Actually it’s not 3 billion Indians, it’s 1.17 billion Indians, but who’s counting. You could stand pretty much anywhere in India, take a picture in any direction, and count 500 people. The state of Uttar Pradesh (where we spent most of our time) is roughly the size of Michigan and has over 166 million people in it! Michigan barely has10 million people. I’ve never seen so many people in all my life and God loves every one of them just as much as He loves me, yet almost none of them know it. According the world countries app on my iphone: 80.5% of them are Hindu, 13.4% of them are Muslims, and only 2.3% of them are Christians. You can do the math however you want but no matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of people that don’t know Jesus. In fact, a bunch of them don’t even know who He is! This astounding number of people without Christ was more incredible to me than anything I saw or experienced in India. Don’t get me wrong — the poverty is unbelievable, the living conditions are shocking, and the number of homeless children is heartbreaking, but the sheer number of people who are lost is absolutely overwhelming.
This was no more apparent to me than when we were in the city of Varanassi. Varanassi is basically the Hindu center of the universe. It is the holiest of holy cities for Hindus and an incredibly demonically oppressed city. It is known in mission circles as the “graveyard of missions.” because of the overwhelming Hindu devotion in the area and the many failed attempts to evangelize this city.
While in Varanassi we took a boat ride to witness the Hindu ritual of ceremonial sunrise bathing in the Ganges River. The purpose of the ritual is to offer worship and wash away sin to hopefully appease the gods and get off the cycle of reincarnation by earning a way to heaven. Hindus also wash the bodies of the deceased in this river before they are cremated and then scatter the ashes in the river. Sometimes for various reasons they simply dump the body in the river. All in a vain attempt to attain salvation. It is literally heartbreaking to see people so deceived working so hard to earn the favor of a god or gods that don’t exist.
Below is the video I shot of this ritual. It is pretty raw and for the most part unedited but I think it captures the essence of what we witnessed that day. In it you will see many statues and paintings of false gods as well as people bathing, worshipping, doing laundry, and even brushing their teeth all in the nastiest water you could ever imagine. I must warn you, you will see a dead body being ceremonially washed as well as one floating in the river. It’s not graphic. You can’t see the actual bodies because they’ve been ceremonially wrapped but you’ll know what they are. Check it out:
In spite of the fact that Varnassi is the holiest of holy cities for Hindus, our God is the God of this city and He is sending out workers into this plentiful harvest. In fact, in the last two years 10,000 churches have been started and are thriving in this “graveyard of missions.” God is at work in Varanassi and more than anything our Christian brothers and sisters there need our prayers. So I’ll leave you with a prayer written for the people of Varanassi by my sister-in-law, Holly Nichols, who loves the people of India probably more than I love my own kids.
“I am praying with you right now that the people of India will know their God. That they will exchange the lie for the truth of God and return to worship the Creator instead of the creation. That the rivers and rocks and creation that they have been taught to worship will cry out beside them and join them in worshipping the Creator of all.”
God bless ya – Runks