People, cows, dogs and goats crowd the streets. They share the “lanes” with cars, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, and bicycle rickshaws. The auto rickshaws look like the three-wheeled US mail carts from the late 1960’s. They are yellow and green completely covered, and can carry up the 3 people, but many are packed (I keep expecting to see a chinese fire drill). The bicycle rickshaws are open carriages pulled by a man riding a bike (in place of a horse). We did not see too many ox carts, though I have been told they are plentiful outside the city. The street “lanes” really are not lanes….each vehicle makes their own lane – going either direction. If your car does not have a horn, you are in big trouble. You must drive fast, and honk your horn constantly to let the next person know they are about to be run over…all are aggressive motorists. The law states that men riding motorcycles must wear a helmet, so you will see entire families on a motorcycle – husband, wife, 2 kids, with the man wearing a helmet. Did not see any accidents, which surprized me considering all the traffic.
Another interesting revelation was that Water Buffalo and cows eat trash, or whatever they can find. They wander the streets and neighborhoods all day then at the end of the day they line up to go home. When I say home, I do not mean a barn or field, but a house where people live. I watched them going in and out of homes….like our dogs and cats do.
The three-day Women’s conference was not anything I had expected. We left Dallas planning for a three-day conference with up to 100 women who would be with us for the entire three days. On Monday when we met at the OI office, Alicia accidentally discovered that all the women in the area had been invited, and because of the festival the women would only be able to attend one session. The schools were closed for the week, and many families had out-of-town guests. Because of the holiday, the women had limited time for the conference. When ever change occurs, at first it is startling, but we could see that God was the change agent! This would give us an opportunity to meet more Hindu women, and more would hear the gospel presentation. On Tuesday morning we had approx. 50 – 80 women and children attend. After the presentation we are able to tweak our talks to connect with the audience more. I had to get used to having an interpreter, and realized these ladies like animation and comedy (like Bollywood). I talked about providing good customer service in a dramatic, animated, and interactive way. They love to laugh, and have fun. For many of these women, meeting with their loan groups is the only time they get out of the house. Several commented that their husbands mistreat and beat them. At the conference, they would sit together on the same row, with the leader or most senior person on the aisle. The caste system is very alive today in India. As I looked into the eyes of these women, I could see they were searching for hope, and a better life. They came looking for answers, for comfort, for validation, for a Savior. The eyes are the window to the soul….I saw so many empty souls. Hinduism is all about works, and not about relationship. During each session, God’s presence was very strong. Prayers were being answered, I could feel the light of Christ shining through me. Alicia shared a bible story about hope, and Apollos (the local evangelist) shared the gospel too. At the end of each session, Alicia and I were mobbed by those in attendance. They were so appreciative, and gracious. I felt like a rock star, but knew it was not me they were
attracted to, it was the light of Christ. Jesus was the rock star! One woman told me she thought a new god had come….the interpreter told her it was Jesus. Each session grew bigger and bigger. The chairs came out of the room, so rugs could be put down on the floor to accommodate all who attended. Most sat on the floor, and we were packed in like sardines. At the end 750 women and children attended. The Lord is so good…He knew what these women and children needed to hear, and brought each and everyone to hear about Him. Please pray for these women, the local church in Raipur, and for those who work for OI in this area. They can be persecuted for what was done at the conference – presenting the gospel.