I found Faith in Singapore

Who would ever have thought that a volcano on the remote coast of an isolated island might impact people around the whole world? When Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland began ejecting its particle plume 30,000 feet high, it was blasting right into the path of the jet stream that then dispersed ash and silica across the upper atmosphere. Air travel to and from Europe was abruptly shut down, causing the greatest interruption of air-traffic since World War II. The “lockdown” of airspace grounded thousands of flights and millions of people as far away as Australia. Stranded groups of students returning from Easter break, tourists who had by then run out of money, retirees with health problems, ordinary people who needed to be at work, and high-paid business consultants were all trapped in limbo together as airports turned into campgrounds. Some slowly made their way home by car, train, or boat. British comedian John Cleese paid £3,300 pounds (nearly U.S. $5,000) for a cab ride from Oslo to Brussels, while pinstriped chaps in Dunkirk, France, bought “pink kiddie bicycles in order to claim ferry spaces designated for cyclists only.”

Businesses lost more than a billion dollars. But kindness and new connections also emerged from the chaos. Caring Kiwis opened their homes and hearts on a Facebook page called “Stranded in New Zealand” through hundreds of postings such as: “Anyone stranded in Christchurch is more than welcome to bunk down out of the cold with us. Big warm house so plenty of room.”

As the volcano was just beginning its worrisome cough, I got stuck in Mumbai airport in a lockdown of my own and had to wait 25 hours before I could take the first available flight to Singapore, where I hoped to rebook the rest of my itinerary. That meant it would be four nights straight since I last slept in a bed. I had no option but to wait it out in the Mumbai airport transit area. I had my toothbrush but none of my luggage, and I knew no one in Singapore. I tried to book a hotel in Singapore using my cell phone, but failed. Then my colleague Falvo Fowler e-mailed me a contact in Singapore who, he said, had her iPhone “surgically implanted” and would be sure to respond. On the tarmac, before the plane took off from Mumbai, I got an e-mail with red text saying, “I will be at the airport waiting for you.” I quickly e-mailed back my photo and a big thanks.

What a welcome sight it was for me to see someone outside baggage claim, waving a sheet of paper with my name. And that’s how I found Faith in Singapore. Faith Toh took me to church that Sabbath morning, and then to where she’d booked me a room. We had several meals together, and I learned more about the podcast for the Daily CQ (Collegiate Quarterly) and other programs by Studio Elpizo where she is a radio announcer and producer. I confided over lunch that I love to shop for shoes, and she revealed that her weakness was technology gadgets. She taught me about Twitter and growing crops in a co-op farm with your friends—on a virtual farm that is, on the iPhone. In the midst of a week-long ordeal of botched travel, in a strange city halfway round the world from home, my faith in God was strengthened, and I thanked God for Faith—this techno-savvy professional, as endearing to me as a younger sister in her enthusiasm and warmth.

Faith with her “surgically-implanted” iPhone, in Studio Elpizo.

We are all interconnected, irrespective of race, language, religion, or national origin. The volcano, and those many times and events where everything goes wrong in life, is when we become aware of our connections, and the possibilities for new relationships. Martin Buber, in Ich and Du (I and Thou), wrote that human life finds its meaning in relationships, and that all such relationships ultimately bring us into a relationship with God. The main obstacle to experiencing a meaningful life and existence is that too many of our relationships are one-sided monologues of what Buber characterized as I-It (Ich-Es), where the other person is depersonalized into a thing—an It. We yell at each other, rather than really see the other person or recognize our shared humanity. What I think or what I want matters, and nothing else. The other person is an object for me to exploit: a thing, an It. The problem is, an I-It relationship devalues me as much as it degrades the other.

Meaning and happiness can be experienced only in relationships where both individuals matter as human beings. It is in these I-Thou relationships that authentic dialogue can blossom. One cannot have a genuine relationship with God short of having an I-Thou relationship with Him, or others. They are related. When I found Faith in Singapore, meeting her strengthened my faith and connection to God as well. I experienced God’s care and closeness to me in my time of need as well as in her solicitude.

That’s the point. Relationship is at the core of Christian faith. Because God is relational, He stretched from heaven to earth and reached across the alienation of time and place and even death to lovingly bond a connection to us forever through Christ. Whether you are in need or fullness today, God is there, open to connect in fellowship.

— Lisa M. Beardsley, Editor-in-Chief