In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
When Jesus said; “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” He did not say how to get there. In the US we usually do all our going by car. But throughout the world, transportation for the proclaiming and hearing of His Good News may include many modes.
CLC people who travel to India often fly first to London or Frankfurt, and then connect to Chennai. Connecting flights take the better part of a twenty-four hour day. Though it seems long when making the trip, it is much faster than when the first missionaries from the West traveled to India by boats, often taking weeks.
There are numerous possibilities when it comes to transportation options in India. Walking is the most obvious. However, just crossing the street in an Indian city can be quite a challenge until one learns to walk into the traffic, becoming a part of the flow. And though many shoes are manufactured and sold in India, it seems the majority of Indians wear only flip flops or leather sandals. People customarily take their shoes off before entering homes, churches, and some businesses. Many in India still wear no shoes at all, and their feet show the toughness that develops as a result.
Bicycles and motorcycles are everywhere, with any number of people all riding on the same bike. And though there are fewer pedal rickshaws than there once were, auto rickshaws, which are motorized, are everywhere. Recently, in the cities, regular call taxis have been joined by a new force of Uber drivers. With such a large population and a growing economy, there are increasingly more private, corporate, and government cars and vehicles on the roads. Among them are buses and trucks of all kinds, along with ox carts and tractor-driven wagons.
The CLC work in India is primarily focused on people living in villages. Usually it is possible to get to them traveling by car, first driving on highways, then on the rough back roads. For longer trips, trains and air travel are available for the greater distance, with drivers hired for the local back roads.
The local BELC and CLCI pastors and their chairmen also use various kinds of transportation options. Very few own cars, though many have their own bicycles or motorcycles. And others still walk long distances when it is not possible to catch a ride. No matter what vehicle it is, in India it seems there is always room for one more person. Motorcycles can be seen carrying a family of four. Rickshaws intended to carry three may have as many as ten or more piled in the back. And rural school buses may have several boys hanging on the outside of the bus causing it to lean when taking corners.
Many of the automobiles driven in India have brand names that are familiar, but model names that are not. The current CLC vehicle used in India is a Chevrolet. It is a four-door SUV-style wagon made in India, called a Tavera. It is the second Tavera used by the CLC. Like most Indian cars, it is a diesel, with the driver side on the right, and a manual transmission shifted with the left hand. Until recently the CLCI men used a bright red Mahindra Scorpio. One of the cars still seen in India is the Ambassador, a leftover from the British era when English brands made up most of the cars manufactured and driven in the country. Now there are fewer and fewer of the distinct Ambassadors. Two of the current well-known manufacturers with Indian roots are Tata and Mahindra. Both companies manufacture all kinds of vehicles, along with other products. One of the other large volume automobile manufacturers in India is Maruti Suzuki, a joint Indian and Japanese company. Jaguar and Land Rover brands are now Indian-owned as a part of Tata Motors. Chennai-based Ashok Leyland is the second-largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in India, fourth-largest manufacturer of buses in the world and sixteenth-largest manufacturer of trucks globally.
Chennai is considered the Detroit of India, being home for much of Indian auto, truck, bus, tractor, and motorcycle manufacturing. Chennai area plants include BMW, Daimler, Force, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, BharatBenz, Hindustan, Caterpillar, Royal Enfield, TVS, and Yamaha. Also in the area are numerous tire manufacturers, including Bridgestone, Dunlop, and Michelin.
In the US we usually drive to where we are going, and take our transportation for granted. As you get into the car and fasten your seat belts on the way to worship this week, maybe you will remember those across the world in India with whom you are in fellowship. They, too, may have traveled in a car to worship. But then again they may have walked (barefoot), ridden a bike or motorcycle, or piled into a rickshaw with ten other members.
When people are traveling to proclaim or to hear the Good News, the mode of transportation they employ really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it is always the same Good News that is proclaimed and heard. May it always be God’s saving Word—that which creates faith and keeps believers everywhere trusting in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all sin! And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the
gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”
Edward Starkey has served as a foreign missionary in India. He is currently the pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.