You would have been surprised to see that crowd. They were new village Christians. They were so excited to celebrate Easter that every few minutes someone would shout, "Jai Christ," which means "Christ lives!" and people all over the great crowd would reply using the same words. They would repeat it several times at the top of their voices.
If you had been there that weekend you would have seen some wonderful things. There were about 10,000 people in the crowd. They had come from many villages to the Christian school at Zaheerabad for Easter. Of course they were dressed in colorful Indian clothes. Many of them came walking and others, especially whole families came in bullock carts. Some had come from villages ten miles away. People from each village walked together, so it was an impressive sight. They came from every direction, sometimes two or more villages joining along the way. As they came they sang Christian songs and had a wonderful time. Some of them beat drums or played their simple village musical instruments. In most of the villages they had made special Christian flags and fastened them to long bamboo poles. The villages competed with each other to see who would have the longest pole and the most perfect Christian flag. Then as each village group came they carried their flag at the front of the procession all the way to the celebration.
When I arrived I found many of the families resting near their bullock carts. Some had little fires burning and were cooking their food. But everywhere people were laughing and talking and having a wonderful time.
Easter morning, long before it was light, they gathered around some high rocks near the school. Boys and girls from the school sang Easter songs and led the great crowd in singing hymns in their own language. Then it was time for me to preach. I climbed up on the rock so my voice could be heard better. Just to look out on that crowd of new Christians was an inspiration.
Only recently they had become Christians. In their former religion they were a despised people. Many of them were what was called "untouchables." They were told that because of some sin of their parents they had been born to live a life without hope. Even if they worked hard they could never become respectable because they were untouchables. But now they had accepted Christ and Christ offered them hope. Their children could be educated. Now as Christians they no longer spent their money on drink or on evil things. As Christians they had become respectable people.
As I preached I told them how evil men had taken Jesus and crucified him, but on Easter he was seen alive and even now when they learned more about him they would feel his living presence with them and be filled with hope. Jesus shared their problems and because he lives they could have a new life.
In an amazing way their villages had already been changed. They had built better homes, instead of wasting their money gambling or getting drunk. They were learning how to farm better. When they were sick they could go to the Christian dispensary. Their whole lives were being changed. I spoke of the many ways Christ had already given them hope and I urged them to learn more about him so they would become worthy of the name Christian.
We had begun the service in the dark of early morning. By the time I finished talking the sun was just coming up. Easter had arrived. So also a new day was dawning for them as Christians. And what happened to people in India is happening to people everywhere. It can happen to you as you read this story. That is what Easter is all about. [by James E. McEldowney, Spring 1997]
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