Thursday, January 5, 2017

Triumphant Hope (Asha)

Triumphant Hope (Asha)

In Sept of 1997, CUSAT University had a fresh intake of students for their engineering school. We were only their third batch. Among the many who floated into the campus from various places was me. 

In the initial week of school, a simple looking big mustached lecturer sauntered into the classroom unannounced with a face that could burn the room down. He introduced himself as a lecturer in the same department that I was studying in. And he warned all the students from treating their studies lightly and how everything would end looking like ‘end-times’ should that happen. He definitely caught the curiosity of all the students with that one and he walked away with the same abruptness. We were 18-19-year-olds who were exploring how to 'make the best' of the college years. He definitely doused our excitement in a matter of those two minutes. In a few days, we found out that Roy Paul was going to be the lecturer for one of our subjects and we braced for the storm.

A few weeks later, I was invited to a Christian meeting that took place in an elementary school near the campus. There I spotted him again but this time  around he was smiling and enjoying a vibrant informal relationship with the students who had gathered. That's where I saw a beaming Asha and their 3-year-old smart talking boy, Joshua, for the first time. As one confused about Christianity and dabbling with atheism, this community strangely attracted me. Even stranger was how I was drawn to this family. Within that year, the Lord saved me through Roy. 

The last line was typed in seven seconds. But I could write a book on that period. The best apologetic to the message of the gospel I received was the life of this family. This visible expression of the gospel shone brightly into my life and the foolishness of the cross at one point suddenly became sweet and glorious. 

Central to the family was the role Asha played. They were the most hospitable people I'd known. There were people in their home all the time. What beat me about this family was how, though there were many at their home, still everyone went away with a lot of individual attention. This was remarkable because I have spent considerable time wondering how they managed that. 

That kind of hospitality requires a lot of wisdom. And I knew it wasn't Roy who maneuvered through it. As much as he would be the main conversationalist, I realized that Asha was the one who steered the conversations, at the right time, onto the right topic and around a new person. This played out very beautifully in them being a dynamic duo. I'm certain that many people in a good sense may appreciate the role Roy played among students and the larger evangelical students union. But I can vouch as a close observer and Roy's disciple that Asha was instrumental in weaving that wonderfully together. 

Asha was a keen observer of others, their interests, their struggles and their joys. She also had a sharp memory of all these details. In the nascent days of my relationship with the family, she realized that I didn't drink tea or coffee. Ever since, she always made sure there was lemon at home so that she could make a refreshing glass of lemon juice whenever I hopped into their home (which was every day!). She did the same even a few months ago when I had the opportunity to drop in. I know I'm not the only one who could narrate this kind of a story. She knew everyone at a personal level so that she could be a blessing to everyone.

Being in a 'through the week' open-home church ministry myself, I can easily imagine the drain on finances their lifestyle caused. It was not unusual that many a discussion intruded into their meal time and she would only be eager to serve all. They even had others live in their home for an extended period because the situation demanded so. In one instance, it was a parent of a student who requested this for their son who was going through a harsh time. The line between late night and early morning blurred at their home. But the time she sacrificed also for unbelieving students who would show up at their door to seek clarity from a range of academic topics (much even unrelated to Roy's core discipline) was most astounding. The man spent several hours teaching such students from their home for no extra benefit. Asha created a welcoming space for this. 

Such a lifestyle is usually harder on the woman of the home than the man. Asha could have easily said to Roy, "Let's have open-home two days a week. That way we will still be a blessing to others as well as have enough resources that we can enjoy a good meal for ourselves and go shopping with the kids and buy me a new sari once in a while". Should Roy have taken that direction, the family would still have been a huge blessing. But the only thing on Asha's mind was how she could maximize their service of others and in the process establish God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and have their children grown up in that missional context. 

Asha additionally worked hard at starting a women's bible study along with the regular discipling of women who were part of the evangelical community. Many girls who were not part of the regular Evangelical Union attendance would turn up for that time with Asha at their home and be blessed! She also made regular time to be in prayer with some of the girls. How she would navigate that along with a young Joshua and baby Joel those years still stumps me.

In time I realized that Asha was a simple woman who lived a supernatural life through the indwelling of a supernatural being. It was obvious that she had died to herself many years ago. When I met her first in 1997, she was a woman who died several hundred such deaths . It was no longer she who lived but Christ who lived in her. And the life she lived was one that she lived by fluent faith in the Son of God who loved her and gave himself for her. She lived in the reality of that truth. And that truth was glorious to her. Many have complimented her for the following traits- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not surprising! I could write plenty for each of those. The death she finally died to herself is the final one and that she had been prepared for years in waiting for her truly beloved.

As an unbeliever, the message of this gospel made sense because it was made visible to me in real life. As much as it was Roy's message that fell like bricks on my head and heart in 1998, I have no doubt that Asha's 'normal' Christian life (along with Roy's) had an equal role not just in the beginning of that faith but even in the shaping and deepening of my faith. I can say that she fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. May many men and women be more attracted to the same Jesus she served, as I was compelled to in 1998. As much as many grieved rightfully the last few weeks, it will do well to celebrate her life too. Her life was a triumphant one even in the blaze of the furious battle. Let us often visit her life in our memories so that we live as ones triumphant in hope!

© Vivek Jones
First Publication Rights: Our Contact Magazine

Photo: vsquaretv
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