For the past two days we’ve been meeting with these pastors for a time of encouragement. They all come from the same general region of India. As you can see from the photo, most of the pastors are young, with perhaps a year of training, and nearly all of them pastor multiple congregations. Some pastor four churches at a time.
Today they gave me a major workout.
Yesterday I spoke to the pastors for three hours. Today I spent more than three hours in the toughest “Ask Pastor Ray” session I’ve ever had. When we were done, I commented to Josh that they didn’t ask a single easy question. And to my surprise I didn’t field any questions about the problems of church life. Instead, they had deep questions about theology and questions about specific Bible texts. It was as good a workout as I’ve had in the last few years.
Tonight someone asked me for my impressions so far. What came to mind immediately was the buoyant faith of the Indian Christians. They truly radiate the joy of the Lord. In many parts of India, Christians are a tiny and sometimes despised minority. Almost all these men have suffered at the hands of Hindu militants. Some have been beaten. Yet they are filled with such joy that I felt better just being around them.
Today happened to be the birthday of the pastor who started this whole movement many years ago. When they presented him with a birthday cake, they clapped in rhythm as we sang, “Happy Birthday.” Then they sang a second verse, “Long life to you, Long life to you, Long life, Dear Pastor, Long life to you,” followed by much cheering.
Although I preached over the weekend and for three hours yesterday, I’m mostly tired tonight from answering all those questions. When they asked what language people spoke before the Tower of Babel, I instantly replied, “Hindi,” which brought down the house. I don’t really know what they spoke back then, but I’m sure it wasn’t English. So why not Hindi?
Thus fortified with much good cheer, we said farewell to the pastors, commending them to the grace of God. We came to encourage and left even more encouraged ourselves. Jesus is building his church in India every day, and pastors like these valiant men are leading the way.