Brown robes swirling in the wind revealed dusty bare feet caged in worn sandals as Thomas ascended the temple stairs. Brushing aside rivers of perspiration cascading down his forehead, he noticed his eyes were also watering and his nose twitched from the heady aroma of incense. Tinny bells tinkled from somewhere deep inside the structure—a welcoming greeting for the colorful clay deities that called this temple home.
Thomas moved aside as the worshippers approached from all corners of the village. A sea of vibrant colors assaulted his vision and mocked his drab Palestinian robes.
What am I doing here, Lord?
He thought back to the past few months in this foreign land, ministering to his fellow countrymen who had settled in the wild port town of Muchiri. Many were merchants. Some he even suspected of piracy. They were not devout Jews, simply men cut off from their heritage—strangers in a strange land. Maybe because of their lawlessness or in spite of it, their ears remained closed to his message. And so Thomas decided to move beyond the confines of the Jewish settlement to seek direction. Just as he had witnessed his Lord do many times, he sought the Father in the inland mountains of the Kerala province.
Have I heard you wrong, Lord?
His prayer time had now brought him to this place—a Hindu village and its temple. A small voice in his head prompted him to hesitate just outside the entrance while allowing the worshippers to move ahead of him. A familiar passion washed over his soul for the people surrounding him. His stomach churned and his head burned as he mustered the courage to approach the men. Several men were climbing the stone stairs and one stopped to flash friendly eyes and a toothless grin at the stranger. Thomas smiled back. Extending his arm, he greeted him in Aramaic.
“I am Thomas, a follower of the living God.”
The man responded. “I am Akhil.” Grabbing his forearm in greeting, he drew him into the crowd.
Thomas had no interest in entering the temple, but knew the man’s action was an invitation and he didn’t want to miss any opportunity the Father might be offering.
Where are you leading me, Lord?
Upon entering the pagan temple, Thomas hovered next to the outer wall, overwhelmed with the chanting of a people desperate for fulfillment and acceptance. His heart was full. Thomas watched Akhil move toward the front altar and lie prostrate on the ground. Colorful flowers draped statues. Painted murals depicted stories from ancient times.
Thomas relished the coolness of the stone walls against his back which stood in stark contrast to the humid jungle heat.
When the priests finally finished their morning prayers, Thomas moved toward the entrance, hoping to catch Akhil on the temple stairs. It wasn’t long before Akhil appeared and, being alone, Thomas easily approached him.
“Greetings Akhil. May we talk some more.”
Akhil’s head was bound in a dirty white turban and it bobbed up and down in greeting. “Come, follow me.”
Thomas followed the smaller man to a long structure not far from the temple and they sat down under the shade of a tamarind tree brimming with new fruit.
“Are you a trader, Thomas?”
“No, I am an explorer of sorts. I came from across the sea from a magnificent city called Jerusalem. It is the land of my ancestors and of those who follow a man named Jesus. He is the Son of God. I followed Him as a young man along the shores of the Sea of Gallilee.”
“Ah, so why have you come here traveler? To follow this man?”
“Well, I actually follow Him every day. My Lord Jesus gave me and His other friends this charge: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20, NIV)
Akhil’s dark eyes widened with questions, causing a fresh wave of uncertainty to rush over Thomas' soul.
Why am I still full of doubts, Lord?
No more doubts, my child. You are home.
Tradition tells us that Thomas, apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, traveled to the Kerala district of southwest India in 52 A.D. to spread the gospel. It was here that he started seven churches and was eventually martyred in the eastern city of Mylapore in 72 A.D.
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