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by Angela M. Baker-Bridge
10/24/2007 / Missions
Is it possible? I wondered, stirring from my dream. It seemed moments ago I'd struggled to fall asleep in this strange land. Outside, the roaring of vehicle engines continued all night, yet that wasn't as intrusive as the constantly honking horns. Slumber finally achieved, now abruptly ended by the sound of a rooster?
Throwing off the sheet, I inhaled deeply the unique smelling air. Exotic unfamiliar fragrances mingled with faintly distinguishable scents. An overtone of gritty dirt lingered. It was too early to understand all that my nostrils had taken in; though I felt they were a precursor of what the day would bring
Turning to the window, I unlocked and opened the shutters. "What!" I exclaimed aloud. "No glass?"
Startled, I discovered there were no panes in the windows, only bars. Though surprised, I refocused on my quest to find that crowing rooster. Searching outside, I spotted more than my living alarm clock. The sun kissed the flat roof. Servant girls drew water from the compound well. Worshippers gathered for prayers at the near-by river. Livestock wandered the streets.
"Am I still asleep?" I whispered. "It's like I'm in another century." Arriving late the previous evening, I hadn't gotten a full grasp of my surroundings until that moment. Time couldn't be wasted. Scheduled meetings brought me to this land, but the culture beckoned me.
Straightening the white skirt I'd laid out the night before, I noticed a thin layer of dirt covering it. On closer inspection, the same was true of the bed, dresser, and suitcases! Without glass panes, cleanliness was impossible, wearing white a disaster. I slipped into stockings and white heals. Joining the others, I noticed servant girls giggling and whispering. My hostess gave the girls a stern look and we were off.
Enthusiastically I led worship until several women elbowing each other distracted me. My mind raced as I nonchalantly perused my appearance, trying not to fumble over the words. Once seated on the platform, I dismissed my self-conscious melt down and turned toward the preachers.
My attention span was brief. Blood-sucking mosquitoes, biting through my new stockings were attacking my legs! My hostess, noticing my flailing, smiled, reached into her purse and handed me a tube of dreadful smelling cream.
"Spread this on thickly right over your stockings."
Desperate, I complied. Shortly afterward, I noticed some women snickering. This was not paranoia. Leaning over, I whispered to my hostess, "Do you know why they're laughing?"
"Oh, yes. Look at your legs." She replied, stifling her own laughter.
What a sight. The cream bleached my stockings wherever I'd applied it; around my ankles, the short strokes across my calves, and longer ones down my shins. My suntan colored stockings looked like military camouflage! I tried to smile through my humiliation. This was not the impression I'd intended to make.
Back in my room, I found clean laundry. Discovering my blouse buttons destroyed, I broke down.
My hostess and I had a "girl talk". There were practical answers to my questions.
1. The servants were laughing at my white heels; knowing only bare feet or sandals were suited for walking on dirt and straw.
2. During worship, the women poking one-another were curious; stockings were foreign to them.
3. I didn't need an explanation for the bleached stocking fiasco.
4. The buttons? When washing clothes in the river with rocks, nothing is safe.
"We'd like to take you shopping for items to make you more comfortable. Your western clothes aren't suitable for places you'll be traveling."
"Sounds wonderful! I'd love to go shopping, see your malls, get a better feel for your culture." Again, giggling servants. Hmmmmm. Now what?
They hailed rickshaws to transport us. Butterflies in my stomach, I smiled and attempted to board. The problem? My straight skirt prevented me from raising one leg high enough to swing it into the surprisingly tall cart. After several attempts, with servants surrounding me for privacy, I yanked my skirt up my thighs, as they pushed me on-board. Laughing together, my shopping adventure in India was underway.
Paul was wise to become all things* to all men. Wearing Indian clothes was more practical and comfortable. The natives, thrilled by my desire to fit in, listened receptively to the Gospel I shared. Shopping had removed many distractions.
*"... I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." 1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV
Married to a minister for 30-yrs, Angela has two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandsons. She's passionately creative with a versatile portfolio. Out of hurt and pain, Angela writes from her heart and life. She touches others as she gives God the glory. She married a former pastor in '03.
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