My Account
Sign Up for an Account



Choose Password

Retype Password

Sing to the Lord a new song, in South Asian language and style


It's Saturday night in a midwestern city in the United States. A group of people is meeting for a Jesus-centered worship gathering. But you won’t find pews or hymnals here. Nor will you hear the latest English praise songs. Instead, people sit on the floor. The space is decorated in colors like red, orange, and saffron. You’ll notice the pleasant fragrance of incense and enjoy the flickering flames of several candles set around the room. Afterwards, you might eat some South Asian vegetarian food. But before dinner, there’s prayer, Bible study, and music.

This is a satsang, a form of worship gathering common in South Asia. TMS Global cross-cultural witness (CCW) Amanda Davis* says the term means “gathering of truth.”

“The idea is that this is a worship gathering of people who are gathering to honor a particular deity,” Davis says. “We’ve adopted the term for our own use. We have Yeshu satsangs that are exclusively dedicated to the Lord Jesus, and through Him to the Triune God.”

The Yeshu satsangs incorporate many South Asian cultural forms to show that Jesus can speak into a South Asian context. This includes the music.

“One of the songs is called Vande Satchitanandam Vande,” Davis says. “It’s written in Sanskrit. Vande means I worship you or I adore you. Satchitanandam means fullness of truth, life, and joy. This is actually a very, very ancient Sanskrit word to describe God. It's one that followers of Jesus have said, ‘We can absolutely take this and apply this to the Triune God. He is absolutely full of truth, life, and joy.’”

In this song you’ll hear a harmonium. It looks like a very small keyboard in a box, but sounds like an accordion. You’ll also hear the tabla, which is a pair of drums. There’s also finger cymbals and people singing.

“The second part of the chorus is pitra putra pavitratma,” Davis says. “Pitra is Father, putra is Son, pavitratma is Holy Spirit. We're expressively saying who is this truth, life, joy, we’re worshiping? It’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Davis is trained in western-style music. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Church Music. Her principal instrument was pipe organ. But she feels the Lord is leading her to use her love of music in a cross-cultural setting. In about a year she plans to move to South Asia to eventually work with a group of people who are creating worship music in the style of that region.

“Way back when I started exploring opportunities to live and serve cross-culturally, I knew I wanted to serve in music somehow,” Davis says. “Being a musician is just how God has wired me. I found out that South Asian music was being used in South Asia to help people worship God in a style that was familiar to them. And being a musician, allowing people to worship God in a way that's authentic and real and makes them more of the human God created them to be-- I'm really passionate about that.”

For now, she’s busy learning everything she can about South Asian music.

“Half the learning curve has been learning how to learn,” Davis says. “I want to be able to understand South Asian music from the inside out. It’s just so different than the system I'm used to.”

Davis feels that taking time to learn a new music system is absolutely worth it, since this form of worship allows for deeper connection with people in South Asia.

“By choosing to adopt those forms when we can without compromising the gospel, we’re helping ensure that there are just fewer barriers to Jesus, bringing Jesus nearer to South Asians who’ve always seen Him as a Western God,” Davis says.

Another song Davis sings at satsangs is Paavan Pita Antaryami.

“This one is in Hindi,” Davis says. “It basically translates to “Holy Father who knows our inner being, shower Your grace on us.”

Similar to the previous song, you’ll hear the harmonium, tabla, and finger cymbals throughout this piece.

“The next verse asks the Holy Son to shower His power on us, and the third verse asks the Holy Spirit to shower His power and gifts upon us.”

No matter where they serve, cross-cultural witnesses (CCWs) must practice contextualization: communicating the gospel in a way that makes sense to people within their own culture. CCWs must follow the lead of local believers, learning from them which parts of a culture are or are not in line with the gospel, and which pieces can be adapted by Jesus followers. In South Asia, this means helping people understand that they can follow Christ and remain South Asian at the same time. In order to do this, CCWs must enter into a new culture ready to humbly learn. Davis says she’ll be learning the rest of her life.

“The more I study this culture, the more aware I become of the necessity to go as a learner,” Davis says. “I’m entering a 5,000-year-old culture. It is much older than my own Western culture. There is a lot of depth and nuance. Learning how to recognize the beauty that God has put in this culture, the ways that for 5,000 years they have been trying to reach God. There’s some really beautiful stuff here that I think helps me approach God even better.”

Davis says her study of South Asian music reminds her that in every culture, throughout all time, souls are longing for union with God. She says she also has a fresh sense of what it means to approach God with humility and awe.

In the book of Revelation, we read that worshiping around the throne of God is a multi-sensory experience. There are wonderous, colorful sights. There is singing, loud voices, and incense.

When Davis sits on the floor during a satsang, surrounded by candles, a scarf covering her hair, the sound of music and the aroma of incense filling the room, she feels as though she is participating in a taste of what it will be like to one-day worship around the throne of God. In that day Davis will sample more than just a taste, but rather a feast of multi-sensory experiences for eternity. For now she’s grateful for the glimpse she’s witnessing with her South Asian friends here on earth.

*Psudonym is used for security reasons.