India calls (part 2)


In the first part of this account, I told how I first met John Babu, one of the most amazing men I have ever encountered. And I told something of his incredible but true story. It was 1978 when God spoke to me about India. He did not open the door for me to go until 1996. The delay was not disobedience on my part, just the timing of God. When God gives us a word or promise, our greatest mistake (especially if the promise is a good one) is to assume it will be fulfilled tomorrow. More often, we find ourselves in the good Biblical company of Abraham, who “through faith and patience” inherited the promise (Heb. 5:12). If God has promised you something, don’t give up because it does not immediately fall into your possession. Press into God, wait on him, see what he is doing in your life and submit to it, and allow him to fulfill his word to you. Remember what Paul said about God’s faithfulness to Abraham: “Whatever he has promised, he is able also to perform” (Rom. 4:21).

I could try to describe myself as a Christian version of Indiana Jones, but I don’t think I could get away with it. The truth is I was quite apprehensive about traveling to India, and so I enlisted the help of my friend Andy Gower, an English businessman I knew who travelled extensively and would be able to hold my hand in case of unknown third-world terrors. Just as well, for when we landed in Mumbai, even though it was midnight we were immediately disgorged into a seething and uncontrolled mass of humanity. Amidst the chaotic order that is India, Andy hailed a taxi to take us to the domestic terminal for our internal flight to Hyderabad. The domestic terminal was a long ways removed from the western airports I was used to. I recall thinking, “Oh my goodness, this is like the third world!” and then realizing it was the third world (Indian airports have greatly improved since).

We arrived at Hyderabad and received a warm greeting from John’s sons. As a matter of fact, we had garlands of flowers placed around us. Was this Honolulu? Well not quite, but it was a great welcome. John and his family lived in a compound right next to a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess of traffic accidents. It seems people often fell into a coma and were killed in accidents as they drove by the place. John’s sons later informed me they had regular visitations from demonic spirits from next door angry that the kingdom of God was invading their space and ruining their party. This was all a very faith-building experience as you couldn’t get in or out of the compound at all without driving by this temple.

Lots and lots of amazing things happened during our visit, but let me tell this one story. The church had started many outreaches in the sprawling city of Hyderabad. One night, John said I was to speak at one of these, located in a slum area. I overheard John telling his son under no circumstances to leave Andy and I alone. More faith-building! We drove and drove. Finally we left the car and continued the journey by foot as the road gave out. We left the hubbub behind and proceeded by footpath through darkened areas. We were warned to look out for cobras. Through all this I naturally maintained perfect peace of mind! Finally we arrived at a small concrete hut and in we went.

Let me tell the story of the family who lived there. Just a few weeks before, one of this couple’s six children was diagnosed with meningitis. They had no money to pay for medical treatment and the child became critically ill. They heard that the Christians who held meetings in a small meeting place nearby had a god who could heal the sick. The dad carried his dying son into the meeting. He was prayed for and instantly and completely healed. The entire family became Christians.

When I entered their tiny concrete hut, I saw the shelf where only weeks before their idols had sat. In their place was a picture of Jesus not unlike what used to be on the wall of my Sunday school classroom growing up! Not an idol however, simply their way of honoring the living God. About forty people were crammed into the twelve-foot square room that was home to this family of eight. Under the dim light of one 25-watt bulb, I could barely read my Bible, let alone see who was sitting at the back. I was asked to preach on the work of the Holy Spirit. Never have I felt so helpless, trying to convey my sophisticated western thoughts through translation to a group of people so utterly foreign to me I didn’t know how to communicate with them even though I desperately wanted to.

I finished. I prayed for some folk. I felt I had failed. But after we left, the pastor told me four Hindu folk had given their lives to Christ that night as a result of what I had said. That was truly the Holy Spirit, not me.

I remember many things about that visit. The night the cobra visited right outside my window and was killed while I slept through the excitement. The mosquito bites I had that turned out to be bed bugs. The amazing young men and women at the Bible school at which I taught and their sacrificial abandonment to the cause of Christ. And my dear friends Prem and Neelima. Prem was John’s youngest son and Neelima had just become pregnant. The doctors told her she had only a small chance of carrying the baby. I prayed over her, told her the baby was a boy and would be born without any issues. Abishek is now a young man almost twenty years old!

As I drove off on my way to the airport in an old Jeep with an exploding tire, John sat on his porch and waved good-bye to me. That was the last time I ever saw him. He passed into the Lord’s presence not long after. He was a father in God. I look forward to seeing him again.