Kandyce Kingsley '06
As an international affairs major at Gordon, I was required to leave the country for a minimum of 6 weeks. As a fine arts minor, I wanted to go somewhere that would inspire me to create and see beauty. I certainly found the right place.
I was blessed to travel to India with Gordon's Summer Missions Program on a trip that opened my eyes to life and the world around me. What began as something that seemed like a fluke (but was really God's intervention in disguise) ended as one of the best things I have ever done with my life. I was able to travel not once, but twice to this country which has stolen my heart. My first trip was in the summer of '05, and I was so blessed and challenged and grew so much as a result of that experience that I returned to co-lead the same trip in the summer of '06.
God challenged and blessed my teammates and I in ways I never knew possible through each other, our hosts and the friends we made while overseas, and through the country of India. We visited a myriad of grassroots social activist agencies on a service learning trip--a trip focused on learning, and learning to serve. We also explored our responsibilities as citizens of the Kingdom of God and of one of the most affluent countries in the world to be involved in what God is doing at home and around the globe. These photographs and stories are from both of my summer trips.
Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
He has shown thee, Oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?
This is a stretch of beach near Chennai which was hit by the tsunami in winter 2004. Almost all of these colorful fishing boats are donated to this village and others like it by various organizations across the world. Though these fishermen have replacement boats in which to fish, the shoreline fishing patterns are still abnormal two years later. This makes life even more difficult for a people group often already living on the edge of the poverty line. Those who live in villages along the coast still gaze out at the ocean with looks of haunting fear in their eyes, anticipating another devastating tsunami that might sweep away their families, their livelihoods and even their lives.
The boy and man in this photo thought it was quite amusing that I stopped to take their photograph in the middle of the Chennai city market. I found it quite amusing that they were selling apples imported from Washington, USA.
(Their colorful, interesting arrangement of fruit is what really caught my attention, though I love the laughter on the face of the boy!)
I'm pretty sure there are colors that exist in India that don't exist anywhere else in the world.
These pigments are used in a Hindu festival called Holi, where people go into the streets dressed in white and throw these colored powders and water at one another in the morning, and feast (an Indian specialty!) in the evening with friends and family.
Siven Swamy became a Christian after an accident that left him without the ability to use his legs. I had the privilege and blessing of meeting him during my first India trip and seeing him again a year later! Siven is a sweet, wonderful man who likes to tell stories and speaks fluent English. He peddles around the streets of Egmore, Chennai in his hand-peddled bicycle.
Its incredible to join with believers in different languages in different cultures around the world to praise the same God--a God who is too big to be worshipped in only one culture or tongue.
Christianity is seen as an imported Western religion in India, even though St. Thomas is supposed to have landed on the Malabar Coast and began planting churches in 54 AD. Contextualization of Christianity, as seen here at St. Thomas Church near Chennai, is important if Christianity is to ever be culturally relevant and meaningful.
The streets of Madurai provide a perfect illustration of what author Yann Martel calls 'the rich, noisy, functioning madness of India': public buses belching black smoke packed so tightly that people are pouring out the doors, clinging to door frames as they lurch into potholes; overly packed auto rickshaws and motorbikes with two, three, four and sometimes five people, each jockeying for the lead in two-lanes-turned-three; bicycles everywhere; peddlers toting water jugs or pushing carts filled with fruit, boiled peanuts, or chai; banana trucks with full loads of fruit fresh from Eden; people crossing the street on foot, by bicycle, by car, by auto rickshaw, by van or by bus with no real regard for any kind of traffic regulations, followed by blaring horns of vehicles warning to move-or-be-moved; mooing cows, crowing birds, barking street dogs, laughing children and shouts from their cautious mothers, radios blasting Bollywood film music; the smell of jasmine flowers, diesel fuel, hair oil, cooking oil--of sheer, living and breathing humanity; shop after shop after temple after shop after tea stall; curious faces, angry faces, indifferent faces, weathered faces that could tell a thousand stories in one sitting.
India lives its life on and in the streets.
Menakshee Temple in Madurai is hauntingly beautiful. Colorful carvings of Hindu deities and demons line this temple, known as the sixth holiest temple in India, where the devout come often to show their devotion to Menakshee, the Fish Eyed Goddess.
I don't think God held anything back when He created the stretch of land between Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu and Mavelikara, Kerala-- particularly here, in the Nilgiri Hills.
As we drove through these winding hills, the sun began to set. The headlights of other vehicles on this beautiful stretch of heaven on earth twinkled as they, too, wound their way through the narrow streets, making it difficult to distinguish which were stars on the edge of the skies and which were merely headlights.
This stretch of beach is on the Arabian Sea near Allapuzha, Kerala and was also hit by the tsunami in winter of 2004.
Our team piled onto a smallish covered wooden boat and motored out into the estuary waters, away from the stares of the men in town, the auto-rickshaw death-traps and their mentally insane drivers, away from the fruit stands and catcalls and chaos into the serene, beautiful backwaters reminiscent of Eden. I fell in love with Kerala this night, from the top of a motor-tour boat. I watched the waters wind their way through huge green coconut trees, past riverbanks bursting with houseboats, fishing boats, canoes and small houses with laundry draped on trees, until it found its way to the Arabian Sea.
As we floated back toward the chaos of the streets of Alleppey, the sky grew dark and the light from the small riverbank homes mingled with the light from the stars, glimmering on the ripples of water made by canoes filled with entire families. A monsoon thunderstorm brought lightening to the horizon--a perfect end to a perfect evening in what truly is God's country.
Henna, or mendhi, is traditionally painted on the hands and feet of Indian brides-to-be and female members of their wedding parties. Here our left hands are painted for decoration.
The Bangalore city market is a river of humanity that winds beneath the city streets. As I tried my best to keep the pace with my team, I had to fight stopping every five seconds as heaps of marigold flowers, stacks of unusual vegetables and fruits on one corner--jackfruits, papayas, mangoes, plantains and bananas, carrots, beets and a few more I didn't recognize, giant conic piles of brilliant fuchsia, red, yellow, blue and green colored powder on another, a cookware walla selling pots and pans straight ahead all competed for my attention.
One of the organizations we visited works with rural village development. This little girl lives in a Dalit (untouchable) village that is accessible only by foot. Every year the monsoon rains wash away the stretch of dirt two-track from the main road to the outskirts of her village, already marginalized by their status within their religion, society and the government. Mr. Paul Raja Rao, the founder and director of this organization, lives and breathes the gospel and has dedicated his life to helping the poor and marginalized with the resources God has given him.
Indians have a saying--athithi devo bhava, translated "a guest is like god." Our team was ushered into this village with flower garlands for our necks, drums, singing, and dancing, all in celebration of our visit. I wish this photograph had a soundtrack to it, because words can't describe the overwhelming sense of joy and excitement I felt when stepping out onto this rural village lane to a group of men drumming driving rhythms into painted drum faces.
I was often overwhelmed by incredible hospitality and love nearly everywhere we went, and I was continually challenged to re-define my own view of what it means to be hospitable. I was blessed beyond measure by so many people--names and faces I will forever hold in my heart as my family.
My teammates and I visited this rural village near Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh with a traveling health-care camp where a doctor brought donated medicines to treat what diseases and conditions he could, and a nurse counseled pregnant women and new mothers and monitored the progress of newborn babies.
200 sweet little orphan and semi- orphan children at a home in Bapatla, Andhra Pradesh stole my heart and taught me how to love selflessly. Every morning and evening they line up in the courtyard of the home and sing praise songs in Telugu, their native language, and say their prayers to God for the blessings they have received. These children love unhindered. It was a tremendous blessing to live alongside them, and then to return for a second summer to invest more love and time in them.
Nothing is subtle or simple in India. A land of contrasts, I love being surrounded by so much living--everything and everyone moves with a purpose.
This man is most likely riding this bicycle to an event to set up chairs and cooking pots, or selling these chairs to people. Oftentimes, instead of having to go to the market people can hail bucket, vegetable, chair, spice, wicker furniture, fan, or water jug sellers who walk the streets calling out their wares.
These precious girls became dear friends while my team and I lived at the Bapatla home. From right to left my beautiful sisters are: Naomi, Sulochana and Shanti.
Swati is one of the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen. She lives in a small village in Bapatla near the children's home and attends school with the children who live there. She is part of a large contingency of children who absolutely love having their photographs taken.
During the monsoon, life continues on normally in Bombay--insomuch as is possible. Municipal buses ferry passengers across lake-sized puddles from one end of the city to another, past hydroplaning taxi cabs and drenched motor-bike riders wearing plastic bags over their hair to keep their manicured hairdos dry--as if having good hair makes up for being able to wring an entire monsoon's worth of rain from their attire. Children stomp through puddles on their way to school, having decided that fun is more important than timeliness. My favorites are the ones who don't even bother trying to stay dry, but instead succumb to the inevitable and dive head first into the waist-deep waters while wearing their school uniforms.
The sheer volume of water is like nothing I have ever seen. I feel a bit like a modern day Noah--staring out the window of a high-rise building waiting for the skies to clear up, for buildings to stop leaking and for the sun to break through the clouds and dry up the rivers in the streets.