A Strange Mix: The Finale’, Leprosy, and Shopping

Thursday, March 29, 2012
(YES, this is too long to read, but, remember,
I write this for myself as it is just to much for my brain to retain!!)

Wednesday afternoon marked the end of the three day leadership conference in Siliguri. Tim, with Jeff and Jiwan’s blessing, pushed the leadership a bit out of their comfort zone by having several small group meeting times doing Discovery Bible studies. At first they were very tentative doing this but then it was hard for them to finish up as the discussion grew more lively and longer in length. (They are simply accustomed to being polite listeners to a speaker.)

AS if that weren’t enough he also arranged the room differently for the Lord’s supper, having the Lord’s supper table in the middle of four sections of chairs. (This rattled all of them since the men and women always sit separately, with the men on the left and the women on the right. Now there was no right nor left so they were a bit confused upon entering the room.) But with instruction from Jiwan (and the four of us seating ourselves in the proper quadrant) things went smoothly.

The communion time was beautiful. We used mango juice rather than wine (this is a very strict culture so we didn’t even look for the difficult to find drink) and roti (a locally made bread). Tim explained the origins of Jesus doing the Lord’s supper with Passover meal beginnings and how He changed things up by stating that he was now the Passover lamb, paying the price for the punishment of our sins. The Indians were not use to dipping the bread into the wine but it caught on quickly. The men (out of cultural habit) went first with the ladies following. Tim had instructed everyone to pray on their own and then pray for each other. This time went on for quite awhile with many people praying for each other. Again, it was hard for me to gauge what the Lord was doing in the room because of the language barrier. But Jiwan was very encouraged and this encouraged us.

After MANY photo sessions (I was surprised at the number of cell phones/cameras in the room) and many bows we left the precious people who will continue to minister Jesus to Siliguri, Nepal and the outlying areas.

Since TREC Ministries had paid for and delivered many bags of rice to the Leprosy colony the day before, we decided to go there right after the conference. It was, shockingly, right off the main busy road. But Jeff explained that it WAS on the outskirts years ago but the city had grown to it and past it.

As we drove up a few of the children and adults seemed to recognize Jiwan’s vehicle and came to greet us. As we all got out, more kids appeared. I am always thankful for my camera at these times as I am able to snap ONE photo of ONE child and show it to him/her and I instantly gain favor. More and more children smiled and I took more and more photos. Tho i have deleted MANY of these photos of nameless children over the past few days, I doubt I will delete any of these. Though the children are healthy, one or both of their parents have leprosy. I looked up and noticed a man with with worn t-shirt and a lungi (a towel-like fabric worn as a skirt of sorts) He no longer had hands and his feet were being eaten away as well by the leprosy. He managed, very painstakingly, to step down the three steps to greet us. He had no hand rail and with each step he looked like he would topple over but he made it.

I learned later that he was the head-authority (like the patriarch) of the colony. His name is Jo Gindra. He greeted Jeff and Jiwan and thanked them for the rice that had been delivered the day before. He said that, tho no one told them, they knew it was from the J-Ma-C people (“J-ma-C” is the Christian greeting that all believers speak when first seeing one another.) This is the only Christian influence that they have.

AS I snapped pictures, Jiwan spoke to them, sharing that the rice was a blessing, not from people but from the Lord. He said that Jesus provided it and they needed to thank HIM for it. He told them that they needed to believe in Jesus for their eternity. (Simple enough). I am amazed at this beautiful principle found in scriptures: God blesses us and with these blessings we bless others so that they may know HIM who created them. This rice was a bountiful blessings to these many families bound to this Leper Colony and opened the door to share the simplicity of the gospel. If you are reading this, please stop and pray for the salvation of Jo Gindra and the others in the Leper Colony.

During our time there, Trudy learned that some of the people there were Bengali. So she pulled from her hat the only Bengali song that she knew: This is the Day that the Lord hath made. That song has always been so simple to me. But at that moment I realized the MASSIVE truth that was being sung over these Hindu people! Though it was rote to me it was the Word that, as promised, wouldn’t return void! I can hardly wait to share these pictures, but that will have to wait for one more week.

After that we were off to the market. I had my short list of ‘must-buys’ that made Jiwan a ‘man with a mission’! The first thing we wanted was TEA so we could bless Susan (Tim’s sister who had a birthday last week). All of the shops are just store-fronts and all are very, how should I describe this, non-technical. All the money is kept in a single drawer in each shop (much like a baseball concession stand) When we walked up to any store we quickly became to center of attention. At that point I went into stupor-mode. It was too much for me to handle with 2-4 men asking me in a foreign language what I wanted. (I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT I WANTED YET!!) The tea men pulled out many different kids of tea in small canisters, unscrewing them and quickly placing them on the marble counter. Then they began spouting out what kind it was, how many rupees it was and how they would package it for us. Jiwan and Tim would smell it (what were they smelling it for!?!?) and then point to first this one and then the other one and then the next thing you know we had several packages and were off to the next place.

Jiwan was masterful at weaving thru the crowds. Jiwan is only about 5 feet tall. I was behind him so I was walking pretty fast and working very hard to keep my eyes on him. I never looked behind me to see if they were keeping up with us. I figured that my blonde head would be fairly easy to keep an eye on so I just kept hoofing it. Then we appeared in the Sari store where I bought my Easter outfit (!?!). What an experience THAT was! But Jiwan, not one to waste time, was off to the kitchen store. (Tammy would be frothing at the mouth!)

But time was a wasting so we stopped at a store for Trudy to buy some trinkets for the girls at the Children’s home. Tim and Jeff headed one way and I paused to watch a store owner demonstrate a cage like gadget to an old Hindu couple. He touched a wire with his finger and BAM, the end of it snapped down. I was snagged!!! What was this?! A RAT TRAP!! YES! I HAD to have one!!! HOW MUCH!!??? The couple laughed at my reaction: “Where are you from?” they asked in broken English. “America.” They just smiled as the store owner continued to demonstrate his amazing contraption. And 50 rupees ($1.00) later I was the proud owner on a crude handmade rat trap! DON’T tell Hamilton about his exciting souvenir!!

Then on to the toy store (dolls for the girls at the Children’s home) and the vegetable section (great photos). Then Jeff cordially invited me into a dark inner alley that housed THE MEAT MARKET. I took one deep breath before stepping into one of the NASTIEST places I have ever been in. I pulled up my camera, smiled and asked the first dirty gritty man, “Photo?” He nodded and promptly took out his cell phone and took a photo of me, taking a photo of him! Well, that was all it took: EVERY man in there wanted his picture taken WITH the meat (dead-hanging-animals) or fly-infested fish that he was selling. I still haven’t taken a first look at those pics as it really was absolutely and purely disdainful. I fear that even the photos will reek!

AS we stepped out there were baskets and baskets (all about 4 feet wide) of live chickens then rows of baskets of eggs. The market was a feast for the senses!! Trudy just shook her head as she and Jiwan stayed out!

It was twilight by this time so after one more toy store we were in the SUV again and off to the hotel and it’s restaurant. We all said we weren’t hungry but ordered enough Indian food for two families.

WE were able to sleep in this morning and went down for our typical breakfast. Trudy and I finally waved the white flag on the boiled eggs opting just for toast-butter-jam and hot tea. Tim noticed a man out in the street selling lungi’s (thin towel fabric for men) so we left Jeff with the cold toast and headed to the street to barter. The one man turned into what felt like 20 men! (Tho I think it was in reality only 5-6) They began opening up the folded material and sputtering out prices. I was getting confused (again) even tho I had my personal laminated conversion chart. Finally 2 of the men who worked at the hotel appeared out of nowhere, coming to our rescue by clearing things up and negotiating. I came back with 2 long red and green lungis for $4.00 that I plan to use to decorate my table at Christmas! Exhausting!

Jiwan soon arrived and we went to the local Spencer’s (like a Target of sorts) that was inside a mall (of sorts). It was kind of him to take us there but it had way too much of a western feel. WE did, however, end up our time there by visiting the Kentucky Fried Chicken. As we got to it’s door Jiwan saw a woman that he knew who was a believer. The girl with her was white (!?) and so I asked her where she was from.
“Tennessee,” she replied. “What about you?”
“Alabama! Where in Tennessee?”
(She got a hug!)
Megan has lived in India for 3 years now and has been instrumental in bringing Young Life to Siliguri. She was precious and I look forward to her being my newest Facebook friend. To meet an American here was wonderful but to find one from the south was even better. We exchanged a few more niceties and a ROLL TIDE and then ate some of the best chicken I have eaten in over a year!

So now we are at the children’s home. As we arrived the children greeted us with hugs and kisses and GREAT amounts of anticipation. They quickly realized that all the packages that we carried were FOR THEM!! Woo Hoo! The $3.00 watch and transforming truck were given to JOE (Ujjal–the only boy), the five cuddly dolls to the five younger girls (thank you, Tommy and Blanche), and the hair trinkets and nail polish to the older girls. EVERYONE was happy (Ujjal will be happier when he gets his 4-AA batteries this evening!)

Tomorrow begins another day of travel and on to Bangkok to see Paul Chong and meet his family.

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