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Faith reporter journeys to India's Land of the Gods

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 12, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2013 at 7:14 p.m.

I never thought I'd be selected.

Well, that's not entirely true.

I thought maybe there was a chance. And I hoped. I was hoping.

Even as I drove to Harlingen for my pre-interview with a roundtable of seasoned Rotarians, I wasn't certain they would pick me.

Sure, my resume seemed tight. I believed I met the requirements they were looking for.

But what if? What if I tripped on my shoes and sent my purse sailing through the air, landing on the water pitcher and splashing the esteemed panelists with ice cubes and broken glass?

"Oh, God," I thought. "Please, let me have grace today."

I took a deep breath, fluffed my hair - which I had agonized over that morning, deciding whether to pin it up or keep it down - and put on my game face as I approached the Harlingen Country Club doors.

A monthlong trip to Kerala, India, awaited me on the other side of the meeting room.

There were five openings for young Texas professionals willing to serve abroad on Rotary District 5930's 2013's Group Study Exchange team in India - and I was eager to fill a slot.

Less than two weeks later, GSE District Chairman Alan Johnson rang me at work and uttered these exact words, "You're going to India."

After hanging up the phone, I squealed girlishly then announced audibly, "I'm going to India!"

Since learning I was selected to join the team, I've decided I'm equal to the task. I've decided I have to be. There is much riding on this trip, and many people are moving mountains on my behalf while I'm gone so I can experience Kerala, the "Land of the Gods," also known as God's own country.

On Monday, after months of preparation and driving all over South Texas for meetings with the team, I'll join Cely Smart, Janine Marie Campbell, Yajaira Flores, Vanessa Gamboa and team leader Jim Deuser in Houston as we embark on an ambassadorial adventure in one of the most ancient and religiously diverse and forward regions in the world.

As a faith reporter and someone intrigued by religious antiquity, there could be no better assignment.

Truly, I'm honored to be going.

While in the country, we expect to travel the entire state of Kerala, delivering presentations to Rotary clubs about the culture and beauty of South Texas. Our objective is to familiarize our team with Indian culture while exposing the people of Kerala to American-Texas life.

It's a goodwill, service-oriented, relationship-building mission. It's the kind of mission Rotary International has built its name and legacy on, as Rotarians spread their "Service Above Self" motto throughout the world.

This trip will likely begin many years of service projects that I'm excited to see develop as friendships are formed from our land to theirs.

I invite you all to follow our trip on the Land of the Gods website via as I blog daily about our adventures in Southern India. We expect to visit many ancient Hindu and Muslim temples, attend an Indian wedding, participate in a cooking class, take an authentic Eastern yoga and meditation class and tattoo our hands with henna, among other activities.

I'm personally interested in seeing how religion is observed and practiced in this ancient land and how my own spiritual evenness is disrupted and altered by Kerala's mystic allure.

Come along with me on this journey, won't you?

Together, we'll navigate the "Land of the Gods."

I'm taking another deep breath. Here we go.



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