Monday, October 03, 2005

Gerry and Tharesa Bently

To say that we were welcome in our church planters house and through-out the village would be an understatement. Their hospitality was genuine and heartfelt. We had the opportunity in the small frame of time granted to us to visit nine villages. In those villages we visited three to four houses each. When in the houses we would pray for just about everyone. Every house had their own small cell group and we would have a small service and be on our way. We did see one miracle where two women who had raspy voices, two men were cursed with short stature, and one girl who had seen something that scared her and from that point on she could not hear or speak. One of the women after we prayed for her one neighbor girl that was Hindu attended church on Sunday after saying they wouldn’t let her. Praise the Lord for the mighty works he has done on our visit.

Zach and Patrick

Zach and I spent several days in the rural village of Nadusurangodi. The people here have never seen any white person before! Much of our time has been spent visiting Christ followers homes and praying for their families while “Samson” interprets. We also invite the villagers to come to “Pastor Johns” home to hear “Good News.” We stayed in Pastor John’s home with his wife and daughter. The home is very clean, but small (the size of a large tool shed) with very few furnishings. We were grateful for “neighbors” who invited us to sleep on their roof to escape the heat.

Mary and Terrie

We had the privilege of building a relationship with a family of enormous faith and devotion. From early morning through late at night – the church planters and family spent nearly every minute in prayer, worship or out in the village loving people and praying for them. They taught us about intense worship and prayer. So often we were asked to pray for them and the reverse seemed more appropriate. When we prayed for a young deformed girl who couldn’t speak, Mohan believed – 100% - she would be healed. We saw the fire and passion in his eyes – he has no doubt and when she is healed it will be the testimony that will bring more people to Christ. (Teaching us walk by faith and not by sight) It’s their way of life.

Sarah, Thane and Joyce

As we sit at breakfast and reflect on the past 36 hours. A lovely Indian family entered for breakfast. This family was blessed with two beautiful daughters. My thoughts returned to the last visited village where female babies are drowned because they are a financial burden to families and boys make money, thus are spared. We shared the gospel with these people and prayed for them. We thought these people would be difficult to love, hard to talk to, but Jesus was strong with us and the Holy Spirit abounded mightily in this village. We prayed for what seemed like the entire village and by the time we left we had developed a special love for this village. As we drove away the village people crowded around our car, waving, grabbing our hands and smiling brightly. Driving away, Joyce, Thane, and I were exceedingly glad for Jesus had revealed himself to these people through us. There is nothing more thrilling than doing God’s work. This experience is just one of many as we visited many more people miracles here are not unusual people of faith who pray in the name of Christ see many miracles we have seen for example, we prayed for rain and it came even after a three year drought. But even more than the miracles, we were encouraged by the hearts and love of the Indian people.

Julie, Jeanna, Henrie

We spent three days with Pastor Jeevaray in the village of Crawford, outside of Trichy. Pastor Jeevaray has three cell churches – one in his home, in a factory and in a village for the blind (Nagamongolum). There was a heavy feeling of evel, hopelessness and oppression and yet a true sense of community. We were humbled by the warmh, generosity, and hospitality of the people. One thing we will never forget are all the smells from curry to jasmine to cow dung. By the way, a cold drink is “da hamb.”

Linda and Noell

Linda and Noell

From the moment we arrived in our village, our every need became our church planter’s priority. Food was more than just a means for survival. It seemed to be almost a necessary ritual, providing sustenance for the soul.

As we would discover, eating (taking nourishment) and worship consumed the greater part of our day.

The women of our village were the foundation of the family always planning, preparing and serving, taking little or no time for self indulgent, frivoulous activities.

The --- groups in our village were always delightful and joyful inspite of their circumstances. Their homes, I contrast to the environment surrounding them were emaculate, reminding me of something my mother used to say frequently. “It’s not a sine to be poor, but it’s a sin to be dirty.”

The desire for cleanliness flowed very naturally into their spiritual life. The cleansing of the soul to prepare a welcomed place for the Holy Spirit to reside was as common place as sweeping off the entry way to their home.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Strike Up the Band!

While in Ghandi Nager (one of the villages outside of Trichy), the men on the team had the opportunity to witness a traditional Indian band playing Indian instruments. The drum was made from leather stretched over a wooden keetle, and the "flute" was made from both wood and metal.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Rock a Bye, Baby... Indian Style!

Here is a video of the way that most Indian families rock their babies to sleep at night. Essentially, they hang a sort of hammock from either a beam or hook in the ceiling of their homes, then place their baby in the nook of the make-shift cradle while swinging it around in circles while singing to it. The cool thing is, during the day, when the cradle isn't being used, it is simply unhooked and removed to be stored or used in some other fashion. Cool, huh?

Ladies and Gentlemen, we HAVE video!

Now that we're back, we're compiling photos, videos and notes from all the team members. What we're hoping to do from that is provide a more comprehensive view of the total experience we shared that is more than just one person's perspective (i.e. mine). As a result, you should notice the two following things:

1) Continued Entries: Hey, just because we're back doesn't mean the journey is "finished". Quite the contrary! The journey is just beginning! As a result, we'll continue to blog the August 2005 India team until it is no longer helpful.

2) Video Links: Several team members took not only "still" photos, but also video. Now that we have some of those videos, we will be going back through posts we have already done and adding video links where they are relevant. We may also continue to do new posts that incorporate them as well. You will notice when there is a video link because it will show up as words that are blue and underlined. If you click those words, they will take you to a Google video image platform. You may need to download the video "viewer" (it's small... no, it shouldn't crash your system), but once you do, you will be able to see all kinds of cool things. Want an example? Go to the post titled "Ah, the irony of it all..." and click on the blue underlined word "washing machine". It should take you to a link where you will be able to see a woman washing clothings "Indian style".

See what you think and then let me know. Use the "comments" posts to continue to interact. Again... we're back, but we're not finished! The journey is just starting!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Signing Off... Prepping for Re-entry...

It's a little after midnight and this will be the last of my official posts from the field. From here, we will be getting up to leave the hotel at 5:30 a.m. in order to board the morning train to Chennai at 6:00 a.m. We should arrive in Chennai at about 11:30 a.m. or so, from which we will do a bit of shopping, stop at a Pizza Hut (yes, the genuine article! Except that all the pizzas are vegetarian), visit the tsunami zone in Chennai, and then climb the mountain where St. Thomas ("Doubting Thomas" was the first missionary to India and was martyred for his faith in about 90 AD, i think) is buried. From there, we will have dinner and then head to the airport. Our flight leaves at just after midnight, and then in another 18 hours or so (God willing), we will be arriving to O'Hare in Chicago. At this point, we are anticipating that we will be back to all our homes by no later than 5:00 p.m.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers and comments and e-mails and everything else. The team served well, loved well and did well, and we can't wait to see you all!

Signing off...
-samurai jack

Let's Rock!

There is a famous Hindu Temple/Fort in Trichy that is usually simply referred to as the “Rock Fort Temple”. It is an elaborate network of hand-carved steps, temples, and walkways into the solid rock of a mountain that towers in the center of the city. From its top, you can see the vastness of the city spreading out before you, and it's also a beautiful climb up several hundred hand-carved steps. A couple of interesting things about it:

1 ) There are some temples (each is hollowed into the actual rock of the mountain) along the journey to the top that foreigners or certain castes are simply not allowed to enter. We are so spoiled by the concept that our God allows us such free and open access to him through the blood of Christ. Many people in India still labor under a theistic system that is exclusive to certain people or groups.

2) The temple employs a beautiful 16 year old trained elephant named Lakshmi, who, for a mere 5 Rupees, will bless your head by touching it with her trunk.

3) You're not allowed to wear shoes as you climb the steps. Bare feet (or socks) only.

It's definitely one of the cooler things to see and do when you're in Trichy. If you ever come with us on a team, we'll do our best to make sure that you have the opportunity!

It's Like Graceland... Except in India.

Ever wanted to go to the house of "the king"? We did! After TBL HQ, we made a short stop at Raj’s house for refreshments. Did you know that Raj’s name (actually, it’s “Rajendran”) means “king”? We can now all say that we have visited a king’s domain! And I’ll tell you something, Indian generosity never ceases, nor ceases to amaze us all. Upon crossing the threshold, we were all downing cookies, hot and cold drinks, as well as receiving a gift from Raj and his family for each team member. The gift included a box of Indian tea, and a beautiful ancient ceremonial lamp (much like the ancient lamps found in Palestine). The picture here is of Raj's wife (Prema) and daughter (Carlinda).

The Next Wave!

Before dropping in at Bible League HQ, we stopped quickly to meet the next wave of church planters who are currently enrolled in The Bible League's "PDT" training curriculum. PDT stands for "Purpose Driven Training", and until this group, all the training has been handled by GCC pastors and staff. 57 planters recently graduated from this training (finishing all modules, 101 - 401), and now this new 50 are completing 101 today. We had the opportunity to thank them personally for their dedication, effort, and faithfulness as they learn about how to help their churches grow, and were warmly received and greeted before we left them to head to our next destination.


After our brief period of debriefing, we headed down to meet Raj to visit The Bible League Headquarters for Tamilnadu. Pictured here is the “big board”, which accurately tracks strategic progress and the efforts that TBL is making in the region. All of the TBL staff greeted warmly and were working diligently away. That would be normal for a Monday, except that today is Indian Independence Day (the equivalent to our 4th of July), so these guys are REALLY dedicated! Truly, if every Christian in the world worked as hard as these men and women work, I’m quite certain that we’d already have that Great Commission thing taken care of.

A Bit of Debrief Time...

We met today for about 90 minutes of “debrief” time, just us Americans. During that time, we began to piece together the mosaic of our experiences, analyze common threads, and celebrate uniquenesses of each of our sub-teams. It was a great beginning, I think, to a process that will need to continue for some time to come as we all begin to piece through what God has and is doing in us through the experience of this trip, and we will all look forward to having more such periods of discussion and analysis even after we get back to the States.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fuzzy Fruit, Raggi and... Snails.

I’m going to spend a little time here because the experience was so unique and I thought you would enjoy hearing about it.

Before leaving Pondicherry, Jason Aquila and I were taken to a family’s house for a late lunch after church. Like most cities in India, you can drive five minutes outside of the urban proper and instantly find yourself in a 5th Century BC environment. People in this suburban village still harvest rice by hand, still scatter seed by hand, still make their food “fresh” (i.e. they probably just killed, found or picked whatever it is that you’re eating).

At this particular house, the fare for the day consisted of the following:

First, the food is served on a palm leaf. According to Indian custom, if you are served poisonous food on a palm leaf, the leaf will turn black. Even in many restraunts, the food is served on a palm leaf. Also, to show friendship, when finished, you never fold a palm leaf toward someone other than yourself.

Palm Fruit – Palm fruit grows abundantly on palm trees, looks a bit like the love child of an egg-plant and a coconut, and, when cracked open reveals a very fibrous yellow fruit that is rather tasteless and nearly impossible to eat well. I was picking “hairs” out of my teeth for hours.

Snails – As we entered the family’s “yard”, I saw the grandmother shucking what looked like snails on the ground. “That’s weird,” Jason and I remarked to each other, “I wonder why she’s doing that?” We soon found out. The snails were served in a piping hot and “muay caliente” Indian curry sauce that was almost too spicy to eat.
Chicken – Recognizable the world around, this chicken was killed only a few minutes before it was served as seen here curry-style.

Raggi – Apparently grown as an indigenous crop throughout the Middle East and Asia, Raggi is a hard grain which is grown and then baked into small, purple, chewy, semi-hard cakelets that you see here. Indian tradition states that it was Raggi that Jacob gave to Essau as a side dish to the “stew” that Essau traded for his birthright in the book of Genesis.

Arnusami and Family!

Arnusami and most of his family are pictured here (Arnusami is second from the left, and his son, Amarnath, is at the far left. Daughters Aruna - in white - and Saomia, are at the right). Arnusami’s wife (Anbuvathi) was ill with a chronic condition in her right leg, and Arnusami consistently had difficulty finding jobs that paid well enough for him to bring in the income that they needed. Because of Immanuels persistence, friendship building, and prayer, the entire family began to listen more to Immanuel’s presentation of the Gospel. The entire family now follows Christ under Immanuel’s ministry, and Anbuvathi has been able to have an operation to heal her leg. The family still struggles financially, and is beset with other obstacles (the eldest daughter had to leave school to help her father support the family), but I will tell you, they were the most fervent in prayer at the church service on Sunday, the most joyful during worship, and the most intense in their faith.

Can I Get a Witness?!

Here is our very own Jason Aquila sharing his testimony during a church service in Pondicherry. Careful not to try to steal the limelight, but rather use our influence as Westerners to lend credibility to the ministry of the church planter, GCC team members are careful not to “preach” during services, but rather use the time up front for testimony and pointing back to the ministry of the church planter. Jason did a great job!

Bible Alive!

These men are mending their nets after a long day of fishing. Remind you of Bible times when Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, came across fishermen who were doing the same thing?

In this picture (below), Raj points to a “resting stone”. Because people still manually carry (either on their heads or backs) incredible burdens to get things from place to place, you will periodically see these concrete or natural “resting stones” in villages. Raj explained that Indian culture and Jewish culture are very similar in many respects, and that it is things like this that make Matt 11:28-30 (“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”) come alive to Indian people when they hear them in the Gospels.

Jimminey Cricket!!!

This group of kids was seen playing Cricket (the Indian national sport, residual from British colonial days) while in Pondicherry, and they all recognized (and quickly surrounded) Immanuel, who is kind of in the middle of this photo. Cricket is a bit like a baseball, except that you get to carry the bat with you when you run, the field is round, and the games can last for days rather than hours if the teams are very evenly matched.

Ah, the Irony of It All!

What does an Indian washing machine look like? This young lady is washing clothes like most people do in India. Step 1: Find a big, flat rock. Step 2: Lather up your clothes. Step 3: Scrub the dickens out of them. Step 4: Rinse and repeat. Interestingly, Pondicherry is the India HQ for appliance manufacturer Whirlpool… bet that this young lass would freak if she could see a washing machine.

Yanking My Heart Strings...

The little girl being held in this picture is named Nehe (Nay-huh). Believe it or not, she is a US Citizen. Her father moved from India several years ago to the US, was naturalized as a citizen, and then returned to India to marry Nehe’s mother. However, shortly after Nehe’s birth, the father disappeared, returning back to America without either his wife, his newborn daughter, or any record or indication of his whereabouts. After nearly 2 years, they still have yet to hear from or locate him, and so little Nehe struggles in poverty as a US Citizen in India simply because they cannot find her father. This one was a tough one for me. I wanted to just scoop her up and take her home with me, but I’m sure there’s a smarter way to do that kind of thing. For starters, we got copies of her father’s naturalization certificate, Nehe’s consular proof of birth, and passport to see if we can find him. Nehe and her mother came to the church service that Immanuel conducted on Sunday morning, and there were indications in their home that they are Roman Catholic.

It's Not Wrong... It's Just Different!

This is an official “squatty-potty” as commonly seen here in India. Many models do not feature porcelain as this one does, and in some instances, one simply goes outside the village and finds a tree or a rock or whatever and takes care of business “the natural way”. The second picture is of an Indian shower. Basically, one bucket fills while you use a cup from the other to dump water over your head.

Kharthi and Lakshmi!

While visiting family contacts that Immanuel had already made in the sub-villages along the coast of Pondicherry, we met Kharthi and Lakshmi, a young couple with three children who survived the tsunami and are followers of Christ. They are an exceptionally bright and kind family, but are currently enduring some significant persecution from their neighbors. They practice their faith in secret right now because they would be forcibly removed from the town if they proclaimed their faith freely. Immanuel visits them several times a week, prays with and encourages them, and they are looking forward to the day when they can worship freely together with other believers. Their home is a 9x16 bamboo and thatch hut with concrete floor. They have 3 children. When the tsunami came, the water reached the level of the pictures in their hut. Their youngest (featured here), clung to the bamboo walls for life and was found still clinging there when Kharthi finally managed to get back to the home. Pretty tough kid, eh? He was only 12 months old at the time.

Great Things Come in Small Packages!

The church planter Jason Aquila and I spent most of our time with is a hero of the Christian Faith that you will most likely never hear about other than in this blog. His name is Immanuel. Immanuel came to Christ after the healing of an incurable disease that doctors told him would plague his entire life, and now has successfully planted 2 churches and a dozen small groups (cell-groups) in hostile regions in Pondicherry. He conducts Sunday services in a 12x20 thatched hut with a dirt floor as about a dozen of his congregants listen carefully to what he says. Immanuel is humble, unassuming, and thinks little of the credit for the work he has done. Just being around him made us want to stand taller, walk stronger, and act with greater conviction. Immanuel, like all of the TBL church planters with whom we work in India, is bringing the Kingdom of God to earth in a very powerful way! Below is a picture of Immanuel's newest church plant. It's about 12 people, including at least 2 families.

Pondicherry... Not "Pound of Cherries".

Jason Aquila and I were assigned to the area known as Pondicherry. Sitting on the eastern coast of the country and about 5 hours by car or bus from Trichy, its urban center (picture on the right) boasts nearly a million people, but like most Indian cities, much of it is actually quite rural in more ways than one (picture on the left). Whether through lifestyle (Biblical era agrarian existence) or economic status (urban poverty manifests itself much as rural poverty would in some critical areas). Pondicherry was actually hit fairly hard by the tsunami last December, but due to the foresight of the city officials, a large rock burm (picture below) had been constructed several years before to ease just such a catastrophe. Many of the people who live in Pondicherry are fishermen (see boats along shore below), and have only just recently been able to return to their livelihood due to the fact that the tsunami destroyed so many boats, homes and lives.

"The Descendents of Cain"...

I couldn’t snap a photo quickly enough on this one, but I hope it’s still worth reading. On the way to Pondicherry, Solomon (our guide, and one of the TBL staff) pointed quickly out the window and said, “Oh, look there! There are the descendents of Cain!” Since that’s just not the kind of thing that one hears regularly in the US, Jason and I strained to see what we could of whatever Solomon was pointing at. To our right was a large group of people out in the open just doing “average things” like cooking and congregating. Bewildered, we asked Solomon to explain. He said that these people are a nomadic people called the Nari Kuruvan people (from which, we get the term “caravan”). He said that they are very primitive, very rough, and very difficult to engage. They move around constantly, eat ants, squirrels, and whatever they can find, eschew living in cities, and never get sick… ever. They survive by hunting, gathering, and making some hand-made crafts which they sell as needed. Solomon referred to the passage in Genesis where God indicates that Cain and his descendents will not be welcome among other people, and yet will be left alone because of God’s protection.

Don't Try THIS at Home, Kids!

I think that if the GCC Shuttle-buses were here in India, we’d be packing LOTS more people onto them than they are currently used to holding. Incidentally, virtually every piece of transportation hardware here carries nearly 4x the recommended max passenger allowance, whether human or otherwise. Yesterday, Jason Aquila saw six people on a motorcycle (the father was driving, the two eldest were in front of him, the wife was behind him and was carrying a child in each arm). We packed 8 grown men into an “autorickshaw” (a small, 3 wheeled ATV that is used for urban taxi travel) for most of the day yesterday. The general rule of thumb, therefore, seems to simply be, “You can fit more than you think you can”. I guess with 1.2 billion people, you do what you have to do.

Buying Sawars...

GCC ladies featured here purchasing traditional Indian Sawar-Kamis (a 3 piece traditional garb that features long pants, a long, caftan-style top, and a “scarf”) at a local shop.

Where Chaos and Order Clash!

Driving in India is a frightening proposition that generally serves as one of the most significant “sticking points” for most people who travel here. Why? Well, because in the US, we have laws, lanes, police, and a general agreement to conform to all of those things. In India, they have all of those things, but they just don’t mean anything. Lanes are suggestions. See this picture? Notice that we are going in the opposite direction to these people and yet sharing the same lane. Laws? They exist… but no one follows them. And no one expects them to. The police stand helplessly by pretty much just waiting to clean up any accidents that may occur. And yet, bizarrely, Indians are remarkably calm about the whole thing and there is actually an element of gracefulness about the whole thing, terrifying as it may be to be playing chicken at 60 mph with a fully loaded truck carrying gasoline only to swerve at the absolute last instant into the other lane for a miss within 6” of our own vehicle. Think Slam Dancing meets Tango.

Holy Cow, Batman!

Featured here is a picture of one of the bazillion cows and other livestock that simply roam free throughout every city, town and village in India. Because of the Hindu belief system, many people own cattle for work purposes, but they do not, of course, slaughter or eat them. Rather they are simply allowed to roam freely (yes, even in urban environments), eat freely, and wander through traffic freely. Think Chicago traffic on Lakeshore Drive, but with every third car being a cow, ox or water buffalo.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Preparing to Run Silent...

This will be my last post for a couple of days as we're preparing to leave Trichy and join Bible League church planters in their villages. I will not have Internet access, therefore, so will probably not be able to post again until at least Sunday night.
I still owe you an accounting of yesterday's (Thursday's) phenomenal activities and experiences. The quick summary is that we divided into mens/womens teams and did two separate work projects. The men went to a small village of about 150 people (about 20 miles from Trichy proper) called Ghandi Nager Colony (near Manikandam if you're looking at a map) and painted doors, distributed food and clothing, school supplies, and prayed for the townspeople, all of which was "preparatory" to a new church planter entering the village and was capped by a magic show (one of the TBL staff is an amateur magician) and Raj sharing his testimony. The women visited a clinic/orphanage operated by a Roman Catholic sisterhood that caters to Lepers, HIV/AIS patients, and orphans (many of the oprhans were "left" to the orphanage because their parents died of AIDS, or have Leprosy, or were killed in the recent tsunami last December). Both were incredible experiences and i will work on describing them in better detail as we will all have some "car time" getting to our villages.
Next up, we will meet with the 9 or so church planters that we will be visiting for a brief introduction to their ministry and how we can best help them. Afterward, we will be travelling with them to their villages for three days and two nights to do what we can to serve, help and lend credibility to their ministry. Many people are fascinated by us as novelties since we are Americans, and it sometimes helps to open doors for a planter if we serve as his students along the way. If you would like to pray for each of the team members and where they will be going, here is a quick list:

Gerry & Tharesa Bentley - village just outside of Trichy
Henrietta Cobbins & Jeanne Tripp - village just outside of Trichy
Dave & Peggy McKee - Salem
Thane Rulli, Sarah Posick & Joyce Nagy - Madurai
Patrick Spaulding & Zach Allen - Vitudhunagaer
Jason Aquilla & Jack Magruder - Pondicherry
Noel Boren & Linda Petersen - Raniper
Mary Boatman, Terri Hoofnagle, Julie Minne - Arumbakkam
Josh Bramer & Mike Price - Kalavai

That's about all i have time to post for now. See you again in a couple of days! Know that the team is doing exceptionally well, that we miss all of you back home, and that we continue to value and treasure your thoughts, comments and prayers. Also, thanks to all of you who have commented on the blog. The comments have also been a great encouragement!

Engaging the Friendlies…

After checking in quickly at the Hotel Sangam where we are staying while in Trichy, we loaded back up and went to join the 57 church planters who are currently going through the first module of training in GCC/TBL modified CORE class ideologies. Each of these 57 is currently planting or operating at least one church, and the CORE class modules teach them how to multiply their congregations healthily and with balance. The 10 female church planters who are going through the training are pictured here with some of our team ladies. Upon arriving, we sat cross-legged on straw mats on the ground for about an hour and worshipped with the planters under a starless but exceptionally pleasant evening. We heard the testimonies of two of the church planters with whom our group will be visiting/traveling, and then went to enjoy a truly Indian dinner. The dinner consisted of “Chicken 65”, Rice pongol (a mixed rice dish with rice, peppers and spices), and chicken curry, as well as tiny but extremely tasty bananas the Raj simply called “damage control” for when you eat something that is too hot and need to quickly cool your mouth. After eating and talking for another hour or so, we returned to the Sangam to get to bed at around 11 p.m.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

“Welcome to Fantasy Island!” Okay, Not Really… But Kind Of.

Upon arriving at the Trichy train station, we were greeted by Rajendran (aka. “Da Man!”) and some of his Trichy office staff. Immediately, in addition to warm hugs and handshakes, we were each given these gargantuan “lais” (or whatever you call those Hawaiian necklace thingies). Each of these weighs about 5 pounds and the odor of fresh roses is positively but substantially almost overwhelming. Whew! The picture to the right is of Rajendran and Solomon. Solomon very carefully safeguarded us throughout the entire train journey, and made sure we both got on and off where we should have along the way. Finally, we were also able to meet Raj’s son, Bruce for the first time. Bruce has been studying at a boarding school for several years, but just this year wanted to come back home to study in Trichy.

Leavin’ On That Mid-day Train to…uh… Trichy?

After our time with “The Guys”, we loaded up and headed to the train station to catch a mid-day train to Trichy. The train ride lasted about 5 hours and was a phenomenal experience from start through finish. It’s not impolite to stare in India, so 20 Americans disembarking spontaneously from the side of a large bus certainly drew some attention. One Indian man proudly compared tattoos with Josh Bramer, and we enjoyed a quick survey of the melee of human existence before fording the people flood of bodies attempting to board trains on the ramp.

We sat in a Class-B Air Conditioned Car, but most of the team didn’t stay there. You should be so proud of your team. Within minutes, most of the team was traversing each car (most of which were non-air conditioned), striking up conversations with very eager Indians, praying with people, enjoying the countryside from open side-doors, and engaging everyone they saw. The train was also extremely culturally diverse. There were Muslim women dressed from head to toe in full black with only their eyes showing, Hindu families fresh from the temple with fresh cow-dung ash smeared on their foreheads, and we even ran into a few people who were Indian-Americans just home visiting family and friends. One young man was a 10th grader from California named Sid who was born in India but comes back every five years or so to visit, and the lady that sat behind Gerry and Tharesa Bentley was a woman named Vidya (pictured here). Vidya is a culturally anthropologist at the University of Washington at Seattle and is specializing in using indigenous music and folklore as method for teaching arts and sciences. She is fluent in both Tamil and English, had 7 children with her who were students, sculpts, paints, sings, and shows the children how to go into the forests and jungles to select wood for making “drones” (a common Indian instrument kind of like a guitar) and other instruments. Needless to say, we had no shortage of things to talk about, and other team members had similar experiences with the people they met.

The Guys!

After breakfast, we spent about two hours with many of the office staff from The Bible League. They taught us a Tamil song, some Tamil words (for instance, “Stoteerum” means “Praise the Lord” and “Kali Wanakum” means “Good Morning”), and two of their testimonies. As always, the TBL staff are amazing people, both anticipating our needs and being eager to help us to serve better. They are remarkable people and it is a privilege to serve with them.