Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bring God on Vacation: India Part 2

In my last post, my wife brought it to my attention that I sounded like I had a negative attitude towards India. I wanted to amend that by saying that while all the things I mentioned are true, I also had a great time. There is so much lush vegetation and natural beauty, along with a ton of historical monuments that are well preserved, including the world-famous Taj Mahal.
Travel companions at Taj Mahal

There are more aspects of bringing God on vacation that I wanted to share about my trip in India. As I said before, I traveled with three other people on my trip.  That is another way we can demonstrate Christ's love is through our interactions with the people with whom we travel.

My friends can attest that I am certainly no perfect travel partner, and I have my fair share (or more) of weaknesses and eccentricities. However, I do continue to try and remember my faith in some way.

This is one of the first things to disappear when we go on vacation, and this is tricky for me as well. I am a creature of habit and routine, so when I am thrown completely out of that by going on a vacation, then it's difficult to make that time. However, this is the foundation of being refreshed as a Christian. So, what I try to do is make sure I read some during transit, either on the plane, on the bus or in the car.  While we were traveling around in India, we had plenty of transit time because there was a lot of traffic and driving throughout India.  While part of me wanted to just close my eyes and not engage mentally and just let life slip by, I knew that I probably wouldn't have another opportunity to read, so I pushed myself to read the Bible and pray.  God used it to pour grace into my life to be a little more patient when things weren't going my way, and helped me to realize that vacation is not all about me. 

Mirrors at Amber Fort

Traveling and going on vacation is a lot of fun because we finally get a break from work.  Because of that, I find that people are happy to just to do whatever, especially as a family or a group of friends.

This was especially true for this trip.  Everyone was pretty happy to just be in India and no one had really strong opinions about what exactly we did.  As a result, it sometimes made decision-making a bit painful.  I tried to be as diplomatic as possible and consider the needs of others, but I think it's helpful to be decisive.

There were a few occasions where we didn't know where to eat because there were many options, so I just ended up suggesting a place and that's where we ate.  I also ended up trying to communicate with the driver the most about what we were doing, because it seemed that no one had a strong opinion about where we were going and didn't really want to attempt to talk to him, so I tried to be helpful by talking to him and expressing our needs as a group- it wasn't easy because he didn't speak English!  Being willing to lead can alleviate deer-in-headlight syndrome that often plagues travelers in a new place.

Praying together
On vacation, I usually eat, sleep, and relax a little too much.  Sometimes I even feel like I've wasted my time on vacation because I've jettisoned all the different spiritual activities like church and small group for that week.  One way I tried to remedy this in India was to be willing to pray with and for the people on our vacation.

Humayan's Tomb in Delhi, a 'mini' Taj-Mahal

When we were about to go back to Kuwait, our friend that showed us around India dropped us off at the airport.  We decided to all pray for her while we were there.  It must have been a strange sight, seeing four Westerners and an Indian huddled in a circle together with our heads down and our eyes closed!  A security officer even asked us if everything was alright.  However, we were better than alright because it was a sweet time to thank God for our trip and bless our friend who was so helpful to us.  I think that by taking action as Christians to still have fellowship and spiritual bonding is important to stay encouraged and to help love one another.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bringing God on Vacation--India

The rumors are true: India is crowded

Like I said before, the life of being an international teacher has many perks, one of them being able to travel quite a bit during breaks and holidays. One of the places that I have always wanted to go was India, because it has so much to offer, and it's relatively close to Kuwait. I got this opportunity during National Day of Kuwait, which allowed me and three of my friends to go for about five days.

As was to be expected, there was a lot of poverty, especially in the city of Delhi, which is bursting at the seems with people. It definitely felt like stimulation overload, in that nearly every square inch was packed with people, cars, pollution, noise, etc. It's actually quite destabilizing and unsettling, because my brain couldn't function normally and was getting exhausted very quickly from everything.

Also, there were more beggars than I have ever seen while traveling. There would often be little kids asking for food, or homeless people lying on the ground begging for money.

It was a difficult situation, because there were far more beggars than me, and if I gave everyone of them even a small amount of money, I would be broke myself after the first day.

Add struggling infrastructure
Additionally, I am not sure if it is right to give money, because I don't want to enable them in their lifestyle of begging as their means to survive. Ideally, they would use their poverty as an opportunity to find honest work. However, we are living in reality, and nearly all of the people who are beggars are actually poor and probably starving, and they probably won't be able to find a job to support themselves because India is such an overpopulated and poor country.

So, what did I do? I knew this would come up on vacation, and I want to be a Christian at all times, not just at church or when it's convenient for me. What I basically did is that whenever I ordered food, I got some extra. When a kid or someone approached me for money, I gave them some of the candy. I certainly didn't need any extra sweets or food in my life. Nearly all of the time, the kids and other beggars were satisfied with that.

On our last night, I ordered some food at a restaurant on my own because I wanted to try something different, and I enjoy going to places that don't have clear menus and I have to try to figure out what things are being ordered. One of the popular things on the menu was lassi, which is like a sweetened icy milk, similar to a milkshake and maybe a little more tangy.

However, it's full of beauty
I really enjoyed the drink, and it was not very expensive at all. I was about to order another one when a kid asked me for one using sign language. It's more like a dessert, and probably not the healthiest choice. However, I did want to bless him in some way and it would be nice to give him something that he wants. So, I bought it for him. Then another kid came up and wanted one. I didn't like where this was going. What I did was made the first street child share with the second one and made him pour half of his into the other child's cup. I thought that was a fair and equitable solution.

I think that one of the best things we can be on vacation is generous, because we want the world to see that we don't just think about ourselves. Jesus was the most generous man alive, giving his own life for his enemies. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I was able to be generous in a few small ways and become a tiny bit more like Jesus by giving up some of my selfishness and stinginess.