ஹலோ (Vaṇakkam) – Hello
Laborers With Christ (LWC) began in its journey in 1986 with two couples who eagerly desired to reach the world for Christ. Both Les and Catherine DeRoos and Bill and Celia Jewell traveled to India on July 4, 1986, and lived in low-caste village called Maraingiyur, Tamil Nadu, India.
Les and Bill, single at the time, had been there the summer of 1982 and came back with a desire to go live in that village, and do proper follow-up after seeing the Lord touch the lives of the Hindu people. Two years later practically newlyweds’, they took their wives to this small Hindu village to share the gospel message. Finding no interpreter who desired to go to this remote area, the four set out to live in this small village. They were given a piece of land to have their own small cow-dung, thatched roof hut built for them to call home. There was no running water, no electricity, and no toilet. They hired a young boy with food to help carry water from the river every morning, name Subody (Soobody). It took several trips to fill the outdoor concrete basin with water for the days use for washing our clothes, dishes, and bathing.
They were able to hold silent Bible studies on the veranda (on the other side of this house pictured) of our newly constructed home. These Bible studies were possible because the numerical system was the same in their Tamil Bibles. So we gave a scripture, anticipated questions, and answered the question by pointing to another Bible verse. At times we were very discouraged and wondered if we were making any difference. On occasion the Lord would speak to a pastor in another town and told them to come to our village. One day the chief of the village came and explained that he had been watching us. He shared that when we first came our Jesus was like taking that first bite into a sugar cane. It was sweet, but it gets sweeter as you eat it. He shared that as we stayed and continued on living, our lives showed the example of Christ and each day Jesus became sweeter and sweeter, just like eating sugarcane.
Our six month stay ended quickly, not being able to extend our visas. That is another story for another time. It was simply not the Lord’s will for us to stay.
The Lord used this time to teach us that our actions speak louder than words. How we lived our lives was the only daily preaching we were capable of doing. For being a relatively young couple, God used this to mold and shape our lives for future years of service to His glory. Our hearts still hold a special place for India and hope to return one day if the Lord opens that door.
Right/Left hand rules
Do – Eat with your right hand, shaking hands, pass food or wipe your mouth, and so on. Put on and take off your shoes with your left hand. In general, you should accept things given to you with your right hand – though using both hands is a sign of respect.
Don’t – The left hand is for wiping your bottom, cleaning your feet and other un-savoury functions. Do not pass anything to anyone with your left hand, or point at anyone with it.
Do – It is customary to wash your hands before and after eating. When drinking out of a cup or bottle to be shared with others, pour it directly into your mouth. This custom also protects you from things like hepatitis.
Don’t – Your lips should not touch other people’s food – sullied food, it is strictly taboo. Don’t, for example, take a bite out of a chapati, (unleavened flatbread) and pass it on. When drinking out of a cup or bottle to be shared with others, don’t let it touch your lips.
Religion: religion is taken very seriously.
Do – It’s important always to show due respect to religious buildings and people at prayer. When entering a religious building, remove your shoes and leave them at the door (socks are acceptable and protect your feet from burning-hot stone ground).
Funerals: processions are private affairs, and should be left in peace. Relatives where white (white is the colour of mourning).
Dress: Indian people are very conservative about dress. Women are expected to dress modestly, with legs and shoulders covered. Trousers are acceptable, but shorts and short skirts are offensive to many. Men should always wear a shirt in public, and avoid skimpy shorts. Cover your head with a cap or cloth when entering a place of worship; women in particular are also required to cover their limbs. Men are similarly expected to dress appropriately with their legs and head covered.
Affection: Kissing and embracing are regarded as part of sex. In more conservative areas (ie outside Westernized parts of big cities or tourist areas), it is not even a good idea for couples to hold hands.
Greeting: Indian people may call you “sir” or “madam”, even “good lady” or “kind sir”. A general exchange is to ask about family and health.
The Caste System
It was in India that we first experienced the nature of the caste system. Caste is based upon the Hindu belief that a person’s position in life is based upon the good deeds and sins of their past life. The caste system, systematically categorizes people by their profession and place in society and continues to be woven throughout Indian tradition. In 1950, casteism, especially any practice of untouchability, was outlawed with the Indian Constitution. It is highly unlikely to see a Brahmin (highest caste) associate or chose to marry into a lower caste. Traditionally, caste is identified by a person’s last name, but clothing worn or the style of their hair can be an indicator of what caste you are a part of. Those of the lowest caste are considered “lesser human beings”, “impure” and thus “polluting” to other caste groups. They are known to be “untouchable” and subjected to so-called “untouchability practices” in both public and private spheres. “Untouchables” are often forcibly assigned the most dirty, menial and hazardous jobs, such as cleaning human waste.
In India, we had settled in the low caste village of Maraingyur, situated in the middle of a river bed, an island during the rainy season. During the dry season you would walk on the riverbed when it was dry. In the Village of Maraingyur, there were two sides. The high-caste and the low-cast. We lived in the low-cast part of village. The high-cast would not step foot in the low-cast area and the low-cast would not step foot in high-cast area.
Here is a testimony of many, of how the Lord worked in India in this particular cultural area:
This was even evident in the church. When we visited a church in Madras before heading to the village, we shared why we were there and where we wanted to go and the Lord touched their heart. One church leader shared “We aren’t even willing to do this thing we know to be right and yet a foreigner is willing.” They decided to furnish us with all the kitchen items we needed as a donation.
The division of a society into castes is a global phenomenon not exclusively practised within any particular religion or belief system. Caste discrimination affects approximately 260 million people worldwide, the vast majority living in South Asia.
Caste distinctions also manifests itself in a different ways in different countries. If only we could encourage the system the Bible’s culture lay out for us to have. We read this in Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.