India Update

Day 1 – Saturday

7.30am and 12 nervously, excited travellers assembled at Heathrow airport, eagerly anticipating the flight to Mumbai. The team, gathered from across southern UK, have come together to join young believers from churches in India. Our purpose to serve them and bring them encouragement as later in the week we will be sharing with them the fun of the U:Day conference. The pre-event publicity has whetted our appetites and we are looking forward to times of worship, bible teaching, fun and games and much more. This first day is mainly a travelling day and we boarded our plane without incident.  

We landed in Mumbai at 1:30am local time to be confronted immediately with the bustle of this great Indian city. The queue to get through security was the longest and slowest that I have ever seen as it seemed that all of humanity had descended at the same moment upon the customs hall. We consoled ourselves that at least this would mean that our suitcases would be on their way through, cycling on the carousel when we got through. How naive? Another long wait, watching bag after bag pass in front of our noses, until at last we were all reunited with our baggage.   Now the simple matter of going through customs. But this is India, more queueing to have our bags scanned before we emerged into the Mumbai night air. Even at 3:00am the area outside the airport was heaving with people and full of the contradictions that everyone reports. Bashed up auto rickshaws rubbing shoulders with state of the art luxury airconditioned cars. Street vendors, beggars, people sleeping on the pavement. My only real surprise was that the smells were not as overpowering as I had been warned.   Our first experience of Mumbai traffic was moderated by the early hour. Exactly as forewarned we learnt that Mumbai drivers have three controls – a horn, brakes and a steering wheel which they use in that order! Bizarrely it seems to work, and our drivers squeezed through gaps in the traffic that I would never have dreamed of attempting.  

4:00am saw us arriving at the apartments that seemed to be managed by a convent, where we crashed to our beds for a few hours sleep to ready ourselves for an early start in the morning.  

Day 2 – Sunday

6:30am and the alarm went off. Not sure how much sleep that I had, if any! Time for a quick shower before going down to the floor below for breakfast of fried eggs, bread, coffee, doughnuts – all served by nuns!   Time now for another dash across the city, this time our driver was Joshua. He seemed to get enjoyment out of winding up other drivers by obeying traffic lights and generally observing the rules of the road. I also learnt  another principle of Mumbai driving – everything has priority over autorickshaws. Fortunately we were in a car so we had right of way!  

We arrived safely at church and just like home the worship started to a 2/3 empty room. Just like home the room filled up during the worship. I was taken for lunch by a lovely Indian family to a nearby restaurant where we enjoyed great food before returning to the apartment to catch up with the others who had been to other churches in the city.   For our evening meal we were taken to Domino’s Pizza, the sight of 16 people crammed into 2 cars was something to behold, as was the dogem drive through the Sunday evening streets.  

Have you lost your sparkle?

sparklers The first things that come to my mind as we enter the month of November are bonfires and fireworks. I have vivid memories as a boy of helping my father pile wood, leaves and other garden waste up to build a bonfire at the bottom of the garden. As dusk fell various invited neighbours gathered and then the bonfire, complete with an effigy of Guy Fawkes, was lit. Sausages were sizzled on forks attached to long canes and fireworks were let off. Even in those less safety conscious day’s fireworks were an adult responsibility but there was something exciting to a small boy about being entrusted with a sparkler! You are no doubt familiar with the ritual of one sparkler being lit from another until dozens are being waved around to paint patterns in the night air. Given a sufficient supply of sparklers and willingness to share the flame this handheld display can be kept going for many minutes. One sparkler on its own however can seem quite tame and will soon burn away to nothing.
Christian faith too is best experienced in the company of others as together we share the joy, and at times heartache, of being a follower of Jesus. Whether our journey of faith is long, short, or not yet started the act of sharing it with others encourages the whole community, including ourselves, in much the same ways as happens when sparklers are ignited off each other. However, if we try and live our faith in isolation then we can quickly lose our sparkle and become dull and cold. Once a sparkler is burnt out all that is left is a useless length of wire. The good news however is that if a person’s faith seems burnt out it can be invigorated by joining with others whose flame is burning brighter.
If as these colder winter months draw in you feel that your life has lost its sparkle then perhaps it is time to immerse yourself in a church community. Whether you are an old hand or completely new to the Christian faith I am confident that you will receive a warm welcome at any of the churches in Hook. You can find out more on the adjacent pages.

This blog post featured in the November 2013 edition of Hook Focus