut palms, and bamboo everywhere. As you go through a village the main road usually passes the market place where vendors of all sorts present and peddle their colorful fruits and vegetables. The mangoes are plentiful right now and so very sweet! The ladies seem to prefer bright red and orange colors for their saris. This helps eclipse the drabness of the faded buildings, the dirt & dust, and rubbish strewn about everywhere. Mangy dogs lie sleeping on the crowded roadside and a cow stands with his head inside a shop that sells sweets. By contrast, our roads and highways seem almost plain and boring!
In one village we met a couple of brothers who wanted to donate a piece of land next to their home to build a church. Before we went into the house they cut a hole in some coconuts so we could enjoy a drink. Next to the house was a bamboo structure with 75 baby chicks they raise for food and to sell. The family came to faith when our ECC church planter shared the Gospel, explaining the death of Jesus on the Cross to forgive our sins. The message rang true in their hearts and they put their faith in the Savior. Their lives now exude enthusiasm and determination to serve the Lord. We met with a group of 20 or so new Christians that meet weekly in their house for worship. Young and old sat on the dirt floor covered with straw mats. I really enjoyed sharing the story of Jesus when he calmed the violent storm on the Galilean Sea, after his disciples woke him up in the boat. He asked them why they were so afraid, when they should have had faith.
Often Satan tries to take our eyes off Jesus by enflaming our fears. Later in the afternoon one brother and his wife joined the training session we gave at another location. We were welcomed with flower garlands around our necks and young girls doing graceful dances portraying God’s love in Christ. Greg and I have been using the life of Nehemiah to teach them principles about wise and godly leadership. Today we trained 27 men and women. So far 16 house churches have been established on this island. I challenged them to each find a person of peace (see Luke 10) in a new village by June 30 and multiply 100 churches in the next 2 years. Greg has also been presenting Bibles given through ECC with money his church provided. It is heart-warming to see how they treasure their first Bible with both the Old and New Testaments.
For lunch we ate at a rundown looking restaurant near the beach where hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims come at a certain festival time each year to bathe in the head waters of the Ganges River. The owner, Ratan Panda and his wife seemed so pleased to have 2 Americans eating the preparations of their humble kitchen. He kept bringing out different dishes of food and then standing nearby to see how we liked it. His smile was contagious and showed his reddish teeth, stained from chewing beetle nut.
I thanked him and took a photo of him and his wife. Then I mentioned that I wanted to tell him about someone who loves him very much. I went on to share in very simple fashion, the love of Jesus who died on a cross and rose from the dead to forgive their sins. He didn’t comment, but listened and then went back to work. I am praying for the seed planted to take root in his heart.