Seeking Salvation in Varanasi

To open their eyes
To turn from darkness to light
From the power of Satan to God
That they may receive forgiveness of sins
And an inheritance
Among those who are sanctified
By faith in me.
-Jesus (Acts 26:18)

Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day by which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained.
He has given us assurance of this by raising him from the dead. -Paul (Acts 17:30-32)

What must I do to be saved?
-The Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:30)

Peri and I are in Varanasi India. Probably the holiest city in Hinduism. Hindus come here to bathe in the Ganges in hope of finding salvation as they conceive it — freedom from the cycle of rebirth. Many come here to die. They come here old and ill and wait for death so that they might be cremated on the banks of the river and have their ashes sprinkled on the Ganges in order to escape this world.

This morning Peri and I witnessed some of these rites. The following is a photo blog of what we saw.

Near the Ghats of Varanasi
As we made our way to the ghats we came across a fire puja being performed.

On the ghats

A Hindu pilgrim

The throngs upon the ghats

Beneath the gaze of Shiva

Seeking salvation from the cycle of rebirth

Smoke from the burning ghats

Wood for the pyres

Three shrouded bodies awaiting cremation

A cremation
In this gruesome photo a foot protrudes from the pyre
While a water buffalo passes by
Notice the slogan on the wall:
Fortunate are the people who
Reside on the banks of the Ganga

Next door the laundry is being done

And thus it has been for three thousand years in Varanasi.

What is to be done?

The gospel is to be preached.

And who will do it?

Indian Christians willing to suffer.

Satan does not give up his kingdom without a fight.

Here I am with a young pastor who knows about suffering.
He was recently beaten for preaching the gospel.
He was then tied to a tree while his wife was raped.
I was preaching on “What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?”
This man knows something about the cost of discipleship.

There were 66 pastors at our conference who had been beaten for preaching the gospel.

We washed their feet.

Brian Zahnd
Varanasi, India