I wrote this around 4am in a guest room in a remote area of the Himalayas last week. There was no electricity where we were, so I wrote by candlelight as my travel companions slept on cots beside me. Through this writing, I was able to capture my thoughts about India and the work that we are able to do there. I hope that you enjoy.
The Road to Dehradun
It is an early morning hour as I sit by candlelight in a distant valley of the Indian Himalayas. I am surrounded by verdant forests and mountains while the night is filled with the roar of waterfalls from a nearby river. Creeping through the forests are panthers and tigers and I have been told that men who wander often do not return. I sit at a little desk in a 10X12 room owned by a school that we have traveled many hours to visit. My two companions lay sleeping on their cots beside me as I endeavor not to wake them. I have journeyed many days and find myself precariously at the ends of the earth.
What has brought me here? I have been to India over and over again in search of God’s Hand as He calls people to Himself. I have met His servants in this place and have seen their sacrifice, their courage, and their passion for the Lord Jesus. Risking life and fortune, they have spread wide into the hills and valleys of this remote land bringing Good News of Salvation, hope, and eternal life. Persecution has met them. They walk miles each day with no regard for their own lives. They strengthen fledgling believers, heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the in-breaking Kingdom of God.
There is no easy route to this place – at least not one that I have yet traversed. Arriving in the sprawling metropolis of Dehli, 16 million living, breathing souls on the edge of eternity, we only pause to gather ourselves briefly before setting out on the Road to Dehradun, which takes us to the provincial capitol of Uttarakhand, the northernmost Indian state straddling the Himalayas. At all hours of the day and night, this road is filled with weary travelers, rising from the sweltering mass of Delhi and following the twisting, dusty trail north to Dehradun, the threshold of the Land of the Gods. Men, women, children; oxen, goat, and holy cow; truck, car, motorcycle, and bus – cross the sandy plains and decaying villages that lie on the edges of the Road to Dehradun. India, in all her romantic, confusing, shifting and contradictory manifestations, is present along this road.
Relational India – men sit together, locked in close conversation at roadside respites in the early hours after midnight. Industrial India – trucks carrying food, crops, goods, and supplies belch their black pollutants into the air as they crawl and lurch along the highway. Religious India – pilgrims ride the cramped busses and jostle for air at the windows opening to the night sky. They are traveling to the holy cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh to dip themselves into the River Ganges to wash away their sins. They travel along the road to climb the winding paths out of Rishikesh on their way to the resting places of Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva – the Land of the Gods high in the Himalayas. Their trek along this road sends them in search of salvation and hope; a deliverance for the grinding struggle of life with its unforgiving Karma and ceaseless punishments for past sins. They hope to be unlocked from the chains of the cycle of life and unending rebirth into human forms and less.
As the Road rises it enters Dehradun, the city with its feet in the plains and its head leaning upon the edge of the mountains. Dehradun is the gateway to Beautiful India – the Himalayas, rich in majesty and mystery. It is into these mountains that we have traveled, searching for and finding the people of God who have forsaken all to live among the mountain tribes, far removed from the larger world that is unaware of their existence. Patterns of life continue here as they have since the dawn of civilization. Nomads tend their herds of goats and water buffalo; farmers scratch at the hard, rocky soil, bringing sustenance out of barreness. Life goes on here as it always has – birth, life, death, and according to the Vedas that were written here eons ago, rebirth. Fear and superstition cloud the minds of the people and traditions are adhered to ceaselessly. The fast moving world of technology and globalization has barely made its mark here, and when it does intrude, it bows to the flowing waters of time, tradition, tribe, culture, and religion.
In the midst of this Hindu Haze, a light flickers, not unlike the dancing candle flames that sit on my desk in my sparse, dark room. While there are many dark corners where the light does not reach, the illumination of the flaming glow enables those with eyes to see the contours of the room itself – the reality that exists, not the illusion imagined. The actual light that illuminates these mountains is the light of God’s Children – native born Indians who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. For God has not left Himself without witness, even in this distant, idolotrous land. Vessels of Christ have come, led by the Holy Spirit for years now, bringing light and salvation to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. For a few days, I am privileged to be among their number.
The dancing candles also remind me that our lives are fragile and temporary. While the Divine Light of the Presence of Christ will never be extinguished, our own journey along the path of this life is a misty affair. We appear here only for moment before we make our way to judgement and eternity. I think at this moment of how I spend the few days that I have here. I think of my wife and children, God’s precious gifts to me. I think of their love and the hope that dances in their eyes. I wonder where God will send them and if they will also find themselves at the ends of the earth, living as candles to light the darkness. Our days here are so few – how do we use them? God calls us to Himself and spreads us throughout the world to flicker and flame in dark places. He puts us in families to propel His glory and Good News across the generations. Do we journey with Him, or do we make our homes in familiar places, arranged for our own comfort?
The Road to Dehradun is filled with danger, mystery, and adventure. It is a dry and dusty road, teeming with trials and temptations. Yet, it must be traveled and the pitfalls along the way must be overcome so that we can arrive at our destination. At the end of that road, the mountains rise into the heart of darkness – the Land of the Gods awaits. Light must penetrate darkness and the chains that enslave those that God loves must be broken. Christ won the victory over darkness and evil on Golgotha, but the message of this victory must be brought to those who slumber in the night, with no light to illuminate their path. It is carried by those who have stepped off the road of progress and civilization because their hearts belong to Another and their ambitions are lashed to the fortunes of the damned. Like yeast in dough, like a flickering candle in a dark room, their presence brings transformation and illumination.
Redemption lies at the end of the Road to Dehradun and it flows from there to the Ends of the Earth. For a time, I flow with it and I praise God.