Thursday, January 31, 2008

India - 30 January 2008

The beginning and end of transoceanic like this are always jet laggy. Yesterday, I was fully awake as Peter and I looked at their church meeting hall and offices and then a little bit of downtown Helsinki, and even through dinner. But at 6 PM, after 25 hours of travel and not a great deal of sleep, I could no longer hold my eyes open. 8 hours later I was awake – that would be 2 AM in Helsinki, or 3 PM in Alaska. Happily I was able to connect with Peter’s wireless Internet connection. That made possible Skype calls to Alaska and quite a bit of email and even a couple of website updates.

At a very Finnish breakfast, Peter and Pia and I spoke of many things, but then zeroed in on something that is going on in Scandinavia called “Levande Familjer” (living families). The concept is that Christians are trained to provide advice for families with relationship problems. The design is simply to provide help, and not an overt Gospel presentation. There is no hiding of Levande Familjer’s Christian roots; each session begins and ends with prayer. Peter said the concept is so successful that 1) Levande Familjer no longer needs advertisement as people come as a result of word-of-mouth referrals; and 2) even government agencies provide referrals. The latter is a real testimony of success in socialistic Sweden.

This is fascinating to me because of what we have been discussing at home….ways to help families and by our actions preach the Good News.

Peter and I ate lunch together at Helsinki Vantaa airport, and then we parted. I met Frank and Leena not long after in the departure lounge. We flew over Russia and several of the “stans” (Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) to Delhi where arrived some six hours later, at a little after midnight.

Fog – which turned out to be serious air pollution or smog – was the first thing I noticed looking out the aircraft windows as the big Finnair MD-11 pulled into its gate at Indira Gandhi International Airport. The airport is not as nicely maintained as one is accustomed to in the West, but it functioned well enough. The second thing I noticed was people: many, many people, especially as we exited the airport. Frank cautioned not to let anyone carry bags. At the taxi, someone tried to put his bags into the vehicle in hopes of a few rupees, perhaps.

A friend and partner of the ministry met us and had arranged a taxi. Since taxi fares are “flexible” depending on perceived ability to pay – with westerners being at the top of the ability ladder – having a cab arranged by a friend was very helpful. The cab was an unusually boxy shaped vehicle with little room for larger western people, but we somehow managed to get all of us and our luggage aboard.

Traffic was brisk at times, even at 1:30 AM. There was much jostling and beeping. Frank cracked that Indian cars were painted only with one coat so as to allow more to pass abreast.

I have a single room in the “International Guest House” where we are staying. The room costs about $40 US (1566 rupees) and seems fairly clean and even has a western-style toilet with toilet paper. The room “tariff” includes breakfast. It is air conditioned, but I’ll be more interested in the heater with temperatures around 50F. Frank says that his Indian contacts look on this as an expensive place to stay, although it is possible to find accommodation at western standard that costs over $100 US per night.

Just 200 meters away from my window is an impressive Sikh temple with a golden dome where some chanting (amplified of course) has been going on nonstop….and it is 2:45 AM as I write. Even at this late hour, people are coming and going.

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