Traveling to India

October 23, 2011

Join BFJN’s director, Ryan Scott McDonnell, as he blogs about his travels throughout India. During this trip, Ryan will be reflecting upon the four themes ofLazarus at the Gatein light of his experiences throughout the country.

IndiaIt’s 3:45 am and I am wide awake. As I sit in Amsterdam (my layover stop), I think about something my wife said to me in the airport. “Look around you. All of these people (waiting for lost luggage, proudly clutching their duty-free items, booking their flights, catching cabs to their hotels) they are part of a very privileged minority. Most of the world’s population never gets on a plane, let alone travel halfway around the world.”

She’s right of course. (She usually is.) The opportunity to accompany family on a ten day trip throughout India makes me one of the elite few. In the midst of the world’s great need, it seems hard to justify this great extravagance. That realization has prompted me to reflect about why I travel and to identify specific reasons why this trip is important.

We’ll be spending time in the cities of Delhi, Hyderabad, Surat (north of Mumbai) and Varanasi. We will be visiting several Christian non-profit organizations working to share the Gospel, plant churches and care for the poor and the sick. Some of the ministries have governing boards in the United States while others have 100% indigenous leadership. We will experience an interesting cross-section of cultures, language and organizational structures during the trip.

Although my background is in international development and I have lived in developing counties, I have never traveled to India. I’m looking forward to learning more about this large and incredibly diverse democracy that is rapidly modernizing despite many of its citizens remaining in abject poverty. As a Christian, I’m fascinated to learn how the Church operates in a context that is so different from the West. Much of my work with the Boston Faith & Justice Network is to encourage, connect and mobilize Christians in Boston to care for the poor and oppressed in a world where distance no longer determines who is your neighbor. I believe strongly that I can do that more effectively as I see things with my own eyes.

If I am called to love my neighbor, then I need to do so thoughtfully, prayerfully and with a significant understanding of the culture and history I am engaging with. Travel helps us understand more about the world through the process of discovery and relationship. It is my hope to connect with others though this trip in order to better understand a place that is, at this time, almost completely unknown to me.

As I think and write about this trip to India, I’ll be drawing upon the themes discussed inLazarus at the Gate, a resource familiar to many reading this post. This 12-session Bible study discusses global poverty through Old and New Testament teachings about money. Rather than impose a “one-size fits all” approach to following Jesus with our money,Lazarusleads participants through four simple (but powerful) Biblical principles with practical application. They are:

1.Spend less: Make one lifestyle change in order to buy less for personal consumption.
2.Give more: Make a substantial gift to fight global poverty.
3.Spend justly: Make one lifestyle change to consume more justly.
4.Spend joyfully: Regularly give thanks for the blessing of wealth.

Over the next several posts I’ll be sharing perspectives on these principles from my travels in India.

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