Jennifer & Kyle Rasmussen led a team to visit the children at KEL and P. Lanka orphanages in India through Global Hope India (GHI) –a ministry independent of Global Hope (the name is coincidence) that has an awesome ministry in pastoral training, church planting, and community development. We praise God for this partnership with GHI!
It is still taking me awhile to process our mission trip to India with Global Hope India (GHI). When I’m asked, “So how was India?” where do I begin? You cannot sum it up in a sentence; not even a paragraph, probably not even a long blog post… perhaps a novel would provide adequate space.
The one thing that stood out again and again was the people of India and the overwhelming joy they had. In a land of so much need, they came to praise the Lord and were so joyful in doing so. Within our team we kept reminding each other that the Bible instructs us to make a JOYFUL NOISE! With my husband being a musician, our off-key singing probably drove him nuts. Praise the Lord and sing to the key of JN, not “Jenn” but Joyful Noise. We are all given special talents and some of us are given the talent to sing in the key of JN better than any other. Singing, dancing, clapping…. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24
When the people in India come to worship, they come to WORSHIP. At 10:00pm, mothers sat on the floor with their children falling asleep at their feet. They came to hear testimony from the Bible and to sing praises to God. In a hot, sticky room and power outages that left us in complete darkness, they would start clapping and singing Psalm 118:24. Their singing was not just a pretty song, practiced and rehearsed. It was loud, enthusiastic, and joyously unrestrained…. it was to the tune of JN!
They exhibited an exuberant and overwhelming joy that I have never seen before, especially here in America. Sure, my kids (currently 3 and 5 years old) get really excited Christmas morning and are very, very excited when we take them somewhere fun. I love how they can barely sit in their seats when we park at the amusement park down the street from our house. Then, once they get their ride wristband, they all out run with excitement to each ride. My kids are happy and delighted. But the joy I saw in the people of India was something more.
Here’s Webster’s definition. If Webster was a picture dictionary, it would include a picture of Joyful Noise – much like the one I carry in my heart of the people of India worshipping the Lord.
1 a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires b: the expression or exhibition of such emotion
2: a state of happiness or felicity
3: a source or cause of delight
I find it interesting that the definition includes “emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune.” In America, we have a tendency to view things in such material terms. “Well-being, success, or good fortune” in our society would be seen as being wealthy, having a big house, a good job, maybe winning the lottery. When the average person in attendance at the Gospel meetings in India could have filled our backpack with all their worldly possessions, how is it that they can be well-off? Most of them labor 12-14 hours days in rice patties, where the cooler days are 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 43% humidity, only to bring home three dollars. How is that success or good fortune?
You see, their definition of well-being, success, and good fortune are NOT rooted in material things. They have heard the Gospel and learned that Christ died for them. God has been here, on this Earth and walked with us. He has felt and lived through our troubles. He understands our needs, wants, desires, our turmoil, temptations, and our sin. He understands who we are and how we think and the decisions we make. And, despite all of our spiritual “stuff”, He loves us. In fact, He loves us so much that Christ died for us. Why? Because He loves us so much that He wants us to be with Him forever. Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself all of our sin. Only Jesus, who was fully human and fully God, could have been crucified in our place and raised from death. I’m humbled with gratitude.
But it doesn’t end there, not in India, in a country that worships FOUR MILLION deities. I cannot understand it completely and I am left to make assumptions with inadequate information. Driving through town, you’ll see statues and small temples, where people go to pray and make offerings. Cows are considered sacred and by many—even Gods. They roam through the middle of the street without a care. You may have heard how driving in India is seemingly crazy. If there are three pedestrians, two cars, a motorcycle (with a family of five), a tuk tuk (big truck), and three cows that all need to get by…. the cows have the right of way. Where people are starving without enough food to eat, the cows simply walk up to a street vendor and munch right off the piles of produce. Do all of these “gods” speak to them? Do they answer prayers? Do they heal? Do they provide their daily bread? I cannot say for sure if these deities answer prayers or not.
But I have seen the material poverty in India and I have seen sorrow. We all have seen sorrow. However, that is not what I saw in the people of India during the Joyful Noise, during their praises to the Lord. God has spoken to them through their native missionaries who have brought them the Gospel. God continues to speak to them through the Bible testimonies and sermons at the Gospel meetings (church worship services). The Holy Spirit speaks to them both in their hearts and through answered prayers. They have found a God that answers their prayers and cares enough to communicate with them, and the sacrifice has already been made through Jesus. This is the source of delight that has cause for their Joy.
We were honored to provide Bibles to a few congregation members at each Gospel meeting. It seems so little to us, three dollars for a Bible, until it was explained to us that three dollars is a daily laborer’s wage. To put it in American terms, would you spend $80-150 on a Bible when you were having trouble buying groceries for your family? Think about the joy that the Gospel has brought to these people. I pray to always remember the Joyful Noise.
My prayer for the people of India is that the Joyful Noise will continue to spread.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12