India and Curling Irons!
Northern and Southern India: October 21 to November 13, 2014! Join me: Delhi to Kota; Kota to Andhra Pradesh; Andhra Pradesh to Kerala Most of you know that my passion after family is writing. I have had the privilege of writing with and for Dr. Samuel Thomas, President and CEO of Hopegivers International for nearly 6 years. I try to go to India each year so I can interview orphans, Bible students, pastors, lepers, widows, and dowry castaway women so our beloved donors always have fresh and up-to-date information about what is happening in the ministry. Many may not get the opportunity to visit the Hopegivers’ mission field, so we are always looking for ways they can visit through stories, pictures, videos and blogs of those who can go. My desire with this blog is that you will see, smell and hear about my other passion - Hopegivers International! There were three legs to my trip. I invite you to tag along with me and experience the fun, the tragedy and the amazing things the Lord is doing in India. Delhi to Kota: Although this was my third trip to India, every visit serves up new experiences. Before leaving the airport, we were asked if any of us had issues with asthma. Fortunately, none of us did. Evidently, we arrived during Diwali – the Indian Festival of lights. It is India’s biggest and most important holiday. It is celebrated enthusiastically with lots of lights, candles, gifts and fireworks. It is like celebrating Christmas and the 4th of July all rolled into one event, except this is a Hindu holiday. It was very late when we arrived in Delhi so the lights – which were strung on every tree and building within view – made for a very colorful trip to the hotel. We had just missed the loud thundering booms of hundreds of fireworks, but we would not miss out for the next few nights. If you are an “early to bed and early to rise” person like me, the next few nights would play serious havoc with sleep. Fireworks went off well after midnight each of the next four nights. The sky was thick with the stale smell of smoke that saturated the air. My throat started to burn even though the walk from the terminal to the car was a short distance. I was exhausted – a 16 hour flight will do that to you – and I was anxious to collapse into a real bed instead of sleeping upright on a plane. I guess I didn’t get enough sleep or I would have noticed my curling iron hiccup a few hours later. Hurrying to meet everyone for a late breakfast, I put a chunk of my hair in the curling iron and immediately smelled smoke – inside the room! It took me a few seconds to figure out that it was coming from my head. When I tried to get the curling iron out of my hair, it wouldn’t budge. The smoke was literally billowing from the side of my head and the smell was nauseating. My only option at this point – obviously in total panic – was to yank the curling iron out of my hair. Along with the curling iron came almost 3 inches of my hair still wrapped around the barrel of the iron and black as coal – I am a blonde. Yikes! We all joke about men with their comb-over issues? Although my hair is thicker, I joined the proverbial “comb over club” that morning in Delhi. I was just praying my hairdresser in the states could figure out how to re-do my hair and hide the missing chunk! After breakfast – and a lot of laughing over my new hairstyle – we headed for the train station. We were going to Kota so we could attend the annual Pastor’s Conference. Pastors from all over India would be attending this event. The trip to Kota takes approximately seven hours on a train. There are a lot of stops, it’s bumpy, the pillows are ¼” thick and the bathrooms on the trains are a short-term mission trip all by themselves. Let me stimulate your imagination a bit without going into great detail. Dr. Samuel strongly suggested we wear rubber shoes that can be washed once we arrived at our final destination! Why? He didn’t go into a lot of detail other than to say we would be much more comfortable using the bathrooms on the train if we followed his advice. I was going to wear tennis shoes, but Dr. Samuel has never steered me wrong, so I wore rubber shoes. You see, they don’t provide toilet paper in many areas of India, especially on trains. Water from a spray gun is the preferred way of cleaning oneself. Needless to say, I chose the “western” method and brought toilet paper in my bag! Because of the water “mixture” on the floor of the bathrooms, rubber shoes turned out to be a brilliant idea. I can get used to a lot of things when I travel out of the country: humid temperatures, hard beds, small pillows, and food I can’t eat, but the bathroom situation is one of the more difficult for me. Go ahead and laugh! I’ll just pray you get to experience it one day soon. Lol! The train does serve a variety of freshly cooked Indian food, but I was warned not to eat any of it. Although the taste going down would be wonderful, the experience a few hours later would not be. They use their water – not bottled water – and although the food is cooked, the chances are very high that I would not be enjoying another meal for a couple of days if I risked it. I brought my own snacks and stayed out of trouble for once. I was asked to speak at some of the breakout sessions during the Pastors Conference. I felt so unqualified to even attempt to encourage or teach anything from the Word of God to these amazing pastors and Bible students. What do I know about suffering and being persecuted for my faith? What could I possibly offer that would encourage them to “keep on keeping on” when I have never walked in their shoes? The only rejection I have experienced is my husband not noticing I have a new hairstyle! It was humbling because I knew - and they knew - I had no experience with the kind of persecution they deal with every day. The Lord was very gracious. I simply shared things He is teaching me about forgiveness and unconditional love when those you care about betray you. I also shared how the Lord is bringing contentment into my life about who I am and where I serve. He does not make mistakes; He is not a wasteful God. Whether I think I might be more effective elsewhere or not, God has me and each of you right where He wants us. He planted us where we can do the most good if we will obey Him and serve out of love for Him and others. As always, the Holy Spirit was faithful because I obeyed in spite of my insecurities. Several of the pastors thanked me for encouraging them and giving them something to think about in their situation. Can you believe it? My last day in Kota was spent interviewing some of the pastors who attended the conference. Oh my gosh! What wonderful stories of salvation, persecution and true miracles that are taking place on the mission field every day! I was overwhelmed with God’s hand on me and others and I had only been in India four days! P.S. When I got back to the states, my hairdresser did a great job of helping me drop my membership from the “comb over club!” Plan