Taking Back More Than They Could Give
This is some insight from a People-to-People pilgrimage group from Atlanta, GA that traveled to India. This was a group that was hit with culture shock, and the expectations of coming on a mission camp were completely different from what they expected. They came wanting to be put to work immediately and realized very bluntly that they would be taking back more than they could give.
Below is some insight from a People-to-People pilgrimage group from Atlanta, GA that traveled to India. This was a group that was hit with culture shock, and the expectations of coming on a mission camp were completely different from what they expected. They came wanting to be put to work immediately and realized very bluntly that they would be taking back more than they could give.
One month ago today we were ringing in the new year, and I was sitting half way around the world in the Christian Church of Mungeli, India. Even though the words spoken were unrecognizable Hindi, there were some comfortably familiar sights as I gazed around the sanctuary: wooden pews filled with worshippers, Bibles and hymnals in their hands; the open communion table; a temperamental sound system that worked intermittently, and the cadence of the Lord’s Prayer-recognizable even when spoken in a language foreign to my ears. My eyes came to rest upon the wooden cross on the table and I reflected on how this symbol of Christianity had taken on a new meaning for me recently. In learning of the concepts of vertical and horizontal faith, I have come to look at the cross as a symbolic representation of these 2-dimensions of faith.
VERTICAL faith is about one’s relationship with God; an awareness of God’s teachings and his presence in your life.
HORIZONTAL faith is about sharing those vertical discoveries; serving outside our comfort zone; reaching out and touching others with God’s love.
TRUE faith needs both components: our love and action (the horizontal piece) is grounded in the love we receive from God (which we discover through the vertical piece). Without the horizontal piece, there is a disconnect between faith and life!
For me, the cross has become a beautiful, visual depiction of vertical and horizontal faith.
So, I went to India to try out my horizontal faith! As guests of Dr. Anil Henry who was born to an American mother and Indian father, we had so many amazing experiences. Anil is a surgeon who was raised and trained in India but practiced in the Nashville for several years before returning to India to re-energize the Mungeli Christian Hospital and English school.
Anil took us on daily rounds at the hospital where we became very invested in patients’ progress. He invited us into the operating room, we witnessed the miracle of birth via c-section and were heartbroken to watch a family give up on a burn patient, taking her home to die after three weeks of slow progress. At the school we were charmed by the students; their respectful manners of standing and greeting adults; their efforts to try out their English vocabulary with us which was much more successful that their patient efforts to teach us elementary Hindi words.
The most poignant story for me came at the school fair. Kids purchased tickets to try their hand at different game booths we set up and ran. But they have no concept of waiting in lines. It is a cultural thing. The chaos of kids calling “please ma’am” and waving their tickets at me stressed me out as I worried about giving everyone a fair chance. But these kids never complained when they were overlooked and were perfectly content to hope their turn would be next. The festive atmosphere provided enough excitement for them. At the end of the day I commented to Anil that the chaos had overwhelmed me, but the kids’ attitudes had been inspiring. When I mentioned how Americans could benefit from some of that attitude, Anil casually told me that is why his parents chose to raise his family in India, and so had he and his wife. It was an epiphany for me. These kids are free of the trappings of schedules and competitiveness and material desires. For several days we Americans had offered to send the next visitors with different “things” we thought could help around the hospital or school. Things like hospital linens (that aren’t provided unless you are in ICU) or markers and scissors for the students who have nothing but one composition book and pencil each. Each offer was met with a refusal and I finally began to understanding why.
These people don’t need “things” to improve their lives. They need what Christ gave….what Anil gives…healing, teaching, compassion and hope. So, even when we don’t speak the same language, dress the same or have the same customs, in our core we all have the same desire for Christ’s gifts. On the surface it may seem our best outreach opportunities are in 3rd world countries or impoverished areas such as Tijuana, Mexico. But, I discovered their needs are the same as the person whose concerns were shared in this sanctuary this morning, the same as the refugee family from Somalia we have chosen to adopt, and the same as the person sitting next to you in the pew. We all want to be healed, to be taught, to be loved and to be given hope.
In this place, this sanctuary, we work on our vertical faith every Sunday. It is up to us to take that out into the world and to share what we learn horizontally—”witnessing, loving and serving from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth”*
Anil Henry for Nancy Henry
Nancy Lott Henry serves as a Long-term volunteer. She serves with the Church of North India as a teacher of nurses for hospitals in their eastern region.