Monday, May 28, 2012

A Trim Line Bible

Unless a person has plans to study theology or take the pulpit or is given some responsibility in the affairs of the Church, excuses come in handy before one turns to read the Bible. A person is likely to go through the morning papers while having breakfast, tear away midway through reading reports about Champions League. If you are living in big cities there is the unavoidable task of rubbing shoulders with co-passengers in city buses or navigating through the maze of city traffic. That you are racing against time with deadlines to be met is hardly a reason for concern and you only thank God for being a part of a great system. And when you get back home you hardly have time to freshen up before dinner because when you finally settle down for the day the clock strikes 12.
You feel that the Bible knowledge you have accumulated through attending Sunday school and worship services is more than sufficient. The Christian background you have inherited have prepared you so well that even in drunken stupor you often quote the scripture over a glass of country. So what would you do even if you have an expensive English Bible?
In the year 1994, I was voted to the Children Department and the Youth Department with landslide emotion followed by Ministry formation. And I gathered up Secretary Record Books of the two Departments. That was an additional responsibility. I was already the custodian of some record books of the village youth club.
As the new responsibilities related to non-secular matters, the theme of a Bible crusade rang in my ears. “Back to the Bible”. The Paite Holy Bible gifted by a maternal uncle came in handy. However after a number of Sundays-Tuesday-Thursday week days I virtually ran out of stories stocked in my head like the story of David and Goliath, Joseph, Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, etc. It’s not always expedient to relate stories everyone knew. If I studied Christian Education of Evangelical Fellowship of India (CEEFI) guidebooks that merely prepared me for taking Sunday school classes. Sometimes I had to lead the children in devotion sessions which take place just before the start of regular classes. Also the fact that I don't have a good vocal cord or a musical talent also tended to mess up matters.
I could hardly reminisce any lessons learnt from the scripture classes and Vocation Bible Schools that could be related to the children.  International Correspondence Institute (ICI) had conferred so many certificates upon me in recognition of my knowledge of the Bible. But what was that which I knew and which was acknowledged by ICI? Sadly I couldn’t recall any substantial lesson. Hoping to find some of the ICI booklets and study materials, I rummaged through the book shelf. There were a handful of copies of the old Readers’ Digest issues that goes as far back as 1976, so many issues of Kristian Thukizakna, the monthly publication of the erstwhile ECC (renamed EBCC since 1998), worn out copies of gazetteers of the world whose pages indicating identities of the publisher or editor had long gone, etc. I just couldn’t find a single copy of the publications from ICI which I hoped could be useful in Christian leadership. A copy of Jean Bruce’s Hotline that always occupied the book shelf whose cover picture I marveled over the years until I was finally able to understand English, gave me no relief either. My attempt to arm myself with deeper biblical knowledge was not making headway. While believing that reading the word of God in English could have given me a better view of Christianity, I made no further attempt.
In 1996 the degree course results were declared by Manipur University and I became a graduate. I also had received an offer of appointment from C-II Hutments, Army Headquarters. And off I went to Delhi.
20 years on I play a part in the secretarial work of Indian Parliament where one is tempted to work on Sundays during peak times. Most often I choose to attend the Church. The 29th April, 2012 was observed as Bible Sunday and EBCC hosted brother Rajender from the Bible Society of India (BSI).
Brother Rajender praised the EBCC for being a source of blessing to BSI in many ways through contributions, prayer and motivational talks, etc. He enlightened the congregation about the aim of BSI which is to translate the Bible into the various Indian languages, print and distribute them at affordable/subsidized rates so that it can reach as many people as possible and that the demand for the Holy Bible is growing day by day.
The honor of becoming part of BSI was so simple when Rajender explained how: keep a BSI box in your home and drop one rupee every day which will come to three hundred and sixty five in a year, and that can gift a Bible each to 3 persons who don’t have them. That’s about distributing copies of an already translated, already published Bible. The more challenging task of BSI lies in the fact that Bible translation has not been accomplished even in a quarter of the 1650 Indian languages.
An outsider, who on a first visit to the Church trying to persuade us to give offers, is a turn off to my sub-conscious. So when Rajender encouraged the congregation to become part of BSI my reaction was that of ‘indifference’. It only reminded me that I still own no copy of an English Bible.
Kim has been serving in the Police Department since the year 2001. Since our marriage in 2006 she used to say that I need a trim line English Bible. 
During the tea fellowship that follows regular worship service in my Church, Kim said that it’s a good occasion to get a decent copy of the holy Bible. On enquiry however I didn't find a good one.
Parliament was in session and being in Question Branch mean that you have to process so many questions within a stipulated time. And when I plunged back to the sphere of Questions, my anxiety was over again.
On Friday the 4th of May a certain mister Ramesh talked to me over phone and asked whether I’d take the New International Version (NIV) or King James Version (KJV). My mind quickly flipped back to the brief liaison I had with a BSI guy the last Sunday.

Since I prefer to use the poetically worded version of the Bible, I asked of Ramesh how Psalms 23 was written in the KJV and the NIV. Unfortunately he was not able to tell the difference, so I asked him to bring both versions of the Bible.

Under the sweltering heat of the sun Ramesh recognized me. He more than made up his lack of knowledge of the scripture by his good conduct in terms of protocol. When I opened the KJV Psalms 23 says:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The lines were still the same as how I remembered. The voice of my niece’s stuttering the famous David’s song came to my mind. Now it’s confirmed that’s also from KJV. The Bible was so cute; it fits even in my trouser pocket. The three notes of 500 INR I handed over to the BSI guy are more than enough for the finely handcrafted treasure.

As regards contributions to BSI, I'd have to think about it later on!