A Magheramorne resident has recently returned from taking part in an outreach programme in the Indian city of Salem.
Student Rebecca McMillan spent some of her summer holidays helping with the Christian outreach project and had to get used to gruelling travelling conditions, mosquitos, and temperatures well above the Northern Ireland average, but says she would have no hesitation returning.
Rebecca, who is a second year theology student at Queen’s University, was part of a team with the Exodus programme and had been helping plan the trip to India since the start of this year.
“To see the project through to the end was brilliant; the Exodus team started all the planning of crafts, dramas, talks etc in January, and to see it come together as a team was great,” she said this week.
Rebecca returned from India with an abiding sense of how welcoming Indian people had been.
“The Indian people were really lovely,“ she said, “They were so hospitable and couldn’t do enough for you. What stood out to me about the people we met was how grateful they were for us being there,”
The Exodus team worked in the Indian Churches Mission Centre at Salem, which operates orphanages, schools and a hospital and is open to those of all classes and creeds.
During her time there Rebecca organised a children’s club and also delivered a sermon at the Centre.
Getting to Salem, which is in south-east India, was no easy start to the project; after a flight arriving at Bangalore a five hour bus journey awaited.
The weather was very hot, around 38-40 degrees with high humidity, and traffic in the city was congested with motorbikes everywhere and many different horns blaring. People were, perhaps because of the heat, a lot more relaxed about getting to meetings and it was not unusual for them to be two hours later than planned.
“The one similarity that did strike me was the Indian sense of humour and we were able to have some good jokes with the people we met,” Rebecca reflected.
“Our main days consisted of running kids clubs in the Promised Land orphanage with over 500 children aged 3-18. We were able to have dramas, craft, stories, songs and games. We also got to visit the hospital, lead church services, teach lessons in schools, meet university nursing students and visit the leprosy mission in Salem”
“We spent the day at the orphanage and gave out all the donations that we had collected for the children. To be able to give each child something whether that was a t-shirt or colouring book was fantastic, the kids were just so thankful! I would like to thank everyone who donated, it was the most humbling experience to see the joy on their faces!” Rebecca said.
“India was the most incredible opportunity that I have had. It was a true privilege to experience the Indian culture first hand. Being able to share, engage and get to know the kids out there was amazing,” she added.
The theology student said she was sorry to leave Salem, but now hopes to work with the Exodus Project team next year and would love to return to India at some point again.