May 19th 2012
A sweet yet anxious voice interrupted my sleep, “Renae, it’s 5:30am, time to wake up.” Those words penetrated into my mind as my eyes fluttered open. After muttering those words to me, Sarah, my leader began to gather her hiking backpack and purse in an effort to be ready for when our train arrived at our destination-Bihar Patna. Ten minutes passed before I decided it was finally time to get out of bed. Stripping the white sheet from my body, I manuevered myself in a way to discretely climb down from my bunk. The other Indian passengers within our 3 tier AC carriage began to awake as well. It still amazed me that 8 of us (4 of our team members and 4 being Indian strangers) had slept in our tiny carriage. Within a 7 foot by 9 foot perimeter, 3 fold out bunk beds were stacked on both walls. Two more bunk beds were positioned next to the walkway. Our luggage barely seemed to fit underneath the 2 bottom bunks which also made for a tight fit and disruptful night’s sleep.
An older Indian man who was sleeping on the top bunk-opposite of me-stepped down onto my bed in an attempt to make his way to the floor. After he did so, I followed his lead and stepped down onto Joseph’s bottom bunk. Within a few minutes, I managed to brush my teeth in the small bathroom that reaked of urine and filth. Maneuvering my way back through the narrow and crowded aisle, I was able to wiggle my bulky hiking backpack from underneath the bottom bunk. All of a sudden, the train slowed to an abrupt stop. I whipped my head to meet Sarah’s glance and anxiously questioned, “Sarah, is this our stop?!” Wide eyed, she shuffled her way to the carriage next to us (in which the rest of our team was staying in) and before she could ask the question to an Indian man-Jordan, our student leader raised his voice and exclaimed, “Yes, I believe this is our stop. Hurry, we need to get all of our bags and get off now!” The havoc began because we all very well knew that train stops are short and the conductor will not stop the train unless there is an emergency. We began shoving our bags out from underneath our bunks and slung our huge hiking backpacks onto our backs and positioned our bulky carry-on backpacks on our fronts and our pillows and other supplies in hand. As a few of us were doing so, Christy and Macy came rushing into the carriage from waiting their turns at the small bathroom. Panic and anxiousness was written on everyone’s faces as our minds focused on one thing-getting ourselves off the train before it started up again. Bags, pillows and handbags were being thrown in each other’s faces as we shoved one another through the crowded carriage and narrow aisle. As soon as I saw Jordan and Sarah loaded up and headed for the exit door, I shoved my way through the havoc and took a deep breath before positioning myself to jump out the door and onto the train platform. Once the 3 of us were standing on the concrete, Jordan threw down his mammoth hiking backpack. As he did so, we noticed that the train had started up and again and was beginning to jolt forward. At a steady pace, Jordan and Sarah began to walk alongside the moving train while raising their panicked voices to yell to Laura, Macy, Christy and Jordan who were still stuck on the train. Jordan and Sarah’s brisk walk quickly turned into a steady jog as they ran parallel to the train. I looked at Sarah and Jordan and then peered at Jordan’s luggage on the ground beside me. I realized that there was no way I could sprint after them while carrying all Jordan’s luggage- in addition to mine which was already strapped to my back and front side. With that, I made the quick decision to stay put and stand guard over our luggage. As I whipped my head around, I peered down the railway platform and spotted Macy still in the doorway of the train along with the others. Suddenly, she began to throw her luggage down to Jordan as he continued to run alongside the train. A few seconds pass before she made the brave decision to leap out of the moving train. Laura immediately follows her example-but she jumps from the train holding all her luggage and somehow manages to stick the landing. Chugga-Chugga-the train picked up speed as it followed its course down the tracks. Again, I squint my eyes to see and spot another figure jump from the train with arms completely full of a backpack, pillow, sleeping bag and handbag. I realize it was Christy and right as she hit the concrete, the weight form her backpack shifted to one side-causing her to land on her hip. Only seconds later did I see Joseph-his backpack strapped to his back, guitar in one hand, while both arms balanced his enormous suitcase. As he sprung from the fast moving train onto the platform, he landed with a thud. His body propelled itself forward as his knees collided with the cement-breaking his fall.
I held my breath in anticipation as I positioned myself on my tiptoes to see down the platform to where my teammates had all jumped at different places. Not even a minute had passed before I fixed my eyes on Jordan and his bright orange shirt as he started to walk towards me. Positioning my body so I could see past him, I was relieved to see everyone standing on their own 2 feet. He came and collected his luggage so that we could all walk as a team over the foot bridge that crossed the train tracks. Through all the commotion, I hadn’t realized that a vast crowd had formed around me and the whole ordeal. It was probably the first time, some Indians have seen white Westerners.
As a team, we crossed the foot bridge and made our way to the street where rickshaws and taxis awaited eager passengers. To our disappointment, we quickly realized that we had exited the train at platform station PNC and we were instructed to get off at PNBE. After all that, we had gotten off at the wrong train platform because despite the language barrier, the Indian men in the train had told us that we were to get off at PNC. After phoning our contact, Daniel Ronjon to inform him of our situation, we unloaded all our luggage in a pile on the dirt ground outside the walls of the station. Everyone of us positioned ourselves in, around and in close proximity to the luggage. For the 30 minutes that we sat and waited for Daniel to arrive with the taxi, Indian men gathered on the stairs above us as they sat anxiously like spectators watching our every move. Living in India for 6 weeks now, I reminded myself that this is nothing out of the ordinary. Rick shaw drivers parked their motorized rick shaws and bikes in front of us on the street just so they could stare at us and study us Westeners, who appear more like aliens because we are out of our element.
Relief washed over us when we saw the large white taxi pull up and Daniel and his co-worker, Marion walk out and excitedly greet us. Daniel climbed to the roof of the car and secured all the huge hiking back packs into place. Amazingly, we all pile into the taxi with the rest of our luggage. Squished like sardines in a jar, we drove about 30 minutes to our destination- a building that is used as a YWAM office. I can honestly say that driving in India can be one of the most frightening yet thrilling experiences. I found out that drivers don’t even take a driver’s test here, instead they just sign a piece of paper which allows them to drive. Driving anywhere in India is a crazy adventure and there has been a few times in which I have literally seen my life flash before my eyes because it seems as if many drivers play “chicken” on the road. God has definitely been keeping his angels of protection around us as we walk down the crowded streets and when we drive anywhere.
Anyways, we are now in Bihar-Patna which is exciting! Three more weeks of intense ministry as we will be traveling and moving around a lot in the state of Bihar in India. Patna is the city that we are currently residing in. Yesterday we arrived by train and this morning, Laura, Jordan and I went with one of the translators, Daniel Ronjon to a village 2 ½ hrs away. It was a crazy and long drive but we finally arrived at a building literally out in the middle of nowhere. Bihar is more deserty and it is extremely hot. The average temperature is between 112-115 degrees!! AHH!! All we were told was that a few of us would be leading a youth gathering of some sort. So, we arrived and gathered in small room. Straw mats were laid out for us to sit on. Within a few minutes, girls, boys and teenages began to file in. In total, there was at least 20 youth of all ages including a few adults. Our translator led worship in Hindi and he prayed. Jordan then shared his testimony, Laura told the parable of the Prodigal son and I debriefed the parable, taught on it and shared the gospel message. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to do more worship together and pray over some of the youth. IT was a great time of fellowship and it was good because we were each able to share and teach from the Bible and from our personal testimonies. We didn’t know what to be prepared for but God gave us the words to speak and help these youth understand the love of Jesus. Some were Christians and others were not. I loved being able to work with youth and after 1 ½ hrs, we drove back to the place we are staying. Since we will be moving around a lot for the next month, we are leaving this building tonight and traveling 3 hrs by car to another village in which we will staying in a training center for a few days. We will be moving around quite a bit so please be praying for health and safety over our team. We will be working with slum children and youth, leading Bible studies, preaching in churches, teaching English in schools and doing whatever God leads or what other staff need us to do. I am excited for what God is going to do in Bihar these next few weeks!