From a Hospital Bed in Rochester to Teaching Pastors in India
On March 6, 2018 I had just awakened from anesthesia after hip replacement surgery at Rochester General. Standing at my bedside with my wife was Pastor Ben. When my eyes were fully open he asked how I was feeling, then he said, “I want you to go to India”. Really? I thought, I’m dreaming, I can’t even get out of bed by myself!
My initial response was, “I’m not going to India unless I have something to do”. India doesn’t need another tourist and I couldn’t think of anything I might do that would be productive. Ben said, “I want you to teach the Growth Groups course to the students at the Koinonia College of Theology in Pune.” Well, that was something I would be willing to explore and pray about!
I had started teaching the Growth Group course at Koinonia Fellowship but had to take a break because of the surgery. I saw great value in the course material and the way it is presented and implemented. The teaching method is Socratic, which really engages the student’s minds and makes them think and dig deep into the Word. Each student does a Bible Study presentation for each of the 10 sessions of the course. Their work is peer reviewed by the other students. These reviews highlight what the student did well and suggest changes they could make in order to improve as a Bible Teacher. By focusing on the Scripture everyone learns and grows as the Holy Spirit draws them deeper into the text.
Translating Growth Groups for India
I started meeting with Pastor Ben to discuss how to adapt the course to the KCOT students. Then in June, Ben told me that Pastor Joseph wanted this to be taught to a group of pastors from rural areas in India, men who had no formal biblical training, but who loved the Lord. So now another challenge from God: take a 10 week course and compress it down to 5 days! Five for the Pastors and then five for the students.
With much prayer and study we began the task of deciding what to keep and what to leave out, how many manuals to bring, etc. The manuals are in English so we brought some for the KCOT students; but the pastors only read and speak Marathi, so I made plans to teach them with the help of interpreters.
In June my 15-year-old granddaughter Ellie was invited to go with me and minister with Esther at the Girls Home. We originally planned to go in the fall of 2018, however that didn’t work out. So we kept praying. Then doubts began to creep in to my mind. Some brothers questioned the effectiveness of the plan due to cultural differences and others mentioned language barriers. How would I be able to effectively communicate? It didn’t seem like there was a clear path to go. So I prayed and gave it all to the Lord. I would do everything I was supposed to and not worry about any of that stuff. If I go, I go. If I don’t, I’m in His will either way.
Early this year we got clearance to go for 2 weeks in February. PTL!
The Holy Spirit is a Great Teacher!Soon after we arrived in Pune the pastors started coming in by train from all across the region. I began teaching them the Growth Groups curriculum with the help of 4 interpreters. The pastors were great; taking notes and eagerly listening during the teaching times. Even though we couldn’t communicate directly, I could see they were getting it. For the first 2 days we had 2 hours of teaching in the morning, followed by personal study of the scripture passage. In the afternoons we had group time for them to teach and interact with one another and discuss the meaning and application of the passage. Finally, we critiqued everyone’s teaching.
The next 2 days were fully devoted to personal study during the evenings. During the day the pastors taught and discussed the Word and its application. It was amazing to see the Holy Spirit working among them. They were very expressive and used a lot of hand motions as they spoke! There were animated theological discussions about some challenging passages, but the Holy Spirit brought resolution and unity of agreement at the end. On the last day one brother said he never thought he could discuss one passage of scripture for a whole day!
I was so blessed to see God wash away all my doubts and fears about this project. At the end of four days of intense study we were brothers that God had brought together. I gained so much respect for them as we worked together and saw their love for the Lord, His Word and His people.
Serving the Lord With All Their HeartLater I learned from Pastor Joseph that, like many pastors in India, these men all worked second jobs to make ends meet. Many were living in extremely challenging circumstances. One pastor lives with his family under a tree, because he can’t afford rent money for a house. Another lived in his car. After becoming a Christian his wife and children left him. He remains faithful to God and His calling to teach the word.
I also learned that they would like to have more of this kind of teaching. Something to pray about. There is so much need for the ongoing training of faithful men like these. There is also a great need for good reference books in their language. There is a real lack of good Biblical commentaries, dictionaries, and maps in their local language. More things to pray about!
India Connection has set up a Pastor’s Benevolence fund to help meet some of the critical needs of our pastors in the field. For more information, contact Pastor Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Friendship Knows No BordersMy granddaughter Ellie also had a very profitable time with the girls at the Girls Home. She worked with the older girls in the morning before they went to school and the younger girls in the afternoon when they came home. She had thirty some different activities and crafts planned to use when we first arrived. The girls went through those in about 3 days! So she called a friend back home and got some more ideas to work with.
As time went on she and the girls became good friends and had wonderful times sharing and interacting with one another. Esther was very helpful in giving Ellie direction and advice, even inviting her to sit in on an interview with a new girl. Ellie knew that the girls had had difficult times previously in their life. She was very respectful of their privacy and also compassionate and loving as their relationships developed over the 2 week period.
When it was time for us to go there were many hugs and kisses. Friendships and understanding of different cultures from continents halfway around the globe from one another had been forged. Our Loving Father’s Love had been shared.
Seeing the Fruits of ObedienceThe second week brought new challenges working with the KCOT students. I didn’t need interpreters because the students studied in English and also spoke it well. However the educational model in India is Didactic, not Socratic. The students were not used to the discussion format or answering questions from the teacher. With the help of Pastor Ben we solved that issue and we were able to move forward.
I was encouraged to see them catch on and engage with the scripture and one another. At the end of the week we saw that everyone had made a lot of progress. It was wonderful watching the students grow and see God working in the lives of His people. The students crowded around to thank me and pray for me after our last session. We said our goodbyes and I went back to the house to prepare for our trip to the airport that afternoon.
Later I learned that the students approached their professors and asked if they could continue to participate in studying the scriptures for 2 hours a week, as they had been that week. Amazing how the Lord works!
Thank you all for your prayers during this trip. I don’t know what the Lord has planned for the future, but we will continue to pray for the girls at the Girls Home, the students and faculty of KCOT, and our dear pastors in the field.