We (Lyndon, Jacob, and I) are home from India, and finally, after a nightmarish website disaster (huge apologies to my lovely subscribers and readers for the inconvenience and delays!), I’m now ready to start unpacking the whole breathtaking experience! Goodness, I really don’t know where to start. I have a feeling my thoughts will trickle and tumble through the next weeks and months as I remember specific gems from this quirky country with its beautiful people, but I’ll begin at the beginning…
After flying from Canada and successfully locating my dad at Heathrow airport (phew), we journeyed on through Dubai to Hyderabad, where we were met by our hosts Pastor Nelson and his dear wife, Hema. They adorned us with stunning floral garlands, and then we experienced our first taste of Indian traffic. Oh my.
I was only semi-aware of our surroundings after traveling for 31 gruelling hours, but was abruptly revived by the continuous obnoxious-yet-cheery horn honking (which basically means “I’m coming through”). Also by no apparent rules of the road or designated direction for traffic flow, babies cradled on motorbikes by sari-clad women sitting sidesaddle behind their men, and random skinny, white cows in the mix of traffic chewing the cud. I kid you not. It was awesome.
The city of Hyderabad is sprawling, eclectic, frantic, and full of life. In typical Indian style, explosions of colour hit us from every angle, and sipping a Chai tea from a street vendor afforded us the best opportunity to people-watch. And white cow-watch. And water buffalo-watch. And it’s all happening amidst the mayhem of traffic and noise and a myriad of smells from spices to dung to goodness-knows-what. Absolutely fascinating.
To me, India is a simple yet exotic paradox.
There is calm in the chaos— the crazed traffic situation with ZERO road-rage. This would not happen in the western world! A definite air of serenity reigns even in the bedlam of the city, perhaps stemming from Hinduism teachings. Everyone is SO chilled.
There is colour in the bleakness— the saris, the markets, the children are all saturated in the brightest, boldest hues against a backdrop of grey destitution.
There is generosity in poverty— the outpouring of love and appreciation from those who materially have nothing, yet find joy in giving the little they have… this was an incredibly humbling lesson to learn.
There is light in the darkness—in a Hindu country full of fear and superstition and idol-worship, there are vibrant, growing churches offering the message of hope and love and Jesus.
Our main purpose in going to India was to encourage the local churches planted by my dad’s friend, Pastor Nelson with Gethsemane Ministries. We sort of envisioned half a dozen or so churches, and went prepared to sing and preach and meet the congregations and love on the children. You can imagine how our jaws dropped when we saw the agenda for the week— no less than 30 church services, all in various locations in the villages and the city. Thirty churches. In a week. Well I did ask if we could see as much as possible! No time for jet-lag, we had our first night in our very lovely hotel (I thoroughly recommend the Swagath Grand ) and the next morning piled into our van for a 6 hour journey into the villages, where we would stay for 3 nights. We were heading off grid for real… how exciting!
En route, we stopped at the gorgeous Ethipothala Waterfalls for ice-cream, some wild monkeys, and my first experience with a squatty-potty. Let’s just say that after the latter, I developed a bladder of steel and was able to hang on for 6-hour stretches at a time. Seriously. Just as well, seeing as how I was the only female in our posse. Anyway, the waterfalls were breathtaking, and other than my dad almost being attacked by a monkey (saved by our driver with super-speedy reflexes), we had a wonderful time in an exotic, picturesque setting.
When we finally arrived at the hotel, which would serve as our base for our village time, we were pleasantly surprised. It was basic, but the rooms were large, and we had electricity… occasionally. I’m pretty sure power outages happen every hour in India, but you get used to it. The only tricky thing was not having any glass in the bathroom window, which meant mosquitoes were welcome. We made sure to keep up with our malaria medication and slept covered in lashings of DEET…
After an oh-so-brief 10 minutes “taking rest”, we soldiered on to our very first church service. Another hour or two drive into the boonies, and we got there around 8 pm, to discover we were very much anticipated! I felt like we were stepping onto the red carpet at the Oscars rather than climbing from our van into a small room they called “church”. Villagers gathered and stared, children dared to come close and shout, “Hi!” and the next thing I knew, we were ushered through the door and given seats of honour at the front, and the service began.
The stifling room was packed with a wonderfully warm congregation, and many exuberant kids, who, judging from their excitement had possibly never seen white people before. We swiftly rallied our weary selves, and thus began the first of many similar church services. We enjoyed their heartfelt worship and they appreciated our westernized songs. We marveled at their hunger for the Word, as Lyndon preached and Nelson translated into Telugu. These dear brothers and sisters of ours were all Hindu converts, and here we were proclaiming the name of Jesus with them! We learned that stickers were a big hit with children, and were virtually mauled by a mob of delightful kids who were desperate for these simple treasures. It was heartbreaking and beautiful. That’s how I would describe my India experience…
Heartbreaking and beautiful.
Dear, sweet ladies brought us food cooked by their own hand, and we experienced the generosity and love of India. You can only do so much with hand sanitizer and bottled water, so at the end of the day we gracefully and gratefully accepted the yummy delicacies provided, and prayed our feeble white stomachs would be strong! That became a pattern for the whole week— the people giving, us receiving. It was incredibly humbling.
So I am only one day into my story, and I have SO much still to share about our time in the villages, the city, the churches, the food, the needs, the surroundings, the blessings, the children (how I longed to bring about 100 of them home with me!) but I’ll give it to you in bite-sized chunks. I still have to process and understand much of my experience, and I need wisdom to work out what to do with it all.
But this I know— India has a piece of my heart now, and I will never be the same again.
Until next time… (and stay tuned, for there will be many more next times in this series!)
Linking up with some fabulous encouragers… check them out: