I heard the familiar Skype “ding.” I am working toward a writing deadline. So, of course, I looked right away to see who it was.
It was an Indian pastor — we’ll call him Pastor P — I met a little over two years ago on a trip to Mumbai. He plants churches in the slums. Mumbai is home to some of the largest slums in the world. It was the setting for Slum Dog Millionaire. The slums in India are difficult to imagine (or recall to memory) while surrounded by comfortable American homes. Most of them are the size of a small or medium-sized American bathroom and a whole family lives there together. Sleeping on top of each other. No indoor plumbing. No electricity.
I rode in Pastor P’s car. I met his family. Sat in his living room and shared chai. His home isn’t in the slums, but he knows a way of depending on God that is foreign to most Americans. Foreign to me.
I was surprised to hear from him. It’s been two years, after all. So much about my life has changed. I started to ignore him. I was working after all. Work is more important than a random guy from India who’s just going to distract me and is going to require a little bit of effort to understand.
He said, “You remember your visit to India?”
When Americans call my time in India a visit, I get angry. I lived there for two years. Maybe it’s not that long in the grand scheme of things, but I changed my address. Sold my house. Left everything comfortable for much that was unknown. Learned to haggle for my produce and transportation and eat spicy food without scrunching up my face. It was so much more than a visit.
I knew that his use of the word “visit” was confusion from a non-native English speaker. Or either, he was confusing me with the college students who were there for 10 days. I wasn’t angry. But, it still stung a little.
As I chatted with him, I could feel myself setting aside the American part of me that wanted to be productive and ignore things that weren’t properly scheduled on my calendar.
Instead, I chose to connect. To remember. To remind my Indian brother and friend that there are Christians in other parts of the world who care about what he’s doing. That even though my life is simpler and easier than his, I’m still connected to India. That even though I don’t know exactly what that’s supposed to look like right now, I can’t wait to get back there.
Pastor P said, “When are you coming to Mumbai?”
I smiled. Because I knew without a doubt that if I said, “How about this weekend?” He would welcome me with open arms. There would be ministry to do. There would be a place for me. I would be remembered like family.
We didn’t talk very long, but it was enough. He asked me to pray for him. And, told me he would be praying for me. For my family. For my church. It only took 15 minutes to make me homesick. Homesick for an adopted home.
Do I remember India? Sigh. You need never ask that question, friend. There’s no forgetting India.