Reflections on South Asia
This past January, I had the precious opportunity to travel with a teaching team to South Asia where we gave an entire overview of the Old Testament in just four days. I had never been on a short-term mission trip with such an ambitious and deeply theological goal. I was full of both nervous anticipation and hope.
During our trip, I witnessed three key things: hunger, worship, and strengthened pastors.
First, I witnessed hunger.
Sundar, our training site coordinator, had been up the entire night before. It turns out that he had been on the phone helping pastors who were taking overnight trains just to get to this training. One of the pastors had to travel 800 kilometers—without a seat.
I couldn’t help but wonder, “Would I have the same hunger for an Old Testament training module?”
Sundar proceeded to introduce us to his pastor and mentor. He explained that he had been in ministry for over four decades and had never had the opportunity to be trained in the Old Testament. This utterly shocked me. These brothers are so hungry, and there are so few resources for them. While I’m thankful for the abundance of theological resources at our disposal in the West, oh how I am prone to take it for granted! Lord, give me the same hunger that my brothers have!
Secondly, I witnessed worship.
The goal of our training module was to show how all the Old Testament pointed to Jesus Christ. But we didn’t want to merely transfer information. We wanted to cultivate worship, the exaltation of our beloved Jesus Christ. Thankfully, we saw this repeatedly in our training sessions. Our sessions would begin with explanations and information. The pastors would follow along by taking copious notes. But then, in almost every session, there would be a moment where we would begin to connect the dots between the Old Testament and Jesus Christ. We would show how God’s Word is one big redemptive story. In these moments, the pastors would stop writing and start nodding in agreement. You could see lightbulbs going off. Parts of the room would erupt in “Hallelujah!” and “Praise the Lord!”
These Spirit-led moments led us to stop and pray, to stop and simply respond to the grand truths we were learning and the great Saviour we were seeing in the pages of the Old Testament. During these prayers, my South Asian brothers would raise their hands and audibly agree with loud amens. This worship was not manufactured; it wasn’t based on the promise of health and wealth or emotional manipulation. This worship was a response to Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old Testament.
Not every training session becomes a worship service. But when it happens, it’s glorious. Even as I’m writing this, I look back to that week and join my brothers in declaring, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”
Thirdly, I witnessed strengthened pastors.
On our final day, we heard how the week had helped so many pastors. They showed us their full notebooks and told us how this was an unparalleled week of learning. One pastor shared that he had only planned to stay for a single night because of the pressing demands of his ministry back home. However, by day two, he knew he had to stay. What he was learning was too important for his soul and ministry.
Romans 15:4 describes the Old Testament in this way: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Our trip had a simple, yet ambitious premise: Teach the Old Testament in a week.
Guess what? Romans 15:4 proved true. This was a week of “encouragement of the Scriptures.” We left with far more hope than when we arrived. For this, I echo my South Asian brothers’ most popular phrase, “Praise the Lord!”
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