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Sister Stories

This podcast encourages us to reflect on how the Lord has grown and moulded us into becoming more like Christ.

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S3 - 7. Shalini L.

In this episode, I am interviewing Shalini, who is married to Claude and has three grown-up children. Listen to hear about her walk with the Lord from her childhood and her work for the Bible Study Fellowship.

Transcript (Auto-generated)

Welcome everyone to the sister stories podcast.

The aim of this podcast is to marvel Adgod's sovereignty over each of our lives as women, and to encourage 1 another by sharing our stories.

My name is Sophie, and today I'm joined by Shalini.

Hi, Shalini.

So first of all, can you tell us who you are? Right.

Well, I'm Shalini, and, I'm married to Claude.

And we have 3 children.

We have been, living in this country ever since Claude was transferred here, by the bank he worked for.

And, you know, I we just love being at Cornerstone.


Were you from originally? I'm from India.

Claude is too.






So we're going to talk about, your journey with Christ throughout your life.

And, so we're going to start with, your family background and your upbringing.

Could you tell us a little bit about that? Yes.


I was, born into a Christian family.

My father was a fighter pilot in the Indian air force, so we usually lived in very rural distant locations, somewhere close to the border, never always easy to find a church in those locations So but, you know, even there, the lord has his hand on us.


That's right.

So is that that was in India.

I was That was in India.


I, you know, I was later on sent to boarding school in the south of India, a a very Christian school, which I'm thankful for.

But then I came back for university to the north of India.



So did you did your family find a church to attend, or was that tricky sometimes? So often, because the Christian community was so small there, it would be more of a room where people believe us met to pray in the local language.

And once a month, a pastor from another city or village would come, and then we'd have a service.

But usually most of the Sunday meetings were almost just like prayer meetings.

You know, it's important to remember that in India, the face of Christianity is Roman Catholicism.

And, Protestant communities actually the minority of the minorities.

So never easy to find a Protestant church particularly in small villages or close to the border.

The churches tend to be in the bigger cities in the in the and the towns.


So were your parents' protestants? Yes.

So how how did they, become questions in a sense, not that you give us the whole story, but just generally.

Well, I suppose initially through the work of the apostle Thomas.

Who came to India, but then on my father's side, we were they were converted 4 generations ago through the work of an American missionary.



So how did you first hear the gospel? Was it just through your parents, or were there other people around you that, taught you about the gospel? I first heard the gospel from my mother, who was my 1st Sunday school teacher.

And, you know, obviously, my teacher at home as well, she used to teach me when we were very little it would be initially hymns or little little songs that you teach children, and it was through the theology of those children songs that I began to develop an understanding, you know, why why does the ocean high as the heavens above.

Deep deep as the ocean sea is my savior's love.

And that's how I knew that my savior loved me.

And my only idea of a savior really was Jesus.

I didn't I couldn't explain it any other way.

But then later on through my mother's teaching, well, every night, she would read us stories from the Bible.

And 1 particular night you know, she read, I think it was from John 2029, where she was telling us the story of the apostle Thomas And she said, when Jesus said, bless about those who have not seen and yet believed he was talking about people like me.

Oh, that's great.


And that was what first got me very engaged in studying and reading the Bible because Jesus was talking about people like me.


How old were you at the time? I was 7.



So how how have you then grown to understand Things better from the gospel.

How how has that developed over the years? Well, because I was born into a Christian family and raised as pristine, in that time and that era.

The only way people like me actually can point to an understanding of the gospel is through a process and not through a 1 time event.


So I would say it would really be through the work of the Holy Spirit who would illuminate and enlighten my mind.

Over the years, but always through his word.



Would you read the word as a family, usually, or on your own? Or So we tended to read with my mother, and as a family only on Sundays, and we started reading it on our own as well.

At that time, the only, bible that was available to us was the KJV.

So often when I'm asked to quote, it comes out in KJV.

Which makes sense.


It's really interesting how all these songs and stories from the Bible just stuck in your minds as well and and really formed your your understanding of god and and of Jesus and his his salvation, maybe.


So what did you get on to do later on in your education or or further in your life? So after I finished school and I attended university, I joined, I was recruited by a British bank in India Mhmm.

Where I joined in their merchant banking division to do work work there Yeah.

It was there that I met Claude.

I was going to ask actually.



So and then that brought you then to the UK, as you said, with Claude's jobs.

You know, after we were married and I was expecting my eldest child, my first daughter, we were transferred to Dubai, and that was just the start of us moving, from country to country wherever Claude's job took us.


So how long were you in Dubai for? We had sort of 3 posts postings there.

So about 9 years.



Initially, Yeah.

How how did you find, actually, sorry.

Did did you find a church there? How did you get stuck in? I did find a church there.

There is a church there.


And it's it's a there was 1 Catholic church and 1 Protestant church in those days.


There are many now, but all different prod Protestant denominations which share the premises of the Protestant church.

I see.

And the Roman Catholic church had a very big, church of its own with with grounds, and we were sort of very close to each other.



How would you say, mean, I guess getting married and and growing up, how how did that strengthen your relationship with god and brought you closer to him? Well, for 1 thing, I had very limited knowledge of rumen Catholicism.


So it was actually an opportunity me to learn about Catholicism, something I knew nothing about.

I grew up in a very sheltered life.

In a Christian boarding school, in a Christian family, our family usually lived on these, as I as I mentioned, these remote air and even Indian air force air bases, never experienced any, persecution as such.


Because of that but I didn't know much about Catholicism and it was only through my marriage that I began to learn about it, and I was able to challenge my husband on this because he was very determined that the children should be raised room in Catholic.

But, you know, ultimately, the children are raised by their mother.

So I was the 1 who raised them, and, you know, they still recall that, and they remember that they were raised by a protest in mother Yes.

So, yeah, I remember hearing Claude's testimony action and him turning from Catholic catholicism.

I'm sorry.



So how, how did that play out in Dubai as well? Were you attending a Catholic church or of Protestant Churchill? So both.

Both of them.


So I was attending both, but Claude was only attending, Roman Catholic church, and the children were only attending the Roman Catholic church.



What what changed his well, I don't know if we can say change his mind or what brought him to phase freely.

So it would really be, once again, the work of the Holy Spirit, you know, challenging him through his son, through his wife.


And it took many years.

And though he initially agreed, intellectually, it was very hard for him to make that, verbal ascent because of the social pressures, that the Catholic community had, you know, he would he was concerned that he might, experience some degree of ostracism.

I see.

But, I think, you know, the lord had plans for him.

He was doing a work in his life, and, you know, he moved to Claude to Abu Dhabi alone.



You know, I and the children had to stay on here because my elder daughter was just about to enter university, and my son was taking his international baccalaureate at that time.

So we didn't want to move.


But it was removing Claude to Abu Dhabi, which gave him an opportunity to, for the lord to bring him into the evangelical church over there and for him, and they did an amazing job of discipling him and welcoming him in.



Oh, that's really interesting.

So were you still in Dubai, and he was in Abu Dhabi? No.

I was in London Alright.

At the time.

And Claude was in Abu Dhabi.

And this, you know, between Dubai and Abu Dhabi there about 15, 20 years.

I see.


So much later.




So, if we kind of take things chronologically, I guess.

So you were so you went Dubai for a few years then came to the UK? No.

We went Zimbabwe before that.


So you've you've gone around quite a bit.


What what brought you to Zimbabwe? Again, the bank transferred us.

Claude was the Middle East and Africa.

Head for Treasury functions.

So and it was based in Zim.

So Yeah.

A wonderful country, and we had a wonderful time there.


And that is when Claude went.

Then we know Claude brought us back to London.

We were he was brought back to London, and, it was about 7 years after being in London that he went opportunity.



So quite a few years later of of just, were you still both attending separate church they're not all So I would go from him to the Catholic church quite often, which was actually a great learning experience for me.

It was only through sitting there and listening to what was being said that I could make my challenges.


Uses everything redemptively.

Even, you know, you're, tortured sitting through are things that you that are to you completely appost it.

He's teaching you something.

He's teaching you to feel great, pity and sadness and love for the people who are sitting there and not who are there fatefully there.

But not hearing the truth.


And maybe not questioning as well with the There was never a question of questioning anyone in the Roman Catholic church.


So how how would you, in this time, what what will your conversations with Claude like in terms of questioning his thinking? Or, yeah, I don't know.

What was it like? Yeah.

So I could question everything based on a pivotal Mhmm.


I could point out that when a Roman Catholic priest stood at the top of the altar and declared that the assumption of the virgin mary was a fact established in the bible, I could challenge him and ask him to show me.



Even if it was the Roman Catholic Bible, which is slightly different to the Protestant Bible, I would be very interested.



But it was That's just 1 example of what, of how I could make these challenges.


I guess bringing it back to to the Bible and to the gospel is very important, isn't it? Absolutely.

To the true truth filled scriptures.



That's great.

That's really interesting.

How how was his response? Was he open to these conversations, or was that difficult sometimes.

So initially, he was not really open to it because he couldn't make a defense.

Then he began to become, embarrassed by it.

And then after that, you know, the the lord working in his heart, he began to question it himself.

And that was the point where the rubber met the road Yes.

I see.

That's really interesting, isn't it? And it could take it can take quite a long time in some, in some cases, I'm sure.

And in this, in his life as well.




So, obviously, you're, you're now in the UK and you've joined Coniston a few years ago now, I think, yes, 4 years now.


Oh, great.

So how I wonder, because you've been through you've been living in quite a few different countries.

I wonder how, what differences you've noticed maybe in the way people worshiped or lived, is there anything noticeable that you would say in that? Well, Obviously, yes.

You know, I was quite, every country has their own culture and their own way of worshiping, but if you're if you stay within a Christian culture, it's pretty similar.


That's amazing, isn't it? So you have that common ground.


So, I see when you came to Cornerstone, it felt like home, essentially, or or Yes.


So I had never been a member of the non liturgical church for want of a better description before.

But, I I just felt that this would be our home, And it is.


That's great.

How did you hear about Cornerstone in the first place? So when we were living in Putney, all our children had left us, for work and jobs and university and things like that.

And Claude and I were rattling around at this 5 bedroom house, and I had recovered from a very serious spinal injury.

So it was not easy for us to manage living there.

So we wanted to downsize to something smaller 3 bedrooms.

And as we were looking for places to where we would seek, our next home Mhmm.

We were actually looking at churches first in the area because we wanted to have a church that was, close to us.


And we can all look at churches on a website and, make our assumptions.


And I do that quite often.

As part of my role in BASF, but, I actually asked my son who, at the time, was an ordnance in the church of England.

And he said to me, he said, mommy, I know you, and this will be the church for you.

Conston, you mean? Yeah.

Oh, that's great.

That's really nice.


So you mentioned BSF.

Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and how you're involved in that ministry? So bible study fellowship is a paracharge organization, which focuses 100% and only on the in-depth study of the bible.

We take, a book and we would probably take over a year to study it.

30 lessons over a year going in-depth into it.

I remember joining Bible study fellowship.

I'd never heard of it.

After the spinal injury that I had when I was in so much pain, and my mother said to me, you know, there's this new bible study that's just recently opened in Sykhandabad, which is a city that she lived in in India.


And she said, I think this will be perfect for you because she could see that I needed to take my mind and thoughts off my physical pain.

And I said to her, oh, I've never heard of this, and I'm so, you know, in tune with what's happening here in London, in especially in the Christian world, and she said, oh, look for it.

This is London.

There's bound to be 1.


And I went online, and I found, that they had not 1, but 2 classes in in London.

So I emailed them, and they welcomed me in there.

And, you know, it was just a wonderful experience for me.

I went there limping in pain with, I could barely walk because I just recovered from this surgery And, you know, they prayed with me for me over me, and it was just wonderful.

I was able to not just approach the study of god intellectually, but also spiritually.


And added to my spiritual disciplines.

That was great.

I I find it amazing how from when you were a small child, you were you had already quite a deep Christian influence in your life through your mom and and how that's carried on through the years.

And And even when you might think, oh, you know, I've I've read the Bible's multi the Bible multiple times, and I know it's really, really well, the lord brought something yet different into your life.

And deepens that, their relationship with him and their understanding.

That's, that's amazing.

It is.

And I'm very thankful for it.


I'm sure.

And and, so you're you're not involved in this ministry.

What what exactly do you do, through that ministry? So, I spent a, you know, the last 10 years basically, serving in bible study fellowship in many different capacities.

And now I, look after bible study has areas.

So I look after the area of the UK, the Southern UK, Ireland, Northern Ireland.

I look after the classes there, the opening, the spiritual development.

I invest a lot of time in spiritual development of my leaders as well.

We look for leaders.

We look for, host churches that welcome us to partner with us and share with us the study of the gospel.

And there are so many churches who open their arms and welcome BSafin.

That is great.

And that is done all online, I assume, through No.

We we we have both online and in person.



The online became much stronger post pandemic during the pandemic and post pandemic time, but, we, we have in person classes as well.

Because there are a lot of people who want to be there for, the Christian fellowship as well.


Oh, great.

Would that be linked necessarily to a church, or could that be in someone's house or in different locations? It could be in someone's house, but we need to ascertain and make sure all the safety standards are in place, but we prefer to have them in churches.



Ah, that's great.

And I'm sure that helps the church as well to bring people together and and maybe people who haven't heard the gospel before and could be used as an evangelistic tool as well.

So I think you're you're reaching a lot of nations through this ministry, aren't you? Yeah.

So have you been working purely in the UK or or you said Ireland as well, but, have you been doing other roles with other countries as well? I was initially when I was doing the online segment.

I was reaching, people literally around the world.


I had a group of leaders whom I used to train who were based in Papua New Guinea.

Oh, wow.

And they woke up at 4 every morning to join my leaders meeting, which was 7 o'clock in the evening UK time.

And I was so humbled by that because there they were, ready, prepared for this meeting.

At 4 am in Papua New Guinea because they wanted to serve the community there.

And it's very humbling when you see, how much people are willing to give up because they they share the vision of BSF.

You know, I am not a gifted evangelist.

And probably in all the many conversations I've had with people over the years challenging them, I don't know how many people have actually come to faith in Christ because of that, I can think of just 2 or 3.

But if I could bring people into face to face with the word of god.

The Holy Spirit and the word of god will do that work Yes.




That's amazing.

And it's amazing to know that we can trust god with our little efforts, and he will he will do great things.

Just bill their lord.

I don't even have 2 loaves.

I just have crumbs.

Will you accept them? Yeah.

Oh, that's very encouraging.

So I wonder in terms of, looking back at the last couple of years, if, what lessons god has taught you, through maybe leasing, through that ministry or or other things in your life? Just so much that sometimes without my no book.

I can't even remember it all.


But there's always something amazing from each study, from each lesson.

You know, the I love the doctrines that the Bible teaches.

I love the way, god uses ordinary people to teach us so much.

The way even disobedient Israel and their disobedient kings, he loved them to the end.

I love the doctrine of the sovereignty of god.

It would probably be my favorite doctrine.

You know, you started out by mentioning that in your opening.

And yes, that's 1 of my favorite doctrines because it's because of that.

That I can forgive.

I can walk.

I can stand because I trust everything.

To, unseen god, but who holds creation, the future, the past, in his hands? Yes.

That's right.

And even through a pandemic and so many, different things that happened in the last few years, he's been doing that.

The pandemic, the lord went before in the pandemic because he had established the online BSF 2 years before the pandemic.

So when the pandemic hit, our classes just moved seamlessly online, Oh, that's great.

Because we had trained online leaders, so they could just move in.

That's that's great, isn't it? And his provision is always amazing.


And I guess to finish, if if you had to give advice to younger Christians now, what what would you say to them? Well, there's a lot of things.

I'm sure.

I'm just trying to narrow them down, but I would encourage them to just, adopt an intellectual approach to the study of god's word.

And, you know, the holy spirit will simply ignite the word for them, transform their thoughts, change their appetites, and direct them in the way that the spirit blows.

And they will see these wondrous things happen in their life, and they will see, you know, ordinary simple people like me who came to study English quite late in life through her own, choice and desire.

Working to serve him.


I think that's sometimes it's very simple.

Is I mean, actually, sorry, it is very simple, and the gospel is simple, and we just have to go back to to that really.

And, hold on to that and know and trust that he is at work in everything.


Oh, man.


Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, Shalini.

Thank you very much It was been a pleasure.

Yeah, thanks to everyone for listening to today's episode of sister stories.

That's all for today's episodes, but join us again next.


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