06 November 2008

At a former leprosy hospital between Kalahasti & Tirupati

As a visitor to the area, and a teacher asked to speak at various events, I was garlanded today with roses, marigolds, and folded greenery all strung on grass rope that, when placed around my neck, hung below my knees. While I'd get a neck ache from the weight of all that if I wore it too long, I like the idea of honour and rich culture that maintains traditions. Too many of our Western cultures, city-fied and commercialised, lose something of the handicrafts and respect we can show to each other.

Today I spoke to the hospital staff about how, as a little girl, I prayed for the work of a leprosy hospital in southern India. I prayed in the comfort of Indiana, not ever dreaming I'd one day come here. What a sense of humour He has!

There were more than half a dozen language groups represented among the staff. Applause was given to those who had provided bus fare out of their own pockets for parents to bring their kids to the hospital for their blood tests, an important monitoring point in managing HIV. Putting the health of the children first is an organisational value. Also mentioned was how people without HIV were showing respect and compassion to those with HIV, no visible wall limiting the healthy relationships between patients and staff. Ignorance breeds fear and that leads to people being ostracised.

After morning worship in a very simple village, we went in to Kalahasti last evening to meet with an informal group in a home. I was then asked to speak on a different topic than the one I had prepared! I spoke of how much the Africans had taught me in my years there, how we cannot understand God fully only our own perspective, but how different cultures and travels and in relationships with others, we get a richer understanding of God.

I spoke of grace and how our standing with God has nothing to do with our performance review, an audit or our exam results. If that was still in effect, Jesus need not have come. Many religions, including Judaism, have hoops through which to jump. Fear, burdensome rules and oppressive religion is far too common. Jesus is unique in that He accomplished all that is needed. I told a Knock Knock Story to illustrate the point: Jesus at a party in which Peter was the bouncer. You had to be there. You'll really wanna be there!

Cricket comes up a lot here. We differences abound, we must grab whatever commonalities we can. I encourage you to rent and watch a movie called Lagaan for a fascinating look into Victorian India and the beginnings of cricket on this sub-continent.

Oh, I also attended an Indian Hindu wedding this week over two days! So far I've been able to eat everything put before me, though my kind friends tell me what to avoid so as not to need fire extinguishers and emergency response!

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