Death is never easy. Losing our Hindu friend "Pendra" to a terminal illness was not easy either. My friend Anap introduced me to Pendra. I met him while standing along his hospital bed praying for him in Jesus name. My prayers seemed stretched, even tested, by the immanence, the power of death in the room. Surrounded by Hindus, recalling the comfort of a Christian crowd and a shared theology was far behind me.
That night ended in an odd way. Instead of a public commute home, the Hindu family insisted I join them. Seven Hindu South Asians and an over sized white guy crowded into a vehicle. The women cried, Pendra's wife mourned, the men were silent. I was silent. Mourning with those who mourn took on a new shape.
Pendra suddenly awoke from a week-long coma. I was elated. So were my Hindu friends--who had been chanting to Krishna (one of the Hindu avatars). So were my Christian friends--who had been praying through Jesus. Even doctors were surprised. Both parties gave glory to "God". Reality set in; healing and miracles can be claimed by many. The gospel must be more than simple healings. I wondered, what will set Jesus apart in the Hindu mind?
I met Pendra in person; with a weak smile he introduced himself by writing his name on paper. Nearly two months went by while Pendra waited for a surgery that never came. He was able to spend time with his family and start saying good bye.
Over the chilly winter months, I shared the Gospel with Pendra's relatives. I even shared stories of Jesus' ministry using a Bengali audio Bible. But for the most part, I focused on listening and praying. Many times I wasn't sure what to do. There were times when I wrestled over when to share and what was ethical evangelism in this particular situation.
Soon, I found myself sitting in the home of Pendra with his sad wife and other family members. Hare (Ha-ra) Krishna, their chosen family deity, was posted on the walls. Krishna, light blue in skin tone, looked like a nice person, a youthful man with a playful smile and subtle attributes that seemed to beckon those passing by -- come and join the festivities.
The family kept Krishna music videos playing. They spoiled me with an abundance of food and repeatedly thanked me for my prayers -- which they knew were in Jesus' name. Pendra's teenage children remained silent and absorbed with their cell phones. When I left that night there was a feeling of change in the relationship. Maybe a threshold had been crossed and deeper friendship forged.
During the second week of January on a Friday morning Pendra died. A somber feeling crossed over me. I isolated myself in St. Paul's Chapel of Columbia University. It was an odd thing to grieve for a Hindu man who I had no business knowing. It was sobering to realize that this Jesus I am sharing, this good news that I hold, must now confront death, confront death in the mind of Hindus and their belief of reincarnation.
What type of power does Jesus' resurrection hold when He apparently chose not to heal Pendra? What message does the gospel bring to those who saw no "power" or "miracle" but only the reality of a broken world?
Will Hare Krishna outshine Jesus? Will my friends continue joining in his festivities?
Or, will Hindus listen to Jesus' call? Will my friends face death for what it is and cling to the One who conquered it?
"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him."
- Romans 6:8-9
Prayer action point and update: Walking with this Hindu family through death and loss, I've been welcomed and given opportunities to share the Gospel. Join us in reaching Pendra's family. Join us in continually bringing peace & the light of the Gospel to them. Please pray for them as they consider Jesus and his teachings. Recently, one of the family members has been asking many questions about the gospel.