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A Visit to India: Part III - A Week in India

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | August 14, 2010

"Visit India and you will never be the same again."
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Evie and I recently spent nearly a week in Bangalore, India, where I spoke to a group of about 50 educational leaders from India and beyond on the subject of leadership. Today will be the third column of a three-part series on that visit. 

Although a week in India definitely does not make me an expert on India, I certainly understand the words of Gitanjali Kilanad, "Someone once said that whatever you say about India, the opposite is also true." 

In our preparation for our first time in India, I read Culture Shock: India (Gitanjali Kilanad) where he referenced a conversation he had with a young Indian businessman who used this helpful paradigm to describe three Indias. The first India functions in the "Car Economy." This is the India you encounter in the cities with conditions very similar to any developed country. 

The second India has a "Motorcycle Economy." It straddles the cities and semi-urban areas. The industries are manufacturer related. The third India practices the "Bullock Cart Economy." This is rural India, where 70% of Indians still live and work. Agriculture and craft based products are to be found in this India. 

While India has the largest pool of scientists and technologists after the US, yet nearly half of its people are illiterate. 

If I learned anything from our time in India it was the power of an educational experience. You can't spend a week with world-class Indian educational leaders without coming to that conclusion. The campus of Southern Asia Bible College (SABC), the site of the seminar, is a testimony to this fact. 

Of the 50 or so delegates who attended from across India and beyond, about half of them were SABC alumni. On my very first day I was profoundly impressed by the caliber of these leaders. Dr. David Mohan, the leader of the Assemblies of God (AG) in India and the pastor of the over 40,000 member congregation in Madras, is an alumnus of SABC. 

Dr. Ivan Satyavrata, Senior Pastor of the AG Church in Calcutta and the President of the Assemblies of God Association of Theological Education in Southern Asia (AGATESA) is an alumnus of SABC. Pravinkumar Israel, Principal (President) of SABC is an alumnus of SABC. Dr. Jacob Cherian, who has an earned Ph.D. from Princeton University and is the current Vice President and Dean of SABC, is an SABC alumnus. 

The list could go on and on. The leaders of today were the students of yesterday. And now the leaders of tomorrow are the students of today. 

For seven consecutive years one of our former professors here at VFCC, Hobart Grazier, invested a part of his summers in India at SABC. We heard stories from his former students who described him as an "iconic figure" whose profound influence inspired SABC to name a residence hall after him. I sensed that what I had to say meant more because I am serving at the college Hobart Grazier had served. 

We will also never forget the 15,000 member church where I spoke in two of the eight services on Sunday. The father of Sammy Thangiah, one of our VFCC students, is the founder and pastor. When we arrived at 8:00am the first service was nearly over and the people were all lined up at the door to enter for the second service. The fervent worship of those wonderful Indians planted something forever in our hearts. 

As Nicki Grihault said, "India is a land of contrasts and diversity. Be prepared for an assault on your senses and a challenge to your preconceptions. Above all, however, it is the warmth, vitality, humor, and energy of the Indian people that leave the most lasting impression." 

Yes, we are now out of India and back home but this we know, without a doubt, India will never be out of us. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu