Monday, October 22, 2018

The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 3

For more context about my India trip and why it was such a big lesson in learning to trust for me, read these posts first:
The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 1
The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 2

Returning from Pakistan by plane, the three of us continued on our odyssey.  After landing in Delhi, the next 5 weeks saw us travel by train and spend time encouraging missionaries and churches in Agra, Kanpur, Bhopal, Hyderabad, and Pune.  We took all manner of transportation to get to train stations in each city, but didn't miss a single train.  (Again, see the related posts above for why not missing a train was important to me)

I'm traveling to the Kanpur train station in a rickshaw.
I'm traveling to the Kanpur train station in a rickshaw.
All during this time, religious tension had been building between then Hindus and the Muslims and had actually broken out into riots in some cities.  The day we left Pune for Mumbai this tension erupted into a full scale riot at the Mumbai train station.  We were oblivious to this, totally enjoying the beautiful train trip until our train stopped in the middle of nowhere 100 kilometres outside of the city.  We finally got word that the engineer was refusing to take the train into the station, fearing for the passengers' safety.  All of us waited in the train for what seemed like several hours until a decision was finally made to take the train back to Pune.
Joanne and David doing laundry in Pune
Joanne and David doing laundry in Pune
Arriving back in Pune, we discovered that the American and Canadian consulates had issued travel advisories recommended that their citizens leave India as soon as possible because of the civil/religious unrest.  After some phoning we managed to reschedule our flights back to Texas to the next day, cutting our trip 4 days short.  This meant we had to fly into the Mumbai airport from Pune.   This flight turned out to be super pleasant, as short as it was.  We were given refreshments and warm face cloths for our faces - it was like a spa!  I sat next to Joanne, and David made friends with the young Indian fellow he sat next to.

We arrived in Mumbai early in the evening, and discovered that the city was under curfew.  We couldn't catch a taxi or rickshaw from the domestic airport to the international airport - a rather large problem for us as our flight to London was leaving in a couple of hours later from the international airport that night.  The young fellow that David had chatted with on the flight to Pune noticed our concern and asked if he could help.  We explained the situation and he offered to give us a ride in his car.  We gladly accepted... and then surprise!  God showed us just how in control He was of the whole situation.  It turned out that this fellow was the son of a famous Indian movie director.  His car was a chauffeur driven stretch Mercedes limousine!  Of all the ways to wrap up my lesson of trust and travel with God in India.  I didn't know until recently that Mercedes means mercy, reward, and/or favour.  We put our packs in the trunk and gingerly hopped in the back of that roomy limo, marvelling at God's provision and protection over us.  On the way to the international airport, we drove passed full armoured troop carriers, but no one stopped us.  Our flight from Mumbai left on time with us on board.  We arrived safely home in Dallas 26 hours later.

I'm playing the guitar, singing Sunday school songs  for kids in Vidisha (close to Bhopal)
I'm playing the guitar, singing Sunday school songs
for kids in Vidisha (close to Bhopal)

God's message to me:  Matthew 6:30-30 "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 2

In my last post about my trip to India I mentioned the fact that often God works in us as much as He works through us on short-term missions trips.  I also referred to how, from an early age, I'd get anxious about getting to places on time.

It was an early morning in  mid-October when our plane landed in New Delhi.  We caught a taxi to a guest house in Jangpura where we would stay for the first week.  We were warned not to eat food from street vendors - this was rather hard to do and it wasn't long before we ignored that advice and just ate naturally.  Within 24 hours, our tummies were feeling out of sorts.  We prayed about this and that was the last of our gastronomic troubles for rest of the trip.  And boy, is that Indian food tasty!
The Red Fort in Delhi
The Red Fort in Delhi

Our second week found us staying on an outdoor conference grounds in Delhi, close to Humayun's Tomb.  We were tasked with looking after the kids of missionaries while they were attending a conference for the week.  The dormitories we were housed in were made out of bricks and looked like large igloos.  The door frames on these structures were rather low - I had to duck to walk through them.  One day, someone asked me to run an errand that required I duck into one of these dorms.  In my enthusiasm, I ran and forgot to duck.  That doorframe wasn't moving, and I hit it hard.  It knocked me flat on my back and gave me a large gash above my hairline.  This was a concern, given the general state of cleanliness everywhere.  A nurse in attendance at the conference told me not to go to the hospital, and instead she cleaned the wound herself and tied my hair overtop of it to keep it closed.  We prayed that it wouldn't get infected... and it didn't.  I wore a hat for the next 3 weeks.

After the conference, we were due to leave New Delhi for Lahore, Pakistan.  We caught a rickshaw to the train station and pretty much immediately got stuck in traffic.  Lots of horns and small, loud, poorly carbureted motorcycle engines.  As we inched along I could feel the old anxiety rise inside of me, afraid we're going to miss our train.  It felt like we were stuck in traffic for an hour, and my fear of missing the train gnawed at me the whole time.  Finally getting through that, we arrived at the station with - as it turned out - time to spare to catch our train.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  God was encouraging me that He was in control.  Would I continue to trust Him?

It was an overnight trip to Amritsar on the train (Amritsar was as far as you can go towards Pakistan by train back then), and we had a lot of friendly attention - people curious about us and wanting to share their supper with us.  We tried everything and it was yummy.  When we laid down to sleep that night in our open berth, I was keen to ensure that our packs wouldn't get stolen so I slept 'with one eye open.'  Somewhere around 3am, a figure walked into our room and reached for my pack which was hanging on the wall.  In a quick motion I grabbed their outstretched arm.  They didn't seem too startled and reached behind my pack with their other arm and turned the light on.  The light revealed this person was a soldier with a gun - it turns out a group of them were checking the entire train in a security sweep.  I went back to bed and tried to sleep.

Joanne and I on the roof of the bus in Amritsar,  heading to the Pakistani border
Joanne and I on the roof of the bus in Amritsar,
heading to the Pakistani border
At 6am the next morning we arrived in Amritsar.  We caught a bus which was full, so we rode on the roof to the demilitarized zone between India and Pakistan.  The border crossing itself didn't open until later in the morning, so we waited.

Once the border opened we walked across.  As we entered Pakistan, the two border officials we dealt with were pleasant enough, and very interested in David's pen as we signed the visa documentation.  They were so interested, in fact, that they asked if they could keep it.  David smiled and declined, taking the pen back.  They weren't very busy so we chatted with them a bit, and they gave us some advice on the best way to get to Lahore.  We followed their advice and caught an absolutely packed Toyota van 32 kilometres into the city.

Checking into our hotel in Lahore, we discovered we didn't have our passports and return plane tickets. They had been forgotten in a bag somewhere at the border!  We desperately hoped and prayed that the bag would be there - we didn't know where else it would be.  These were the days before cell phones, so we immediately caught a van back to the border and discovered that the two border officials that were interested in David's pen had saved our bag for us.  We gratefully accepted the bag, and David sensitively turned down another request for his pen.  God was continuing to watch over us, and protect us from ourselves.

We stayed a night in Lahore, and then several nights with some Australian missionaries in Islamabad. Our last stop in Pakistan was in Peshawar - a city notoriously known as a smuggling route between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  We were, in fact, staying with an American family that worked with a federal US Drug Enforcement department there.  We were rather naive to the political and religious climate when we arrived in Peshawar.  Our hosts were late picking us up from the bus stop.  The locals there, seeing we were traveling with a guitar, asked us to play.  I pulled the guitar out and played some songs from church.  They seemed to enjoy this.  However, when our hosts arrived and saw what we were doing, they quickly ushered us into their car and drove us to their house.  In the next 2 decades, I became acutely aware of what kind of place Peshawar was, seeing it on the news quite a bit during the Afghan war with the Taliban.  God was certainly protecting us the few days we were there.

A road with elaborately decorated rickshaws in Islamabad, Pakistan (on the way to Peshawar)
A road with elaborately decorated rickshaws
in Islamabad, Pakistan (on the way to Peshawar)

Click here for more true stories of God working in my life
The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 1
The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 3

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The India Trip - Learning to Trust God - Part 1

If you've ever done short-term missions work, you'll likely have heard it said (or been told) that God does as much work in you as He does through you.
At the DFW British Airways gate - ready for the first leg of our journey
David, Joanne, and I at the gate about to leave DFW airport
for the first leg of our trip to Gatwick, England.
I certainly felt that way on my trip to India & Pakistan.

Throughout that time God was showing me that I could trust Him - that He'd take care of me as I travelled, that we'd get to places we needed to on time, and that we'd be safe and healthy.  Why was this important to me?  Well...

When I was about 6, my parents had arranged for us to go to see Mr. Dressup 'live'.  This was a big deal to me because he was the Canadian version of 'Mr. Rogers' and I had watched him on TV for most of my life - all 6 years of it.  Somehow it turned out that we got to the venue late.  There was a huge lineup, blocks long, and we weren't going to make it to the show.  I was terribly disappointed.  Following that incident, I always wanted to be early to any kind of show or important engagement we went to, and I would get nervous and uptight if it looked like we were going to be late.  

Myself, Joanne, & David after our first? round of inoculations before leaving
Myself, Joanne, & David after our first?
round of inoculations before leaving
India & Pakistan aren't great places to go for someone with this kind of 'hang-up'.  But God was on my side.  

I was travelling with two friends that I knew from the ministry I volunteered at in Texas.  Our plan was to travel for 9 weeks and visit 8 cities across India and Pakistan, helping YWAM bases and other missionaries while we were there.  We hadn't even left the States before challenges to my peace of mind started to arise....

We all required Indian visas in our passports before we left.  This meant we had to send our passports to the Indian Consulate in San Fransisco.  Our visa approvals got delayed and three days before we were due to fly out we still had not received our passports back from the consulate.  There wasn't really much we could do about the situation except pray, and so pray we did.  And the day before we were scheduled to leave, our passports arrived complete with visas.  You wanna talk about elation!  We were all so relieved.  It would have been terrible to lose the money on changing our flights and have to reschedule a bunch of things.  God had come through!

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