These thoughts are excerpts from my journal from my trip to India:
We had to get an early start to the day, so I made sure to get up early enough to have time to say hello to the girls before they loaded up for school. I don’t think I could ever hear the little choruses of “Akka” enough! I think my heart melts each time.
This morning we met with the architect (Gigi) so we could see the plans for the new orphanage. It will be built across the street and a couple lots down from the current home. Then there will be room for girls in both houses. Gigi had drawn plans and we also looked at a scale model to get a good idea of what it will look like.
After Gigi left, we loaded up and went to Augustine’s house. He runs Word for the World ministries which ministers to lepers, people with special needs, and the poor. He has ministries all over India. He shared with us about his work, then fed us lunch. We hung out a while with Augustine and his family just enjoying the fellowship. Eventually we loaded up to drive to the leper colony just on the edge of Changlepettu (Chang-la-put), which was about a 2-hour drive. As we drove, we would pass through little communities, and all of the schools were getting out, so there were children everywhere. We didn’t have AC, so we had all of the windows down. Since I was next to a window, all of the children noticed my glaringly white skin. It was met with lots of stares, points, giggles, and the occasional child brave enough to try to speak English. I just waved and smiled at them, which sent them into bigger fits of giggles. I felt a bit like a celebrity… aside from the fact that I’m not famous.
We ended our journey at the church in the leper colony. Sharon (Augustine’s daughter) and Augustine gave us a tour of the church grounds and the area. We found ourselves the objects of more stares here than in Chennai, since Changlepettu is a smaller community and gets fewer international visitors. I also noticed that far fewer people here spoke any English at all. Sharon took us to the houses of some of the church members, so we could meet them and pray with them. She explained to us that the government had been helping the colony some, so that people were able to have cinder block walls. She also explained how only they older generation was effected by leprosy. Since treatment for the disease is easy enough to get, doctors are able to stop it from progressing, especially if caught early enough. So none of the parents or children bear the signs of leprosy, only the grandparents bear the signs of it.
The church held a special prayer service, just so that we could worship with them. They sang some songs in Tamil, 2 people shared their testimonies through a translator, and then Travis shared for a few minutes. It was a sweet time . Afterwards, the pastor’s wife fed us dinner. One thing I noticed immediately was the large number of geckos. They crawl inside, and then hang out by the lights to eat the bugs that come too close.
On our way back through Changlepettu to go home, we encountered a traffic jam… but not just a jam, a total gridlock. The Indians’ driving abilities amaze me. It didn’t take too long to get traffic moving again. As Mike was filming the traffic jam, he was talking to his camera about it, and an Indian pulls up beside us on a him motorcycle, and to Mike’s comment about the traffic he says “That’s India!” which made us all laugh.
Upon arriving back at the home, I had all four guys check my room for critters, since I did not want a reoccurance of the previous night. They didn’t find any animals, but I heard Ben ask “Was this hole here last night?” “WHAT hole?!” Sure enough, in the cardboard that temporarily covered where the old AC had been, there was a perfectly round circle chewed through. So I asked Rohan, “Do banicoots climb walls?” “Yes.” Great. Now my new little furry friend knew how to get into my room (which I’ll remind you, is on the second story). I taped the hole shut, but I knew if he wanted to make a middle-of-the-night visit, he’d just chew another hole. Ben then helped me move the desk in my room up against the cardboard so that way if he chewed another hole, he’d be met with a solid barrier.
With my room satisfactorily barricaded and void of all things creepy-crawly, I fell fast asleep.