We are on the train to Chennai and we barely made it! Igbol has always been so prompt, but this morning he arrived a little late and we didn’t depart our home until 8:00. Because of the weight of the bags, Rev. Glory felt it would be better to go in two trips. With great speed, we loaded as many bags as we could, rushed to the airport, and narrowly missed a bicyclist who pulled out directly in front of us. Igbol’s expert driving saved this man’s life I think.
Paul, Cathy, Andrew and I went on the first trip to the train station. We arrived, hired a porter, and thank heaven he and Paul went to the train platform early. Cathy and I kept looking at our watches, slowly counting the minutes and seconds, as it got closer and closer to 9:00 am – departure time! FINALLY Igbol arrived, about 8:54, with only about 6 minutes to departure time! Everyone unloaded and we started running. A porter threw one heavy bag on his head and Andrew and I rolled and carried one last large rolling duffle bag through the station, up and down many sets of stairs, and we did a final dash down to our train car. The porters were now even yelling to us, so we knew we only had seconds to load all the bags, get us all on, and depart with the train. All of us were sandwiched in-between our suitcases in the connecting area between cars. As we pulled out of the train station, the door was not even able to be closed!
One by one, we made room in the overhead compartments for our large bags. We have bags scattered through out the car, with a few behind the last row of seats. But we made it – that is all that matters.
I love traveling by the train, and this “express car” is air conditioned and quite comfortable. There are three seats on the left side and two seats on the right side. The seats recline and I am so thankful we are not taking an 8-9 hour car ride to Chennai. Plus, we heard that a major bridge had been closed down so that would have meant another 250 KM detour – probably at least an additional 6 hours. So we are very thankful for the comfort of this train car and SO very thankful that we made it!
Yesterday we went to the Tamil Nadu Methodist Church in Rev. Glory’s mother’s home town. In fact his father, Rev. Joseph, had actually started the church. They didn’t have money to build the beautiful structure that is now there, so they invited the Methodists to take over the church so that is how it became a Methodist church.
It was a large structure and everyone was singing when we arrived. They basically turned over the entire service to us, and we did a full Wings Party. We sang, made butterflies, played with balloons, did the story of Jesus calming the waves with the disciples in the boat, and ate together. Doug preached an excellent sermon for them. He surprised me and told about “mountaintop experiences”, sharing about our trip to the mountains the previous day, and then told them how he had proposed on his knees to me on top of the Sandia Mountains! He got down on his knees to show them and everyone, including me, really enjoyed that!
During the Bible study we had their pastor be Jesus. He had never before really “mingled” with the members of his congregation. I believe that traditionally pastors are very revered in India and so are always treated with much respect and honor. We tried to also do this, but invited them to also show their personalities to their members, and have the members get to know them more as a person. We picked an elder to be the pillow for him to lean on, and everyone enjoyed the pastor’s participation, including him! Of course we had 12 disciples, the children formed the shape of a boat, and everyone else became wind and waves. This Bible study went very well, and then Paul talked about how Jesus is with us in all the storms of our lives.
For the first time, the people ate in the church. Wings has paid for all the parties, food, etc. and Rev. Glory said the meal that was served at this church would have been equivalent to a Christmas banquet. Everyone got in circles on the floor, banana leaves were used as plates, and everyone was served. For the first time they invited us to eat and we used their beautiful altar for a table. We were very honored by their graciousness.
We were told they didn’t have a toilet. The most primitive toilet would probably cost about $200 and an Indian toilet, with sink and running water, would run between $1,000 and $3,000 US, depending upon how fancy it was. A brick home, that looked to have probably several bedrooms, kitchen, and living room, may now cost as much as $20-$25,000 dollars. Most of the meals that were served to our guests at the Wings Parties cost at least $1 US/person. Prices are certainly going up in India.
A woman came to the church with a small goat as her gift to the church. She will raise the goat and when it is full grown she will probably cook the goat for a large meal for everyone. She may possibly sell the goat the give the money to the church, but Rev. Glory thought it was more likely that she would cook the goat for everyone.
We returned back home to freshen up a little and then go shopping in Salem. All the ladies bought dhoti’s (dresses with pants that are worn underneath, with a scarf that drapes at the neckline) and other misc. items. Paul got a cricket mallet; Doug surprised me with buying a special wedding rope that was sold in a piece of newspaper with gold powder around it to
color it. This is what Indians wear to indicate they are married, although I haven’t seen many people wearing them, so I imagine they are used primarily for the wedding service itself.
After shopping, we came back and gave our final Wings Party for the little children at the home. They have become so precious to us all. The call all the ladies “auntie” and were so sweet with this ‘thank you’s” when we gave them gifts. Paul had special necklaces for the 10 little girls. We distributed many little gifts to each of them and they were so appreciative. Children from Shelly’s church had made all kinds of cards and decorations so we put them up on the walls to decorate the meeting hall/church building. Everything looked very special and festive.
We again did Jesus and the Disciples in the boat for our Bible study with them. The asked the security guard to be Jesus. He was so pleased. He wore his security uniform every day, which consisted of khaki colored shirt and pants, a tan beret, and pins stating “security” on his lapels. He has a whistle and when Shelly gave Rev. Glory her whistle and compass, they both had a ‘whistling contest” to see who could be the loudest! Whenever the security guard greeted us, he put his hands in a prayerful position, and then almost gave us salute. He was the most precious man, and we came to care for him very much. He loved playing Jesus, and en enthusiastically joined in on all the singing and hand motions, and was just a joy to watch!
“Richard”, the young man who helped the children and did dishes, laundry, etc. was also very special to us. We gave him many gifts and he was so thankful. He always had a huge smile on his face and helped us in every way possible.
Names became a joke with us. We often called Igbol, our driver, by the wrong name. He was occasionally called “David”, Eyeball, and Igor. Richard too, was not his name. Somehow we got it wrong so we renamed him. All the names became great jokes and we all had a good time.
It was with sadness, but also with joy that we left today. We have had a wonderful time here in Salem! We met thousands of people, and hopefully touched many people’s lives. The pastors have thanked us for giving them more relational style ways of doing ministry, and of course we invited them to learn from us and then make their ministry their own, using their own gifts for ministry.
We planted many seeds. We distributed many real seeds, as planted thousands of spiritual seeds. It will be exciting to see what grows from our efforts. We now go on to Chennai (Madras). We will do a Wings Party here. We look forward to meeting more dedicated, caring Christians.
In His love and service,