India Mission Part One
I realized that I never really explained what my mission trip to India with Trinity was like to all you that read my blog. Because of this I saw that it was fitting that I write a few blog posts about it over the next few weeks. Here is part one of the trip, mainly about cultural impressions and travel. I hope you are encouraged by some of the things that Trinity has been doing through short term mission trips.
Travel to India
The trip for me started early on the 28th of December. The mission team met up at my college to go over final ministry preparations and to pack food for the trip. After this we left for the airport around 5 pm and our flight left for Abu Dubai in the middle-east around 8 pm. The flight to Abu Dubai was over 13 hours—this was by far the longest plane ride I ever had. We flew using Etihad Airlines which much like the city of Abu Dubai, was a surprising mix of Western and Islamic values. For instance the airplane had everything in both English and Arabic and had movies from America, Europe, Arabia, and India. From Abu Dubai we had another 4 and a half hour flight before finally landing in Chennai, India on December 30th.
Right after we landed into Chennai, I was immediately bombarded with new cultural experiences. The first one I noticed when the doors of the plane opened. India has a scent of its own. It smells like a mix of spices, garbage, and urine. Most of the time it is not a very strong smell, but nevertheless an unpleasant smell. The airport itself was large, but somewhat run down. Not like what you would expect at a Western Airport. In the airport we had to go through customs who enjoyed pestering us about what we were doing in India. This was a somewhat nerve-racking experience especially for the mission team trying to enter into a country that is somewhat hostile to Christians.
Cultural Impressions in Chennai
When we got out of the airport I had to get used to India traffic. The team of 13 packed into a small bus and entered onto the highway. Indians drive on the left side of the road in a chaotic fashion. Motorcycles and large trucks swerve around each other and horns are constantly blazing, reminding cars that there are large vehicles present. Red lights are often not followed. Along the roads are posters of political figures, movie stars, and local businessmen. All Indians know who their leaders are.
The bus took us to the hotel we would temporary be staying at. It was morning when we got to the hotel. The team all slept a few hours. After some much needed rest, the team decided to go see some of the tourist attractions before we left Chennai. We went to the beach at Chennai. At the beach there was a lot of booths set up selling things. There were so many people at the beach. Garbage was everywhere and in the water. It turns out we were an attraction at the beach as Chennai often does not get that many foreigners. Next we visited Spencer Mall in Chennai where we learned how to negotiate like Indians do (which I never got good at). This whole time I was slowly picking up on the culture.
Travel to Repalle
The rest of the day the team got prepared to head off to our next location, the town of Repalle to the North of Chennai. To get to Repalle we got up early the next day and took a train. The train ride was a culture lesson in itself. Everyone uses the train because it is the fastest way around India as the roads are pretty bad. The trains are packed with people especially in the lower classes. People walk back and forth between the cars selling things like at a baseball game. On the train, a small cup of chai tea cost 5 rupees which is about 8 cents in American dollars—money goes much farther in India.
The train ride took over 6 hours to go from Chennai to Guntur. From Guntur to Repalle we had to take a bus for another hour and a half. As you can imagine, by the time we got to Repalle the team was sick of traveling. I was also beginning to get anxious to start doing some ministry. When we got to IREF in Repalle were we would be doing our ministry at, we were welcomed by thousands of students from the mission that were lined up to greet us. They threw flowers at us and gave us giant flower lei necklaces. It was really overwhelming. This was just the beginning of this awesome journey!