I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. - Romans 1:8
Thanksgiving Day– the memories from my childhood set my heart soaring. But this Thanksgiving, as the day wears on, personal news leaves my heart sinking, low, heavy, troubled. Thanksgiving memories from childhood: warm house snug against the impending winter weather, family and friends gathered around a table laden with harvest fruits, young family members’ eyes agog at fancy foods with heavenly smells. Thanksgiving... when family and friends are separated by distance the day is punctuated with phone calls reconnecting us with loved ones.
On this Thanksgiving our phone rings at mid-day, our twenty-two year old daughter calling from India. Her first job after college, she works at an orphanage in a rural area. Aware that today is Thanksgiving; she has caught transport into Vellore, the nearest city. She has described the three-wheeled vehicles which ply the dusty roads between Pannai and Vellore. Enterprising drivers meet traveler's needs. Vehicles, designed for five, are loaded down with ten! Men hang onto the sides. Women and children squeeze in the back, and one brave soul is precariously perched on the tailgate at the rear.
Answering the phone, I hear our daughter's voice. We are in regular snail-mail contact and exchange emails weekly, but it has been two months since we last heard her voice, music to our ears. The connection is good; my voice echoes down the line, but she sounds near and clear, just a little loud. While she explains that she is phoning from a telephone booth with the door closed, there is still a lot of noise from the traffic in the background. A sharp, alarming horn-blast startles me as she talks. I imagine the chaos of cows, cars, cyclists and pedestrians all trying to claim the crowded street.
We catch up on the news of life, family and friends. We reassure each other of our health and happiness. Reluctantly we say our good-byes and hang-up. I think, "How good she sounds. What a wonderful experience. What a challenge she faces that I never faced. Won't it be wonderful to visit her?"
Later in the day, I check e-mails in case people have written during a quiet moment of this Thanksgiving Day. To my surprise, there is one from our daughter. I realize that she must have typed it after our phone call. I wonder what further news she has to share.
She writes that as she finishes her business in Vellore, she starts looking for transport home, and a circle of people catch her attention. They form a ring around a man lying on the ground. Asleep? Drunk? Collapsed on the road? She wonders. None of the above would be unusual. She wanders near. Perhaps there is something she can do? The recumbent man's limbs are at odd angles. A bicycle lies untended. The sound of the traffic unceasing. Now our daughter can see his head injuries. He is dead. Another "casualty," another road fatality. She wonders about his family...Will his widow be able to continue to support her children? Or will she send the youngest off to the orphanage where our daughter works?
Reading my daughter's letter, my heart goes out to her. As parents we want to shield our children from the harsh realities of life. What can we do, thousands of miles away, as she deals with death in the dust of Vellore? What can we do?
Tod & Ana Gobledale
The Gobledales serve the Common Global Ministries Board at Churches of Christ Theological College (Seminary) in Australia. Currently, their son, Mandla, attends Occidental College in Los Angeles, and their daughter, Thandiwe, has begun a 2-year appointment with Global Ministries at the Family Village Farm near Vellore, India.