My name is Austin Rasche. I’m from a small town in southern Indiana named Huntingburg, but have resided in Nashville, Tennessee for the past couple years where I met and befriended a great man by the name of Ken Schmitt. He introduced me to the Passionists Community and Fr. Thomas Kalam, a Carmelite from India. They have given me an opportunity of a lifetime, which I am presently living out.
I am in Muhamma, Kerala on the western coast of Southern India. I traveled here early November of this past year as part of a joint effort between the Passionists and Carmelites, responding to Pope Francis’s Calls for Solidarity and Dialogue, trying to help anyone and everyone, anywhere and everywhere, become closer. I haven’t been saving lives in a hospital, or teaching God’s words, but simply trying to help instill enjoyment and external learning in students, staff, and communities, by teaching the game of basketball.
I have been staying with the Carmelite Fathers in their monastery on the campus of KE Carmel School in Muhamma. I’ve taught students, faculty, and random kids from the community the basics of basketball, as well as helped coach the team. I’ve traveled to a few schools in the area, including Mother Teresa School in Muhamma, Naippunnya College in Cherthala, Punnappra (CMI) School in Allappey, the Allappey YMCA, and St. Joseph’s College in Moolamattom, Idduki district. At each of these places I did the same.
I have also attended Catholic and Hindu weddings and many events, from St. Sebastian’s Feast to the Allappey Beach Festival. I played the guitar and sang carols along with the children’s choir here at KE Carmel during their Christmas celebrations. I’ve traveled with a class to an orphanage to give meals to their members. I’ve attended two “Annual Days” (School Anniversaries),which include students from that school singing, acting out skits (one of which I was a part of, acting as the king of the French Revolution), dances, comedy, and much more. I have attended athletic events from cricket matches to track and field days.
I have also started learning the local Malayalam language thanks to students on the basketball team who have been very intent on teaching me, even though it is one of, if not THE, hardest languages to learn! I am learning very slowly, to say the least. I was even invited just this past weekend to play along with a university team in a local tournament in Allappey. That was a lot of fun. I’ve been lucky enough to work side-by-side a few times with the International Jr. National Basketball Association organization that also has come to Kerala to teach basketball to kids. Believe it or not I even made the newspaper a few times during my stay here.
I am only with my new friends here in Muhamma for another week or so, then I will be traveling to Cochin to visit and stay with Fr Joe VanLeeuwen and the Passionist community there until I return home on March 3rd, exactly a month from today.