On Saturday, July 21st, the team spent a day in Chicago's "Little India" with our ministry partners and friends at the South Asian Friendship Center (click here for SAFC's official web site) learning more about Indian culture, and having an opportunity to see a little glimpse of India first hand before departing for the field.
After negotiating Chicago traffic, we arrived at the SAFC to be greeted by Mark Engle, the Center's Director. Over a customary cup of Indian Chai Tea, Mark answered basic questions about the Center, and also told us the story of Little India and how most people come to reside there from their home countries (most often Pakistan and India). Mark then introduced us to Sunita (shown here in this photo along with Mark), one of the Center's other treasures and an amazing lady with a deep passion for Jesus and reaching her own people. Sunita grew up in India and immigrated to the US some twenty years ago, where she met Christ and has continued to grow in her faith. Through our interaction with Sunita, we gained considerable insight into how Indian culture values family, hospitality and loyalty, and how those things play out in the individual lives of Indians both in their own "home" context of India as well as here in the US.
Lunch at a great Indian restaurant (that seemed to specialize in Southern Indian cuisine) followed our formal time with Mark and Sunita, and they both joined us over dishes of dosa (a crispy giant "pancake" stuffed with a potato-based paste), sambar (Indian "pepper water" -- a delightfully flavorful soup mixture into which flat bread or other dishes are dipped), coconut chutney, and breaded onion. Interestingly, restaurant owners had managed to pipe Indian music videos onto flat screen TV's throughout the restaurant, and the Indian flavors combined with Indian music, sights and sounds all combined to give a surprisingly accurate foretaste of Indian culture.
After lunch, the team dispersed in teams onto Devon Street for a one-hour cultural scavenger hunt supplied and coordinated by the SAFC. Items on the list included entering a clothing shop and trying on a Sari or Salwar, finding books or materials written in other languages (Hindi, Farsi, Telegu, Tamil and Arabic text books abound on Devon St), buying and trying some other Indian foods, asking Indian shop owners about their lives, and exploring Indian produce, clothing and jewelry markets.
Following the scavenger hunt, Mark answered some final questions about what we had seen and experienced, and then offered a word of prayer for the team and its success in the field. We then loaded up and returned back to GCC, arriving just in time for the 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening service.