Last Thursday i departed Pune for Bangalore by bus. A sleeper-coach, it was supposed to complete its 850something km journey in around 17 hours, but instead, took nearly 23. Indian buses have improved much since i first took one with a huge hole in the re-rubberized tread in 1998, and this one even had nice sleeper compartments where people could lay down. I did not pay the extra 200Rs for that, choosing to sit for 600Rs instead. A man kept me pleasant company for a few hours, then someone else came to sit next to me, then someone else, and yes, it was a bit of a merry-go-round. No, it wasn’t that people were getting on and off, just that sometimes people sat here, then sometimes there, and sometimes everywhere. I’m pretty used to that on the train, but this was the first time to experience that on a long-journey bus.
The countryside was quite interesting, with pockets of extreme filth, but the countryside is generally green without the pungent smells associated with the cities. There were many rock-granite hills and mountains, and two long climbs up the mountain providing beautiful vistas and twisting mountain roads. Fortunately both lanes were for hill-climbers, so we didn’t have to meet any on-coming traffic. I can imagine many fiery accidents in the past tho, as Indian drivers are not necessarily known for their polite manners.
The bus stops around 3:30pm for lunch, then around 10:15pm for supper. Fortunately i’m prepared, and have a chapati (and nothing else) lunch while waiting in the travel office, and then nothing for supper as the ups and downs of life have made my stomach a little jolty.
The green jacket with hood is quite handy for keeping any potential blood-suckers off me (i think from past experience while drawing my hands up in my sleeves), and don’t pay too much attention when i feel a couple of bites on my hands in the early nite hours. I get a bit concerned then when the other hand gets some bites too, and start looking carefully for the nasty, winged, long-probiscosed blood suckers, but don’t see even one. Hmmm, that’s odd i think as i draw my hands up, and wrap the jacket tighter around me. Wish now that i’d been thinking along different lines. Realizing that things were getting worse instead of better, i made a thorough examination of my white seat cover and skin, but finding nothing, resigned myself to a nite of itching and scratching. What i didn’t know, was that the whole Red Cross brigade had come out, and was intent on taking all of my blood! I never did find what caused the 150+ bites that nite, but seeing the pattern of how they clustered around where my clothes became tight, i imagine it was either bedbugs or some kind of mite, like what we called when i was little – “chiggers”. Scratch scratch scratch,,,, scratch, scratch, scratch.,,scratch scratch all the way…………..
I really don’t know where to get off, and am tempted mightily when over half the passengers get down at the “Majestic Bus Stop”, but ride a few more minutes to near the Vijayanand travel office. Two rickshaw drivers want to force me to take their rickshaw somewhere, and one even called my pastor friend and when he finished speaking, hung up, and said he would take me to the pastor for 50Rs. What kind of bozo does he take me for? Yeah, i know, a goofy white guy in a hot green jacket stepping out into the hot Bangalore sun does make one think of a bozo i guess. I ask him if i can speak to the pastor, and he dials again, and the pastor tells me to just wait at the travel office, which is around 150m away. I hand the rickshaw driver a 10Rs note which satisfies him that i am a bozo i guess, and i carry my backpack, box of calendars and books, and bag of foody articles, and pull my suitcase, for a total load over 40kg (i weigh 45!) to the travel office. The pastor’s face appears in about 15 minutes, making me very happy 🙂
First we go to his church, where construction is taking place. Then he takes me to his home, where a hot coil is put in a bucket of water, and i can get some instant relief of the nasty bites which i now finally see the extent of. The pastor and his wife treat me very royally, and even buy some ointment to apply to the bites. It is a bit amusing that everyone who is shown the bites has a different idea what caused them. Partially i rue the fact of not reserving a train earlier for only 330Rs and probably no bites, but this is life. The idea of being flexible is very important to me, and thank God that there was any way provided to get me to where i needed to be. After a shower and food i’m ready to go, so we start a beautiful weekend of visiting church members’ homes.
Now i’ve been a SDA for over 36 years, and a pastor has never come to visit me, but here, in just one weekend, the pastor and i go to over half the homes represented in his church. It is such a blessing to me, providing me energy and “food” as it were, but also making me tired at the end of the day. What nice work! What a delicate touch must be made to deal appropriately to all the different minds and personalities! We see 2 or 3 on Friday, a few more on Saturday nite, around 10 on Sunday, and even 3 or so on Monday morning.
Friday nite we go to the music festival where many SDA church choirs in Bangalore have gotten together to each sing 2 songs. The first few are good, but then the scene gets jazzier and jazzier, and i have to get up a stand outside awhile. It is sad to see us SDAs becoming more and more like the world. Sabbath i’m asked to give the sermon, which i do on the “Will of God” (more of a Bible study than a sermon). After that we take a scary bike ride (i have no helmet), to the same place as the nite before, where we have food, and then some more songs, but with an even wilder drumbeat than the nite before. Surely Satan must be laughing as he sees God’s people pulsating to the beat. May we repent, and focus on the kind of music Jesus would approve of.
After Sunday, with its visitation and Bible study rounds, and with at least some people getting introduced to eating lots of raw foods (even potatoes!) by yours truly, i start off Monday morning with a talk to teachers and then students at a SDA school in the neighborhood. I’m OK with the 30 or so in the teacher’s room, but quite nervous with over 300 pairs of eyes on me in the assembly. Then, after asking an owner of a shop to seek more for God’s blessing by closing his shop on the Sabbath than for the money gained by working on it, i go with the pastor to the SDA hospital on Spencer Road, where the Union offices are also located. We see the ministerial secretary who speaks cordially with us, then to the President’s office where he tells us that he has seen this 1858 Great Controversy before (!) when Bob Robinson gave 1,000 to the Bangalore Metro Conference. Wow. Then he says he would like 50 calendars, so we go down to the treasurer’s office to deliver the calendars and receive the payment. The treasurer has other ideas tho, and finally ups his offer to purchase only 20 to 30. I thank God for even that, and then go to look for a lady who is a potential translator in the Kannada language.
The lady lives just one street across from the hospital, but it is difficult to find her, until we see a lady waving from next to the mosque. Hmm, this is unusual. She invites us in to her flat, which is located hard next to the big mosque, and proceeds to tell us a story which gives rise to this post’s title – high times. She became Adventist at the age of 17, and was a teacher, then supported by the Mission to go to a university to obtain a Master’s degree in the Kannada language, which after obtaining, she used to teach in the SDA school until her retirement recently. After retiring, she has been praying earnestly for the Lord to lead her to use her talents he has given for his glory. She cannot take much traveling, but has been doing some translation of the Sabbath School lessons. Her face is radiant as she relates how my coming is like an answer to prayer, and i’m amazed too to see how God is still leading in this work of spreading this precious book by Ellen White. Her son comes home, tells us how he wants to spread God’s words, and shows us the 1858gc book he received from somewhere a couple of years before – wow! The last wow of this meeting, is after discussing the details of how to translate, and then the cost of translation, the pastor who has brought me offers to pay for all the translation cost himself! Now i know that as a pastor, his offer amounts to a large sacrifice (2 months?!), and after trying to dissuade him unsuccessfully, just give a prayer of thanks to Jesus for working all this out today. Thank you Jesus for putting us all together at the right time and the right place 🙂
But God is not done with giving the “highs” today. After finding a bus to Salem, eating on the bus, marvelling at how Bangalore has expanded since the first time i saw it in 1998 and wondering how many millions of dollars i missed out on in real estate speculation and having a nice bus-mate help me catch the bus to Erode and again having a nice traveling companion and finally arriving in Erode at 10pm and waiting for around 25 minutes, a young man finds me and we get on another bus for the last 20 minutes or so to get off near Springs of Love. On the bus he relates a hugely interesting story that has me marvelling at how God works again. He wants to print something, small, one-page pamphlets to distribute freely to small books relating the life of Christ. After quizzing me a bit on copyright laws, he said that he got inspiration to print after seeing the 1858gc i printed a couple of years before! He said that to see an individual printing things, and even the convenient size, he was encouraged to dream that he could do something like that too. Wow!
Lord, this is just too much in one day. There have been many valleys in this 1858gc book work, and quite a long time when i really haven’t given it so much thot, focusing more on how to do this animation project, or doing homeschooling or other things, but today some of the “fruit” of this long, mostly un-thanked-for work has been dropped in my platter, and i’m enjoying it immensely today. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May i always remember this day, and in remembering how you have led in the past, may i always have hope for the future. Please bless and uphold the Kannada translator, the pastor, and this young man.