A few thoughts from Phil Kingham from the first full day of being with the lovely kids in Chennai:
Its official. I’m old, a heavyweight, a lightweight, too tall and too small! The first because I’m feeling it, the second because its a given, the third because I can’t take the pace, the fourth because I don’t fit in the houses and the fifth because “their be giants here!”
I confess I was so tired at the end of yesterday I would have slept standing if there hadn’t be a bed available by 8pm. It was lovely to meet Kevin and Deborah who run the work here. They have such vision for the community of Dalits that God has called them to work among. In some small way it reminded me of working with people with dementia in London, not because there was any similarity between those kinds of people but because it is so easy to feel the presence of Jesus among people who are sidelined by the society they live in.
After spending about 24 hrs getting from our homes in England to our hotel here, we were given a tour of the new church building and an amazing lunch (believe me there’s nothing quite like a curry in India!) We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting houses and walking through the slum that has grown up on the banks of the river/sewer. The smell was a little extreme at points but probably not as overwhelming as the sight of the houses (rooms) that families lived in. As many as eight living in a small 10 by 12 shacks enterprisingly roofed from all manner of salvaged material. Sharon tells me they share the space with the rats and snakes too, especially when the river floods. It was clear to me however as we went from house to house how much Jesus was at home here. I was warned as I went into houses to pray for the occupants (snakes excluded) to duck to avoid getting a new haircut from the ceiling fans (yes they all have them!) but His presence was always there to welcome us and prayer was a privilege in that setting.
I confess for a couple of hours I forgot I was so tired – yes I am a lightweight – but it also showed me that these small people working here among the countries despised are in the best company. Their simple faith and willingness to fast and pray their way through the almost unsurmountable issues has made them giants and I feel small around them.
Today we registered/interviewed nearly 80 people. It was fun and challenging – the noise in the hall was deafening towards the end. Kevin and Deborah oversaw the daily feeding of 320 kids and the cleanup operation at the end was almost military. Tonight we sit in the (disconcertingly clean) hotel restaurant to type up the days forms (okay I left that bit to the administrative genius of Karen whilst I type into a google nexus with one finger)
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