First, I thought about the models of community living we'd experienced. In Bangalore, there was Daniel and Betty Edwin's 'open house' or 'home-from-home' in the apartment adjacent to his church building. In addition to a wheelchair-bound grandma, they were hosting an older brother who was getting on his feet in God. Various church pastors and evangelists (we'd say leaders), dropped by from the ministry's outlying works. As in New Testament days, where travel is troublesome, such hospitality is essential. The two conference delegates from Andhra Pradesh had travelled 30 hours by train to attend. Here, in India, the evening is a key time to find people around. Cake and chai, and a pot of rice are always on offer.
Then there's Colney's (or, rather his father's) Mission Home in Aizawl. We'd only seen about half the overall residents from the total complex at the evening prayer times. In the whole compound there's a large dormitory of children, too - I believe Colney's mentioned a total of 70 souls. Two young women attend to the household domestic duties. Colney's father (aged 79) sits at a small table outside the ground floor worship/main hall, holding a daily 'surgery'. Financially, they're thrown together by necessity, and everyone's industriously engaged. On Monday morning I watched a boy about eight years old plying backwards and forwards from the compound's own well, filling two large green watering cans, and tottering from apartment to apartment topping up supplies. There's an attempt at homegrown sufficiency, or at least supplement, with chicken, ducks and geese, and a large poly-tunnel. Again, necessity, not 'lifestyle'. "God's little acre" would be an appropriate term. Somehow, everyone had found a place, and accepted their part's responsibility.
Second, I was struck by Colney insisting that any evangelism material for Wednesday's "Church on the Streets" should be in Mizo. "English speaking, Christianity and Western Culture are synonymous," he'd explained. "And Moslems, Hindus and Buddhists react against it." In a no-holds-barred multicultural setting, as India, there remains an appropriate recognition - even celebration - of some aspects of diverse culture. I suspect we in UK 'new churches' have blundered around unhelpfully with immigrants and second generation populations, because we don't have a missionary-sending ethos.
True, we'd managed my teaching yesterday without translation. But Colney had largely spoken in Mizo, and three three local music groups had thrown in a mixture. In Bangalore, we'd had entire translation into Tamil or Kerala (Daniel E's wife, Betty, had done this for the Nathan and Sam in the Thursday concert.) They say you need your own tongue to deepen your intimacy/relationship with God. Sam commented how difficult it was to achieve good communication when you couldn't read the body language nuances - and he'd been trying impressively.
Third, I'd found a refreshing rhythm to life. I can't say relaxed, because the daily round of working, feeding and keeping up with relationships is a bigger slice of peoples' energies than in UK. But when we, as a church, are seeking a return to more time for people, there's something going on here to note. True, the tropics days work to a pretty unvarying daylight and darkness pattern. But, blessed with the convenience of lighting and goods to improve things, we've jumbled up, overfilled and scrambled the connection (and connectedness) of daily life. You just set your own agenda, and touch with others at the margins.
For example, again in Colney's Mission Home, there was little obvious organising - it was an implicit operation of life. I find it difficult to settle on one change that would reconstruct this kind of quiet vitality. Perhaps Mick's team exploring a theology of time will do better.
Fourth comes the open-heartedness and open-handedness to many servants of God. I've found a response based on the simple expression of need that fellow-labourers can empathise with, and will strive to support in. Is this because many pastors, evangelists and workers operate near the breadline and on the limit of resources as matter of course, and it's just an unquestioned 'part of the territory'? They don't hide their insecurity and dilemmas. They're often in emergency. I sense that many leaders know they gain a blessing from giving when faced with such knowledge. It would be unbrotherly to fail to engage in prayer, seek to help practically and with moral support, and use connections, when it's available for you to do this and so to partner with others. I found little evidence of scrutiny and cross-questioning, though a discernment of motives and genuineness certainly applies. We need to note this as our Multiply exec and Regional funds get increasing contact with a variety of global ministries. The right stance should be to celebrate the rich texture of God's word and grace outworked in trying circumstances.