Mark Nishane was, in effect, the first friend I made in India. I had just arrived, eating in the office the next day, and Mark comes up to me and asks if it is ok if he shares the room I was supposed to have. Of course I say yes, but he asks over and over again, very earnestly, “Are you sure? I can sleep upstairs no problem.” I insist that I’m sure, because although I would prefer my own room, the alternative is him moving out and instead sleeping in an un-air conditioned room with no fan in the Delhi summer nights.
What is important about this is that it demonstrates the simultaneous dignity and humbleness of Mark. Despite the overwhelming tendency amongst many Indians towards servitude with respect to white people, Mark stood up for himself and had a reasonable request instead of suffering so that I might have a small luxury. Yet, his offer to let me have the room to myself was also genuine.
Needless to say, I roomed with him, and for about three weeks he tolerated my jet-lag, odd hours, and general messiness. In that time, and since then, I have come to know him as the funniest, most light-hearted Truthseeker in the office. He is constantly smiling, and always explains things to me when the others speak Hindi. When I interviewed him about his testimony, I was not surprised to find the same mix of pride and humility that I had seen upon our first meeting present in his journey of faith.
As a teenager, Mark was popular, smart, and funny. President of the high school, he was always quick to help a friend. However, his academics were not a priority for him. Despite his natural intelligence, he was just slightly too irresponsible his senior year, and decided that he was not prepared to take the exam. He skipped it, and when the results came out his father was angry. To prevent the same thing from happening next year, Mark was forced by his father to live with his aunt in the village so that he might be able to focus without the distractions of his friends.
Despite this, Mark enjoyed village life. He made new friends, but also would read for days at his aunt’s house. One day, he was going out with his new friends and they saw white people entering the village. His friends were curious to see who they were and what they wanted, but Mark dismissed it, and they went out to smoke. When they returned, they found the white people preaching the gospel.
Mark knew a little English at that point, and he was eager to test it out. He approached them and asked their names, and how they were doing. The preacher answered him, and, thinking Mark knew English very well, asked him to translate. Before Mark could correct him, he started speaking to the crowd that was gathered there. Despite his lack of knowledge, Mark was able to translate. He didn’t know how, but the words came to him and that was both his first time hearing and speaking about the gospel.
In the crowd was Sunil Sardar. After the message was over, Sunil approached Mark, and they found out that they were both from the same village. Seeing something in Mark, Sunil gave him his number and a Hindi copy of the new testament.
Through a combination of the experience of translating and his love of reading, Mark had a hunger for the bible. He read the entire gospel in one night, and the same night he decided that this was what he would follow. The easy-going, directionless teenager thought “this is the way I should go.” The problem for Mark, though, was that the path to Christianity is not so clear in rural India. He knew what he wanted, but he didn’t really know how to find it. The next day he decided to leave the village and return to his home.
When he got home, his family was very glad to see him. Soon though, he and his father started talking. Mark told him then that he wanted to become Christian. And, with the two just sitting in the living room talking, his father said that if he wanted to be Christian, he was not allowed to stay in the house. Mark calmly said, “okay.” Without bringing any belongings, just the clothes he was wearing and about fifty cents change from the bus ticket, he left the house. Outside, the rest of his family begged him to stay, but Mark knew that he had to pursue God, and that his father wouldn’t let him do that.
He went out, and had no idea of what to do. Wandering aimlessly, he used the last of his money to buy a few cigarettes. Finally he remembered Sunil, and called him. Sunil told him to come, and when he arrived they prayed together. When Mark told him about his homelessness, Sunil took him to his office, then called “Friend of the Poor.” Mark ate, and slept there, and for a month he continued in that way. He wore the same clothes every day, washing them by hand every night, and lived without a single penny. However, he grew in his faith at this time, learning more and more about God and attending Sunil’s daily devotional.
After a time, Mark prayed. “God, if you are really there, there is nothing hidden from you. You know that I don’t have even a single penny and can’t even buy soap. You know my needs. I’m not going to ask anybody, or tell them what I need. If you are there, you know.”
During this time, Mark had been in the habit of getting up early and sweeping the yard. One day, Sunil came in the morning and asked him to get some bread from the store across the road. After Mark came back, he kept sweeping, and Sunil asked him what he was doing. “Nothing, just sweeping.” Without a word, Sunil gave him fifty rupees. Mark asked what it was for, but he didn’t answer. Mark asked again, but Sunil just left, and Mark knew that his prayers had been answered. He started crying, overcome by Sunil’s simple kindness that Mark knew came from God.
Mark was able to buy soap and other necessities, and from there grew in his faith. He became involved in church planting, and went to Discipleship Training School. He had many obstacles along the way, and his life never became easier. However, through God he came to find a home at Truthseekers, and since then has brought many others to Him.
Mark embodies many key principles of Truthseekers. He has faith in God providing for him. He is always compassionate and friendly. But, most of all, Mark is uncompromising in the face of adversity, and will follow God even when it means abandoning everything.