Category: Prayer

Understanding Hinduism – A Misunderstood Worldview Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog, Hinduism is really more accurately described as Hinduisms. It is a collection of many religions, schools of thoughts/philosophies and belief systems that may even seem contradictory but are somehow held together as a mysterious whole.

One way to think about Hinduism is “diversity, diversity, diversity.” How can 1 billion people with multiple languages, traditions and no central doctrine possibly be defined under one religious label?

 1) Who is a Hindu and why do they believe in so many gods?
Most Hindus agree or believe that there is one divine consciousness or God. However, that does not mean that they believe in that one entity or reality in the same way Abrahamic religions (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) do. Hinduism accepts multiple paths to truth or divinity. Some Hindus do not accept the finality of any incarnation(s) of God and believe that at different times/eras of the Universe, God can sends different incarnations to bring justice and peace in the world. Whereas, there are other Hindu groups that claim that the incarnated deity (such as Krishna, Ram or Shiv) they have come to believe is undoubtedly the final incarnation of God. Others only tend to devote their lives in the worship of goddess, which falls under the Shakti tradition.

Theism (belief in god or gods in a general sense) is part of the Hindu spectrum of belief, but not an exclusive monotheism. It exists along with many other approaches that are personal and impersonal, form-based or formless, extending to art, philosophy and science. Hinduism has elements of what a western theological framework would call monism, henotheism, polytheism, pantheism and panentheism. It is held together as part of many sided, multi-leveled approach to the sacred. Throughout the centuries many have tried to make one of the above approaches THE approach but only succeeded to do so in certain locations and among specific people-groups.

Consequently, a Hindu could be a person who may believe any number of things or the absence thereof, and still identify as a Hindu, as long as he/she is born in a Hindu family and has its heritage and cultural traditions.

Sounds confusing? It is. Yet, that is the diversity of Hinduism.

2) What books do Hindus hold sacred?
There are literally dozens upon dozens of religious books from various eras and sources that constitute Hindu thought, practices and rituals. Most Hindus do not read these books as part of their daily devotions, as is encouraged by Abrahamic religions like Islam, Christianity and Judaism. For many Hindus, it is more important to embrace the traditions that are passed down in one’s family than hold true to any given text.

But we will talk about some of the influential ones.

The Vedas (completed in 1200 BC) are considered by many to be the central body of books covering rituals, hymns and philosophies mainly designed for priests. However, many Hindu traditions do not give prominence to this claim. The Vedas have been crucial in influencing culture through the highest caste (Brahmins) who have been the keepers of religious ritualism and ceremonial sanctity for the past several thousand years. However, many resent the Brahminical influence and cast off the influence of the Vedas in their lives.

Another set of writings, the Upanishads, are commentaries on the Vedas but focus more on existential philosophy.

The Bhagavad Gita has become one of the more popular books of Hinduism and has become popular in the West in recent decades because of the Hare Krishna movement. It is written in a conversational style between Krishna and his disciple Arjun, with simple instructions on life, duty and morality. This makes it an easy book to grasp for many readers, hence it has become one of the most well known Hindu texts. Most people know the story of Krishna as a larger part of the epic the “Mahabharat.”

There are many more important books which shape the Hindu worldview, but these are a few that we wanted to highlight.

 3) What is the caste system? Does it still exist?
Textbooks categorize Hindu caste system in four different Varnas (class/type), which are Brahmins (Priest), Kshatriyas (Warrior), Vaishyas (Traders) Shudras (Laborers). Fifth Varna is sometimes added as Dalits or outcastes or untouchables (latrine cleaners, street sweepers, etc)

However, no one functions in the society with the above classifications. For all practical, government and legal purposes there are thousands of castes (Jatis) and subcastes that people identify themselves under that are in turn grouped into 3-4 separate umbrellas. Forward caste (FC), Other Backward Caste (OBC) and Scheduled Caste/Schedules Tribe (SC/ST). OBCs comprise the largest caste cluster of India.

Having a caste associated with a person/family is not illegal, but discrimination based on caste is. That being said, the discrimination is still rampant, including violence against Dalit women in rural areas. There is a form of affirmative action, where people from so called untouchable castes are given reservations or quotas in schools and for government jobs. Caste politics are quite common in elections and in how campaigns are organized. Marriage is usually only arranged or accepted within one’s caste but the inter-caste marriages are on the rise in India, especially in more urban areas.

Many people from the Dalit/untouchables/outcaste castes have turned towards Buddhism, Christianity and other religions to be “liberated” from their plight. This trend has affected the mindset of what Christianity means in India, as just a way to reorganize and escape the caste system rather than becoming a true disciple of Jesus.

By: Worker, Serving in Asia
We know we haven’t even begun to uncover the vastness of Hinduism as lengthy discourse on each of the above topics is called for if one wants to provide an exhaustive treatment on these topics. We acknowledge our limitations here. 

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Understanding Hinduism – A Misunderstood Worldview Part 1


At the outset, it is important to point out that Hinduism does not follow the typical structure of an organized religion. Hinduism is a collection of many religions, schools of thoughts/philosophies and belief systems that may seem contradictory but are somehow held together as a mysterious whole. Consequently, when we talk about Hinduism, it is really Hinduisms.

Hinduism has no founder, no central doctrine, no central book, though many have attempted such feats and often either failed or ended up getting absorbed in the ocean called Hinduism as another expression within its vastness. We will also only address most of these topics below from our own points of view, experiences and understanding and without fail will be unable to exhaustively cover other arguments or counter-arguments therein.

Hindus are capable of holding contradictory views without conflict. For a Western mind, this seems illogical to our linear patterns of thinking, but hold onto your seats – as we explore Hinduism very briefly.

One way to think about Hinduism is “diversity, diversity, diversity.” How can 1 billion people with multiple languages, traditions and no central doctrine possibly be defined under one religious label?

1) What do Hindus believe about the afterlife?
The diversity in the Hindu worldview doesn’t have one answer to this question. If you ask 10 Hindu people what they believe about the afterlife, you will most likely get a range of three or four different responses.

Theoretically, Hindus believe in the cycle of reincarnation, but many also ascribe to the concept of heaven and hell or being united with God after death. There is also a mixing of beliefs stemming from Buddhism about the concept of nirvana or being freed from the cycle of reincarnation and being united with God. Some people also hold to an atheistic or agnostic views or mixtures of the above concepts.

Given the diversity of beliefs and traditions, it is best to say there is no agreed central answer on this one. However, we can generally say that for a Hindu some sort of being morally good or bad is involved in how the next life or stage of existence will turn out to be.

2) What are the commonly celebrated Hindu festivals?
This is as varied as the thousands of castes and people groups in India. Generally, most states have their own festivals, but there are some commonly celebrated Hindu festivals which are celebrated across most of India. These widely celebrated festivals are Diwali, Holi and Navaratri. Most festivals in India tend to have some religious attachment with certain gods and goddesses, but some festivals have agricultural or seasonal roots as well.

3) Do Hindus speak different languages than the people of other religions?
The two official languages of India are Hindi and English, but not all Indians speak these languages. There are 22 recognized languages and 720 official dialects. Many Indians speak a regional language such as Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati, Telugu, Panjabi or Assamese with Hindi as a second or third language. The prevalence of tribal or local village languages sometimes adds complexity to the linguistic makeup of India. Generally speaking, each state tends to have their own language, but multiple states in Northern India share Hindi as their most widely spoken language.

Hindus often revere Sanskrit as sacred language and use it in many religious chantings and worship, although it is not a spoken language and neither is widely understood by the masses. It would be comparable to Latin- not a language that common people speak or understand, but a root language in which religious materials and terminologies were created.

The linguistic makeup of India is ever-changing as people migrate, intermarry, and assimilate to other parts of the world. Most Indians speak more than one language and in the last few decades, the push for fluency in English is steadily increasing.

By: Worker, Serving in Asia
We know we haven’t even begun to uncover the vastness of Hinduism as lengthy discourse on each of the above topics is called for if one wants to provide an exhaustive treatment. We acknowledge our limitations here. 

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Classroom Surprise Lesson of Love

One of the luxuries of becoming a teacher straight out of college is that you already have roughly 16 years of “in-school” experience to draw from. There have been countless times in my three years of teaching middle school Bible at the International Christian School of Budapest (ICSB) when my teaching was directly influenced by a previous experience – good or bad – as a student. One of those instances was Valentine’s Day of this year, a day when – fittingly for the holiday – God showed me his love in a surprising way.
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I will always remember English class on Valentine’s Day 2008, which was my junior year of high school. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, our teacher decided that she would spend the majority of class telling each student what she loved and appreciated about them. I remember expecting something vague, like “You’re always kind to everyone,” because I preferred to stay in the background, and I didn’t feel like teachers paid all that much attention to me. Then my teacher said,

“Brian, I love that you don’t see people on a surface level… when you see people, you see their souls and their deepest spiritual needs.”

I was shocked, because it was true… and not only had she recognized that, but I had never realized that about myself, nor had I ever stopped to think that it was significant or unique. It was a simple sentence, but it still stands as one of the most important things that anyone has ever said to me. It made me feel noticed and appreciated for who I was as the deepest level, and it motivated me to continue seeing people as souls that needed Christ.
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So then, as Valentine’s Day approached this year, I remembered my English teacher’s words and decided to give the same words of personalized love and appreciation to my own middle school students. However, the class that I was teaching that morning was seventh grade. While the majority of our students at ICSB are from American missionary families, seventh grade is composed mostly of Hungarian students, and while most of them speak English fluently and a few of them are Christians, it still makes for a very different and sometimes challenging class dynamic. Nevertheless, after two years of teaching them, I had learned to love and appreciate things about all of them.

Mostly because they are middle school students, it is often difficult to hold their attention in class for more than 15 minutes without changing activities. I went around and spoke into each of my 20 seventh-graders for 35 minutes, and it was silent. Every student was locked in and listening, nodding in agreement as I would talk about their classmates. Students I addressed would listen – some making eye contact and some avoiding it – and reactions ranged from smiles to quiet tears. I was already inwardly praising God for what he was doing through this, when they shocked and blessed me in a way I had not expected. As we finished with 10 minutes until the bell and I began to transition to other things, they protested, “we didn’t get to say anything about you!”
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Have you ever felt like the time, commitment, and sheer work you put into your ministry is unrecognized at best and unprofitable at worst? I don’t think I’ve met anyone in ministry who’s managed to avoid this nagging feeling. Granted, God does not promise that we will be appreciated and praised for our work in Him; in fact, we are to often expect the opposite (see Col. 3:23, Eph. 6:5-8, and Gal 1:10)!

As a teacher, I don’t expect to hear daily appreciation from students, but it can be exhausting to pour my heart and soul into them over long stretches where it seems they simply do not care. There are a few students who I can count on to encourage and affirm my teaching, but it often happens that those I fight for the most are also the ones who don’t show appreciation.

Before my seventh-grade students asked to share what they loved and appreciated about me, I wasn’t sure if they had even really considered what I did for them. (At one point towards the end of the fall semester, after I had prayed for reduced stress in teachers and students, one of them had asked, “Mr. Dicks, how could teachers get stressed?”) However, I sat and listened for ten minutes as every student raised their hand and shared something they appreciated about me, as a person and as their teacher. Some personal favorites:

  • “I feel like when you teach, you’re not just talking through notes. It feels like you have a message from God that he wants you to give to us.”
  • “You talk to us and treat us like individuals, not just like a bunch of the same students.”
  • “You are willing to change plans or do extra work to help us learn better.”

And so, on a day when I planned on showing love to my students in an intentional way, they – and likewise, God – surprised me with their love towards me. They shared their words out of their own love, but God used them to love me in His own way, affirming my investment in the ministry he had given to me.

I believe we can all learn two major truths from this.

  1. Make it a habit to tell others what you love and appreciate about them, especially in regards to the work in which God has called them. Do it in a way that is intentional, personal, and sacrificial.
  2. Pay attention for ways in which God loves you through the words and actions of others.

He does not promise that we will be loved and appreciated by the world around us, but he does promise that his love will never leave us.

By: Brian Dicks, Serving in Hungary at ICSB

Called to Seek Him First

We are two years into our first term right now and have experienced pretty much everything we were warned about before we left and a few other realities. Things like…

  • how dumb you’ll feel
  • how you’ll have to remind yourself you were a professional at one point; things on the surface will seem the same, but underneath things are very different
  • the wall you’ll feel not being able to communicate at all; the pace of life will slow way down; the reality that all things “church” as you knew it would be gone-there’s a reason you’re going there to church plant.
  • God doesn’t necessarily send us into another comfort zone, rather one completely opposite of us
  • the reality of how hard it is some days to step out of the house and face the culture again, how easier it is to just stay inside
  • it’s not just about our expectations-the culture may have theirs of you
  • in all attempts to not offend, you still will
  • how God calls us to love, but what about those days we can’t anymore
  • in every attempt to do things “right”, you’ll do it all “wrong”
  • the frustrations of everything don’t go away, they just become normal and what you expect
  • the reality of loneliness is an understatement
  • the reality of how intentional you have to be about everything
  • you may be having a good day, but your kids are not
  • it takes putting on your “tough skin” just to go out everyday, but in love, of course
  • every person in your family is experiencing all this too, it’s not just about how you feel
  • the literal pain and nausea experienced in flipping through photo albums and remembering where we were before God called us here, it’s all gone, just memories now.

My list could easily go on, but I think you get the point.  If our “call” were a feeling, we wouldn’t still be here. It wouldn’t have lasted. Because we can say without any doubt God directed our steps and spoke to both our hearts so loudly about making this change for Him, we can keep going. We must keep seeking Him first. We must “fix” our eyes continually on Him. If we don’t do this “first” we won’t make it. We don’t have it on our own. Our “love” for this culture can only come from Him; ours is conditional, His is unconditional. He helps us understand things we can’t on our own.

I’m so thankful for His Word and many promises. How I have clung to them to feel safe, sane, comforted, and strong.  I have written down several scriptures and placed them literally all over our home so that we see them all the time. They must be ever before us, in more ways than one.

I’m reminded of a morning last year when I was driving to my language class. I had the I AM They cd playing and the song “Make a Way” was on. I’d heard it several times before but suddenly the lyrics were loud and clear; “you brought me to the desert so you would be my water…” I thought “How true!” It was a great reminder to me about how it is about Him not us. He’s called us to a place where we literally need Him- how wonderful! What a place to be. So no matter how hard, frustrating or tough it may be- we have Him. That is all we need. Our hope is our reason. We may continue to struggle because we’re human, but one day we will not struggle anymore. We continue to obey and seek Him first and our hope becomes our destination.

By: Bethany Ely, Serving in Germany

Discern Your Calling

Have you wondered if God is calling you to serve him in another culture? We're here to help you on your journey of discovery.

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Navigating Difficult Decisions

Many years ago when my wife and I were developing the LAM (now UWM) student ministry in Bogotá, Colombia we met Daniel Salinas, a student of mechanical engineering at the National University.

salinasDaniel came from a Christian home, was an excellent student, and participated with enthusiasm in the activities of the group.  He played the guitar, led worship, and formed part of a musical group specializing in Andean music.

As the time of his graduation came close, he confided to us a difficult decision he had to make.  His uncle had studied in Europe and had married a German lady.  He was impressed with Daniel and said that through his contacts he could secure a scholarship for him to study for a Master’s degree in engineering in Germany.  For a Colombian from a poor family, this offer seemed like a gift from heaven!

However, as Daniel had considered this unique opportunity, he remembered that he had promised the Lord to give Him two years of his life following graduation as a symbol of his gratitude for the Lord loving and saving him.  So he faced a very difficult decision.  How could he turn down such an amazing offer!  It could influence his future.  Not only what he would learn, but a prestigious master’s degree from a European, above all a German, engineering school!  Certainly the Lord must have been in this windfall!  But as he laid the matter before the Lord, he recognized that he had made a promise, and a promise had to be kept.

Therefore, upon graduation, he shared with us all that he had decided to serve the Lord for two years.  We were all amazed, because we knew of the offer.  But, he wanted to Seek God First.

One year he worked in our office using his photographic skills in putting together audiovisual materials.  Then, he responded to an invitation to go to Uruguay with two other young university grads to pioneer a university ministry in Montevideo, where there was no Christian witness.

As the years stretch on, Daniel never did make it to Germany.  In Uruguay he met Gayna, an American missionary involved in the student ministry. Shortly after they married, he accepted an invitation to work with students in Bolivia, and they have been serving together ever since.

Then followed PhD studies in the U.S., and more missionary service in Paraguay.  During the years he has become a recognized Latin America theologian/scholar, has written and published several studies on Latin American historical theology.  However, his first book was as a heart wrenching sharing of his and Gayna’s difficult years raising their child, Karis, born with cerebral palsy, who died at only 7 years old.

Daniel is now facing another big decision: whether to teach in a Seminary in Medellín, Colombia or a Seminary just south of the U.S. border in Mexico.  Significant and important reasons tug in each direction, but as we chatted the other day when he was visiting us on the way home from observing the situation in Mexico, it was evident to me that he was working through his decision, once again, putting God first.

As I think of Daniel’s difficult decision, so many years ago, I recognize that if he had gone to Germany, his life would undoubtedly have been far different from his experience today.  He probably would be a well recognized Colombian engineer, with a lovely home and all the trappings.  Life has not been easy as a Latin American missionary, living by raising support from the small churches of Utah, where Gayna was raised.  But I am reminded of Jesus’ words: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Daniel’s unique contributions to the church in Latin America must certainly be part of these “all things”, as well as the Lord’s words to him one day, Well done good and faithful servant. I thank the Lord for him and Gayna, and pray for their continued fruitful ministry.

By: Jack Voelkel, former LAM missionary in Colombia and current UWM Board Member

Pray for Colombia

Continue to pray for the Salina's family. Click the video below to be in prayer for Colombia.

Colombia

Staff Playlist of Worship Songs

Our first value is to Seek God First and with that in mind we decided to make a Staff Playlist of our favorite worship videos for you to enjoy.

Rilla: HR & Finance Manager

Cheryl: Finance Assistant

Desiree: Donation Support Specialist

Bill: Volunteer Finance Assistant

Wendy: Director of Mobilization

Callie: Mobilizer for Latin America

Jennifer: Business Manager & Mobilizer for Europe

Spanky: Mobilizer for Africa

Jordan: Mobilizer for North America & Coach

Robin: Mobilizer for Avance

Amanda: Business Operations Analyst

Asian Church Leaders Experience Freedom Through Prayer Room

The mountain hostel’s small meeting room was filled with twenty-two local pastors and church planters, all eager to learn and grow during our retreat. A national leader from another country in South Asia joined us to lead sessions on creating bigger vision as part of our “Breaking Tradition in order to Enter the Kingdom of God” theme.  During one of our evenings together, we challenged these amazing leaders to seek God through a new form of prayer. Most had never thought of prayer as being creative or interactive, and freedom, joy and vision resulted as they experienced prayer and encountered the Father’s presence through the stations we set up around the small room.

At one station that explored our identity in Christ, Brother W, a rural Asian church planter who has worked among the poor for 20 years, stood before the mirror and asked the Lord how He sees him.  He heard the Holy Spirit say one word: “Smart!” Brother W felt so happy and free as he wrote “smart” on the large white paper next to the mirror because he has been called stupid ever since he was a little child. At the end of our prayer time, the paper next to the mirror was covered with true identity statements like Brother W’s, and we left it up as a reminder for the rest of the retreat.

asiadecAnother prayer station had four pots with different kinds of soil set out with an invitation to ask to the Lord about the soil in our hearts or the hearts of those for whom they wanted to pray.  One sister, who believed her inner heart was filled with bad soil, received encouragement from the Holy Sprit that her heart is good soil and is producing fruit. She walked away with joyful tears in her eyes.

asiadec2To replace the common habit of complaining to God in prayer, we challenged everyone to write down declarations statements and thanksgivings on a large piece of paper at another station.  The room filled with a tangible sense of hope and faith, and at the end of our hour of prayer many cheerfully shared their encounters with the Lord.

We have been promoting 24-7 Prayer here for 5 years now, and the momentum continues to grow. During the second 24-7 Prayer Asia Gathering in June, I again had a strong sense that Father God wants to birth a new prayer movement in this Asian country. I confess that sometimes I wonder how this could happen in a nation this size. The people here are known around the world as people of prayer, particularly in intercession in the midst of intense persecution. Often, however, prayer takes the form of shouting a list of requests instead of interacting with the Father. Now, we regularly hear testimonies like these of local people encountering God and connecting with his heart in remarkable ways as they seek Him in prayer rooms. During the retreat, as we listened to leaders from all over the country share testimonies of how they encountered God, a friend leaned over to me and said, “This is how a fresh prayer movement begins in Asia!” Let it be, Lord!

By: Worker Serving in Asia

Pray Now

Would you take a few moments to pray along with us for the church in Asia:
1. To experience continued freedom in Christ through the Holy Spirit
2. For those who are lost to accept Jesus into their lives and make Him Lord
3. For the pastors and church leaders to be encouraged and persevere

The Privilege is Greater than the Price…

A WOMAN OF WHOM THE WORLD WAS NOT WORTHY: HELEN ROSEVEARE (1925-2016)

“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply.
The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay.
The privilege is greater than the price.”
—Helen Roseveare

Written by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition on Dec 7. 2016

Helen's Story

Helen Roseveare's inspiring story through traumatic suffering while serving in the Congo is a present-day challenge to all of us who follow Christ.

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God is at work in Brazil

We’re so thankful for all God is doing in Brazil through Victoria Ministries. Click below to check it out…

Thankfulness Victoria Ministries from Ministério Victória on Vimeo.

By: Marcos Pereira, Serving in Brazil

Interested in Serving

If you'd like to be a part of what God is doing in Brazil or in another country please let us know. We're ready to walk alongside you as you take steps on this journey.

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