I'm all packed up and will be leaving to head back up to Delhi at around 10:30 this morning. We have spent the last few days in Madurai (sounds like Monterey except with a d) and wrapped up our last clinic yesterday. It's been a full week since arriving a week ago. We went to the Taj Mahal.
Last night we visited the largest Hindu temple in India, Meenakshi Temple, and were able to walk around its exterior. There are four gates all with an entrance that looks like this:
By the time we got around to the fourth gate, I said to myself "well, I took pictures of the first three, I might as well take one of the fourth." But really, they all looked the same, so all my pictures look the same. But walking around the perimeter was a nice break from being in the car, and I not only enjoyed the opportunity to stretch my legs, but also see a different part of the culture. I must confess I don't get much anything about the Hindu religion and don't understand it, but I guess people could say the same about my religion. To see something that Hindus take pilgrimages to and to see people worshipping the gods was profound. To also see the tourist trade alive and well around the temples (and in the temples) was different that what we've seen in the other towns and villages. I had to laugh when I got out of the car and a woman selling purses approached me asking if I was from Germany. I said "no." She asked where I was from and I said America and she immediately said "small business! I'm a small business. I make bags myself. Small business." Apparently the American selling point to "buy local" is known in India.
We finished the evening with a nice dinner at a hotel overlooking the city. This hotel was funny because it was all white people! I mentioned to Deb that I hadn't seen this many white people in a week! The dinner was nice, but it was special as we went around and reflected on the week. The feedback was all positive as all the clinics were very well run. The medication we had was a good variety of what we needed and the people were grateful for our coming.
One of my favorite parts of this trip though is the fact that we were able to build relationships with the local pastors and their teams. We had four people with us the whole trip who acted as our translators. These people each took four days off of their work to help out and they were the sweetest people.
Thamel - pronounced Tom-el (I had his name wrong in my previous post) - was our translator and he was amazing. He caught on super quick (even caught an error or two on our part) and was patient while explaining the medications and how and when to use them to the patients. In the picture below, his daughter is sitting on his lap.
As we got to know each other, he called me his adopted sister, and Deb (my aunt and fellow pharmacist) his adopted mother. He even called me Sister Rachel (although with his accent it sounded like Rashel). He was a very sweet man, who loves The Lord and serves Him well (and he's a snazzy dresser to boot! Every day he had on a very colorful shirt. Deb and I always admired all the colors everyone wore!). It was funny though, that at one point he asked if I was married. I said no. Engaged? No. I think that shocked him! When we said goodbye he said I'll see you next year and we celebrate your marriage. Ha! Okay ... we'll see about that!
At one point after we left, we stopped at a roadside stall. We were a little confused as to what was happening, but found out quickly that Thamel had asked that we visit his tile shop and pray for him, his family, and his business. It was amazingly humbling to visit his successful business and see how proud he is of the work he does.
I am so, so, so glad I was able to go on this trip. To see how God is working through Sikkum, Soji, their wives and their churches is so humbling and remarkable to see. They have their work cut out for them, whether it's in the country or the city, but they work persistently to develop their communities, share the Gospel and show the love of Christ in a humble way. They truly are good and faithful servants, and I'm honored to serve next to them anytime I can.
The next post will come from Indonesia, Lord willing!