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Encountering diverse India

Trinity Wilston Uniting Church member Becky Hughes with children at Ikkadu. Photo by Sue Pickering

A group of 13 people representing Trinity Wilston Uniting Church, Brisbane, returned recently from our second visit to our partner church, the Church of South India.

The party was made up not only from the church congregation but also from community members and local business people, giving a great opportunity for people from the wider Wilston community to see the gospel in action and what a church can actually be and do.

After spending two weeks staying with the Church of South India, Diocese of Madras, and the opportunity to visit numerous projects set up and supported by the church, we made fleeting visits to Varanasi, Delhi and Agra.

So much was crammed into two weeks!

We visited hospitals, schools and childcare centres; and villages, towns and the slums of Chennai.

On occasion, the fleeting nature of our visits made some of us feel challenged that we were "not doing anything" to help – as the stories we heard, the sights we saw and the people we met confronted us with the harsh reality of life for so many people in India.

But out of it came the recognition that it isn't always about what we do, but rather about being present and engaging with people.

The chance to engage enabled us to see beauty within the darkness.

We gained confi dence during our visit to Chennai, so that our visits to Varanasi, Agra and Delhi were enriched.

We didn't fear the onslaught of hawkers, we spoke with them.

We didn't hide our faces from the people begging on the streets, we fed them.

We became a little more knowledgeable about Hinduism and its worship practices, especially as we were in Varanasi at the time of the festival of Lord Shiva.

The gospel message is a radical one that calls us to be the prophetic voice and prophetic presence in the world.

Our visit to India, I believe, has helped to equip us to be and do just that.

Yes, conversion is an aim there, but in a very different way to the Western church.

In his sermon, the Bishop of Madras saw conversion as liberation from the oppressive caste system.

The support offered by the Church of South India is open to people of the Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist and the other faiths in India, with no-one excluded or judged.

This is a great witness to Christ and the gospel message.

We live in a global village and cannot ignore the plight of our neighbours – and the people of India are our neighbours.

In the consumerist and materialistic world in which we live, I believe that we are called to consider our ethics and values.

We need to be aware that our brothers and sisters in our partner churches live in the midst of oppression and exploitation.

The team was an amazing group of people thrown together for this trip to India, who worked with each other, supported each other and, whether they proclaim themselves to be a person of

Easter faith or not and whether they attend church or not, witnessed the radical nature of the gospel message.

A daily blog was kept during the trip. To read more, visit revthreads.wordpress.com.

Photo : Trinity Wilston Uniting Church member Becky Hughes with children at Ikkadu. Photo by Sue Pickering