In these past blogs, we’ve looked at how Advent affects our spiritual/physical senses. I wrote first about having eyes that see with a bi-focal view of Christ’s first and second comings, framing our faith with hope. We then discussed the right use of our mouths –to communicate God’s Gospel of love to a world that is truth-famished. Finally, we spoke having ears for God – the listening posture of the disciple who seeks to do all Jesus says.
I want to end this series by speaking about our feet – that is, our call to walk after the Holy Spirit in the footprints of Jesus, into world mission.
One of my heroes was the great Indian itinerant evangelist, Sadhu Sundar Singh who lived in the early part of the 20th century1. His missionary feet took him all over India and Tibet (and overseas on trips to Europe and other parts of Asia). Everywhere he went, he drew strange looks, the tall Indian dressed as a Hindu sadhu (or holy man). But Singh was a disciple of Jesus, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere he went. ‘I want to bring the water of life in an Indian cup’, he once said.
Vision of Jesus
Born in 1889, Singh was gloriously saved as an intense young man of 15 on the verge of taking his own life. He was heartbroken at the time since losing his beloved mother. In his anguish, he failed to find inner peace in his forays into his native Sikhism and Hinduism. On the morning of his planned suicide, he desperately cried out to God. At that point, his room filled with light, and he saw a figure he did not recognize, who said to him: “I died for you. For you and for the life of the world I gave my life.” On seeing the scars of the risen Christ, Singh knew it was Jesus and gave his life to him.
Disowned by his father for converting, Singh decided, after a period of prayer, he to take to the Indian road as a sadhu for Christ, traveling from 1905 without any possessions, and trusting God to provide his keep and lead his way.
He spent the early part of his ministry reaching out to villages and towns in Northern India. Small Christian communities in the North were surprised to see a Christian sadhu with saffron robe and turban and bare feet blistered by the dirt roads. They called him the ‘Apostle with the bleeding feet.’
Missionary to Tibet
But Singh was not content to stay in India and began to look further a-field to the land-locked country of Tibet, the first of a number of missionary forays he made there in 1908. It was a hard journey through the Himalayan mountain trade routes passable only in the summer months. There, he faced persecution at the hands of staunchly Buddhist Tibetan tribes.
At one town, Singh later recounted how he was sentenced to death by the chief lama and thrown into a dry well, one arm painfully wrenched from the fall. The well was covered over, and he was left in darkness for 2 days, in the midst of rotting flesh and bones of others of a similar fate. In desperation, he cried out to God.
Two days or so later, the cover of the well was removed, and a rope lowered. With great difficulty, Singh hooked it around himself, and was winched out of the well. Lying on the ground, the fresh air revived his weak and starving body. He looked around but found no one. Nor did he have any more pain in his arm. The next day found him back in town preaching again to the astounded people of the town.
The sadhu would later tell of many other similar supernatural experiences. But his life and ministry was more than the miraculous. Ultimately, it was the manner and message of his life – and feet – that enabled him to communicate a vision of Jesus that many in India found easy to relate to and understand.
It’s all about Jesus!
Above all, Sadhu Sundar Singh never forgot that Jesus was the centre and treasure of his life. He neither let a measure of global fame, the lure of a more comfortable life or the plaudits and criticism he received from various Christian corners, distract his focus on Christ.
He wrote: “Now I have no desire for wealth, position and honor. Nor do I desire even Heaven. But I need Him who has made my heart Heaven. His infinite love has expelled the love of all other things. Many Christians cannot realize His precious, life-giving presence, because for them Christ lives in their heads or in their Bibles, not in their hearts. Only when a man gives his heart shall he find Him. The heart is the throne for the King of Kings. The capital of Heaven is the heart where that King reigns.”
When Christ likewise has true ownership of all the rooms of our hearts, then our feet will likewise be fitted with the readiness of his Gospel of peace, to go where he sends us, to speak of his great salvation. Making disciples who listen to his voice and abide in his Word, we will make a people ready for his return.
This Advent/Christmas and always, may we have eyes, mouths, ears and feet surrendered to him, as we work and wait and the day of his glorious return.
 Parts of this blog are edited from a previously published article I wrote for Impact magazine. “The Apostle with the Bleeding Feet”, June/July 2008 issue, volume 31, no.3.