Experiencing two weeks in India is much like reading the breakfast menu at our hotel. Some things are recognizable, expected even, and many are not.
Sitting alone at breakfast on our last day together in India, my thoughts raced. Attempting to gather myself, I picked up the menu and flipped through it aimlessly. After much deliberation over the menu, I settled on “the Punjabi Selection”, an amazing assortment of dosa, paratha and other delights.
Staring into my masala tea, I found myself reflecting upon our time in India. So many new friends, so many wonderful experiences.
Driving to the centre, I looked around at my team. Wearied but glad for what had been another excellent week. Now only the Graduation Ceremony to go. In many ways the graduation ceremony at the end of each week’s teaching is both the best and the hardest day of each week. The best because you get to see the fruit of your labour, so rarely experienced in ministry. The hardest as it signals the end of another week, and in this case the end of our two weeks in India. I don’t find goodbyes easy at the best of times, but this is especially hard after such an intense week together.
The students start our final time together by singing. The clapping and Punjabi drums soon result in everyone dancing Punjab style. One of our team later suggested that it was more like SCG style worship.
Sweaty and exhausted from singing, clapping and dancing, a number of Pastors and students walk to the microphone to share their experiences of the week. What they share is overwhelming.
“My name is Mary. I come from Jalandhar. The team from Australia have taught the word of God to us. They have taught us from the first 5 books of the bible and even though I have studied the Old Testament before I always found it very difficult. So I always ended up reading the New Testament. God has graciously given us this opportunity to and so I now I am going to start reading my bible from the beginning, starting at Genesis.”
“My name is Lisa from Pankot. I never read the Old Testament before. I never understood it. All I knew was the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham and a few others. But now I know I was wrong about these stories. I really have learned many things about it. I promise I will go and tell my friends. But before that I will read the whole Old Testament.”
“I am really thankful to The Lord for the time this week. I am grateful to the team who have come from Australia. The Lord has really helped them as they have taught us. We know that these days many young people don’t want to spend time studying the bible, but I am so glad my brothers and sisters here have taken up their responsibility and are learning the Word of God. It is my hearts prayer that they will continue to serve God.”
One of my team members nudges me. “You’re crying!”
I don’t care. I am so glad, nothing could wipe the smile off my face or the tears from my eyes.
As each pastor comes forward to shake my hand and receive their certificate, the joy and pride in their faces is unmistakeable. They walk their way down the line hugging team members, lots of photographs and a real sense of achievement shared by all.
As the pastors and students sit, I stand to preach my final sermon, to dedicate them and to pray for them and their ministries. I look around the room gazing upon the faces of new friends, brothers and sisters in Jesus whom I may never see again this side of glory.
I still remember as a teenager having an “ah-ha” moment, when I finally understood how the Bible fitted together. This week seems to have been a similar watershed for every one of these pastors and students.
Serving my Indian brothers and sisters this week, I have been stirred by their fervour and desire to serve God.
I have been rebuked by their Godly Character.
I have been reminded of the urgency of mission.
I have also realized afresh how young the church is in India and how prone it is to false teaching and false teachers.
I have experienced great joy in seeing people on my team growing and being stretched in their love for Jesus.
As I met more of the regional leaders and pastors from across the north of India, I have become more aware of the needs of the Indian church, and have an increased sense of partnership.
Sitting on the plane at New Delhi airport, I’m already thinking about our next trip to India.
What I would do differently? How I would teach the courses differently? Who could I encourage to join a team and come?
A million questions swirling inside my head.
But far greater than my growing list of questions, is a steadfast confidence in my Lord Jesus Christ. He doesn’t need me to grow his Church in India. He doesn’t need our teams to accomplish his purposes. Rather, he graciously chooses to use our feeble efforts that his Church may grow, & that they may declare his goodness to a lost and dying world.
So as our plane hurtles down the runway, I am more and more convinced that the best thing I can do is continue to come and teach the Bible, for it is this living Word of God that my Indian brothers and sisters crave. It is this powerful Word that changes them. It is this life-giving Word that declares them to be, the Punjabi selection.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2:9-10
To the glory of God alone.
Matt Lemsing, India Teaching Team 2013.