Lessons From a Wonderful People

christians in india I am not the first person to talk about how being a sponsor is as much of a blessing to the sponsor as the child, but I nevertheless want to tell you about the blessings I have received and especially the lessons I have learned through sponsoring a child in India.

width=About four years ago I started sponsoring a boy from India named Johnson. It was the start of quite a journey. I had made it a point of familiarizing myself with my children’s cultures and discovered in India a fascinating history.

As I corresponded with Johnson I also discovered a wonderful person. He was bright and friendly, eagerly teaching me the rules of cricket and about the various adventures in his life.

In those letters I saw a life full of joy, even in the midst of poverty. I was touched by his enthusiasm and quickly learned it was not a trait only he possessed.

As I researched the history of Christianity in India, its culture and people, and began to talk with Indian Christians, I discovered a culture steeped in joy and a strong family ethic. This was very refreshing.

I’ve spent a number of years helping with youth ministry, and I have been deeply saddened at the growing destruction of family values and the rise of depression in teenagers and even small children.

I have seen a growing loss of emotional security for our young ones. But India is a vibrant, loving culture, which brings up healthy, happy, confident children even in extreme poverty. Needless to say, I have been taking notes.

First, appearances can be deceiving. I’ve often heard Indian people described as reserved and quiet. While it is true that they aren’t as forward and openly affectionate as Westerners, don’t let that trick you into thinking they are emotionally aloof.

At the center of each family is a deep wellspring of love and concern. They are delightful people with very deep feelings even if they don’t always wear them on their sleeves.

Cultural lessons aside, the greatest lesson I learned was just how vital it is that we reconnect with the values of Christian family fellowship. Jesus said that whoever does the will of His Father in heaven is His mother and sister and brother. He says that for a very good reason: The church needs to function as a family.

What allows these wonderful people to thrive in such hardship is a Christian family ethic that nurtures its members, especially the ones who have fallen on hard times. In such a climate of support, even the strongest disasters can be weathered.

In America we have come to worship the concept of the “rugged individualist” and it has given us the habit of striking out on our own at the first inconvenience. In marriage or in church politics it doesn’t take long for someone to decide, “I can do better on my own,” and institute a separation. And anytime these separations occur, spiritual orphans are left in the wake.

In order to prevent these tragedies from happening, we need to regain our ability to cooperate, even when the going gets tough. This is the second lesson I learned from the Indian Christian community. Indians have a knack for living and working in close quarters with minimal friction. In most cases they have no other choice.

Large families living in small dwellings require a person to cultivate a more relaxed personality. I often find that our American culture is extremely high-strung. We tend to be impatient and get very irritable when our needs and desires are not promptly met (I am one of the worst offenders), and it contributes to the friction that drives our families and congregations apart.

In Indian culture, patience is a virtue and its reward evident in its close-knit, loving families – both biological and spiritual. The last lesson India has taught me is to never underestimate the value of a kind word. In America, when someone is going through a hard time, we often don’t know what to say. So we say nothing.

Yet just as a single harsh word can tear right through a person, so can a single kind word heal. It never ceases to amaze me how much these children thrive on the kind words we give them in our letters. And there is so much blessing when they return with kind letters of their own.

A couple of years ago I went through a terrible illness. Thinking about how Johnson and his family were praying for me every day was one of the few things that kept my hopes up.

We can take these lessons we learn from writing to our children and put them into practice. Take time to build people up; make an effort to find ways to praise your co-workers, church staff and family.

You’d be surprised just how much good it does. Workplace tension drops dramatically, families get along. A kind word is a great blessing.

These are the lessons I have learned from the wonderful Christians of India.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tyler Lee, a volunteer in his church’s youth ministry, has been a Compassion sponsor for five years. He currently sponsors two children and corresponds with a third.

7 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Margaret August 20, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing this encouraging. I just started sponsoring my 1st child. She is from india. Can you suggest good places to go so that I too can research their customs & culture? Thanks again. I’m looking forward to my 1st letter from as I was emailed that she learned about me & now knows my name & a letter is on its way.

  2. Eric November 12, 2010

    Extremely encouraging! Thank you for painting such a vivid picture of how we can touch the lives of the poor and needy. The Christians in India have be extremely inspiring to me too. Their dedication in a land that is teeming with idolatry is amazing. Thank you for the post!!

  3. Gert-Jan November 11, 2010

    Wow, your post encouraged me. Again I understood that it really makes a difference in our lives if we are involved in the lives of the poor. Btw, who are the poor? And yes the church should be a place for a homecoming, the family of God.

  4. Matthias November 10, 2010

    Great post! Love your perspective! Thank you

  5. Jessica November 10, 2010

    Our letters from our 20 year old boy in India are also the best out of our 6 children. He is the most compassionate child I have ever met. I once told him I was sorry that I hadn’t written the month before. We write every month, but I accidently missed one. He wrote back and said “Please don’t ever tell me you are sorry. Your letters bring me joy and I treasure you in my life. You never need to apologize.” Those words have always stuck with me. He is remarkable. All of my children are. But he holds a special place in my heart. I am so excited for him to complete the program next year. But it will certainly be bitter sweet.

    1. Nelson November 13, 2010

      I’m really proud to read this post as well as your reply. I really enjoy the love-centered family traditions of India, as I’m an Indian.

  6. Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies November 10, 2010

    I find the timing of this post interesting. I have a series of Devotions to send to our Compassion children on my blog. Today’s devotion was about the power of words. Kind words are truly like a honeycomb, as the Bible says.
    Out of our 8 Compassion kids, the letters from our teenaged Johan in India are the most descriptive and full of detail. I was initially a bit worried about corresponding with an older boy, but those worries soon fell away. He is such a joy.
    Thank you for stressing the importance of sharing kind words with our children. We aim to write to all of our kids twice a month, after reading SO many stories of how important those letters are. I can spare a couple of hours a month to bring joy, love and encouragement to these sweet children.

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