Today was the first day we, as a team, had the opportunity to venture deeper into the city, experiencing to a much greater degree its array of colors, the food, the heat, the beggars, the chaotic traffic, and the powerful presence of poverty and religion. After breakfast and a brief class on Hinduism as well as on the caste system, we made our way in taxis to go see the Hindu temple of Hanuman (the monkey god), which is one of the oldest temples in north India, and the Sikh temple.
The impressions associated with the Hindu temple is difficult to describe. Upon entering, you are instantly transported into something ancient and eerily sacred. The air was thick with worship and the overwhelming presence of the gods depicted in the idols. Bells constantly being tolled by the temple's worshipers to wake the gods filled our ears. Priests chanted, sprinkled petals and offered food to the idols, and marked the foreheads of the Hindu followers that gathered around them for blessings. Overall, the experience was intense and left you feeling confused and broken.
The Sikh temple, on the other hand, couldn't have been any more different; and the Sikh religion in general, I found, is a very peculiar and intriguing one to learn about. Its adherents believe their living Guru to be a book. And in so doing, we discovered that in the center of the temple rests their sacred text, which two men periodically fan to keep cool. When the day is over, the book is retired and put to bed for it be woken in the morning. And if it couldn't get any more interesting, we also learned that their sacred text is only sung, which was something rather beautiful to observe.
Although I knew these Sikh men, women and children to be lost, I sensed a degree of peace and joy there altogether absent in the Hindu temple. In Sikhism, men and women are considered equal, and it was very evident that the Sikh's upheld this conviction. Smiles were everywhere to be found, children played and bathed in the temple's pool, and a large crew of people diligently labored to cook and feed for the needy. Coming straight from the Hindu temple, a place of spiritual oppression, this place was like a breath of fresh air and even gave off some light.
We ask that you lift up the Hindus and Sikhs of this city - that God would make himself known to them and liberate them from their sin; that the veil over their eyes would be lifted so that the Hindus could clearly see the lifelessness of their idols and experience the life-giving power of the Almighty, and that the Sikhs could come to see and experience the true living Word, Christ.
Tomorrow we travel by train to a school five hours away. We will be there for three days. I doubt we will have internet access during our stay, so don't be dismayed by our sudden web-silence (kind of a joke). We ask that you continue to think of us and pray that God would enable us to do His will. Be back in a few days.
John and the rest of the team.
P.S. My right elbow was taken to town by some diabolical mosquito last night. Death to mosquitos! is my new canticle.