This year we sent missionary members to four different locations across the globe to love and serve together. When the final team returned to Columbia for the summer, we interviewed team members from each trip, in order to celebrate with them all that Jesus accomplished through the trips.
We interviewed missionary member Chris Ramaglia about his trip to New Delhi, India.
What inspired you to go on the trip?
I feel that the Lord has been calling me to do some kind of full-time vocational ministry for the past couple of years. Initially, it was a very broad calling, but He has slowly made His calling on my life more and more clear. As I prayed about what full-time ministry looked like for me, the Lord led me towards considering full time international missions work. As my prayers began to become more specifically focused towards full time missions work, the Lord opened up the door for me to go to India. It was really awesome that the Lord provided an opportunity to go overseas as I pursue the possibility of doing something like it full time. Additionally, I was very excited to get to see what the Lord has been doing in India through our partnership with Project Rescue.
What was life like in India?
Life in New Delhi is absolutely overwhelming in every sense. Take any adjective you can think of and put overwhelming in front of it and that's India. It's hot, congested, busy, loud, spicy, smelly, poverty stricken, spiritually dark and so much more. We lived in a well-off neighborhood at our bed and breakfast, but the slums were our next-door neighbors.
In any available space in the city, you will find squatting villages of poverty stricken families who receive no help from the local Indians. Women and children are forced to eat, cook, sleep and bathe in the streets as the average middle class Indian passes by without even noticing. There are child beggars on every corner asking for food and water in the extremely hot temperatures of Delhi, rickshaws driving into oncoming traffic to get their passengers to the nearest metro station, cars honking on their horns non-stop, waste overflowing into the street from every sidewalk and man made idols being worshiped on nearly every car dashboard, temple and street side market.
However, if you can close your eyes for a second, you can find silence in the chaos and see that the Lord is truly at work. Buildings and temples are slowly falling apart as God dissembles them, native Christians are growing to be more bold in their faith, churches are moving into the red light district to start proclaiming the truth of the gospel in the face of 600 years of sex trafficking and the children at the children's homes are receiving spiritual, physical and emotional healing from childhoods that they have endured as they grow to learn about God's love for them through Jesus. India is a heavy place, but definitely a place where God is moving and saving lives.
What would you say was the best part of the trip?
There was a lot, but there is one moment that definitely sticks out to me. We went to prayer walk in the Jama Masjid Mosque one day. The girls were forced to remain outside and pray while the guys and I went inside to pray. We found a quiet place on the prayer rugs and began praying for the Muslim men that surrounded us. It was the month of Ramadan when we were there so there were a lot of people. We prayed that the Muslim people would find the freedom that is offered in Christ. We prayed that they would come to know that they cannot bare the burden of their own sin on their own shoulders or obtain salvation on their own, but instead that salvation is offered freely through God’s grace in Christ Jesus.
We also prayed that someone would come up to us so that we could pray and share the Gospel with him. Just as we prayed this, a man interrupted our prayer and began a conversation with us in English. Sometimes God answers prayers immediately! We had a long conversation about Islam with Abdula and then he tried to get us to proclaim a faith in Allah. We respectfully declined, but asked him if he would be okay with us praying for him. He accepted our offer and we shared the gospel in the context of our prayer. After opening our eyes, Abdula gave us 30 rupees as a small gesture, we all gave him a hug and then parted ways. When we met back up with the girls, they told us that they had prayed for someone to approach us in the mosque. It was incredible that the Lord provided that opportunity and I feel with confidence that He planted a seed in the life of Abdula that will flourish into an understanding of God's saving grace through Jesus Christ!
What was the hardest part of the trip?
Again, I can't pick out a specific "hardest" part of the trip because there were also many. However, the day we visited the red light district was heartbreaking. Before visiting the red light district, I had an image in my mind of what it would look like. I pictured women attempting to flee from their physical bondage and an overwhelming sense of sorrow in the faces of the women you could see in the brothel windows. However, what we encountered was very different.
As we drove down G.B. Road, every day life went about as normal on the ground floor shops and there were smiling women staring down from the barred windows of the upper story brothels. The most heartbreaking thing about witnessing this was the façade of normalcy that covered the underlying evil that is present there. None of the women there chose to be there, but they are forced to put on smiles to prevent themselves from receiving further beatings. They are forced to pretend like nothing is wrong for fear of being killed otherwise. It was gut-wrenching and angering to say the least. Even though their smiles attempted to tell the world that they were fine, you could see the torment in their eyes. This was very hard for our entire team to experience, but at the same time it also gave us perspective for how much healing the children have received by being at the Project Rescue children's homes.
The more evil sin becomes to us, the more capable we are of understanding how beautiful Jesus is, so in a weird way, experiencing the darkness that is in the red light district helped us to see how much work God is doing in the lives of the children who have been saved from the sex trafficking industry.
What did God teach you while you were there?
It was very easy to visit India and point out blatant idolatry by the worshiping of man-made figurines and statues that occurs there, but the Lord also revealed idols of my own during the trip. In our own country, many of our idols lie hidden under the surface because they aren't tangible objects that we can touch, but instead they manifest themselves as status, image, comfort, relationships, amongst many others. I have idolized many of these. Not only that, but we often justify our idols by covering them up with pride and Christian lingo.
"#blessed" has become an all too convenient justification for things that we so often put in place of the Lord. I am completely guilty of this. This was extremely hard to come to terms with, but by the Lord’s grace, He continues to tear my idols from my firm grip on them. Through this, the Lord reminded me that even though I know the Lord and am growing in a relationship with Him, I am still in just as much need of His grace as anyone else that walks the face of the Earth because of my sin. My need for Him hasn't changed since becoming a believer; I've just become aware of it. I must live every day thanking God for making me aware of my need for His grace and pray that others would come to be aware of its availability through Christ Jesus.