This article first appeared on the Baptist Union web site which you can see here.
I was invited to answer questions in my children’s school yesterday on why I am a Baptist minister and what it is like serving as President of the BUGB. I wasn’t expecting it, but most of the questions turned out to be about my visit to Kolkata from last week. My children had proudly bragged to their friends at school that I was away helping people in India.
One boy asked, ‘what was the first thing you did when you arrived in India?’ ‘I got off the
plane.’ I coolly answered. Don’t fear though, I won’t regale you with minute by minute tales of what happened from the moment I landed, but rather I hope this months blog may inspire you as I share some of the things I saw our big-hearted God doing through his people and the work of BMS world mission. It wasn’t a case of me going to India to help people as my children had thought, but rather I found God teaching me through the extraordinary way people serve Him in Kolkata. And like the founder of all things BMS, and to re-use Carey’s oft coined phrase I learnt afresh that I should expect great things from God and attempt great things for Him too.
In Kolkata I saw people have a hunger for the ‘spiritual.’ It’s written all over the culture, people seeking purpose of life through veneration of countless gods and appeasement through sacrifices and offerings. As for the new Christians I met, many of whom had converted from Hinduism, I saw a hunger for experiencing the living God like I had never seen before. After one service I took part in with BMS world mission supported Big Life Ministries, I offered prayer for healing for anyone who needed a miracle. Thinking like an Englishman I imagined a few people who would politely and quietly ask for prayer. However, I was swamped with people who had desperate pleas for God to do something. I could have carried on praying with people all day, but after an hour of constant prayer, we had to leave the rented building! Many people expected God to do something miraculous in their lives. Quite frankly for many of the people I met, if Jesus doesn’t do something, they are well and truly snookered. There simply isn’t the option of going to hospital or making an appointment with their local GP. Wonderfully I saw God touch people dramatically and some people that I prayed for declared that God had healed them.
When I visited a village 3 hours away by boat and jeep, I saw this kind of desperate hunger in first time hearers of the good news. One lady painfully hobbled from her home to see who the white visitors were who had descended upon the village. As she approached I felt God say that I should offer to pray for her. While I was deliberating how I could communicate this she walked right up to me and asked whether I would visit her home. After a painful walk back we sat on simple mats among the chickens and ducks and I shared stories of Jesus. Many gathered to hear, there was such a keenness to hear more and people asked for bibles and for Christians to visit again. Before leaving I had the privilege of praying with the woman who couldn’t walk unaided. What a privilege.
I want to take back to my contexts this expectancy that what I have as a Christian is worth having. You see in a UK context, I see people hunger for the spiritual, albeit in a different way. It’s written all over our culture, people seeking purpose of life through possessions, appearance and material success. My prayer is for those who are searching and longing for purpose all around me, that they may find it though the good news of Jesus seeping out of me.
In our season of cut backs and re-imagining what we could be and how we may function as a union, I hope and pray that we may have more expectancy as we attempt to do new things with God partnering with Him in His mission. There is a purpose for these painful times: mission. As a union, may we be expectant of what God wants to do through us to reach those who are gagging for good news.