churches together in Leicestershire-furthering ecumenical cooperation

An ‘out of this world’ experience

trichy visit


Rev Frances Ballantyne shares the highlights of her recent trip to India

David and I went on a two-week trip to South India, which was a sensational cultural and challenging spiritual adventure.
Our visit was facilitated by the Trichy Link, which joins Leicestershire churches with those in the Diocese of Trichy.
Our busy timetable included visits to mission schools, colleges, hospitals, homes for elderly women, and hostels for orphaned and special needs children. There were also visits to tea plantations, government train engineering works and a textile factory.
We particularly loved the train ride through the countryside, at a grand cost of 20 rupees (20p) for the one and a half hour journey.
We learned to eat with our fingers, spit out the bark of sugar cane and to walk into houses, churches and temples without shoes on!
We loved the variety of Indian cuisine. Prayers were answered as we were spared intestinal problems! I did get a few mosquitos bites but nothing became inflamed, so that was another prayer answered.
Don’t ask about the driving or the sanitation, or even health and safety or infection control! Let’s just say: it’s different!
There were many conversations with local pastors, and a wonderful encounter with the Bishop of Trichy as we were his special guests for a meal.
I was impressed with missionary zeal of many Christians we met, still so grateful for the pioneering western missionaries of previous generations. Bible teaching and cottage prayer meetings were high on their agenda, as were church building projects on land within the mission compounds. The family was an important community and church value and there was concern as I shared about the social concerns we have with broken family relationships in this country. As we described ministry in the UK, we found that the whole idea of Street Pastors was a new concept for them.
I burned the midnight oil preparing for an inaugural speech at an International conference on research, commerce and management. My capabilities were stretched into uncharted territory. The mission high school assembly for 2600 girls was also a last minute invitation, delivered  in a huge outside quadrangle.
Singing ‘There shall be showers of blessings’ and ‘I surrender all’  while serving Holy Communion in the big city church of St Johns was a honour. I had prepared a sermon with the lectionary readings  but realised as the Bible readings were read that I would have to rely on God’s Holy Spirit... wrong readings… wrong sermon!
David was also asked to ‘give a word’ and to ‘bless a young baby’ at a local cottage house meeting.
At a local mission hospital, I met the chaplain, and we were shown around a variety of departments including cardiology, obstetrics (no men allowed )and the intensive care unit (no hand washing!). But the chapel was well used, with nurses using it for prayer before their shifts and even for a monthly prayer day. It was noticeable that Bible texts and illustrations of parables decorated a lot of the hospital walls.
The Bishop of Trichy prayed that we might have ‘blessed memories of our trip’. We both certainly had an extravagance of gifts poured on us. Nineteen kilos of extra weight had to be found for our return flight baggage! We experienced hospitality and generosity more than we could have asked or imagined; we were totally unprepared and overwhelmed. It was special to be treated as honoured guests.
I’m so glad that David kept a journal and took photographs – which will enable us to ponder on our ‘blessed memories’, keep them safe and share them, and be thankful to God for enabling this to happen via the Trichy Link.