I am currently sitting alone in a guest house near the airport in Chennai, India cleaning up, grabbing a bite, and getting ready to make my way to the airport by 10 PM for my flight at 2 AM local time.
I am finding this moment to be a little lonely. On the one hand, I greatly miss my wife and family and excited to get home. On the other hand, I also miss my travel companions from LPGM and all the people I met while in this remarkable, some- how familiar(?) yet also new-in-every-way land.
All that I experienced is rather difficult to process- especially when I consider
that I was only in-country for about nine days. The level of gracious hospitality, warmth of welcome, and sincere sadness of our hosts whenever we departed for
a new location was unexpectedly emotional — each time. The daily hardship many live with every. single. day. is difficult to see and even more difficult to put into words. And in the midst of a people who have no power, or wealth, or education, or opportunity, we saw hope, joy, happiness, respect, dignity, honor, valor, strength, depth of character, and profound love. (My eyes just welled up re-reading the truth of what I just wrote…)
India is a country that will fill ALL of your senses. One sees everything from vibrant colors in saris on the women and flowers on the trees to abject poverty and the injustice of the caste and justice system. One will hear the incessant blaring of vehicle horns 24/7, a Muslim call to prayer, children laughing, bartering in the market places, and a stupid barking dog that will NOT SHUT UP (WINSTON, how the heck did you get to India?!?). One will taste the powerful flavors of curry, peppers, onions, garlic, but also bug spray and dirt. One will smell the open sewers, smoke, and body odor (including your own), but also the aromas of cooking, incense, and the ubiquitous flowers. And one will touch the out- stretched sticky hands of children wanting/needing to be seen and loved, and the calloused hands of men working for pennies, and hard hands of women who work harder still — and for even less.
This country will break your heart and at the same time leave an indelible imprint on your soul— and you will be longing to return before you even leave; which is exactly where I am emotionally right now.
I am forever grateful for Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry (LPGM) for the opportunity of seeing firsthand all that you are accomplishing with and amongst people in India who, without your partnership, would quite literally have no boarding homes, no schools, no Quo Vadis interreligious Center, no Lebanon weaving center (employment) and home for “dismissed” wives and their children, no Community College and and and….
LPGM, besides the people in the congregations I serve, I have never been more proud to serve with you. Thank you for doing all that you do and the manner in which you do it!