The Church Among the Rubber Trees

Today qualified as a “Whistle Stop Tour” of four churches here in Kerala. We were able to see their buildings (most often a home or rented building), meet the Pastor and his family, and a small number of each congregation. Due to the time of day, many of the believers of the churches were working. It is such a humbling experience to visit these churches. It really changes your perspective and your heart.

The first church we visited was located in the midst of a rubber tree plantation. Norramavu Church is shepherded by Pastor Finny Abraham. It has been in existence for 15 years and meeting in the same rented building for that period of time. We visited this church in February when we were here, but were unable to get inside of the church building at that time. Today was the first time I had seen the interior. It has been weighing on my heart and mind ever since.

As we took our seats in the church, there were already several believers gathered waiting for us, and more trickled in. We weren’t able to spend much time there – maybe 20 minutes. There was singing and then prayer. Freddie spoke briefly to the congregation about Epaphroditus and our commitment to Grace Christian Ministry, and then prayed.

So you may be wondering why this church in particular had such an impact on me. Picture (if you can) in the middle of a forest a dilapidated building. The roof has holes in it, no electricity, and is basically falling apart. Yet rain or shine, the believers of this church gather together for their Sunday worship services. These people raised joyful songs of praise and worship to God and prayed with a fervent spirit.

They weren’t concerned about the comfort of the chairs – because their weren’t any.

They weren’t worried about the lighting – because there wasn’t any electricity.

They weren’t concerned about the color of paint on the walls – because the paint was so faded and dirty you couldn’t discern the color.

They weren’t concerned about being a comfortable, pretty, seeker friendly environment – because they were there to praise, honor, glorify and worship the on True Holy God.

Don’t get me wrong – one of their prayer requests is to have a church building of their own. But when these believers say they want a church – it isn’t what we in America picture. The churches here for Christians are simply constructed buildings smaller than most people’s living rooms. But it is a place they can call their church home and gather together for fellowship and worship.

The need here in India is so immense. I can’t even put it into words – and I know I haven’t even seen but a glimpse of it. My heart has a heaviness to it these days that I can’t quite explain. It is not a sadness or a despair, but rather a intense desire to help. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Someday we will be standing with them in the presence of God! I long for that day! And so do they!

In the mean time, we are called to help those in need. First, spiritually – they need the gospel; they need to be edified and encouraged; they need and desire our prayer. But we also must care for the physical needs of those who are in need.

God is good and he is faithful. It is that truth that the believers in India cling to and proclaim. He will provide what is needed in order for his gospel work to be done. But stop and think about this for a moment – what if one of the ways he will do that is through us? Those of us in the U.S. who have wealth that is greater than any civilization in history – what if our purpose is to help in areas like India? We have been blessed – not in order to get comfortable and to amass more stuff – but to bless the nations.

We are both looking forward to getting back home to start working even harder to share the message of what God is doing in India, and to encourage people to prayerfully and cheerfully – but even sacrificially – give of the blessings God has given us here.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.1 John 3:17-18