Before I move on from my eleven week sojourn in India, here are some of the memories which will linger:
As foreign missionary numbers have declined the growth in the number of Indians moving cross-culturally within India is staggering. We kept bumping into some of the 50,000 Indians who have heard this call of God - nowhere more so than when we, a couple of foreign MKs from a previous generation, visited a school for Indian MKs. At one point we found ourselves walking behind Dad, hand-in-hand with son (Geoffrey) and daughter (Fanny), in the midst of a fleeting visit to see the kids. He handed the mobile phone to little Geoffrey so that he could speak to his mummy. We met Mum as well. Let me assure you - the technology may have changed, but the emotions have not.
Five years ago Barby and I did a Dumb-Dumb thing. We allowed our Lovely Lys, aged 18, to fly into Dum-Dum airport (Kolkata) on her own at midnight to begin a six month season working with women in the slums. She helped them with their sewing. She grew to love them as her friends as they got inside her heart and stayed there. The experience left her 'scarred for life' - just what a short term mission trip should achieve - and the scarring spread to us as a family. Their names and their faces became so real to us. [NB Madhobi, on the left, was still there from Lys' time]. Under God's good hand it turned into a Wise-Wise decision. And so as this family holiday loomed, the beeline to Kolkata took over and to watch Lys reunited was one of the deep joys.
I loved watching Indians love their India. Crowds of people at the tourist sites - and the zoos. I don't remember this from my childhood. But I do remember the boldness of the monkeys and how the ones outside the cages are far more entertaining than the ones inside the cages - particularly their penchant for stealing ice creams from children.
My Dad received an OBE from the Queen "for his services to the people of India" and nowhere is his legacy greater than in the Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA) which he was instrumental in establishing. One year he spent 100 nights on the hard slats of India's trains to make it happen. I wanted to take my kids to an EHA hospital so they could experience this legacy. Dr Raju and his wife Catherine graciously welcomed us to Kachhwa. From a central hospital-base all kinds of things are developing to create a holistic work: schools, businesses, community health projects, skills training, churches etc A very dark part of India is being transformed. In this photo the medics (!) in a mobile health clinic are taking time out to listen to some children sing an indigenous song about Zacchaeus.
I still find great joy in the chaotic messiness and drab dirtiness of India. I do - I just do. I feel comfortable and at home walking (and walking some more!) through it all. And nowhere is this more noticeable than in the local bazaar. And yet in every local bazaar you will also find the polar opposite: that island, that oasis of ordered tidyness and colourful cleanliness discovered in the fruit and vegetable stall.
For newcomers to India the first definitive experience needs to be a ride in a putt-putt (auto-rickshaw) as a means of freeing all the senses to savour India at one time. In our teenage Delhi days new missionaries would get all that boring orientation stuff from the oldies and then my brother and I would give them the fun orientation - by putt-putt. Some of them still testify to its value for them! And its even more fun with multiple putt-putts so that they can race each other. We hired three for the whole day and here the kids line up with the drivers at the end of the day. [NB - these drivers were befriended by Martin a year earlier and so we had quite the community developing].
Visiting Savitri in her village was so cool. She is now so tiny and so old - but her love for Jesus and for our family just shone in her gleaming face and her toothless smile. Savitri was our aiyah (home-helper) when we were kids. Barby's mother used to have bible studies with her and when she needed a job, Barby's mother suggested our family ... and the rest is history. Savitri became a part of our family and her people became our people and our people became her people. Whenever any of us return to India we make the pilgrimage...
And the mountains - the beautiful Himalayas. Not just the snow-capped stuff, but the rolling foothills.