Adventures in India Part 1: Bangalore the City of Bible Colleges
India! I knew that smell walking off the plane. How could I forget the smell of the Indian air? It is the smell of enchantment, spices, dust and heat. Instantly, a thousand memories flooded my mind when the aroma of the Indian air reached my nostrils. Once more I found myself walking off a plane weary from 20 plus hours of travel, yet I was so excited that I wanted to take it all in. I walked up the off ramp and into the airport, all the while praying that my luggage made it with me. Happiness filled my heart to see the grey roller come around on the belt. Having grabbed it and passed through customs I found myself faced with the daunting task of finding a taxi who would not take two arms and a leg to pay for the ride. My friend Nathaniel had told me to take the taxis with the hard tops as they go by meter. I walked out of the airport to see 50 taxi drivers all who wanted to “help” me. I walked down the row getting my bearings. I saw one guy who looked like he had a metered taxi. He approached me and said yes he was and off we went.
The ride to Nathaniel’s house was an hour and a half long. Once there the driver tried to force me to pay 1.5 times the amount cause of some phony story. He also said it was not metered but prepaid. Thankfully Nathaniel’s wife Robin was there to help. I ended up paying like 5 dollars more than normal but better than the 20 he wanted me to pay. Laughing, I reminded myself welcome to India and be aggressive and firm or be taken for a ride.
Nathaniel and Robin’s family was lovely; they had three cute kids who immediately wanted Uncle Joe to play with them and read to them. I did this with pleasure and in return it helped me stay up to fight jet leg.
The next day, I went to the seminary that Nathaniel teaches at. There I sat in on classes attended a chapel and met all the professors. I was informed of the challenges that this work faces. Because Indian culture is so achievement driven seminary is simply a means to a degree. This degree in turn is a key to study abroad get more degrees to come back and start your own Bible School. This perpetual cycle has created many Bible colleges but the level of teaching is barely high school level. Sadly, many students don’t see the practical side of the learning but rather keep it in the academic level. This is driven by the idolatrous view of education and low value placed on pastoring. Thus there are many Bible schools but few churches. These wonderful professors I met are trying desperately to change that and I was highly impressed with their heart and their vision.
That evening we went to see an Indian that one of our participants at YMI will be working with. But in order to get there I had to take a hour long ride on the back of a motorcycle. What a thrill! The streets of India have cars, motorcycles, buses, people, animals, bikes, and tutuks on them! We were constantly weaving and stopping and honking all the way there. Since we showed up early we had time to stop and drink a tender coconut and eat the partially formed coconut meat. The meeting went well and the work there is going to be fantastic. I can’t wait to hear what God is going to do.
The following day I was getting ready to leave for the airport to head north to Delhi, but a few hours before I left I was informed via email that my flight had been canceled. I learned that the airline I booked it on had just fallen into financial problems and they were cutting back on flights. So I had to call with the help of Nathaniel to get on the later flight. I was really disappointed as I was supposed to meet a worker there and lead a Bible study that next night but I knew that God was in control.
I soon found out why God let it happen. I took the bus to the airport the next day and sat down; always keeping two eyes on my stuff to make sure that someone wasn’t going to try to swipe it. Across from me sat this young guy who started talking to me. This was common for people to talk to me and ask me where I was from as not many white people are seen in that part of the city. I knew that he was a Muslim because his whole family said good bye and they were all in Muslim dress. We talked the whole hour and a half about ourselves our work and about culture and our religions. It was a great conversation and at the end of it, I gave him my email. I don’t know where that will lead but I pray that someday I will see him in heaven. I don’t know how much a difference that conversation will make but I believe that is why I had to change flights. Once again the sovereignty of God is clearly seen.
I enjoyed a north Indian meal in the airport and sat down and waited for my flight for a couple hours. But I was content as there was a cricket match going on between India and Bangladesh. India seemed like it was dominating the game so I was quite happy when I got on my flight. Later I found out that they ended up losing and letting Bangladesh back into the game. As I boarded the plane, I was looking forward to what awaited me in Delhi.