Sunday, February 07, 2010

INDIA--DAY 2-- Worst and Best Train Trip of My Life

Antony had a good plan. Take the Canadian team on a real Indian train for the 6 hour journey from Chennai to Trichy. No special compartments. No special treatment. We all eagerly agreed. Antony booked the seats for us, so we could all sit together, giving Antony a chance to share his burden for his country. And we could experience the real India on a mode of transportation that the majority of nationals use.

I think I was the most excited of all. A real Indian train, rumbling through verdant green rice paddies, banana plantations, coconut palm groves. After all, 2 of my missionary heroes, Amy Carmichael and Dr. Ida Skudder had at different times traveled on this very train system at the beginning of the last century.

Our team arrived at the station. Sure enough the train was on India time—45 minutes late. But this only added to the charm. We laughed and found seats on the platform, an overhang to shade us from the sun, and sat back to watch India stroll past. My eyes couldn’t get enough of the women’s exquisite saris in every shade of the rainbow, dotted with sequins or fake gems. Bangles tinkled on the little children’s ankles. Many men wore Western-style clothing—crisply tailored slacks and shirts. Still a number of men wore traditional South Indian clothing—a lungi—a sarong with a longish shirt overtop.

As much as we wanted to take in the beauty of the Indian culture, and tried not to stare impolitely, I found the children round-eyed with curiosity at the sight of us. Then the children’s large brown eyes crinkled with laughter. What funny people we must have looked to them.

At last the train arrived and we quickly bundled in. I kept my giggles to myself. Could this train possibly be one left over from when the British were asked to leave India in 1947? No. It couldn’t be. The windows didn’t have any glass, only steel bars to protect us. But with the peeling paint, the general grubbiness and lack of care, I allowed my imagination to take flight. Maybe Dr. Ida Skudder travelled on this very train.

Antony, and Jerald with speed and outstretched arms, shepherded us along the narrow aisles to our hard, upright seats. But there were other people sitting there—in our numbered seats that clearly matched the tickets Antony had purchased.

Our little flock of white folk stood around, letting Antony take care of everything. It was so nice to let someone else worry about the details. How I wish I would relax that way all the time with God. So often there is nothing I can do to change my circumstances. Yet I fret. Why can I not just do like I did in India, and let the Lord who knows better take complete charge?

Antony’s well-laid plan didn’t turn out quite the way he—or we—had expected. Our team was split up and sent to different sections of the train. Some of us had to perch uncomfortably on the end of a seat mostly taken up by others who stridently claimed it was theirs. Any discomfort of ours was minimal making us laugh. One of the well-dressed Indian ladies in the section where I sat showed her indignation by sticking her feet out on the floor so far, my team members had no place to put their feet. I watched the sweetness and patience on Cheryl’s face, Hilary’s kindness, and Judy and Caroline’s overtures of friendly conversation to the Indian ladies.

Judy with the Indian ladies.

On my side of the compartment I had the same problem—a man who also insisted on stretching his feet all the way out so that I had nowhere to put my own. I confess I’m not as sweet as Cheryl or Hilary. I shuffled my feet so that the man across from me got the message. I had to put my feet somewhere!

So often we get an idea of what God wants us to do. We lay out the plans. See schematics in our heads. And then the Lord allows those plans to be altered . . . to show us something He wants us to see.

At home in North America our people look for spirituality. They reject Christ but want a mystical experience, thinking they can find the spiritual truth they are looking for in Hinduism. Hollywood movies popularize that type of thinking. But I didn’t see God in the face of the average person on that train. The people in our section who didn’t allow us much space seemed to me just as self-absorbed as many North Americans. Just as self-absorbed . . . as me.

Antony wanted us to see the real India so we could share the burden he carries for his people. He planned well, but the Lord changed his plans, and blessed them better than we could imagine. The Lord allowed us to see the burden weighing heavily on His heart .

As the train swayed, sellers swaggered constantly up and down the narrow aisles. They carried their wares—chai tea, nuts, fruit—desperately trying to scratch a meagre living. A blind beggar in threadbare clothing, shook a few coins in his metal cup and slowly inched his way along the aisles. Outside various stations people crippled or exhausted lay in a heap of skin and bones on the cement platform. A great weariness cloaks these people, a hopeless acceptance of a bad fate.

These were the faces of people starving for God. And He is yearning for them to come to Him—-to know the difference between a hunk of stone and the true and living God. He doesn't want them to live with hopeless fate, but hope in Him and His son.
Matthew 11:28 And Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

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