Bangalore, Sunday, August 26, 2:50 pm (8/26, 2:30 am)
Our team has hit a wall-tired, worn out. It’s a combination of a lot of things. Our time in Dharwad was so good, which makes everything else pale in comparison. On top of that, we were originally planning to travel by train during the day on Friday, have a night’s sleep, and then begin our time with Pastor Reuben in Bangalore. The day train was sold out, so instead we had another full day in Dharwad Friday, a stressful train ride overnight, just an hour to rest and then we were busy again.
Josh was right in reminding us in Dharwad that Bangalore would be difficult. We are”country folks” in Newberg, and Dharwad was comfortable. Bangalore and Mumbai are gigantic, two-thirds world metropolises, and that in itself is more stressful. Add to that the fact that communication is more difficult with Pastor Reuben and our drivers, and that we have many worship services to attend, and it’s easy to see why all of us hit the wall.
Yesterday, after a late breakfast and an hour or so of rest, we were driven to Pastor Reuben’s home, which also has their Children’s home for girls. Twenty of them live here, many of them rescued from the streets. They speak the state language Kannada, like in Dharwad, but many of them have a first language called Tamil. The sang, and we sang-it took a little time before they warmed up to us.
It was only then that something Pastor Reuben said to the girls made us realize we were going to be with the children for four straight hours and then go straight to a worship service.
Pastor Reuben is a good man, with a good ministry. The girls were fun; highlights were how hard they tried to teach us Tamil words, and their dancing. We also learned Pastor Reuben, in the twenty years he’s been in Bangalore, has trained over 360 pastors.
Another highlight for me was playing guitar with Pastor Reuben’s son, Jim Elliot (named after the missionary). Jim is their worship leader, a fine musician, and a very good English speaker. He speaks five languages and reads and writes three. Amazing. He would improvise with me on the keyboard, and I really enjoyed being with him.
On our way to the service at one of their daughter churches, Pastor Reuben told us that persecution is real. The pastor at the church we visited has had to move eight times because of it.
The church building is almost a tent sort of building, with Christmas garland and flashing lights decorating the roof on the inside. Men and women sit separately on mats on the floor, and the singing was loud and boisterous. Josh and I were expected to sit on the platform-in chairs-with the pastor and Pastor Reuben. Josh brought greetings, we sang “Let Us Adore,” and I preached from Ephesians 1, with the pastor translating. I enjoyed the time afterward, when we met many people and several asked us to pray for them. Josh and I also prayed for the pastor and his family. As I prayed for one woman in particular, I really felt God’s Spirit!
We had a really good, late dinner, all of us exhausted-and he told us we’d be picked up at 6:30 am for two worship services Josh and I asked if the team could just come to the second service, but he said no. This sent many in our group over the edge, including Hayley; and after a lot of thought and prayer during the night, I decided to have Beth stay back with Hayley to skip the services and sleep in. I am so glad I did that; she’s now much better.
Josh preached the first service at the main church, then went to preach at the church where we were at the night before. I preached the second service, from John 9. The church is huge and vibrant; 150-200 people at each service, in the aisles and spilling out the back door. Many musicians, and a service very much patterned after an American charismatic service. Many songs were familiar choruses, sung in English and Tamil and Kannada.
Pastor Reuben led a lot of the singing, and is a very dynamic presence up front. The people “amen!” and “praise God!” and “hallelujah!” after almost every line. Our group sang ‘Shout to the Lord” and “More Love, More Power” and “Let us Adore,” with me playing guitar on the first two. We did that in each service.
Pastor Reuben told us that the night before, another one of their pastors had been kidnapped by Hindu Fundamentalists, and the kidnappers used his cell phone to text message his family a threat to kill him by morning. Many prayed and the police were contacted during the night, and he was able to escape. All of this reminds us how much courage each Christian here must have.
After services, we picked up Hayley and Beth and Tessa, had lunch, and now finally have a few hours of down time before another service at 5:30 tonight (I’m preaching again).
I’m working hard to keep an open mind for discernment. But I think we all feel this just isn’t the right fit for us. Each time I’m expected to sit up front on the platform, I remember with longing Arun’s words as he commissioned the bible school: “We don’t want to just teach you to preach. We don’t want you to become someone who expect to sit on the dais (platform). We want you to serve.”
Strengthen us, Lord Jesus. If you have a place for us here, change our hearts and help us see. If not-confirm in us the fact that it isn’t the right fit, and allow us to bless their ministry.