As is tradition on any foreign trip, I’ve become obsessed by one particular product. My love of regional soda insists that I love “Thums Up Soda”, a generic Coke product that dominates the marketplace here. Everywhere I look, billboards insist that I drink the soda, if only to ‘Taste The Thunder!’ The soda itself is rather unremarkable, I must say, but the logo’s great. I’m shopping for t-shirts as we speak.
Before dawn tomorrow, we’ll exit our hotel in order to start hopping planes across the country to get to Bihar. It’s our last stop here, and we’ll be there for barely a day before we leave for home again. The trip has gone too quickly by far.
I’ll miss Hyderabad. The weather’s been cool and breezy, the city is winding and fascinating, and we’ve encountered nothing but courtesy and welcome wherever we’ve gone. I’ll even miss our spartan hotel room, which features a shower nozzle in the middle of the bathroom wall, allowing you to shower and shave and brush your teeth all at the same time, if the mood strikes. The building juts up against two cake shops (one called The Cake Bank, the other Cake Inn!), the Communist Party International Headquarters (we've been advised to be very careful about what we say) and a spaloon, which I believe is a spa/saloon combo (“I’ll have the cucumber facial and a double whisky, please.”). We shopped for clothes at “international fashion” stores named Cool Club and Go Bananas! My love for ironic shopping locations has never been so deeply fulfilled.
Peter showed us the ministries he’s founded here in the area – orphanages and schools and even a soymilk production facility – and we were all deeply impressed. When you see the situation most of the children here live in; how they struggle and beg and plead for subsistence, it’s remarkable to watch a group of young children speak to you about their love of cricket, their goals to become engineers and policemen, their adoration of music and dancing. The older children in the orphanage have the calm self-assurance that comes with being certain of a future ahead of them; they stand tall and confident. How Peter has grown such remarkable men and women with so little means is a miracle to me.
Today we travelled to Kurnool (known for three things, I’m told: “dust, donkeys, and doctors!” I’m looking for t-shirts for that, too) to speak at a church there. As the people filed out, they begged me to pray for them and bless them, a few even going so far as to grab my hands and place them on top of their children’s heads. I don’t know what made them think that I’d be any help – I guess since I was standing next to a pastor, so I imagine they must have thought that I was the next best thing. I’m not, certainly, but I prayed over them as best I could.
Now, I believe in the power of prayer, but not with the fervor that these Indian Christians we’ve encountered do. The way their eyes light up when one of our group prays over them is a humbling sight – their expression plainly says, “well, now everything’s going to be all right!” I wish I had a tenth of their confidence or zeal.
Only a few hours until I leave Hyderabad, likely forever. I do hope there’ll be “Thums Up” t-shirts at the airport somewhere. But I think I'll remember it pretty clearly all the same.