My dear family, friends, readers, supporters, and strangers,
I have waited for the first moment of internet access to tell you about India. I am sitting in our Roman Catholic guest house in the heart of Bangaluru (Bangalore)–the Indians have renamed many of their cities as a final thumb-biting at the previous British occupation, a laughable gesture among Indians and us Americans alike. Morning prayers are rising and echoing in the open hall outside of our austere little room, which I’ve grown to love.
The simplicity of living here these few days has opened my heart to such peace—no television or showers, tile floor and white walls, thin sheets and flat mattresses. And yet outside is moving color and dust, every square inch of the land buzzing with human life.
Indian driving will now get a paragraph of its own. The rules are these: Honking is a means of constant driver to driver conversation, in a jungle of bicycles, carts, motorcycles, rickshaws, mini-cars, trucks and buses. Painted lines on the road are decoration to be ignored. Bob and weave, if you are going faster you pass. At anytime, you may reach out your hand inches away and give the vehicle next to you a nice pat. Potholes, bumps, ditches, dents, ruts and sudden roadblocks are as common in India as they are complained about in the U.S. And, I will tell you, I look forward to driving every day, it is much better than any amusement park ride with the added pleasure of taking in new views with every passing second.
I have new family now, namely Brasad, Reeni, Rebekah and Shilpah. Brasad is Reuben’s (one of my teammates and our contact in India) right-hand man who has taught me a new meaning of service and kindness. Anything I have needed, he is right there and in his piercing brown eyes, the love of Christ is strong. I trust him with my life and am finding myself wanting to say I would lay down my own, but I will not speak what is not tested, only hope that God’s good teaching will conform me to his standard, that I would lay down my life for my friends. Reeni, Brasad’s beautiful wife, was my angel yesterday when I had stomach sickness and fever. I am fine now with God’s healing hand, perfectly well, but yesterday I was overcome and she stayed with me all day, bringing me arrowroot for my stomach, telling me stories and looking after me. Rebekah is Reuben’s wife, bold and strong with great wisdom, smiling her way into my heart and showing me the colors of God’s light India displays, hues I have not known before. Shilpah is a soft-spoken sunshine who works at The Sanctuary, a local coffee shop, the fulfillment of a believing woman’s 20-year vision.
I am changing in ways I cannot put in words and I feel the presence of Jesus strong with our team and with me. His way of shedding light through and on me at the same time is constantly surprising. Even being sick yesterday, I had no fear or upset about “missing” anything, because I was where I was supposed to be and he is too strong to let a circumstance delay or divert his purposes. Every day I am giving and taking in a holy exchange, walking in the peace of God as much as I can and giving over anxieties as they come. Fear is a stupid monster and a horrible master, and I embrace every initiative of Jesus to free me from his tyranny and release faith in my heart.
A few funnies: Me getting sick, in my best guess, from a ‘vegetable puff’ … I should have known. An innocent little girl by the name of Crupa (Grace) saying “Sheet” (shit) while playing angry birds for the first time. Passing a cow in the street whose horns were literally wrapped in decorative yarn with little balls at the top. Sitting in bed sick and listening to the Don Bosco (that’s the name of the guest house we are at) singing celebration and its highly synthesized Christian music, intermixed with Chris Tomlin, songs from The Sister Act, and old hymns. The Indian head shake, where in to say yes to something, their head moves from side to side, much like a bobble head, in a very fluid movement, from young to old. I am practicing mine.
Not necessarily funny, but I will say this: It is so good to eat with my hands again (shout out to Oman team from 2009), so good to eat real Indian food (Dhaal, palak paneer, biryani, naan, raita, mango juice, chai masala tea), so good to sleep at sundown and wake in the cool morning before sunrise, so good to be with family I have not known but will know forever, so good to care for and be cared for by my teammates, so good to smile and be smiled at (by Indians), so good to worship and pray.
Pray transforming encounters with God for the people we meet, that in our short time we would be able to share the gospel with those who are ready to hear, and that the light of God would CUT through the thick confusion and ambiguity perpetuated by idolatry, fatalism and hope deprivation. Pray our stories and photographs and testimonies breathe the life of simplicity, brotherliness, and service to the United States. Pray that we all remain healthy to work hard and love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Pray that we are real with our Maker and that we boldly face each fear, so that in everything the stuff in us that will not survive eternity is let loose and that our spirits gain substance and strength in the things that will last. Pray that we push through to take hold of everything Jesus desires and that we yield to him only and always, not mastered by anything.
I love you all, you have your own “India” to face now, wherever you may be, the powerful love of God is chasing you down, turning you over and making you new. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Shake off all deceit that would hold you back and enjoy the full capacity of life for the day you are in, because our Lord comes back soon and at that moment, our only desire will be the accepting gaze of his burning eyes. Amen.