News Bulletin!.... I’ve always felt the compulsion towards education. I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but a teacher in my old High School once told the class, “Never let school interfere with your education!” Those of you who are school teachers will have a sense of that truth, but also the idea of how dangerous such statements could be to the person who doesn’t like school. There is just something about learning new things that draws most people. While there are those who are perfectly content to remain static, or the same without any new challenges, there are also those who just love a new experience. I guess, in my experience, I feel that there are more who like a challenge, than those who just want to be left alone. I’ve met lots of folks who say “NO”, I want to live life like it is, but have their personal challenges which they would never identify as such. A may who golfs but would never go on a trip, may be seen as someone who doesn’t like challenges, or change, but in the event of the game being played, is challenged on every hole. We like different things and may be in somewhat of a rut, but very few are not open to new experiences or challenges at one level or another.
Well... where did that digression come from? Yes... I am known to do that from time to time, but they generally flesh out the point somewhere in the theme for the day. I’ve been thinking this week about a friend in India. He is Shakti, the man I may have mentioned, who is starting a new ministry in West Bengal and is being supported by Far Corner’s Ministry here in Canada. Shakti is the kind of an individual who is searching for training and is up to almost any challenge. I have been challenging him a bit to remain focussed on the original gifts that he has been given, as well as the new ministries. Like an old sage, I spout the wisdom of some of the mistakes that I have made in the past, with absenteeism from family, a myopic sense of direction and constant need to curb energies that could lead me away from the issue at hand. The price paid for such mistakes has taught me much and I will often remind others of the dangers of treading some of life’s paths with out someone who will keep me responsible for my decisions.... accountability has become a large part of life in ministry.
On arrival at HIM CORCE BHAWAN, the Christian Compound where I was to give my first lectures, I found many eager students. They were varied in age and education and this wasn’t going to present a great challenge, as many of my students in Halifax fall under this same category. The thing which soon became apparent was the depth of the forethought that many of the students had put into preparation for this conference. These people were looking forward to new thoughts, new strategies and answers to questions that they felt only an outsider might answer without bias. Well... it was an eye opener! Lecturers are given “some” insights and reflections on the audience and we were with this tour. One could say that insight can be blind if the homework is not complete, and our information was lacking in some areas on foundational concepts. We found that when it came to discussion in talk-back sessions. The Pastors and lay leaders who attended had much on their minds. This included everything from structure of theological process to administrative concerns, within the organization of Church, and they delighted in asking these questions. These deviations from the lecture subjects seemed to indicate that they got much from the lectures topics, but wanted any information that our experiences could offer for other ministry themes. They hunger for training.
How and in what depth you answer, may make all the difference when it comes to the interaction you continue to get. I think I also mentioned that they loved to stop you and give more challenges to chew on. I was amazed at how deep-rooted and fundamental to their ministry most of these personal requests were. I took a lot of time to listen and little time to speak most times. I am known to be wordy (ah... ya you can laugh because you read my stuff!) by times, but I know enough, when in situations like these, that intensified listening can give meaning to much of the topics considered. I have too often, in the beginning of my work in ministry, taken too little time to listen and thought that I knew what people wanted, only to find out that I was way off base.
Due to the challenge of language, some of the topics were difficult to take in, but God never lets His people remain in the dark. I really feel the work of the Spirit was there with us. Together in a sense of unity and love, we found common words, thoughts and illustrations and worked through the questions, that for the most part the participants had answers to anyway; just needing affirmation and support.
In other words, I soon found that we were not the heros coming to save the day, but merely the back-ups for the workers already present on the scenes. I would liken it to being a skilled operating room nurse, who hands the tools to the surgeon... well you can see what I mean, I hope. These leaders are on the forefront of the work already started. They know the people that they are working with, the conditions under which they participate in ministry and the cultural methods which are necessary to maintain that ministry, in a non-supportive government and multi-ethnic environment. We do not move in to give them great insights, but to hand them the tools they need, only as they are requested. Maybe there are moments when we can give some insights from the outside... like I do with my friend, on issues of personal accountability within the work and family. Yet, to say that we come as the professionals to the common folk, is a true misrepresentation of the case.
I learned so much while in India. Worship with tribal believers is fantastic. There may be an overwhelming sense of the Charismata in some contexts, but we never felt the lack of real zeal in worship for the God who loves and came to save, in His Son the Christ. We can learn a lot about their sense of deliberate ministry, as they face the challenges everyday of cultural rejection and in lots of cases, discrimination and abuse. I not only saw how the other half lived, but saw that they are a happy people. They are content to spend their time doing what it takes to live, worship, teach and evangelize the lost, withing the context of their daily labour to maintain presence. They have a sense of purpose and direction that many North American Christians could learn from... including myself most days. The very poor and disenfranchised are a separate story. I will never get over the sense of helplessness that they had and that I felt, everyday in their presence. I will however, strive to continue to work for them through Shant and “Far Corner’s Ministry.” I’ve been asked along with others to assist Shakti, in his new ministry, who also represents Shant on the ground there. Lord, let me never forget that learning is a lifelong exercise and let me use my education for Your purpose... with these wonderful people, if that is Your Will, from time to time.