Seniors share experiences from trip to India
Blake Deffenbacher observes uniqueness, hospitality of India
India . . . a lawless, crowded, chaotic, beautiful, joyful place where I had the opportunity to spend two weeks of my life over the summer. Having traveled there two years prior, I already knew to some extent what to expect.
India is an extravagant, wild place but I was still surprised and this trip taught me more than I ever imagined.
During my time in India, I learned so much about myself, their culture and even American culture. The new perspectives I gained left me eager to come home and share my India experience. So here I go!
First of all, to understand India, some context as to what the current economic and social situation is appropriate. The former British colony sits near the top of the charts of the most dangerous and overpopulated places in the world.
A lack of separation between church and state leaves the country under rule of extreme Hinduism, subjecting the population to the caste system and a lack of religious freedom. The social classes laid out by the caste system create extreme poverty, segregation and disgust towards those at the bottom of the pyramid.
Most of the road signs are seen as suggestions, directional lanes are loosely followed and the law enforcement does very little to change that, making the roadways in India extremely dangerous. It’s estimated that 400 people die each day from a road-related accident.
The population of 1.3 billion has an unemployment rate of over 6%, leaving many individuals without jobs or money to provide for their families. But in all, the backbone of India’s culture is the devotion they have to Hinduism; you see it everywhere, on everything. Regardless of any circumstances in their lives, the Indian culture is extremely loyal to their religion.
So, knowing these figures, there are many ways to help the people of India. However, prior to embarking on our journey it was important that my team figured out a way to reach people in a way that was both appropriate and understandable to the people we came into contact with.
We knew that ‘barging into their country and shoving Bibles in their faces’ would not draw anyone to Jesus. We needed to appreciate that hospitality and kindness would be the best way to impact Indian lives.
Organizers of the Mid India Christian Mission, an organization that my church, CrossCity Fresno, offered locals a opportunity to visit India, July 24 – Aug. 5. Mid India takes an approach to ministry that involves showing love and care to those considered untouchable and unlovable by the caste system and Indian traditions.
Working with the staff of Mid India Christian Mission helped me realize the gospel is more than rules and traditions; the love that God showed us, and the love that we learn from him must be the focus of our outreach.
On a side note, I gained a new perspective on the kind of hospitality and care I need to share in the United States. It’s truly inspiring to see the ways that kindness can work in peoples’ lives.
After we landed in Delhi, and later traveled to Damoh, Madya Pradesh, in central India, we were greeted like family, regardless of their socio-economic status or position. This challenged me to examine how we treat others in America. Coming home, I felt an obligation to show the same kind of hospitality to friends, family and strangers that I felt on the other side of the world.
Another highlight of this trip for me was the opportunity to travel with friends, one of them being my best friend, fellow Feather staffer, Wesley Hinton, ’20. As this was his first short-term international missions trip, it was awesome to see the way that he was able to step up and lead through the uncomfortableness.
Wesley Hinton shares sense of gratefulness from missions trip
This summer, I had the opportunity travel to India on a mission trip with my church. I had been able to serve with San Joaquin Valley churches on outreach projects, but I had never been out of the country on an overseas mission trip before.
It was a very eye-opening experience that made me realize how much we often take for granted, and offered me many opportunities to show God’s love to people of another culture.
During our stay with Mid-India Christian Missions in Damoh, we got to meet and interact with many “untouchable” kids who have been rescued from their situations, and taken care of by the staff of Mid-India. Sponsored by families from the United States, the kids receive clothing, food, housing, education and nurturing, living together in houses called “Mercy Homes.”
The kids have a bunk and a suitcase-sized trunk of personal items to their name. Without the many material distractions we have in the U.S., including smartphones, social media, and brand names, the kids overflow with a joy that I have not seen here in the States.
My favorite moment of the trip was when the boys from the Mercy Home came to visit the home where we were staying. It had been about two days since we had arrived in India, and I was exhausted since we had just served at two services in the local church praying and leading worship.
Jet lag and nausea from the foreign food was still affecting most of our team. When we arrived back at the compound, I was ready to lay down and rest. It was at that moment the other four men on our team and I learned that we were going to play with and entertain 47 boys for four hours straight.
Despite our exhaustion, we sang, danced, worshiped, played countless games, and had an amazing time. It was humbling to see how genuinely joyful the boys were even though they have almost nothing compared to what most children have in first-world countries.
This trip also pushed me out of my comfort zone in many ways. While preparing for our mission, we were aware we would have to play some songs at church and give a short message to the Mid-India staff. Since I play keyboard and sing in my youth group on almost a weekly basis, I was not very nervous to lead worship. However, we ended up having to put together songs to sing much more than we expected.
My friend Blake, my brother, Max, and I worked together to make sure we had a song prepared to play anywhere we went. We often only had a few minutes to prepare, but it was good for us to be put on the spot. I was also nervous to give a devotion in front of many staff members that were Christian and Hindu, many of whom didn’t even speak the same language as me.
The sharing time ended up being a lot easier than I expected, and I had time to think carefully while I waited for the translator to translate my words. Although many moments of the trip were uncomfortable and new, I was able to grow through them.
Growing up as a doctor’s son in the United States, I’ve never had to worry about my next meal, my education, or fear persecution for my Christian faith. It was an eye-opening experience watching kids who had next to nothing in our standards with so much joy. Often times, it was very easy to get caught up in material things in our culture since we compare ourselves to others so much.
Given that the dominant religion in India is Hinduism, Christians there have to deal with persecution for spreading the gospel along with the caste system that holds many people in poverty. While I was talking to one of the leaders of Mid-India, I learned that at one point a brother of one of the girls that received that gospel threw a grenade over the wall in anger because his sister had become a Christian.
I also learned it is a common occurrence for false witnesses to legally attack the mission just because they stand for Christ. In my opinion, the material wealth and lack of persecution in the U.S. almost makes our faith too easy. Through this experience, I realized that these hardships encourage people to rely on God, filling them with joy.
The following podcast features seniors Blake Deffenbacher and Wesley Hinton recounting their experiences in India during the summer of 2019.
Overall, I experienced and was privileged to take part in so many amazing things during my trip to India. It blew my mind to think of the billions of people living on the other side of the world in a culture where sharing the Gospel is considered dangerous and even illegal; it made me appreciate the freedom we have in the United States to live out our faith. It also stretched me in ways I have never been stretched before, and brought me closer to many members of my church.
The video below shows highlights of seniors Blake Deffenbacher and Wesley Hinton’s missions trip in India.
For other articles, read COLUMN: Growth in Costa Rica or COLUMN: Mexico mission trip shapes international student’s life view.@thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.
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