A few members of our team have gotten up before six each morning, without fail, to power-walk their way through the city. The first day or two, they politely asked if I wanted to come along, a question I tried to answer without guffawing too rudely. I am not an early riser, and when I am, it’s certainly not by choice. I’m not up before sunrise unless someone’s ordered me executed at dawn.
But late last night, my roommate Matt announced as we were climbing into our bunks that he’d decided to take part in this foolhardy venture. Since I was somehow cast as the responsible one of the pair early in the voyage, I was forced to awaken in the pale morning light and rouse my slumbering roommate. Figuring that if I was up to begin with and I might was well get something out of it, I wrestled on shoes and stumbled down the stairs after him to see what the city looked like in the grey morning.
Unfortunately, Matt neglected to tell the other members of the team that he was planning to join them for the journey, and by the time we reached the lobby there was no one in sight. With a shrug, Matt climbed back into bed and was asleep again in moments, while I found myself concerningly wide-eyed. I checked the clock. Two hours till breakfast.
So I seem to be ending my trip the same way I started it, sitting in an empty lobby, watching the rising sun slide golden beams over a marble floor. I suppose this would be a good moment to see if I learned anything in the interim, but sleepiness impedes my inner monologue. I’m mostly just grateful I’m not dead. I like to keep my goals small and attainable.
After my midweek dehydration fiasco, I found it impossible to rally back my enthusiasm. My head always pounded, my back always ached. I became intensely aware of the fact that I’ve been wearing the same pants for nine days straight. I found myself counting the hours until I could sleep in my own bed and take a shower without wearing sandals.
But today, on the cusp of it all being over again, I feel different. Maybe even ‘changed’, to put it in acceptable mission trip lingo. Patna feels warmer, more familiar, and the prospect of leaving it no longer feels inviting. We are given so few opportunities like this, to come and live other people’s lives, and I don’t want to waste it. But it suddenly seems like it was all over so soon.
For some of us, maybe it isn’t. Matt has been considering beginning mission work here full-time, and at this moment, that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Passing out blankets and Bibles, training pastors, teaching children Old Testament stories. Visiting house churches with Elwin. Raising support with Peter. Doing magic tricks for children with King. It doesn’t seem so strange that this could be my life.
At midnight last night, they threw the last of the gods into the Ganges. The festival is over. People wander about, cleaning the streets of litter. It is a new day.
I wonder how much could be changed before they build those altars again, how much God could do here through me. I wonder what it’d be like to be a part of it.
I wonder why I would ever think missing out on it was something I’d want to do.