Sunday in New Delhi
Last Friday I worshipped at Redeemer Church of Dubai and then spent the rest of the day with Pastor Dave Furman and his wife Gloria (read A Day in Dubai). Saturday morning I got up early (along with Murray Robinson, who is traveling with me) and headed to the airport to continue the journey east. We arrived at the airport to find that the flight was overbooked and that our seats had been given away. It took some pleading, but eventually the good people at Emirates managed to find two empty seats and put us aboard.
The flight from Dubai to New Delhi was just a little bit over three hours long and entirely uneventful. We passed quickly through immigration—a process in which not a word was exchanged between the immigration officer and me—and after finding our luggage were met by Prasoon Goel. Prasoon is the pastor of one of the congregations associated with Delhi Bible Fellowship (DBF is an English-speaking Evangelical church that has seven congregations throughout the city). To that point Prasoon and I had only ever communicated via email and Skype, so it was a joy to put a face to the name.
We bundled into Prasoon’s car and hit the roads of Delhi. For all its charms, Delhi does not make the best first impression. Driving is every bit as entertaining as I had heard. While there are lines painted on the roads, they seem to be suggestions at best as no one pays them the least attention. If a car can fit into a space, it will inevitably squeeze in there. You would look in vain for a car that doesn’t have at least some scratches and dents. Horns are used constantly; they signal intent or warning and are rarely meant as an expression of anger. The roads are shared by cars, trucks, autos (three-wheeled taxis), bicycles and endless numbers of motorcycles—motorcycles carrying televisions, motorcycles carrying entire families, motorcycles everywhere. Pedestrians walk through it all, always at a constant pace so the cars can properly gauge when to go honking past. At some intersections little children approach the cars, looking sad while they mimic eating food. Except on the major roads, cows wander at will, snarling traffic and eating whatever they find lying around.
Even more notable than the traffic is the smog. New Delhi is known for its smog problem and it is especially bad this time of year when the air is still and when there is little rain to wash it all away. It is a smog you can smell and taste. It gets in your eyes and nose and mouth and just won’t go away.
Traffic and smog are the first impressions, but, of course, the city has its charms as well. We bunked down at Prasoon’s house on Saturday night and on Sunday headed straight for church. Worshipping with Delhi Bible Fellowship was every bit as much a joy as worshipping with Redeemer Church of Dubai.
DBF, like Redeemer, is extremely multi-cultural, drawing not only native New Delhians, but also a lot of ex-pats and foreign workers of various stripes. A church of around 300 people, they meet in a rented facility and have two identical services each Sunday morning.
DBF is a church that emphasizes, among other things, eldership, membership and internship. They are elder-led, they have biblical church membership, and they continually bring young men into their internship program. The worship services there were not too different from what you might experience at Redeemer in Dubai or at Grace Fellowship in Toronto. The members who attend the church are very kind and welcoming and there were endless opportunities to enjoy spiritual fellowship. I met people from all over the world there in that little auditorium.
After the service we were invited to the home of one of the church’s elders. His wife cooked up some of the best Indian food I’ve ever eaten; it was simply amazing. The church met again in the evening so I could help them think through issues related to theology and technology. After all, Facebook, cell phones and all the other elements of the digital world are equally relevant in India as in North America; one of their youth proudly told me, “I’m the only person in the group who doesn’t use Facebook.”
At the end of the day I was taken to the guest house where I will be staying for a couple of nights. It was a long day, but a good one. I felt exhausted but also felt blessed. I felt blessed to know that whether in Toronto or Dubai or Delhi there are Christians there who are doing the Lord’s work, believing and celebrating and applying the gospel. As Prasoon explained at the beginning of each service, they are not out to do anything fancy. Rather, they just want to read the Bible, sing the Bible, pray the Bible and preach the Bible. And through it all, God is glorified.