Connect with us!

Email Newsletter Signup
Impact India 360
Do the Math

I was a part of the dedication of a new church building today. In a curious way, it was both solemn and joyful. There was equally a sense of the urgent mission given by Jesus to his Church, as well as recognition of the goodness of God in providing a place of worship. It was a 2 ½ hour event starting in the courtyard with singing, and a procession which led up the stairs to the entrance to the sanctuary. The doors were closed and a ribbon was stretched across the doorway. More singing, Scripture reading, and prayer- and finally the ribbon was cut to shouts of joy and tossing of flower petals in the air. Then the procession entered through the doors to more singing, and preaching and celebrating that went on for another 2 hours.

God has provided an amazing and very large space for the Way of Life Church in Dowlasiwaram. It sits on the same property as the Grace Children’s Home, the Sewing Training School, the Missionary Training School, and an elementary school. Just 12 years ago, it was a vacant lot. But what I really want to write about is not the church dedication, but what happened immediately after.

Once a month, the desperately poor make their way to the church to receive some help, in the form of clothing, food, or sometimes some money. Today, it was money. They waited patiently for over an hour after the service to receive a gift that would help them in the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves. As they passed by and were handed the equivalent of 3-5 US dollars in rupees, it was difficult to look them in the eyes- eyes filled with fear and distress. And yet, many smiles and gestures of gratitude, and sometimes kisses and hugs were given freely as they received the small gift. The physical condition of many of these elderly is hard to describe. Some of team members who handed them the money wept as these fragile and anguished people shuffled past and out into the brutal heat of the Indian sun. (The pink saris were given to them the month previous).

When they had all left, I thought about the church gathering, and the offering that was taken that morning. I asked how much the church might receive on a given Sunday, and was told that $5 would be normal. I asked how much money had just been given out to the poor, and was told about $500. Do the math. It doesn’t work. Someone on our team from the US pointed out the obvious- 100 times more was given out than received. How can the church survive doing that?

In that moment, it occurred to me that this is how the church has to function in a place like Dowlaiswaram, India. I have been a part of this work for 12 years now, and I have never seen this with such clarity. The church here must give more to the community than it receives, and that can only happen if the church elsewhere feels a solidarity and a responsibility for the church that is planted in the midst of poverty. The church is the church, without walls, and as was the case in the 1st Century, (see 2 Cor 8), we are responsible for each other no matter what part of the earth we find ourselves living. The church which has enough money to budget for a $20,00 video projector must shoulder the burden of the church that has no money to feed the elderly who will die without their help.

I think the earth is small in God’s eyes- one community, one Church. Geography and ethnicity makes no difference. The Body has enough collectively so that in places like India, the poor can be fed- the naked clothed, the sick cared for, the orphans and widows taken in. Read Matthew 25. Jesus does not say that this applies only if these needs are found in your neighborhood, or your hometown.

Craig Mayes

Feb 20, 2012