Thursday, January 26, 2006

Second World Reflections

As we live into the second week of our adventure I need to begin by saying this is amazing. India is a place of stark contrasts. There is brilliant color and lots of dust. Even this morning as we wandered about the neighborhood ( see the pictures) we are struck by the variety of smells – good and bad. Curry drifts in the morning air along with diesel exhaust, fragrant flowers and human smells I don’t need to mention. It’s all a part of living in what may soon be the most populous country in the world. The greatest contrast however is the presence of such great poverty and immense joy – this is stunning and has started some pretty deep reflection on life and faith personally and for those I serve in ministry. The faith of believers here is profoundly joy filled and the hospitality is overwhelming. This can be explained by two examples. The first is the hospitality of the Bishop’s wife Susan. She truly reminds me of my mother ( honest mom!). In fact,I think they buy their house dresses from the same shop! She is a small woman with grey hair tied in a bun with a brilliant smile. She pushes food on us every waking hour – even when the Bishop eats with us she does not – there is not even a plate set - she usually stands hovering about us heaping more rice or curry on our plates before we can say “no”. If we don’t take one thing she sends for the cook (a dear older woman named Mary) to bring in something else – she watches for what we seem to like and you can be sure we will get it again. She is also a homeopathic doctor and has brewed us up some medicine for my dysentery ( yes I got the bug – cipro is my new best friend!).

Every parish we visit feeds us. We are not quite accustomed to being treated as honored guests. We are fed first, and often in the parsonage main room with the bishop and the other pastors. When there is any kind of meeting, I am asked to speak. Yesterday, after the 50th anniversary celebration service (which Donna will tell you about) there was a village meeting which the local catholic priest convened. He was such a friendly guy with good English and a kind spirit. It was inspiring to see how he and the local pastor are friends. Donna and I were invited to sit at the head table with the bishop, a couple local political leaders and church officials. The Bishop is an excellent translator.

Some of you were struck by the seeming opulence of the Bishop’s House and wondered how that fits with the poverty all around. The Bishop’s House is the center for diocese work. There are meeting and conference rooms in the front. To the left beyond that is the Bishop’s residence which is nice by India standards but not what may appear from an outside view. The kitchen uses wood for cooking – there is a small two burner LP gas stove for a few things. There is a television and it has been a hoot to watch the Bishop’s wife and servants watching their favorite soap operas while we eat our evening meal. There are no lazy boy recliners in India! They stand or sit on the floor as they watch. The house is basically furnished with resin picnic chairs.

I put the heading on this of “Second World Reflections” because that’s what India seems to be. Kerala is about 90% literate, most people have some shelter available, but most also barely get by. There is no luxury. There is education but employment is scarce and in a labor intensive economy the pay is unbelievably low (I think the average daily wage is about 100 rupees ($2.00). There is electric but it goes out most days. I said there is no luxury but that’s not true – the place of luxury and pleasure is in fellowship and hospitality – and with these India is a wealthy country!

More later.


  • At 5:50 AM, Blogger Carol and Gary Fritz said…

    Harold - It sounds like the old saying, "the best things in life are free" reigns true in E. Kerala. Meaning of course, the hospitality and fellowship. You can teach us more about "Koinonia". This is a great experience for you and Donna. Enjoy every minute.

    Carol and Gary


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