...for 2009 that is.
Sorry this has been delayed for so long. But let me wrap up what our team has so eloquently documented with regards to our time in India. Our first trip to India [last year] was indeed a first trip. We didn't know what to expect, we were learning from scratch and developing new friendships.
But this year God seems to opening the door wider, showing more of what it's inside. Shedding more light on why we're there, why God kept subtly pointing us towards India.
A quick rundown of our last few days in this post... and then some reflections on another post:
:: Shopping > Monday
We finally got to buy a few things; Keren and Promoth graciously took us into Trivandrum even though Jenis was sick. They have been AMAZING hosts and love us as family. We made 3 stops: tiffins, fabric and jewelry. And if we're honest, it was the Sarah and Heather shopping show with Christine tagging along. Faint interest from Amanda; none from Lauren. And Dave and I were just happy to have air conditioning. We ate lunch at a nice hotel... Dave and I had a Coke. It was gooooooood.
:: EMOS > Monday Evening
In the evening, we participated in a training event hosted by Evangelical Missions Outreach Service that equips Dalits to plant churches in some of the most hostile and unreached areas of India. Every year they host a training intensive to train and then deploy their workers into the field. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were welcomed very ceremoniously and lovingly by Dr. Selvaraj and Rev. Sudhakaran.
This year's class was entirely women from the most highly persecuted areas of India. It broke our hearts to hear stories of how many of the women lost family members, friends and homes to Hindu militant persecution. But it was truly inspirational to hear how these women found greater passion to continue their work to share about Jesus to a dying world. These women showed us the real cost of following Jesus. But also that Jesus is worth giving everything for.
It's unfortunate that we only got to spend a short time with them. We'll see if God would open up more doors in the future to support the ministry of ICRO/EMOS.
:: Tip of India! > Tuesday
We took a day trip with Keren and Promoth to Kanyakumari which is the southern most tip of India. It's a really interesting place because Hindu men must make their pilgrimage there at least once in their life. When we arrived there were tons of young men dressed in black and orange wandering the streets. There's something religiously significant about this location where three seas converge to one point... suffice it to say, the place was beautiful, the water warm and clean and it was a needed respite for the team.
We got to visit the two main sites in Kanyakumari, Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue. Throughout our trip we'd discover interesting tidbits about each other... ie. Amanda LOVES killing insects, Heather is completely up to date on Fergie gossip, Christine loves jumping on random busses with kids. During our time in Kanyakumari we found out that Dave and Lauren don't like boats. After a little convincing and weighing the options, Dave and Lauren got on the creaky boat to take the short ride to both the memorial and the statue.
Left: Our beautiful hosts and partners, Keren and Promoth.
Right: At the beach in Kanyakumari.
Left: On the road to Kanyakumari through Tamil Nadu state... "Looks like Hawaii," says Sarah.
Right: We found the real location of the island on LOST. At Thiruvalluvar Statue.
Left: Posing at Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
Middle: Ordered a Pepsi at brunch... needed straws though... Dave keeping his lips away from the rusty bottles.
Right: India style brunch... delicious.
All in all it was a great day to see some really beautiful parts of India. Keren and Promoth were really informative and hospitable tour guides. And our little day trip was helpful just to expand our vision of India, gain a greater sense of the people and their journey. It was a good day.
:: Flight Out to SNG > Tuesday Evening
We got back to BFM mid afternoon tired and ready for a nap. But our day wasn't close to being over. We finished up packing, bathed and got ready to go to the airport to board our late night flight to Singapore. I think we were ready to go home... though not in the "pedal to the metal, don't look back" sense. At least not for most of us! We knew that God had done a work in us and our time in India had become way more than just "bearing with the elements." We knew we wouldn't leave the same and we were thankful for that. I was pleasantly surprised that most of our team wouldn't think twice about coming back. More on this in the next post.
We arrived in Singapore early Wednesday morning... way early, like 5am. We said goodbye to Dave who wouldn't do the debriefing in Singapore with us. It was a genuinely sad moment. As we walked out of the airport to board our transfer to the city, Lauren muttered, "I miss my twin." Amanda said, "That Dev is a very unique person." We all missed him... including myself! Whenever we were out and about, with 5 women, 2 men, we'd always walk in a line - me at the head, Dave at the rear. I felt pretty secure and trusted Dave to make sure all our valuables [the 5 ladies] didn't wander off. We had a good time in Singapore, but it wasn't the same without Dave.
We spent the 2.5 days in Singapore eating heartily, enjoying ultra clean bathrooms and taking time to process our experience. I was encouraged to hear what God had been saying to each of our team members as we ate meticulously baked Asian pastries and McDonald's breakfast. I knew that God had a reason for each person to be there and it became abundantly clear during our debriefing time.
When we arrived back in SF, we were glad to see Dave and Rachel who graciously picked us up. We feasted at Dave's family's restaurant and reminisced the grandeur of the last two weeks. There was a joy of having lived through an adventure together and because of that we would share a special connection with each other.
I'll share a few post trip meditations on the next post - but here's the rundown of our last few days. We're glad to be home, but looking forward to how God will continue to expand our vision not just for India for what he's doing here and all over the world. Amen.
After a grueling 32 hour journey from San Francisco to India, complete with Elton losing both his camera and then his wallet in Singapore (which by the grace of God was returned by the taxi driver) and Heather discovering a metal nut in her rice on the flight to India, we arrived in Trivandrum at night completely exhausted but excited nonetheless.
We hurtled through the town past bikers and cars honking to warn oncoming traffic of our presence, narrowly missing other vehicles until we turned off in a more rural section of Kerala. We were received warmly by Promoth and Keren and their new 2.5mo baby girl and explored our new accommodations complete with mosquito nets and cold bucket showers. Amanda turned out to be an expert bug and spider killer tackling a large brown spider in Sarah and Elton's room that was zoo exhibit worthy, wielding only a gym shoe and toilet brush. With the spider successfully defeated we all turned in for the night and awoke the next morning to tunes blasting over a loud speaker from a building nearby. After breakfast we split up into two groups to visit the local churches where Dave and Elton each shared a brief message and Amanda and I were put on the spot to share a brief testimony of what God has been doing in our lives recently. Despite having hardly any time to prepare, it was wonderful to be able to share with the people there and it was amazing the kind of welcome that we received. All the children were lining up after the service wanting to shake our hands and would giggle and laugh everytime we spoke to them. What struck me the most was looking out at the church that morning during service and being filled with God's love and compassion for the people here. These Dalit Christians are constantly oppressed and persecuted and yet they are there packed into the small one room building with their bright and best clothing to worship God and hear from the Word with joyful and willing hearts. If only the Christians in America would have that same earnestness and passion for God, how much more powerful our testimony would be. I am excited to see how God is going to use us and bless us in the coming week so stay tuned for more updates!