Our final teaching day dawns in Chandigarh and it’s another early start. We’ve the Lord’s work to do and we don’t have the luxury afforded Warren Beatty and Julie Christie - for us, Heaven Cannot Wait. Our car ride to the learning centre provides a surprise this morning - in addition to the usual alarm. Two traffic cops have pulled a guy over and are writing him a ticket. It hadn’t occurred to me there could be rules attached to this madness. I try to picture what this fellow could possibly have done to stand-out from the more regular, apparently entirely lawful, insanity being played out all around us.
Maybe he’d been auditioning for India’s upcoming mission to Mars, which the TV was proclaiming last night. I envisage a giant starter chord and rockets veering wildly across the sky. But I don’t see the Indians as natural astronauts. After all, in space no-one can hear you honk. I’m seriously risking over-exposure today.
I kick-off proceedings with my first ever devotion. Then follow up with my testimony. After Steve Y tells the pastors about his own path to Christ, I fear I might be gonged off as I return to the lectern to talk about Jeremiah. My translator is the impossibly well-groomed Pastor Herbert Bernard Joseph. In this half-built stone bunker of exploding power boards and taps fitted solely for decoration, I wonder how I have somehow missed the salon from which he springs each morning. I know from our study group that Pastor Bernard has struggled with my English accent this week, so I slow my delivery. Still I suspect he is translating my notes rather than my words so I place them between us.
Next is our study group and one of the most uplifting 45 minutes of the week. Pastor Vijender Kumar gives his testimony. We learn how a former martial arts expert and standover man decides to devote his life to Christ. He is a big man but gentle as a kitten. He tells how God saved his daughter’s life when doctors had given up. How he himself almost died and then how the hospital imprisoned him in a locked shed when he couldn’t pay his bill. He tells us he prayed for days and how a mystery benefactor paid his bill, allowing him to go free. (It’s a variation on a theme, I guess.) Unlike Paul S and myself, the decision to follow Christ has cost many of our group their relationship with their parents. As we all applaud Pastor Vijender, I reach for our discussion booklet. I catch Pastor Bernard’s eye and twitch an eyebrow, thinking “that’s going to be a hard act to follow.” He may not speak South London yobbo but Pastor Bernard picks this immediately. His face lights up with a million dollar smile and I wonder whether I should stop talking and just use the force from now on.
Our group discussion is inspiring. We contrast the Old Testament sacrificial system with the everlasting saving power of Jesus Christ. One pastor warns we should not see this as a license to sin. Another quotes Romans 6 from memory - pointing out we should remember which Master it is we serve. The discussion is sharp.
The “best of the crop” test papers on the walls next year, showing pastors what to aim for will surely be penned by this group. In the evening, the touring party head out to our favourite hotel for dinner. The lessons are over for Chandigarh. For me, this is almost goodbye. I clink beer bottles with “best-ever room mate” Craig F, “study group guru” Paul S and “second time tourist and personal guardian angel” Jane M. But in truth, everyone has propped me up at some stage this week. And I can’t imagine the workload Matt L has shouldered, keeping us all moving in the right direction amid the chaos.
I’m sad to be leaving the group. My longing to hug wife Alison, and sons Daniel and Jamie is becoming a physical ache. But I know a bucketful of meaningless middle class angst awaits in Sydney that I will all too readily embrace. I’ve learned so much more than I’ve taught this week. For these pastors, Christ is their sufficiency. And as Matt L says, they should be our heroes. I thank God for their example, I pray He will bless their ministries, and I thank India for a week I will never forget.
Martin K, India Teaching Team 2013.