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“But who do you say that I am?” Matt. 16:15

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A letter from YAV Tyler Orem in India

May 4, 2010

Email: Tyler Orem

The Ganges — holy river, mother, goddess. Dharamshala — mountain sanctuary, refuge for the Tibetan people and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Taj Mahal — greatest tribute to love ever built. The Golden Temple — most sacred site for Sikhism. Jaipur — the pink city. The Thar Desert. The Himalayas. The streets of Delhi. The storied beaches of Goa.

I do not think you can experience any single part of this vast country without being changed in some way. You reach immensely heightened understandings of holiness and devotion through the witness of their innumerable incarnations. You are still and listen for that incarnation which is in your very self. You marvel in awe at soaring Moghul architecture. Then you cringe because you are forced to reflect upon how it was possible to build such structures. You feel the power of nature as warm waves crash into your body, as high altitudes steal your breath, as the desert claims the fluids of your body. And all too often you feel the sharpened and insistent call of nature in the face of new foods or bacteria or parasites. You feel your heart break and little parts of the self die as emaciated children and people with unfathomable deformities crowd you in already crowded streets, pleading for rupees, for chapattis, for plastic bottles, for some acknowledgement that they are human too. You ask why. You realize that you are in fact systemically responsible. Sometimes you weep. Above all, you talk to people in whatever broken language can be mustered. For, it is their place that you are barging into in your travels. It is their holiness, their history, their landscapes, their culture, their joy, their brokenness. It is their India. You hear the cries in the street. You hear shouts of intense pride and joy at the Pakistani border (invigorating regardless of the inherent problems thereof). You hear the all-pervasive and important question asked over and over again: “Is WWE wrestling real or fake?” You see the smiles of kids getting to actually use the English they have to learn in school. You feel hands pulling you and hear shouts calling you to buy this merchandise or ride this rickshaw or just see this reality that is somebody’s life. And the whole time you are waking up to the reality that all of this really is reality, and it is full of so many individual realities for so many people, all contributing to the giant reality that is all of us. So, to make a really long story short, a journey into India is simultaneously a journey into the self, one of discovery, confirmation or obliteration, and expansion. And then you come home.

Kerala — land of coconuts, umbrellas, bishops, and constant sweat. Mandiram — home for the most wonderful old people and little ones, the best fish curry and pickles around.

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