Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Grace Rides On An Oxcart

April 18, 2024

Amanda Cleary Eastep

This story begins with an oxcart. The wooden sides–painted white, blue, and yellow–seem happy against the parched, red road rolling beneath the wheels. A wiry Hindu man grips the reins of the two oxen, their horns painted nearly as red as the dusty earth. It’s 1990, and this man has been hired by a young, American missionary and his team to take them from Indian village to Indian village to tell people about Jesus.

I’d never been to India until this year. That story begins with grace.

My earliest impressions of the country had been formed by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Little Princess. A much truer understanding came after I married my husband who had lived and served there for more than ten years. For the past twenty-five, he’d longed to return.

“It can be overwhelming,” he warned me—more than once—as we planned. The crowds, the noise, the smells, the colors and customs. The heat—both in the air and in the food. 

That’s what I expected. I was also trying to have no expectations, and instead be open to what God had in mind for this trip… and to glimpse the world my husband missed with so much of his heart. A world I’d never been part of.

I prayed, “Lord, renew the desire I had as a young girl to travel the world, to see beautiful and hard places, to be a missionary (minus cannibals and dysentery).”

In His grace, God answered.

Grace is usually defined as undeserved favor. While we see this definition supported by Scripture, John Piper, looking specifically at 1 Corinthians 15:10, 2 Corinthians 9:8, and 12:9, explains that grace is also “an acting of God that works in us to change our capacity for work and suffering and obedience.” Grace isn’t only “a disposition or an inclination in the nature of God.”[1]

Being overseas showed me both of those things.

If anything served as a symbol of undeserved favor, it was the lavish hospitality poured out on us by our Indian friends. We crowded into small rooms filled with the noise of happy reminiscing or the boisterous singing and drum banging of worshipers; the scents of curry and onions and fresh naan and steaming chai; and the blues, greens, purples, and gold of head scarves, salwars, and sarees. 

That favor came too in the shouts of children at the orphanage who called out to us, “Auntie!”, “Uncle!” … “Sit next to me! Hold my hand! Play on my team!” 

As the first days passed and I rejoiced in my husband’s reunions and forged new friendships, my husband’s concern for me turned into a shared experience. “You’re part of this story now,” he told me.

God expanded our capacity to step into places and spaces we hadn’t prepared for. He stretched me more each day:

“Sister, play games with the 70 children at the orphanage.” After two hours of Red Light, Green Light, volleyball, and badminton, I have not died of a heart attack.

“Sister, teach the children of the village church a worship song.” I don’t sing, but I know all the words to “This Little Light of Mine.”

“Sister, pray for my two deaf sons.” I don’t have words, but I can lay a hand on each of their heads and ask God to give them ears to hear His voice.

“Sister, tell us why you came to India.” Because God allowed me to be part of the story.

I know my husband and his team of young missionaries were stretched far beyond anything I experienced in my brief two weeks in India. But during that time, God showed us favor in a way that strengthened our faith in the most unexpected—and undeserved—way. 

God showed us how He had given the increase of seeds planted twenty-five years earlier. 

This story ends (at least for now) with an oxcart.

“Remember the oxcart driver?” asks my husband’s friend, who is the pastor of the church where my husband will teach on Sunday morning.

Yes, my husband remembers. The man drove our missionary team from Indian village to Indian village to share the gospel. We shared the gospel with him too.

“He became a Christian,” the pastor says. “And so did his two grown sons. They all go to my church and serve on our teaching and worship teams.”

We are awed by this news.

Then, after the Sunday service, an elderly man approaches us. His hair and beard are white as snow. He extends his hand to shake my husband’s. 

My husband was right. India was overwhelming. I saw it in the generosity of fellow believers, in the stories of God’s faithfulness, and in the ongoing story of His grace.

[1] John Piper, “What Is Grace?” Episode of 1470 of “Ask Pastor John,” (audio transcript), Desiring God, May 8, 2020,

[2] Ibid.

The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.


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