Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Map of Opposites

When you were a child did you ever play the "Opposite Game"? You say yes when you mean no, walk backwards, or wish dessert came before the meatloaf?

I did.

Now I see opposites in another light, like the colors on this map in the sanctuary at my church. There are two countries, both dear to my heart, that have solid colors dominating the map. My home country, The United States of America, is green, and the land I yearn to visit, India, is red. Red and green on this chart are opposites, extreme opposites, and here is why:

Dark Red- No Evangelical churches or Christians. No access to major Evangelical print, audio, visual or human resources.
Red- Less than 2% evangelical. Some Evangelical resources available, but no active church planting within the last two years.
Orange- Less than 2% Evangelical. Initial (localized) church planting within past two years.
Yellow- Less than 2% Evangelical. Widespread church planting within past two years.
Light Blue- Greater than or equal to 2% Evangelical.
Light Green- Greater than or equal to 5% Evangelical.
Dark Green- Greater than or equal to 10% Evangelical.
Gray- Unknown.

This map is a model which describes the progress of the gospel among the peoples of the world by considering:
1- The extent to which a people group is Evangelical.
2- Accessibility to the gospel.
3- Church planting activity, whether localized or widespread, within the past two years.

(This and more information, maps, charts and details at the IMB website.)

If you read my post about the Lausanne Covenant at A Distant Thunder, you will remember me saying:

Inside each person there are certain dreams and desires that are ignited by simple things- things that affect no one else. Your pulse might not quicken when you see a world map. Your heart might not melt at the sight of dirty children in grass huts. You may not spend countless hours studying unreached people groups. You may not enjoy eating strange cross-cultural foods or browse international food markets for fun. You may not look at an airplane ascending to the sky and wish you were on it headed across the ocean to a distant land. You may not feel an overwhelming sense of energy when you think about taking God to the nations.
I do. Oh, I do.

When I look at this map of the "progress" of world evangelization I get both discouraged and excited. There is a lot of green in the Americas and Australia, but in comparision to the rest of the world, especially the Middle East and Asia, there is not enough. About 80% of the world's population has NO evangelical churches, NO active church planting, NO Christ-centerd spiritual influence, NO Jesus... NO hope, NO peace and NO love. You would think that the SOLID green country would be so overwhelmed with love for Jesus that they would take that love to the red country. Yet, India is starving spiritually while America is spiritually obese.

Since I was nine years old I have dreamed of visiting India and being a missionary there. When I saw this map a month ago that desire burned even deeper into my soul. There is too much red. TOO much red. So I want you to imagine...

IMAGINE growing up in a society where there was NO church, NO presence of Christ, NO freedom to walk into a place where YOU want to worship.

IMAGINE being told you are not good enough to enter Hindu temples because you are less than human.

IMAGINE being convinced, at a young age, that you are an outcast because you were evil in your past life.

IMAGINE living in a land where the cows eat more than the children because the beasts are considered holy.

IMAGINE being raisied to believe that the lighter your skin the more perfect you are.

Can you imagine?

No, you cannot.


A Dalit can.

India is home to 1/6 of the world's population numbering over 1 billion people, all of whom reside with the oppresive caste system. Almost 700 million of those are backward caste and lower caste citizens. A mere 5% are elite caste (priests doctors, lawyers), another 5% uppercaste (army, administrators) and 5% more as medium caste (commercial). Three out of five people you meet in India are below poverty line, with two of those three being a Dalit, or "untouchable."

Dalits are treated as less than human and are believed to BE a lesser creature than animals. They tan leather, remove human waste and bury the dead. They are required to get their food, supplies and clothes from strictly Dalit stores- that is if there are Dalit stores available. An uppercaste person (the top 15%) is considered cerimonally unclean if even the shadow of a Dalit falls on them. Dalit children are sold into slavery and women (starting around 10 years old) are used as sex slaves.

The Hindu religion tells them that they are Dalit because they were evil in their past life. The only way to escape being a Dalit in the next life is to be a perfect Dalit now. If they are perfect then maybe in their next life they will move up the ladder to being... an animal. The Hindu guide also tells them: their skin is dark so their heart is dark- light face, clean heart.

So what are we going to do about it? What are we going to do about the slavery, the oppression, the lies and the caste system? Many Dalits are already realizing that Hinduism equals the caste system and the caste system is controlled by Hinduism. They do not want to be Hindus if that is where their oppression is fostered.

They want to be free. There is only One Freedom Giver that can break the chains of oppression. I have a relationship with Him and He has commanded me to let go of my life for the sake of a country that is in bondage. Living a happy, comfortable, middle-class life is a wasted life. Risk is right when we claim to know Christ.
God has called me
where my deep gladness
and the world's deep
hunger meet.
And it is a beautiful collision.

Please visit The Dalit Freedom Network website for more information on the Dalit people. Sponsor a child. Pray. Give money. Step out of your comfort zone. Go to India. (Just make sure to take me with you.)


Ann Marie said...

There is too much red. Red is usually my favorite color, but certainly not in this case. I have a sneaking suspicion that God is going to use you in mighty ways to eliminate that red blur on the map. I'm excited with you as we wait to discover His preferred method for your impact in His kingdom building plans!

Spanish Morning said...

Matt and I have been meditating lately on how MUCH we have compared to others outside of the green regions you mentioned...even down to the amount of fabric and thread on our bed is much more than maybe even an entire remote village somewhere. Just on our BED!

I can not imagine. You are right. And I praise God for the freedom He offers. If only people everywhere could know that we do not restrict ourselves with religion when we come to Christ -- we are set free to live life abundantly!