At Brethren National Youth Conference this past summer, they offered a very intriguing afternoon option called Rescue Squads sponsored by Grace Brethren International Missions (GBIM). Remember in Acts 17 when the Apostle Paul visited the city of Athens? It was a city full of idols. In verse one of that chapter, Scripture tells us that Paul was greatly distressed to see that the city of Athens was full of idols.
So is the case with Southern California, especially the Los Angeles area. You don’t need to cross the ocean to encounter the religions of the world. You don’t even need a passport to observe these religious practices. All you have to do is spend some time in L.A. like many of our teens did this past summer.
While I was out there I learned that Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world in terms of cultures, languages and religious expressions. The teens at BNYC were given the opportunity to visit the largest Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a Hindu temple, a Sikh temple, and a Muslim mosque. What an experience.
These excursions were led by Dr. George Alexander, Chairman of the Intercultural Studies Program at BIOLA University. At each of these sites, teens were able to encounter the results of spiritual blindness. They were able to see hundreds, and in some cases, even thousands of idols which cannot see, hear, speak or feel. They were also able to interact with religious leaders of these groups.
How amazing it was when the priest at the Hindu temple called Jay Bell from GBIM on Thursday morning to tell him that the group could not come to the temple until 3pm. What was the reason for the delay? The Hindu Priest said that they were going to allow the gods to sleep and would not be waking them up until 3 pm. Talk about spiritual blindness. How thankful I am that the one true God that we serve, the God of the Bible, the creator of heaven and earth, never slumbers nor sleeps. You never have to tip-toe through His temple so as not to wake Him. He doesn’t need rest and He is always available for us to call upon Him anytime, day or night.
It reminded me of the Buddhist temple that I visited while I was in Korea years ago. I stood in amazement as I watched a new huge idol of Buddha being delivered. They carefully took this golden masterpiece off of the truck and laid it on its side. Then, a large group of men carefully tied ropes around their god and begin to methodically and meticulously attempt to pull the idol upright into its place in the center of the temple. Imagine worshipping a god who can’t even stand up on his own! Imagine worshipping a God who has to take afternoon power naps and can’t be disturbed.
On one hand I was filled with gratitude and awe that God had revealed Himself to me and called me to be one of His children. On the other hand, my heart was heavy with the understanding that the god of this world (Satan) has truly blinded the eyes of mankind.