2017 India – David Chong

The Simple Gospel

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

On Christmas Day 2016, a team of 3 from the New Philly Sydney campus flew out to Chennai, India. We met the rest of our team, comprised of 10 leaders from the Korea campuses, on the night of Boxing Day. This trip would mark my second time ever going on missions. In the midst of preparing for a major vocational transition and generally one of the busiest seasons of my life, both my hands and my heart felt thoroughly underprepared for missions. But God is good. So despite what I was feeling, I reminded myself that He sent us, and so I was expectant that He would equip us, use us, and outdo us to love on and encounter His sons and daughters in Chennai. And He did.

My first missions trip was to the United States, so when I considered the brothers and sisters of Chennai, I became a little anxious that I would have trouble relating to and identifying with the people of a culture that had no likeness to my own. I wanted so badly for compassion to come to life in my heart, and I staked a lot of this compassion on relatability. And although our local Native Partners of World Mission (NPWM) contact Pastor Mathew greeted us at the airport with much genuine excitement and hospitality, I found it difficult to truly be confident in the love of God being able to break through the cynicism I had towards the capacity of my heart.

But God started to peel back this cynicism as we gained ministry opportunities, starting with outreach at an unreached village of about 60 people. My honest expectation was that we would bless these villagers with some body worship and a message and not much else. Pastor John Park preached a message on the simple Gospel interwoven with his own personal testimony of the Father’s love. As he led a salvation altar call, asking people who wanted to enter into a relationship with Jesus to raise their hand, I was surprised to see nearly every hand raised and people standing up to receive prayer. The genuine emotion etched on every face floored me. I was reminded by the power of the simple Gospel all over again.

My role on the team was worship leader, and in particular, I felt that the language and cultural differences would hinder any opportunity I would have to lead worship in a local setting. To be honest, I would have felt entirely comfortable leading worship during team times only. But on the third day of our trip, we had the opportunity to minister at New Life Christian Assembly (NLCA), Pastor Mathew’s church, for a fasting prayer meeting. I was asked to lead a couple of songs in English. I had a little bit of communication with Pastor Mathew on the rundown of the ministry time, and even which songs would be best to lead in English for his congregation. I plugged my guitar in, and had two sisters from the team on the stage with me as I prepared to lead worship.

Little did I know that Pastor Mathew and the local team would be leading a few songs first in Tamil. Even though we were surprised and a little taken aback, we were instantly affected by the genuine worship of the congregation. People all over the room had their eyes closed and hands lifted as they earnestly cried out to the Father. This affected me. I found myself doing whatever I could to join in. Even though I did not understand what was being sung, the conviction of the worship that was being poured out led me to worship by just singing along to the melody and focusing my attention on the Father. As I looked over to the two sisters with me on stage, and every other team member spread out in the congregation, they were doing the same. We found ourselves singing words we didn’t understand, but lifting them to the Father as a fragrant offering.

Pastor Mathew then turned around and gave me the nod to lead a few songs in English. I felt the final Tamil song naturally transition into ‘How Great Thou Art’ as the glory of God filled the room, and the other songs I had prepared did not end up being sung. Despite the song being in English, the congregation responded and worshipped with the same authenticity and yearning they had carried when singing their native songs in Tamil. The congregation lifted their hands in the same way, they closed their eyes in the same way, and they cried out to God with even more abandon than they had before. In a moment of worship where the congregation had space to sing their own song to the Lord, the Holy Spirit pressed on my heart to sing out the simple Gospel. And so I sang three simple lines:

“Jesus you died for us,
Because you loved us
And now we’re free to love you”

Pastor Mathew translated these prophetic lines so instantaneously and so seamlessly that it felt like an extension of what was already being sung. In that moment I knew the presence of God was in the room, and despite the language and cultural barriers, there was perfect unity because of the Holy Spirit. The cynicism in my heart died in that moment and the compassion in my heart exploded as I was so utterly moved by the power of worship and the intimacy with which the Father wanted to encounter His children. I became entirely comfortable inviting my Indian brothers and sisters to go deeper into the arms of Jesus. Even though they didn’t understand my words, they understood my heart and that was enough. The congregation responded with greater extravagance in expressing their love for God.

This was a moment of throne room worship, and it was in a setting where I had the most reason to find it difficult to worship. But this is the power of the Gospel in revealing the amazing love of Christ for all people- it is a love that reconciles and heals all divisions. Whether it was an inward division of the heart (which for me in that moment was the distance between the capacity of my heart and the compassion I desired to carry), or whether it is an outward division of language and culture, the Holy Spirit enabled people of the two very different cultures to worship Jesus under the same roof with reckless abandon and undignified yearning. I come back from this trip in awe of the work of the cross, and a fresh revelation of the love that Jesus poured out for us.