About a month ago, my husband and I, along with our two small kids, packed up our home in Delhi. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to stay—but we had to leave quickly. My husband’s fragile respiratory system could not take the pollution of Delhi any longer, so our company was sending us to Dubai. As I put each dish, kurti, and photo in boxes it all felt so surreal.
Being originally from the United States, I had to make big cultural adjustments to learn to live in Delhi. Because of this struggle and God’s grace in it, I’m different than I was when our plane landed on the sizzling Delhi runway three years ago.
So what exactly am I taking with me from Delhi to Dubai?
Seeing People as Image Bearers
I come from a tiny town in the state of Pennsylvania where you could go for a walk down our neighborhood street and not see more than two or three people outside at any given time. In Delhi, I was not used to being surrounded by so many people while trying to just accomplish daily tasks of life. Living in a city with almost 20 million people, there is always someone watching. There were always people in cars jamming up the roads and slowing me down from what I needed to get done. While I didn’t always respond to these pressures with the right attitude, God used this step out of my comfort zone to help me see my selfishness and begin to see others as God sees them.
These millions of people are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). Instead of being so overwhelmed by the burden of such a large population that individual lives become invaluable, I needed to remember that to be made in God’s image means that men and women are intelligent, creative, relational, and deeply valued by God.
Treasuring the Gospel
The first neighborhood we lived in had five Hindu temples, two Sikh temples, and was very close to a Buddhist community. It was amazing for me to see so many different places of worship. Each place of worship was home to their specific people group. I’ll never forget when I invited my Hindu friend to my house to hear our church’s Christmas carolers when they came by. She assumed these were my friends in Delhi from the US. She was amazed when Indians of all castes and socioeconomic stations came in singing about the Savior’s birth—and not just north Indians, but people from the South and northeast and even from outside of India.
What could unite so many different cultures in a loving and rejoicing community? This was truly unique! They love each other not to earn favor from God but because they have been shown His love (1 John 4:19). In a country that is still very much ethnically segregated, believers find identity in Christ more important than bloodlines or country. Against the backdrop of other religions that strive to earn favor with God, I was constantly reminded what a treasure the gospel is—a message of peace with God and others through Christ (Romans 5:1).
Hoping in the Unseen
In Delhi I saw and lived close to poverty unlike I had ever seen before. Everywhere I went my eyes were filled with images of hopelessness, injustice, and many things I did not understand. Obviously any kind of social change I strived for, while good and necessary, would only benefit a few out of thousands in need. Faced with the reality that the world is not as it should be, my gaze had to be fixed on what is not seen to give me hope for the hopelessness surrounding me.
With eyes of faith in what God’s word says, we trust that He is sovereign, loving, and good. We know that Christ is seated in heavenly realms with all rule, authority, power, and dominion (Ephesians 1: 21), and that God is working to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (Ephesians 1:10). This gives us hope when our eyes see brokenness.
We can love and help others in need while calling them to consider that their best life could never be now. Their best life is not a ticket to the opportunity of luxury and comfort in Dubai either. But rather, their best life, is joining in the sufferings of Christ now, with the guarantee of eternal life with God— an inheritance unimaginable for those who put their faith in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5).
As I move from Delhi to Dubai, I will miss hopping on rickshaws, having cheap delicious food delivered to my door, and seeing the vibrant colors that decorate everything from saris to trucks. I’m thankful for many rich cultural experiences I had in India, but mostly I’m thankful for how God used India to teach more about Himself. He is a God who loves people, has given His Son to rescue them, and has an eternal plan that is for their good and His glory.