Our last day in Rajasthan was going to be a half day, so our hosts took us to ride camels in the morning. Then, we took a tour at one of the many palaces in the area. Rajasthan is known as the land of many kings, according to the tour guide.
It was fun to see this historic place. We were grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the land. Seeing some of the history helped us understand some of the struggles our brothers and sisters face as they share the Gospel and hope with the people of northern India.
Our hosts fed us a delicious lunch before taking us to the airport to fly back to Delhi. (The area leader prepared much of the food himself!)
I was sad to say goodbye. One of the most precious parts of our time in Rajasthan was getting to know the area leader (and our host). He is a sweet brother who has a tender spot for the lost and a servant's heart. He shared his testimony with us, which included the fact that as a child he almost died. A pastor prophesied over him that the only way the child would live was if his mother committed him to ministry. He was healed and our brother is serving the Lord with passion today!
Our brother was older than most when he got married. He told us how he and his wife were introduced by a friend. Relationships in India are very different than in the U.S. (and most western countries). Marriages are often arranged. We had many couples share their testimony with us and explain their "arranged" marriage. It's not what you would think. (Read more on that at the bottom, if you want.)
I think a large part of the reason I felt so connected with this particular brother was his open heart and humility. He told us stories of his own journey with Jesus. In just the week prior to our visit, he had come to realize, by attending a pastor's gathering, that he needed to refocus and get his priorities in line again. Likewise, his wife had been considering taking some time off since they had a 5 month old daughter (in addition to a 4 year old) and leading women's ministry was difficult with a young child. His wife attended a women's meeting and saw a woman who had walked 2 miles up a mountain with a 5 month old strapped to her back just to be part of the fellowship. She knew then that she had to press in and not give up and allow the enemy to discourage her.
I'm not a great writer and can't fully explain all these stories well. But, the overwhelming message I heard the Lord saying to my heart was "Press on! Take hold. Don't give up. Your struggles pale in comparison." Hearing their lives of faith encouraged me to stop whining about the simple things that can often throw me off course. I am so blessed it's ridiculous!
Because the whole marriage/dating/arrangement thing intrigued me, I'm going to explain it. My basic understanding of arranged marriage meant that your fathers made a deal for you to get married and you had no choices and showed up on your wedding day to marry someone you might not like. Well, for the couples we talked with, it was somewhat similar but not forced at all. For these couples, leaders would often suggest that they know someone who would be suitable as a spouse. (Leaders talk and character is a huge part!) They pray and inquire of the Lord...usually without ever having seen the other person. If God says yes, they will meet. They usually decide pretty quickly and don't spend much time together. The idea of marriage has little to do with "self" in India. I found this to be amazing and incredibly awesome! From the very beginning, marriages are understood to be partnerships where each person is to give to the other. It's not about seeing someone who is attractive and trying to make it work. I don't see how this works nearly as well when the two people aren't believers who look to God for wisdom and strength and can trust that He has brought them together for a purpose above themselves. But, a lot of trust is placed in the leaders, fathers, and elders --believing they know better than a young person what kind of mate they need.