To be honest, I’m not sure what made me ask the question. It was at the end of the scheduled question and answer session, and there was an awkward pause. It was as if the well of questions had finally run dry. Maybe it was something in answering the previous question that brought it to mind. I’m not sure. Either way, at the end of the question, around twenty hands, out of the eighty plus pastors in that humid room were raised. Some seemingly found it difficult, almost embarrassed to do so, for as their hand went up their eyes naturally dropped towards the ground. Others stared directly at me with an unflinching waver, as if they were not even looking at me at all, but rather, playing the scene over and over on the back of their eyes; reliving the moment once again in their minds. Some of the leaders in the room took a quick look around and swiftly diverted their eyes forward once again, placing their elbows upon their knees, their hands coming together as in the spirit of prayer and deep meditation.
There was no laughter in the room, nor a smile. Those who had not raised their hands looked to me for some insight. But I had none. In fact, I had no words at all. It was as if the breath was taken from my body, and in those moments I could feel a fresh wave of sweat beginning to press it’s way forward on my head. It was not because of the heat in the room this time, but rather, like a small child whose hand is caught in the cookie jar, the inward nerves took control. I was overwhelmed with emotions. All I wanted to do at that point was remove myself from the room, and from the sight of those men who were before me. My lips clinched together, my breathing became shallow in an attempt to calm my nerves, and my eyes dropped toward the ground. I didn’t know what to say. It was a new experience for me. Sure, I knew the theology, and in times past have discussed it openly with brothers back home. But in these moments, my tongue was as a dead man, unable to move. A theology discussed was before me in reality. Gravity won the battle, and my head leans forward toward the ground. From that position, I looked to my right at the translator who too had dropped his head. All I could muster up towards him was a slight nod, hoping he could read between the lines and through my feeble thoughts. He did. Raising his head once again, he said, “Let’s pray and take a break.”
The prayer was in Telugu, so I had no idea what was being brought before the throne of God. All I knew was that I needed to get out of there immediately. I needed to escape. I needed a refuge before I would burst. At the sound of the closing of the prayer, I was out the door, down the hallway, up the stairs, and at the hotel door. Upon entrance, the cool air of the air-conditioned room could not temper the stirring heart from within. I sat down on the corner of the bed, buried my head in my hands, and wept.
The question that seemingly slip out of my mouth was, “How many of you have been physically assaulted for your faith in Christ?” It was a question that I had not planned to ask at the beginning of that day. But it would be the question that would make a profound impact upon my soul, and how I view my brothers in India. In those moments, these village pastors, many of which struggle to understand some of the foundational truths of the Christian faith, now became giants of the Christian faith in my sight. The thought of, “I am not worthy,” and the question, “Who am I to lead these men in training?” kept pounding into my head. “How could I go back out there for the next session?” “Should it not be I who learn from them?” “What man is adequate for such a task?”
It was the last question that caused the brakes of the out of control freight train to be applied, and my emotions brought to a halt. “Who is adequate for such as task?” It was a familiar question, one I have heard before, and one that the apostle Paul himself asked. It is found in 2 Corinthians chapter 2, where the Apostle is explaining to the church the reasons why his visit to them has been delayed, and how through this delay the Lord was still producing a triumph in Christ. Though the original plans of man had been redirected, the Lord was still using Paul and his band of ministers to be a “fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” And it is at the grand reality of the position that the Lord has called them to, and he, seemingly overwhelmed at the thought of the task, asks the question, “who is adequate for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:15-16)
It is not until chapter 3 that this question is answered, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants…” (2 Cor. 3:5-6). It was this sobering thought that picked me up off that bed. No man is worthy. No man is adequate. All that I have, and all that they have, has been gifted by the same hand. I need these brothers as much as they need me. Their fragrance, in following in footsteps of our Savior, in pressing forward in suffering, was the aroma of life to life. No, they do not have the understanding of a seminary graduate, nor the tongues of angels. But their walk, in my view now, makes a deeper impression on the road as they make their way to Zion. What a privilege it is to aid these men, these giants of the faith, these simple children of the King. ■