FOUR SOULS continued . . .

I N D I A


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Copyright © 2001 by Matt Kronberg, Mike Peterson, Jedd Medefind, and Trey Sklar.
Published in association with Yates & Yates, Literary Agents, Orange, California.
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Contents
Preface vii
Introduction
: First Seeds of an Adventure ix

Part I: Mexico
1. 3,000 Miles in Ten Days 1

Part II: Guatemala
2. A Lesson in Generosity: Guatemala City, Guatemala 21
3. The Four Amigos! Together in Guatemala City 34
4. Into the Highlands: Uspantan, Guatemala 47
5. A Scathing Letter and Some Sweet Sorrow: Leaving Guatemala 61

Part III: Russia and Beyond
6. The Wounded Bear: Moscow, Russia 71
7. The Secret Police: Orekhovo-Zuyevo, Russia 75
8. Scarred Hands and Iron Doors: Serpukhov, Russia 92
9. Village at the Edge of the World: Loly, Russia 102
10. Heart of the Gulag Region: Yemva, Russia 117
11. Waltzing through the West: From Moscow to the Mediterranean Sea 139

Part IV: Egypt
12. Land of the Pharaohs: Cairo, Egypt 153

Part V: South Africa
13. Beauty and Strife 171
14. The Mountain Kingdom: Maseru, Kingdom of the Lesotho 176
15. The Road to Durban 193

Part VI: India
16. Rajas, Rice, and Rickshaws 215
17. A Change of Plans: Chirala, India 238
18. Sisters of Charity: Calcutta, India 249

Part VII: Bangladesh
19. The End of Our Rope 261
20. 100,000 Rickshaws: Dhaka, Bangladesh 285

Part VIII: Thailand
21. From Mosquito Nets to Marble Tile: Bangkok, Thailand 301

Part IX: Vietnam
22. Notes from the Underground 329

Conclusion: The Adventure Begins 358

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INDIA



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- sixteen -

Rajas, Rice, and Rickshaws


No words, just bony fingers attached to bony arms, stretching out toward us, eyes pleading, sunken, and jaundiced. The closeness of the bodies, the smell of urine and sweat, the sheer desperation of the need was suffocating, maddening. Our hearts longed to help, yet something else inside just wanted to swat them away like a swarm of mosquitoes.
“Aye, aye! Get back!” a voice shouted harshly.
Most of the beggars retreated a few steps. One woman with matted hair and a leathery face clung to Trey, tugging on the sleeve of his shirt. We spotted the source of the voice-a man dressed in slacks and a long-sleeve shirt despite the night’s wet heat. The accent on his English was almost too thick to understand. “Yhou neet rite to otel? Mhy taxi fit you ahh.”
Trey slid several rupees into the hand of the woman who had been pulling on his shirt. She took the money and stepped back, her face still deadpan. Seeing her good fortune, three other beggars took her place. Trey shook his arm and stepped away from them.
“Aye, aye!” shouted the driver, shooting a fierce glance at the beggars. They drew back slowly, passionless. “Yhou neet rite?” he asked again.
“No thank you, sir,” said Jedd. “A friend is meeting us here.”
The man snorted and tramped off in search of other potential riders. A few beggars approached again. Trey spotted a fair-haired man walking in our direction. “I think that may be Mr. Alter,” he guessed.
The fellow called out as he approached. “You’re the four from Santa Barbara?”
Matt stepped forward. “That’s right. I’m Matt.”
A friend of Matt’s in the U.S. had asked Tom Alter to meet us at the airport. From what we had heard, Tom was one of India’s more popular tele-vision actors. He had grown up in India, the grandson of American missionaries. His white skin and fluent Hindi opened doors into the major studios. Apparently, his Robert Redford looks and theatrical prowess had helped him become a national television star.
Despite being nearly 1:00 A.M., traffic was still heavy. Strangely enough, most cars forged through the night without headlamps. It seemed they relied on the noise of their constantly blaring horns, rather than light, to alert others of their approach.
Trey was trying to pay attention to Tom, but he could not help staring out the window. In every country thus far, he felt as if he had stepped back in time. Now he could not shake the sensation that he had been cast forward-not to a future of brilliant chrome and glass, but to a post-Armageddon doomsday world. Moldering shacks of cardboard and wood scrap were hardly distinguishable from the heaps of refuse piled alongside the road. Shapes of people lay in the gutters and across the sidewalk, wrapped in tattered blankets. Rats skulked among them, foraging for anything edible.
“I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone,” commented Mike soberly.
Tom offered a sad smile. “It’s hard to digest, huh? I’m so used to it all I hardly notice it most of the time, but every once in a while I still think, This is crazy.”
Perhaps most disconcerting was the heavy darkness. It seemed to hang over everything like a tangible substance. Even here in the middle of the city, only a handful of lights shone, usually from the larger buildings. These appeared orange and muted, as if they were dying, hardly able to penetrate the murky smog that filled the air.
“Yieez! We almost hit that cow!” Matt exclaimed. He reached for his seat belt, but there was none to be had, so he placed his arm forward against the seat in front of him.
Jedd shook his head. “There’re cows everywhere, just grazing on the trash and wandering in the road. The way everyone’s driving, I bet there are cow wrecks all the time.”
“These cows being free to just roam around-it’s the Hindu thing, isn’t it?” questioned Trey.
“Right,” Tom affirmed. “Don’t mess with the bovines.”
“Now what’s this?” wondered Matt. Directly ahead, a series of new buildings rose incongruously out of the gloom. They shone, clean and bright, as if they had been transported from downtown L.A.
Tom explained, “Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of wealth in Bombay. It’s just a lot less well distributed than in the States-there are hordes of dirt-poor people, a small group of the rich, and not too much in the middle.”
“It’s that way in most Third World countries,” asserted Mike.
“Right. But here it’s formalized by the caste system. There are five official levels, with subtiers in each level as well.”
“Is the caste mentality still dominant?”
“Definitely. You see it get a little watered down in some of the more Westernized families, but the caste system is still very much the rule. People will rarely marry anyone out of their caste. The upper levels won’t even associate with the lowers. The lowest tier are called the untouchables, and they’re just that: less-than-human things that no one would even think of touching.”
“How do the wealthy make their money?”
“A lot of manufacture, usually for export. Some have huge landholdings that they rent to peasant farmers at a premium. The main thing in Bombay, though, is the movies.”
“Movies?” questioned Matt.
“Bombay is second only to Hollywood in movie production. I can’t say they’re all on par with American films, but for sheer quantity, Bombay’s the place. Don’t forget, you’ve got a nation of nearly a billion people here.”
Tom directed the driver to a side street and then turned back to us. “Listen, here’s your hotel. I’ve already negotiated a good rate with the owner, just tell them who you are. Give me a call tomorrow and you can come over for tea, late morning. I’ll give you some tips before you catch the train for Hyderabad.”

Train Tracks to Hyderabad

Our train would carry us to the town of Hyderabad, where we would stay for several days with a local pastor and his family. Beyond that, we had not yet decided what we would do with the rest of our time in India. We planned to volunteer with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta during the week before leaving for Bangladesh, but that left a week open for visiting the Taj Mahal or other famous Indian sites.
The train compartment did not feel big enough for six people. Three tiers of narrow beds clung to the walls on either side of the doorless, six-by-eight-foot space. During nonsleeping hours, the middle bunk folded up and the bottom one served as a bench for three. No glass covered the windows, only bars. Open to the air, wind continually rushed through the compartments, in the open countryside providing relief from the heat, but in the populated areas, where shacks lined each side of the tracks, casting dust into our mouths, along with the taste of tin cans and rotting food. Matt turned to record the scene in his journal.

Matt’s Reflections-February 6
The squalor of the dwellings growing along the train tracks in the city areas is bitter. No permanent structures, just myriads of handmade hovels, built from creative combinations of garbage.
The people, though, aside from the poorest beggars, do not appear degraded, but generally content in their world. They are extremely diligent in their work and, despite the filth around them, keep their own clothing spotless and are attentive to personal hygiene. The men are often cheerful and quite affectionate with one another, and the women’s flowing saris add a glimmer of brightness to every scene.
I am also impressed by the industriousness of the agricultural endeavors here. Nearly every square inch of farmable land appears to be cultivated. I guess that is a necessity in a nation of more than 900 million people.

Rising from the bench seat and moving into the aisle, Mike said, “I’m going to walk around. My back is bothering me a little.”
“I’m sorry, Mike,” offered Matt, seeing the grimace on Mike’s face. Mike was never one to complain, but we could all tell his back was still very uncomfortable much of the time.
Matt turned to Jedd, who sat across from him. “The train station back in Bombay was impressive, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. It looked more like a gothic cathedral than a train station. A lot of those buildings the British built during the colonial days don’t seem to belong here. It’s weird to see such incredible architecture surrounded by shacks made out of garbage.”
“India’s just wild and foreign all the way through. All the travelers I’ve known who’ve spent time in India say it’s the craziest place they’ve ever been.”
Jedd nodded. “It’s a constant assault on all your senses-everything’s so intense. The smell of curry and people and garbage. The color of the women’s saris and the Hindu temples. Constant noise and motion. The humid air and the crush of the crowds. Even the food is unlike anything I’ve ever had before.”
“It leaves me dizzy, but I like being on the train; aside from the vendors, it’s almost peaceful.”
Jedd turned to look out the window for a moment. He could just make out the shape of mountains on the horizon, hazy in the humid air. Rice paddies filled the space in between while a dirty ribbon of water wound through the fields, spotted in many places with colorful dots washing their clothes.
He turned back to Matt. “What Tom told us yesterday about some of the Christian churches here in India having trouble with struggles be-tween the classes was sad. It sounds like elements of the caste system are very present in the Church.”
“Yeah, I didn’t like hearing that, either. I knew Indian society was extremely stratified-it’s a central part of Hinduism. The different castes are hardly supposed to touch one another. But that’s so the opposite of Christ’s way . . .”
Jedd interjected, “From what Tom said, not all the churches allow society’s hierarchy to affect the way they do things. Many have totally rejected caste norms-people fellowship together equally.”
“I know, but it still makes me mad that anyone who claims to be a Christian would force one group to sit on the floor and take Communion last and things like that.”
“I agree. To us, it seems so obviously counter to Jesus’ ways. But I can see how it would be difficult for Indian Christians to avoid falling into things like that. When the whole world around you just seems to assume certain things, no matter how wrong they might be, it’s hard to go in the opposite direction.”

Jedd’s Reflections-February 6
I know that in any culture, there are elements of the status quo a person has to resist if they want to follow Jesus.
It’s hard to identify these elements, especially within your own culture. For me, it might be feeling like I have to achieve the “American dream” by climbing the ladder. Or maybe that I should “fight for my rights” whenever I’ve been taken advantage of. I often just assume those values are correct. But they are American values, not necessarily Christ’s. Discerning between the two is not easy when you’ve been soaked in your culture from birth.
I guess that is how it is for some of the Indians with the cultural norm of social stratification. It is very hard for them to shake the view that the wealthy and wellborn aren’t somehow inherently higher and better, or at least rightly entitled to certain privileges.
The reality is that anytime we fail to weigh our cultural assumptions against what Christ taught, we will be slaves to those assumptions-blindly obeying them. It is only when we allow Jesus and His words to reshape our view of the world that we can rise above the status quo.
Mike was exploring the train, passing from car to car. He noticed that between some of the cars, a ladder led up to the roof. I doubt anyone would care if I went up there, he thought.


Before he could begin climbing, a voice broke into his thoughts. “Excuse me. Are you and your friends Christians?” A man in his midthirties stood before him. He had a handsome face-relatively light-skinned for an Indian, jet-black hair, and ebony eyes.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I saw your friend’s guitar,” the man replied, beginning to smile.
Mike smiled, too, though not quite understanding what the man meant about the guitar. “What is your name?”
“My name is Samuel. I am a Christian, too. You have some time?”
Mike nodded, “Sure.”
The two spent the next several hours talking. Samuel was delighted to hear of our experiences with other believers throughout the world. Mike was equally interested in Samuel’s story.
Although well educated, Samuel had been unable to find work enough to support his family anywhere near his native town of Chirala. When he was presented with the opportunity to earn nearly $3,000 a year working for an Indian businessman in Africa, Samuel saw it as the only way to keep his family from slipping into total poverty. Upon arrival in Africa, however, the reality of the job was nothing near what had been promised. The man running the business was a crook who worked Samuel mercilessly, knowing that Samuel had little recourse. After six months, Samuel still had not even been able to save enough money for a return trip to India. Fortunately, the believers in the church he attended in Africa saw his need and together purchased his ticket home to be reunited with his family.
“Come by our berth when you get a chance,” said Mike as they parted. “I want the other guys to meet you.”

• • •

The train slowed, the brakes shrieking-metal on metal-blending with the sounds of an approaching crowd. Another stop. We braced ourselves for the onslaught of hawkers and beggars. A vendor in a white robe moved sideways down the aisle, bearing what looked like an old-style milk can. Somehow he had boarded the train while it was still slowing. “Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!” He pushed three mugs in front of Matt’s face. Matt held up his hands and shook his head.
A deep voice boomed from the other side, through the bars of the window. “Dinner? You want chicken and rice? Fifty rupees-chicken dinner.” Sensing he was being ignored, the man stopped walking alongside the moving car and allowed it to move past until the next window was even with him. “Dinner? You want . . .”
A small hand slid in through the window, palm up, followed by the gaunt face of a little girl against the bars.
“No, sorry,” Trey said shaking his head uncomfortably at the girl. Jedd looked down from the top bunk where he was reading, glad that for once he was not in the line of fire.
The smell of black tea and cinnamon reached Mike’s nose. He stood and nodded at the chai salesman who peered in from the aisle. The fellow produced a ceramic cup from nowhere and wiped it with his shirt before filling it with a slosh of the sweet, milk-based tea.
“I bet that shirt-wipe is the only washing those cups get all day,” mused Mike as he handed over several coins. “Oh well. When in Rome . . .”
Matt shook his head with a smile, “It’s your stomach.”
Mike grinned at him. “Hey, the tea is hot. It’ll kill the germs.”
The flow seemed endless. More beggars at the window . . . a girl with a basket of baked goods . . . a man carrying bamboo cages filled with chickens trying to squeeze through the aisle . . . a boy with a sack of papayas. The venders moved quickly, desperate to maximize commercial opportunities before the train’s motion resumed.
With a metallic groan, the station began to slide across the window, warning the last straggling entrepreneurs to close their sales.
“What do I do with this?” wondered Mike, holding up his empty cup.
An arm shot into the compartment from the aisle and the cup dis-appeared. A moment later, Trey caught site of the chai seller leaping from the train back onto the vanishing platform.

• • •

Mike reentered the compartment and sat down on the bench. It was rare to see him so excited. “Guys, listen. I was just talking with Samuel some more . . .”
“Who’s Samuel?” asked Trey.
“You know, the Christian guy I introduced you to earlier, who worked in Africa.”
“Oh yeah.”
“Anyway, his whole family is Christian, and his father is a pastor of a church. He pretty much begged me to come and visit him in his town. What would you guys think about doing that?”
“I don’t want to cut things short with our plans in Hyderabad, but if it works out I’d be up for it,” Matt responded.
Jedd was not so enthusiastic. “Yeah, well, we can keep it in mind. We’ll just have to see how things work out time-wise.”
Trey added, “We just aren’t going to have much time. India’s a lot bigger than it seems, and if we’re still planning to make it up north to the Taj Mahal, we’re already pushing it if we are going to work in Calcutta at all.”
Mike was not put off. “I know we don’t have much time, but I think we should seriously consider going there. I don’t exactly know why, but there’s something about Samuel that I really like. I don’t think he’d just ask us without good reason.”
“It sounds great, Mike, but with all our plans and stuff I don’t really see it working out,” Jedd said flatly.
“Well, I’ve got his name and the name of a station where we can telegraph him. I think we should stay flexible if God wants to change our plans.”

• • •

By nightfall, the novelty of the train ride had disappeared; we were ready for the noise and constant activity to stop, hoping it would when the lights went out. As we prepared for bed, a boy who shared our compartment suggested we lock our bags to the wire loop that hung from each bunk.
“Thieves will take right from under your nose,” he warned.
Matt and Mike lowered the middle-tier bunks and lay down. Jedd and Trey were already laid out on the top tier.
“Ready for lights out?” asked Matt. Hearing no objection, he flipped the switch and the compartment went dark.
The rhythmic clacking continued, loud but steady enough to be almost sedative.
This just may be a decent sleep, thought Mike.
Several hours later, we knew otherwise.
Along with the always-boarding and unboarding passengers, the salesmen seemed to have no sense that a compartment with its lights out meant “We want to sleep.” Every half-hour throughout the night, they returned, especially the chai sellers. “Chai, chai, chai! Coffee, coffee, coffee!” they’d cry in a shrill voice, flipping the lights of the compartment on and off. Finding no buyers, they would move to the next doorway, usually leaving the light on behind them.
Trey pulled the sweatshirt he had been using for a pillow over his eyes, groaning as he rolled closer to the wall. Jedd tensed in anger, muttering loudly, “What’s wrong with these people? Why the heck doesn’t anyone shut ’em up?” No one answered his question. We just stared silently at the bunk a few inches in front of our faces. Our train pulled into Hyderabad at 6:00 A.M. There was just enough light for us to recognize that our white T-shirts had turned a brown-gray. As we stepped off the train, Matt shook his head as he glanced at a sign hung above the platform. It read, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

Matt’s Reflections-February 7
Last night was about the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had. The train rumbled, passengers coughed, chai vendors shouted and turned the lights on every thirty minutes-not to mention the bites and stings from insects.
The apostle Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want . . .”
I wish I could say I’ve learned the secret as well. I feel like maybe through this trip, I’m becoming at least a little more flexible and content. Even so, I know I still have a long way to go.
My parents always taught me that I am the only one that can control my feelings. Even if someone does something horrible to me, I still have the choice to choose my reaction. While I know this in theory, it is often hard to live out. I want so much to grow in this, for I believe that joy is always accessible to those who have learned to be content in all circumstances.

Worlds Apart

Although not yet seven in the morning, the streets of Hyderabad were alive and buzzing. Moving things of all shapes and sizes teemed over every inch of blacktop. They flowed in and out, around-almost on top of-each other like a swarm of cockroaches. Pedestrians kept as close as they could to the three-storied shacks on the sides. Colorful rickshaws, ancient taxis, ox-drawn carts, motorcycles, the cab of a semitruck, entire families on single scooters, and old army Jeeps jockeyed for position in the flow. They buzzed and beeped and screeched, conversing continually with the shrill bleating of horns. From the sides, vendors threw their voices above the blare of traffic, proclaiming the benefits of their products. The pulse of the city was nearly deafening.
Meeting us at the train station was a local Indian pastor named Anil. He haggled with a crowd of minitaxi drivers for several minutes, drawing the fare lower like an auction in reverse. When only two men remained interested, we proceeded to squeeze into their three-wheeled, doorless carts. Trey and Matt were packed together in the rear of one, with Anil in front, balanced on the single front seat with the driver. Trey leaned forward as the vehicle lurched out into the traffic.
“We’d better make sure the other guys’ minitaxi doesn’t get left behind. They would probably be lost for days.”
“Don’t worry, I gave their driver clear directions,” Anil assured.
Matt laughted, half serious. “We’d still better keep an eye on ’em. If there’s any possibility of getting lost, Mike and Jedd will probably find it.”
A stoplight brought the wheeled insects to a halt, not in an even line, but in a mashed-up blob. Despite the rushing cross-flow, the pack edged farther and farther into the intersection. The light turned green, and Trey leaned his head and part of his body out of the vehicle. His greasy locks waved in the wind like a not-so-well-groomed golden retriever.
“Check out the cows grazing in the trash!” he said, pointing. “Someone hung beads around their horns.”
“Those cows don’t look too holy to me,” declared Matt.
“Maybe not,” Anil agreed. “But you still better not plan on having any hamburgers while you’re in India.”
“Wow! What is that?” asked Trey.
What looked like a fairy castle-complete with spires, sparkling domes, and turreted towers-rose above the filthy street at least two hundred feet into the sky.
“I think it was built by the raj of this area for one of his favorite wives, but I’m not sure,” responded Anil. “There are quite a few buildings like that in Hyderabad.”
“What a contrast to the way most people here live.” remarked Matt.
“That is the way India has always been.”
The minitaxi driver turned from the main thoroughfare down a narrow lane that wound between whitewashed cement homes. The noise instantly diminished. Although the walls and street were in various states of disrepair, the neighborhood appeared refreshingly tidy.
Trey questioned Anil, “Matt said that you run a training center for pastors here in Hyderabad.”
“Yes. I am a pastor, too, but some time back I realized that many pastors here in India, including myself, needed more training and a deeper understanding of the Bible. It has been an evolving process, but now for six months out of the year we have pastors and teachers from Australia and America come to teach at the little training center we have here.”
“Is there a dormitory for the students?”
“Not really. A few students stay with us, and some stay with local believers. Depending on how many come, we sometimes rent places as well . . . and here we are at home now.”
We were still climbing out of the taxis when four boys poured out of the house. The smallest child wrapped his arms around one of his father’s legs while the other three stood respectfully, smiling slightly, and glancing between their father and us.
Anil ruffled the little one’s hair, then said, “David, stand with your brothers. Now, boys, I’d like to introduce you to four American brothers who have come to spend some time with us: Matt, Mike, Jedd, and Trey. This is Terry, Melchizadeck, Sunny, and David.”
A woman appeared in the open doorway. Her eyes were dark and bright, like the boys. A brilliant orange sari hung over one shoulder and wrapped around her waist.
“And this is my wife, Annie,” announced Anil, obviously quite proud.
Annie shook our hands warmly-something we had come not to expect from women in Third World countries. “Breakfast will be ready soon,” she advised. “I’ve made toast and eggs-something, I think, you have not had in some time.”
“We’ll go wash up in back,” promised Anil.

• • •

That night for dinner, as for the prior two meals of the day, we sat in a circle on the floor in the living room. Annie passed us each an aluminum plate piled with steaming rice. A large bowl of a lentil curry waited in the center while Anil prayed. Then Annie ladled the sauce onto each of our plates in turn.
“Is that spicy?” questioned Matt.
“I made it less hot than usual,” assured Annie. “Sometimes visitors have a hard time with the food we normally eat.”
Anil could tell we were still unaccustomed to eating without utensils. He encouraged, “Eat well, boys. Annie is the best cook in Hyderabad.”
Anil dug in with his right hand, swishing and smashing the curry around in the rice and then squeezing it into tiny balls that he plopped into his mouth. Mike tried to follow suit, but somehow the rice did not quite make it into a ball and only a few grains made it as far as his mouth.
Annie laughed. “Like this, Mike,” she said, easily rolling another perfect ball on Anil’s plate and feeding it to her husband.
It seemed strange to us, but women in India feed their husbands first and then eat their own dinner afterward with the children.
“Can I have some more water?” Matt asked, pursing his lips and taking in quick little breaths.
Anil smiled. “Water will not help,” Anil explained. “After you are finished, you will eat some curds. It cools the fire in your mouth.’’
“Don’t worry, we love this spiciness,” said Trey. “Next time make it as spicy as you normally do.”
Jedd, his mouth full, nodded eagerly.
“I’m not sure . . . ,” said Mike, shooting a slightly fearful glance at Matt.
Trey, however, was already on to the next subject. “A guy we spent time with in Bombay was telling us a little about the election that is going on now. He said the Hindu Nationalist Party is really on the rise.”
“It is,” Anil affirmed. “There has been a substantial shift in political power in the last year.”
“Is that good or bad for you?” asked Mike.
“Well, the BJP, the political party that is gaining strength, is largely a radical Hindu movement. They’ve been riling people up, especially the youth, and we Christians are very wary. India’s never been pro-Christian, obviously, but our government has generally left us alone.”
“Has the BJP caused any major problems yet?” Matt questioned.
“Not so much for Christians, but a number of Muslim mosques have been vandalized and even burned to the ground by BJP supporters. This is a warning to us as well.”
“Is there a reason that the violence has been directed only at the Muslims?”
“About 15 percent of the population is Muslim, so they are a much more visible challenge to the Hindus than the 2 percent that are Christians. There is also a long history of violence between Muslims and Hindus. I don’t know if you knew this, but when the British pulled out of India, they helped establish Pakistan as a Muslim country so both religious groups could have a part of former British India. This has helped to quell some of the religious civil wars, but the peace between India and Pakistan has been a tenuous one. When there are problems between the countries, it in-creases the tension between Hindus and the Muslims who live in India.”

Mike’s Reflections-February 7
Living a Christian life would be such a different experience in a place like India. We’re so used to living in a culture that is permeated by elements of Christianity in every realm. Of course, there are times when it is very unpopular to be a Christian. But whether they like it or not, everybody in America has been shaped in some way by ideas that have roots in Christianity. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to live among a people with such radically different assumptions about life.

“May I interrupt for a moment?” said Annie, emerging from the kitchen. She carried a bowl of a white, creamy substance-the promised curds. The curds were a form of yogurt made from goat’s milk. They tasted a bit sour, maybe even rotten, but helped to soak the spices from our tongues.
Annie sat down next to Anil, and he took her hand. “A very good meal, Annie,” he said. “She is an excellent cook, is she not?”
We each added our wholehearted agreement.
A moment later, Mike launched back into our conversation. “Is it difficult to share Jesus with people in this environment?” he asked.
Anil nodded. “Sometimes it feels next to impossible. On the surface, Hindus are very tolerant when one initially speaks of Christ. In addition to the main gods like Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, their pantheon contains hundreds of other gods. Some of their holy men claim that in the universe there are actually millions of deities. In a system like that, it is not difficult to accept Jesus as another one of the gods.”
Jedd spoke up. “When we were riding the train, I noticed a wall alongside the tracks painted with pictures of a bunch of different gods. There was the big elephant guy, and a lady with a bunch of arms holding skulls-”
“That was Kali,” interjected Anil.
“-And a bunch of other guys also. The interesting thing was that they had Jesus up there, too.”
“Exactly. They have no problem with people worshiping Jesus, or with people worshiping just about anything else, for that matter. The problem comes when you encourage people to accept Jesus for what He claimed to be: the only true way to relationship with our one Creator.”
“Strange as it may sound,” began Jedd, “it is a lot that way in America, too. People don’t have much of a problem with anyone believing just about anything they want to believe.”
“Right,” affirmed Mike, “but as soon as you present the idea that God chose to reveal Himself through Jesus, and that all of our religions and other efforts are destined to fail, that is when people start attacking you and calling you closed-minded bigots.”

Jedd’s Reflections-February 7
I’ve often thought of attacks against Christians coming from only two groups: people who want to force atheism on everyone, like in Communist states, or from authorities who want to enforce a single religion, like in Muslim countries.
Historically, though, some of the worst attacks against Christianity have come from people who would be fine with Christians being Christians as long as they would not insist on following Christ as their only Lord.
The Romans, for instance, were generally very tolerant. Had the early church been willing to worship the emperor and some of the Roman gods in addition to Jesus, they may have faced no persecution at all.
But when Christians claimed Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life” and refused to bow down to any other god, the authorities were so enraged that they threw Christians to lions, burned them at the stake, and did countless other terrible things.
I can see it becoming increasingly this way in America now. Christian faith is fine as long as a person is willing to acknowledge the validity of every other idea as well. But those who refuse to bow down to our culture’s other deities-especially the god of politically correct tolerance-are despised. I have little doubt that the consequences of refusing to bow will likely only become more severe in the years to come.
Of course, the Bible tells us to be gentle and respectful toward those who disagree with us; we have no business forcing our views on others. But for the Christian, there can be only one Lord, and we must be willing to pay the consequences for obeying Him alone.

“Jesu Raja”

“Aye taxi, aye taxi!” called Anil, signaling to a minitaxi on the far side of the street.
The colorful transport zipped across the flow of traffic and pulled up before us.
Somehow, all five of us squeezed in, Anil next to the driver, Trey on Mike’s lap, Matt on Jedd’s. Three young Muslim women, dressed from head to toe in black, tried to hold back their giggling as they passed us.
Mike elbowed Matt and whispered, “I’ll give you ten bucks if you pull off one of those girls’ veils.”
Anil wheeled around. “Don’t even think about it. The men in that mosque would kill us if you did that.”
“Sorry, I was just joking,” Mike responded.
“It’s not even something to joke about.”
At the bus station, drivers of full-size taxis approached us, promising to undercut the bus fair to wherever we wanted to go. We ended up in the back of a long, white vehicle that looked like it belonged at a classic car rally.
“This car looks like a vintage 1940s roadster, but the interior is pretty new,” remarked Matt.
“They still manufacture these in India,” Anil explained.
“Just like this?”
“Yes. The British started making this model in India over fifty years ago. Until recently, they’ve been producing the very same model.”
The buildings and traffic became less and less dense as we drove on. Finally, the urban sprawl gave way completely to open countryside.
“Where exactly are we going, Anil?” asked Jedd.
“The church in Hyderabad is my first responsibility, but I also pastor in the small village where we are going. Since the services in Hyderabad are Sunday mornings, I hold services at this village on Sunday nights.”
“Every Sunday?”
“No, there is a third church that I pastor also, so sometimes I go there on Sundays and visit this one during the week.”
“How far is it?”
“It will take us about three hours. This car will only bring us to where the paved roads end. Then we will have to hire a Jeep to take us to the village.”

• • •

It was after dark by the time we got into the Jeep and started bumping along the rough dirt road that led through the jungle toward the village.
“This is tiger country,” stated Anil, peering out at the dense foliage that lined our road.
“I’ve heard that tigers sometimes grab people right out of their villages at night. Is that true?” questioned Matt.
“They’ve been known to. You have more to fear from the cobras, though. There are lots of them.”
Trey winced. “Most wild animals don’t bother me, but I hate snakes.”
As if to confirm Anil’s words, a mongoose, mortal enemy to the cobra, darted through our headlights.
It was nearly half an hour later when the trees and bushes that had pressed on us for miles suddenly moved back. A full moon cast silver over two rows of simple dwellings, some built of mud, others of cement, a few topped with corrugated metal, the rest with thatch. Behind them, an extensive space of the jungle had been cleared out and cultivated with rice and other crops. A single electric line ran through the center of the village. Some of the houses appeared to be connected to it, but the moon-glow was much brighter than the timid light that spilled from their open windows. When the Jeep’s motor stopped, silence rose around us. The quiet felt tangible after days of constant din in the city. People milled about here and there, doing chores by torchlight or conversing with their neighbors. Some men brought out a wicker-matted bedframe and covered it with a quilt for us to sit on.
“What time does the service start?” asked Matt.
Anil answered, “The people in villages like this do not have the same sense of time that we do. They don’t use clocks but do things when they feel the time is right.”
“So how do they know when church will be?”
“The believers know a service is planned for this evening. When the time is appropriate, they will begin to gather.”
As Anil predicted, a short while later a small crowd began to form in the open area in the center of the village. A trio of men worked to connect a wire into the electric line, forming a hook at the end of a wire and tossing it up over the line. Several times the hook caught and sparks burst from the connection. On the fourth try, the light bulb flickered to life and the men carefully set it atop a long stick that they planted in the ground.
The men completed the preparations by laying out bamboo mats for the congregation and setting a row of wooden chairs for us, facing the mats. By the time the service began, a group of about forty was present. On the left sat the men, their white cotton shirts contrasting markedly with their dark faces. On the right were the women, their hair almost indiscernible from the night, but their saris glowing in brilliant shades, lending grace to even the most shriveled faces. Standing behind the seated Christians, curious Hindu neighbors looked on, intrigued by the four pale-faced visitors. A few yards away, a goat nibbled on a small pile of garbage. Slowly, a man began to strike a drum with his open palm, the instrument reverberating in the cool air. He played for several minutes before, as if on cue, the congregants began to sing, accompanied by a tambourine. The beat grew faster; strong, driving, the pulsating tones pulling us into the spirit of worship.
“I’ve never heard music like this,” whispered Trey. “Their voices aren’t great, but there’s something powerful about it.”
“I like this song where they keep saying, ‘Jesu Raja,’” said Mike.
Anil leaned over toward us. “Jesu Raja. It means, ‘Jesus the King.’ It is about time to speak. Are you ready?”
Trey and Jedd both nodded.
After the service, the believers gathered around us, smiling. Their teeth and eyes shone in the moonlight. Anil translated. “Thank you for coming to our village,” said a kindly faced man, placing his hands together in front of his face and bowing slightly. A woman stepped forward. She said nothing, but took each of our right hands in turn and pressed them to her forehead.
“Would you please pray for my son?” asked a young father. He held a three-year-old boy, who lay quietly on his shoulder, eyes wide. “He has not been able to walk since an accident a year ago.”
“We would be glad to pray for him,” replied Mike.
We prayed for the child, and his father thanked us humbly. As he moved back into the crowd, an elderly man hobbled forward, leaning heavily on a staff. Two men supported him as he moved.
“He has been unable to walk right for a long time,” explained one of the men. “Would you please pray that God will heal him?”
We laid hands on the man and Jedd began. “Lord, we come before You in the name of Jesus and ask that You heal this man. We stand here humbly, Father, but we ask that if it be Your will that You restore his legs . . .”
The others followed, requesting healing for the crippled man. Some-thing stirred our assurance. Our faith was as strong as it had ever been. Never in our lives had we prayed so specifically, directly for a person to be healed, but somehow we believed it was what we were supposed to do. We each felt a near certainty that the Lord was going to restore the man’s legs.
Trey said, “Amen,” and we opened our eyes. The man opened his eyes as well. They were full of expectation, so were those of the crowd. The man pushed against his staff, lifting himself upright and moving his weight onto his legs. He stood there, supporting himself, eyes wide. The villagers seemed to take in a collective breath. Before they could exhale, the man’s legs crumbled, sending him down. The men at his sides caught him. A faint murmuring could be heard. The old man was led back into the crowd.
The villagers seemed a little disappointed, but not greatly bothered. Everything continued as it had been-greetings and handshakes and smiles. Someone brought out steaming cups of chai for us. Jedd walked off by himself. Things were spinning around in his head. His face felt hot, feverish. “Lord, please heal this man,” he uttered. “You said faith as small as a mustard seed could cast a mountain into the ocean. I know we had at least that much faith tonight. Why didn’t You heal him?”
Eventually, Anil led us to the Jeep. The crowd pressed around us, smiling and thanking us for coming until we were driving down the dirt road. Mike gazed out the small rear window, staring at the old man who leaned upon his staff.
It was several miles down the road that Mike finally spoke. “Did that bother you guys as much as it did me?”
“I don’t know,” replied Trey. “I guess it disappointed me a little, but, you know . . . God sometimes says no to our requests.”
“Yes, but tonight I felt different. I really thought God was going to heal him. I always feel like I never ask with enough faith to see a miracle. Sometimes I see things that might be miracles, but I never know. But tonight . . . tonight I had the faith. I knew God was going to heal him.”
“I felt the same, Mike,” said Jedd almost inaudibly.

Mike’s Reflections-February 8
I just can’t shake what happened tonight. But why did it bother me so much? I think I felt like for once I really had the faith, and God was going to do some miracle that I could point to for the rest of my life and say, “That was an undeniable miracle.”
If I’m honest, even if he did get healed, I know that after the fact I’d probably think of ways to doubt whether he was really crippled or something, but still, I felt like God was going to undeniably prove Himself once and for all.
It leaves me doubting . . .

The next morning at Anil’s house, Mike closed his Bible and let out a deep sigh.
“What are you thinking about?” Jedd asked.
“What happened the other night at that village. I still just don’t know what to think.”
“I know what you mean. Is it making it hard for you to pray?”
“Kind of. I do believe we need to allow God to say no when He’s decided that is what’s best but-”
“But the Bible is full of invitations to pray and really expect things of God,” Jedd continued for him.
“Exactly. I always feel like I’m sandbagging-you know, protecting my faith-when I say ‘if it be Your will.’”
“Me, too. What about Bible verses with promises like, ‘The prayer lifted up in faith will heal,’ and ‘Whatever you ask,’ and ‘Approach the throne of grace boldly,’ and ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk’? Is that all just for the past?”
Trey and Matt entered the room and Jedd directed a final question to them. “What are you guys thinking about last night? Why doesn’t this bother you two as much as Mike and I?”
Trey smiled. “I guess different things affect our faith differently. I just figure there must have been good reasons for God to deny our request. As C. S. Lewis says, when God does a miracle, He is setting aside the laws He designed to rule nature. Sometimes He may set the rules aside, but most of the time not. We should be thrilled to experience miracles when they happen, but not base our faith upon them.”
Matt added, “Remember when Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is like the wind? Sometimes we feel a little breeze, other times we see the wind blowing houses over. But we can’t decide when it blows or demand that it produce a certain effect. We just need to recognize its work and be thankful for it, not try to control it according to our whims.”

Jedd’s Reflections-February 9
Just for once, I would like to see an irrefutable miracle.
Perhaps, though, there is no such thing. Even some of the people who saw Lazarus raised from the dead found a way to doubt. I’ve heard someone say that if we did see a miracle we could not possibly disbelieve, our freedom of choice would be lost. We would have to believe. The Bible seems to indicate that even in God’s greatest miracles, He always allows room for us to disbelieve. He does not use miracles to create faith. When it is according to His will, He allows faith to see the miraculous.
I still struggle with this, but it is important for me to see that belief is a choice. It is-and always has been-in my hands. I have reasons to doubt, but also many solid reasons to believe. I must choose. I have seen many things in my life that I really do think reveal God’s amazing work on my behalf, even on this trip. When it comes down to it, though, miracles would never be enough to make me follow Christ. What makes me want to commit myself to Him is that I have found Jesus and His words to be the only source of true life. There is simply no other place to go if I desire to truly live.
I’ve tried to capture some of my thoughts in a poem:

"Doubt"

My faith lies like a broken man.
Yesterday, I praised Him with palm branches, but something in me today cries out, “Crucify your foolish hope; you only thought you saw the leper cleansed and that lame man click his heals.”
I writhe in my unsurity.
Christ never used the coercion of a miracle one must believe. “Why,” I shout with the Inquisitor, “do You not make belief compulsory? Show Your hand!”
But finally, my rage spent, I crumple down upon the dusty road, and in my mind sift through a desert.
Some see God as shackles, and in doubt they glimpse a liberating key. But I see better than that. For even if the skeptics were right, and heaven did not exist, hell most certainly would. For whether or not there is a God, hell is to live without Him.
Life alone is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. A moment of joy, a taste of pleasure . . . “the early leaf’s a flower, but only so an hour.” Hope is false, peace an illusion, and happiness, at best, is fleeting. Indeed, if Christ is not raised from the dead, we are all most miserable men . . .
And invading my thoughts, the soft slap of sandals upon the path. I do not raise my head, for fear of seeing no one. But still, a voice speaks deep and gentle, “You, too, will not leave Me?”
And I reply, “Whence shall I go, Lord?”


Following a late lunch, we found ourselves lying on our mattresses in the upstairs room at Anil and Annie’s. The day was hot and humid, and the breeze from the ceiling fan was welcome as we digested another meal of rice and curry.
Trey set down his copy of the Rough Guide to India. “Guys, I think we’d better decide whether we are going to go directly to Calcutta from here or whether we’re going to visit some other places.”
“What were you thinking, Trey?” asked Jedd.
“I was scanning the guidebook and it doesn’t look too hard to make it to Nepal. I think we could swing a trek up into the Himalayas, and still have time to work with the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta.”
“That would be incredible,” Jedd said. “I’ve always dreamed of seeing Mount Everest.”
Mike broke his silence. “What about Samuel? He really wanted us to come. Don’t you think that since we have a few days free, we should spend time with him instead of heading off to Nepal?”
“Mike, we planned to do some tourist stuff during this week all along,” Jedd said in a defensive tone. “I’m not exactly planning on coming to India again, and . . .”
“Look, I’d love to go to Everest, too, but I really feel like God might want us to visit Samuel. This trip is about loving people for Christ, not just some adventure tour. What’s the priority here? God is giving us an awesome opportunity to encourage some believers. To be honest, I don’t see how you could feel okay about passing it up.”
Jedd looked over at Matt. “What do you want to do?” he asked somewhat tersely.
“I’d like visiting Nepal, but I agree with Mike. It’s not every day God presents an opportunity like this.”
Jedd’s eyes narrowed. “What makes you think that would be worth the time? If we went with every random Indian off the street who wanted us to visit his home, we’d spend the rest of our lives here. Samuel may want us to come, but do you really think he’ll have any real ministry opportunities we wouldn’t have anywhere else?”
“I don’t know,” answered Mike, “but I am pretty sure that us running into him on the train wasn’t just a coincidence.”
The conversation ran late into the night. When the dust settled, we had agreed to split up. Jedd and Trey would leave for Nepal; Matt and Mike would go to the town of Chirala to spend time with Samuel. We would meet in Calcutta at the end of the week.

______________________________________

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- seventeen -

A Change of Plans

Chirala, India


Mike, Mike!” shouted Samuel. He waved and broke into a run through the train station. Samuel gripped Matt and then Mike in a hug. “It is such a blessing to have you come. Thank you, thank you!”
Matt saw an elderly man who followed a few steps behind Samuel. “Who’s this?” he inquired.
“My father, Muthali-Roy. He is pastor of the church here in Chirala. Father, this is Matt and Mike.”
As he greeted the pair with a handshake, a smile as big as Samuel’s broke on the old man’s face. Any lingering doubts Matt and Mike had felt about coming to Chirala quickly vanished as they soaked in the delight their arrival had so clearly brought.
Matt hopped on the backseat of Samuel’s moped, his large backpack protruding precariously behind it. Mike climbed onto a bicycle rickshaw with Samuel’s father. Even in the small town, people seemed to be everywhere. Vendors lined the streets, spilling out onto the dirt paths used as roads. In the recesses of one of the shops, Mike saw a blacksmith hammering at a glowing piece of metal. A few shops down, men gathered in a garagelike café and drank their afternoon chai. A cow roamed on the main roadway, while hordes of bicycle rickshaws swerved around him.
“I’m glad you received our message, Samuel,” said Matt. “Mike and I weren’t sure what we’d do if you weren’t here to meet us.”
“Oh, we knew you were coming. We were gathered in the church praying that you would come when your telegraph arrived.”

Message from the Areopagus

Next to the church stood a small parsonage. Matt pushed the door open and felt for a light switch. A simple kitchen and table completed the front room. Several cots filled the back.
“Not a bad little place,” remarked Mike.
Samuel excused himself for a moment, promising to return soon.
“I wonder how long ago the missionaries that started this church left,” Matt said, thinking out loud.
“I hadn’t heard Samuel mention missionaries,” responded Mike.
“I guess I haven’t, either, but I would be surprised if the townspeople here could have afforded a place like this.”
The pair had just set their bags near their cots and stretched out with hopes of a brief nap when Samuel’s father entered. Mike smiled at him, secretly hoping Muthali-Roy would not try to speak to them. Like many in India, Muthali-Roy had learned to read and write English well, but knew little of how to pronounce the words. The resulting rapid-fire sound might as well have been Hindi.
“Da sayvis veet stat aht seben tuhnaht.”
Mike shot Matt a quizzical glance. “What’s that?” he queried.
It added to the difficulty of discerning Muthali-Roy’s words that he bobbled his head rapidly from side to side as he spoke. The picture was a bit like that of a turtle’s head protruding from its shell.
“Yih wih spihk tonaht at da sayvis aht seben. Mney indoo eepel weel com.”
“You’re having a church service tonight?”
Muthali-Roy’s head bounced in a slightly different direction, perhaps indicating an affirmative.
It took several more repetitions to piece together the message.
“I think they want us to speak tonight at a church service at seven o’clock,” suggested Matt.
“I caught that part.”
“Did you pick up the rest?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Samuel mentioned something to me at the train station, but I think I missed what he was saying. As best I can tell, they’ve told everyone in town that two American evangelists are here. It’s going to be a mostly Hindu audience. Muthali-Roy and Samuel are thinking we’ll speak for two hours, each night.”
Mike laughed slightly, realizing Matt’s translation was entirely serious.
Matt responded, “Um, Muthali-Roy, we would be very glad to . . . um, speak . . . but I don’t think we can speak for two hours tonight. Since we only have a little while to prepare, I think we can speak for about an hour. Would that be okay?”
Muthali-Roy rolled his eyes. It was not a sarcastic motion, but simply showed he was thinking. Finally, he bobbled his head in a way that seemed to say, “That will be fine if that is how it must be.”
When Muthali-Roy had disappeared through the doorway, Matt turned to Mike. “Can you believe this?”
“I know! I had no idea Samuel intended for us to speak at all, let alone lead an evangelistic crusade.”
“We’ve had a few surprise speaking engagements before on the trip, but they never asked for two hours, cold turkey...”
“And we always had Jedd around. He’s more comfortable with this stuff than I am.”
Matt stood up and walked back and forth between the cots. “I feel like I know so little about Hinduism in general. How are we going to know what to say?”

Matt’s Reflections-February 12
Lord, I feel like I don’t know how to fill five minutes tonight, let alone an hour. And these people-I hardly know their lives, their problems, their needs.
As You reminded Moses, though, You gave man his mouth in the first place. You can equip me to do whatever You want me to do.
I may not know these people in particular, but I know that You made them and love them, and that whatever their temporary needs are, their greatest need is to know You. Even if they can’t put this need into words, I know that everyone on this earth has a deep longing within them. They may resist this need, but I know they need You. Help me to simply share about You and the life You offer-that’s the need that cuts across every language and culture.


In the church’s open sanctuary, square plastered columns held up a metal roof from which were suspended fluorescent lights, two speakers, and several ceiling fans. On the cement floor was a podium and handwoven mats. The lone wall at the front was decorated with Bible verses in Hindi along with the English words “The Good Shepherd.”
“Who built this church, Samuel?” queried Matt.
“Many years ago, a missionary man came to Chirala and shared Jesus. A number of us accepted the Lord, and soon we decided that we would build a church.”
“So did the missionary pay for the building?”
Samuel smiled. “No. All of the new believers pooled our jewelry and Hindu idols. We melted them down, sold the raw gold and precious stones, and built the church.”
Matt might have felt a little embarrassed over assuming an outsider had paid for the church had Samuel not seemed so proud to correct him. “That’s great,” Matt said. “It sounds like something out of the New Testament.”
Mike questioned, “What happened to the missionary?”
“After some time with us, he left, but he came back often to visit us and encourage us. We were very sad when he died. We will see him in heaven.”
The sun was disappearing when the townspeople began to appear. The evening was still quite warm, and a breeze, blowing in between the pillars, provided a welcome cool. Mike noticed that the armpits of the men’s shirts were soaked with sweat.
“I guess that’s what life was like before deodorant,” he whispered to Matt.
Matt leaned toward Mike. “Even with deodorant, you’re not smelling so good. The people here must wash themselves every half-hour to stay as clean as they do.”
As seven o’clock approached, the sanctuary neared half-full. A sea of colorful saris filled the women’s side of the sanctuary; on the other side, hardly a dozen men.

Mike’s Reflection-February 12
As in many of the countries we’ve been to, the women in the church tonight outnumber the men by a significant margin. I wonder why this is.
I can’t help but think it might be the male ego, ashamed to admit need, constantly striving for self-sufficiency. Like Alexander back in Russia, they see God as a last-ditch life preserver for people who can’t stay afloat on their own.
I have to admit, though, religion is often just that. In many American churches, “Christianity” is just another self-help program full of positive psychobabble with the words God and Jesus thrown in for good measure. I also know plenty of cases where faith is little more than an object on which to pin hopes of seeing dead loved ones again.
I wish more men could see how faith in Jesus-if we truly seek to follow Him-demands the utmost strength, endurance, and bravery. The disciples who followed Christ had to have been among the most courageous people to ever walk the earth. I don’t know many today who withstand the threat of dying, let alone deaths like stoning, the cross, or lions for the sake of truth. There was no weakness there.


After a short time of singing led by Samuel, Matt shared about his own story and relationship with Jesus. Mike then began the central message from the book of Acts, reading the same words that had been offered to another crowd of polytheists nearly two thousand years before:

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.

“Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else . . . God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us . . .” (17:22-25, 27)

At the close of the evening, Mike asked if anyone would like to commit their lives to the One and only true God. A hand slipped up in back, then another, and another . . . That night seven people committed themselves to following Jesus.

Meanwhile, in Nepal

Jedd and Trey lay atop their beds in their room in the small trekker’s lodge deep in the Himalayas. With the sun down, they wrote in their journals by candlelight.

Trey’s Reflections-February 14
Today we ventured by Jeep farther up and farther into Nepal-past Buddhist temples, multicolored prayer flags, and small wooden villages huddled on the mountainsides. When snow finally made our narrow stone road impassable, we covered the final miles to this trekker’s lodge on foot. What a journey!
Before going to bed, Jedd and I went outside for a bit. All was totally silent, except the sound of a distant cowbell. A full moon blazed down, turning the expanse of clouds that stretched out below us to a milky sea. Beyond them we could see the great peaks rising out of the mist, glowing white-K2 and the mighty Everest.
I feel I could write forever, but I am sleepy, and my candle is giving its last flickers . . .

Jedd’s Reflections-February 14
This side trip has been great-the scenes and the people, and especially the time with Trey. As always seems to be the case, time out in God’s crea-tion has refreshed my faith as well. Part of me has wondered if we should have stuck with Mike and Matt, but this is where we are, and I am enjoying it a great deal. Perhaps it was God’s purpose that we split up for a time.
I’ve had a chance to reflect about the issue of prayer and what happened the other night in the village. I feel like I see it all a lot more clearly now.
For one thing, I see that so much of the problem lay in the fact that when I prayed the words, “If it be Your will...” I really didn’t mean them.
Jesus Himself prayed those words, acknowledging that God might not answer His request in the affirmative. Saying the right words or having more faith is not always the issue-God often has good reasons for saying no.
And even though we won’t know all those reasons until we get to heaven, it’s not hard to conceive of at least a few purposes He might have had for denying our request the other night. Maybe a miraculous healing that night would have turned the villagers’ focus away from Jesus and onto “healings” (as the message of some televangelists does). It could have done that to me also-gotten me all hyped on supernaturally healing people instead of on helping people to come to know Jesus.
Jesus did many miracles, but of far greater importance to Him was changing hearts and lives. Even someone who has been raised from the dead will eventually die again. But a person who gives their life to Christ enters true, rich, incomparable life that will only grow more complete when physical death occurs.
This is why miracles were never the centerpiece of Christ’s ministry. He hated the effects of evil like blindness, sickness, and death. He wept at the pain evil caused. At times, He proved His dominance over it supernaturally. Often, though, He did not. His purpose for coming to earth was not to dazzle people with miracles. The miracles were primarily “signs” that affirmed the validity of His message of redemption. Many times, He refused to do miracles at all because the people requesting them just wanted a show.
My focus must be on living-and offering to others-the abundant life Jesus provides. On this earth, there will always be times when God will grant requests to suspend the effects of evil, and others when He will not. I will not always understand the reasons, but it is something I must accept, just as His Son did.

Men from the Dream

Mike and Matt split up the following day to visit some of Chirala’s other believers. Late in the afternoon, after visiting a half-dozen homes, the rickshaw carrying Samuel and Mike halted before a small hovel near the edge of town. Samuel slipped some change into the rickshaw driver’s hand and dismissed him, then turned and rapped against the cement doorframe as best he could. Hearing no reply, he peered into the dark entrance. A crackly voice sounded from inside; words of welcome, Mike guessed. Mike ducked to clear the tattered edges of the thatch roof as he followed Samuel through the doorway. Mike’s eyes were still adjusting to the half-light as Samuel began introducing him to a hunched shape; he could just make out the prunelike head of an old woman poking up through a red-and-yellow sari. The woman scrutinized Mike for a moment, drawing her face quite close to his. As she did, she seemed to grow agitated-whether angry or excited, Mike could not tell. She rattled at Samuel for nearly a minute before he quieted her and turned to Mike.
“This woman has something to tell you, Mike. I will translate.”
Samuel said something to the woman and she began again.
“These have been very hard times in Chirala. For many months I have been very discouraged. But three weeks ago, God encouraged me in a dream. In my dream, two men from far away came to our town to give us words from our Lord. When I saw you, I knew that you were the man. I saw you in my dream just as you are. You are like the olive branch that the dove brought to Noah. You are the promise that God has given to me that He has not abandoned me. Thank you so much for coming.”
A tear trickled down Mike’s cheek. All he could do was nod humbly as the woman took his hands and pressed them to her forehead. “Thank you for telling me,” he said.

Mike’s Reflections-February 15
It is hard to understand how or why I get to be such an encouragement to the people here. And is it really possible that God even gave that lady a dream about us before she’d seen us or knew we were coming? What an incredible thing.
Living like this, led not by any knowledge or expertise of my own, I am completely dependent on God’s action and guidance. This is especially true here in Chirala. It is intimidating, but what amazing things we are getting to experience.


Back at the church, Samuel and his father left Mike and Matt alone to allow them to prepare for the night’s talks. Matt was fascinated by Mike’s retelling of the old lady’s dream.
“No one told me about any dreams, but it was kind of like that for me, too, in just about every house,” Matt agreed. “The believers here are so thankful we’ve come.”
Mike shook his head in wonder. “I don’t fully understand it, but it’s an awesome experience to get to be such an encouragement.”
A concerned look crossed Matt’s face for a moment. “One thing I’ve been wondering, Mike, is if Samuel and his father are going to be able to help teach and disciple the people who received Jesus last night. I would hate to think that these Hindus might come to believe but then have no support and fall away.”
“Samuel told me that he knows each one of the people that raised their hand. In fact, we visited two of them today. I don’t think they’ll have any problem following through with discipleship.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”

Matt’s Reflections-February13
I tend to question the value of short-term evangelism in foreign countries, especially when there is no one left behind to encourage and instruct the new believers.
Leading a person to faith in Jesus and then leaving them without someone to guide them is like leaving a newborn puppy alone in the middle of a forest. Unless someone finds them, they likely won’t last long.
I understand that we each have different roles in the Church-some till the soil, some plant seeds, some tend them as they grow. But every one of us needs to know that evangelism is not just to convert people to accept certain ideas about Christ, but to make disciples of Christ. The last verse of the Great Commission is often overlooked-it says we must make disciples by “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Disciples are not people who merely believe things about their master; they are students of him, continual learners. They seek with all their hearts to become like him and to follow his teachings.
It seems to me that evangelism that merely tries to get people to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” can hardly be called evangelism at all.


Twice as many people attended the second night’s meeting, well over one hundred. The third night, even more came to listen to the out-of-town evangelists. Each night, a scattering of raised hands declared intent to follow Jesus. After the final meeting, Matt and Mike sat on the roof of the parsonage. The church grounds were silent now. Though nearly midnight, the air was balmy and completely still. To both of them, the stars this night seemed unnaturally bright.
Finally, almost reverently, Mike spoke. “I still feel like I’m wondering exactly what’s happened these last few nights.”
“I know. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it.”
“We’ve gone in feeling so inadequate. Even tonight, I felt like I had no idea what to say.”
“But all of the right words seemed to come out . . . or, I don’t know if they were the right words, but somehow God used them to draw people to Himself despite what we said.”
Matt slowly shook his head, unable to distill the feelings that ricocheted inside. Finally, he tried. “I’ve never had such a strong sense of my weakness being swallowed up by God’s strength. It’s incredible.”
“I know. I honestly can’t think of anything better than being used by God like this . . .”

Mike’s Reflections-February 15

Even on our third night of speaking, we felt completely inadequate. Maybe that’s the way God works best. Perhaps only when there is less of us can there be more of God.
We sure are going to have a lot to tell Jedd and Trey when we get to Calcutta. I wonder if they actually made it to see Everest . . .
More than a year later, back in the United States, Mike received a letter from Samuel. Besides relating certain events from the prior year and telling how Samuel’s father and family were doing, it also read, “. . . I know you will be happy to hear, brother, that almost all of the Hindu people who accepted Jesus the nights you and Matt spoke to our city are still with us. Many of them have grown much. We thank God greatly for them and also for you . . .”

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- eighteen -


Sisters of Charity

Calcutta, India



According to our guidebook, Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity house was just three blocks from our hotel in Calcutta. Friends back in the States had informed us that anyone could volunteer with the Sisters.
Mother Teresa had started as an instructor at a parochial school for the children of Calcutta’s wealthiest citizens. Her heart ached, though, for the poor and destitute, and the words of Christ weighed heavy upon her, “If you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” Abandoning her safe, well-provided-for life, she set out to love and serve the poorest of the poor in any way she could. For decades, she and the group of Sisters who slowly grew around her served quietly, known to few but those they served. Over the years, this radical love offered in the name of Jesus made Teresa an international heroine. At her death the summer before our visit, the world-especially the Hindu nation of India-wept.
Sisters of Charity
Jedd pushed against the heavy wooden door. It opened onto a small courtyard, encircled by the high walls of the buildings. In the middle of the courtyard, a silver-haired woman sat behind a desk, dressed in the simple blue-and-white habit adopted by the Sisters of Charity. Several bohemian-looking Westerners were standing nearby, waiting.
“You are here to volunteer?” the Sister questioned.
“We are,” Matt replied. “There are four of us who would like to begin work tomorrow, but just two of us were able to come today.”
“Mass begins at five-thirty and work a little after six,” the Sister explained. “Tomorrow morning you can pick which of the homes you would like to work at. If you would like to get an introduction to our work today, Sister Helen can take you around the Mother House here.”
Sister Helen, a young Indian woman dressed in the same garb, nodded at us with a pleasant smile. “We can begin our visit now,” she announced, loud enough for the others in the courtyard to hear.
She led us all toward a doorway at the far side of the courtyard and directed us through an enormous laundry area. Several Sisters and volunteers labored over large vats of water-washing, rinsing, hanging to dry. Helen explained, “Part of the commitment the Sisters make is a vow of poverty. Throughout our lives, we will not own anything, except for two sets of clothing. And we do not use machines to do our work for us.”
The final stop on the tour was the doorway to the third-floor ward. “You are welcome to come in for a time if you wish,” offered Helen. “I need to talk with some of the Sisters here for a moment.”
The room suggested something of a warehouse, set with long, even rows of bedded cribs. A dozen Sisters moved from bed to bed, tending the children’s needs as best they could, often simply holding them, rocking them, or singing softly. Despite the resemblance to a hospital ward, the room had none of the sterile feel most hospitals seem to have. It was clean, but not impersonal or stifling. Part of this may have been the variety in the donated blankets and wooden cribs, but it seemed to go deeper than that. The room held a hushed, peaceful aura.

Matt’s Reflections-February 16
This place feels so unlike any hospital I’ve ever seen. It may be that hospitals in America are concerned almost exclusively with repairing physical ailments. Here, they can’t do much for these kids’ problems. They focus instead on helping these deformed, abandoned children feel loved and
wanted. That is an entirely different sort of healing. It seems to affect every inch of this place.


Timidly, Matt began to walk among the rows. Most of the children sat or lay silently, eyes half-open, squirming slightly in search of a hug or tender touch. A boy with only small stumps of limbs poking out from a bent body roused as Matt passed his crib and cried out once. Opposite him, a fine-haired girl stared blankly over the top of the bars of her crib with unseeing eyes. In a third crib, a head as large as that of a normal twelve-year-old lay on a pillow, connected to the body of an infant.
Jedd looked toward Helen. She noticed and nodded her head gently. “Yes, the children need all the love and touch that we can give them. If you would like, they would love for you to hold them.”
He reached his arms into the crib of a small girl who appeared to be blind and lacking digits on her feet and hands. As he lifted her, the girl’s touch-starved limbs clamped around his neck. She seemed to hold him with all the strength her feeble body could muster, hoping her grip would prevent him from setting her back down.
Matt glanced around at the Sisters and novices who moved about the room. Most of the children did not wear diapers, and some of the women were kept busy cleaning the cribs and their inhabitants. One was on her hands and knees, wiping up a mess that had leaked to the floor. Several others moved from crib to crib, caressing the children or lifting them for a time to hold them or even sing to them.
Matt turned to the crib next to him. The eyes of a small boy, his legs twisted like pretzels, grew wide and his breathing quickened. A soft moan-yearning mixed with excitement-prevented Matt from simply looking any longer. As he leaned into the crib, the child clamored into his arms and fastened himself tightly around his neck. Immediately, the boy’s body relaxed and his breathing slowed, like a lost, scared child who had just found his father.
After twenty minutes, Sister Helen announced, “It is time to go. They’ll be serving the children dinner soon.”
As Matt walked back toward the boy’s bed, the child began to squeeze tighter. Matt leaned over the crib and tried to set him down, but the boy’s arms gained the strength of desperation.
“Here, little buddy. I’m sorry I have to put you down, but they say it’s time for dinner.”
The boy would not release his grip, and Matt was forced to try prying off one arm at a time. As he did, the boy’s crooked legs and other arm groped wildly for a better grip. Finally, Matt was able to release him into the crib. As he did so, the boy scooted his body to the bars of the crib, his legs dragging behind him. He pulled himself up partway and let out a wail of abandonment that made Matt’s heart race.
He looked into the crib for a moment longer, his eyes moist. “I’m sorry, buddy. I’m real sorry.”
Back in the courtyard, Jedd turned to Matt, his voice almost a whisper, “Did that tear you apart like it did me? I just didn’t want to let go of that little girl.”
Matt just nodded.

• • •

Five-thirty the next morning came early. Mass was a series of songs, recitations, and a brief homily from the head priest. The volunteers who had opted to attend sat in their own section, and were asked to take Communion only if they confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After the service, the Sisters served a simple breakfast of bananas and slices of bread. The fifty or so volunteers formed a rather motley bunch, milling around in the courtyard. Longhaired English hippies conversed with conservative Canadian evangelicals; an old Chinese man sat chatting with a young South African girl.
Mike talked with an American couple who were heading in the same direction we were. The middle-aged pair looked a bit contrived in their Indian garb-she in a sari, he decked in a long robe and small, Muslim-looking cap. They both had grown up wealthy, but apparently had come to despise their materialistic forebears. Now they spent their days living off inheritance, drifting from spiritual quest to spiritual quest.
“We knew there would be a lot of positive energy in a place like this,” the man explained. “And we were right, you really can feel it.”
Mike nodded slightly, not quite sure how to respond.
“Energy,” the man repeated slowly.
“Where do you think it comes from?” questioned Mike.
“The good karma, you know, people doing good things.”
“You’re Hindu?”
The man shot a glance at his woman-partner and gave a faint, possibly condescending laugh. “Oh, no. We’re not locked into any religious schemata. After all, no religion is perfect. We take the best from each.”
“What if you make mistakes in deciding what the best is?” Mike probed.
“We may, but at least we will never stop seeking. That’s a trap that many religious people fall into.”
“Do you expect to find what you are looking for?”
“For us, I’d have to say that the seeking is the finding . . .”

Mike’s Reflections-February 17
The spiritual-seeker types always mystify me.
Of course, seeking truth is a noble goal. God certainly desires that humanity seek Him. As in the passage from Acts I read the other night, “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (17:27).
In some sense, I’m a seeker, too. I hope to keep learning all my life, and even then, I know I’ll never have all the answers.
So often, though, these so-called seekers view “seeking” as the end in itself. I get the feeling that if real truth dropped in their laps, they’d scoop it away as if it were hot coals.
The word seek implies there is something to be found. If there isn’t, or if a person would refuse to accept the Thing they are seeking if they did find it, it doesn’t seem like there is much point in “seeking.” They might as well quit playing games and just grab for all the pleasure they can before they die.


The Sick and the Dying

For our volunteer work, we went to Primdan, the Home for the Sick and Dying. Before us spread at least an acre of interconnected concrete buildings. Grass, flowers, and palm trees grew in lightly tended gardens to our left and right.
“This place isn’t anything fancy, but it sure is a peaceful escape from the city,” commented Trey.
“I think that’s the intent,” suggested Matt. “None of the people that get brought here have long to live. The missionaries of charity want them to die loved, in as peaceful a place as possible.”
It was before 7:00 A.M., but the complex was already a hive of activity. Catholic Sisters and Brothers were already about their daily tasks: sweeping, cooking, washing bedclothes, and tending to the dying men and women who had been found on the streets and brought in to Primdan. Many of the “residents” were outside as well-hobbling about the gardens, sitting on benches, or lying on cots that had been set on the grass. The marks of pain, disease, and death were everywhere: missing limbs, bandaged heads, raspy breathing, skeletal frames, mucus-blocked coughs.
Mike noticed a man sitting on the cement edge of a large planter. His legs ended at the shins, gauze covering both stumps, soaked through with splotches of crimson. The man’s neck was so small that the opening of his ragged T-shirt hung down to reveal his collarbones, which stuck out like door handles on an old car. Mike acted as if he had been studying the planter when the man caught him staring.
“Can you believe this place?” whispered Trey. “All these people all around on the verge of death. It’s like some sort of nether world or something.”
“Or a war zone,” followed Matt.
“Before this trip, I don’t know if I’d ever seen one person as terrible-looking as just about every patient in here.”
A red-haired Sister with a cheery Irish accent interrupted our thoughts. “Men, this way to care for the gents; and women, you’ll be over there. Don’t be shy, now. Pick a job you see someone else doing and start doing it with them. Ask questions if you need directions . . . you’ll figure it out.”
We discovered quickly there were only a few tasks the new volunteers could do without getting in the way, all of them unpleasant. Trey quickly found himself helping a feeble man toward the makeshift shower, his scabby legs dragging behind him. The open wounds on his chest oozed onto Trey’s shirt as the man clung to him with all his might. Many of the patients could not stand or even sit up, so Trey worked with another volunteer-one supporting the patient, the other cleaning him.
Mike and Jedd washed soiled blankets with at least a dozen other volunteers. Each blanket went through a series of pools-one for a general rinsing first, a second for washing, finally another for rinsing. Once a blanket was clean, a pair would need to tax their muscles to twist it between them to dry it as much as possible before taking it to the roof to hang in the sun. Mike used a long pole to stir the blankets around in the second washing pool. His eyes watered from the strongly chemical steam.
“Potent stuff,” he commented with a cough.
“I can smell it from over here,” replied Jedd from the rinsing vat. He continued as Mike stepped over to help him wring out a blanket. “You know, it is not that I mind this work, but I can’t help wondering a little about the Sisters’ vow of poverty. Their work would be so much more efficient if they used modern conveniences.”
“I’ve been thinking about that, too. They don’t see efficiency as that high of a value.”
“I can respect that, I guess,” Jedd continued. “I know I get too caught up in wanting to be efficient sometimes. Still, it would just seem logical to use whatever tools you could to love the greatest number of people.”
“They probably see it as quality over quantity.”
“I don’t see how those two are mutually exclusive.”
“They aren’t always, but I don’t think our responsibility as Christians is necessarily to love the greatest number of people possible. We just need to do a good job loving the people we are supposed to love, whether that’s a big number or a small number.”

Jedd’s Reflections-February 17
The Sisters of Charity epitomize the opposite of what most would consider efficiency. They could care for so many more people if they would use things like washing machines, dishwashers, and other modern conveniences. I know they’d have no trouble getting those things donated. I’m still not sure what to think of that.
What is more significant is that the Sisters’ service is poured into what some might consider “black holes.” All but a few of the people they care for here will never be healed. This goes for the Sisters’ other homes as well, like the AIDS home.
Very little “functional” value will come of the Sisters’ work. It’s just love poured out in the name of Jesus. It will not produce anything in most of those being served except for occasional smiles or thank-yous. Some might say it is pointless.
But it all comes down to this: If we are eternal beings, loved by God, then there is reason to show love to each and every one, no matter what their state. If we are no more than meaningless links in an evolutionary ladder, though, then the strongest and smartest might as well look out for themselves.


The Sisters’ work here, just like Jesus’ work and teachings, resoundingly affirms the former.
Jesus didn’t operate on a “maximum effectiveness rule.” His concern was not even to heal the greatest number of people or to feed everyone. He sought simply to love those around Him and to do the work He had been called to do.
As hard as it is for me to think in terms other than “maximum efficiency,” I need to realize that sometimes-maybe even more often than not-“inefficiency” is the path love takes.
It was on the taxi ride back to our hotel that we had a chance to talk together again.
“What’d you guys think about today?” asked Trey.
“What struck me was the difference between the permanent workers and the temporary volunteers,” said Mike.
“How so?”
“The nuns and the permanent staff seemed so full of love for the people. I got a very different sense from the volunteers. Maybe I am just a cynic, but I felt like a lot of them were volunteering because it was hip and gave them something to brag about when they got home. They seemed to think there was something cool about saying that they worked with Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity.”
Jedd thought for a moment. “I can’t say I noticed that, but I do agree that it is incredible what the Sisters do there. They’re just continually doing things I would find so repulsive.”
Trey remarked, “That’s true. Their work is the most undesirable I’ve ever seen. And yet they seem to enjoy it . . . not as if it’s fun, but because they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”
“What really hit me,” said Jedd, “was this sense that all the evil and suffering we’ve seen all along this trip was distilled into this one place.”
“You had an evil feeling in there?” questioned Trey.
“No. The opposite. It was like evil was in its most concentrated form with all the death and suffering you could see, but the goodness of Christ’s love was so much more powerful.”
“I guess I had that sense, too,” noted Trey, “but there was just so much pain also . . . they were both pretty potent.”
“I know what you mean. I don’t want to diminish how bad the badness is. I know we’ll be dealing with it as long as we’re on earth. But the way Christ’s love was poured out there . . . that is the antidote. Things won’t ever be totally right until we get to heaven, but wherever people are really living out Jesus’ love, there is just incredible goodness and peace.”
“I agree, except on one point,” stated Trey. “I don’t think evil was any more concentrated in there than anywhere else in the world. The world is full of evil. In there it was just less disguised. Most places, badness is more subtle-things like greed, hatred, pride, and stuff.”
Jedd nodded. “You’re right. In fact, subtle evil is probably a lot worse. The root disease is the same everywhere, though. So is the antidote.”
Matt, as usual, had been listening and forming his thoughts. “What’s sad is that even though people see that the Sisters of Charity are onto something, most would define ‘success’ just the opposite of how the Sisters live.”

Matt’s Reflections-February 17
The lives of the Sisters are just the opposite of what the world defines as success. It will not provide the least bit of power, fame, wealth, or prestige. They are just a bunch of unknown women caring for deformed children and dying people who will likely never even get well enough to thank them.
But there is something powerful there, more powerful than I can put into words. So much of it, I know, is the incredible beauty of sacrificial, selfless love.
There is something else, too. Comparing the Sisters’ lives to the lives the world declares “successful,” I think of Jesus’ words, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39).
You can see that so many of the people whom the world views as having “found life”-from celebrities to CEO’s to star athletes-actually lose it. There may be bright lights for a while, but the honest biographies often reveal tragic realities: broken marriage after broken marriage, years spent without purpose or hope, the squandering of vast resources, desperation to hold on to fame or position, and frantic attempts to fill the emptiness with drugs, alcohol, and sex.
I’m sure the Sisters here have plenty of difficulties as well, but it seems they also have a deep sense of contentment and purpose. They “lose” their lives in the world’s eyes every day that they do their unnoticed, insignificant tasks. Yet it seems to me that they have found much more than the rich and famous ever find. And they are confident of an even greater eternal reward as well.
I know it would be incredibly hard to live as they do, but I hope I can live by the same principle-finding my life by losing it for the sake of Jesus.


Trey looked out the window. “Tomorrow it’s on to Bangladesh!”
“Do you think it’s going to be as bad as it sounds?” asked Matt. “The few people I’ve talked to who have been to Bangladesh say the culture shock there is worse than any other place in the world.”
“Culture shock is for wimps,” said Mike with a grin. “Besides, how could it be any crazier than India?”
The taxi driver, not quite following our conversation, interjected a question of his own, “You like India?”
We smiled at each other. Trey took it upon himself to fill the silence. “I’ll tell you one thing for sure, sir: There’s no other place in the world quite like it.”

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Contents
Preface vii
Introduction
: First Seeds of an Adventure ix

Part I: Mexico
1. 3,000 Miles in Ten Days 1

Part II: Guatemala
2. A Lesson in Generosity: Guatemala City, Guatemala 21
3. The Four Amigos! Together in Guatemala City 34
4. Into the Highlands: Uspantan, Guatemala 47
5. A Scathing Letter and Some Sweet Sorrow: Leaving Guatemala 61

Part III: Russia and Beyond
6. The Wounded Bear: Moscow, Russia 71
7. The Secret Police: Orekhovo-Zuyevo, Russia 75
8. Scarred Hands and Iron Doors: Serpukhov, Russia 92
9. Village at the Edge of the World: Loly, Russia 102
10. Heart of the Gulag Region: Yemva, Russia 117
11. Waltzing through the West: From Moscow to the Mediterranean Sea 139

Part IV: Egypt
12. Land of the Pharaohs: Cairo, Egypt 153

Part V: South Africa
13. Beauty and Strife 171
14. The Mountain Kingdom: Maseru, Kingdom of the Lesotho 176
15. The Road to Durban 193

Part VI: India
16. Rajas, Rice, and Rickshaws 215
17. A Change of Plans: Chirala, India 238
18. Sisters of Charity: Calcutta, India 249

Part VII: Bangladesh
19. The End of Our Rope 261
20. 100,000 Rickshaws: Dhaka, Bangladesh 285

Part VIII: Thailand
21. From Mosquito Nets to Marble Tile: Bangkok, Thailand 301

Part IX: Vietnam
22. Notes from the Underground 329

Conclusion: The Adventure Begins 358

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