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Ministry in Punjab

It was the end of a long day of learning about the Sikh worldview, traveling and engaging people in conversation. The team had just turned in for the night at our hotel in Amritsar. I journeyed down to the lobby, where I met Sajan, who also uses the name Sam.

missions1a 300Professor Adam Harwood (center) and the evangelical worker whose face is obscured shared with Sajan (right) that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.      Photo / Ashlyn Williams

As Sam and I wound our way upstairs, God provided an opportunity for us to talk. He spoke with enthusiasm about his love for American music and culture. Like other people we had met in India, Sam's picture of American culture was shaped by the TV shows, movies and music we export to the rest of the world. He showed me pictures of his favorite celebrities on his phone, such as Justin Bieber, John Cena and Megan Fox. We shared pictures of our families, and Sam talked about his life and goals.

I tried asking Sam about spiritual issues but was unable to cross the language barrier. He knew some English phrases but didn't have a strong vocabulary. And my Punjabi was limited to one phrase, a greeting. We took pictures of each other with our cell phones and exchanged contact information so we could keep in touch through text messaging. When I returned to the room, my roommate, Dr. Pruitt, suggested we pray for Sam. We asked God to bring other people into his life who would communicate clearly in his language so he would have a chance to hear about Christ and place his faith in Christ.

The next morning, Sam found our group downstairs at breakfast. He had finished his night shift and wanted to say goodbye to his American friend. I introduced Sam to Gary*, an evangelical worker in Punjab. Gary has a basic knowledge of several Asian languages, including Sam's primary language of Punjabi. We walked across the busy street to a coffee shop, where the three of us talked for a couple of hours.

During that time, Gary and I learned more about Sam's life, family and spiritual views. Between Gary's knowledge of the Punjabi and Hindi languages and my ability to draw pictures on a napkin, we discovered that Sam had once heard the story of Yesu (Jesus in Punjabi). Sam had seen a TV show which told of the life, death, resurrection, ascension and future return of Jesus. Because of the language barrier, we were unable to determine Sam's opinion of those claims.

The Indian culture is highly religious. For example, we heard several testimonies of worshippers in various religions visiting temples daily and praying for hours at a time. Sam was no exception. He has visited Sikh and Hindu temples, and Muslim mosques. He stated that all paths lead to God. I smiled and told him that Jesus said, "No. Only me." When Sam seemed concerned, I knew he understood the meaning of my words.

Then I tried to illustrate the exclusive claim of Christ. Placing my drink bottle in the center of our table, I pointed to it and said, "God." He pointed to the bottle and repeated, "God." I nodded my head in affirmation. Using hand motions, I made several paths to the bottle, naming major religions for each path. "Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism." He nodded and said, "Yes. All paths to God." Then, I made one more path with my hand and stated, "Jesus says, 'No. Only me.'" Again, he looked confused. Then I said, "Only Jesus is God." Once again, Gary and I were unsure whether or not Sam understood these claims.

We asked Sam if he would be willing to attend a local church this Sunday. (Actually Sam didn't understand the word "church" in English but he agreed to attend when we called it a Jesus Temple.) Sam didn't hesitate, "Oh, sure. I'll go." We closed our visit with Sam by praying for him, asking God to reveal to Sam that Jesus is God and to bring Sam to saving faith in Christ.

Earlier in the week, Gary had introduced our team to the pastor of the Baptist church in Amritsar as well as two other bold, Punjabi-speaking Christians. Although we are no longer in Sam's city (and may never return), I am prayerfully confident that Gary will be able to introduce Sam to one of those believers, who will meet with him and explain to Sam in his heart language of Punjabi that among all of the religious leaders, Jesus is the only way to God, and Jesus is the only religious leader who died for Sam's sin and lives today.

There were many conversations this week in which TMC students sowed Gospel seeds into the hearts and minds of people in India. Some of those conversations were full-blown presentations of the Gospel, from Creation to Corruption to Cross to Consummation. Other conversations, like the ones with Sam, built relationships for future conversations and cleared the path of debris which obstructed their view of Jesus. The people of India are searching and working desperately for a chance to know peace and truth in this life. And they need to hear that Jesus is the only answer to their quest for peace with God and truth about life. It was worth the effort to make this trip to India so I could meet Sam and tell him that Jesus is the only way that any person ever gets to God.

- Adam Harwood, 3/8/12

*For security purposes, 'Gary' is not this person's name.

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