GOD blessed travel experiences
I have travelled to many parts of the world and have had many varied experiences - enough to fill a book.
I have recalled a small amount as follows, because they contained rich Christian experiences.
In 2001 I spent three months in India and after staying with Indian friends at their attractive old three story stone villa in Goa, I decided to go travelling – ‘walk about’ in Australian aboriginal parlance - on my own, so I caught a train from there to Thiruvananthapuram – which name had been shortened to Trevandrum for simplicity, by the British, for some years - which is the capital of Kerala in Southern India. On the way, as I was sitting in a carriage looking out of the window and quietly praying, dressed as I usually did in white cotton long pants, with a long silk cotton top in cream or pale pink and sandals, with my silvery hair fairly long; a nun in her grey habit with white head wear, appeared from another carriage and sat next to me, having the impression that I was a priest. She was on her way south to a heads of schools convention, which I was later to find out was the same place I unintentionally ended up staying at, which was Lighthouse Road Beach Cove, an attractive stretch of beach with headlands either end, like a mini Bondi Beach in Australia. She was head of a girls school of around 1200 in Northern India. We had an interesting conversation and she asked me if she could borrow a Pentecostal magazine which I had been reading. She took this back to her carriage and eventually returned to ask if she could keep it as she had not read such interesting information before, so of course I said yes. Then after a while a young man who was head of a boys school of about 1000 in central India appeared and sat next to me. He also thought I was a priest and we had a very interesting conversation during which he told me about The Divine Retreat Centre at Muringoor - Potta, Chalakudy, Kerala. (Near the Chalakudy River). He said that I should go there, that many Indian actors and well known people attended the retreats and that many miraculous healings occurred there.
When I arrived at the very busy railway station at Thiruvananthapuram, I was standing in front praying for GOD’s guidance, knowing that HE was in control, then an auto-rickshaw driver appeared from around the corner and in perfect English asked me where I would like to go, and I asked if he knew of a reasonable hotel near the beach, which he did and for very reasonable cost took me the several kilometres to Lighthouse Road Beach, also known as Kovalam Beach, which was a very attractive cove. The hotel was very simple and very clean and very cheap, just slightly back from the esplanade, which was just as well because of the relentless noise of waves crashing onto the beach. The walk down to the beach was along a winding path through very tropical plant growth and palms and occasional little primitive shops. When walking along the long gently curving beach I met up with the nun from the train, and found that this was where the heads of school conference was being held. It was such an enjoyable place that I decided to come back here after the seven day retreat, however I never did because of people I met at the retreat who invited me to stay and travel with them.
I next travelled by typically wild bus trip to Cochy, where I had an enjoyable afternoon cruising the backwaters in a long boat rowed by a helpful, gentle guide. Late one afternoon in Cochy I was in a café where, being early, there were few other people. I was watching the young black Tamil Indian waiters filling the tin cups on the tables with water from jugs which they filled by dipping into open water urns located near the kitchen. I was about to order a bottle of Bisleri water, which at the beginning of my trip I had been advised was the only safe water for me to drink, and to make sure the seal was not broken and to not accept it if it was. I was thinking how healthy the waiters looked and why did I have to fear becoming sick from the water that they drank, and at that instant I all but heard the voice of God put so clearly and obviously in my mind: “Greater am I in you, than he that is in the world.” I said “Thankyou Lord, You have set me free to drink whatever I choose,” and for my remaining seven weeks in India I drank whatever I chose, including the local water, and carrot juice made by footpath vendors from carrots sitting in open boxes on the footpath, using a manual juicer. I was not the least bit sick in any way the whole time I was in India.
The Divine Retreat Centre at Muringoor - Potta was over an hours tumultuous bus trip from Cochy. It was established by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, who is an Oxford graduate in Philosophy and Theology, and a lovely man. There are seven different language centres with dormitories spread over the many acres.
I was given a small six bed dormitory to myself, there was not any hot water but because of the very warm climate the cold water was a comfortable temperature.
Approximately 30,000 people attend every seven day retreat of which I was one of only four white people, an Irish couple and a pretty 29 year old German female lawyer who told me that she previously had three very wealthy boyfriends who would fly her in their own Lear Jets to London for a weekend of expensive night clubs, and that had been typical of her life, until one day as she was flying back to Germany she realized what an empty meaningless life it all was and that she felt called by God to make a big change and to make her life meaningful, and to form a loving relationship through Jesus with God. So this is what lead her to devote her life to evangelizing around the world. She was wearing what looked like an attractive but simple engagement ring which she told me showed that she was ‘married’ to Jesus, and that she did not intend to marry anyone else. The whole week was filled with inspirational talks and experiences. I spent an hour with Augustine Vallooran in his small office, leaving my sandals outside the door together with his, because their belief is that when we are on what is considered ‘holy ground’ we remove our shoes, just as he and his assisting priests do when they were on stage for a communion service. They wore their magnificent flowing purple floor length robes together with generously rich gold embroidery, and bare feet. It created an attractive impression of loving, relational devotion and humility. While in his office I said that I felt lovingly lead to say a few things that concerned me about what I had observed in the dormitory buildings; and that was of the rooms on different floors which had a statue of Jesus’ Mother Mary with Jesus as a baby in her arms at the far end and Indian guests, mainly women removing their shoes and with their heads covered, kneeling down with their foreheads on the floor. I said that this contradicted scripture in the Bible which indicated that we should not be bowing down to idols or statues or symbols. I also said that the Bible said in (Matthew 23:9) ‘Call no man Father except your Father in Heaven.’ He looked at me for several seconds and then said: “You have been sent to us brother, pray for us, change comes slowly in India.” We enjoyed our time together, shook hands and I retrieved my sandals and departed through many people waiting to talk with him.
On the first day I was walking in the large garden area near the English language meeting hall, the back of which was completely open to the tropical air, when I met Joseph who approached me, he was wearing the traditional kurta (long shirt garment), we conversed easily and for the week I mostly sat with him and his mother, Mohanna. He was aged 23 and had been a champion soccer player for his university. He said he knew that God had made him miss scoring a goal in a situation where he normally would absolutely not have missed; so that it broke his obsession with soccer and immediately changed his priorities to where God filled number one spot. One day when I put my Bible on the floor to free my hands, he picked it up, kissed it and handed it back to me, saying that they considered it disrespectful and a type of insult to God, to put the Bible on the floor.
Joseph had worked with Mother Theresa for two years in helping the poorest of the poor.
I was taken through the Aids Hospice, a very sad simple facility where terminally sick patients were lying on beds, with the most basic amenities. They looked desperately sick, with staring empty eyes. I could clearly sense the ‘aroma of death.’
After leaving there I stayed for a week in Bangalore with a retired Indian journalist who had been working for years in the Middle East, and who I had met at the Retreat Centre. His spacious old apartment was a in a large old building in Frasertown.
I then travelled around southern India with John, a black Tamil Indian and on one occasion he took me to the outskirts of Bangalore to a very poor village where most of the men worked in the local quarry. Their little church meeting place did not even have seating, everyone just sat on the floor. I gave a talk based on 2 Chronicles 7:14 which was progressively translated into their language by the local pastor. They loved what was said. They were very respectful and I was treated with incredible respect by a young family. The parents asked us to stay with them and their two young boys in their tiny, simple house on a dirt street in this extremely poor village; and insisted that we go for a walk while they prepared a meal. When we arrived back they had not only a delicious Indian meal but the parents had also vacated their bedroom which they had lovingly prepared for me, while they all slept where the children usually slept, in the small living-room-kitchen. They felt so honoured to have me there that they gave me 200 rupees, which I knew they could hardly afford; to honour me as a man of GOD. I wanted to give them much more before we left, but John said they would be insulted, because that would be disrespecting their expression of the respect and privilege they felt in having me stay with them.
On a trip to Papua New Guinea I was taken through the Goroka Hospital where I saw many patients suffering with Leprosy, with parts of their faces, hands, and feet having been eaten away, by this debilitating process.
I drove from Lae to Mount Hagen. I flew to the Island of New Britain, where I stayed in Rabaul, the main town. During my stay I canoed across to an island of black sand beach, where I climbed down into the 95% dormant volcano named Mother, and walked in bare feet on the very warm clay floor which had superhot steam hissing out at the edges.
I met a volcanologist at a party on the island, who, about a year later was inspecting the behaviour of ‘The Mother’ when it exploded into eruption which completely terminated his life.
In March 2005 I went to Vanuatu in a group of 13 people on an evangelical trip. We stayed in the capital, Port Vila. At the other end of that island we hired a smallish boat with driver which we overloaded with all of us and our luggage to go across to Nguna Island where we were dropped off on a small beach, to then trek through dense tropical growth up the long steep walk to the top little settlement and then down a vehicle track to reach tiny Mere Village where we spent several days staying in our little personal tents. The native people were very welcoming, and very hospitable, so we greatly enjoyed tropical vegetarian food which they prepared for every meal without the use of their non-existent electricity. We were able to lead the little population to Christianity. The singing of the children during our little ‘church’ meetings in a primitive structure, was so incredibly enthusiastic in their high pitched voices, that we could not help having tears stream from our eyes from appreciative empathetic almost uncontrollable laughter. It was hilarious in a beautiful and respectful way. While at Mere we baptised several young people in the ocean, which was transparent turquoise, and reached by a very steep track.
The humidity in Vanuatu at that time was the highest they had known it to be. I loved the vegetarian food which we often ate in the food market eating area.
It was certainly different to a seven star trip to Paris; but totally enjoyable in a natural, reality of life experience, living, and relating to them, and sharing their way of life.
There is a place in life for all experiences, but the raw-reality experience is more meaningful and memorable.
Lots of stories to add.
In 1999 together with two Christian male friends I travelled around the Middle East including Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel.
Exclusive garden tour. England – Scotland – Ireland – Wales
Gloucestershire Cotswolds Tetbury
Stockholm Royal Viking Hotel Chapman huge old sailing ship Ortgarten serve yourself vegetarian restaurant English taxi driver
Verdun minus 26 degrees in Hanover
New York Staten Island
Boeing assembly plant in Everett 25 miles north of Seattle. It is the largest building in the world – floor space of 1.1 million square feet.