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**This book is written on Christian missions. As such, there may be opinions you do not agree with. Please keep any comments respectful.
It is not often that a reader is given a glimpse into the daily reality of mission work, as it is written in Things as They Are Mission Work in Southern India by Amy Carmichael
. It is not all pretty singing and beautiful sunsets. Sometimes it is getting dirty, being disliked by whole villages and coming to term with the knowing any additions into the Family of God means loss and heartache in this life for those who make the decision.
Another aspect to mission work is learning to live like those you are ministering to, instead of expecting them to take on a foreign sense of reality. What may look to us like frivolous decorations or a historic symbol, to someone from another culture it may look like idol worship. “You face (it) and pray. Is that not the same as we do?” Overcoming this miscommunications can be near impossible at times, and make the work of missionaries vastly more difficult. Yet, it is something many of us do not give a second thought to. Are our outward actions causing a stumbling block for others?
I have heard the name “Amy Carmichael” but did not know much about this amazing lady till reading this book and looking up more information afterwards. Here is a brief description of the author, from Wikipedia
“Amy Wilson Carmichael (16 December 1867 – 18 January 1951) was a Protestant Christian missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for 55 years without furlough and wrote many books about the missionary work there.”
Just as the title suggests, this book is a review of sorts, giving the reader insight into the mission work in Southern India. The geographical distinction is stressed and explained in the book. Just as there are differences in the regions of our country, so are there in India, with various customs and religions being more ingrained and mainstream in the various locations. The rural/urban difference also has an effect there, as it does here.
The beginning pages of Things as They Are Mission Work in Southern India
explain how the book came about and how it was written. Something that was not explained, but I surmised from first hand experience, was the source of such strange names which made it difficult to understand at first. Rather than writing the Indian name of various people, the name where translated into English. In various Asian countries it is not uncommon to have someone name Blessing or other descriptive name. Some even have a nickname in addition to their traditional name, as it may be hard for foreigners to pronounce. Once I realized this was the case, the beginning sentences made a lot more sense. 🙂
Something else I have experienced was the feeling of darkness and a dislike for being in a foreign temple. While on a missions trip, lasting over a month, I took time on the way back to the states to stop and visit another country (and friends there). Wanting to sight-see and visit various cultural sites, some friends and I visited a Buddhist temple. The colors were bright, the designs intriguing, and the setting as a whole was quite open and bright.
Normally I would have visited such a place and taken in the various differences in culture and religions, leaving with photos showing a beautiful aspect of another country. This time, though, I could not help but feel a sense of something not being right and an ache for those there. It also showed me how easily it was for us to view our ‘religion’ the same way, relying on signs and actions instead of actually worshiping God. If we read the ‘right’ book or say the ‘right’ prayer, then we will be okay. I came away that day no longer having any interest in visiting another temple, but also having a deeper sense of what it really means to have a personal relationship with God, rather than a shallow outward one.
How does this relate back to Things as They Are Mission Work in Southern India
? The actions explained may seem like they were not all ‘that bad’. However, it is what is behind them that is the true issue. Amy Carmichael gave a sense of the behind-the-scenes of the religion surrounding them, the barriers that had to be overcome, and at time glossed over the details as they were too dark and disturbing to share.
Not only did I gain a new sense for how things were, and may still be at times, but also how much we underestimate the Father of Lies and how easy it is to blind our eyes to what is really happening.
This is a heavier read than what I might normally attempt, but do not regret doing so. If you have the chance to sit and read through this, I would greatly recommend you do. Some of the information is dated, but the themes and battles are relevant still today. I also appreciated the rebuke given for those of us who would rather enjoy our comforts and offer to pray, yet never really get involved in the battle. It is easy to get wrapped up in our little lives, not wanting to venture out into the harder places. It makes me think about what excuses I have been using, or if I am doing enough where I am (because of maybe really not being able to go at this moment).