Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: TOURIST ATTRACTION(S) (natural or man-made) (08/06/15)
TITLE: On The Tour Bus
By D. Michael Newell
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In the fall of 1989 I had the privilege of spending a week in the city of Chennai, India. My wife and our youngest daughter, who was only eleven at the time, were on a sabbatical in Sri Lanka. The civil war was in full swing at that time making “sightseeing” ill-advised for most of the island. But Madras India, as it was called at that time, was a different story.
We flew on Lanka Air from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Madras (Chennai) India. It was a short flight as the two cities are about ninety miles apart. Going through security was another story. Besides checking our passports, having our suitcases emptied out, the stuff just crammed back in, there was the physical search. Our eleven year old daughter Deborah did not like this at all. We walked out to the plane and had to identify our bags before we could get on board. I guess TSA can still learn a few things from them.
We went to a lovely five-star hotel that boasted “all Americans stay here”. After looking around we found a map of Madras in English. We made plans to take a bus tour the next day. Later we would decide what needed a closer look.
The next morning we bought our tickets, and boarded the bus. A young, lovely Indian woman guided us around the city, pointing out all the sights, sounds and smells of the city. Only in a place like that can you get the blend of open sewers and spicy curry dishes melting together.
I discovered many photo opportunities such as elephants carrying construction materials, or using their trunks to help set up poles. The narrow streets made the heavy traffic seem worse than it was. The bus driver dodged mopeds carrying entire families as they darted in and out of traffic. Several time I suppressed the urge to shout, “LOOK OUT for that bicycle!”
Hindu temples are magnificent. The hand-carved white marble and gold stood in stark contrast to all the poverty that surrounded us. I spotted many beautiful saris that felt out of place among the squatter huts nearby.
Traffic lights seemed to be a mere suggestion. Noticing a crowd on the corner, I tapped my wife’s shoulder and pointed to the spectacle. “Look, what’s happening there?” Staring out the window, I gasped; my wife and daughter both shirked. Everyone was watching a snake charmer with his king cobra.
All these are only a sampling of what we saw on our tour. But what intrigued me the most, was the “Hill of Saint Thomas.” It was near the end of our tour on the outskirts of the city, but the picturesque sight was well worth the wait. A quiet, peaceful, grass- covered hill with a few large boulders near the top was forever etched in my memory. Even in late summer, it was a lush green.
The bus came to a stop so our guide could tell us the story of Saint Thomas. On the bus were Hindus, Christians, and people of other religions. All were quiet as she told how in the latter half of the first century Saint Thomas came to southern India with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many people embraced his message and started to follow Jesus. She told us this is why there are many Christian churches in South India; most can trace their root back to Saint Thomas.
But in this stronghold of Hinduism, not everyone was happy with his message. Saint Thomas worked in India for years. As the Christian church grew, so did the opposition. Then, early one morning while Saint Thomas was at prayer, just on the other side of this hill, he was accidently assassinated.
I have lived through the assassinations of President John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and others. But never in my life have I heard or read of an accidental assassination.
This story of Saint Thomas reminds me of the great sacrifice many have made to share the Gospel with others. I can never forget this sight. I pray that it will always urge me to be faithful to my God.
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