We spent Palm Sunday in Mumbai before getting on this train in the evening (which we almost missed - at the wrong train station; 15 minutes to get across town at 5:20pm; ran to the train platform and jumped onto the moving train that had started to depart ... but that is for another story). During our devotional time, we discovered that the palms in Palm Sunday really have very little to do with the story. So what should we call this day then? How about "Return of the King" Sunday (any Lord of the Ring fans?) I like it.
So back to Good Friday. Unlike "Return of the King" Sunday, I do not believe that we should or need to rename this pivotal day. It was indeed a "good" Friday when Christ was crucified, and it is a "good" Friday when we remember this sacrifice. The good is most definitely shrouded with the sorrow of death and of perceived failure. The good can be masked by broken hopes and dreams of the coming king that should have saved and redeemed Israel. The good can seem so dark when the light of Life went out. Good does not have to be pretty or happy or peaceful.
But how good is our Lord who was able to say, "I will do this, not because I want to, but because it is your will, Father." And all of this for us. How good is this sacrifice that salvation and redemption and freedom is bought for us all. Thank you Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God, for doing that which we are unable to do. Thank you Sovereign God that Christianity says, "it is done" and "there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves; it is already taken care of." Amen?
Am I becoming hardened to compassion? I saw in Delhi and Mumbai and most places in between on the trains, what my heart knows is injustice: poverty. This is not the case everywhere you look. In both of these major cities, they are having to deal with the strain of an over-burdened infrastructure. There is visible wealth, visible middle class, and visible poverty. Homes that are single rooms (mostly) defined by singular strips of corrugated iron sheets, fastened, tied or even simply leaning on each other with various pieces of shingles or plastic tarp held down by stones as a roof. The better-off houses are stone or simply dry stacked, sun-baked bricks. Both of these cases are considered descent homes because at least they have shelter. Many of these exist in tight, dense communities where if you can share a wall with your neighbor (or two or three) then that is one less wall that you have to build (which is, by the way, a more energy efficient design strategy - cooler in summer and warmer in winter - than existing solo). Hills of trash right outside the mini-compound continue to build up because where else are you going to put your waste if the city does not come to collect it and put it in one gigantic mountain of trash (this is also a critic of America's system). The city does not come because these people are mostly squatters, which is another reason why their building techniques are temporary in nature: tomorrow everything you have could be destroyed, torn down, and/or taken away. Why are they squatters? Because land cost is so expensive and the people are so many. In economic terms, when there is personal ownership, where your asset has the ability to appreciate in value, people will tend to take better care of what they have so that they can add value to what they own. If you do not own it, why waste your hard earned and scarce resource of money to add value to something that you cannot claim the appreciated value? This seems to be true for the world over. Where there is government housing with "shared" spaces (i.e. community baths), no one claims ownership of the area, so it tends not to be well kept. Any in case, here it is. It is presented right in front of you ... especially when traveling by train (the land close to railroad tracks, even in the states, is where some squatter communities are forced to live). So there is that.
Another truth when traveling by train, especially in sleeper class (second to lowest class), is you will come into contact with beggars of all shapes and sizes. There are cripples - the legless, the armless, or just simply the physically disabled in whatever form. There are transvestites (males dressed as females) that sing a song. Thankfully, they only go up to men, tussle their hair and demand money. In this case, I am very glad to be a female - sorry guys, I have not seen many, but they are pretty scary. There are children - some play drums or sing and then want money from you because you "listened" (forced to hear and listened is equal apparently); some pick up the trash around you on the train (there are no trash bins on most trains) and then ask for compensation; and some just beg, standing/ crawling/ kneeling for several minutes waiting. They give a tug on your pants leg or shirttail or sleeve. We were "prepared" for this during orientation. We were told what we would come into contact with. Not all beggars are legitimate - I mean, they are legitimately begging, that is for sure, but some motives are not pure. We were told that if you give money or food to a kid, an adult could be right around the corner waiting to collect from the kid, while the child is left without.
I have learned (good or bad) that if I give them eye contact, they will come up to me. If I do not give them eye contact and pretend not to perceive their presence at all (really, this is saying that I do not think that they exist ... my heart aches that this is reality), then they might not come up to me ... but then again, they probably will because I am noticeably a foreigner and so of course I am rich and compassionate. Which I am in both respects, relatively speaking.
In Mumbai, while walking around the first day that we arrived (which was an adventure on its own to experience the domestic train during morning rush-hour, discovering which hotel we were going to stay at, finding breakfast, and generally discovering/ meandering of Mumbai), we were walking past this small, narrow squatter settlement built between a main road and a very high compound wall enclosing shipping docks. These two young kids (not older than eight) ran up next to us and started walking with us, begging. As I began to open up my bag, a couple more came running out. Before leaving Mussoorie, I bought like twenty little chocolate eclairs and some random hard fruit candies, for the express purpose of handing them out to kids that I meet. I had already given half of my stash away by this point in the journey. When that first candy came out, I suddenly had a small crowd of children around me. So I gave them each one candy. Many of them ran home excited, while a few hung around, continued walking with us, wanting more.
That was fun. That is something that makes me smile. I believe that God smiles too. But many times, I say no. And most times there is not even a spoken “no”; it is a glance of the eyes, a turn of the head, or just plain ignoring their existence.
I do not know what the appropriate response is, if one exists. I know that I have been cheated and lied to, but still gave. I have not given anything and known that they truly needed it. What I do know is that the only resource, my only true reliance, needs to be the Spirit's prompting, despite what I am thinking. I also know that if you give to everyone, you will give everything ... but maybe sometimes that is what is asked of us.
Traffic in Mumbai. We took the public bus system from a public garden to the Gateway of India.
Picture on left: CST train station. Beautiful building.
Picture on right: Crawford Market on a Saturday. Crazy busy.
More church on the beach. We were in this grove of coconut trees where it is shaded, then walked all of a couple of steps to the ocean.
Here we are at the existing YWAM facility (their main building where students sleep, classes held, and food prepared and eaten). The neighborhood is beautiful - still with Portuguese influence in architecture.
I just got back from my first project trip in Goa, India. What a wonderful experience it was to see this YWAM ministry and the family like atmosphere. It is difficult to keep God in our little boxes when we see/experience Him working mightily on the other side of the world. Praise God!
We all worked very hard this last week to produce a design for a new facility for 60 people for the YWAM Bridge Institute in Goa. The intensity was like design studio in school before a presentation. I was up until at least midnight most days just working with the team. Good food, good people, good neighborhood, good week, and now time for good rest on the beach (Colva Beach) for two days before jumping on the train again to head to Mumbai, then quickly onto Pune for project trip number two. And the adventure continues.
I want to post some pictures. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. I have not been able to go through my pictures yet, but soon. All is well. All are healthy. May God be glorified in all that you do.