I write this piece as a grateful man. I am grateful to my Creator. And my classmates. August 9 is a special day in my life. The reason? The day I was Born Again?! No. It was on that dramatic I got on stage to proclaim God’s Word, for the very first time. It happened in a special captains assembly in Ida Scudder School on August 9, 1991, as a 16 year old.
I remember clearly how it all happened. After the list of captains and prefects was announced our Principal then, Mr. M. M. Mathew, asked School Captain Shameen to lead the assembly teaming up with the entire elected team of leaders of which I was part as Lincoln house captain. I remember Shameen walking up to me and asking me to share the message on that day. I agreed with my knees knocking and my heart ready to burst forth. What made Shameen walk up to me still remains a mystery.
But I am glad for what happened after that. With fear and trembling I preached my first ever sermon from that wooden stage in Scudder School in Vellore Town in Tamil Nadu on 9 August. It was a sermon on hell, I recollect. I recollect Neeta Wilfred, my classmate, read a passage from Mathew 18 before I went in. “Better to go to heaven with one eye and one hand rather than go to hell with two eyes and two hands!” was the text. I recall how one girl, fainted after that message. Some weren’t too happy with such a straight message on hell. But my School Principal then ensured that such opposition did not stop me from standing again in the same pulpit and preaching! It was really an unusual baptism into preaching for me.God was clearly telling me, “You’ve got to preach Duke. That is one of the callings I have placed on your life!” When I hit the rewind button I recall how many of you walked up to me to say that was not at all that bad (even though I myself know that what my flaws were then).
Did Roshni Chandran, my classmate, sing “Spirit of the Living God” as a solo with Babloo alias Solomon Satish Kumar (now the CMC VP!) on the keys before I started? I am not sure if that happened on August 9, 1991 – but it did happen on one more occasion I took the mike to preach in grade 12 in Scudder School. I thank God for what happened that day.
On an earlier occasion I could not even say two lines in a drama I had to do from that same wooden stage (a drama that featured some pretty girls and some of you are smiling!). I told the Lord following that fiasco that I would never get on stage for him. “I can set the mike for some other more talented and more charismatic person to get on stage to preach but I will not do it myself!” I told my Maker then. But thank God for unanswered prayers!
What I started to do that day I continue to do all these twenty-seven years. I have some fond memories – preaching to a group of youth in Germany, preaching in the CMC chapel, preaching to 1000 plus youth from 54 corporates and 147 colleges in Hyderabad, preaching in Madras Christian College to hip youth who were ready to shoot me down and doing it okay, preaching on God TV with uncle Mohan C. Lazarus beside me, preaching to a group of cool Corporates in MindSpace, Hitec City starting with the 26/11 Mumbai Terror attack story, preaching on the Character of Samson to selected youth from all over in Bangladesh, preaching on Jonah in Kalimpong and seeing the altar full of tearful youth, preaching on Amos in FMC Bangalore and seeing a Dentist collapse in tears, etc, etc. I remember the tears at the altar, the stunned silence, the crackles of laughter (a newer dimension added recently), the young man from Africa asking if he can have the mike I just preached from so that he could publicly confess the sin of porn addiction he was repenting from, the no-place-in-the-altar altar call after my first message from Ezekiel 16 in Shiloh 2016 at the Scudder Auditorium, etc, etc. All by the sheer grace of God! Thank you classmates for the encouragement! Glorious and precious are those memories!
I’m preaching again, God willing, in the Centenary Baptist Church Secunderabad this Sunday evening (12 Aug 2018) at the 6 PM service and again along with my wife in the same venue on August 15, 2018. On August 15th evening, God willing, I will be preaching in the Rock Church, Hyderabad. The journey continues. Early retirement from preaching, does not seem to an option.
The SoundCloud channel (www.soundcloud.com/shoutaloud) featuring my audio messages has crossed over 80000 listens and my Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/visitduke) featuring my video messages crossed over 3.4 lakh hits (340,000 plus hits). I thank God for choosing me to preach even though there were many out there who can communicate better than me!
I often remind myself that it was first for the purpose of being with Jesus and only after that for preaching about Jesus that Jesus chose me (Mark 3:14).