How was India, and what did you learn ?

We have arrived back in the USA, after a good 15 hour flight from Delhi to Chicago. I am hoping each of us has a really good answer when asked “how was India?” and “what did you learn?”. Please test us on that when you see us over the next few days.

Below you see Ashley, Kari and Sara in O’Hare airport…. and Myrna with Jon at the gate for our Grand Rapids flight working on his reflective article on business as mission in India and what he saw and learned at his internship. I am eager to read it!



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What we saw

We are sitting in the Delhi airport reflecting on what the past three weeks means. We had a final group dinner this evening at The Red Onion, during which we celebrated Matt’s 21st birthday, complete with chocolate cake and 21 candles! We also shared what we saw during our internships, particularly how faith informed business practice. Some saw business owners and managers treating employees and customers with a high degree of compassion and respect. Others saw business owners hire more workers than were perhaps necessary because they felt responsible to the employees. Some managers gave customers who were Christian nonprofit organizations a cut rate on services provided. One owner included donating a portion of profits to missions. Some students participated in a voluntary company Bible study most mornings, which included some seekers. Many felt that their managers were still working out many aspects of how to merge their faith with their business. Two interns worked in Hindu-owned business, and shared the Hindu theology of business they learned from their Hindu manager. We observed that most of the principles in Business as Mission are actually applicable to any Christian in business, especially a Christian business owner. We prayed for wisdom and guidance on this in future years and careers. Below you can see we are ready to fly to Chicago and the 21 year old in the airport. .



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The Amber Fort

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As we drove along the main highway of India, there were tiny villages flashing by the wondows of the motorcoach–a string of stucco buildings: a snack shop, a home, a snack shop, a souvenir stand, a snack shop. Then a group of people wrapped up in shawls  around a small fire; a man cutting across a lot by an abandoned building; dogs; cows; chickens; more people; more fires. Then, the bus started climbing, and to the right were hills, and to the left were red-washed buildings. Off to the north, crowning a mountain, stood the Amber Fort, and walking out of the darkness were painted elephants. The air was cold, and everybody was wearing sweaters and sweatshirts. We arrived at our hotel, and there were men outside the gate, sitting around a fire. Inside the gate was the Hotel Umaid Mahal, every inch of which is painted with flowers and peacocks and gilded.

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In transit

In transit
Hyderabad-Mubai-Delhi-Jaipur. Today is travel day, which puts me in mind of a line spoken by Paul’s “grandfather” in A Hard Day’s Night: “So far, I’ve been in a train and a room and a car and a room, and a room and a room.” Well, so far, this group has been in a bus and a plane and a gate and a transport and a plane and a bus. All the while en route, they’ve been working on their journals and papers. And at least one of them has been playing “Angry Birds.”

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Hyderbad traffic is a careening, chaotic experience, without pattern or guidelines. The fundamental principle of driving in Hyderabad seems to be to force your way through in defiance of all obstacles. And the Hyderbad driver’s sole means of removing an obstacle in his path–be it a car, a bunch of cars, a truck, a flock of motorcycles, a herd of cows an old man or a pair of women in saris–is to drive straight at it, honking lustily. Any excursion in a van or car, motorcycle or taxi in Hyderabad really is just a series of lurches and near misses. A few days ago, our driver narrowly grazed a woman in a burkha moments after narrowly missing the rear end of a motorcycle. It is a running argument on this trip of who is the worst driver, Khan or “Son of Khan,” (as we call Khan’s son.) “Do you realize,” I said to Leonard one morning as we road to an internship site, “that if only one of the mishaps that happen regularly while driving here happened to you back home, you’d be talkinbg about it for a week?” Almost rear-ended that guy? Every three minutes.
Dipping midway into a blog is a little like entering Indian traffic for the first time. The narrative seems to be surging forward without a pattern or clear direction. (There is, perhaps, less possibility of imperiling your life by reading a blog.)
That’s a long introduction to the idea that it may be time to give an update on what’s been going on the “Business as Mission: India” interim. for the past nine days, the students in the course have been setting off at 9 a.m. to work in internships in the Hyderabad area. In  the evenings, they’ve been exploring the city (and Hyderabad is a vast city), shopping, dining and hanging out with their fellow students and with their work colleagues. Many of them have been invited into their employers’ homes. Every three days or so, there is a group dinner, where they meet alums and friends of Calvin. Last night, the entire group dined at the Chiraan Fort Club, located in a former palace in the city. The group invitation came courtesy of Michael and Archana Brian. Michael, a country coordinaor with Partners Worldwide, is the person responsible for setting up the students’ internships.
With the interships finished, the group is moving on to Jaipur, a tourist center nearby the Amber Fort and the Taj Mahal. First we’ll take a plane to Mumbai; then we’ll take a plane to Delhi, and then we’ll travel by motorcoach to Jaipur. That’s all fine, but for my money, there’s nothing like sitting up front in the van, swigging a Fanta, watching while Khan careers toward a clutch of pedestrians or drives headlong into oncoming traffic. As I told Karen after our driver putt-putted us sedately to the club: “I was kinda hoping to put my life at risk tonight.”

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Hyderabad Hospitality

One of the things we are learning about India has been taught to us by several gracious Indian families in Hyderabad who have extended their hearts and homes and welcomed us to their city. They are eager to hear about the US and Calvin College and we are happy to tell them about that. But what we find most fascinating is listening while they share their stories with us.  Four families in particular welcomed us to Hyderabad.

Michael and Archana have been working for more than a year to set up internships for Calvin students through Business Seva and Partners Worldwide.  Without Michael’s hard work and willingness to volunteer a lot of his time and energy this interim could not have happened. Archana also spent a Saturday with a group of students helping us bargain in the Laad Bazaar for bangles, taking us to her favorite sari shop, getting us a great discount on pearl necklaces, giving a lot of great restaurant suggestions and teaching us about Indian cooking.  They were also our hosts for a wonderful meal at the Chiraan Fort Club for our last night in Hyderabad.  Both Michael and Archana have lived in Hyderabad for most of their lives and have a wonderful thirteen year old daughter, Janice, who might think about coming to Calvin College some day.

Usha and Devikaran invited all of us to their home to eat a delicious meal cooked for us by Usha.  One of their sons, Anand, is currently studying at Calvin College.  They shared their story with us of the Christian ministry they are involved in that is helping  resettle Christian refugee families from the Indian state of Orissa who have lost their homes due to religious persecution.

Sudesh and his family hosted a group of us to their home for an evening meal.  Sudesh owns and operates an IT business in Hyderabard and has taken Ross and Matthew on as student interns.  They also joined the meal.  We enjoyed the delicious Indian food prepared for us including homemade roti bread made for us by Sudesh’s mother.

Samson and Christina and their college-aged daughter Gabriella also opened their home to Professor Van Drunen and I for an evening.  Samson and Christina have two sons, Michael and Jasper, both of whom are 2009 graduates of Calvin College with majors in mechanical engineering. Both are now employed in the US by engineering companies.  With parental pride, Christina showed us the pictures she has in an album of their graduation day and it’s clear she feels God gave her sons a tremendous blessing and opportunity through their education at Calvin College even though it means that they live on the other side of the world. Samson provided a place for another student intern at his counseling and training business.

We feel blessed to be the recipients of all of this wonderful hospitality from the people of Hyderabad!

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