Towards the conclusion of our Mission Conference, we held a prayer walk about 10 minutes from our church. We were planning on going further, but with the memorial, time got crunched a little bit. We met at church at about 9 am, then carpooled over to park at a little city hall. Usually the place is empty, but there was a wrestling meet going on or something, and we had to park several blocks away and meet up. We were a small group – about 10 of us, only 3 who had done prayer walking before (me, the associate pastor, and the visiting missionary). We went off in groups of two, and prayed for about 15 minutes before we met up at a local Hindu temple.
It was incredibly interesting to start the prayer walk. We prayed initially as a group (very awkward as we were standing outside on a busy street near the entrance of where the wrestling meet was happening), then we paired off to walk. As we paired off, I heard the first group start talking, “I haven’t been here before…” and then as we walked, I heard the group behind us, “I had a friend who used to wrestle in High School.” Even my prayer partner started chatting with me, but I interrupted (nicely!) and started to pray for the wrestling match. My partner caught on quickly and started praying for the people who couldn’t make it that morning. Then we prayed for the senior center, then the individual homes, then we made it to the end of the block where someone was holding a garage sale. The other pairs avoided the sale, but my friend and I walked in and bought a few things. The rest of the group teased us mercilessly, but hey, we were just hanging out and meeting new people – getting out of our Christian bubble!
We then headed to the Hindu temple. We didn’t know we were going to be going there, so we were all very excited. So, something you probably don’t know about me – I love colorful, funky socks. I don’t own a pair of white socks. So we show up to the Hindu temple, and in order to go in, we need to remove our shoes. The other ladies are wearing their pretty sandals, and I pull off my tennis shoes to let everyone see my black socks with the bright pink and red lips and hearts (Valentine’s Day socks!). Yeah, no hiding them now… so one of the other women turns to me and says, completely seriously, “Kristin, may I wear your socks?” I looked at her and said, “I decided to wear my sacred socks today.”
Anyway, so we went in. The first thing that struck me was that there were Christmas lights (not Christmas, but you know what I mean) hung around the room. I was sure they were there to make the room look fancy and special, but it just looked kinda sad. The second thing I noticed was the rugs everywhere – on the floors, on the walls… then I saw the statues at the front – the idols. About the same time I saw the idols, I noticed the barricade blocking anyone from getting too close to them. “Do not enter” in 3 languages. We listened to the Hindu priest (a Pundit, I believe) tell us about the temple, the idols, the symbols, and his life. It was incredibly confusing, and the some of the stories were just crazy (of course, to be fair, I believe Jesus died and rose from the grave, and I’m sure some people find that crazy too). The most interesting thing he told us was that they were people of the light; that they disliked the darkness. Also, when he was discussing the caste system, he was so matter of fact – as if there was no hint that inequality was unfair. His belief in reincarnation was sincere, and he clearly was looking forward to serving the best he could in his lifetime. He had a hard time explaining a lot of the things he was trying to tell us (partly because of a language barrier), but he was kind, informative, and eager. We ran out of time and had to stop him so that we could take off. We all thanked him with a “namaste” and a small bow, and headed out.
Everyone walked slowly out, admiring the architecture and the flyers. I made a break for the street – walking at a quick pace to get out of Dodge. I got to the street and breathed fresh air (the temple was heavy with incense). It took me several minutes to feel better; my chest was heavy, my soul hurt. We all walked back to the corner where we had started to chat a bit about the temple.
The things that stayed with me the most were the amount of effort that was put in to making the Hindu Gods look impressive – but human efforts always fall flat, like the Christmas lights. I thought about how there was a barrier up to prevent people from getting too close to these Gods – the Gods needed their space, their respect, their honor. And mostly, how hard it was to explain the stories of their Gods, their beliefs, their path. I then thought about how simple many churches look (I don’t mean the old cathedrals) – just the pews and the simple cross in the front. I thought about how approachable our God is – we just need to get on our knees and pray. I thought about how simple it really is to explain the Gospel – ‘we are fallible people, we put our faith in Christ Jesus, who died on the cross for us, and He serves as our connection to God, so that we may go to Heaven and be judged not on our deeds, which can never add up, but by whether we accept the graceful gift of God’s love in sacrificing His son Jesus.’ I mean, there’s more than that, but that pretty much sums it up. And we Christians are so terrified of sharing the Gospel; I am not sure why – it is simple, sweet, and full of love, grace and mercy.
Anyway, we finished our talk, then prayed over the neighborhood, and the temple, then headed back home.