Errata: First of all, I need to correct a misguided statement I made in an earlier post. I discovered today that my assumptions about the distinctions of dress among Indian women were without any warrant (Hindu v. Muslim dress). The truth is that most women wear the same kind of clothing, regardless of their religious background (with the obvious exception of the very conservative Muslims who wear the familiar garb that we would see even in Detroit or another US city). When the women cover their heads with a scarf it is to shield them from the sun, and when they cover their faces (especially on motorcycles and mopeds) it is protection against the dust and pollution. I wrongly assumed they were Muslims. Islam only occupies minority of the populace in contrast to Hinduism. Regarding dress in India, I am impressed with the universal commitment to modesty among both men and women, and while the culture differs significantly from our own, their wide use of colorful fabric is quite beautiful.
Speaking of Islam, during our layover in the Dubai airport I discovered that they broadcast over the public intercom the Muslim prayers at their set times, five times a day. We heard a man (in Arabic) saying the formal prayers in a sing-song fashion, while everything seemed to stand still. We were sobered to see the stronghold of Satan over the people, and I could not help but imagine how incredible it would be to hear instead grace-filled, God-exalting, Christian prayers over a loud speaker in Dubai or anywhere else in the world. They are already accustomed to an established national religion. We need to pray for the public recognition of the true religion and of the crown rights of our Redeemer. This is an aside, I was surprised by the difference between JFK and the Dubai airport. The filth at JFK leaves you reluctant to set down your bags, and they provided no signs anywhere (literally) to indicate how to find my connecting terminal. When I followed the directions people gave me I ended up in a parking garage outside the airport! Dubai is even more spiritually barren than JFK, but it was beautiful and spotlessly clean.
Back to India. You observe shrines to idols along the streets, poverty stricken people sleeping on sidewalks, countless shanties and old dilapidated buildings everywhere. But the spiritual poverty outstrips the physical poverty. Randy and I ventured out into the streets for a saunter yesterday afternoon. It is hard to describe the difficulty of even crossing a street without getting killed. Then we had little girls running along side us, pulling on our pants and begging for a little money. I wish I knew enough Hindi to be able to say to them in the words of Peter, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6), and then to be able to tell them that the living and true God can give them what their countless Hindu gods can never supply. It should move us to pray all the more earnestly for the cause of Christ in this nation.
I’ll give a couple more tid-bits for the children before I close. Hindi is the national trade language, but it is not the first language that people learn nor the primary language they speak at home. Each state has its own language — completely different language, not dialect. It is common for school age children to learn three languages: the mother tongue of their state (which is Gujarati in Ahmedabad), Hindi and English. The two main leaders at the Bible training facility both know four languages. You will be happy to hear that the man who will be doing the translating has flawless English grammar and a command of vocabulary equal to most Americans, including theological vocab. The accent aside, you would think English was his first language instead of his third or fourth.
You will also be thrilled to hear that when I asked Wilson, the director of the training center, about his favorite authors, he immediately said the Puritans. Then he went on to list various Reformed writers of the past that he values most. Given the fact that few pieces of Reformed literature have been translated into Hindi, they read Reformed writers in English and then teach the truths to students and pastors who only have Hindi. In the next few posts I will write more about the training facility, the staff, and the pastors attending the classes. I also hope to post a few pictures of these men and the facility.
You are all dearly missed and much in the thoughts and prayers of your pastor.