Thursday, January 12, 2017

India Day 5: To the Ends of the Earth

This post is part of a series from a Discovery Trip to visit one of Partners International's partners in Kolkata, India. JKPS works in community development, social justice, adult education and with children at risk. Resources like bikes, clean water wells, monthly partnership with a local pastor go a long way to enabling this vital ministry to the Bengali people.

One of the biggest blessings of travelling with teams is the opportunity to interact in remote villages around the country. There's something beautiful that happens when completely different cultures mix for a few fleeting moments. Taking two separate, unique, wonderful colours and combining them together to create something new.

The morning began with a long, bumpy, swerving drive through the roads, highways and suburbs of India. If you've never experienced the terrifying thrill of an Indian road, it is truly a hard thing to describe. There is a beautiful rhythm to the undulations of the road that makes Samba look like the two step. Lanes are the long faded echo of a suggestion. Pedestrians, bikes, buses, trucks, rickshaws and motorbikes all move together in a chaotic dance.

In the two or three hours we were on the road, we saw countless 'near misses' of vehicles swerving back onto their side of the road with inches to spare. Numerous pedestrians nearly lost their lives to traffic accelerating through crowded town streets. Women with children stepped onto the road with no care to the oncoming javelin of metal.

It is truly something you have to experience to understand -- but you likely won't want to.

As we pulled up to the ferry dock, loaded, and floated down the delta of the Ganges the bustling assault of the urban environment fell behind to a peaceful tour through Mangrove trees. This is truly the dichotomy of India, old and new, rich and poor, educated and illiterate and urban and remote all mixed together.

The remote nature of the Sundarban Islands is what makes them a prime target for traffickers. These are islands home to a massive amount of people, many of whom live hand to mouth day by day. Wide swaths of them are illiterate, and live an incredibly simple life. Yet even though they live a relatively remote and unique life, they share a common trait with the rest of the human race: they want the best for their children.

Parents want their kids to have a possibility for the future, through education and work. This noble desire is exploited for nefarious purposes by traffickers. Hope is turned to despair as they offer the world, and deliver hell for these young women. A housekeeping job in the city with a future becomes the worst kinds of emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse. What was innocent and free is stolen maliciously from young children.

The anger of God burns.

How is the church to respond, then? What does salt and light look like?

As the team disembarked from the boat, and trekked over the uneven mud dyke, we left behind the glimmers of a modern world and entered a simpler time. Brick, mud, tin and straw homes awaited us. Beautiful, simple people who cared little for the political maneuverings of global governments and only about where their next meal would come from smiled at us. Young girls giggled and ran as we tried to capture their photo; then followed us closer and closer as we walked.

It is beautiful. A people and island that has never before been reached for the gospel. Hundreds of thousands of people that are awaiting the good news that their chains have been broken, that their spiritual captivity has been ransomed. They can be free.

The important work of JKPS has been to establish relationships with local people, introducing them to the Good News of freedom in Christ over the past years. This island's work began two years ago, and today there are families that are following Christ, but have not yet been baptized.

We met in the year of one such family, who organized the meeting. We shared the simple message of freedom, and then took a back seat as the Mahima program staff used the relationship of the evangelist to talk about Human Trafficking. The people were provided with simple information about the horrors of abuse, numbers they can call, and how to prevent their girls falling victim.

It was a start. A steady march forward against the kingdom of darkness. Where others have thought it was too hard to be worthwhile, the Lord only sees lost people.

This is the mission of the church, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Sometimes that means reaching over the fence to speak with our neighbour, and others driving for hours, hopping a ferry and walking into a remote village. The distance is irrelevant - the heart is what makes the difference.

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