Monthly Archives: September 2013

Post 139. Community of Nations

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CNC in the town hall. Early days.

The owner of the Naaz Bar decided he wanted to make more money.  We arrived one Sunday to find he had built some rooms in the hall we were meeting in.  The walls were made of plywood and didn’t go all the way to the ceiling.  We could hear everything that went on in the rooms, including the clearing of nostrils and throats.  In the middle of our meetings, someone would shout out for “chai!” or “garam pani!”   The hall was way too small with the additional rooms.  One Sunday, when it got really bad, Tony announced, “I’m not sure where we will be next week, but we aren’t coming back here.”

During that week, we met Ajay Mark (Head of P.E at Woodstock School) who introduced Tony to the Mayor of the Town Hall.  He gave us permission to use it on Sunday mornings.  It was old, dusty and HUGE!   We got in there, painted it and made it look nice with banners and flags.  Our first meeting was a real celebration.  We had so much room to dance around and we loved that the overhead projector didn’t bounce up and down when little Bhimla did her bouncy bunny dance.  There was just one restriction, which we kept forgetting about.  When we danced in the back right corner, debris would fall into the room of the lady who lived below.  She would come up during the worship, quite irate,  with her head covered in dust and tell us AGAIN not to dance on her roof.

A few Sundays before we moved,   James Barton (Doctor of Science) and Chandra (a “coolie labourer” with one year of education) were ordained into eldership.  It was amazing.  It was a beautiful picture of  God’s call being on level ground.  Education and background had nothing to do with it.  Both were qualified in character and call and we were thrilled.  It was the beginning of a wonderful eldership team.

” Community of Nations” was growing in number and in passion and it was looking like its name.  We had no idea where the people were coming from.  It wasn’t just unusual to have so many nationalities together.  It was more unusual to see people from different castes of India, loving each other with no barriers or bars.   The rich and privileged served those who were untouchables and those from much less privileged backgrounds served with no sense of obligation.  It was amazing for us to watch.

Something we learnt very early in our journey together was this : The only difference between the rich and the poor,  is money.

Post 138. Young men of destiny

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Bhagat and Puran

Champa’s younger brother arrived from their village in Solan.  He was small built and had a thick head of hair.  He couldn’t speak a word of English.  When he was asked a question he would just click his tongue and shake his head.  Chandra and Champa had asked him to come and help them with Rebecca.  When we first met him,  Tony asked him his name.  When he replied, “May Bhaghat huu,” Tony heard, “Bhaktu.”  As far as the community was concerned, that was his name.  It wasn’t until years later that we discovered it was Bhagat.  He was too shy to tell Tony that he hadn’t heard correctly. 

“My name is Bhagat Pun.  I was born in India, of Nepali descent. I was born in a Hindu family and grew up on a farm.  I did not like waking up early in the mornings and having to go into the fields to water the crops. We were a poor family of eight people. When I was eight-years-old, my brother Amar and I left home and decided to earn our own living.  It was the only way we could buy our school uniforms, pay for tuition and schoolbooks.  We got a job in a bakery and the owner was really good to us.  In payment for our work, he took care of our education.  My parents liked the idea at the time, thinking that it would only be a temporary arrangement. Little did they know, that I would never return to live in the village.  I liked being in the city. My mother would always regret that decision.” 

(Please see Post 102 – Meanwhile, in a Remote Village)

Bhagat was full of smiles and wanted to learn everything he could.  He was naturally gifted in music and it wasn’t long before he was playing the guitar and leading worship with the trainees.  Tony would spend hours with him.  He became like a son to us.  Service was no problem for him.  He knew there was destiny on his life so he didn’t have a problem doing the most menial of tasks.  That destiny was obvious to us all.  He was delightful to have around. 

Champa’s brothers all reminded us of King David.  Each sibling we met had such a heart after God.  They were all multi-gifted and all loved to worship through music.  As they came, one after the other, we were more and more impressed. 

Amar arrived a few months later.  He was energetic and outgoing.  There wasn’t a bit of shyness in him.  He also picked up the guitar like it was a long lost friend. He was playing it in no time.  Him and Bhagat always worshipped like there was no tomorrow.  They learnt English really quickly and were amazing at translating songs into Hindi. 

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Bhagat (standing) and Amar

Having these two young boys and others like them in our lives,  energized Tony.  He knew that a big part of his calling was to give everything he had to them.  It wasn’t long before they started to look like Tony replicas in the way they passionately played guitar, sang and led worship.  It was his dream come true. 

Post 137. What if?

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Back row: Amar and his brother Bhagat
Front row: Peter, Rita, Hira, Anil and Bhim

Our second batch of trainees were ready to start.  The cowshed wasn’t available, so we moved everyone into the flat below our house.  Graham, Kay and boys had moved down the hill to Clement Town to meet with some new believers there.  We loved visiting them and having sleepovers.  There was always lot of fun and laughter. 

The new trainees were young and full of energy.  Peter and Rita was a couple from Nepal.  Rita was Puran’s sister.  They had two young girls, Ruth and Esther who were Asha and Zoë’s ages. We would hear the four girls chatting away in a mixture of Hindi, Nepali and English.  Somehow they understood each other perfectly well.  Ruth and Esther had never been out of their village so everything was new to them.  Esther was terrified of the toilet and preferred to squat on the toilet floor.   

Things were tight financially.  There were months when we completely ran out of money.  The church we had come from in South Africa had a change of leadership and they felt we had been supported for long enough.  We really appreciated the support we had received, but we had NO idea how we were going to survive.  Early on in our journey we made the decision to never ask for financial help for ourselves.  There were going to be no “furloughs” where we took our kids around the world to ask people to support us.  If people asked, we told them.  The challenge now was that it was no longer just the five of us.  There were lots more mouths to feed,  a church to run, trips into villages with the trainees, rent of the hall as well as our house, education for our children and the list went on.  

It was good for the trainees to see that we all had to trust God together.  There was no, “us” and “them.”  There was no money coming from anywhere and our faith was being tested.  We all cried out to God every day, praying for provisions for our community.  We were eating together and somehow the dal and rice kept coming.  One day, we ran out of money and we really got desperate. 

That afternoon we got a call from a dorm parent at Woodstock.  It was the end of term and the students had left bags of excellent clothing and shoes behind.  Did we want them?  Did we WANT them?  Tony jumped in the jeep with a few guys and by the time they got back, we had a plan.  We were going to have a sale on our roof the next day.

We sorted out the clothes and everyone was in charge of something.  It was all laid out on bed-sheets on the ground.  We weren’t sure where people were going to come from, but come they did.  By the end of the day, we counted up the money.  There was so much shouting and happiness.  We had made Rs 10,000. We could eat again!

The best part of the story, was that Chandra had called a young Nepali man from the road, to come up to the sale.  He didn’t buy anything, but Chandra told him his story.  He told him how much Jesus loved him.  There was no time wasted. He prayed right then and there to give his life over to the one who loved him more than anyone else ever could.  The young man’s name was Hira.  

What if we hadn’t run out of money?   What if the dorm parent hadn’t thought about us?  What if we hadn’t been on the roof that day?  What if Chandra hadn’t looked down on the road at that moment? What if Hira had refused to come up?  What if Chandra hadn’t been courageous enough to tell his story… what if?

Post 136. Off the edge

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It had been our toughest year yet and we had a feeling life was going to get tougher.  The challenge was, were we prepared to let go completely and trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God to catch us when we let go.

Tony’s favourite place to worship and pray was on the rock on our roof.  He could look over onto the Doon Valley and down on jungle and forest.  When we first moved in, it was a bare rock with a sheer drop on all sides.  We were all upset when our landlord sent workers to build a cement wall around it.  It looked so ugly and it lost its natural beauty.

For some reason, known only to God, Tony was clamouring around on the outside of the wall.  He somehow lost his footing and slipped.  He reached up and grabbed the wall, which hadn’t been there a few days before.  It may have been ugly, but it saved his life.

During his time with God, he had the thought that living on the edge is not risky enough.  It is only when we jump and live a life outside of our control that we are really fulfilled and satisfied.

When he told me about his experience, I wrote down some words, which he put into a song.

Off the Edge:

I’ve been living on the edge

Preparing to dive

Toes hanging over

Looking to the skies

I’ve cut all the ropes

The fall is steep

I’m tired of waiting

Almost falling asleep

Take me off the edge I’m willing to die

Holding your hand

Head held high

Achieving the impossible

You with me

Take me off the edge

I’m flying free

Arms outstretched

Sun in my eyes

Soaring with the eagles

Running through the skies

Secured by your love

Held by your hand

I’m living off the edge

I’m a free man

Post 135. Jordan, Moses and friends

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Jordan was a pleasure of a baby.  He was very sociable.  During meetings he was handed around and came back when we were about to leave.  Once we went to a concert at Woodstock School.  Some of the high school girls from our community took him to show him off to their friends.  He came back with different coloured lipstick kisses all over his chubby face.

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He seemed to be born with a sense of humour and a love for music.  If he ever got cranky, Tony would play the guitar and sing to him.  He would listen and stare for ages.  It was one of his favourite things to do.

He loved the community he was born into.  Rebecca Roka was his first best friend.  Jessica Sardar came next, then Zarina Masih, Michaela Shiels and Kezia Hoffman.    He got on well with everyone.

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One day we heard a group of men talking really loudly on the road.  We looked over the balcony to see what was going on.  They told us they had found a monkey.  I went down to look and sure enough, there was a tiny langur lying on the road.  It was squealing and thrashing around. Its knuckles, tail and head were scratched and its eyes were blood shot.  It looked very weak.  I found some cloth and took him inside.

We named him Moses.  He was the cutest thing, next to Jordan, that we had ever seen.  We guessed he must have been the runt and abandoned by his mother.  We wiped him down and tried to feed him.  He slept in a big cardboard box in the lounge. He squealed the first night, woke up once the second night and slept through the third.   He seemed to get stronger every day.  He started to cling on which was a good sign.  The girls had duties to take care of him and they loved him.  When we found him he had four teeth.  By the fourth day he had six.

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Jordan and Moses

Jordan had an issue with Moses.  He was used to being the centre of attraction.  Suddenly, out of the blue, this monkey had come off the street, taken his blanket, his golly, his bottle, his Cerelac, some of his toys and our attention.  We had to watch him.  On a few occasions, we caught him throwing his books and wooden toys into the box.  Not to share, but to try to get Moses back for using his things.

Moses was doing well.  We had discovered how to use the tiniest balloons on the end of a syringe to feed him.  He had been with us for about two weeks when a well meaning friend of ours got over-excited about feeding a langur.  She overfed him.   The next day, Zoë woke up to find him choking in his box.  He had milk coming out of his mouth and nose and he couldn’t breathe.  We were beside ourselves.  He died a few hours later.

We cried our eyes out.  The girls missed a day of school because they were inconsolable.  We were inconsolable.  Jordan seemed relieved that he was not going to have to grow up with a langur as his twin brother.   I’m not sure what we were thinking.  What if Moses had survived?  What if he had grown into a 15 kg,  75cm long adult?  What would we have done with him?  He would have taken over our house, our lives, eaten all our food and no doubt slept in our beds.

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The future of Moses (pic not mine)

We buried him near the rock on our roof.   We talked with the girls about it and came to the conclusion that life would never have been simple or satisfying for him, living with us.

Post 134. A ramble and a rant (1995 journal)

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We have chosen community over isolation.  Discomfort over comfort.  Inconvenience over convenience.

The way of the cross is a lonely road.  Jesus walked it.  He could identify with those He walked with, but none could identify with Him.  He was misunderstood and no one stood with Him at the end of His road.  He who was such a good friend, died alone.  

Love is honest, truthful, challenging and kind.  Jesus preferred truth to popularity.  There was nothing in Him that didn’t love.  Even when He spoke the uncomfortable truth, He was love.  His love was unchanging. 

Since when did we choose unity over truth?  So much “Brother, brother let us love one another,” and so much compromise with it.  The love we are called to chooses truth first.

Do we love enough to speak the truth?  Do we love enough to confront sin?  To strengthen weakness?  To speak about irritations?  To talk about unhealthy stumbling blocks?  Do we value our friendships enough to take the risk?  With that risk, the deep hope that our friendship will go deeper and become stronger.

Why are we so edgy, so sensitive?  Where is the toughness of spirit?  The meatiness of emotional muscle?  Why at the first, tiniest bit of uncomfortable truth, do we crumble and feel unloved? 

Why do people feel rejected when challenged even in the gentlest of ways?  Confrontation is not about rejection.  Confrontation is for growth and change.  If we reject confrontation we remain small.  Weak. Immature.  If we receive it, and all the love that comes with it, we will grow up.  We will be disciplined.  We will be strong.

So many believers are edgy.  Being with them is like walking on egg-shells.  We feel we need to tip toe and keep everything soft and cushy.  The slightest bit of difficult truth and we don’t see them for weeks.  Or, they disappear without a trace.  Without a goodbye.  Without an explanation.

Overly sensitive people live behind an invisible wall.  People keep their distance.  They know they can’t get too close or say too much.  They choose their words carefully and avoid subjects that may cause an upset.  They watch for a change in facial expression.  That is the sign they have stepped over that invisible line.  They have no idea when that may have been. 

Super sensitive people wonder why people don’t engage with them.  Why their growth is stunted or change is so slow.  They have no idea their prickliness is keeping people away.

Is it possible they were not raised that way?  Were their parents the “free spirit” types who never pulled their kids up on anything?  Let them do their own thing, their own way?  Never challenged them about their behaviour or manners or how they treated people?  Didn’t love them enough to prepare them for the toughness of adulthood?  Let them manipulate and dominate every relationship that came their way?  Never confronted their weaknesses and sin? 

“Iron sharpens iron.”

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

Reminded of this:  When difficult words are spoken, listen for truth.

People may come and go. They may want to walk away from me, but we’re not going anywhere.

Friendship for us is like marriage.  We are in it forever. 

  

Post 133. Intimidation

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By the end of that year (1995) things really started hotting up.  There were protests all over Uttar Pradesh.  Many felt the state should be divided in two.  Some felt it shouldn’t.  There were so many “bandhs” in Mussoorie it was hard to know when the shops were closed and when they would be open again.

It was October and we had a team from South Africa with us.  Bruce Richter, Wally Gersmeier and Ralph Cawood were among them.  We had planned an outreach at the Naaz Bar.  For some reason, we went ahead and had our meeting even though there was a bandh on.  We did some “silly” things in our enthusiasm and zeal.

I stayed home with the kids during the first evening meeting.  Everyone was worshipping like there was no tomorrow.  There was nothing unusual about that.  The hall was packed.  Right in the middle of the worship a lady guru walked in with a group of her men devotees.  She was heavily made up and was obviously the boss.  Her men started pulling some of the coolie labourers out of their chairs and pushing them outside.  There was a lot of shouting going on. Bruce’s old bouncer instincts almost got the better of him, but he remained calm.  Tony was leading the worship time and felt that everyone should raise their voices and give a loud shout.  It got louder and louder and there was a lot of clapping and cheering.  When the leader of the group saw we weren’t intimidated, he looked around and joined in the clapping.  The evening was intense but it ended well.

They told us we were not to meet on Sunday.  We knew then,  the protests weren’t political but religious.  The men let us know they had handed pamphlets out to the community telling them to meet outside the Naaz Bar.  They were going to drive the foreigners out of Mussoorie.  T

They were leaving after the service anyway so that wasn’t a problem.  There were all kinds of threats.  After lots of prayer and discussion with our local leaders as well as the visiting team, we agreed we should go ahead with the meeting.   We felt if we gave in to intimidation once, it would be the beginning of the end of the community.  We had to win that one.

The staff and students of Woodstock were called together for a meeting on Saturday afternoon.  They were told they were no longer allowed to attend Community of Nations Church (CNC).  It was banned and out of bounds.  The principal felt we had put their lives in danger by staying open during a bandh.  Doctor Barton and other teachers said they were ready to hand in their resignation.  They loved the church and did not appreciate being told they couldn’t be part of it.  The students felt the same way and got permission from their parents to keep attending when things settled down.

We all felt a bit nervous getting ready for church the next day.  I wondered if I should stay at home with the children in case things got ugly.  Tony wasn’t sure what was going to take place.

The bazaar was really quiet and all the shops were closed.  We arrived at the venue excited but uncertain.  We were ready for anything.  The hall was full.  No one had stayed at home.  No one wanted to miss out on the action.  Our young ACTS students were energised by the attack the night before and felt it was the best thing that could have happened to us.

The meeting went on as usual.  The worship was loud and wild.  A few people gathered outside.  The group leader was there, fiddling with a few pamphlets and looking very sheepish.  He was standing at the entrance, so people shook his hand as they walked in.  He became our welcomer.    He kept looking up and down the bazaar for more people to join him.  No one came.