The day after arriving in Chennai, I had my first opportunity to teach at the 2 day women's conference. It was interesting - the conference was supposed to start at 9:30 a.m. ...I was not even brought to the church until around 11:15. Evidently the crowds were not large enough yet...and they wanted more women to come before they let me teach.
This disturbed my soul...I will teach to one or one thousand (and probably prefer the 1). With my time cut drastically short, I taught the lesson that has so ravished and beckoned my heart to kneel in awe and abandon lesser loves: The God who created the universe, who calls all the stars by name and who is exalted above all things stooped down to the likes of me. For women who live in not only a caste system of different socioeconomic and spiritual levels, but also a caste system of gender (male & female, the latter being the lower caste - btw, this was told to me in the form of a joke by a male national pastor..."you know there are really only 2 castes in India - male and female"), this was a vital and necessary truth to be proclaimed and prayerfully, embraced.
I wanted these women to know that there was a God who (Exodus 3) heard their cries, saw their misery, was concerned and came down. I wanted them to know that there is a God who sees, and hears, and knows and cares...they are noticed by the King of kings...they are not abandoned, nor forgotten, nor lesser in any way.
Upon finishing my teaching, a pastor's wife got up and enthusiastically said, "Thank you, Paula Sister, for giving us Biriyani for our souls..."
That was a new one...I'd never been compared to a spicy, rice dish! As my translator leaned over to expound on the cultural context of this comment, she said that Biriyani is the choicest of foods for the Indian - served at wedding feasts and special celebrations: "It is the very best food in India!"
I could only thank God for the privilege.
One of my missionary heroes and profs, Dr. Mary Wilder, has defined missions as "One beggar showing another beggar where to find bread."
What a privilege to be in India as a beggar sharing bread...no wait...Biriyani...with some other beggars.