The second year brought us an unbelievable range of blessings, and it closed with a high note of expectation. Meanwhile Miss Treasure had been gathering building materials close to the building with floor made of mud and cow dung, and the roof made of coconut-palm leaves. Probably no Bible seminary ever functioned first in an abandoned building and then in such a humble classroom. But for us that was our home. We simply loved it. The serenity and peace inside the campus was unbelievable.
The moment we left the campus for our summer holidays after the second year, we knew that perhaps that was the last time we were seeing that building. The moment the last person left on vacation, workmen were put to work and were given a definite deadline. True to our expectation, there was a building of brick and concrete when we returned after two months of vacation, instead of the building with thatched roof. The building had a very large classroom, another very large hall to house the men. There was a third room which was so large that it was partitioned into three. The Principal occupied a very spacious partition. A smaller section was used as dining room for me. A still smaller partition was given to the visiting faculty. There were plenty of flush toilets in this building. It was a miracle to have such a spacious building within such a short span of time. RTI was growing by the day, month, and year.
Pic: Combined group of girls
Meanwhile, there was great demand from all corners that a new batch be admitted. Great was the demand from the parents of girls because RTI was the only seminary that admitted girls. What is more, in two years RTI had made a name for itself that girls who join RTI are in good hands. Thus finally we started a new all-girls batch. Four of them came from the assemblies in Bengal, and the rest from Kerala. Now the total strength of students became 26.
Pic: The boys with the Principal
The men who stayed in the Kunnathu Bunglow were moved to the new building. Lady students who till now stayed in the Orphanage were moved to the Kunnathu Bunglow. For the first time all the students lived close to classrooms.
Since we now had a spacious classroom, it also became a great chapel for spiritual ministry. Morning devotions became very lively and one could hear songs in multiple languages. It gave us a taste of heaven where people of all languages and cultures would be present. Dr. Saneesh stayed outside the campus, but he used to reach the campus by 5AM as part of his oversight. He would leave only after the devotions were over, to return around 10AM. Visiting teachers also joined the session.
The Evening chapel was mostly a Principal affair, similar to the way it is in Western Bible seminaries. Five days a week I used to address the chapel where all 26 students would be present. Often Saneesh would also join the chapel. Here I would present the application of the Scripture to them. It was a semi-formal session and students were eager to attend it. The one-hour session would often become two-hour sessions, and we would end it only when the bell would ring for dinner. Most students fondly recollect these evening chapels even today and say that they regret we did not have facility for such a gathering in the first two years. Of course, no institution can offer everything when it has to start from scratch.
Pic: My personal Computer (covered to avoid dust), Printer, Digital Camara, Furniture, etc in my private room
So far I depended upon my laptop computer for working while I was at RTI. However, as soon as I had my own living quarters, though not plastered yet, I purchased my own steel furniture, computer, wireless internet connection, printer etc. I also purchased a computer each for Dr. Saneesh and Koshy. By the third year our work involved so much of computers that doing this became necessary. RTI was gracious to give a computer for the use of students. However, since one computer was not sufficient for all the students, I permitted the students to use the three personal computers of their teachers whenever we were not using them. I wanted the RTI students to be techno-savvy and no sacrifice was too big for attaining that goal. Meanwhile my cousin and faulty-member Abraham Thomas (Kochi) purchased mattresses, other accessories, and fans for us faculty members. Since RTI was investing heavily in the building, we the faculty members were reluctant to ask them for such things at that time.
Others in my family gave me money using which I purchased more steel furniture for Koshy. I also purchased several steel racks to house my personal library. RTI was the place to be for all of us!
By this time I had severe back pain and wrist inflammation. Without me asking for it, two of the students, Jijo C. George and Jiju Nian took it upon themselves to minister to me. There is no way in which I can ever forget the tender manner in which they took care of my health.
Pic: A recent picture with wrist braces
Students, me, and Saneesh all grew very close to each other in the third year. Saneesh and I used to visit Coimbatore often because my daughter Asha was studying there. On our return we would buy 5 to 6 cartons of grapes from grape orchards on the way and give them to students. Soon the girls started complaining that they were not getting sufficient cartons of grapes, so we increased the number to 10 cartons per trip.
Also, each Monday that I reached RTI, I would have a 10 to 12 kilogram watermelon for students. Soon it became two watermelons when the girls complained that the boys were taking away the Lion’s share. Meanwhile Santha, my wife, started sending large cakes to students (I used to travel in my car). Soon it became multiple cartons so that the girls could get a fair share.
Pic: Students seeking the autograph and blessings of the Founder Principal. Photograph taken during RTI Missions Conference in 2010
Another thing I did in the first year itself was to open a joint account with Saneesh and Koshy in the nearby Federal Bank. I used to deposit substantial amounts of money in this account which was then taken by Koshy and given to students as pocket money as per individual needs. During Summer vacations this “pocket money” would be large enough for them to travel back to their homes whether they belonged to Kerala or outside. Members of my extended family and church often sent cloths, shoes and other material for students. For me, the students were my extended family. My wife and children used to visit them whenever possible and the visits of my wife brought a lot more of additional goodies and pocket money for the students.
RTI study was rigorous. Teachers used to given loads of homework at the instruction of the Academic Dean. In addition, each student had to memorize 10 verses in English and 25 new English words a day. Each mistake resulted in 10 impositions. A mistake in imposition resulted in 25 impositions and the number kept increasing astronomically. Only the most determined ones could continue, and all of them did so. But it was not academics alone. For each one of us RTI was our family. The way we cared for each other was amazing.
The large amount of fruits, cakes, and sweets that Saneesh and I took for them was part of this family feeling. Sitting in a circle and eating these things with them was a unique experience. Once we had a load of corn that is very popular in North India. The North Indian students roasted them on open coal, applied lemon juice, red chilly, and salt and supplied to everyone. This became so popular that I often had to hunt for loads of corn-stalk. Then we had our own mango tree just behind the Kunnathu Bunglow. Miss Treasure left that tree to RTI students. Almost every evening one could find students and teachers under it and the taste of that mango can never be forgotten.
Pic: A group of RTI students with the Founder Principal and Founder Dean after the RTI Missions Conference in 2010
The same year many visiting teachers from the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia enriched us very much. They taught many arts and crafts to students and one of them, Jijo C. George, became an outstanding amateur photographer. Pictures shot by him are often used by me, Dr. Saneesh, and also by the SBS.
Nobody could say that RTI was only 3 years old. It had already become a towering institution. Students left their mark wherever they went. The investment made by Rehoboth and the Steering Committee had yielded abundant fruit. The investment that Saneesh and I made for 3 years was highly rewarding for both of us. Since both of us had our primary calling in church-related activities, not institutional and organizational activities, we realized that time is getting ripe for us to hand over RTI to whomsoever the Lord chose to take over from us.
Meanwhile the Rehoboth Trust (RGOT) was convinced that now that RTI has reached a high level of maturity, and now that essential protocols have been developed by the Steering Committee, Saneesh and me, that they can easily manage RGOT. Thus towards the end of the third year, they officially dismissed the Steering committee and took direct charge of RTI. This all the more convinced Saneesh and me that the invitation extended to us to help Rehoboth to establish RTI has been fulfilled. We always wanted to go back to our primary call of church-related ministry once the task given to us was over. We spent the summer vacation after the third year to seek the mind of the Lord. I asked the very same people who had encouraged me to take up the challenge. All of them felt that RTI had matured and that the time to hand it over to RGOT is approaching fast.
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