Themes for India
When preparing for a series of speeches, preaching assignments, or teaching opportunities, often two problems arise in the preparation process.
First there is the subject matter and then the themes that will run through the presentations. The subject matter is dictated by the audience, circumstance, and need. Often the leadership of whatever audience will outline the outcomes desired and then the subject matter fits into that context.
For example, Judy and I were asked to invest a full day into the lives of 200 women - most but not all Christian. What made the circumstance unique was that the location was in South Central India and the women were all from villages or small towns. Villages in the region number in the low to middle six figures and the towns typically of 2,000 people or less. Many of them would be traveling 2-4 hours to get to the retreat center where the gathering was taking place. The meeting was to start at 9:30AM and continue to 5PM or a later. Organizationally the day was broken up into four sections, each separated by a break or lunch.
The women spoke a variety of languages although they all understood either Turgalu or Hindi. With that in mind, there were two translators. One to translate from English to Turgalu and the other from Turgalu to Hindi. This is the first time either Judy or I presented with double translators. It was unexpectedly hard because you have to speak in translatable sentences and then hold your thought while both translations are taking place.
The women in these rural cultures are treated much as you would treat a servant; fix the meals, take care of the children, clean the house, and gather the wood are typical tasks. So, when the organizer of the day asked us to bring a message of enhanced personal value and even partnership with their husbands in ministry we were both surprised and challenged. Judy chose a theme entitled, “An Excellent Woman” based on Proverbs 31 in the Bible.
As Judy shared much from her life and our 55 years of marriage we wondered if those experiences were connecting within such a different culture. Miracles do happen, and her experiences and my observations in support came through loud and clear. There was joy, learning, and a new vision of what is possible that came out of our day together. What brings tears to my eyes is when we asked them if they would like to learn a few words in English there was a stir of affirmation. 200 women rose and recited as one, after the appropriate coaching, “I am an excellent woman!” Cheers broke out and they wanted to do it again and again!
During the 38-hour trip to India, via Laos, I prayed for thematic insight knowing there were going to be multiple occasions to speak to a wide variety of different audiences or groups. The women’s conference is one example; 240 pastors was another, the staff of a high-tech firm, Masters students at a Bible training school and 11th and 12th grade students with the staff of a Bible translation organization stretched the context for presenting across a large spectrum.
During that plane trip, two themes, both rooted in Jesus’ words as recorded in John 17, emerged. The way themes develop is from reading the Bible or sometimes they just seem to arrive as if by mental telepathy. In that circumstance, they are then affirmed by both others and the reading done subsequently.
Here are the two themes:
1. They will know we are Christians by our love.
2. We demonstrate how real Jesus is to us by our unity.
I was prompted to weave those two themes into every topic, presentation, and any answer to every question. Isn’t it amazing how starting with God’s love for us and then our love for others frames the solution for every problem? I’ve learned that most issues or problems are a symptom of something deeper.
When we treat a problem in that way and start with love, the solution that emerges is both powerful and lasting. When we allow love to be expressed in unity, it simplifies the solution to any problem. It does not necessarily make it easier but it sure makes a Kingdom enhancing solution possible.
Whether we are talking about the position of women in a given society or the role of pastors ministering as a distinct minority in a land with 75% Hindu advocates and 15% Muslim believers, it is the application of God’s universal wisdom and love that dictates the answer to the issues at hand. Affirming His principles along with the practical application of them is what drives the presentations. While speaking and remembering the themes, staying connected to the reality of circumstances and remaining open to the leading of His spirit, allowed His power and purpose to emerge, be communicated, and then received. After all, the definition of ministry is changed lives and one way of doing that is acknowledging the priority of love as a starting point and unity with all believers as an outcome.
Our recent visit to India was startling in its revelation, challenging in its context, and encouraging in its application. The 40+ million believers are not alone. We are one in the Spirit and one in the Word. Our lives, cultures and environments are different but our love and unity are both a reality and a priority. They will know we are Christians by our love. We will demonstrate the reality of Jesus in our lives and by our unity.
Stay with us as our journey includes a lifetime of ministry.