Saturday, January 21, 2006

PREPARING FOR A SOJOURN IN INDIA — PART 3

INDIANA AND INDIA. So, on this Saturday morning I am in downtown Indianapolis enjoying the bustle of folks at Shapiro’s deli. This evening I will board a plane that will take me to very different digs. If all goes according to schedule, before Sunday dawns in Central Indiana, our transatlantic flight will touch down in Amsterdam. And before Sunday’s Indiana dusk, I will be on the ground in the ancient land for which native Americans and our state was mistakenly named (quick quiz: what explorer thought he had landed in India?). Pray with me for safe passage and a heart-rending sojourn.

A CLOSER FIELD OF SERVICE. Honestly, I have never had much interest in traveling abroad--either for mission or tourist purposes. I am not one who sees “the fields white unto harvest” in other lands and cultures and longs to be there to be a soul reaper. I am one who sees the city and community in which I have been placed and realizes that it will take a lifetime of passionate service to know it well, love its people fully, and see redemption--personal and social--bring transformation, justice, and peace. If understanding what is happening in other cities and cultures contributes to this, the perspective and help is welcome.

NO INTENTIONAL TOURIST. Neither has the idea of being a world tourist appealed to me. The thought of seeing the Holy Land holds little enticement for me. Cruise ships? Please!! There is enough liberation theology in me to know that wherever I go as a tourist, I will not see, be shown, or experience the authenticity of any international locale. I would be there--wherever--realizing that the industry that brought me there and hosts me is likely reinforcing unjust systems that perpetuate dominance, submission, and poverty. In most parts of the world, what is indigenously real and ultimately authentic is considered either too objectionable or too dangerous for an American tourist’s sensitivities.

A BRIEF AND MEASURED IMMERSION. So, why go to India? Why plan to participate in a 2,000 mile bike ride through India? The India I have been invited to experience on this visit is at the level of indigenous local Christian congregations, most of which are among the outcaste. The Untouchables are more numerous than the population of the United States. Talk about a minority among an oppressed minority! Instead of a veil of superficiality and pretense, I anticipate a brief and measured immersion into a culture of poverty in order to explore how the Good News is incarnated. Hopefully, this immersion will empower me to invest more purposefully and carefully in Indianapolis--and the world--for the rest of my life.

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