Wednesday, February 20, 2013


No jet lag in Singapore! I felt great all day. I thought it would have been perfect if we could have flown to India at around 5 p.m., arriving there at 9 and getting to go to bed at 10, which would have made the time change pretty smooth. But our plane didn’t arrive in India until 11 p.m., which means by the time we got our luggage, cleared customs, drove to our hotel and settled in it would probably be close to 1 a.m., which would make it difficult to get up with the sun the next morning...which is the key to beating jet lag. Oh, well...when traveling around the world you just have to go with the flow!

From the beautiful, clean and efficient airport in Singapore, we arrived in an archaic-appearing airport in Visakhaptnam, India. As we waited beside the simple baggage carousel, Jeff kept looking around saying, "This isn’t the same airport that I was in before. This must be new." I gazed at the stained ceiling tiles, the broken marble floors, the walls that were lacking trim, the old light fixtures dripping cobwebs, the simple signs. "No, this place is at least 30 years old." I replied. "You must not remember it because you would have arrived at the domestic side coming from Mumbai. This is the first time you’ve arrived internationally. You’re probably remembering a different wing of the airport." But Jeff kept staring and shaking his head. Our luggage finally came creaking along the carousel, and we loaded it ourselves, although there were many Indians eagerly trying to help us so they could earn a tip. We rolled our way out of customs to a long line of brown faces smiling expectantly. We didn’t see our pastor friends, so we kept walking. Outside the doors of the airport was a mass of people. I had deja-vu at that point...remembering back to a Samaritan’s Purse "Operation Christmas Child" mission trip I had taken to Costa Rica and how we had to leave the airport and enter a sea of people whose language we didn’t speak and how we were mobbed by "helpful" people who wanted to take our luggage so they could earn a tip and how I tried to keep my girls together and how one of the helpful people actually took one of our carts full of luggage and rolled it away and how I had to chase him back into a forbidden section of airport as he rolled away our luggage, running boldly past the police in my frantic concern over losing our luggage, telling them I was going after my bags and deliberately entering the forbidden section right in front of them!  I got my luggage back, but it was a bit stressful, and I was imagining a repeat as I walked outside into the crowd of unfamiliar faces and speech. But within seconds I heard my name, and then four enthusiastic people were there to greet us:  Dr. Sam and his wife Jaya as well as Jameson, who is Dr. Sam’s brother, and Jameson’s wife Mercy. They draped us with leis of heavy, fragrant flowers, picked up our luggage and led us to the car, the ladies’ arms around my shoulders and waist, laughing and welcoming me warmly to India. We headed for the hotel on quiet and somewhat orderly city streets. The late hour made traffic light, so Jeff said I wouldn’t get a real road experience until tomorrow. I’m always sorry when I arrive someplace at night. I love to absorb the sights around me and so enjoy that first fascination with my destination. But the clear roads gave us a quick trip to the hotel, so I wasn’t complaining.  We kept up a lively "arrive at destination" conversation, like, "How was your trip?  Are you tired?  Are you hungry?  How are your children?  How is your church?"  Jeff mentioned that he didn't remember the airport, and Dr. Sam said he didn't remember it because it was a different airport...a new one!  Jeff said, "I thought so!"  And I was amazed that something brand new could look so old.  Perhaps it wasn't falling apart; perhaps it was just never properly finished! We arrived at our hotel and Dr. Sam and Jaya checked us in and saw us to our room to make sure we were happy with it. We was clean and had all the amenities we would need. But there were two little beds instead of one big one. Neither of us said anything; we didn’t want to complain in front of our hosts. We thanked them and said goodnight and then Jeff pulled out his hotel confirmation, which said in print, "double bed." It was too late to haggle that night; we just wanted to sleep. Jeff said he’d take care of it in the morning, but I said, "Oh, don’t worry about’s only two nights." I was already thinking to myself, "Don’t have to share the covers, won’t be disturbed during bathroom trips, will be further away from heavy breathing..." Oh, I’m a bad wife!!

I’m one of those people who likes everything "just so" before I go to bed, so I was organizing my things...this on the nightstand, this in the bathroom, this by the desk, this in the closet, etc.   By the time I had put my things away and brushed my teeth, Jeff was sound asleep. I felt better then, knowing he wouldn’t even miss sharing a bed! I slept comfortably but woke up quite early. Peeking through the curtains, I was disappointed to see that it was still dark, only 4:30. I snuggled back into bed, hoping to repeat the morning before, and I did! When I woke again it was almost 6 and the sun was just beginning to rise...a pale pink light over the water. I could already hear the exotic bird of my favorite things about tropical locales. I made myself a cup of tea and crawled back into bed with my laptop and occupied myself quite contentedly until Jeff woke. He was perfectly willing to walk on the beach, so I was pretty happy. The view from our hotel room was gorgeous, and I was so looking forward to the warmth, which is such a treat to anyone whose idea of the beach is the chilly Oregon coast! By the time we started walking, the sun was bright enough to light our way in soft pastels. The waves were rolling in over the rocks, and the breeze was warm and pleasant. The dogs were frolicking in the water and the cows were walking across the sand. Wait! Cows on the beach? Sure enough, a man with a stick was leading his cows down the beach. There wasn’t a blade of grass to be seen, so they certainly weren’t there to graze. I’m assuming he was taking a shortcut to wherever he was going. I laughingly told Jeff we’d have to watch our step...wouldn’t want to step in a cow pie! Then I looked down at the sand...we had gone beyond the hotel’s property line and suddenly the ground was strewn with garbage, broken glass, and {poop}. Not cow pies...people pies. There were curry-colored piles all over the beach...and old men in the process of making them, right in front of us!! So we walked past the people and the piles as though we saw this every day and continued on until we reached a fishing camp. Men were tossing their nets into the sea and boats were pushing out into the bay. The women were starting up the morning fires and the kids were already running around, playing in the dirty sand and water. Too many people, too many stares. We decided to turn back. Well, it wasn’t the most romantic walk on the beach I’ve had, but it sure was interesting!

We went from the beach right to our hotel’s restaurant, which was a very pretty place. They served a breakfast buffet, which I was glad for since I really don’t know the names of any Indian food. I sampled a little bit of this and a little bit of that and was pretty satisfied with my breakfast. We relaxed with our coffee, which was more milk than anything, and watched the various hotel guests who joined us in the restaurant. Most were foreigners. Although the 5-star hotel only cost us about $100 for 2 nights, it was more than most locals could afford.

Dr. Sam and Jaya came to pick us up at lunchtime, and we went to a nice restaurant for lunch, where Jaya explained every dish to me and we had a delicious meal. Then we went to a store to buy tea and spices, which was pretty exciting for me! From there it was through the city along the promenade by the Bay of Bengal. What beautiful and awful sights we saw! What a place of contrast! The flowers, trees and foliage were colorful and lush. The streets were full of busy vendors with carts of fruits and vegetables, shops crammed together one after another one the very edge of the road selling the oddest wares, cars and rickshaws and motorbikes and people all vying for position on the crazy lane-less street, crude houses tucked in the alleyways, apartment buildings many stories high, women dressed in flowing fabric of the brightest colors, dirty street dogs, beggars, businessmen and kids. The air was full of the sound of birds, Hindi music and honking, honking, honking. It was hot and humid and smelled of grease, exhaust and curry. We wove our way along until we broke free from the city and headed up a mountain. Our destination was a mountaintop park that overlooked Visag and the Bay of Bengal. But we parked just a little way up, in front of a green metal structure. I wasn’t sure what it was until I saw the cables and a cable car come swinging down towards the green structure. We were taking a tram to the top of the mountain! They were delighted that I recognized it and seemed excited. Really I was incredulous. We were going to climb up that rickety metal scaffold? We were going to climb into the swinging cable car? We were going to go up, up, up in a car without doors? Oh, my. They began to reminisce about the time Jeff and I had taken them on the gondola in Jasper many years ago when they visited us in Canada. Jaya had been so afraid. I remembered the gondola with its massive concrete support pillars, its heavy cables, cars that had electric doors that swished shut safely, a platform that was sturdy and strong, and an elevator inside the gondola station that took you up to the platform instead of stairs. I turned to Jaya and said, "And you are not afraid of this?" "No," she replied. "The one in Canada was much higher." All I know is that it doesn’t matter whether you fall from 100 feet or 1000 feet, you will still die, but a safe structure will keep you from falling. I also knew that this Indian tram would have been condemned and closed many years before it got to the condition it was presently in if it was in Canada or the U.S. But I was on a mission deadly thing will hurt you, right? So I climbed up those rickety metal stairs that had chunks of rubber padding missing and bars broken so you could see straight down below you while you climbed. Then I waited on the platform for the next tram car to bump its way over to us and stepped inside as it lurched its way up the mountain. Now that was an experience! Once we made it to the top safely, we went to the observation areas. Truly beautiful was the vista before us...the city, the water, hundreds of fishing boats on the bay, flowers and trees and more mountains in the distance. The park was lovely too...filled with flowers and ancient trees. At the very top was a huge statue of two Hindu gods. At their feet were flowers and fruit and other offerings. There may be two gods overlooking the city of Visag, but there is ONE GOD who sits even higher than that mountain, and He doesn’t just look over the city, He rules and reigns over it! How sad to worship cold, white stone. There was a chai stand at a picnic area, so we stopped to have one. How delicious! My first real, authentic chai...spicy and sweet and very aromatic. Much better than what we try to concoct at home, or maybe it was just the atmosphere...saris and music and hot sun. It was wonderful. Then it was back to the tram. But on the way down the path, my flip-flop suddenly snapped. I had no strap between my toes! These were my most favorite flip-flops, and it was only my first day in India! Most women would have felt that was the perfect excuse to go shoe shopping, but I liked my flip-flops! They were casual, dressy and comfortable all at the same time and they had an inch-and-a-half wedge heel that gave me a bit of height without compromising comfort. I walked all over Hollywood, San Francisco, LA and Brazil in those flip-flops. Jaya said no problem, we could have them repaired. I doubted it. The strap was completely separated from the foam. I hobbled along down the path to the tram and we jumped inside and swung and bumped our way down to the platform...landing with a thud but safe on the green metal scaffold, then down all the rickety stairs and back to the car. By this time it was getting dark. We drove (or wove) our way through the streets and then suddenly pulled over. There was a woman sitting in a shack the size of a was just large enough for a chair and a very old sewing machine. Dr. Sam took my shoe to her and came back in minutes. It was repaired perfectly! For pennies I had my shoes back, where if they had broken at home they would have gone in the garbage. I had to marvel at that thought for awhile.

Back at the hotel Jeff and I had dinner alone and then settled in for the night to study and prepare for the two services we would be ministering at the next morning. I was again up quite early, but I like that. I even opened my hotel door to hear the birds better and sipped a delicious cup of Assam tea while reading my Bible and watching the sun come up. We were on our way through the city by 9:30, headed first to Dr. Sam and Jaya’s church. They have a church of about 200. They minister here every weekend and then return to Faith City for the school week. It’s a busy life with two completely different ministries vying for their attention, but they handle it with grace and efficiency. The men and women are divided here, men on the right and women on the left. Everyone sits on the floor in neat rows. They were already fervently praying when we arrived. We were escorted to the front and joined them in worship to the best of our ability (Hallelujah is such a beautiful international word!). They were passionate in prayer and worship, a real example to us North Americans! At some point I realized that every person had their shoes off but me. I realized they must be showing respect for holy ground, so I slipped mine off and tucked them under my chair. When we were introduced, we were presented with another lei of flowers. There is something unique and quite fun about preaching barefoot with blossoms at your feet! Jeff and I enjoyed ministering very much, and the people seemed very receptive. When we were finished, they all came to the front, reaching their hands out to touch us and asking for a prayer of blessing. The women covered their heads with their scarves and then bowed their heads, waiting expectantly. How beautiful! What a wonderful attribute...longing for a blessing! Another lesson for us to learn, we who hurry out the door after church more worried about lunch than lingering for a blessing! And guess what? After praying a blessing over every person, lunch was still there waiting for us! We walked through a door and entered the house of Dr. Sam’s parents, which was attached to the church. Some of the church ladies had prepared us a delicious meal, and the whole family gathered around the table to share it. But here is where the cultural experience began. The women did not sit down with us. They served us, their guests, then they served the elderly parents, and then they served the men of the family. Only when we all had been served and were contentedly eating did they sit down and join us.

After lunch it was back in the car for a drive over to Jameson and Mercy’s house so we could rest before the next service. Their house is also connected to their church, but their house is beneath the church. It was large and dark. There were very few windows, but the marble and the darkness kept it quiet and cool. They made us tea and then showed us to our room where we could rest. I didn’t feel one bit tired, but what do you do in a windowless room with only a bed, a desk and a chair? You lie down. And guess what? You fall asleep! I was so surprised to wake just in time to quickly straighten my clothes, touch up my make-up and comb my hair. This church was quite a bit larger, and we sat like a king and a queen on chairs on the high platform. Again, there was such fervent and enthusiastic worship. It was so loud it made my ears ring!  I’ve been a youth pastor for 20 years, attending many concerts, so when I say loud, it was loud!  For this service I had been asked to share my testimony, which was applicable to many people who, like me, had very little and lived in tight living quarters with another family. Yet the story of my family’s salvation encouraged them. Jeff preached after I was done, and then we had an even longer line up for prayers of blessing. Women grabbed my hand and pressed it to their heads for a blessing, or their stomachs if they needed healing, or on their babies if they wanted their children prayed for. They couldn’t understand my words, but they knew I was praying and that was good enough. It was wonderful to minister in this way. After the looonnnggg altar time, we went back to the house for dinner. It was after 9 p.m., but there was a table loaded with food. Again, the women served us and joined us after. For the second time, I was served every single item on the table at about 3 times the amount I normally would have taken. I didn’t want to say anything, because I didn’t want to cause offense. At home, I never eat that much, or that late, but in as the Indians! Everything was intensely flavorful. The spices are amazing. After a cup of tea, we loaded up the car and drove out to Faith City. Jeff fell asleep on the way, there but I was wide awake (I also never drink caffeine at night!). I wished it wasn’t dark...there were so many villages to see along the way. We were out in the country! We arrived at Dr. Sam and Jaya’s beautiful home and they showed us to our room...a large room with air conditioning and our own bathroom. What a nice treat! This was certainly no mission trip as far as accommodations! I’ve slept on concrete and on wooden bunks with termites and taken a "shower" under a trickle of cold water. This was heavenly! By now I was tired...I skipped my usual set-up and just got myself organized enough to go to bed. The city leg of our journey was over and our country adventure was about to begin!

Welcomed at the airport!

Our hotel room...with separate beds!

View from our hotel window
(can't see the ocean because the sun is too bright,
but it is just beyond the trees)

Sunrise over the Bay of Bengal

Cows on the beach!
The hotel restaurant

Morning coffee (should have had chai!)
Street vendors with their colorful carts

Scaffold to the tram platform
Real chai!
The stairway up
Praying a blessing
Sunday Family Dinner...just like at home!

Preaching barefoot...Such freedom!

Another great fellowship meal!
Beautiful gardens at the park
View of Visag from the top of the mountain

the gods (little "g")

Swinging onto the platform in the tram!
We made it!!
Mercy welcoming us to her home

Dr. Sam's church

Everywhere we went there was a banner...
made us feel almost like celebrities!

View from Jameson and Mercy's church...
this is their mission field, 1000s of Hindus in this area

Jameson and Mercy's church platform
(girls choir on the left, boys worship band on the right)

Jameson and Mercy's worshipping church

More gifts!!

Praying a blessing


  1. Such a beautiful story. Interesting. I have questions, but will ask you when we talk. Thank you Karyn, for sharing your trip.

  2. Awesome "report" Karyn!

    What a blessing you were, I am sure of it! This lady "short in stature" but full of life, energy and of her God! A blessing all around!

    Couldn't help but think of what a strengthening experience for you and Jeff to do this together also!