Kampala. Mid 1997. I had just landed at Entebbe airport, and was picked up by Stefan and a colleague in a large white Toyota landcruiser-like vehicle. The colleague pulls out a mobile and makes a call. I am almost dumbfounded. A mobile. In Africa. When I left the US in early 1996 people were still using satellite phones.
What a difference a decade makes. A short telecomunication revolution later - we are now swamped with all things mobile here in Bharat. And what a blessing it is.
We received an email some weeks ago telling us that Asher McRae was heading up the Western Coast of India - by bicycle - alone. From Kanyakumari to Gangotri. As you can see from the map. The purpose - to see if he and do it. To discover India as a man. To raise money and prayer for Shifa - a street kids programme in Dehra Dun run by Asher's brother Sonu. You can read more about the idea behind it by clicking here - as well as keep abreast with Asher's adventures by clicking here.
I wrote to Asher and he replied giving me his mobile number. Then on aThursday last week an email from Goa, saying he had left. I tried to call but didn't get through. An SMS message did the trick. I finally got a call from Asher on Saturday evening. Asher was 150 kms away from us. We were expecting him mid afternoon on Sunday.
We prayed for Asher in our youth group meeting that night. We prayed for him on Sunday in our house church. In the late afternoon I started to wonder. I called a number of times. Mobile switched off. Long bike rides mean that batteries have to be conserved of course. I prayed a bit. Finally a call from Asher at around 5 PM. After my happy chatter - Asher interupted me. He was not feeling well. He had been vomitting for most of the day. He was near Mumbra. 20 or so kms from Thane. It was getting evening.
Another call from our mobile. Pravin Thomas was ready to help. A short walk to the Manpada junction and Praveen picked me up in his car. Another one or two calls to try and find out where outside Mumbra Asher was. Finally, when we got to the cross roads in question - another call. "Which sign are you near?" "The Naya Jeevan Sign." That was where we were - we then saw the tall, dusty and pale figure of Asher. His bike was quickly dismantled and we were off home. A good bath for Asher and a lassi later - and things were so much more relaxed.
God answers prayers. Asher had been quite sick and dehydrated. But he is home safe now - getting ready for the next leg of the journey. How slender the thread that holds us is!
Its been a delight getting to know this thoughtful and open Christ-follower. In the last 2 weeks he has already experienced an amazing set of stories. Slept in fields and beside train tracks. Eaten in dhabas of all sizes and shapes. Met Marxist tea-shop owners. And more! We hope he will meet many wonderful people as he cycles north - and hopefully will not have a repeat of this adventure.
Post script (23rd Feb):
We have been blessed with Asher for the past week. He endeared himself to all of us in the Jeevan Sahara family as well as in our fellowships. As he puts on his cycling shorts again tommorrow at 5 and heads on up to Gujarat and then points north our prayers are with him. We hope, pray and believe our paths will grow again.