“Though we had food, we were cash starved!! Not wanting to be a burden to my parents, I was compelled to leave all that I knew in my village in Ayroor, Kerala.
With 150 rupees in a hidden pocket of my dhoti and trust in God’s guidance, I set out on a four-day maiden voyage by train from Kerala to Kolkata, India, on May 31, 1956. My only knowledge of the destination was simply a name and an address: P.M John, Marthoma Hostel, 1 Park Lane, Calcutta 14. No personal connection… he was not even aware I was coming.
After crossing the towering Howrah Bridge suspended over the Hooghly River in Kolkata, I finally landed within the perilous traffic hub of the sprawling Esplanade district. Standing in front of an electric tram line, completely lost in this unfamiliar place, I could only whisper, “God, where will I go?”
Out of desperation, I instinctively approached a nearby private bus and gave the conductor the address. He simply said, “Get in,” and then after some time instructed, “Get down, here.” Finally, finding myself in front of the Marthoma Hostel, with both apprehension and hope, I knocked. “John, you have a guest,” the person called out. After John housed me for three days, I was taken to a hostel in Khidirpur. As I strode in to yet another new place, lo and behold, within that hostel lived a group of bachelors… from my native community of Ayroor.”
This sounds like an excerpt from a biographic novel, doesn’t it? It probably doesn’t surprise you, however, that it is actually a fragment of some of the adventures and challenges of my father as a young man, when he left his family and moved to a different state to study and get a job. Most of our elder generation have comparable stories of necessary struggle towards a better life, meager resources that forced initiative, and that fierce reliance on God’s provision through it all.
Hearing such stories raise mixed feelings. Of course, there is always that respectable kind of pride in seeing the fruit of years of hard work and consistent faith despite challenging circumstances. My parents’ example certainly spurs me on to continue the legacy of faith as well.
I do often wonder, however, if I would have had the courage to leave home knowing that my food, lodging, and cost of education were completely dependent on my efforts and the grace of God. No loans, no grants, no FAFSA, no money from home. In fact, it was likely the other way around. There were great hopes placed on the young people of that generation to send back financial support. I suppose we all would do what is necessary in our particular situation.
One thing that challenges me is the truth that attitude really comes from perspective. I’m sure we all recognize that our faith and reliance grow most in times of testing and overcoming. I see and hear such persuasions of hope, trust, and determination in our elders as they routinely look back through their story arc and recount to others how far God has brought them.
1 Peter 3:15 urges to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Such transference is crucial to pass on an outlook of assurance that God is faithful and that He is in control.
I would encourage our older generation to be fervent storytellers to our young ones, particularly to those of us who have been born in America. Our comparably affluent and secure upbringing can often limit us from developing a fervent dependence on Christ and His will for our lives during seasons of uncertainty or crisis. In regularly taking the time to share the stories of our past and teaching the life lessons learned from our own physical and spiritual life journeys, the next generation is bestowed with a valuable heritage of remembering where we have come from. In addition, the humility, gratefulness, and courage that accompanies this awareness better prepares us to be willing servants for His kingdom.
So… what’s your story?