Today, our Pilgrimage began in a most unique way. After breakfast, we arrived at a modest home in the slum area of Chennai. There we walked into a room filled with a small group from the transgender community. Their eyes and smiles greeted us as we crowded into a small room of one of the rental homes where eight of the ladies reside. In the close-knit setting, we sat Indian- style together on the floor, while a few of us sat on the small twin bed that was against one of the wall of the room. We listened intently as they shared with us about the many struggles that they faced being transgender in a society that is slowly becoming accepting of them and embracing them as women.
Rev. Charles Edwin started this ministry 16 years ago out of empathy for the women. Many of them were rejected by their families and society. However, they found hope and refuge with the Church of South India (CSI). Initially, there was a separate worship service for the transgender community. Now, some members have gradually been welcomed into existing church congregations. The ministry has positively impacted the lives of the women here. One lady stated, “I cannot live with my parents because I can’t be jolly there. But here, I am jolly.”
After having four full days of eye-opening experiences, it was refreshing to be able to simply relax and enjoy an afternoon of leisure activities of our choosing. The day was beautiful, and it was the wonderful setting for swimming, much needed personal care, shopping for traditional Indian clothing in the local markets, and experiencing the inner city Chennai.