From a New Zealand Baptist family serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators in South Asia ...
The other day I had to make an unexpected trip to chase a visa extension application. As I walked from the meeting I asked myself, “Was it really necessary to travel a total of ten hours to have a ten minute conversation? What a waste! Or is God up to something else?”
First the chief priest ...
On the train home I sat next to a Hindu priest. I could tell that by his clothing, hairstyle, and forehead markings. What surprised me was that this ancient-looking priest had a wireless Bluetooth earpiece lodged firmly in his ear and connected to his phone. I thought to myself, “God, you have a great sense of humour – seating me beside this man – but you’re going to have to tell me how to help him on his faith journey.”
It didn’t take long for us to start talking. Eventually the conversation became focused on whether all religions are the same. I did my best to explain that they cannot be the same if they contradict each other in what they claim. I’m not sure whether that ounce of truth sank in but I was pleased that, when he got off at his station, we parted as friends who had learned something from each other and had enjoyed each other’s company.
Then the Samaritan
No sooner had he left than another man came and sat beside me. He was a veterinary doctor with very good English and we were able to talk about many things. As I shared about the work we’re doing among the tribals, he leaned over toward me and said, “You know, I am also a tribal.”
This was a significant moment for him. He was entrusting a deep secret to me. He then went on to explain that not only was he a tribal, but he and his family were untouchables in the Brahmin community where he grew up.
From the expression on his face I could tell there was still pain and a sense of shame. Yes, through education, perseverance and determination he’d managed to overcome that stigma and climb up the social ladder, but his heart was still yearning for something – unconditional acceptance.
I was almost in tears as he related the stories of going to school. He was the only one of his five siblings who went, and he was treated differently to all the others. He couldn’t even draw water from the well.
Bing! The light went on in my head … the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who met Jesus. I’d read it just a couple of days earlier and I thanked God for the opportunity to re-tell it in a way that this man could relate to first-hand.
As I spoke tears welled up in my new friend’s eyes as he realised, perhaps for the first time, that those deep feelings of insecurity and shame could not only be hidden but removed forever. I could tell that he was thirsty for that spiritual, life-giving water. If Jesus could accept and completely transform someone like the Samaritan woman at the well 2,000 years ago, then there was hope for him also.
I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will take those tiny seeds that were planted and nurture them so that they will sprout and produce a harvest, but what a blessing to be used in this way.
Perhaps the ten hours of travel were worth it after all.