Photobombing, it's not how I typically try to meet strangers, and definitely not how I try to start friendships. But one of the biggest things I've learned in South Asia is how the Father truly can (and does) use all things to bring people to His name. My teammate and I met and befriended a group of girls two Saturdays ago when we photobombed their selfies. It was a rather awkward first impression to make, but ironically, it has turned into a beautiful friendship. We met with them over pancakes (their first ones!) last Saturday afternoon, and the conversations we had with them blew us away. The following is an account of that meeting.
Solarium cards (basically glorified post cards) were scattered across the kitchen table, and six of us sat around it holding photos in our hands. The first question that my teammate and I asked was "which photo describes your life right now?" and the answers that we received from our four friends floored us.
"I feel lost"
"I just want to be happy"
"I'm looking for peace in my life"
"I want freedom"
Each girl answered with brutal honesty, and in such a pride-centered culture, I was shocked they admitted to things that they would normally be shamed for. Not only were they honest about their personal lives, but also with their thoughts on religion as well.
The next question we asked them was "which photo describes your view of God?" Again they answered bluntly, and each admitted to things I had never expected to hear from a neighbor.
One girl's answer in particular stuck out, and she answered as following:
"I feel trapped within this religion. I feel that I should be able to pray wherever I am, not just in the temples. And I do not understand how pouring milk on an idol is considered worship, when I could give that milk to a starving child on the street that needs it."
Another girl agreed with her, and added:
"I do not like that I am not allowed to pray on certain days. When there is a birthday in my family, I am not allowed to pray. If there is a date that someone died on in my family, I am not allowed to pray. If I am on my period, I am not allowed to pray. I do not like this."
For the first time all summer, I heard someone actually open up and voice their questions, and I was shocked. In a place where religion is culture and culture is religion, most people perform their rituals out of a ritualistic habit, and it is rare to find people asking questions or seeking answers.
Even if they do have questions, those questions won't be asked out of fear of being shamed. But here these four girls were, opening up to us about themselves and their doubts, and were seeking out answers for their struggles. Each of their questions can be answered by the hope we have in Jesus. And each of their questions, struggles and doubts, show that in our heart of hearts it is Jesus who we desire.
When it came time for my teammate and I to answer the question of how we view God, my partner shared about how she thinks of freedom, and I shared about how I view God as the One who gives life and the One who loves us the most. We were able to share the Gospel with them, and when each of us finished, they clapped for us, saying they really liked our answers.
When our friends found our Bibles, they became extremely curious, and one of them asked if we read our Bibles to satisfy a ritual in our religion. We explained that the Father loves us, and created us to know Him personally; and that we read the Bible because it grows us closer to Him.
"You mean you can really have a personal relationship with God?!" one of the girls asked. "I wish we could have a personal relationship with our gods. Our gods are just gods to us."
At the beginning of the summer, my supervisor told my team and I an African proverb about catching chickens.
"If you want to catch a chicken with a loaf of bread, you can't throw the entire loaf of bread at the chicken" he told us. "The chicken will think you're trying to harm it, and it's going to run away. But if you break up that loaf of bread into pieces and make a trail, then you can catch a chicken."
And so it is with our friendship with them. Right after meeting them, my teammate and I were alerted by a national Christian that one of our friends has an uncle who is a member of a neighbor extremist group. So within this friendship, we tread carefully, and strive to be innocent as doves and wise as serpents. A little at a time we get to share hope and truth with them, and each time they come a little closer.Kathryn, a University of Texas at Arlington student, is serving as a Go Now Missionary in South Asia.