Over the past few days my eyes have been opened up to a whole new world. I have experienced a different way of life and been a part of a culture that is far different from my own. I have had the privilege to spend time in India for a week and a half and the past couple of days in this country have been an incredible experience. My words and attempts to describe this place could never be as great as being here yourself and experiencing what this country has to offer, but I would like to write just a little bit to fill my friends and family in on what has been happening here.
I left the states on the 5th and arrived in Calcutta on the 7th at 1:00 AM. It was the longest trip/day of my life. I had been up for 30 hours once we arrived and traveled on two 9 hour flights. It was pretty insane. Here are some highlights from the actual trip to Calcutta:
- While going through customs I was the only one pulled to get their bags searched and the security took my sun block and bug spray.
- Before boarding the plane I could not get in touch with my mom so I was calling and calling while sitting on the plane before take off so that I could tell her I loved her before going in the air. I was warned once, twice, then three times by the same flight attendant to turn my phone off. The last time I was told, "If this were an American flight you would be escorted off the plane!" That was encouraging to here. I finally spoke with her for a second while taking off.
- I had the great opportunity of sitting beside the craziest and most annoying woman ever and she happened to have her two year old with her. This lady drank more liquor than I could count and told her baby that it was mommy's apple juice.
-The baby used the bathroom on the mom once... right beside me.
-She sang "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Christmas Carols" to her kid.
- And my favorite, when asked to stop trying to get her baby to go to sleep underneath my seat the woman said, "I understand that certain cultures just don't have manners." That's when we reached the point of ignorance from the classic American.
- We flew directly over NYC, London, and Paris.
- I watched the sun rise 3 times in one day.
Our flights connected in Frankfurt, Germany and then we were off to Calcutta. Once arriving in Calcutta I was extremely tired but glad to be off of the plane. Everything was so different. There were police men everywhere holding machine guns... it was slightly intimidating. We met up with the missionary we are here to help named Philip and went out to get in the cars. It was ridiculously hot and humid. We all crammed in the cars and went to our guest house. I was literally in shock by this time. It was so different from what I was used to. There were bars on every window of the house. It's a custom to remove your shoes when you enter a house. There was a guy staying in the house to guard it that didn't speak any english... so it made communicating an interesting experience. We basically didn't have any showers in that house. Just access to water and buckets. The first night was very difficult for me. I was experiencing culture shock at its finest.
The first day in India came and I only slept about two hours. We went to the market to do some shopping. I sat outside of the market and realized that I was a huge minority in this country. it was a crazy feeling because as Americans we tend to feel superior to the rest of the world. For the first time, I was on someone else's turf. In someone else's culture. As I was sitting there a little kid came up to me begging for money. He didn't speak english but he would hold his hands out and then point to his mouth. At first I ignored him but he continued. I just looked at him and my heart began to break for him. This boy was about 6 years old and looked so desperate for food. They warned us not to give out money because we would have a huge mob asking for more. So I'm sitting there looking at this boy. He was filthy. His teeth were slightly rotting. He had no shoes and his hands were filthy with dirt underneath his fingernails. He set his dirty hands on my arm and started rubbing it. I was slightly concerned for a moment that he was touching me... but I immediately thought about Christ and my sin. When I was dying, when I was filthy and rotting on the inside He did not hide from me or turn me away. He simply showed love to the unloveable. That is what I did to this boy. I may not have given him money, but I sat with him and he held on to me... I loved him.
After the market we visited a Hindu temple. As we walk towards the temple there are people asleep on the streets and everyone looked so rough. There are no words that could fully describe the poverty. We got closer to the temple and I could feel the darkness. We stood outside of the temple and took a few pictures because cameras were not allowed inside. So, in this temple the people prayed to two different Gods. The God of life and the God of death. They had to please both of them and stay on their good sides for lack of better words. We walked towards the entrance and there were many places where you could purchase things to offer up to the Gods. I had no clue how real this was about to be. There were people praying everywhere inside. There were lines everywhere so people could present offerings. There were people burning incense to honor the Gods. I stood back and watched. These people were so passionate about their worship. They wanted to make sure it was done correctly. What was their passion and precision for? Nothing. This was their idol. It was an idol that received urgent and passionate worship. I was in shock. We serve a REAL God. A God who has proven to be true. Yet, we do not worship our REAL God as well as they worship their false idol. Even though they were worshipping something that was fake... it was still sincere. I began praying and it was great to know that my one prayer was more powerful than all of theirs because I serve the Lord, God Almighty.
The next day we went to church and it was amazing. An extreme change from the night before at the Hindu temple. As I walked into the church I felt the power of the church. I knew I was in the presence of Christ's bride. It was so refreshing. Being in fellowship with other brothers and sisters was nearly breathtaking. I stood at the window looking out at the lost world that I had been in moments ago and I was overcome with hope. There is hope for these people and greater things are yet to come for this city. I felt so connected in this church. The church is the BODY of Christ. His children stretch across the world and are brothers and sisters through the blood. Oh, how the blood of the lamb stretches across barriers and connects all believers regardless of language, color, country, etc. Being in the service with the people of the city gave me a different perspective of this city and the saving power of the gospel. Just the night before I was standing in a Hindu temple observing the sincere and passionate worship of false idols. Today, I experienced sincere and passionate worship of a sincere and passionate God.
This morning I woke up at 3:00 AM because we were leaving Calcutta and traveling to Ranchi. I traveled on my first train and it was a seven hour trip. Once we got to Ranchi we checked into the hotel and got settled in. Then we left and went to the Christian fellowship that we would be working with. We walked into this shack that only had a tin roof with short walls that didn't reach the roof. Our brothers and sisters were singing and praising the Lord. We sat down and they welcomed us in. When we got there it started pouring down rain. We then found out that it hadn't rained in over 6 months and that if you invite someone over and it rains, that means they bring blessings. That was a pretty awesome thing. The people wanted to wash each of our feet... so I was blessed by an Indian lady and extremely humbled. Then we prayed over the members of the church and fellow-shipped with them through song.
I'm now back at the hotel reflecting on everything that has taken place. This is such an exciting place and humbling experience. Please continue to pray for me. God is doing huge things here. If I have learned anything while being here, it is that we serve the God of the nations... not the God of America. He is moving through the world and it is incredible.