On Break, Baptized and Fully Jumping In
In the spirit of spring break – when us northerners hope to travel somewhere warm – we take you to Tamil Nadu, India. That’s where Assistant Professor of Psychology Ted Bryant recently travelled on a mission trip with his church, leading volunteers to a small village where the “untouchables” live and helping them in a variety of ways.
One outreach was delivering supplies through greenLockers, an organization founded by Bryant that collects used school supplies and clothes to distribute locally and globally to those in need.
In addition to the practical assistance they provided, the team had the opportunity to provide significant spiritual assistance to these “untouchables.” Here’s the short version of Bryant’s story in his own words.
In Indian Hindu culture, there are more than 4,000 different castes, which separate classes of individuals from one another. People from lower castes are generally unable to marry outside of their caste, and much of their social interactions and opportunities are based on what caste you are born into. There is no way to earn your way up the caste system. You simply try to be as faithful as possible in this life so that the gods will move you up in caste when you are reborn in your next life.
The “untouchables” or Irula caste of people are the lowest of the low. If their shadow even crosses the shadow of someone of high caste, the high caste person has now become unclean and extremely upset. Literally, these people are never touched except by their own people, and usually their only employment is snake and rat catching for local farmers. They are commonly called the “backward caste,” as well as “the people of darkness.”
Our church has been working with this particular colony for nearly 3 years, and things have come a long way. Our efforts to establish clean water, education, micro-enterprise, health, and housing are led by indigenous pastors that have been trained extensively. Our church simply provides complimentary services and knowledge in their efforts. In this way, we nullify any movement towards imperialism by our support.
My team was headed over to do some construction projects, plant gardens and distribute supplies in the village, while a second team went to provide health and wellness needs. This video walks you through our trip from start to finish, and while there is no way to encapsulate all that occurred during our time there in this one blog post, I do want to share one thing that really stood out.
We had the unbelievable honor of baptizing a handful of people at one of the local churches in a nearby city. I am always amazed at their commitment to Christ in doing this public display of faith, regardless of the consequences. There are five questions that I had to ask each person before baptizing them.
1. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal LORD and savior?
Same question we ask in the U.S.
2. Do you agree to never again worship any idols of any kind?
You have to understand that there are more than 330,000,000gods in Hinduism with altars everywhere – and yes, this question includes money.
3. Do you agree to always follow Jesus Christ even when your family persecutes you and your village excommunicates you?
Note that the question is not IF, but WHEN you face persecution, they know full well of the risk they are taking.
4. Have you been forced in any way to be baptized today?
If a person accuses a pastor of forcing them to be baptized then the pastor automatically gets 3 years in prison for that crime.
5. Why are you getting baptized today?
The most common response went something like this “For years I was beaten by my husband who was an alcoholic, one day I was in the hospital waiting to die and someone told me about Jesus. I prayed to Jesus and the next day I walked out perfectly healed, and so I figured that I should learn about and follow this Jesus no matter what.”
These questions can or maybe should be a wake-up call for us. Sadly some of us treat our Christian walk as something to pick and choose; maybe today I’ll follow whole-heartedly and maybe tomorrow I won’t? But as Bryant points out, these people in India don’t have that luxury. They know the risk they are taking, and they jump in, all the way.
What about you? Have you jumped in?