Mission of Peace: Letters from India
June 1, 2020 / By Leah Stucke, 12th Grade, East Aurora UMC and Sam Lasher, 11th Grade, Cobleskill UMC
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of the Advocate, which focused on mission work locally, nationally, and internationally. Click here to see the issue.
Radical Hospitality--Leah Stucke's reflection:
Radical Hospitality. If there is one phrase that can describe India it is radical hospitality. Before I left, I was told, by someone who has been to India many times, that the people in India are the nicest people in the world. I was unsure what that really meant or if it was true for the morning of the first day in India. I learned what it meant on Day One.
We visited Centenary Methodist Church and attended one of their youth gatherings. During worship, they called each of us up to the front by name and presented us with a rose, a symbol meaning home. We all expected receiving the rose and being recognized was the end of their hospitality and we were already overjoyed to be given anything at all. But later in the worship service, they again called us up by name to give us a plaque. To finish, they fed us a home-cooked meal.
Going on the Mission of Peace (MOP), we all expected to be welcomed into churches but the level of appreciation and hospitality we received was out of this world. Through MOP, we hope to spread shalom, create peace, expand our interfaith knowledge, and create interfaith relationships. The people of India had the same idea.
Being welcomed with their radical hospitality shaped our experience in India. Every place we went, church we visited, and person we met greeted us with radical hospitality. From receiving gifts during church, to having authentic conversations with people, to some of the highest up and most important religious leaders of religions that are not our own, spend time to meet with us, to sign books for each one of us and to eat dinner with each one of us showed how hospitable these people really are.
India took MOP in and let the people here and the people on this trip be the hands and feet of God. God is everywhere in the world if you look. No matter where you are, what your history is, what religion you follow, you are a child of God and God is present in all situations and experiences.
The sounds of India--Sam Lasher's reflection:
While on the Mission of Peace to India I heard many sounds. The beep beep beep of the cars, mopeds, and trucks. The whoosh of the airplane taking off. The voices of thousands of languages and dialects. The barking of the dogs. The banging of a hammer, the cutting of a saw, the crushing of a bulldozer, the pouring of the concert for the new infrastructure. The chanting of the Muslims praying, the reciting of the Qu'ran, the praise of the Christian youth singing, and the chanting of the hymns. The sound of the chimes we created in the worship center at the Henry Martin Institute. The sound of the host asking if we wanted tea or coffee or Coke. The sound of "friends" followed by the wisdom of one great man. The sound of the nurses and Ranjan taking my temperature as I lay shivering in a hospital clinic for a slum in India. This is a sound I never expected to hear. As I lay there, something hit me. The sounds, the children were playing and learning and laughing and meeting with our group. The sounds of lunch being prepared and served for children who might only get lunch a few days a week.
What I take from these sounds that I heard while in India is many things. I learned there really are many people in India and they all live close together...densely populated. There is immense traffic, all the time. There is incredible diversity in its people. It is also a poor country, although it is motivated to grow its industries and infrastructure to move people out of poverty and make life better. Everyone is always doing something. India is also deeply religious and these faiths generally live together in harmony, no matter what the politicians say.
One of the biggest things I learned about India that is having a huge impact on me is their radical hospitality. It is incredible that we got tea wherever we went and we were thanked for coming when they invited us into their church, or home, or Islamic center, or temple. I am truly blown away and every time that someone offered me tea or gave me flowers or a book, I saw the face of God. India is an amazing place with amazing people and sounds. When we sing "I saw India awaking up" we should really sing "I heard India awaking up."