The clear, cold water in the metal basin quickly turned muddy as I washed the dirt from the mans feet. He watched me intently with jet-black eyes. His weathered skin and threadbare clothing betrayed his social status. A new Christian and a new Seventh-day Adventist, he was experiencing ritual foot washing for the first time.
After drying his feet, I poured out the dirty water and returned with clean water and a fresh towel. No, no! he said. We already did that. We dont need to do it again.
I tried to explain that it was his turn to wash my feet, but I was nervous to speak too directly. In Nepali culture, young people must show respect to their elders. Also, in Asian culture, the foot is the lowest part of the body. Seeing my discomfort, a nearby Nepali man came to my rescue. Uncle, its alright. He wants you to wash his feet now. We have to wash each others feet. The young man explained very politely.
Finally realizing why I had brought more water, the old man immediately got down and began washing my feet, apologizing for not understanding and asking me to forgive him since it was his first time.
As he washed my feet, I reflected on what the ritual means and how Jesus asks us to humble ourselves and serve others. The Gorkhas are a proud people. Born of a brave warrior caste, they have a long tradition of not bending to anyone. So, for this old Gorkha man to stoop low and gladly wash my feet was a significant turning point in his life. As I reflected, I thought about his name and realized it meant Brave Heart. In that moment, it struck me that by going against everything his culture expected of him, by humbling himself, by being baptized and taking up the cross of Christ, Brave Heart had done something very brave indeed.
This is what AFM is all aboutbeing used by God to go to the unreached and challenge them to reevaluate everything they know in the light of the Gospel. Thats why we have come to Darjeeling. To challenge the Gorkha people to step out in faith and trust in a God they cant see. To be bold. To be brave.
Nineteen-year-old Dikee has been living with us for two years and is now in college. We have seen phenomenal spiritual growth in her. Unfortunately, because of some recent policy changes, all the college exams for her core subjects were scheduled on Saturday. Dikee was devastated when she heard the news. With our help, she appealed to her school to make an exception for her because of her religious beliefs. Sadly, her appeals were rejected, and some of her teachers even laughed at her apparent misfortune. We were amazed at her faith when she told us, I think Im the only real Christian at my college. I think God wants me to be at this college so I can share the truth with the students and teachers. Dikee is a Brave Heart.
Several months ago, I was invited to speak at an Adventist youth camp meeting about a six-hour drive from Darjeeling. While I was there, I met Suraj, a Seventh-day Adventist Nepali man. We instantly became friends and brothers. We still email and call each other frequently to support and encourage one another. Suraj shared a bit of his life story with me:
Ten years ago, my life was a mess. I was smoking, drinking, using filthy language and doing whatever I wanted. No one in my family was Christian, but for some reason I felt I needed to change my life. A Christian guy lived near me, and I used to see him reading his Bible and praying. I asked him to teach me about Christianity. He taught me from the Bible, and I learned about salvation in Jesus.
One night when we were studying the Bible together, I decided to give my life to Jesus, so I asked the man if he would baptize me. He took me to a graveyard nearby that had a large pond. In the middle of the night in that cemetery, I committed my life to Jesus Christ.
I later learned about the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its beliefs. I realized it had even more things to teach me, and I wanted to join. Some of the Adventist pastors were uncomfortable that I had been baptized in a graveyard, so I got rebaptized. God has blessed my life so much since I joined the Adventist Church.
I moved to West Bengal with my family and started working for a large poultry company. There were many dishonest employees there who were lazy and did very poor work, so the regional manager sent me to various poultry farms to shape them up. Just like He did for Joseph in the Bible, God blessed every project I set out to do. My supervisors could see God was blessing me, and I was promoted again and again.
One day, a letter arrived at our office containing a single bullet and a ransom note saying that one of our farm supervisors in the neighboring state of Assam had been kidnapped by a rebel group. The terrorists demanded 1 million rupees in cash [about US$20,000] for his safe return. The company decided to meet their demands. We quickly got the cash together, but no one wanted to go and meet the terrorists. Everyone was afraid. In that moment, I knew this was a chance to show my coworkers that God Almighty could protect me from danger.
I packed the money in grocery sacks and even put a few small Bibles in the sacks thinking maybe the terrorists would read them. I called the cell phone number they had given us in the letter, and they directed me to a remote area in the jungle. When I reached the spot, men wearing camouflage uniforms and brandishing assault rifles surrounded me.
At this point in the story, I interrupted Suraj and asked his wife Bina if she was afraid for her husband when he went to meet the terrorists. Why would I be afraid? she asked. God was with my husband, and I knew He would protect him.
Suraj continued, I gave the money to the terrorists, and they promised to release our employee and directed me to another remote location. There, terrorists again emerged from all sides with guns pointed at me. Then they released our employee unharmed. Even when they were pointing their guns at me, I wasnt afraid because I knew God would protect me.
Suraj and Bina are Brave Hearts, too.
God is working in the lives of Brave Heart, Dikee, Suraj, Bina, and the rest of the Gorkha people, calling them out of darkness into a brave new life. And we know God has called us here to share in that work.
We will be returning to the U.S. on furlough next month. We need to raise $15,000 in relaunching funds and $660 in monthly support to sustain the work we have come here to do. Only through your financial support and prayers are we able to reach the Gorkha people of India for Christ. Please prayerfully consider pledging your support to help us challenge the Gorkha people to step out in faith and trust in a God they cant see. To be bold. To be Brave Hearts.