Less is More
When you fly halfway around the world, only to find that your bags are still in Chicago, you go through some things: denial, anger, bargaining (United customer service: I’m looking at you), depression and finally, acceptance. OK, it’s not that serious, but it is a journey… a journey within a journey.
Turns out you don’t need that much stuff. Turns out you can wear the same clothes for days, wash underwear in a sink, and hope for the best as you do not, in fact, take the heaps of diarrhea prevention meds you so carefully researched, purchased and packed.
The great luggage debacle kicked off our two week trip to India, and not only did it not ruin our trip, but it provided a decent metaphor for some of things that Amia Muller, Lina Morscher and I learned along the way.
Showing up with less is more.
We–and by we, I mean lots of us–really like to stuff our bags full. We think about all the eventualities, what-ifs and maybes. The thing is, not only are our bags packed with high-protein granola bars, but often with expectations, western culture and self-sufficiency.
Lina, Amia and I found out that the best go-bag is empty of “stuff,” but brimming with prayer, fellowship and hopeful expectation. Space is available, then, for all the joys, memories, impressions, corrections, lessons and new friendships found along the way!
Here are some of the treasures each of us brought back.
Amia: One night over dinner, Becky Stanley, director of Women with a Mission for India Gospel League (IGL), told us that we Americans take a lot of stuff for granted. Specifically, we don’t realize how so much of our ethos can be traced back to Judeo-Christian values. In India, that’s not the case. There’s only a small Christian influence in India, overall. In America, we take for granted a concern for the greater good and the value of personal sacrifice for others. Becky said that those things are not inherent parts of the value system in India. The most obvious way to spot it is in traffic. Becky was kind of laughing at us when she talked about our American traffic laws. ‘You take turns. You wait in line. You yield. This is all because of an underlying value for the greater good and for personal sacrifice.’ These value systems extend to things like how you approach social services, and whether you help people who are not in your immediate family or social circle. It was a really good reminder not to forget where these kinds of values came from; they are Biblical values.
Right after I got back, I taught a Bible study on the story of Jacob wrestling with God. By the end, Jacob is clinging to God, holding on for dear life, asking for God’s blessing. He knows, “I need you, God. And I cannot make it any other way.” I saw this kind of dependence and faith in India. The people we met don’t have access to so many things: good medical care, good education, good job opportunities. They understand their needs very, very well. That is really hard for us to do. We are all so rich. Even I, a poor college student, am rich. When I’m sick, I don’t cry out to God - “I need you to heal me!” I just go to the doctor. I have solutions that are open to me whenever I want them. The believers who we met in India seemed to turn to Jesus so much more quickly than us believers in America, and with so much confidence, because they know He’s all they have. And really, He’s all that we have, too, but often we don’t see it that way.
Lina: I can’t stop thinking about Sam and Prati Stephens. (Sam is the founder and president of India Gospel League, and Prati is his wife.) As an older couple, they are on fire and still going strong. They kept saying, “There is more to do, there is more to do.” They asked us to pray for energy and perseverance. Sam and Prati, and many others, are going through so much tough stuff. Hearing the Indian pastors talk about their experience with persecution was somehow inspiring. They go through so much but understand it’s part of following Christ. In the midst of these difficulties, Sam believes that they can reach the whole country with the good news of Jesus; even beyond–to Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh! I hope to see some of this kind of confidence and action reflected in my own life and to finish well like Sam and Prati.
We met some very sweet brothers in Christ during our breakfasts and dinners at IGL’s Sharon Campus. One of them is Manoushe, an Indian man and old friend of Sam’s who spent his adult life in Australia. He was raised in a Christian home, but he didn’t really walk with the Lord until he was 50 years old–he had been focused on work and making money. When he began to take his walk with God seriously, he stepped out of his successful position and started to attend seminary. He took a huge pay cut to become a pastor. His eyes and entire face just lit up when he talked about this change in his life. I was encouraged that at any age, if you just follow the Lord, you can contribute to His mission.
Heidi: In the spirit of “less is more,” and in the spirit of keeping this article under the word limit, I’m not going to share my treasures here. If you want to hear them, I am sharing about this trip at Missions Prayer Breakfast Dec. 17 at 9:30 a.m. at the Study Center, where coffee, chai tea and snacks will be provided! Or, ask me in person at future Missions Prayer Breakfasts or Central Teaching if you’re unable to attend Dec. 17.
Our hearts came home from this trip so very full. Along with all of the precious people we met, we loved spending time with each other. Today, my go-bag is empty, and ready for the next Jesus adventure, wherever He might take me.
Heidi had the opportunity to interview over 50 people on this trip. She was gathering stories for the India Gospel League North American office. Amia and Lina came along to support and see the work, and gave a few teachings along the way!