Teaching my Granddaughters, Addison and Avery, to play chess over the Thanksgiving holiday this year took me back to everyone that I have ever played with over the many years. It's funny, I'm not an avid player or one who plays well or often, but I enjoy the game because of its quiet and studious nature.
I always enjoy those kinds of moments -- with anyone.
In 1974 I was in the small town of Vuyyurru on the Eastern coast of the country of India (between the Bay of Bengal and the Krishna River). That little village was one of the most interesting places that we traveled to during our ministry there, but it was also our most trying and challenging.
We stayed in what reminded me of a large baseball dugout. One large room with no furniture. A few wooden tables and chairs were moved in for our convenience. Three small army cots to sleep on. As you can see in the background of the photo above, the front of our dugout was just wire fencing. Open-air, almost like camping out except for the three concrete walls and a concrete floor. That building was a part of a complex of similar structures arranged in a horseshoe pattern that had a grassy courtyard in the center that had a community water well in its center.
We stayed in this place for over a week. Vincent, our traveling cook/friend, brought our meals here three times a day. He prepared them in the kitchen at the local village hospital.
Above is the only shot that I took of the Vuyyurru Hospital. I guess that I was not impressed with its cleanliness or its apparent lack of modernity. It was actually the center of the little village an was very important in the lives of everyone who lived there. The Chaplain there gave us a tour of the facility (it was quite different on the inside!) and he and his family attended all of our meetings at the local Church while we stayed there.
I'm sorry that I cannot remember his name. When you meet someone like him, you know that they are important in your life, and you can't imagine at the time that you will ever forget them. But I have learned that 44 years can make even important memories vanish away.
I do remember the name of his son - Daniel.
While in the meeting at the Vuyyurru Church (we led morning and evening services for over a week) we became very close to this congregation of people. I especially got to know many of the kids.
On the far left in the photo above is the Chaplain. Standing next to him is his son, Daniel.
This village was so isolated and had such limited resources that few of the inhabitants could speak English. Ha! This was not entirely their limitation, WE could not speak THEIR language, and we were supposedly highly educated world travelers!
On our third or fourth day service a very little boy came boldly up to me and said, "Hello, Dennis Bain, do you play chess?"
At first his words did not register with me. I knew that he was addressing me, so I looked around and spotted a couple of the Hindustan Bible Institute students who traveled with us as translators. They nodded and smiled, and then pointed me back to the child. He repeated his line, "Hello, Dennis Bain, do you play chess."
I stammered, "Yes, I do! Who are you?"
I was delighted, but this was the extent of Daniel's English. He had asked his Father, the Hospital Chaplain, to teach him this short phrase so that he could recite it to me when he had the opportunity. He had gone to a great deal of trouble to learn to speak this phonetically, and had plenty of courage to step up to me and spout it!
The translators then stepped up and helped us make connection. I learned his name and we set an appointment for after lunch. He communicated to me that he had a chess board and would bring it at a certain time. I looked forward to our time together.
He came to our little dugout home and we sat and played for hours. He came on a couple of other days while we were there, but he always came on his own. We couldn't speak each other's language but we were able to communicate with signs and smiles. We both knew the language of chess. I can't remember how the games came out, who won or lost, but I will never forget him or that experience.
I was not able to keep in touch with many of the friends that I made in India. Language barriers and just the challenge of time and geography.
I trust that this little man has had a wonderful life. He is certainly a wonderful memory in mine. I hope that he has not forgotten me. Perhaps I will see him in Glory!
Daniel, on my back in a game of Chicken Fight with some of the other children
during our daily play time in Vuyyuru
during our daily play time in Vuyyuru