Saturday, March 26, 2011

mangoes and English Bible study

The mangoes are ripening on the trees (although not quickly enough!). And yes, that merits its own paragraph. And to be included in the title of this post.

Today at Mandiram we had one of my favorite activities: English Bible study. Held once per week, it was started by a volunteer, Becca, several years ago. When asked what she would change or improve about her life as a volunteer at Mandiram, Becca said that she felt that she was lacking meaningful faith-based interactions. This makes total sense to me, as, no matter how many hours I sit in church every Sunday--no matter now intently I listen at the nightly chapel service--the fact is that I don't understand a darn thing.

Facing a similar problem, Becca started a weekly English Bible study. Mostly attended by Mandiram's paying residents, it has been going ever since. I'm going to have to start leading it soon ("this is your field now"- says Thomas Samuel Achen, who knows I'm going to Seminary next year- haha), and while that's a little nerve-wracking, I'm sure I will enjoy leading it as much as I do attending.

It's so interesting to listen to a group of highly educated people who, age-wise, could be my grandparents, and who have a wealth of life experiences and theological perspectives. Not to mention that I'm getting to revisit familiar Bible stories through a completely different cultural lens. And the diversity goes even beyond that, as those who attend the Bible study come from a wide variety of Christian backgrounds within Kerala itself, such as the Church of South India, the Mar Thoma Church, and the Orthodox Church.

While a Bible study with a table full of elderly people might not sound like your idea of fun, I can assure you that it's far from boring. In fact, it often turns into more of a theological debate than anything, and much more than a Bible study, is a platform to share stories, life advice, criticism of the institution of the church, etc. (all stemming from that day's reading). I'm telling you, some of the things that are said are really profound--I wish I could write it all down! So often I find myself thinking how lucky I am to get to listen to the conversations that take place there, and to be able to throw my own humble opinions into the fray, too.

Of course, sometimes people revert to Malayalam. But being that I spend the majority of the day not knowing what anyone around me is saying--a little bit of Malayalam interspersed throughout an engaging hour that is mostly English is A-okay with me :) 

"God gives, gives, and forgives. Man gets, gets, and forgets." (A quote shared by Mathew Uncle at today's Bible study).

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