I have just ended a tour of LPGM’s remarkable ministry sites in India and am sitting alone in a guest house, preparing to make my way to the airport.
I’m finding this moment to be a little lonely. On the one hand, I greatly miss my wife and family. On the other, I miss the people I met while in this somehow familiar, yet also new-in-every-way land. All that I experienced in these 9 days is rather difficult to process. The level of gracious hospitality, warmth of welcome, and sincerity of our hosts was unexpectedly emotional.
The daily hardship with which many live every single day is difficult to see and even more difficult to put into words. And in the midst of a people who have no power, or wealth, or education, or opportunity, we saw hope, joy, happiness, respect, dignity, honor, valor, strength, depth of character, and profound love.
India’s a country that’ll fill all your senses. You’ll see everything from vibrant colors in saris to abject poverty. You’ll hear the nonstop blaring of vehicle horns and children laughing. You’ll taste the powerful flavors of curry, but also bug spray and dirt. You’ll smell the open sewers and body odor (including your own), but also the aromas of cooking and incense. And you’ll touch the outstretched sticky hands of children wanting—needing—to be seen and loved, the calloused hands of men working for pennies, and hard hands of women who work harder still—and for even less.
This country will break your heart and at the same time leave an imprint on your soul—and you will be longing to return before you even leave.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Rev. Mark Tiede is pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and the chair of LPGM’s Program Committee.