Thursday, July 22, 2010

India or Bust!

The top photo is of the farm house where I lived as a child. The other is of Ruth and our daughter Sara playing Scrabble with Ruth's mother and her caretaker. Ruth's mother died shortly after we returned to the US to renew our visas.

Ruth and I left for India with lots of anticipation three years ago. We still have the photo of ourselves at the airport as we were leaving. Our children are there with us holding a sign they made, “We love you Mom and Dad.” We are holding another sign that bravely announces, “India or Bust!” Ah the memories! What did we know about the things we would experience? The kinds of things we have been writing about in this blog.

It's been quite a journey, and it's rapidly coming to an end. I recently accepted an interim pastoral position in Madison, Wisconsin. The contrasts between Kolkata and Madison feel huge. Goodbye steamy tropical weather. Hello snow and winter. And that’s only the beginning of contrasts I can draw.

Ruth and I have been working from the MCC office in Akron, Pennsylvania since February, when we returned to the US to renew our resident visas for India. A process that we thought would take weeks has stretched into months. In May, we made the final decision that we would resign our MCC positions. The couple taking our regional positions will live in Nepal.

I recently called the outsourcing company that handles visa applications for India. The man on the phone tried to be helpful. He told me it will take more time but the embassy will contact me. I reminded him that we have been waiting for many months and still have not heard. He said we could reapply after six months but I detected a doubtful tone in his voice. I may need to resign myself to the possibility that we will not get our new visas anytime soon. We really hope to be able to return to say a proper goodbye to the MCC India staff and our friends.

Our life and work in India, Nepal, and Afghanistan has been stretching and incredibly educational. There are parts that we will treasure forever. It has also included some tough things—not everything turned out as we had hoped. These things include some painful work relationships and disappointment with certain aspects of MCC as an organization. We are now a little older and—hopefully—a little wiser.

What were we thinking when we gave up our secure world in Virginia for this adventure? We certainly had not anticipated returning to the US so soon or trying to find new jobs in the worst economic recession in our lifetime. Yet, we both believe that living life fully involves the willingness to take risks. We value the added perspective we have gained from our years of living cross-culturally, outside our native American social and political arena.

Living and working in Pennsylvania for the past six months—20 miles from where Ruth and I grew up—has been an unexpected gift. We keep running into people we have not seen for more than thirty years. We are gaining a new appreciation for the people and the culture in this place. We love riding our bicycles on rural roads past immaculate Mennonite and Amish farms.

This has been, perhaps, the most difficult time we have lived through and I sometimes feel very angry. Our MCC assignment wasn’t supposed to include such difficult relationships and transitions. I find myself repeating the Lord’s Prayer, “Do not lead me into a time of trial [greater than I can endure] but keep me from evil.” In other words, I pray that these trials will make me more compassionate and courageous rather than bitter and fearful. I seek to grow in the practice of "being peace" as modeled by peace activists like Thich Nhat Hanh and Gandhi.

I’m gaining new appreciation for Jesus’ teaching, “Do not worry about tomorrow. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” I seek to be present to each day. Enjoy the coolness of the morning as I go for a walk. Smell the corn fields and listen to the cooing of the doves. Be conscious of my own breath as I inhale and exhale. Feel my feet treading on the path. I’m part of this wonderful creation.

Madison, here we come!


At July 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM , Blogger Krista said...

Do you remember the Catholic priest in the Philippines who had a bumper sticker on his car that read "do not lead me into temptation for I shall find it by myself" Maybe the same is true of trials - at least if you work for MCC ;)

At July 22, 2010 at 6:12 PM , Blogger Earl Zimmerman said...

Yes, indeed! I do remember that wonderful character.

At August 19, 2010 at 10:31 PM , Blogger Saddam said...

I was finding information about Kolkata but landed into your blog. I found your blog interesting. Very nice content. I liked it.


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