Today, I enjoyed the sunny, slightly too hot, yet still beautiful weather by taking a hike with a friend. Then, we watched Oceans 11, which I had never seen all the way through before. Great cast. Intriguing movie.
After some other random errands, I came home to eat some leafy greens (trying to get more of those into my diet) and to relax for a bit. I meant to do laundry today, but I just didn't have the motivation. Oh well, that's what Sunday afternoon is for I guess.
Tonight, I am excited to share my second blog entry from India. It contains lots of uncontainable excitement as I reunited with loved ones from my previous trip. Hope you enjoy!
Please note, that I have decided to abbreviate names with first initials to respect everyone's privacy.
Day Two: Second Flight, Arrival, and Main Church
A bit of sleep. An almost finished movie (Million Dollar Arm). One final meal. Hyderabad. Contained explosion of excitement. Confusing customs forms. 28 pieces of luggage. Customs. M!!!!!!!!!!!!! One joyful hug! Garlands of flowers. Group photo. Totally happy.
After all that, we walked out through the rich darkness to the vans. It took several guys ten minutes to puzzle piece the luggage together in and on the vans. I enjoyed watching and listening to the team’s “oohs,” “ahhs,” and laughs etc. as we sped into the city. They were all especially excited by the fish building as I had been last year. All I could think though was, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” When we arrived at the hotel, I helped assign rooms and then gave instructions for the next day based on what the pastor and I had discussed.
After most people dispersed for naps, M, H, K, T, and I prepared crafts for the predicted 115 Sunday School children. My initial reaction when the pastor said that number was: “crap!” I had forgotten to consider Sunday school kids when we made our supply list for crafts.
Fortunately, H is amazing and had more than enough “Jesus Calms the Storm” materials. As the others cut streamers, T helped me prepare what to tell the team at breakfast. I am so thankful to have a “cabinet” to run things by. As much as I act like I know what I am doing, I am figuring out a lot as I go along. Not a comfortable feeling.
We wrapped up around 6:00 a.m. and headed upstairs to sleep in our “way too nice” hotel rooms. Upon seeing the room, I was impressed by the comfort of the beds and the overall cleanliness. Not what people would expect for a mission trip. However, I was relieved to see the bucket shower and to realize that the power cut in and out.
My roommate, K, and I settled in and then passed out to sleep for an hour. Unfortunately, we thought it was one hour later than it was, so we woke up at 7:30, not 8:30. I was fully dressed before I realized my error and called H to confirm. Oops. We laughed and went back to sleep.
After our interrupted nap, it was finally time for the day to begin. Breakfast for me was dosas with daal and a hard-boiled egg on the side, eaten with my right hand only of course. My taste buds rejoiced to discover they were back in India. Major disappointment occurred though when I tasted what I thought was chai and discovered it was milky coffee. Sad day.
At breakfast, I successfully made my announcement and sent everyone to finish getting ready. 10:00 a.m. bus loading.
As we drove to church, it was fun watching the team react to the sights and the traffic. It was still relatively calm out, but busier than it had been at 4:00 a.m.
Partway through the drive, I announced that soon we would make a right turn into an alleyway and then we would arrive at church. Sure enough, a minute later we did exactly that. I was ecstatic that I somehow remembered the relative location of the main church.
The church however was not the same at all. Instead of being one level, it was now three. The whole thing was concrete and open air. Clearly under construction. Following our hosts, we made our way up to the second floor where rows and rows of plastic chairs had been arranged on two sides of an aisle. We walked down the mat covering the aisle and took seats in the front two rows on the right.
Almost as soon as I had set down my bags, I looked up and saw P!!!!! He was playing guitar and preparing to lead worship. When he saw me, he stopped and came to meet me. The first words out of his mouth were, “Your dream came true; you are back where you belong.”
Yes. Yes, I was.
Less than a minute later, MASSSIVE EXCITEMENT occurred when U and the girls came and found me. I have to confess that part of me feared they would not remember me from last year.
The opposite was the case.
U, A, and two new girls were giddy to meet me. Pr, A, and others came in and went to sit in chairs off to the side. I was so honored when they beckoned me to join them. Then, I nearly cried when U showed me that she kept a picture of us together in the cover of her Bible.
The service started and all the girls rose and stepped onto the platform stage to help P lead passionate, spirit-filled worship. As the singing continued, I tried to step out of observer mode and into worship. There is nothing like worshiping in another language and culture.
Communion was served by the women of the church including some young adults. I like that the church respects them. Unfortunately, they missed giving me bread and juice and I was too shy to ask.
Next came Sunday School. Eight of us headed down the cement stairs to the ground floor. When we arrived, the kids were singing and dancing to “Father Abraham,” so we all jumped in right away. Then, Pastor Z., the children’s pastor, came and asked for the group leader. I stepped up. We went over the plan while the team continued to sing and do motions with the kids. Once business was taken care of, I joined the fun. Then, I introduced the team and we led songs, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Jesus in the Boat.” It took a bit for the kids to catch on, but many did. K. and I talked later about how special it was when we made eye contact with individuals. Their faces would always light up with smiles. They loved being noticed and made to feel special.
Right after the songs, the kids moved to circles and team members began passing out supplies with H. as facilitator. We were all set to go when suddenly we were called back upstairs for introductions. H. quickly taught the Sunday school teachers to make the wave craft and then we trooped up the dusty, concrete stairs. When we had gathered on stage, I was surprised, honored, and humbled to be called the team leader and asked to say a few words. I greeted the people in Telugu and winged a few words about coming back to India and how thankful I was to be there. Next, the team introduced themselves and T. led a few songs. The roles were reversed from earlier as we stood on stage.
Back downstairs, the craft had been successfully completed. K. rocked out the story narration, while the rest of us acted out the events. The kids used their streamers to make raging waves for the storm. Jesus questioned our weak faith and amazed us by taming the sea.
We closed with more songs and offering collection. When asked for offering, my mind was blown as I grabbed the random 20 rupees that our church treasurer had given me from the church offering. She had kept it for years after someone randomly donated them. Then, she decided to give them to me to take to India. God clearly knew we needed that money. Otherwise we would have had no offering to give.
Lunch was mild goat curry and rice served by the girls. During down time, I tried to introduce team members to the girls in order to be a bridge for new relationships. I hope that me knowing them won’t be a hindrance.
Walking out of the church was walking into a spiritual battle. The open air church and the outdoor temple had been warring all morning. Today was a special holiday for Hindus, so they were a bit vocally rude as we walked by. Too bad.
Back the hotel, R., S., C., and I found the “fitness room,” which was a hotel room with a few random machines. I ran on the powerless elliptical while the others lifted and did ab work. You could have filled 3 buckets with my sweat by the time we were done.
Short nap. Sudden rush to the bus. Drive to the pastor’s house. Party. Huge crowd. Lots of singing. Pastor and wife renewed vows. Curry and sweet bread pudding. Spicy curry was intense. Short time with the girls. Ride home. Debrief in room 315.
At the debrief, many shared passionately about their first foreign worship experiences. After that, S., I., Ki., H., K., and I were champions of supply organizing. We realized that we should have counted, divided, and packed in a more orderly way. I felt badly, but was blessed by the fact that everyone jumped in and just got it all done. Plus, it was awesome to realize that we had 3 toothbrushes per child, two coloring books per child, and much more! God really multiplied our resources!
Finally it was time for bed. I crashed hard and slept well all night.