While In India: Part I
INBOUND TRAVEL: Boston to Dubai
It’s always fascinating to watch the sunrise at 30,000+ feet. Even more fascinating to watch it on a headrest screen. Using the camera on the front of the plane. Technology is cool.
Not really sleeping, just trying to catch a little rest here and there. Seats recline a decent amount but still sitting up. One of the travel partners, who states he can never sleep in the car or on a plane, figured out the secret: have a full row to yourself so you can lay completely flat. Props to him.
Tried drowning out the subtle engine droning by listening to some white noise music: “The Angry River” by Pink Floyd. Description says “The fifteenth and final studio album from the prog rock gods…featuring some of the finest keyboard performances by the now late Rick Wright.” Can’t help but wonder what the “prog rock god” thought when he met the Almighty God?
The screen also has a “Time to DXB” display, which can be perceived as negative or positive dependent on your view of “6h 34m” at 4:36am local time (wherever we are at this point in our flight).
INBOUND TRAVEL: Dubai (layover)
What a city! Huge, new, opulent. Simply incredible. A good meal and an awesome view from 148 stories. But now, 3 hours to kill in the airport awaiting our next flight. Tiredness is really setting in. And another layover in Hyderabad (in an effort to make ourselves feel better we convinced ourselves that “but we have customs” was a positive thing) followed by another flight, then a drive of an hour or so, until final destination is reached.
INBOUND TRAVEL: Vijayawada
Original flight from Hyderabad to Vijayawada was cancelled, so some last minute heroics to book a new same day flight were required of our travel leader, who came thru with flying colors. A short stay in the airport transit hotel for showers and a short nap in a bed were a huge blessing.
After what seemed like forever, we are on our descent into Vijayawada. From there, a car drive to our final destination of Tenali. It has been a long trip to get to this point. Looking forward to meeting our host and getting busy with Gods work. Perhaps we’ll get a little rest tonight – if not, there’s always the return trip!
INBOUND TRAVEL: Tenali
It seems to me that any third world country is always accurately portrayed by their transit system. India is no different. Every imaginable participant on the road, orchestrating their moves in seemingly total (yet surprisingly controlled) chaos. Walkers yield to bicycles. Bicycles yield to mopeds. Mopeds yield to motorcycles. Motorcycles yield to auto-rickshaws. Auto-rickshaws yield to cars. Cars yield to large trucks and tractors. Cows yield to nothing. A complex system of horns honking and lights flashing apparently is a key ingredient to successful road travel. Another crucial element is an urgency of pace that is borderline maniac and is made exceedingly comical in view of the painfully slow pace of everyday life – risk sudden and violent death every second on the road but struggle to maintain any sense of urgency or schedule in all other aspects of the day. Note to self: bring Dramamine next time…
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Wednesday)
Had dinner with our host before getting settled into our rooms. 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment above the orphan’s home (1st floor) and church (2nd floor). We’re on 3rd floor. In room A/C units in the bedrooms. Western toilets (with TP). Tile floors, drywall and paint, ceiling fans. Pleasantly surprised. Anticipating these accommodations to be the nicest physical part of our time in country. Roads are insane. Sheer quantity of people is nuts. Our travel leader said the big city we went through (Vijayawada) seems nicer than big Haiti cities but where we are currently (Tenali) is worse than what he’s seen in Haiti. Counted at least 3 temples/mosques around us – not that we can see them (it’s dark outside) but we hear the chanting and singing (evening call to prayer). Had a really sweet welcoming ceremony from the orphans (approximately 20 kids) and several pastors with big flower necklaces and smiles and introductions by name with handshakes. Kids are so sweet. And met our host’s son, who is learning to play guitar.
Been a long trek getting here. Praying for God to do a mighty work while we’re here.
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Thursday AM)
Sleep was a rare commodity last night. Room was comfortable (wall unit A/C) but between catching up on the time zone change, hard mattress and lots of city noise, a couple interrupted hours was all I could muster. We have a railway line a couple hundred yards off the back of the apartment that comes thru every 35 minutes with the horn blaring.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs (well done) with toast/jam, followed by awesome Indian filter coffee.
Some traffic delays being experienced by the attendees of the pastoral conference (originally scheduled to start around 11), so we’re killing time.
Interesting to see that our host is living in a home with more modest conditions than the mission’s apartment.
Asked several questions of our host last night. Need to find out how far he/we can go with preaching the Gospel in public. Is it just gathering of people, or are there real conversions and discipleship?
The scenery is as expected. People everywhere (literally), insane traffic with absolutely crazy drivers, poverty, dirtiness, etc.
Not as expected is the clear presence of the enemy. 5:30AM loud speakers blaring chants, prayers and songs. Persistent and harsh.
Occasional moving vehicle with a loud speaker and someone barking something. Not knowing the language, unsure if it’s a commercial or propaganda.
IN-COUNTRY: Tenali (Thursday PM)
Wow – tired. Lack of sleep coupled with an intense day is catching up. Hanging with the guys and nodding off while sitting up in the middle of a conversation. Time for shower and bed.
Today’s pastoral conference was a success. Attended by 100+ men (and a few women). They worshipped openly and freely with much passion and expression. They intently listened as we taught. They took many notes, taking special care to write down each scripture reference as offered. They were quite responsive to the lessons.
Many men asked for us to pray over them as individuals – we offered petitions for courage, endurance, protection, etc so that they can go forth and boldly preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were very appreciative that we came to work with them. I’m prayerful that they can use the provided training to further their knowledge and abilities so that they can continue efforts in His work.
After the conference concluded, we headed to the roof to record our daily update video. From there, we observed a gathering of Muslim people outside a very rough looking dwelling place (hard to call it a home). There was something obviously amiss. After a few minutes of observation, our travel leader noticed a contraption on the sidewalk – it was a hand-carried hearse – someone had died. After several minutes of people entering and exiting the building, then movement from one section to another and increasing cries of dismay, the wrapped body was brought out and laid in the large basket. The top was installed and a sheet was brought to cover it. Eight men lifted the carrying poles onto their shoulders and led the way with a mass of humanity proceeding down the sidewalk onto the main road. Quite a sight to behold. And such a stark reminder, not only of our uncertainty as to our time/place, but the urgency needed in our work for His kingdom. Another soul lost for eternity. It bothers me. Does it bother you?
Tomorrow leads to new adventures – out into the community to encourage widows, orphans and “old aged”, along with visits to several village churches (which may be as rudimentary as lean-to shelters with palm thatch roofs). Praying that God offers the opportunity to proclaim the Good News and see souls saved for His glory.
IN-COUNTRY: Villages (Friday AM)
Two hours into our road trip to the villages. Riding in the third row to give space to guys in second row. A/C full blast in an attempt to counter the motion sickness.
I’ve discovered that part of the exhaustion equation is sensory overload. So many visual and audible inputs to process.
I wonder how long it takes a non-national to get used to this environment. To see things as normal. To become numb.
This is almost incomprehensible.
IN-COUNTRY: Villages (Friday PM)
Writing this segment Saturday morning, as the exhaustion was too great when we returned to the compound after 11PM.
It was quite a day. 2+ hours van commute to a district containing 10 village churches. We visited orphans and old aged. We visited churches. We preached 9-10 messages of hope, encouragement and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of the whirlwind tour, we stopped at a roadside café for a brief refresher. The proprietors were a Hindu couple. Through our translator, the wife asked for prayer. Not necessarily uncommon, as Hindu’s worship hundreds of gods, so another one on the list was just another potential blessing. But it did afford the opportunity to speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ directly to her, in her own language, and receive confirmation that she understood what she was hearing.
Not only did we step out into another country, we seemed to step back in time. We prayed in thatch roof huts. We prayed in handmade brick buildings without roofs. We prayed in streets. We prayed in churches. We ate lunch in a home with water buffalo as a neighbor, braying the entire time. We had afternoon coffee at a Hindu roadside milk shop (and prayed over the Hindu proprietor). We ate dinner in the street, at a table brought from the shack and food prepared by a pastor’s wife. We ate a late night snack in a 3rd story cramped room serving as a church. We walked through streets singing songs, holding hands with orphans and handing out tracks to homeowners in their hut doorways. We stepped through barbed wire fences. We climbed treacherous staircases. We drank Sprite. We saw a monkey. We met with hundreds of people in need of a Savior. For all the differences between us and them, there is always that single common denominator. And we shared the available hope through our Lord and Savior.
It was exhausting. It was exhilarating. It was excellent.