Intrepid Journey

In the award-winning travel series Intrepid Journeys, Kiwi celebrities experience challenging and life-changing travel to exotic countries. Interservers know all about intrepid journeys – we’ve been travelling to, and living in, the hard places since 1852. In this article we invite you along for the ride as Mark Smith, NZ’s Personnel Director, makes a whirlwind visit to India and Nepal.

Here’s a riddle for you… What do a publisher, a school administrator, a helicopter pilot, an ESOL teacher, a gap-year student, a graphic designer, a marketer, a businessman, a personnel mobiliser, a healthcare administrator, a science teacher and a food technologist have in common? Well, quite a bit actually, but before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to the start of my journey, after I flew out of New Zealand bearing essential gifts such as Whittaker’s chocolate and Vegemite.

Delhi, India [16-17 April] My first port of call was Delhi, a city of 22 million, and I reckon I met most of them in the 36 hours I was there! Our Partners Ricky (publisher) and Viv (school administrator) were my hosts, along with their children. Integration speaks of one’s ability to enter into the unfamiliar and find acceptance. Ricky and Viv have this in spades: the fact that they count Indian nationals amongst their most trusted friends is proof that this family have integrated well. I experienced further proof when Ricky took me on a white-knuckler of a car-ride to the airport ( drives like a local!), made even more memorable by the bovine traffic on the highway!

Mumbai [17-19 April] I am not sure whether it was the foot-long rat guarding my hotel room or the incessant cacophony of air-horns and hooters that took me back to my days in Metro-Manila in the Philippines. There is something about mega-city living that either invigorates or drains you. Fortunately I fall into the former category. Walking the streets of Mumbai with our Partners Mike and Judy was a highlight for me, and I was especially fascinated by Juhu Beach. Apparently Ghandi used to walk it when he was practising law at the Bombay High Court. At low tide it stretches 200 metres wide, giving plenty of space for the dozens of cricket and soccer matches.

Mike (helicopter pilot) and Judy (ESOL teacher) were based long-term in the Arab world before their recent move to India. As I listened to their amazing stories of adventure characterised by times of great joy but also moments of deep disappointment, I recognised a couple who have learned through good times and bad that their Shepherd is trustworthy. Thanks, Mike and Judy, for reminding me of that.

Pune [19-21 April] The rickshaw ride to the airport took three times longer than the actual flight to Pune: apparently, no matter how helpful an autorickshaw driver may be, he will still struggle to get the ignorant foreigner to his destination if the foreigner doesn’t know that Mumbai has more than one airport!

It was good to hang out for the weekend with Lucy, an 18-year-old gap-year student serving short-term with us On Track. We celebrated Holi, the festival of colours, together: Lucy with coloured dye and dance, me with coloured drink and dizziness (only the naive foreigner would assume that it was iced coffee he was drinking!).

Kolkata [21-23 April] I am certain that the phrase “stone the crows” originated in the streets of Kolkata, as every morning I was tempted to do just that! Mother Teresa and William Carey called this city home and so do Dan and Mai, who carry the same spirit for this new generation. Dan (marketer) and Mai (graphic artist) work in a BAM venture that liberates women from slavery in the sex trade. This couple have found their place in His Kingdom and have big hearts full of compassion for the exploited and downtrodden. May my heart be as big one day.

Kathmandu, Nepal [23-25 April] Kathmandu seemed subdued after my week in India: only two million people in this city, less noise, less congestion, less chaos, more sleep. Craig (businessman) and Juliet (personnel mobiliser) were my hosts, along with their children, Hayley and Tim. What a great family they are! I was deeply impressed by their devotion to their extraordinary work, to their Lord and to each other.

I also visited Matt (science teacher) and Jodi (administrator), who are spending a year in Nepal utilising their skills to advance the Kingdom in significant ways. They have such good hearts, and are so willing to serve; their hearts are healthy because they keep in touch with the Healer. Another good lesson to take home with me.

Pokhara and Dhading [26-30 April] The weekend was spent in Pokhara, a resort city of sorts. Three of the world’s ten highest mountains can be viewed from Pokhara, but unfortunately they were shrouded by a hazy cloud all weekend. Roydon (food technologist) and I caught a bus from Pokhara to Dhading. It was an eventful journey, made even more so by the bus losing a wheel… and me being the only one to find that unusual. Roydon lives in Dhading, and it is obvious that he feels so at home there. His devotion for the long haul is inspirational (25 years and counting), and his continued desire to effect change drives him onward to further years of service.

My bus ride from Dhading back to Kathmandu was uncomfortable, noisy, chaotic and cramped – and quite exhilarating. I prayed quite a bit, selfish prayers like “Lord, let me not catch anyone’s vomit!” When a drunk staggered on to the bus, I sent a little “Thank You” heavenward, because at least ten people congested the aisle between us. How this beefy, semiconscious man made it through those people, and claimed the seat next to me (that only seconds earlier had been occupied) defies belief! For the next hour he used the soft foreigner as a cosy pillow; I’m not sure what was worse… when he was leaning on my shoulder, bringing us almost cheek to cheek, or when he fell into my lap. Anyway, I am sure I provided some great on-board entertainment for my fellow passengers!

New Zealand [1 MAY] Ten flights, five bus rides, seven taxis, eight rickshaws and one ferry ride later, I’m back where I started, and ready to answer the riddle: what do all these people (our Partners and On Trackers) have in common?

Well, for starters, a clear, focused faith. Throw in an integrated and devoted lifestyle, a surrendered and servant-hearted attitude, an intentional way of living and a contented and trusting disposition. In my mind this is a good definition of abundant and complete living. Surely it is the only good way to live.

Now to do likewise in my own small corner of the world!