Apologies to begin. I have been attempting a daily blog but my first world problems of intermittent wifi and a fight with Evernote that I did not win mean that I have failed.
We arrived mid morning on Thursday to our hotel which every day is becoming more like the one from the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. We napped, freshened up and Jason took us downtown in an Auto Rickshaw. I so want one and every time I come to India I’m more convinced that I ‘need’ one.
Thursday evening we travelled to a village outside of Lucknow with Pastor Selphi. It was an amazing experience to drive from the city to the country as the sky turned from day to dusk. Our eyes couldn’t take in all the scenes that we passed. Makeshift stalls that became homes at night selling everything imaginable, the most bizarre so far was a man with a tiny stall selling euphoniums, just 3 of them neatly hanging on the wall of his stall. People everywhere, walking, on bicycles, scooters, in rickshaws, cars, lorries. No traffic lights, no indicators just horns and a lot of common sense and grace for other drivers and the traffic keeps moving!! We have not been in a traffic jam yet, a couple of traffic ‘pauses’ but no jams. And there are thousands of vehicles.
At the village children who soon became glued to Carol and I’s sides greeted us. Pastor Selphi lead us to where we would have a service , in a little yard of a believers house. People came and peeked at us from the rooftops of other houses around. Slowly people started to come, a plastic sheet was laid on the ground and Carol and I sat down among the women and children, the women were a little shy with us, the children were not. We sang songs in Hindi – I say ‘we’, we hummed along and clapped and soon it was dark. Jason spoke to the gathering in the yard and Selphi translated, more heads peeked over the roofs and the electric light flashed on occasionally in the house beside us. It’s easy to picture Jesus here. The scripture becomes alive and tangible in this place. And as we prayed for everyone and the children multiple times there was such a sense that Jesus was there. My lasting memory of this place is of 2 little girls one full of life and mischief called Jaavee and another who’s name I didn’t get who had 2 deep scars on her face. I prayed and prayed and prayed that they would fade and disappear, but when I left they still had not, but I will continue to pray for her.
Yesterday (Friday) we visited the OM base for the first time (Jason’s 5th time). I had the privilege of speaking at the staff prayer meeting and we were joined by another team visiting from Queen’s Park Baptist in Glasgow who we instantly connected with. Carol and I were told that our women’s meeting was actually a baby shower for 2 of the OM staff wives that we were delighted about, and then I was asked to speak a message from the bible about mothering. Which is great except I had a talk prepared about the woman who anointed Jesus with oil. Hey ho, a quick talk writing session at lunch time resulted in a shorter talk than I’d originally planned and a slot of great top-tips on being a Mum from Carol – again unscheduled but this is India were flexibility is essential.
In the evening Pastor Selphi invited us to have dinner with his family. It was a privilege to come to their home and meet his wife and 4 daughters. He told us his testimony, a powerful story of God in his life which was ignited by someone giving him a bible. He’ s been beaten, backmailed, and only recently threatened with death again, and still he is resolute in bringing the good of Jesus to people. I was humbled.
This morning we travelled to Jankpuram slum area. This is the area where the church building that our church has funded is located. We were dropped off at a one room building in the slum, when we walked in there were 17 children waiting for us. They showed us the work they were doing, then they sang for us, I quickly realised that we’d be expected to do something so Carol and I decided to teach the kids Great Big God, then we played a game with balloons and then Pastor Selphi asked me to tell the children a story. It was a joyful experience in the middle of a place where I honestly don’t think I could live. I told another story and this time Stephen played Goliath and a little boy David. We bought them treats, prayed for them and visited some of the local church families in the area.
We got to hear some heart breaking stories as we met people. People living in unbelievably difficult situations. Women widowed, left to provide and care for children. Mothers forced to prostitute themselves to feed their children because their husbands where alcoholics. One of these mothers was 16. I got a chance to share the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman with 3 families who live in a house made of mud, with dirt floors and they were drinking in every word as I told them of the love and mercy of Jesus who longs to forgive not condemn, to rescue not persecute. As I leant down and doodled in the dirt the scripture has never been so alive to me.
There was a 13 year old girl in this home blind in one eye, waiting on an operation, the pastor with us explained that it she needed the operation urgently as she couldn’t see well enough to be able to keep herself safe from attack, it took a second for the realisation of what type of attack he was hinting at. I have no words… only tears.We didn’t want to leave this place. A place of lack, of pain, of unbelievable poverty where hope is almost lost, a place that surprises you by how emotionally you become attached to its people. I choked back tears the whole time. Telling myself how dare I indulge my tears this was not about me, this was about us bringing Jesus to these precious people.
I found today more difficult than any other in my previous trips to india. I think its because I’ve read the Half the Sky how to change the world book. I could see the signs of poverty and from the statisics and stories in that book join up the dots to the awfulness that people where living in. But more positively too I was looking with fresh eyes searching for solutions.