Summary: It is certainly possible for us to miss the presence of God wherever we are, and be immersed in many other activities. How about being focused on seeking an encounter with God?

Good evening. I realise that there are three categories of people here.

First category are the new students who are eager to know what lies ahead of them. You are all charged up, all excited to be part of this great institution that you have joined. Second category is mixed lot of old students, who have been here and are at various stages of acceptance or cynicism of the reality that defines this institution. Then there is a third group who are part of this institution for a long time and have mixed feelings about what goes on here. I am hoping that my message has some meaning for all the three groups.

As many of you already know, I am from a corporate background. In corporates, recruitment of the right candidates is a challenging task and hence the recruitment advertisements are some of the most creative work of imagination and art that one can get hold of. Let me start with a story that defines the recruitment philosophy of corporates. The story is that an HR manager who is responsible for recruitment of new employees to the organisation was trying to multitask, talk on the phone and close yet another candidate and cross the road at the same time. She gets hit by an SUV and dies instantly. We will not get into the debate of whether she was a Christian or not. She reaches the pearly gates and St. Peter welcomes her. St Peter tells her that since she is from HR dept., she has special privilege and she has choice of where she wants to go. He says, “you can visit Hell and Heaven and make a decision yourselves”. Which one would you like to try out first? He asks her. She says, I have heard a lot about heaven, so am curious to know more about hell, so, let me first visit hell. St. Peter agrees and guides her to the escalator that goes down to hell. After a very long ride she reaches down and steps on a clean white sandy beach with very clear blue waters. She looks around and notices other people wearing casual clothes and enjoying themselves eating and drinking their favorite food while listening to their favorite music and generally having fun. She meets up with some of the other people from HR fraternity and has an entertaining evening with a lavish meal and drinks in a luxury Hotel, where they were supposed to be staying. She even meets up with Satan himself and finds him to be very sociable and entertaining. After a brief but enjoyable stay in hell, she bids farewell to the inmates there, and heads back the gates above. St. Peter then directs her to the escalator that leads up to heaven, and again after a very long escalator ride, she reaches heaven and finds the place much quieter than hell. People were sitting around chatting quietly, playing harps and flutes and singing. She finds it difficult to pass the time there and returns to St. Peter and admits that she would prefer to choose Hell over heaven. She says, “I would not have believed it myself, unless I saw it with my own eyes.” Now that I have seen it, I am clear in my choice”. Actually if I did not have a choice of testing them out and experiencing them , I would have chosen heaven for sure. However, I am sure that I want to go to hell”. St. Peter says, sure if that is your decision, I will go by that and dispatches her back to hell. To her horror, once she arrives there, she sees a very different reality. She landed in a desolate land, stinking, putrid, hot and arid. She found the friends who had earlier told her that they were living in a luxury Hotel wearing dirty torn cloths and scavenging for food. She frantically searched for Satan and finally found him. He welcomes her back. And she angrily asked him. “What happened between yesterday and today? What I saw yesterday was very different from what it is today.” Satan smiled and told her calmly, “Yesterday we were recruiting you, what you saw yesterday was our recruiting ad. Today you are part of us, you have the pleasure of seeing the reality today”

I would not like any of you to overanalyze this story in the context of SAIACS. Let me also make a disclaimer, I am in no way suggesting that SAIACS is equivalent to hell or heaven for that matter. What I would like to highlight is the fact that there could be serious differences between what you expected and what you get, when you join an organisation or an institution. You might have come here with different expectations. Some of them may be met, some of them may not be. And then there are rules and regulations, there are assignments and exams and presentations to do. There are strict time lines to be adhered to, additional activities to participate in, the commons food to deal with. And then there are things that might exceed your expectations, the richness of the library resources, the experience and the knowledge repertoire of the staff and the faculty, the opportunity to learn from each other, the stress on spiritual formation, the worship times, the social evenings, and the overall ambience of the campus itself, apart from the excellent climate that Bangalore offers. So there you are , you might end up with the great, the good, the bad and the ugly, depending on how you look at it, and among all of this, you night miss out on something very important.

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