Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Humbled in Serving

He stood out among my students, and not just because he was taller than them all. Punam, the principal, surprised me when he told me that this student (we'll call him R.--in the picture below he is on my left) had only been a believer for two months when he decided to come to DBI. Now he was deep into the one year program, and he stood out as one of the most diligent note-takers and Scripture finders in the class. When I would call out a reference for us to have read aloud, R. would usually be the one who found it and read it. There was a light in his eyes and a joy in his face that matched the intensity with which he approached his studies. But then, this whole experience was a reminder of a level of commitment and intensity that I don't find much in the more sedate Western church.

R. and his fellow students arose at 6:00 every morning during the week, and would be expected to use the next hour for their devotional time. Then they would do an hour's work around the center, cleaning and organizing and preparing their breakfast (the students were their own cooks, preparing the communal meals every day). Breakfast at 8:00 was followed by getting ready for their morning class. The lunch break was almost 2 hours, because the students had to prepare the meal for lunch, and cooking in India is never a quick matter. After lunch there were afternoon classes, then a break, then cooking for dinner, then study time, and then to bed in the dorms. The boys all slept in one dorm room, along with the two single men who are teachers along with Punam and Dil. These two used to live in the room that is now the girls dorm room on the first floor, but have moved to a room in the new center building, where they also will welcome their first child, Lord willing, by early December. They appreciate the larger space, but Punam says they miss being closer to the students so that they can encourage them more personally. Before the move, all the students and staff lived, studied, and worked in the 700 square foot building of the existing center. 

The students' attentiveness to my lectures was a bit daunting to me--you are treated as if you really are the expert, and they try to write everything down. Some of my sermon notes had been translated into Hindi, and I soon learned that the language they were writing is a complex one--ideas that we take a short sentence to explain may require many more words modifying other words to get the same point across. In some ways, their lack of education was a deficit, and I was often trying to think of ways to make my ideas and points more simple and accessible. But their desire to learn and to share the gospel balanced the lack of formal training, and if they can take the ideas I shared and "translate" them into their culture, they will be so much better at reaching the multiplied thousands of villages in Rajasthan than any educated westerner, even if we learned the language. 

Over and over I saw diligence and sacrifice that I only see in such places. I cannot imagine me, or many of us being willing to accept the deprivations and loss of personal rights and space that was the norm in Jaipur. The obvious working of the Spirit in conversion (all of my students were, to my knowledge, first generation Christians out of Hindu backgrounds) is a strong contrast to the American scene, where we would be hard pressed to find a ministry filled with new converts, let alone staffed by them.

And all of this takes place in an environment of risk. The Jaipur Center is in the neighborhood of the city that is home to the RSS. This is the highly militant Hindu organization whose goal is to make India a Hindu nation only. While they also fight against Muslims, Christians have been much more popular and easier targets, since they don't fight back. The first DBI graduate to ever seek to minister in Rajasthan was martyred years ago. These students face family opposition and the possibility of physical harm, but they seek to learn the Word.

So, I return to you, blessed to have served, but also blessed and humbled by the people I was supposed to teach. They are heroes of the faith in training, and I'm honored to play a part (along with you in sending me), in raising them up.