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Lifting Spirits

A Hot Afternoon in India

Story and photography by Patrick Ryan

It was a sultry day under the Indian sun. I still question why we decided to spend a few months in southern India during the hottest time of year. An uncomfortable, warm gust of wind hit my cheek and reminded me of the layer of sweat and dirt stuck to my face. A slight grin peeked out from the corner of my mouth. But while we walked down a dirt road, I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I felt right at home.

I worked with groups overseas in ministry for over two years before that trip. During that time, I had the privilege of partnering with local churches in various countries. Some months, we trained local believers on how to read the Bible and have a relationship with God; other times, we helped students learn English. This month looked quite different.

The church we were with wanted us to help them introduce Jesus to everyone in their state. If you know anything about India, you know a state contains an immense number of people.

India is one of the most spiritually driven places in the world. There are a plethora of temples on the streets where people will stop to pray or leave food offerings for the many gods. You don’t have to walk far before you pass one. India is also a place where apathy, discrimination, disease, and physical ailments are prevalent.

Most Indians are people who constantly search to find more meaning in life. Sadly, they’re often searching in the wrong places. Jesus is the only place where you can find true peace and joy. Our Indian friends in that southern area wanted to bring the love of God to everyone they met. A local believer, Sai, had his life completely changed when he met Jesus. Since then, he has spent time learning more about the good news of the Lord and wanted to start his work in an outcast village. He had been planning to move there to begin his ministry. The day we went was his first day there.

Together with the local Indian believers, we made our way to the village. They had told the villagers we were coming, so our friends told us to expect traditional Indian hospitality—and let me say, Southern hospitality in America is great and all, but they ain’t got nothin’ on India!

As we turned the corner, I looked up to see a mass of people taking over the road. All of a sudden, the sound of old drums filled my ears, followed by shouts and singing. Children rushed to hand us flowers, and people threw petals everywhere. It was like the Fourth of July, but with more dancing, jumping, and singing and an absence of red, white, and blue flags. The entire village was in the street, and for the next hour, we danced and drank chai as we slowly made our way through the town. These people never have visitors because the old caste system in India had labeled them as “untouchables.”

The Spirit of God spoke to the people of this village who once were let down trying to find fulfillment and deliverance from Hindu gods.

We made our way to an open area filled with seating, where a feast was to be held. We washed our hands first, and then the villagers provided us with a wonderful traditional meal. I couldn’t help but smile through the sweat that comes from spicy Indian food: vegetables, curry, spices, rice—and no cutlery in sight!

Sai started to share the love of God and good news of Jesus with these people. They were about to become his family. As we prayed for people, I witnessed pain leaving their bodies, bones miraculously mending, the blind seeing again, and joy taking the place of emotional hurt. The Spirit of God spoke to the people of this village who once were let down trying to find fulfillment and deliverance from Hindu gods. They had a life-changing encounter with the Creator God, and their lives will never be the same. Sai was ecstatic about his first day in the village. He was nervous about the challenges he would face, but God answered his worries by revealing Himself in a powerful way almost immediately!

I realized something that day: I’m not so different from those people in India. I look for fulfillment in many different things. Like many Americans, I struggle with depression and anxiety. Why?

I would argue that we look to all the wrong things to help soothe the hurts of life: money, overworking, social media, isolation, alcohol, and other things. All of these seem to help at the moment, but the next morning comes, and we are left with the same feeling or thought we had before: there’s got to be more. We wish we could find it.

Here’s the thing—there is more! God wants so much more for you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He doesn’t want you to wonder whether there’s more to this life than what you’re living, because He is the more. If you feel like something is missing from your life right now, Jesus is right there at your door waiting for you to let Him in. Ask for His help, and I promise you He will answer.

Then, when you find that extra strength to take on the day, there’s a world out there that needs to experience love, and you can help it. Smile at a stranger, compliment someone, and make people feel like they matter. You never know what someone is going through.

Here’s to many more moments like that hot summer afternoon in India.

— V —

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