people are not objects to be won.

It is raining outside. Not a little drizzle, but a real rain. Living in the California desert in the middle of a drought makes this precious and wonderful. I have spent hours these rainy days sitting by windows watching the rain fall and listening to its soft patter on the ground. The land has been parched and is in need of this soft but steady rain to soften the soil, feed the plants, and fill the reservoirs. No drop is unappreciated. The hills are becoming green and full of life.

rain

As I sit watching the rain come down, giving life to this region, my mind wanders back to just a couple weeks ago when I was in a very different land experiencing beauty and life in a different way. My body was sick – in need of meds and rehydration. My night had been restless and painful, and the morning found me unsure if it was wise to leave the guesthouse. (I talk about this run-in with disease HERE.) But I had only one day to go to the field with this specific team, and so I did what I could and prepared to go into the field, hoping it would be worth my time, but also hoping we could make it a short day.

As we set out across town and headed into the hills, I began to gather that it would be anything but a short day. The little van we were in had seats that faced each other, and so I was face to face with my host, Vikash, when what I really wanted was to close my eyes and get some sleep. It was a little bit like being in the desert – I was tired and dry, but in this case, I did not know what it was that would fill me up that day.

I asked what I thought was a simple question, “How does your organization work? And are the home churches growing?” What followed was a lesson on culture and loving people that was food and water for my soul.

“People are not objects to be won. They need to know we love them.”

In two short sentences, Vikash had changed the foundation of a discussion that would last the day. He comes from the highest caste, the caste of priests. One day he found a book on his uncle’s shelves – a book of Bible stories that would forever impact his life. Both he and his uncle loved to read, but Vikash knew the stories to be true, and this launched his life into a new direction.

As we drove the countryside, Vikash pointed to a building, “That’s a church. I know because it is a different building, using western style windows. Why did they do that?” I could hear his heart become heavy as he talked about Christians being different – not because of their love, but because of how they lost their culture. Of buildings that looked like western churches, songs with tunes and chords from distant lands, of greetings foreign to the villages. When he found a church, Vikash too followed these practices as it was all he knew.

But now, he teaches something different. God is the God of the universe. He is outside of culture and he is in culture. He loved so much as to give His son, His life. No big church buildings and foreign songs. No greetings that separate you and leave others estranged. Instead, he encourages people to keep their cultural heritage — gatherings that meet in homes, use local music with new words, and greetings that include others. Every year these home churches come together and share and celebrate new life together, encouraging one another. Vikash points to the home churches found in the Bible, of Jews and gentiles who both held their own traditions while becoming new.

No, people are not objects to be won. We truly must let them know we love them. Period.

On this day when my body was sick and tired, my soul was fed with rich and fragrant food. Vikash, a man from the line of Hindu priests, provided hours of teaching on how to truly love, on how to worship, and how to live. His words were strong, and his actions as we visited homes and walked through communities even stronger. We are to love.

Some days it is the rain that feeds, and some days it is the words that feed. Both have the ability to bring life and fill reservoirs. Today, I am thankful for both.

warm welcomes in south asia

In the last two and a half weeks, I have visited communities in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India. South Asia is a new discovery for me, and it has been rich with flavors, smells, textures, colors, and all-around beauty.

I have been welcomed so warmly in each location, and I wish I could have spent longer to share stories, particularly with the women I met. These warm welcomes have included flowers, drinks, and food. One of the new things for me has been being greeted with flowers – single flowers, small bouquets, garlands, and flower petals (tossed both on and at my head). I love the beauty. In homes, I was regularly greeted with sugary tea made fresh when we showed up at their door, and a few times, with fresh coconut water. At my last stop of the trip, Jyotshna decided to not only make tea, but suddenly sweet dough was being fried up as well for a warm and yummy treat.

It has been fun to be welcomed so openly and with such warmth. It has made me think about how I choose to welcome visitors who show up at my door – both the expected and unexpected. I hope I exhibit some of the warmth that I felt on this trip.

Here is a little photo journey of some of those welcomes.

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My first flower garland… in Sri Lanka.

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These flowers were on a table, but similar ones were tossed at me as well.

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Coconut water: sometimes in the coconut, sometimes poured into a glass.

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May the sugary tea commence, sometimes in beautiful tea cups.

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Green papaya fresh from the garden, served with salt. (One of many fruits I was served, most were not documented.)

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Making fresh fried dough… oh so yummy.

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A wonderful little feast at my last visit for this trip in Assam, India.