Calcutta and Impal, Manipur, India - November 2000

This is part 4 in a series of posts. You can catch up by reading post # One and # Two, and post # Three first before reading this one!

During my first trip to India I really felt like I could do this thing - serving in Missions overseas. But after the trip, as I reflected more and more on it, I really found this passion for serving/praying for missionaries and also for mobilizing people on the homefront. This is still my passion. Nothing brings me more joy than to be there to mentor a young person, to show them that they CAN do what they dream about. I also love showing adults that it’s never too late to serve this way - even if it’s short term. I have this passion that EVERY single person should travel and get to know people and other cultures at least once in their lifetime. It will change your life! Maybe one day God might change my direction to serve full time in another country, and I’ll explore that opportunity when it comes, but if I never do, I’ll still be giving my life to mobilize others. It’s a part of who I am.

Because I was passionate about mobilization and still thinking about my future, a friend recommended to me an organization called Global Mission Fellowship (GMF). She thought I might be interested in working with them as they worked stateside with permanent partnerships overseas and took teams 1-3 times a year. I LOVED this idea! Once I contacted them, they said that I should go on a trip first to get to know the organization and what they do.

Because I fell in love with India - it was an easy pick from their list for me to go to Calcutta and Manipur that year. It was again with a team of people I had never met before. The majority of them were from California. So I was to fly from Memphis, Tennessee to somewhere else (I forget where), then on to LAX to meet with the team and fly to Calcutta.

Well, {this is a trend for me} things happened with my flight - we sat on the runway for hours. I was flying into LAX and then needed to switch from the domestic terminal to the International terminal, go through security again (because of how the terminals were set up) and I was barely going to make it. If this happened, there wasn’t another flight out until the following evening, which would have seriously affected the travel plans in-country once the team got to India.

I knew I only had minutes to get to my connecting flight. I didn’t know how it would be possible, but I prayed I’d make it. The minute I got off the plane in LAX I was ready to run. As soon as I got out of the jetway I heard someone call my name. It was my trip leader (who was a GMF staff member). He asked me if I was ready to run. And we sprinted to the international terminal. He told me that he told two of the team members to refuse to get on the international plane until we got there. He knew the airport staff would rather wait than to try to go retrieve their baggage (since your baggage can’t go if you don’t). There was this LONG line for security (lots of international flights leaving at the same time) but we asked people if we could cut in line and they allowed it, and we arrived just as they were about to shut the door to the plane.

We made it! I sat next to my trip leader on the flight out and told him what just happened was no big deal. He laughed, but then I proceeded to share with him my story (from the posts before this one). He looked at me and said, “This trip will be a piece of cake for you after that!” I was a little relieved, although it was not proving itself to me at this point, lol. My friend, Dennis (the friend that passed away before my first trip) always had this catch phrase, “Making Memories.” I still to this day use it: If things go as planned, or normal…you’re more likely to forget them. Some whenever things aren’t “normal,” you’ll often hear me say, “Making Memories!” And it’s sooo true!

Hours later, we landed in Calcutta and of course my luggage didn’t make it - if I had to sprint to make it, then you KNOW my luggage wasn’t sprinting to make it! So I was a few days without my luggage, but I packed enough to get through the days in my carry-on. Thankfully we had a couple of days before we were to fly on to Manipur in the North East part of India, otherwise I might not have ever gotten it.

While in Calcutta we visited a very large Hindu village. We were told that we would need to have a visit with the high priest of the village first to get permission to visit. We were counting on spending the day in this village telling the story of Jesus thru storying, so it was important to get this priest’s permission. There were 25 of us on the team and as we arrived we got off our bus and began to walk towards the village. We were told that the priest is always protected and hidden by the people. (You have to understand that the sweet people of this village are very superstitious and scared of strange things - which white people were).

What I'm about to share here is something I've maybe told 2 people since it happened. I struggled with not wanting people to think it was about me, or that I was prideful. I didn't know how I could tell this story without it sounding that way and I just didn't trust that people knew me well enough to not think that it was about me, as people often make snap judgments about you without truly knowing who you REALLY are. I've become burdened to tell this story now because I feel like it's robbing God His glory in not revealing such a beautiful story of HIS work. So here goes:

We didn’t know how it was going to play out, but as we were walking down the road toward the village, one of the men with us pointed out that the priest was walking towards us. He was surrounded by other men from the village. Then the priest walked directly up to me {why, I have no idea} and the interpreter stood there and translated as the priest addressed me directly and told us that we were welcome here and that he would like for me to pray for him. I asked, “Now?” and the interpreter said, “Yes.” And I was terrified - what do I pray over this man who doesn’t know Christ and is revered as a “god” to these people. Not to mention that it will be interpreted and he will hear it along with all the male leaders of the village as they are surrounding us in a circle. It was an intense moment for me.

So I prayed. I prayed that this village would be blessed with good health, that they would have just enough for survival, that their leaders would make wise decisions about their peoples future. That they would get to know the one true God, the only one who could be their rescue, that their minds and hearts would be open to Him.

Afterwards the priest grasped my hands and said we were welcome there and then took off into the woods. I really didn’t know what just happened. After that, we got into teams of two (one team member and one translator) and I asked if I could go visit the priest at his home. I was told that he was always kept hidden and that it was not possible, that I wouldn’t see him again.

So we set out to go visit with the people. I played and told stories to many children.

Later on, one little girl kept pulling me by the hand and my translator said she wanted to take me to where they worship. The translator told me I shouldn’t go as it could be unsafe. But I told him I wanted to go. With much hesitation he agreed, but was not happy with me at all. As we walked, several other children followed us. Once we got to the temple, I saw some adults worshipping the many gods of the Hindu.

I proceeded to share my stories with the children who were surrounding me. After awhile I looked up and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the priest standing there listening to what was being said. I prayed hard that something he heard would touch him and open his heart to God.

Shortly after this it was time for us to go. So we headed back to the bus to go back to our hotel.

The next day we were to go to the Missionaries of Charity to work at Mother Teresa’s home for the destitute and dying or in the orphanage.

The rules only allowed females inside the orphanage, so we sent the men from the team to the home, and the female team members to the orphanage. We got to hear and see a lot of history of Mother Teresa’s work. I was in awe of the orphanage and the work being done there, especially with little girls. India still incorporates the dowry system and girls are just too expensive to keep {This situation will affect me on another trip you’ll hear about later}.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” -- Mother Teresa

The next day I finally received my luggage, just in time as we were off to Manipur - a restricted access area.

NOTE: After getting home, I could not ever forget that village in Calcutta, nor its sweet children or the kind priest I met. I prayed for them off and on. The following year GMF took another team to Calcutta and I received a letter from them saying that something absolutely amazing happened and that nearly the entire village were now God followers! This was THOUSANDS of people. Who were now God followers - of the ONE God! Amazing!

Now, off to Manipur - To be continued…

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