Messages from India

The messages below came in by cell phone text message from Landa Harris Simmons while she was in India.  Because they are text messages - they are short but interesting.  Some editorial expanding of standard text message abbreviations has been done to make them more readable.

Friday - February 20, 2009

What's the distance between Mungeli India and Atlanta Georgia?  One can measure the distance in miles and kilometers, the number of security checkpoints cleared, the number of travel hours involved or even the number of camels, elephants, Brahma bulls or water buffalos seen on a given day.  We, however, have come to realize that one can't attach a numerical designation to the distance between people we were when we left Atlanta on February 7th and the people we are today.  Perhaps Dale summed it up best when our driver from our first two days in India met us at the airport to drive us to a place where we could wait out the 7 hour difference between our arrival in Delhi and our departure for London.  Dale said to Mr. Duggal, "we may look like the same people who left Dehli 10 days ago, but there is no resemblance at all to the people we are today."

We're now on the way from Heathrow to Gatwick airport and land in Atlanta tomorrow at 4:30

Blessings Y'all!!!
Received Feb 20, 6:30 am Atlanta time.


We're home!!!!!!!

Received Feb 20, 3:44 pm

Thursday - February 19, 2009

[The Following updates are from several pilgrim's as they report on the trip home.  Take note of who signed the update]

So today was full to teary goodbyes and airport queues - an exhausting combination that has begun to sink in as we huddle around our bags in Indira Gandhi airport awaiting our 3:30 flight back to the west.

After a nice community farewell and chainsaw demonstration in chapel this morning we packed all the books over to the school and took part in another characteristically informal formal goodbye ceremony with all the students and staff in the yard.  It was tough saying goodbye to the kids.  I really hope we were able to shake them out of their intellectual cages at least for a short time.  More goodbyes and whirlwind packing and we were off with Dr. Anil for our final bumpy drive to Raipur for a blast of shopping and a plane to Delhi.  We spent a few hours over a nice meal and some group digestion of the powerful experiences of the past few days.  We then packed off in the taxi back to the airport for some quality time honing our line standing skills as we navigate the check in systems.  Looks like our flight is delayed a bit but I'm sure well be relieving our turban clad security forces of their watch before long.  I'm sure you'll get more updates from London but were off for now.
Kyle Packer
Received Feb 19, 4:23pm Atlanta Time


Sunrise on the school bus then a chainsaw in chapel.  We are all very sad to go and today has been filled with lots of goodbyes.  We dropped off the last books and candy at the school and packed up our belongings.  We will drive to Raipur, help the economy some more then board our first of three flights home.  It's going to be a long journey but we have lots of journaling to catch up on.  See you all soon.
Julie Schendel
Received Feb 19, 1:24am Atlanta time


Boarding the plane from Raipur to Delhi after a very full day.  We stopped to check on the eye patient in Raipur before going on a VERY brief souvenir hunt.  We thought we weren't going to make it in time but Dr. Anil makes magical things happen everywhere he goes and we sped to the head of every line!  Whew!

The first Pilgrims were right.  Nothing but the word "Amazing" can describe what this man accomplishes in one day -- what most never accomplish in a lifetime!  More from our next stop on the way home to tell you all that we have "come and seen" !!!!
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Feb 19, 7:45am Atlanta time

Wednesday - February 18, 2009

Its been an exciting day.  Nothing we had planned transpired, but that is the Indian way!  We conducted Chapel with a larger crowd than usual, did hospital rounds with Anil to visit "our" patients, went to an appreciation celebration for the eye clinic (many of us worked in it) was hosted by the man who paid for he clinic with a 36 course lunch they call a snack.  Went to school to work with the teachers but arrived too late to teach them today.  Now organizing books for the school library.

Tomorrow is our last (half) day in Mungeli and we are all sad to go.  We all have quite a story to share upon our return.

God is big and beautiful in this place!
Blessings and Love, Pam Callon
Received Wednesday, Feb 18, 8am Atlanta time

Tuesday - February 17, 2009

There's trouble in paradise!  It hasn't come to blows yet, but almost J everyone wants to scrub in to assist Dr. Samuel in the eye camp.  Janice and Pam have gone already to hand instruments to the surgeon, place ointment in their eyes after surgery and tape the bandages in place.  Hopefully everyone will get an opportunity.

Julie, Barb and I are headed for the school.  It's a challenge, but so exciting to work with children and teachers who want so badly to learn English.  Last night was Karaoke night at the Henry's house.  We have learned more about hospitality in the last two weeks than in all the years of our lives.  We can't believe out time here is almost up.  And we still have so much more to accomplish!
Blessings, Y'all.
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Tuesday, Feb 16, 12 midnight Atlanta time.


Today has been a difficult day at the hospital.  We lost a baby early this morning, and the mother is in critical condition.  This afternoon the eye clinic had two unexpectedly difficult surgeries and Chris and Anil have taken a patient to the hospital in Raipur.  Already saddened by our imminent departure, the events of today have been both enriching and sorrowful.
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Tuesday, Feb 17, noon Atlanta time.


Please pray for us today: pray for Barb as she gives the message in worship -- telling the story of how and why she came to India.  Pray for Pam as she sings "Here I am Lord" as a solo.  Pray for all of us as we face the fact that even in a wonderful hospital dedicated to healing, death and tragedy still come.  As we spend our last full day in Mungeli, may we embody their motto: "All for Christ and Christ for all."
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Tuesday, Feb 16, 9pm

Monday - February 16, 2009

This morning we led worship in chapel, went on rounds with Dr. Anil, and assisted :-) with an emergency caesarean -- and then we had breakfast!  The kids loved learning the ABC song, the Hokie Pokie (teaches right and left) and that old church camp favorite, "head, shoulders, knees and toes."  Some things are universally fun and these songs were just that.

Now we're off to work in the eye clinic (75 surgeries planned for today) and to put up the hospital art sent by Sandy Springs Christian Church, work on the aviary, get the internet working better and faster and spend as much time with the nurses and teaching staff as possible.  They all desperately want to improve their English.  We had an incredibly moving experience in the Operating Room this morning which I can't think about without crying.  We hope we can get on e-mail to share the story.
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Monday, Feb 16, 11am Atlanta time.

Saturday - February 14, 2009

At the Christian Mela [or fair] I sat next to Teri Henry during a sermon and asked if the preacher were famous since the tent was packed. She said, "He's a Disciple! He has preached at the General Assembly!"  We listened harder then, even though Rev Ajay Lal preached in Hindi. Just a few minutes later I heard him say the words "Christian Church" and "Disciples"!  Wow! we came half-way around the world and the preacher at the service we attended just happened to be a disciple and mentioned us even though he didn't know we were there!  The influence of Disciples and the Congregationalists is evident everywhere in churches and hospitals in little towns and villages everywhere we turn!  Blessings y'all!
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Saturday Feb 14, 10:12 pm Atlanta time.

Friday - February 13, 2009

Hi! We're exhausted by a new experience what seems like every 15 minutes! We saw a caesarean within 10 minutes of our arrival an also saw a 9 and 1/2 lb tumor removed from an 18 year old girl. (And we saw a tiger and rode an elephant, too!) Today after chapel we went straight to the school to see the children's morning assembly and tour the school. We quickly returned to the hospital to accompany Dr. Anil on rounds. After breakfast we went back to the school and watched Kyle teach his class. His mom and dad should be very proud of him!!!!! The kids were very shy to use their English in front of us even when we tried to ask them questions. However when I asked if Kyle was a good teacher, they all immediately answered "YES!!" Then the shy girl next to me said, "the best!" Then we met with the teachers and brainstormed ways that we could be utilized in the classroom.
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Friday, Feb 13, 6:30 am Atlanta time


Who says the economy's in trouble? Not the merchants of Mungeli who were happy to see us come and even happier when we left!!!  We met a group of boys who practiced their English and the Macarena with us. It was a very busy day, and tomorrow will be equally as busy. We're going to the centennial anniversary of a Christian festival an hour away followed by dinner at Dr. Henry's uncle's house. When we get back we'll be cataloguing the over 350 books you sent with us! Blessings, y'all.
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Friday Feb 13, 12:29 pm Atlanta time

Thursday - February 12, 2009

All is well; saw a tiger acting like a kitty sprawled out waiting to have his tummy rubbed.  Elephant ride was unbelievable.  We went to a Hindu wedding tonight.  Wait until you see the pictures of the bride!  Tomorrow we go to the school! 
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Feb 12, 1:09 pm Atlanta time

Tuesday - February 10, 2009

Camels, elephants, rickshaws, cobras, careless bus drivers...Old Delhi, Ghandi's teeth, signing out "YMCA" for a photo and the India Gate at night have made this a great day! We've talked to Anil and we leave the Y at 3:30 am for Mungeli. Blessings, y'all!
Landa Harris Simmons

Monday - February 9, 2009

Trip to Taj was exhausting!!! Today looks bright. Julie is wonderful as our spiritual director. Our devotional time has become a special time for all of us as we share this incredible journey. It far exceeds all our expectations. We called Terry Henry this morning to warn her and Anil how much luggage we're bringing. Anil may have to bring the bus! We asked if she needed anything from Delhi and she said "No, just come quickly!" We can't wait! Thank you all for your prayers. We carry you with us in our hearts.
Landa Harris Simmons
Received Monday, Feb 9, 11:37 pm Atlanta time

Saturday - February 7, 2009

Pilgrimage 2 is on it's way.  Barb Duren, Dale Williamson, Landa Harris Simmons, Chris Furqueron, Julie Schendel, Pam Callon, Janice Harris and Janice Harris left Hartsfield Jackson airport today.

Wednesday - January 7, 2009 - PM

The pilgrims are home. They made it through customs and collected their luggage by about 6:30 p.m. Exhausted but full of pictures and stories, they’ve each promised to send the website pictures (Tadd alone took over 1000 pictures!!) . Their major frustration on the trip was their inability to blog, so now that they’re home and have had a hot shower, they’re looking forward to sharing their stories. Kyle remains in Mungeli and will continue to try and send some updates about what he’s experiencing.

Friday - January 1, 2009 - PM

It sounds like hospitality is a *big* deal in the Indian culture, and so there has been lots of that. Since it's been a holiday week, Anil let his staff have the time off and his kids are home on holiday from boarding school, so the kids went on safari with our pilgrims.

So far our pilgrims have seen Anil be doctor, part engineer, part host and part bouncer!! When folks go to the hospital, the whole family comes. With it being a holiday the day before (New Year's Eve), some family members were imbibing, and Anil had to kick 'em out!!

The group has sensed that they were invited to "come and see", and that's what they've been invited to do these first few days. He said that Anil could easily pay a local $1.00 a day to paint. Our group has come to realize that what Anil *really* needs is for our pilgrims to witness what good is being done and also the great need to continue the good work.

Anil offered to let them sit in on a c-section (while we have no roster of those who accepted, we do know that at least one pilgrim declined ;o)!). They have made rounds at least twice thru the hospital ward, and everybody wants to have their picture taken. He said the Mama's, especially, are so proud of their newborns and want pictures taken. It seems the ministry they have been about the first few days is both the "ministry of receiving (their hospitality) and the "ministry of oohing and ahhing over babies!" Thank goodness our pilgrims have no objection to either!

According to our pilgrims, the traffic is unbelievable. Folks ride along as fast as they can and they honk the whole way, and then they screech to a stop when someone is in front of them. They don't use (or have?) hazard lights so if they're having car trouble, they just stop where they are and light a fire in the road behind their car.

Motorcycles are a cheap and common form of transportation so it's not unusual to see a whole bunch of people on one motorcycle. Some have helmets, some don't. They saw a mama, a daddy and 2 kids on one.

When they went on safari, 11 of them piled up in the "jeep" On the way, one of Anil's sons sat in Tadd Huff's lap. On their safari, they rode an elephant to see a tiger!

The group has reported that the hospital doesn’t have much medicine at all there, so Anil treats them with eggs....even intravenously. One lady is getting 40 eggs a day in her IV!!

We do know that our group has experienced “amazing” things and have let us know that there is just *a lot* to process.

Friday - January 1, 2009 - AM

At last, we have heard from our pilgrims again! Today they were painting a building front and extremely frustrated by their inability to share all their “amazing” experiences with us! Internet service has been difficult, and cell phone service unavailable; they’re still trying to blog, but so far have had little success. They did manage to get out an email after several attempts to let us know they’re doing well and seeing and learning so much. We will keep you posted whenever we hear something.

Tuesday - December 30, 2008

The first pilgrims have landed! Late Sunday afternoon, our time, our first people-to-people pilgrims arrived at the New Delhi, India airport. After going through customs and collecting their luggage, they met their driver, dropped off their luggage at the Delhi YMCA and headed for the Taj Mahal—a four to five hour drive away.

Upon return to Delhi, they caught a few winks before heading to the airport for their 5 a.m. departure for Raipur, the regional airport closest to Mungeli. The Christian Hospital in Mungeli is approximately 100 km directly north of Raipur; unfortunately the roads don’t run straight to Mungeli. Instead the highway veers northeast before turning northwest back toward Mungeli.

Early this morning, Dr. Anil Henry, director of the hospital sent an email to say that our pilgrims had arrived “well, safe and happy” and were now on their “way to the forest”. Because Dr. Henry and his wife graciously allowed the staff a generous holiday, the Henry’s were the only doctors at the hospital today, and it worked out best for our pilgrims to make their planned “tiger safari” today. They should return to India by mid-morning, our time on Wednesday. Unless, they are truly exhausted, we’re hoping they’ll have a moment to upload some pictures to our regional website and let us know how they’re feeling and what they’ve experienced so far.

Stay tuned to stay in touch. Read the devotions each day written by the pastors of the churches involved and our regional ministers, and share in the joy of sharing in ministry “to the ends of the earth”.

Pilgrimage 1 is on its way:  (L to R)
at the Atlanta Airport on December 27: Tadd Huff, Lawrenceville First, Molly McDaniel and Nancy McDaniel of Sandy Springs Christian, and Kyle Packer of St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Lilburn.

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