The sun rises over Chandigarh, and out in the streets, the flashing of headlights gives way to the honking of horns. Why am I here? I’ve been praying that even one pastor here in India might be empowered or encouraged by me, that the sacrifice of friends and family who have helped me get here might not be for my benefit alone. With a little guilt , I’m aware of how much I’m smiling today, how this trip is changing me, but I had hoped I would have something to offer India as well.
The biggest highlight so far is undoubtedly today’s graduation ceremony. After sightseeing near Chandigarh’s capitol complex, and the safe arrival of Kylie and Ian who join the team this week, we bustle onto a tourist bus back to the Centre . Having covered the entire Promise to Fulfilment course in just three days, our Indian brothers and sisters have completed their final exam before we arrive. As we join them, several pastors stand up, one after the other, to share their thoughts on the last three days, but I am not prepared for their response.
Firstly, Okesh, a talented young pastor and musician, refers to a lecture I presented on Acts 13. Now he sees his ministry is also a part of God’s unfolding plan for blessing the nations. Later, three pastors from my discussion group express their thanks to Martin and I for helping them understand the course material, inspiring them to preach about bible passages in their proper context. They are encouraged because we listened and learned as well as taught. They even call me Pastor Paul! Everywhere, there are smiles, handshakes, hugs and photos as the participants thank the team and receive their certificates and gifts. My joy is complete when two more pastors from Delhi ask me to return and teach them again next year…
I could say the rest of the day was uneventful, but come on, this is India! There was the moment when Matt L, big camera in hand, was almost held to ransom by local police security forces, only to be rescued by Steve Y who was more convincing in the role of innocent lost tourist. There was the monsoon rain which almost washed us out of the labyrinthine tourist trap that is the local rock gardens (“Do not climb the walls! “), a place where unnatural beauty and SD card sellers abound. There was the remarkable contrast between the local bazaar and the luxurious Elante Mall (complete with Zara, Nandos and an Aussie baker who sells chocolate éclairs). There was Indian Manuel driving his motor scooter through the dining room before breakfast…
Some lessons on life in Chandigarh : Do not ask the local police for advice (you could be asked for a “fee”) ; The flat rate of 100 rupees for an auto delivers a substantial producer surplus to the driver (as we found when Matt S and Nerida negotiated a ride for 30 rupees!); Visiting the local lake is nice in the rain (though riding in autos is not); and; Buying bangles can be fun!
Today, we said farewell to Martin and Steve T. I shall miss my roommate, the professor, and his encyclopedic musings. Tomorrow, we leave for Ludhiana, and I’m once again anxious about the many new faces I will meet. I call home, and the voices of my family remind me just how far away I am, and my heart is heavy. But today, I feel a little more certain about why I’m here, and what I have to offer. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Paul S, India Teaching Team 2013.