The community kept growing. More came from Nepal to get training. Asha, Zoë and Jordan were never without company. Jayanti Crafts and Café were going well. There was a lot of singing, translating songs, praying together every day and of course, many cups of chai flowing from the cupboard-less kitchen.
We started to feel we had taken “Community of Nations” as far as we could. It was time to hand it over to new leadership. We were part of a great team with James and Willi Barton, Puran and Rebecca, Jason and Ali and Chandra and Champa. Everything was going well and we loved being part of the dream team, but when we looked into the future: The Bartons were making plans to move to Goa, Puran and Rebecca and Chandra and Champa to Nepal and Jason and Ali back to Ireland.
In 1998 we went to South Africa with the kids. We popped in to a prayer meeting at Duduza (Waverley) on our way to the airport. It was good to see everyone again. They asked how they could pray for us. The first thing that came to our minds was that we needed a couple to take over the leadership of CNC. We specified that the couple would need to be bilingual and also able to work with the rich and poor. Everyone prayed enthusiastically and we were encouraged. Towards the end, our friend Fred Stone, nonchalantly said, “I don’t know many Indian names, just Govinder and Naidoo. Do the names Raman and Kira mean anything to you? Do they sound Indian?” They did sound Indian, but we didn’t know them. Fred added, “They will be like fast growing bamboo shoots.”
We arrived back in Mussoorie deciding that we weren’t going to go on a wild goose chase looking for “Raman and Kira.” There were 1 billion people in India and we definitely weren’t going to be searching for them on the street or in the phone directory. We kind of laughed about it and at the same time, admired Fred for being so bold. If we ever met such a couple we would be amazed but we weren’t going to go out of our way to find them.
James and Willi Barton were such a strength and support to us. Their house was always open. Willi was famous for her Never-Fail-Chocolate cake and it never seemed to run out. Students loved to spend weekends with them. Many of them had their life questions answered and there was always time for Bible Study and prayer.
As soon as we got home, they invited us to their place for a meal. We had no idea our evening with them would be so profoundly prophetic. It was the introduction to a journey of friendship, partnership and destiny with a family of seven from New Delhi who we would never have met, had Fred Stone chosen to be quiet.
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.
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.