(This Blog was written toward the end of my stay in India. I returned on Monday, October 16, 2017)
Three weeks ago, I entered the country of India to meet up with a group that had already gathered the day before in Delhi. This group did not know all the adventures and experiences they would encounter; yet as I met up with them on Wednesday morning, they were ready for the first leg of the trip. We would depart from Delhi, heading toward Jaipur, our first stop. I tried to remember the variety of things we would see, since I had been in a similar group in May 2015. The issue, though, was we had done our trip the opposite way; ending in Jaipur. As I watched the city give way to more of an agricultural countryside, I was reminded of the sprawling beauty of India.
Jaipur was a wonderful stop including a night at a hotel and then a visit to the Textile artisans. The spectacular beauty of the intricately woven rugs and variety of beautiful fabrics invited people to purchase some of these items to take home with them. The next morning, we visited the Amer Fort and City Palace where the history of India comes alive even more. We stayed one more night before departing for Agra, the next morning.
When we arrived in Agra, we went straight to the Agra Fort, hearing the interesting history of this structure, and seeing the Taj Mahal from a distance. We knew we would be able to see the Taj the next morning, so this served as an appetizer for what we would be much closer to the next day. As we approached the Taj Mahal the next morning, we were greeted with the grandeur and intricacy of the marble and the jewel inlays. There were thousands of people viewing the Taj Mahal that day, which made it more difficult to relax and take in all the beauty surrounding this wonder of the world. After our trip to the Taj Mahal, we traveled to a nearby artisan studio where they make the beautiful marble pieces with the jewel inlays. Each of the artisans has a lineage back to the original artisans on the Taj Mahal. The beauty of each piece is beyond words.
After Agra, we changed our focus for the trip from tourism to E. Stanley Jones history and legacy here in India. For those who may not know, Brother E. Stanley Jones was a missionary in India for many years. His influence is still felt in India as a missionary, statesman, and friend. His model of ministry was more focused on conversation than articulation. It was his desire to hear the question before he offered any answer. We traveled to Lucknow, where he started the first Mental Hospital in India; then on to Sitapur where his wife, Mabel Lossing Jones, ran a boy’s school; to Bareilly where the Methodist Church has Warne Baby Fold and where Clara Swain Hospital is located. It was wonderful to experience these sites with Anne Mathews-Younes, Jones’ granddaughter. At each site, she would share stories about her grandfather, bringing the vision for each of these ministries to a fuller light.
After, Bareilly, we headed to Sat Tal, where we stayed for seven nights. I will write more about Sat Tal in a future post.
After Sat Tal, we began our travels toward Delhi. We stopped at Corbett National Park where we had the opportunity to see wild animals in their natural habitat. It was a beautiful park, and our resort for the night was a unique space where I learned what it means to go Glamping (a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping). The picture accompanying this post is the “tent” where I stayed.
After leaving Corbett, we returned to Delhi, where we began to say, “Good bye” to several of the group members as they began their trek back to home and other destinations. I will be staying four extra days in Delhi with two other men as we meet with pastors and lay people interested in the Christian Ashram.
We arrived at the YMCA Tourist Hostel, where Simon Peter greeted us. He attended the Summer Session of the Sat Tal Christian Ashram, and Tom has kept in touch with him. He works with the YMCA teaching classes for youth and young adults. He and I had a wonderful conversation about ministry to youth and young adults, and I hope to have continued conversation with him in the coming weeks and months.
There were several providential appointments during our time at the YMCA. Many of them came from an introduction to Mukesh Azad, a life coach at the YMCA. His contacts took us to the Brotherhood Society to meet Fr. Monadeep Daniel; to the slums of Kobba, which I have been told is the largest slum in Asia; to the Fr. Agnel orphanage outside of Delhi; to a Dalit who is now a Catholic Priest, doing ministry to the Dalits; to an introduction to a man who is representing the Dalit people in front of the Supreme Court.
Overall, the trip was life changing and life affirming. I look forward to sharing many more experiences through the Adventure Journal and this blog. I do not have a date set for the next trip to India, but I know there will be another trip to India in the future.