India 2016: Day 5

In the words of Forest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” It is an interesting analogy that for me has brought a bit of reasoning and even laughter when life is confusing or seems unfair. Day 5 however, has brought me something vastly different than a box of chocolates. It was not something that, for one, I could fit into a box. There was no added legend within that could guide me to the savored coconut creme delights or strawberry nougat.  Instead, there was a flood of overlaying emotions fighting to see which could reach the surface first.

We began the day with the celebration of Republic Day. An Indian national holiday to remember the day the nation gained independence from British rule. There was pride in the student’s voices and songs. Notably there was also a longing for continued improvement: gender equality, diffusion of the caste system or segregation, and a desire to be free from religious persecution. I was aghast. How could the people of this nation long for the same things that Americans strive for today? It makes the world seem so small. And my understanding of it even smaller.

Next we celebrated the dedication of the women’s residence hall. We prayed for it to become a safe space for living, studying, and the culmination of friendship. We also  prayed for others to remember that this was built to show that women matter to Immanuel University. I could not help but realize that this may be the first time these strong, intelligent women have experienced a public deliverable of respect and care. What a void in experiences I thought. Interesting that my money has and always will be good. That I, as a woman, may dare to square my shoulders to a man of any age without fear, without repercussion, simply out of what I would comparatively call birthright. How humbling. How courageous of these women. How transformational.

Finally we gathered for the opening of the Leadership Summit. Over a hundred pastors and students from all of India joined in Celebration Hall to grow and develop. The building was filled with individuals from different tribes, with different needs for our souls, and an abundance of ages. Each of us spoke a new language, but were filled with shared excitement to begin the journey. Part of beginning was remembering the purpose. 13 years ago, several of these leaders met as an impromptu result of a severe and violent attack on their lives. When asked why they remain faithful leaders of the community, they stated (without hesitation) that, “As Christians, we must know suffering to know our faith.” …I’m sorry, but what? When have I ever suffered for praising the Lord? When have I ever not simply reaped the wonderful joys of His love? And yet, these hundred of leaders who we have come to know personally will suffer emotionally, physically, and even spiritually to share the gospel. Speechless.

Day 5 was anything but a box of chocolate. Our team encountered joy together. Filled rooms with prayer together. Questioned our preconceived rights together. And wept in disbelief together. I am moved, inspired, and shaken by the people of India. To confine this day to a box of chocolates is injustice. Today, like the raw emotions of this day, I prefer no box and no legend.

-Kayla Logan M.A., PhD Student
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