A week ago, a small village in Eastern India was flooded by torrential rains. The rains caused the nearby river to flood and destroyed 24 homes. Some of these homes, which are nothing more than thatched huts, belonged to members of a small congregation I am working with. Eight members of this congregation of 45 were killed by the flooding river. The scene described to me was extremely sad.
I received another email early Saturday morning, September 17, concerning the situation. Brother John, the church planter I work with, asked me if I would speak to the church at their service on Sunday, September 18, via telephone. John, who is native Indian, would translate my message into their native language of Telugu. Of course I agreed. After working out the logistics and time, I spent the day in prayer. John called me around one in the morning central time to begin the service as they are 10 1/2 hours ahead of us.
I shared on the hope of the resurrection, encouraging and comforting the believers with the truth of what the resurrection means to us now and in the life to come. I shared the simple truths of the gospel, from the creation and fall of man, to the unique life, death and resurrection of Jesus. These simple truths were the comfort needed for these dear loved ones who had suffered such great loss.
In the midst of sharing Scriptures with them, I began hearing ‘hallelujahs’ (spoken the same way in every language) ring out from the congregation. The Holy Spirit was not only comforting them, but was restoring their joy through this tragic situation. I kept feeling the tug of the Spirit to offer salvation to the visitors from the village who came to hear the message. Therefore, at the end of the message, I made the offer of salvation to any who did not have the ‘hope of the resurrection.’ To the glory of God, five of the fifteen visitors desired to repent and surrender their life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. They were all idol worshippers and one was a prostitute. It was a beautiful time leading these five adults to Christ.
As the congregation closed out in song, I listened with tears running down my face. I did not understand the words of the song, but it was a celebration of hope for the believers who died AND joy for those who had just received Christ. I could feel heaven smiling!
Then it hit me…the same river which killed eight church members, will now welcome five new ones as they are baptized as a public profession of their faith. In this small village, this church has experienced death and life, sorrow and joy; and a RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT.