Why We Go

[Editor’s Note: The following post is from a journal entry after a recent return trip to India, where Kennedy had served for two years.]

Six years ago, I moved to South Asia. This week I returned.

From the day I left to the day I returned, almost four years had passed.

A lot had changed. A lot had stayed the same. The city had grown. New malls replaced old, abandoned ones. The streets were still packed with two-wheelers and rickshaws. Colorful bombardment mixed with a seasoned blend of sweat and spices filled the senses. And no matter how many roads had been built and how many walls had been painted, India was still India.

There were definitely things I loved about India. Everywhere you look, there is a beautiful picture waiting to be snapped. Colors and patterns combine in a glorious kaleidoscope of textiles. Sweet spices make stacks in marketplace corners. Rickshaws maneuver through tight spaces.

And the people…the people are wonderful. I returned as a guest, treated like royalty. Each person we visited prepared chai and snacks. Some prepared entire meals. All welcomed us with open arms and reminisced about our friendship when I was there.

Not every M gets a chance to go back years later and see the fruit of their labor. Most leave their friends and their work and the people they have ministered to and they never have a chance to return. But I did. And the results and discussions were interesting.

In the marketplace, I met my family of bed sheet wallas [sellers]. Even though four years had passed, they recognized me instantly and beckoned me into their tiny shop. As they served my brother and me chai, they told me, “Do you remember the picture you gave us of all of us with you? We still have it. We have it and the Bible you gave us.”

In the same market, I visited my jewelry walla. This old Muslim man’s face lit up as he saw me and my mother and my brother. He gave us jewelry and told us that he considered it a gift from God that we would come so far to see him.

I sat in my friend’s house as she pulled out an old journal that I had given her before I left. She flipped through the pictures that I had pasted in the book and stopped at a line that I had written to her. My very sloppy handwriting said, “I cannot wait to see the places that the Lord will take you. I cannot wait to hear the stories of how he will use you and continue to open doors for His work in your life.” She then spent the next twenty minutes telling me about the past four years and how the Lord had used her.

I sat down to dinner with some dear friends. When I was in India, she had been a Hindu. Her home had been decorated with gods and goddesses. But for at least a year, I met with her and taught her stories from the Bible. After I returned home, she became a follower of Jesus and last year, she and her two girls were baptized. As I sat in her home, she told me that she considered me to be her primary school teacher who laid the foundation for the next person to come in and teach her further.

At the same time, I mourned on this trip. I sat down for chai with one of my best friends, whose mother suffers from a debilitating disease. She had become much worse in the past four years. And I knew that there was a strong possibility that I would never see her again. And my heart mourned because this family had heard the good news of Jesus and had rejected Him.

I sat in the home of a well-to-do family. One of their sons had been seeking when I was there. But now, he was drifting. He was still devoted to a Hindu god and he could not fathom leaving his family to follow Christ. The cost was too great.

And I rejoiced with my friend as she, a strong believer, married another strong believer. Their story had been one of persecution, opposition, and God’s faithfulness. And I had the honor of celebrating with her as she began a new life. But I also mourned over her lost family, a family that had seen the grace of God shining through their daughter and had not responded.

And as I look on these two weeks that I spent in India, I knew that these moments sum up why we go. Sometimes, I think I’m crazy. I moved to South Asia. I uprooted my life and left my friends and family to go to this crazy, loud, smelly, colorful, weird, and wonderful country.

But what I found was worth it. I found a country with a billion amazing people loved by God. And in that country, there are some believers who are waiting to be encouraged to go out and share the Good News. In that country, there are people who are waiting to get their hands on a Bible. In that country, there are people of peace waiting to hear the gospel, respond to the gospel, and produce a harvest of a hundred-fold. In that country, there are a billion people waiting.

And that, my friends, is why we go.

If you are interested in going, whether short term or long term, check out the IMB website at www.imb.org.