Dalit. It means "the broken ones." In the Indian culture, defined by its rigid caste system, the Dalit's are the lowest. They are the outcasts. Yet among the outcasts, the Spirit of God is moving in powerful ways.
This should come as no surprise to us. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2 to define His ministry on earth. Sitting in a Nazarene synagogue, Jesus read these words: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
To summarize, Jesus is saying that He has come to make the broken ones whole. In India, the Dalits have seen and experienced the folly and oppression of Hinduism and Islam. They have experienced the oppression of discrimination built in to the fabric of their culture through the caste system. Now, they are hearing the good news of a Savior who came to live among them in their poverty, of a Savior who has loved them in spite of their lowly position in society, and most importantly in spite of their sin before the Lord. They are hearing this message of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is turning their hearts to Him.
This week, Rick Rodgers and I have the privilege of ministering among a group of largely Dalit pastors who themselves are ministering among the Dalit people of India. And we have seen the Lord moving. On Sunday morning, we ministered among, and worshiped, with a group of these believers in a small village, 2 hours from the nearest city. We worshiped in a building built by a woman who was converted while serving time in prison for murdering her husband. Shewas later released, returned and was reconciled to her village, where she built a building for the church. That church, meeting in that building, is now shining the light of Jesus Christ in a very dark place. During this service, 7 new believers were baptized...the broken ones made whole.
Then on Sunday evening, we ministered and worshiped with a small house church, meeting in one of the slums of Hyderabad. There, a young pastor is evangelizing and pastoring in the Dalit community where he lives. That night, 4 new believers were baptized...the broken ones made whole.
It has been an encouraging and humbling week as Rick and I have been with these pastors, most of whom are evangelizing and planting churches in 5 or 6 villages each! I have been providing theological training for these pastors. Rick has been ministering to their physical needs for water and power, training them in the use of water filters and solar chargers provided by Designs for Hope. Both of us are being blessed by the zeal these brothers and sisters express for a Savior who makes the broken ones whole.
As with all mission trips, this one has been a time of ministry, but also of great encouragement to me. I have seen, once again, the breadth of the kingdom of God. Our great God is at work in His great creation, and seeing His work first hand builds within me a greater longing for the final fulfillment of Revelation 7:9-10:
"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"
I am so encouraged by the bigness of God's kingdom. But as with other mission trips, I also find myself thinking of Trussville. The Dalits are told by their culture that they are the broken ones. For us, we are told the opposite. Our community is thriving, and for that we are thankful. But let us not forget, we too are the broken ones. Many in our community our hurting. Many are oppressed. Many experience discrimination, in various forms. Many of us are captive, not to an oppressive caste structure, but to our own sin.
Praise be to God that we are the kind of people whom our Savior has come for. My prayer this week is that Rick and I would not forget this mighty movement of God. My prayer this week is that the people of Trussville would know, and not forget, this mighty movement of God. I pray that we would realize our brokenness, but in realizing, we would not be given over to despair. I pray that we would know the reality of our victorious Savior who has come to release captives like us. I pray that we will experience the joy of these newly believing Dalits...the broken ones made whole.