Barefoot Religion

Southeast Asia Minimester team uses experience at local temple as context for their time of ministering in the Hindu culture.

While in Southeast Asia, Junior Courtney Villa shared Christ with those of Hindu faith. A teenage boy there told her,

photo provided by Courtney Villa

While in Southeast Asia, Junior Courtney Villa shared Christ with those of Hindu faith. A teenage boy there told her, “I’ve been waiting a long time for you to bring me a Bible.”

Temple Visit – February 18

Gazing up at the ivory walls, my eyes were captivated—there was so much to look at. I was in awe of the ornate, sculptured building. As I reached for the door I read a sign written in many different languages, politely asking me to remove my shoes. As I placed my worn-out Birkenstocks on one of the countless shelves lining the entry, I wondered what I would find inside. My feet followed, one after the other, along the cold marble floor.

A few days later, I would embark on a trip to Southeast Asia with other students for Minimester. In preparation for that trip, our group visited a Hindu temple to learn of the culture; however, I gained much more. It solidly reminded me of the great gift we have in Jesus Christ.

As I entered the worship area, I heard the recurring chime of a bell. Ding ding ding… echoing throughout. People sat on humble blue mats with their legs crossed. Some stared forward, some had their eyes closed, and some whispered to their friends—nothing unusual for people waiting for something to begin. The man at the front began to recite some sort of prayer with great intensity. I inferred it must be something important.

I began to walk around the periphery, approaching the alcoves in the walls, each with their respective god inside. I spent a great deal of time looking at the wonderful details in their clothing. Each had been carved out of precious materials, adorned with paint and jewels. Some were surrounded with incense candles, their flames flickering in the air. Others simply had a beautiful necklace. These people had an obvious respect for their gods.

We then walked across a manicured lawn, full of golden poles and colorful chalk. We entered the recreation center, and I gazed up at the paintings that lined the walls around the entire room. They included every color I could imagine and showed the stories of the Hindu gods. We were told to be careful to respect the people and culture of Southeast Asia. If we were not careful and insulted their religion, we would lose any ground to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Hindu religion is one of incredible color and beautiful artistry, but it lacks many things, among them true love and true grace. The Hindu religion has a wide range of application and practice. Some Hindus are devoted followers of certain deities; others look inward toward their divine self, or “atman.” Yet most recognize Brahman, the unifying reality of the universe.

We learned that in the Hindu religion, many of the gods were people who were elevated to deity through enlightenment or by chance. In contrast, Christ lowered himself to become a human. And in this, we were saved through His great sacrifice.

Visiting this Hindu temple and learning about their culture prepared me to understand why different people would react in different ways as we traveled through Southeast Asia.

 

Southeast Asia – March 7

My legs weren’t mine anymore. Standing up, they felt like the static on those old televisions when the channels went to sleep. My body had become the planes, trains and automobiles that brought us here. I had never sat for so long, and I had never traveled so far. After 50 hours, we finally arrived.

The plane’s oval window was a portal into a new world of rolling hills, roaring mountains, and humble homes. It looked like the pictures I had seen, except more beautiful of course. My nights spent in Plano, searching for what it would be like, only showed me the land. But the most beautiful part of the country was the people.

Beep, beep, beep. The noise that woke me up every day at home sounded somehow different now. The routine signal of normalcy back in Texas, here the alarm brought long days spent outside my comfort zone.

Walking through the slum streets, I saw naked children running about. As the hungry dogs begged for crackers, the people’s souls begged for a savior. Bright clothing filled the crowded streets like waves of color. I recognized different Hindu symbols on shops and homes; it was part of the culture in this male-driven society.

“Have you heard of Jesus?” I would ask them. Their eyes and focus floated up into a corner, searching their memory. Most said no and some said they heard he was powerful and loving. But not a single person knew what He had done for them 2000 years ago. So, I told them.

Some people would cry, saying they had been waiting to hear that there was more to life than planting crops and milking cows. Others didn’t want to listen. Women were always slow to accept, saying a man in their family had to become a Christian and approve of their decision. By being aware of social customs, I carefully approached the issue, explaining the personal aspect of Christianity.

Nothing could have fully prepared us, but the spring visit to the Temple gave us indicators and understanding. With dusty feet and burnt skin, we kept on. Just one more, we would say.