Though I travel a lot as a speaker, have been on mission trips, have a daughter living in Mexico, and have traveled to my family’s village in Sicily, I was anxious traveling half-way around the world to Chiluvuru, India. Lots of travel time allowed me to reflect on 14 lessons I learned from 14 days in India.
1. Courage happens when you stretch your safety and comfort zones.
2. The Indian culture is one of the most beautiful, vibrant, and rich cultures in the world and the Indian people are some of the most gracious and hospitable I’ve experienced.
3. Eye exams expose domestic violence. 26 out of 40 women come to our eye clinic for vision complications or eye pain due to physical violence.
4. Reverence for God and love for His word is rare. I observed it every morning at 9:00 am, but rarely see it in western Christianity.
5. Relationships are the bridge to share Christ with others, even those of other religions.
6. Respect and honor for one another is a powerful thing. It bridges differences of many kinds and opens up the gospel to others.
7. Idols are real. They may be more evident in other religions, but Christians have erected our own idols that are probably more offensive to God because we worship them and not Him.
8. Equality for women is not something to be taken for granted. Though equality in the United States is not perfect, I’m saddened by the lack of equality in other parts of the world. I’m thankful for the freedoms I have in Christ and my country.
9. Simplicity is beautiful. Simple foods, simple dress, simple music, simple surroundings are refreshing and are really a better way of life.
10. Prayer for others is important. Many were praying for this trip and for me specifically because of fears and anxiety. Our travel and the entire trip was flawless, pending some minor incidences that we laugh at now. Inviting others to pray for us isn’t a weakness, but strengthens us.
11. Cross-cultural relationships break stereotypes, dissipate fear, and reflect the heart of God. I just wonder what it would look like if we pursued more relationships like this at home and in our communities, not just when we’re the alien or stranger.
12. Building relationships is harder than just serving those less fortunate. This trip was not your typical mission trip of going and “doing.” I went as a board member for Menno Clinic, India. My role was not to build something or make someone’s life better; it was to listen to and get to know our staff and the people we serve. This requires time and submitting yourself to listening and learning.
13. The world God sees is much bigger than what we see. Hindus, Muslims and Christians live side by side in other cultures, as they do in Chiluvuru. Other gods do not provide a personal relationship with the true, living God, therefore, we still need to share Jesus. Why do we make sharing the gospel so complicated? God calls us to go out and share who He is, and not just where it’s comfortable.
14. My family survived without me. The house was clean when I got home, laundry was done, and no one guilted me for being gone. Serving Christ is not just serving your family, but teaching them independence so you can share Him beyond the borders of home. Serving family is important. Equipping your husband and kids to care for themselves broadens the ministry of Jesus Christ outside of ourselves.
14 other things I learned
- Putting on a sari is an art form.
- All communities should have nap time from 2-4.
- Not having Wifi is really nice.
- Homemade chutney is really good.
- Rats can be as large as cats.
- Milking a water buffalo is similar to milking a holstein and dairy goat.
- Indian women are beautiful.
- Emirate airlines can teach western airlines a thing or two.
- The Indian languages are beautiful.
- I am thankful for home.
- Indians nod their heads side to side when communicating, and I am not too skilled in that.
- There are some really good people still in the world.
- Don’t put too much toilet paper in foreign toilets.
- Loyalty is one of the best virtues.
What have you learned from relationships with others different than yourself? Or from mission trips you’ve been on? We’d love to hear from you!
Thank you for the beauty of different people and cultures. Equip each of us to cross barriers to build relationships so we can learn more about you from uncomfortable experiences. Amen.
P.S. The Giveaway for Jess Ronne’s book Sunlight Burning at Midnight is still open until November 26!