Final Thoughts on the Journey to India 2017

Steve Stewart's picture

During this Journey to India there have been a number of reports, testimonies and videos. I want to close out the reporting by writing about some of my personal reflections on the trip.

This was a Journey of advancement into what has historically been the most Gospel-resistant state in India. New territory was taken; new house churches were established; testimonies of miracles spread; best of all, people encountered a living Gospel. The Punjab is predominantly Sikh, a fiercely monotheistic religion. We began working in the villages an hour or two beyond Chandigarh. I have always loved the villages of India. There are over 600,000 of them, representing almost 1/8 of the world’s population. On the second week of the Journey, we travelled about six hours northwest to Amritsar, a large city by the Pakistan border that houses the Golden Temple, the most holy place in the Sikh religion.

As we drove to Amritsar, I was aware of a rising excitement inside me. It was 19 years ago that I first went there. It was in Amritsar where I first saw amazing miracles. I think that somehow the Lord used that initial encounter to begin to write destiny in my heart. It is an ancient city, one that strongly reflects the Indian culture that stretches back through the centuries; I could hardly wait for our team to see and experience it.

The first place I took the team was Jallianwalla Bagh; this is the enclosed park where in 1919, the leader of the British army in Amritsar, General Dyer sent his men to shoot down a peaceful gathering of about 2,000 Indians on a Sunday afternoon. The first time I went there was with an Indian friend. It was closing, but he arranged for us to get in, and so we had the whole place to ourselves. This time, we joined hundreds of others as we fanned out to walk and pray. Even with the crowds, the experience was no less powerful. Standing in front of the bullet-pocked walls and the deep well where 200 people had jumped to their death in an effort to escape the deadly gunfire, once again I felt a deep sorrow rise up in me. Not just for the atrocities of so long ago, but for the injustice and unspeakable pain happening every day in too many places in the world. As I came around a corner, one of our team was praying for the eyes of a young Muslim lady who had come to the city to be treated. Suddenly, she called out to her family that all her pain was gone and she could see perfectly. I felt so thankful, not only for the lady’s healing, but because our team member had stepped out in such a public place. I think that the Journey has established something in her life that she can take home and impact many more lives. We finished our time by gathering to sing a few quiet songs, and to pray for India. As we prayed, people gathered around us. It was a holy moment.

From there, we headed to the Golden Temple. As we walked around the huge and beautiful courtyard, many of us commented on the genuine devotion that was so apparent in the people. There was a large pool surrounding the Temple where many dipped themselves or their loved ones. The Sikhs offer food to anyone who needs it, day or night. The same is true with accommodation. Walking among the throngs, I could feel Jesus’ great love for these people. I am thankful for His words: “Everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

There is something very powerful happening in the Punjab. The Sikhs are coming to Jesus. When I was here all those years ago, the pastors told me that only the Hindus would come to Christ, that the Sikhs were totally resistant. But now is the day of God’s harvest. Day after day, we watched as virtually everyone we talked with gave his or her life to Jesus––even a Sikh priest and his wife. If you have seen our reports, you already know that over 1,000 Sikhs turned to Jesus during the Journey. Truthfully, I don’t know that I have ever seen such a sovereign work of God. Almost before we could ask, they were responding (in some cases, before we could ask). Only the Holy Spirit could have done this. Even as I write this, there are new house churches springing up all over the Punjab. When I think of all those who went before us, when the spiritual ground was hard and dry, when I think of all they suffered, all they had to overcome just to keep going––I am filled with a profound respect and appreciation, even a sense of awe for those who, century by century, sowed into this great land so that, in this time, we can join those who are enjoying an historic harvest.

36What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.” (Jn 4:36-38)

When I am in India, I am in a land where something deep inside me comes alive. It has always been this way for me. I love so much about India––the throngs of people, the sights, sounds and smells. I have heard it said that no one is neutral about India; they either love it or hate it. I am definitely in the first camp. Of all the nations I have travelled, I have seen more miracles and more salvations in this pulsating nation than anywhere else.

And what is more, when I am in India, I am with my spiritual children, Randeep and Anu Mathews. God has joined our hearts profoundly. Randeep and I are ministering together in more and more nations. He and Anu have a message that I want heard all over the world. Besides heading up one of the fastest growing church planting movements on the planet, Randeep and Anu are about the most joyful (and simply fun) people that I know. It seems like everyday is an adventure with them. It has been hard for me to get my head around the fact that this dynamic couple who lead a movement of almost three quarters of a million people, live their lives with an uncluttered delight that attracts whomever they encounter. Here is just one example:

On our way back from a long day of ministry in a village, the bus stopped at an outdoor restaurant. Though very tired after about 14 hours of ministry and travel, we all (about 50 of us) got out for tea. A few minutes later Randeep suddenly began to sing. Soon we were all singing, clapping, then dancing broke out. More and more either gathered to watch or join into the dancing. Randeep began to tell them about Jesus. In a minute, a total stranger was testifying that he had recently come to Christ and how his life had profoundly changed; then another shared. Now people were streaming out of the shops and from an indoor restaurant. And still the singing, dancing and testifying continued. Then Randeep invited everyone to receive prayer. Church in a parking lot. Twenty people reported being healed and eleven gave their lives to Christ. I was concerned about follow up, but I should have known better––one of Randeep’s thousands of house churches is nearby and they will be meeting with each of these new brothers and sisters.

When I first met the Mathews a number of years ago, I was struck that there were always so many people with them––in their home, traveling with them, in various gatherings. I told Christina that I had just encountered the most joyful Christians I had ever met. Nothing has changed. When I am with them and the scores of people around them, I always think about the early church in Acts 2. In those days, the church wasn’t a meeting with a place or a time, it was a life. That is why it was called “The Way”. It was a beautiful way of living. No wonder the “Lord added to their number daily”.

And He still is.

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