India is an assault on the senses in every respect. There are no words to describe the noises, smells, sights, chaos, hospitality, joy and warmth of the people here.
Arriving in Bangalore
We arrived into Bangalore international airport at 9:50pm on Saturday night and after clearing customs were greeted by Pastor Paulraj and our driver. Bags loaded onto the mini bus we headed off the Hosur, about 90 minutes from Bangalore.
Now I had been warned about the driving in India. I was told that it would be both an adventure, and the closest thing to death this side of glory. It didnt dissapoint! Becuase we had arrived at Bangalore late in the evening, we couldnt see a lot of the countryside we were drivng through. In fact the only thng we could really see were the innumerable cars, buses, motor scooters and pedestrians that all wanted to use the same piece of road at exactly the same moment. Lines on the road become suggestions, the horn on every vehicle becomes your weapon of choice, and so begins the black art of driving in India.
Church Indian Style
On Sunday morning after a hearty breakfast Indian style, we headed to Church. After 20 minutes driving, we left the main road and headed down what can only be described as a goat track (in fact there were plenty of goats and cows…). More shanty houses interspersed with kids running in the streets with happy faces. We rounded the corner to the sounds of beating drums and the local Church singing their lungs out praising God. Off with the shoes and socks (note to self: wear sandals or slippons tomorrow…) and we were ushered into the Church and up onto the stage. Talk about feeling conspicous! Church was amazing. We had been bought along at 11am by which time the service had already been going more than an hour. There was more singing, and then the Pastor introduced our team to the Church. I then preached on Matthew 6 about being careful not to do our acts of righteousness for the praise of man, but living for the praise of God alone. Preaching with a translator was a hoot, and the translator I had was excellent.
Mark & Larissa Penn gave their testimonies of how they came to trust Jesus, along with Jess Khor who shared her story as well.
For me the highlight of the morning was prayer. Firstly, the Pastor asked Mark Penn and I to pray for and commit to the Lord, a young couple who were leaving to plant a new congregation in a village a few hours away. Secondly, when the service was over, almost all of the congregtaion came forward asking the team members to pray with them and for them. They couldnt speak english…we couldnt speak tamil. But with a few gestures of folded hands, and large warm smiles, we all spent the next 30 minutes praying with Brothers & Sisters in Christ whom we had only met an hour earlier. It was a tremendous privilige.
Travelling from Hosur to Salem
I didnt quite know what to expect in India interms of scenery. I knew we were visiting the south and would be based in Salem, what I didnt realise was that between the larger cities like Bangalore, are vast stretches of farming land littered with shanty villages and people trying to make a living for themselves from what seems like arid rocky. Despite it’s apperance, in parts the rural areas are quite lush and have large areas of grassland and groves of palm trees.
After 3 hours or so we drove into the bustling city of Salem. I have a hunch that the cities are like an amplifier for whatever else you see in India. More people, loads more cars bikes and buses, and pedestrians everywhere. We drove through the city and headed out into the rural outskirts of Salem where Sharon Gardens, India Gospel League’s headquarters, was located.
We were warmly greeted, and shown to our rooms where we could unpack. After getting cleaned up and having a hot shower (did I say hot shower…) we headed down for an amazing curry for dinner. The hospitality shown to use has been amazing and I cant wait for the rest of the week. But now I have been awake for almost 24 hours. Im beat, and with a feeling of immense anticipation, I’m going to collapse into bed.