Report from India

January 26, 2012

With Josh amid the crowds in front of the Gate of India.
A man on the street gave us this calendar emblazoned with a Hindu deity.
Benny and Josh.
This man makes a living by letting people weigh themselves in a public plaza.
Note the Hindu shrine on the dashboard.

7:30 AM Friday
Mumbai, India

Hard to believe but we are already on Day 4 of our trip to India. It took two days to get here, then we spent yesterday recuperating from jet lag (which by the way is very real) at a hotel in Mumbai.

Josh and I came to India at the invitation of Benny Mathews, the head of Alpha Ministries. We have found a warm welcome from everyone we have met. 

For those who don’t know, Mumbai (formerly called Bombay) is a seaport on the western coast of India. With a population of 23 million, it is one of the world’s largest cities. You see stark contrasts everywhere. While it is the richest city in India, the movie Slumdog Millionaire was filmed here. In some places you see vast slum areas, but you also see lots of cars on the roads and massive traffic jams as millions move in and out. Very simply, in India there are people everywhere—crowded together, packed together, walking, talking, living on top of each other, under bridges, in shacks by water mains, in abandoned buildings, up against the walls of buildings, much of it a sea of human desperation. Rich and poor live side by side in this vast megalopolis. Mumbai is also home to “Bollywood,” the film capital of India

India is a bubbling cauldron of religious and ethnic tension. In religious terms, the country is 1) Hindu 2) Muslim 3) Christian (in that order) plus the caste system is alive and well. People are judged both by their caste and by their religion. Corruption is a major problem in Indian society.

Last night we visited the “World’s Largest Laundromat,” a place in the slums where people come to wash their clothes and hang them out to dry. Then we went to the “Gate of India” next to the magnificent Taj Hotel that the terrorists attacked in 2008. Since it was “Republic Day” in India, thousands of people gathered on the vast plaza between the “Gate of India” and the hotel. 

India is also a huge economic engine. When American jobs are outsourced, they often end up here (just ask anyone who has tried to call a help line. The voice on the other end will probably be in Bangalore). Some of the richest people in the world are from India. One billionaire built a 27-story personal home in the “Slumdog Millionaire” slum complete with parking for 600 cars, 3 heliports, and 600 “servants.” Evidently he did it just because he had the money.

You see Hindu shrines everywhere. Every car has a shrine. Every home has a shrine. The man that drove us around last night had a Hindu shrine on his windshield. When we were stopped in traffic, a man came up and gave us a 2012 calendar with a Hindu god in the center. For those of us accustomed to living in “Christian” America, it is jarring to be in a country where Christians are a tiny minority, approximately 2.3% of the population.

In this beautiful land, the spiritual darkness is very great.

Today we fly from Mumbai to a city a a bit south of here where the first major ministry time begins. I’m speaking a lot (don’t know how much yet) Saturday-Monday to a regional church convention. Then we visit the Taj Mahal Tuesday-Thursday, then another big ministry time next weekend.

Josh is here to provide a video record of our trip. Very glad to have him along. My big concern is always my health when I travel because my body doesn’t always want to cooperate. So far, so good.

Basically all is well. The real work begins later today.

Thank you for your prayers.

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