Last December I was blessed to travel to some countries in S.E Asia. I want to share with you one of the emotional highlights of my travel experience. Though I am not an emotional person, this experience got me into all sorts of mixed feelings.
It happened in Singapore. I had a list of places I could visit for free the couple of days, including the oldest Hindu temple (Sri Mariamman Temple) and the Buddha tooth Relic temple. Though I had more places I had planned to go to, I happen to spend the whole day in these temples and actually attending three prayer programs. At first, it was just a great photographic opportunity for me as the whole set up is colorful and visually rich.
Walking around in the temples, and listening to their chant, it was evident that there was a strong spiritual resistance. But that didn’t scare me, instead knowing that I have the authority to be anywhere I want, I stayed in the temples and I kept praying in tongues and calling the name of Jesus again and again.
Eventually my stay in the temples was no more about taking pictures. The stories I was trying to capture in my camera, sank into my mind and I could not stop wondering what they were doing and why?
Let me just focus on the last Hindu temple I went to. The prayer ceremony started with the chimes of bells, accompanied by drum and trumpet played by two men; which was actually the most disturbing music I ever heard. Everyone was gathering to the front, all eyes focused on the priests who were doing the prayer rituals. Only the priest is allowed into the altar, where the image of the deity was clad with clothas well as garlands of jasmine. It took me a while to understand what was happening. The priest gathered pieces of paper from the people as they whispered to him their prayers. He took the papers from 2-3 people at a time and went inside and to offer burning incense, oil lamps and camphor lights to the deity. They wait with so much anticipation keeping their eyes focused on him. After few minutes he came out with banana leaves, flowers and handed these to the individuals he prayed for and in exchange they gave him money, which in other words is a payment for the prayers. There were around 6 priests in the temple doing the same thing. Devotees also request for their names to be read out during the communal prayers and be blessed with white ash on their foreheads.
I kept seeing this same ritual happening again and again and the priest going from one god to the other to offer the prayers of the people. I wanted to pray but I couldn’t pray because I couldn’t pick the one thing I wanted to pray about, I was actually overwhelmed. I shifted my attention from looking at the general view of the Hindu ritual to looking at each individual in the eye and started to pray. Longing eyes!
I saw people walking in to the temple and falling flat to the ground for prayer. It just broke my heart to think that these are people Jesus died for so that they can be set free. Instead, they have hundreds of idols they look up to if they ever answer their prayers. I just visited 3 temples, and I thought of the number of similar temples and number of people devoted to idol worship throughout Asia. I was feeling hopeless by the time I left the temple. I realized the harvest is indeed big, the workers are actually few and I felt useless in this huge mission field. Walking out of the temple, I had to fight back all the resistance from the spirit working in the temples. I also had to fight back tears and hold my breath. I just needed a long walk to clear my mind.
I finally found my way home of the family I was staying with. That night and the next day, I asked each of them to tell me their salvation story. I know they used to be devoted Hindu. It was so comforting to hear their testimonies. It is a long miraculous story but I will just briefly mention how they come to know the Lord.
Some years back Joshua, who was a Hindu, felt the need to talk with Jesus. Considering Jesus one of the gods, he starts to sometimes talk with Jesus. One day as he was walking in the street, he heard a voice inside him, telling him to step aside. He was confused who was talking with him but he obeyed. That moment his life was spared from a motorcycle accident. There were more details to his story, but during that season his father had a heart attack and the doctors told them that he was dying. Joshua prayed to Jesus for his father’s healing, because he felt that is what he was supposed to do.
On his hospital bed, his father who was a devoted Hindu felt the urge to call out to Jesus so he prayed ‘Jesus can you heal me.’ He got healed that moment and his doctors couldn't understand what happened.
Joshua’s mom was furious when she heard her husband and son have been praying for Jesus. She said she will kill herself, there is no reason for her to live her life. But after some time she tried to pray to this Jesus if he actually listens to prayers. And it didn’t take an hour for her prayer to be answered. “I wasted all my life, I wasted all my money, I prayed, no answer, no peace, I gave 50$ every time for prayer but Hindu god never answered my prayers,” she said. Joshua’s mom also got deliverance from evil spirit.
Isn't it beautiful how God works to bring in lost people to his kingdom. If we are there to be used by him, he will use us. If not He still is reaching out to each lost individual with His love.
Please pray that God would trust forth many workers and provide creative means of access to the Least-Reached Peoples throughout Southeast Asia. Pray for God to help believers creatively communicate the gospel and His Truth through familiar means with an eternal message of Hope and Salvation.