Pock! The scraggly old tennis ball meets a precisely swung cricket bat and skids across the pavement leaving behind it a green trail of dust.
“Here,” says my new friend grinning through his mustache. “Now you try.”
“Er… I don’t know, Kishore. I guess so.”
I hesitantly take the bat and trudge up to the home-made wicket like a condemned man on his way to the gallows. I’m not even athletic, let alone playing a sport I can hardly spell! But I plant my feet nonetheless, wiggle my hips a bit, and attempt to hold the bat as I had seen the Indians do it a hundred times.
I can still share the Gospel with them even if I make a fool out of myself, right Jesus? A soft breeze drifts by with His voice in it. Yes. I can sense Him smiling. I think He likes to put me in these situations. They’re good for me.
Just a few yards away I can see the bowler spinning his arm to launch the ball. He looses it (gently by Indian standards) and the world slows as I flick the bat in a wild undulating motion and suddenly…
A thrill lurches within my chest. I hit it! And to my delight, I look up to see the ball soaring above the fence and out of the park.
“Home run!” I whirl around with my triumphant bat raised skyward in celebration.
“There is no home run in cricket,” laughs Kishore. “You are out.”
So goes the adventures of an American in a foreign country and, for those of us who traveled to Bangalore, India with Night Antioch Discipleship School, there were plenty of stories. There was the girl who ate the green bean, only to find it was more akin to compacted fire than any sort of bean. There was the gentlemen who was allowed to just walk straight into an open heart surgery without being told to so much as wash his hands. There was the guy who had never experienced anything quite as stressful as haggling with a rickshaw driver whose command of the English langue was more cute than anything else. Yet through it all, the love of Jesus became known in the midst of cultural exchange.
It’s funny how Love does not get lost in translation. When two women on our team had the faith to pray for a homeless cripple who received partial healing, Love was clear. When a father on our team played with a patchy group of orphans as if they were his own, Love was communicated. When a couple on our team, along with their daughter, discipled a woman who was the second known believer in her people group, and when they cast away the demons who were tormenting her, Love is what had it’s say. The bible says that God is love which means that Love has a name, and that name is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was preached boldly by our team and we were blessed to see three prodigals return home into the arms of Love. It was that same Love; that same Jesus, who was present at the table later as I met with Kishore in the coffee shop.
“Well, Kishore, we’ve been discussing how Jesus promises to prepare a place for us in His Father’s house, and we’ve been talking a lot about Jesus this week. So I want to ask you. Kishore, would you like to have a place in that house? Would you like to become a Christian?”
Kishore grew silent and bowed his head. I could see his eyes flickering up and down the page of the new bible we had given him. When he looked up at me I could see tears welling in his eyes.
“I… I just can’t… I’m sorry, but my family is Hindu.”
I was of course dismayed to hear this from my new friend of whom I had grown so fond. And I expect this interchange would have been a demoralizing one but you see, I left something out of the story. What I haven’t told you is that Ravi was sitting right next to Kishore. Ravi is Kishore’s best friend. The two of them roamed the streets of Bangalore as boys, climbing fences and shooting cows in the rear with slingshots. They had both grown up Hindu, but when Ravi came one day to the cricket ground and heard the Gospel, something was awakened in him. He had accepted Jesus and committed his life to following Him only. So when Kishore looked over to me, and then to Ravi, I saw a sweet smile spread over Ravi’s face and a knowing nod as if to say, do not worry, old friend. I have found this God to be true, and now you have my prayers.
In cricket, if you hit the ball in such a way as to make it bounce on the ground yet still pass by all the fielders you get “four runs,” which is sort of the cricket equivalent to a home run. It took me about 2 weeks to figure that out, but Kishore knew this. Ravi knew this. Any self-respecting Indian man knows this very basic fact of the game. But do you know something else an Indian knows better than me? How to reach another Indian for Jesus. It is for this reason I was encouraged when I left the coffee shop with Kishore and Ravi that night. I had the privilege of watching Jesus enter into Ravi’s heart, but how much more will Ravi enjoy this privilege? And perhaps he will begin with Kishore. Home run!
…Or four runs, whatever.