Death is literally in the air. I opened the veranda door of my apartment in Delhi this week and realized the sky was grey and thick. The weather app on my phone confirmed the “hazardous” air. Then it hit me. The cremations. The non-stop burning of bodies in my city that has overflowed into parks and parking lots has the sky full of ash.
I have closed our doors and stopped hanging our clothes outside to avoid the sick smell of death-saturated smoke from consuming us.
Delhi is burning. India is burning. I am again reminded with a heavy heart that in this land of 1.4 billion people only 2% claim to know Jesus as Lord. This means that the scenes playing out before my very eyes are but a small picture of the reality that awaits almost all Indians for eternity. Helplessness. Fear. Agony. Suffering. Fires that never stop burning.
I’m part of His church in India. We are regularly going out and sharing the gospel, discipling new believers, and seeing the church grow with a confident hope that the words of Revelation 7:9 will come to pass- people from every nation, every tribe, every people and every tongue will one day be before the throne worshiping God for all eternity.
I look towards that day described in Revelation 7:9, yet today I breathe in the reality of Matthew 25:41: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
Eternity is real. Hell is real. I know that people are already entering hell at an alarming rate all around on any normal day and today is certainly not a normal day. Messages on my phone and in social media are an overwhelming barrage of neighbors and friends begging for help finding hospital beds, oxygen, medicine as India faces the world’s worst outbreak of COVID-19.
The hospitals are full. The crematoriums are full. Ambulances and hearses are unavailable leaving grief-stricken relatives to carry the dead away on their own. Families then must take a ticket and sit with the dead body in temperatures over 100 degrees waiting their turn for the funeral pyres or graveyard.
The world recently watched as millions of Hindus gathered at the Ganges River to bathe and worship during the Kumbh Mela festival, risking COVID-19 for hope of salvation. Those risks have not paid off. Their idols are silent. They do not give hope, peace or life. I read in “India Today” of a family going from hospital to hospital seeking help and they were told to “keep trying, as even God can be found if tried hard enough.” The desperate family’s tearful response was, “Magar humain toh koi bhagwan nahi mile (But we haven’t found any God).”
I could allow this spiritual reality, much like the suffocating air of death, to smother me. But, as a child of God, I am not called just to react. I’m called to battle. I’m asking you, follower of Christ, to battle with me in prayer.
God is the only One who can draw people to Himself. He is the only One who can meet the needs of India. He is the only One who can give hope, who can give life. He is the only One who can bring beauty from these ashes.
Today my pastor urged us not to waste this crisis. He asked for young men to live in the church building and be available to use the church vehicle to drive people to the hospital. He called on church members to cook meals for the sick and to deliver groceries. He encouraged us to call those we know who are lost and share the gospel. Even in lockdown when stores are closed and passes are required for travel on the roads, we are finding ways to be the church. This is not the time to sit back and binge watch Netflix or zone out on social media. This is urgent.
Ask God to raise up His church in India—even as they also suffer—that they may lift their voices to heaven in worship and intercession. Pray for believers to continue sharing the gospel, to continue making disciples. Pray for us as we continue to call people to repent and turn to the only One worthy of their worship, the only One who can save. Pray for God to call out more laborers to this land. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are so few. So very few. Pray that God would be found by the people of India. Pray that God would turn their mourning into dancing and exchange their weeping with joy.