A few nights ago, I played old hymns on the piano as my boys nestled into bed. As I played, each song brought a memory to mind. Some of them, my family would sing around the piano, while my mother pelted the keys, Brandon banged his drum set, Tricia shook her maracas, and I… well, for those of you who know this story, I had my sticks. (My mother gave me the sticks, while my siblings got the cool instruments at Christmas time.) My dad would proclaim proudly, “We are the Carters!” (meaning the Christian Griswolds) The windows were open for we had no air conditioning at the time. Begrudgingly, I hit my sticks, thankul we lived in the country, so no neighbors could hear us.
That night, I started playing a song I loved growing up, it was a Griswold favorite.
“Peanut, do you know this song?”
“No, Momma what’s it called?”
“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” I said.
“No, but I like it,” he answered back.
While Jay was working, I took a minute to look up the stories behind those old hymns. I was shocked to find “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”, was a song written in India, by an Indian family who decided to follow Christ.
I have a fondness and a curiosity for India. God has brought many Indian people into my life. For one, my sister- in -law Prem, who is a princess to me. She has this gentle feminine air about her, which makes me want to throw down my cloak over mud puddles, so her toes don’t get dirty. She wears flowers in her black hair at the beach, and drifts around in her pink tubby, while I am in complete snorkel gear rising up out of the deep, my hair coated with the green slime, I collected on my swim. We are complete opposites, my blood contains the savage sort, while her’s the exotic type. Somehow, though different Indian blood, we still fit, as sisters do.
I have several close Indian girlfriends as well, whom have opened their hearts to me. I don’t understand what they see in me, but they are a giving, gentle lot. They love to feed you their food and laden you with gifts at Christmas time. My friend Sanjita explains it is her culture, to feed those you care about. I’d be loving some Indian culture. Pass me a fork!
There is a little girl in India who has won my heart. Her name is Abilisha. We write each other regularly. She constantly pours the grace of God on me in her letters. What a cutie! The night I was playing this on the piano, I found a letter from her in my mailbox, along with a picture of her new rusty bicycle. Her smile could have lit up Disney World.
So, as I was reading the story of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. I thought all the while as a young girl singing this song with the Christian Griswolds, I didn’t know one single person from India, nor did I know the horrific story behind the song. Here it is….
One night, around 150 years ago, in a North East area of India called Assam, an ordinary man opened his door to an angry mob of villagers. He and his family were dragged into the town square. The tribe pointed their spears into their chests. Their anger was ignited by a change in their village. A change caused by a group of missionaries from Wales, who took a dangerous journey to bring the message of Christ to a corner of the world, where no one wanted to go, and only one family decided to follow Jesus.
I imagine the missionaries thought their efforts were in vain, yet one family started a movement throughout the tribe, that the elders did not like. They decided to make an example of this family, in the town square.
“Denounce your belief in Jesus and you will live,” the chief shouted. The man and his family began to sing.
“I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back….No turning back.”
They snatched his two boys from his arms and speared them through the heart.
As they fell writhing on the ground, the chief yelled. “Denounce Jesus or your wife will die.”
He and his wife sang.
“Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back. No turning back.”
They grabbed his wife and speared her. She fell alongside her boys.
“Denounce Jesus and you will live.”
The man sang.
“The world behind me. The cross before me. The world behind me. The cross before me. The world behind me. The cross before me. No turning back….No turning back.”
The man fell on top of the heap.
Although, tragic, the story did not end tragically. The chief walked away, and began to think of the words of this Indian folk song. He thought about the sacrifice an entire family made for their belief. He and his elders began discussing this man called Jesus, soon all agreed to become followers of Christ. The story of Jesus spread throughout the entire village, and many fell to their knees before God. For one ordinary Indian man and his ordinary Indian family, made an unordinary decision to follow Jesus to death.
If you would like to hear the song, “I have Decided to Follow Jesus” Click the link below. I also found some special Indian ladies to sing it for you.