I wasn’t planning to write another blog about this trip, but I’m so full of all that has happened, I have to overflow in words or I will burst! The Australian volunteer in the girls’ home decided, in the end, not to order a takeaway, but to cook something different from the usual fare at home. So while she made the tastiest salad I’ve had in a long time, of beetroot, apple, cabbage and feta, drizzled with cider vinegar, S cooked a cheese and vegetable pasta dish while I rustled up a chocolate sponge and chocolate sauce for afters.
After dinner S encouraged the girls to pray a blessing on the birthday girl, and then to pray for me on the eve of my departure. One by one they prayed for us in Hindi, quite lengthy prayers, and then my little storyteller friend began to pray for me. The other girls began to giggle, and I understood why, because I recognised a couple of words which were the same in Hindi as in English She glanced round, looking a little confused and uncertain, at the other girls, who were by now laughing outright, but persisted boldly in praying until she had said all she wanted to say. I hadn’t understood exactly what she had said, but I understood the look of self-doubt on her face, so I thanked her for praying and told her I loved her prayer. I saw the doubt dispel and the smile return to her face. S later told me she had prayed that Aunty would have a safe journey in the helicopter, that they would give Aunty a nice seat in the helicopter, and that I would have pizza when I got home! So later I gave her a hug and told her again how much I had loved her prayer. S told me afterwards that it was the most “real” prayer of all of them, because it was from the heart whereas the others were mainly “programmed” prayers, copying things they had heard others pray.
On the journey home we flew over the mountains of Afghanistan, and the air was so clear they almost looked near enough to touch. A ribbon of river threaded its way through a valley, in an area where the south western slopes of the mountains were jagged rocks in slanted lines, while the north eastern slopes were covered in cascades of snow as if someone had poured glace icing over them. Along the banks of the river I could see village communities, and I found myself praying that the Gospel would reach them, and that God would fulfil His promise to pour out His Spirit on all flesh – even Taliban flesh; even ISIS flesh.
The lady next to me was reading a book called “In Praise of Kali” and was carrying a book by Swami Vivekenander. She started up a conversation by asking me the purpose of my visit to India and I said I’d been volunteering on a charity project for 2 weeks. She asked if I had used my annual holiday from work for it and when I said yes, she said, “I think that’s so amazing that someone would give up their holiday to go and volunteer.” She had been to India for a week with her siblings to scatter their father’s ashes in the Ganges. She told me she was a very spiritual person, and I said I could see that from her reading material, and so was I. She asked me how I became interested in spirituality and I ended up sharing my testimony of how God broke into my life through having a disabled baby. She shared how she’d had a personal experience of God following a difficult period in her life and had become much more spiritual as a result. She said she wasn’t attached to any particular religion, but loves God and practises mindfulness every day. She asked what I do for a living and when I said I was a writer, she asked what kind of writing. I said books and magazine articles, and she asked on what topic. I replied mainly Christian spirituality and disability issues. She asked if I could give an example of a spiritual topic I’ve written about, and I ended up sharing the story of John 4 and how the woman’s discovery of Jesus as an inner well of living water that never dries up mirrored my own experience of Him.
It ended up with us exchanging phone numbers so that she could invite me to go on a Buddhist retreat with her, which said I would be happy to do, and invited her to come on a Christian one with me, which she also said she would. How good of God to give me that opportunity on the way home. God says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart.” It is clear this lady is devoting much of her life to the pursuit of God, and she shared with me how a Christian minister friend had prayed with her when her father was dying. So I really pray this conversation on the plane will lead her further on in her journey towards the living God.
Now I’m home, tired and happy, and about to go to bed!