Diary of a Ziegenbalgian

[The following is an email my mother sent out after her trip to India for the 300th anniversary of Protestant Missions. – Ernie P.]
Diary of a Ziegenbalgian.
“Trust in the Lord and do good and so shalt thou dwell in the land and verily thou shall be fed.” Ps. 37: 3
On July 9, 1706 Ziegenbalg the first Protestant missionary in India, landed in Tranquebar, a city in the South Eastern part of India, trusting in the Lord. He accomplished many good things. 300 years later I participated in the celebration as one of 16 delegates from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to see and celebrate the fruits of Ziegenbalg’s labor.

* July 3 – 4: Grand opening of the celebration of Ziegenbalg and Tranquebar Mission at the Gurukul seminary in Chennai. Inaugural address by the Governor of Tamilnadu. Hundreds of International guests – US, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Australia and many other countries were represented at the gathering plus Christians from all over India. Many notable speakers with power point presentations expounded on Ziegenbalg’s contribution to Tamil language, Tamil culture and the Indian Chrisitan church.
* July 5 & 6 : I took eleven of our delegation on a sight seeing trip ( Dakshina Chitra, Mamallapuram & Santhome Cathedral )
* and Family visit to cousin Mano/ Mahema Devadoss’s house and Shiloh Church to meet the Edwards and Tsunami orphan children.
* The next day we visited some of the schools, eye hospital and a church in our future companion Synod – ‘Arcot Lutheran Church’.
* July 7: I visited Chinglepet, 30 miles away, to attend my niece Vanitha’s surprise 40th Birthday lunch. In the evening seven of us, delegates dressed up in new sarees and attended the final day Convocation at Gurukul.
* July 8 Saturday – New Jerusalem church which Ziegenbalg built ( now renovated ) in Tranquebar is dedicated
* July 9 Sunday – Thanksgiving church service was held at the church, with three different choirs, our Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson preaching and Bishop Wollersheim reading the gospel. Commissioning of 30 missionaries celebrating the 300 years anniversary was done. US delegation left for US that night. I stayed behind and spent time with my family. I got home on the 17th of July.

I am enclosing an article I wrote for a friend regarding the trip. Enjoy the second half of summer. Love, Esther Kamali

God’s amazing Grace

December 26th of 2004 is a day, four year old Lucy will never forget! She literally saw her parents being washed away in the Tsunami tidal waves in Nicobar Islands, near India. God’s grace reached out to her in the remote island village and today she lives in mainland India in the ‘ Shiloh Children’s home’ with 23 other Tsunami orphans. Her life is happy, comfortable and she enjoys her school and church that is run by someone whose life was touched by Ziegenbalg 300 years ago.

That is right, Ziegenbalg baptized Arumugam who later became Rev. Aaron, the first Indian protestant minister to be ordained in 1730. My sister Elizabeth Edward ( whose family runs the Shiloh home ) and I hail from Aaron’s line. The 16 member delegation from ELCA had the honor of being the special guests at the 300 year centenary celebration of Ziegenbalg’s arrival in India, on July 9, 1706. Some of them visited the Shiloh church and saw the Tsunami children.

When I sat and listened to the seminar on Ziegenbalg at the Gurukul Lutheran seminary in Chennai, India, my admiration and awe for that first protestant missionary shot up tremendously. Can you imagine traveling to India in a ship, with no immunization against tropical diseases, no culture sensitivity or language training and only to contend with hostile Danish stationed in Tranquebar? Isn’t it God’s grace that sustained him for 13 years to do extraordinary accomplishments like learning the difficult local language Tamil, preaching in that language, translating the Bible in Tamil and printing it — Isn’t it God’s grace that moved King Fredrick the Fourth of Denmark to send the two German pietist missionaries to India in 1706? It is even more amazing Grace that God chose me to be born in a Christian family in India where there are only 3% Christians and now be able to participate in the celebration as Vice President of Northern Illinois Synod of the ELCA.

The two weeks in India, of meeting people of my native country alongside the eyes of visitors from US produced mixed reactions in me. When I saw Saraswati at the Aids Support group in Gurukul or the little school girl who enacted the plight of a girl abused by her step mother and teacher, I was moved to tears thinking, if not for the Grace of God, I could be that girl / woman! Yet another part of me said with hope, “40 years ago outreaches of this sort were not there for the women and girls in India and so I was happy to see the resources and progress today.”

My paraplegic cousin Mahema is a prime example of what women in India are doing now in spite of the many handicaps and disadvantageous conditions. In her 25 years as a physically challenged person, she has kept herself busy by teaching conversation English in her home, helping her husband with failing eye sight to write books and donating profits from his art work to charities. God’s amazing grace at work.

As Rev. Dr. Priscilla Singh of LWF said, I saw India not as a half empty cup or half full cup, I saw India ‘as a cup that runneth over’ touching, watering and rejuvenating lives along her own way.

Esther Kamali Prabhakar
P.S. Our daily trip notes are on the Blog if you want to read more !!1