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Decision in Jabalpur.

As a junior officer serving in India during World War II, Finlay Moir did not expect the army chaplain to take him up on the offer of a bed in his tent. But it was to lead to `one of the most important experiences' of his life.

Moir had been training to be a solicitor before he was called up. He was serving as a Second Lieutenant in the Ordinance Corps in Jabalpur in central India. He attended the garrison church regularly and went along to study groups at the chaplain's house--more for social than religious reasons, he says.

One Sunday evening after the service, the chaplain told him that he was thinking of visiting his unit, which was about five miles from the centre of Jabalpur. `Do you have any spare beds?' he asked. Without giving it any serious thought, Moir replied that there was a bed in his own tent as his tentmate had just been posted to Burma. He didn't for a moment think that the chaplain would take him up on this. `After all I was only a humble Second Lieutenant.'

A few days later the Colonel of the depot tracked him down at work. `We are going to have a visit from the Padre,' he announced. `I have offered him the best room in the Mess, but he wants to be in your tent--thinks he would be more among the men that way. It's all right with me if it's all right with you.'

Moir's tent provided living accommodation for two junior officers--`if you can call a bed, a table and a paraffin lamp living accommodation,' he says. The chaplain shared it for three days. Each day after lunch he would tell stories of people whose lives had been changed around when they took time out to pray and seek direction from God--and of some of the extraordinary results. Moir regularly nodded off while the chaplain was talking, having been up since 5 am.

On the last morning of his stay, the chaplain suggested that they `listen to God' together there and then. `All right, just to please the Padre,' Moir said to himself.

But there was more to it than that. `My career, like thousands of others, had been interrupted by war service. I was several thousand miles away from home. I didn't know when, or if, I would see my family again. My engagement was coming apart (and eventually did). So the Padre's conviction that God might have a plan for my life was like a reed to a drowning man. In that time of quiet it was as though God got his hook into me.' That night, alone in his tent after the chaplain's departure, he spent a long time reviewing his life. `I considered the changes I would have to make if I were to discover and follow God's plan for me. I decided to make them.'

He recognized that it was his jealousy of an Indian officer that had caused a serious conflict between them. When he apologized, he was surprised at the warmth of the response he received.

`Since then,' he reflects, `I have realized that almost any conflict can be solved if I am ready to take the first step in change.'

He ended his army service as a Staff Captain, first in Agra and then in the army's legal aid department back in Edinburgh. After the war he became a solicitor. But it wasn't long before he felt called by God to give his whole time, through MRA, to the work of reconciliation. This has taken him to Germany, Zimbabwe, North America, back to India and to South Africa. In Scotland, he has counted miners, shipyard workers and trawlermen among his friends and has played an active role in the Church of Scotland.

The lesson he learnt in Jabalpur has stood him in good stead in tense situations both at home and abroad. `In one case it helped to bring about an agreement in an international trade dispute,' he says.
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Author:Williams, Paul
Publication:For A Change
Date:Jun 1, 1998
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