India: 459, Ledbetters: 3
But oh how sweet those three points are!
Last week felt like drowning. Before I put last week into words though, I need some distance between me and those soul-punching days which kept me trying to come up for air in a crowded, dirty, noisy country. For now, I want to focus on what happened over the weekend, because even though we didn’t deserve it, the Lord gave us some wins.
Point 1: Uber kind of works here in India (when they’re not on strike), and none of the four drivers we’ve used thus far have kidnapped us.
As we rode to church (see point 3) past shacks, past a man in a towel bathing from a barrel, past an old dresser with a sheet draped off the side which no doubt serves as someone’s home, past a father sitting on a carpet on the street and holding a plastic bottle of water over his thin daughter’s mouth for her to drink, our driver began to honk incessantly at the rickshaw in front of us. “Wonder what’s going on,” Benson said at the stopped traffic. Our driver waved his hand, “India.” We laughed a real laugh. Yes, India is what is going on, we thought, watching the rickshaw driver push his cart for us to pass.
Point 2: WE FOUND FOOD THAT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THIS:
And instead, looks like this:
It took us three hours to set up an account with India’s version of Instacart, and even now our status is precarious due to us not yet having a local mobile number, but when the svelte, turbaned young man arrived at our door smelling like diesel and toting a beat-up cooler filled with lettuce greens and avocados, I wanted to cry my first tears of joy in this land.
Also, we found another grocery store. This one still requires frisking to enter, but felt like a Whole Foods compared to that place we went last week (which may I add, the kidnapper driver had recommended). Fun fact: grocery workers man the aisles here, and if I happened to glance at some oats or tomatoes, a young man or woman would say, “You like oats? You like tomatoes?” and wave their hands Vanna White style over the items.
Point 3: We found a church.
Uber dropped us off in front of a row of proper shops with actual doors and not stalls with ketchup and boiling kettles hanging from bamboo poles like the ones outside our apartment. A haggard man shouted at us in a foreign tongue as we scanned the signs looking for the church. We ignored the shouts and Benson spied a temporary sign in front of a flight of narrow stairs tucked between a chemist and a shop called Rajee’s with red tuxedos and matching ties in the window.
We followed a woman up the stairs and she opened a door for us that could have been a door leading to a boiler room but actually led to a room converted into a sanctuary. Folding chairs sat arranged in rows around a stage filled with instruments and black-haired band members who led worship songs, some in English, some in Hindi. Followers of Jesus welcomed us and told us they knew what we were going through. People scribbled their phone numbers and told us to call, slipping the papers into our palms. “You can see the filth, or you can see the beauty here,” one man said. We drank in the love.
The pastor preached from Daniel and Hebrews and Isaiah, weaving in truths from the three books and instructing us not to read the bible like we do a yearbook, only looking for our own picture in the pages, but instead reminded us to read searching for the character of God.
Communion was served. “You think it’s safe?” Benson asked, nodding toward the little cup filled with a cloudy pink something. I shrugged, “I mean, it’s the blood of Christ.” We grinned and bravely drank and afterward surmised it was watermelon juice.
Benson and I celebrated our wins by going to the pool. Pollution still gripped our lungs and uncertainty still marks our future, but we basked for an hour in the sun while a crocodile sunned on the lake beside us and a herd of water buffalo with white birds perched atop their backs grazed (waded?) in the marsh.
Last week I told several people I was drowning. I typed it, I talked it, I felt it. Drowning and drowning.
And then, in a dark, makeshift sanctuary over a chemist shop in the middle of Mumbai, India, the kind pastor read these words:
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. . . For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” – Isaiah 43:2-3 NLT
And now I know that while I felt like I was drowning, God was giving me breath.
Categories: This and That