This is a follow up to our last letter, sent as we just arrived in Nepal. We had a great time in Nepal with the IFES staff team there and we were a good team as we taught on leadership (Rich) and mentoring (Lisa). Lisa returned to Kuala Lumpur and I have been in Orissa State and then in Punjab state the last 12 days, with just a couple more before I return to Kuala Lumpur.
As a reminder, my main strategy in all my teaching here is to help develop the Indian pastors and leaders by teaching and modeling inductive teaching. When they see it done they recognize that their church members enjoy it more, and it retains even young people’s interest far better than the typical style In my sessions. My first challenge is to get people to participate in the Bible study, first by directing them to move into small groups of 3 or 4 to discuss the passage, and then to turn back to the large group to bring their comments out to everyone. It is an unfamiliar process to many, and at first they are shy. My strategy is to be winsome and coaxing—I see some of the pastors are more comfortable speaking with more authority and challenging people, almost (though I cannot tell except by body language and tone) shaming them to participate. But in the end, I do think the coaxing wins them, and they begin to believe I am ready to listen to them, and I do. One… then a second… and then it seems they eventually must speak up, and many are eager to share, on topic, as requested, a question, something they liked or noticed, or a verse they wondered about. And then our Bible study is off to the races.
Now these are modified Bible studies—on the small side they are 30 people, on the large side, 180 people. The larger they are the more it is like preaching, and over time in the session I move from eliciting discussion to summary and teaching. But throughout I am asking questions, for feedback or at least rhetorically. And I know they are with me because I see them nodding. My points aren’t made with the dogmatic shouts of the preacher, but with the storytelling logic and reasonableness of the teacher, and typically they like both the style and the content, or so it seems.
Today was typical in some ways. After the 3 sessions of teaching ended, I thought people might be tired and ready to leave, but they stayed around for 20 minutes of photos with me, their new friend, the celebrity of the day, posing with families, with teens, with elder men, with young women, with families. And then prayer for a dozen or so, moms with ill children, men and women with body pains (for a very logical reason no doubt given the challenges of their lives), for a man struggling with alcoholism and a woman struggling with demonic oppression. I’m more comfortable with the prayer time than with the photos, but it is clear they enjoyed the teaching and wanted to linger in the day’s humor and lightness a little longer.
I spent 7 full days in Orissa State visiting churches and teaching in this inductive style, perhaps teaching 20 times (usually 3 sometimes 4 times daily), with travel between stops, and usually one session with just pastors and lay leaders after they have seen me teaching inductively. Some of the 100 pastors I met in Orissa have been on my Zoom calls, but most haven’t—they’ve been going through the Sketches of Leadership with the Zoom call pastors coaching them. All 100 pastors were being shown a model of inductive teaching that could be tried and learned by them that, as Pastor S said, is both easier and more fun than preaching solid for an hour (while kind of haranguing for a good part of that time, as repetition seems to be the typical way to build an hour-long sermon).
So I thought I was going to Orissa to continue to train the 25 pastors I have been teaching via Zoom, but it was really to encourage them while also meeting and training the 75 other pastors and church planters (including many youth and women) in the network, to hear their stories (which was the main point of our leaders’ meetings), to pray for them and encourage them in their work.
One of my favorite parts of a journey like this is the opportunity to hear stories, and pastor S had arranged a few gatherings specifically for the pastors and church planters to share stories to encourage both each other and me and to pray for each other.
I have three more days of inductive teaching, training and modeling for pastors and leaders here what I hope they will take up in the coming months. My immediate goals for the Punjab visit are that we begin a Punjabi Zoom call with a dozen or more pastors going through more Sketches of Leadership, after having been introduced to them this week. If there is sufficient interest for that, I have great hope that this work can continue to grow.
Please pray 1) for the work and investment here to produce fruit in the lives of the 140 (mostly pretty young) pastors and lay leaders attending these trainings; 2) for health and safe return to Kuala Lumpur; 3) for Lisa and my busy class teaching schedule this Spring term that has already begun for her and for me begins on Tuesday and Wednesday next week!
Thanks so much for your interest in our ministry, your prayers and your support! We are grateful to be able to be fully investing in our work here. Please drop us a note if you are able! We always love to hear from you!
Rich and Lisa
Below: Our view of the foothills of the Himalayas from Pokhara where we were training NBCBS (Nepal IFES) staff!
Rich and Lisa Lamb