This is certainly a first for me! I'm writing my blog from India, Christ's ambassador on her first short term mission. I'm super-excited. Remembering that Doubting Thomas, disciple of Jesus and an apostle came to Madras 2000 years ago via Kerala and planted the first Christians on both coasts of south India. More about this later. Ok, here's a bit about a very full day that actually started 48 hours earlier.
Dubai, where I had my layover was fun, fun, fun. I wish I'd taken advantage of one of the layover visa and travel packages Emirates had offered. Next time. We flew in from the west across the Deccan but I couldn't see much until we were directly near Chennai. I couldn't see the ocean and I was surprised by what looked like empty land, just lots and lots of green trees. As we neared the airport I also saw a hill, dramatically and unusually hollowed out, water nestling in the comfortable curve. I still have not found out what exactly it is! My flight arrived in Chennai on time, and I deplaned, While waiting in line I chatted with a couple New Yorkers who'd come to sightsee the temples. Immigration was cleared easily, picked up my bags helped by a nice Indian porter, and walked through the Customs green channel. Arlene, Lucy, Sundar had come to greet me. There are no words to convey my feelings. I last saw Lucy and Sundar at their wedding ~ 30 years ago and it's been 10 years since I've hugged Arlene and also 30 years since we were able to be together on her birthday.
Most people I meet want to know about the changes I'm seeing. Well, India which I've described quite harshly before was less of "an assault on the senses" this time. It still remains an unbeatable place for seeing life in all it's infinite variety. India teems, bounces, screams, and shrieks, with both fisticuffs and soft tender strokes, with joyful, exuberant verve, vivid colors, and drab weather beaten wiry bodies, There's no better example of this incredibly rich life-spurt than the traffic. Airport to hotel was an unbelievable ride - braving traffic here beats any thrill ride at any adventure park! - and the coming-in-2020 (?) Metro Rail steel and concrete posts that continually dot the city, made me feel like I was inside a mix of historic, and cataclysmic events.
Senthil was waiting for me at the hotel with a bouquet of beautifully arranged roses in a wicker basket. I was a little confused, as was Arlene! The manager of the hotel followed by a bevy of attendants presented it to me and then I saw the note: Senthil, Arlene, Sonali. Tears overflowed my eyes and all of a sudden I felt overwhelmed by the love, affection and attention, with which I was being surrounded! God, what a homecoming you've prepared for me. You are holding me, Holy Father, drumming into my head that your people are my people, and wherever you are, that's home for me too. There's a sermon here, and a lifetime of living. Thank you.
I started the first of my Remembering Madras drive today. I also captured quite a lot of images and even a couple of interviews, but I'm not going to share any of them just yet. I'll just sketch a few things I noticed. Like Hindu temples and statues which are fairly ubiquitous, Christian shrines too can be found at busy street corners. I don't remember this from before. Second, I realized there are churches too everywhere! I saw a lot of signs for a number of evangelical Churches. An Assemblies of God church is the largest mega-church here, 4000! For those with eyes to see, Chapels, and signs of Jesus Christ abound everywhere despite the noise and confusion of the crowds of people everywhere, tumultuous crazy traffic and tired looking buildings (how would you be if you were centuries old?). Hindu gods and their temples are prodigious, corpulent, pervasive but the subtle peaceful influence of Islam this far south is also ever present. I'm also seeing all the signs of a vibrant Christisn faith in the brothers and sisters I met today. Remember that porter who helped me load my bags onto a trolley? He was the first Indian with whom I had a conversation at the airport. He wished me a blessed Christmas and said, "madam, I too am a Christisn." I was taken aback. Huh? Was I such an obvious ambassador for Christ, his love light just shining through radiantly? I didn't ask but the truth I bet is that he noticed my cross pendant! Still :).
My adventures today included visiting two educational institutions that have profoundly shaped me: Franciscan-run Stella Maris College and Jesuit-founded Loyola College. Jagan, the driver of my rental car, also drove through some of the largely Christian neighborhoods, helping me to get mobile phone service and network connectivity. Good news: I have a cell phone and I'm wired! Bad news; 2 different electronic toys, turns out my iPhone which is supposed to be unlocked (AT & T assured us it was after we'd paid for this privilege) was not, after all. Since then, AT & T has confirmed the licked status too and will unlock it in the next 24 hours but I'm not going to bother anymore. No time to waste :).
Hey Christie, I finally found your card too! How did you sneak it past me?! Loved it!!
Arlene and I had an opportunity to share our faith with a young wife and mother who struggles with an alcoholic husband. Muni came especially to greet Arlene on her birthday in person. She also knew my Dad and that was another precious and totally unexpected gift for me.
Thanks, my friends, for all your prayers. I am feeling carried on the wings of a new dawn boldly claiming his promise, in his righteousness, to ride the earth for his name's sake.
Special prayer request: I have some redness and swelling on the area below the thumb on my left hand (outer side, not palm). It seems to have come from a small scratch and is feeling very irritated and scratchy. I don't know how it happened. Please pray for it to subside and completely heal without any further ado. Thanks.