in kerala we were treated with amazing hospitality. sam and george, both youth workers with the CSI diocese of central kerala, looked after us. we were were treated especially highly because we were a group from CMS. the gospel first came to kerala back in ad50 or so with the apostle thomas and there has been a syrian church there ever since. the first CMS missionary, thomas norton, landed on the coast in 1816. after working with the church that was there it didn't take long to establish anglican churches (not sure why they didn't stick with the church that was already there?). CMS is so significant in the minds of the christians that CMS is almost used interchangeably with CSI - CMS almost is the church in the mind of the people. we visited a few churches - and had the same experience as in bangalore of wondering why they were so western in architecture and service structure. but you have to admire the early missionaries. travelling to unknown lands, learning a language and culture, sharing the gospel and within a few years building huge churches. and they clearly had a lot of success in this part of india. it really is astonishing. (i'm realising that in the rural areas the churches are quite different with people sitting on the floor, local instruments and singing so we have only encountered the more western style of CSI church)
we had tea with the bishop and his wife - i really liked them. they are good people. the tea itself reminded me of tea at my grandma's when i was a kid - the best china was out, big tea pot, plates of cakes and polite conversation round the table. the missionaries clearly brought all their furniture and wall pictures and built big houses to put them all in and they are still there pretty much exactly as they were but just now with indian bishops (thank god). there was something surreal about the whole scene.
kerala is known as god's own country - it is amazingly beautiful, and very jungly in places. though we were here to find out about youth ministry there wasn't much happening on the days we were there so we did some sightseeing, boating on the backwaters, driving up into the jungly hills past tea plantations to thekkady - a tiger reservation with 36 tigers. we didn't actually see any but it was exciting to think they were nearby and we went on a beautiful boat ride through the reservation seeing buffalo, wild boar and lots of birds. the water covered what must have previously been forest which created an amazing landscape with all these dead trees sticking out of the water.
today it's time to head for home which i'm ready for now. india is fab - i've encountered one or two small snapshots - there is so much more. go if you get the chance.