India 2016: Day 4

Day 4:

Check… And it’s only Monday.

Greetings from India! What a trip it has been so far. I always feel overwhelmed when I begin to write these. There is so much to say, so little to know about who is reading, and many experiences to draw from daily. Yesterday was FULL in every sense of the word. (Photo Credit 1: Megan Kirchgasler)

We began our day by visiting a community of women and men who showed each of us what joy, community, and  faith looks like in abundance. This community of individuals is deeply connected to the heart and ministry of Bishop Joab, the leader of the Free Methodist Church. The reason this community has become connected to his ministry is that each of them have leprosy. Leprosy, a concept of biblical history in our western context, is still a life altering condition in India. It not only impairs people physically, but all together ostracizes and removes them from society. Bishop shared with us that years ago during a horrible monsoon season this community sought him out for help. What he shared is that when the heavy rains come, people who get their livelihood from begging are unable to do so because no one is outside to give. Bishop Joab and his wife responded then and continue to do so now. While I could write pages upon pages of the thoughts, experiences, and emotions of being with these women and men, given our focus on leadership, it was the Bishop’s interactions with these people that compelled me.

In much of my experience, it can seem like the West can romanticize poverty and pain. We see it on TV and Movies and we can almost fall into a trap of consuming people’s experience at the result of only defining them by their state of being. Homeless. At risk. Uneducated. Lepor. And as I sat and watched Bishop Joab interact with these people, I saw the most senior leader and potentially influential leader of the Free Methodist Church, speak with friends. With brothers and sisters. He spoke to people, and not their condition. It was an amazing testament to what it means to see the whole person. As leaders, I believe we can be quick to see those that follow us for their skills and gifts that benefit our agenda without seeing them as whole people needing to be developed in all ways. As I watched the Bishop with these people, I saw an example of the kind of leader I hope to become.

After this we were taken to visit a tribal school near Immanuel University. Seriously, I think that if everyone was required to visit a grade 1 thru 5 classroom once a week, we’d all be happier. These children sang us songs and greeted us with the smiles that only children can cultivate. (Photo Credit 2: Nathan Iverson)

Following this we came back to the university and had time with some of the MBA and seminary students here. We spent the afternoon coaching leadership development. As we prepared for this day, we were not sure how our understanding of holistic leadership development would translate. Would leadership principles be the same? Would they think about leadership the way we do? Would our American understanding of leadership assume needs that are not relevant in India? Yet in spite of any fears, we were amazed to learn that these emerging Indian leaders also believed in such a theme.  

They spoke of building up their strengths. Of seeking out experiences. Of finding the support they need. In short, they explained all the concepts we too desire to develop. As I continued to walk this with them, I was so inspired by their dreams. “To be a cop, so that I can make a change for my people.” “To be a business woman, so that I can start my own company.” On, and on, and on they spoke of their dreams. Their hopes to change their worlds. To change the circumstances they all have seen. And as they shared we spoke life to one another and discussed our inspirations, our motivations, and needs of leadership. It was not just a moment of coaching. Not just a unique cross cultural experience. It was leaders, discussing leadership concepts, dreaming into reality the world we all desire to live in. The only question that remained for us was in the comment of one of the men in my group, “How do we know when it is our time to lead?”…  #mic-drop.

We concluded our night by being hosted in the home of Bishop Narendra John and his wife Jaya ….There are three bishops who oversee the FMC here in India and he is one of them. More so, his wife was the first woman to be ordained in the FMC in India… Get it girl! They were an incredibly kind and gracious couple who not only fed our bellies with epic cuisine, but also our minds and souls. As Bishop opened our conversation by asking, “How do you translate faith into business?” … We knew it was going to be a night to remember. And it was.

So to recap:

First time meeting a community of joy in abundance. Check.

First time visiting a tribal school. Check.

First time scheming with emerging Indian leaders about how to change the world. Check.

Being inspired by the first ordained female minister in India. Check.


And it was only Monday.


-McKendree Hickory, 4th Year PhD Student


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