Friday was a hot day in Mahab for Jim Sir. The day started with a convocation and prayer service to dedicate the teachers and students of Achiever Academy. As honored guests, Susan and I were invited to sit up on the stage in the direct sunshine. The service was meaningful and short, but by 10:00 I was well-toasted. After the service I helped Justin and Saroop (the worship pastor at Chennai Vineyard Church) take down the PA system and load Saroop’s car to take it back to Chennai. Then John Christian and Saroop showed me a couple of store rooms full of clothes, files, and sound equipment stored across the street at the Acts of Mercy office and asked me to help Justin and Thynkassi (the watchman at the widows village) sort through and organize the items after lunch.
“Susie Mam” and I decided we would walk the 1 kilometer to our favorite restaurant for take-away lunch before her class, so we hurried off down what we affectionately call “Mulberry Street.” - for we never know what we will see on the way. On the way back to school, we parted company and Susan hurried back with the food while I stopped at the currency exchange to change some dollars to Rupees. Then I stopped at the laundry to pick up the clean laundry, but I had forgotten to bring the dirty clothes to drop off so I walked back to school, retrieved the clothes, and made one more round trip to the laundry and back. When I got back to school I had only a few minutes to catch my breath and eat a little before Thynkassi came to tell me it was time to get to work on the storeroom.
I wish I could describe the stifling heat of a closed storeroom in India whose only ventilation is the open door, lifting antiquated air conditioning units, oversized speakers and boxes of clothing and books out onto a narrow balcony, reorganizing
Susan, Charlie and I had been discussing going to the fish market in Mahab to pick up our Friday night dinner but as my day progressed I was becoming less and less excited about driving through crowds of people and animals on a Friday evening to the Mahab fish market. The fish market is comprised of a narrow alley of open-air booths of fish sellers that has little moving air and an abundance of flies and the pungent odor of rotting fish guts. It’s not our favorite place, but necessary for a good home cooked fish dinner.
When “Susie Mam” finished with teacher training around 4:30, we loaded everything into the van and I braced myself for a game of chicken, (backing the van into the busy street) while Susan went to open the gate. I noticed Susan was talking to someone outside the schoolyard and a few minutes later, she came to ask if I would mind taking our gentleman teacher, Bharat, to the bus stop on our way to the fish market. We always welcome “detours” as we are frequently rewarded with new opportunities to build relationships. So despite my fatigue, I happily agreed. Besides, I knew the flies at the fish market would be waiting for me
whenever I arrived and anything that would postpone that, even for a few minutes, was a welcome relief.
Susan and Bharat climbed in the back of the tiny van and we headed off. Immediately, I was confused. I was listening for instructions on where Bharat's bus stop was, but due to some language misunderstandings, we soon realized we were headed out of town, instead, and would be taking Bharat to his house, which is down a busy Friday-night highway in a nearby village. Several turns and bumps later, we delivered a very grateful Bharat to his home and commented how difficult it must be for Bharat to get to school every day, first with a long walk to the bus stop out on the highway, then a ride into the village center, then a long walk to school. Just as Bharat climbed out of the van, Susan asked him if there was a nearby fish market and
after some jumbled directions (that meant little to us), we said our goodbyes and headed off on a new detour - correction, adventure.
As we left Bharat’s village and turned onto the busy highway, the dark low-hanging clouds that threatened all day began to rumble, just as I discovered that “straight at the junction” does not mean continuing to follow the highway, but means to take the exit that does not follow the curve. This didn't take too long to correct with a perfectly executed Indian “U” turn and we were soon back on track. We did not immediately notice a fish market but did spy some beautiful vegetables at a roadside stall. I stopped to let Susan pick out some vegetables while I walked on ahead to find either the fish market or someone that could understand my English and provide directions. Three stalls down, a man pointed across the next cross street and told me the fish sellers were there. By the time I had gone back to the vegetable stand to tell Susan, God was literally showering us with a cooling rain. I stepped under the shelter of the vegetable stand as Susan finished her purchases and then, ignoring the driving rain, we proceeded on to the fish market.
The fish market did not have a cover so I invite you to use your imagination a little and visualize as “Susie Mam”, in true Indian style, draped the tail of her purple sari over her head as an umbrella and started negotiating with the fish ladies over a 2.5 pound catfish and 6 white fish of some unknown variety. As I stood there in the driving rain, I almost shivered as I remembered how hot
and tired I had been earlier in the day. I must admit that I was not exactly excited when Susan asked to take Bharat to the bus and REALLY not excited when I learned we were headed in the opposite direction of our fish market. But here I was, almost chilly watching my beautiful bride as she laughed at the rain while supervising the cleaning of our fish supper. I realized that her obedience to the Holy Spirit had blessed me with a refreshing rain, shortened our shopping duties, and deepened our relationship with a very grateful Bharath. On top of all that, I would not have to fight the traffic and animals in downtown Mahab. We arrived back home, soaked, but grateful for the adventure, as a very ominous wall cloud, stretching from west of our house all the way to the sea, opened up with a deluge of wind, rain, and lightning. We remembered Bharat, and the long walk from his bus stop to the his home. We thanked God for the perfect timing of meeting him in the street, a confused offer which resulted in a detour to take him home, and his atypical willingness to accept assistance from us. We realized that had this not all unfolded the way it had, in God's perfect timing, Bharat would have had a long walk home in a dangerous thunderstorm. His family would most certainly have been worried and he would have arrived home soaked and filthy from the muddy dirt streets.
Are your watching Dad? You were right. "If God goes to the trouble of giving us a detour, He must have something to show us." If I didn’t get it before I think I get it now!
P.S. - The fish and fried potatoes were delicious, eaten by flashlight after the power went off during the wild storm that lasted most of the night.