After a brief flight from Mumbai to Hyderabad we were greeted warmly by student from Immanuel Business School—they had flowers for each of us—and driven by bus to their campus, about 30 kilometers out into the country.
They stopped to purchase tea, of course. And tangerines from a road side stand. Then we drove past mango groves and rice fields away from the honking cabs and crush of people and the pollution.
The nearest village, about 2 kilometers away, was barely that—a few stalls at an intersection. But this is mostly farm land—there is an emu ranch across the street. It is dry and dusty this time of year; the land has a few towering palms but mostly scrub brush.
It is very rocky; in fact, the fence posts everywhere are made of stone, blasted out in quarries from nearby hills made completely of rock.
The campus, however, has been an oasis—not the lush, green kind, but the human, gracious kind. A new residence hall had just opened and our students spent the first night in it, while many of their own students continues to sleep in hostels some distance away.
There was not one but two welcoming ceremonies. Jen and I both got leis the second time. Our students are served first in the cafeteria where the staff has worked hard to accommodate our American tastes. The food is not as spicy as it would otherwise be and we even had French toast for breakfast this morning.
We traveled to a nearby orphanage for church Sunday morning where our students did a skit for about 300 kids. I spoke in the morning service (more about that in another post), which was followed by a lavish lunch with Bishop Lohara—a visionary leader who manages churches and orphanages in 17 states here India.
It is his vision behind the university here, with about 50 students in a college of business and about 50 in a seminary. This week they will break ground for a college of education and later this year a college of mass communication. Eventually a college of social work.
Landscaping is underway. A new auditorium is underway. And a new opportunity is underway, one that fights poverty with promising preparation and potential.
What is unique about this is that the students are mostly from the outcasts and untouchables. Many of them have come up through the orphanages and all of them have a chance for a better life—with better education and better skills. And better values. They are bright and earnest and responsible.
Given their backgrounds, these students are grateful for any attention, but perhaps especially the attention of privileged westerners. But our students have quickly grasped that we are the ones who should be grateful. The warmth of hospitality we have received, and the sacrifices students and faculty have made for our comfort, is embarrassing.
We are honored guests.
And we are humbled ones.