July 7, 2016 Member Letter
It is almost impossible for me to write a letter or give a sermon these days without referencing my recent trip to Asia. While Dave Baker, Sharron and I traveled to the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka, we spent most of our trip in India, which to me is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. In preparation for this trip, I read the book Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, originally published in 1975 and updated in 2012. The authors thoroughly researched their subject, spending more than five years interviewing those who were directly involved in the independence movement in India, culminating in the creation of the countries of India and Pakistan at the stroke of midnight at the beginning of Aug. 15, 1947.
One of the most graphic chapters in the book is titled “Our People Have Gone Mad.” It describes the violence that took place in India and Pakistan after independence was granted. I won’t attempt to describe how violent it was in this short letter, but trust me—the description of the murder of children was so graphic that it made me gasp when I read it. One million people were murdered in the months after independence! The worst nightmare of the British pulling out of India came true. Even the “soul of India,” Mohandas Gandhi, couldn’t stop the bloodshed. The book describes blood flowing in the open sewers in the cities of Lahore and Calcutta, and dead bodies filling the waterways around these two cities. It was a ruthless time, described by the leaders of the independence movement—Gandhi, Nehru, and Jenna—as the time when “our people went mad.”
The book describes the situation three weeks after independence. India was reeling, violence was spreading from city to city, and even the capital of Delhi was under siege. The entire country was on the verge of collapse. A secret meeting took place on Sept. 6, 1947, with three people present: the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru; his deputy prime minister, Sardar Patel; and the last British viceroy and governor-general of India prior to independence, Lord Louis Mountbatten. The Indian leaders met to ask Mountbatten to step in and run the country. They had failed miserably.
During that Sept. 6 meeting, Prime Minister Nehru addressed Mountbatten: “While you were exercising the highest command in war, we were in a British prison. You are a professional, high-level administrator. You’ve commanded millions of men. You have the experience and knowledge colonialism denied us. You English can’t just turn this country over to us after being here all our lives and simply walk away. We’re in an emergency and we need help. Will you run the country?” (Freedom at Midnight, p. 486). Mountbatten agreed to return and run the country through an “emergency committee,” with all members appointed by him. This bold move saved India from disintegrating.
The problem identified by Nehru was a lack of qualified leaders. The humility Nehru exhibited in making this request helped cement his place in Indian history as one of their greatest leaders. What a novel idea—leaders showing humility! This is something we rarely see today.
There is a very important principle for all of us in this lesson from history. In the book of Revelation we are told that when Jesus Christ returns to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, He will “have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). Just prior to this moment, the world will live through a time that could be described as being like India when “our people went mad.” The violence will be the worst that the world has ever seen. Jesus Christ will intervene to prevent man from destroying all life (Matthew 24:21), and He will set up a new government with new leaders. Those leaders are being trained now and have been for the past 6,000 years. What kind of leaders will they be?
Jesus Christ instructed His disciples about leadership in Matthew 20:25-28: “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”
It is important for us to realize that we have been called to be the firstfruits of the Kingdom of God. And, as firstfruits, we will be the leaders in that government. What type of leaders will we be? The question we should ask is, What type of leaders are we now, or what type of Christians are we now? One doesn’t need a position to be a leader, and one doesn’t need a title now in order to become a leader in God’s future government. In our Young Adult Leadership Weekends we encourage young adults to serve in the Church. We use the phrase “humility before position; service before title” to illustrate the attitude a leader should have.
I enjoyed reading Freedom at Midnight and learning more about the history of India. To me, it was fascinating. But the greatest pleasure I had on this recent trip was spending time with members. Those in India are isolated but mostly live in three areas—Calcutta, Hyderabad and Moradabad. Their commitment to the truth after so many years of not having a local congregation to attend is inspiring. The same is true of the others we visited on this trip.
On this visit, we saw beautiful monuments—the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Queen Victoria Monument in Calcutta—but this isn’t the India where most live. According to the World Bank, in 1990 only 51 percent of Indians (out of a current population of 1.2 billion) had access to electricity. By 2012 that number had risen to 79 percent of all Indians (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.ELC.ACCS.ZS). But while 79 percent may have access, it was our experience in driving around the northern part of India that many Indians don’t have electricity in their homes or running water, making sanitation a very big problem. Living conditions are some of the worst I have seen anywhere in the world.
In spite of the very different cultures and challenges in each country where we visited, there is a common spirit and culture among God’s people. We are citizens of God’s Kingdom first, and that binds us together even more so than our country of origin. We returned home from this trip exhausted physically and emotionally but recharged spiritually. We will never forget the people we met, the things we saw and the lessons we learned. Please pray for your brothers and sisters in Asia as they face life’s challenges in a very different world from where most of us live.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,