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2013 India: Part 2

Well, we’re back! Actually we got back a few weeks ago. Sorry for the delay in getting this blog post out. For some reason there’s always so much to do after you return to the country following a four week absence 🙂

As with our previous medical mission trips with Chapel Missions India, this journey was a mixture of the familiar and the first time. We spent our first night in a monastery where we spotted a cobra about 50 feet from our sleeping place – a little unsettling, yes, but fortunately or not, it wasn’t the first time we’d seen cobras on these trips. We retraced our steps from our last trip back to the Vellore Institute, where we spent three days working with lepers and treating foot and hand difficulties. Here also we were reminded of the horrible, muggy heat and how much we take certain things for granted, such as luxuries like ice and cold drinking water.

We spent the remainder of our time holding medical camps around the northern part of the country (where we’d never been before). Familiar were the throngs of people desperate to see a doctor, some of whom had walked for days to get there. In the physical therapy part of things, we were used to seeing 200-300 people a day, but this time we were fortunate to have a team of four American therapists, two Indian therapists, plus a few interpreters, and a triage person. After that, it was hard to believe that Bette and I used to see all those people by ourselves!

Unfortunately, a new twist to our trip was the revelation that spies from the Indian government were infiltrating the medical camps, looking for reasons to arrest the members of the Indian Christian churches who were hosting us and holding the camps (Christianity is not illegal in India, but it is heavily persecuted). We were asked by the pastors not to post our location on social media as it increased the risk to them.

In general, we noticed a much heavier government presence on this trip. More soldiers at the camps, and security that checked our passports every 10 seconds or 10 feet (whichever came first). At one point, Bette and I were assigned to different cars on a train trip. In America, if I wished to switch seats to sit by my wife, it would be a simple thing. However, in India traveling between cars is forbidden and foreigners are watched very closely.

But it wasn’t all work and government surveillance. The leper colonies threw an amazing welcoming party for us, showering us with flowers, food, and music. We also got to visit the new Home of Hope orphanage at the Buddha place, where we sang songs and played American football with 25 HIV-positive boys. And at one point, we even got KFC Pepsi & Chicken for dinner – a welcome break from curry and rice. We could choose between spicy fried (hot) or fire-seasoned grilled (hotter).

As always, it is such a relief to be home and to be reintroduced to our everyday luxuries (that first cheeseburger on American soil is almost a life-changing experience). Thank you again for all who supported us with their thoughts and prayers, and if you’d like to find out how you can help Chapel Missions India, visit them here. Until next time, keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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