Villages as Vineyards
Reading: Matthew 21:1-13
"Go to the village ahead of you" (Mt 21:2a)
The Scripture portion we read today presents a vivid picture of rural evangelism. 80% of the country's population is rural. India lives in villages. In the words of late Prime Minister Morarji Desai, "If villages prosper, the nation will prosper." But unfortunately 80% of the Christian ministry is done in cities and towns only, which hold just 20% of the population. A vast number of the 600,000 villages of India does not have a single resident believer or witness for the gospel. No evangelist has ever walked into most of these villages.
Just like the donkey, the people are bound by superstitious beliefs and lifelong fears. The Bonda tribal women in the State of Orissa refuse to clothe themselves because of the myth that it would invoke the curse of Sita. The government is unable to stop child marriages and temple prostitution though such inhuman practices are banned by the law. Death of human beings due to malnutrition is preferred to butchering old and useless cows! Witchdoctors continue the practice of branding the skin with red hot iron rods to relieve chronic sufferers from headache or stomach pain. It's impossible to list out all the cruelties people suffer from, because and only because the Gospel of Deliverance has not been preached to them.
The "mother" donkey in the story can represent the plight of women in Indian villages. Most of the women hide themselves inside their huts and cottages at the very sight of a male evangelist, who is a stranger, in their streets. Where are Christian women like Pandit Ramabai (1858-1922) who gave refuge to the child widows, unmarried mothers and orphans in the villages? Ramabai considered this as part of God's plan to redeem the downtrodden of the Nation.
Not only the donkey but also the colt was tied up. Innocent and ignorant children come under the cursed systems followed by their parents, because there is no other choice. Whichever village you go for evangelism, you can atonce gather a sizeable group of enthusiastic children. Catch them young. Teach them Gospel songs and stories and they will carry the message to their parents and elders. Don't despise the children anyway. Child evangelism does not get priority in our endeavours. Think of the fire tragedy on 16 July 2004 in a School in Kumbakonam in South India which claimed over 90 children in the age group of 5 to 10, and left several others with severe burns!
It was Jesus who asked to bring the donkey and the colt. So don't be afraid of oppositions and threats. Our orders to preach the Gospel come from Heaven (Mt 28:18,19).
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