Becky from the CLCI team here...
Friday was our first day of work, as we drove back out to the CLCI seminary that morning. Pastor Peter and Pastor Joel were instructing a large group of CLCI pastors. Alex went out to explore the area with Nireekshana, Jyothi's brother. And Raven and I were asked to teach a small group of Sunday School teachers some Christian children's songs that we had planned to teach in our VBS lessons. Pastor Jyothi had asked me to email them to him ahead of time so that he could transliterate the lyrics into Telugu. He made a little song booklet that we could hand out to the children and teachers with Telugu on one side and English on the other. We went up to a chapel room to practice the songs with the teachers. They knew some English, but Pastor Nireekshana's wife Annie (not sure if that's how she spells it - she compared her name to Anna from the Bible) translated when things weren't understood. After Raven and I went through the words and actions of the songs several times with the women, we sat with them and they asked us questions about our lives and families. They wanted to know all about our jobs, how many siblings we have, whether we were married or not, etc. They asked us to share our "experience with God" and Raven and I talked about how our experiences in church, Sunday School, and Christian day schools (especially the influence of our teachers and former mission helpers) inspired us to become mission helpers. The women were very interested in Raven's trip to Africa and asked her to tell them more about her experiences there. Throughout that morning they repeated how much our coming to visit them was appreciated, and how we are bringing glory to God with our work. I made sure to emphasize how much they encourage and inspire us, and I told them how so many CLC members in the States are praying for them. It was so wonderful to have these intimate conversations with these Christian "sisters," it was an experience I had not had on my past trip. We don't always get to hear about the great work that the women in India also do for the Lord, and spending a morning with some of these dedicated Sunday School teachers, wives, and mothers was a very uplifting and inspirational moment that I will treasure for a long time! I asked the women if we could get our pictures taken with them so I could capture this special moment in my trip and remember their faces. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get my camera photos uploaded while I'm here, but I will be sure to share photos to the blog when I get home!
Speaking of sisters, that is the title that Raven and I are given over here, and we know to simply listen for that word "sister" to know where to go and what to do. :) The people here are so respectful, caring, and protective of us. It's very touching and wonderful - Moms, we are in good hands and are well taken care of over here! ;) We daily hear "Come, sisters" when they want us to follow them somewhere, and "Sisters, have a seat" and "Please sit, sisters" when they want us to stop wandering around and sit and relax. :) Much of our morning at the seminary was spent sitting inside with fans blowing on us, while the women kept us company and served us coffee. Nireekshana's wife sat with Raven and me for a long time, and we were able to have some more conversations and get to know her better. She asked about the meanings of our first names, and then we learned how deeply thoughtful naming children must be here...We asked about her children, and she gave us these beautiful descriptions of the Biblical symbolism behind her three children's names. After asking about her children's ages and learning about their schooling, Annie asked me more about my role as a public school teacher and about what kindergarten is like in the States. She had just asked me to explain how I teach my students how to read, when we were interrupted by someone else. Later in the conversation Annie shared about the difficulties Christian churches in India face because of the predominantly Hindu political leaders. She mentioned some of the persecution, including how churches in other areas have been burned. She talked about how important it has been to India to have foreign missionaries come to share the Gospel with people. I also thanked her for all of the work that the CLCI Christians are doing to continue to water and grow the seeds of faith that have been sown in the fields of a nation that is so covered in idol worship. I consider it a beautiful blessing to have met this strong and kind pastor's wife and have had a heartfelt conversation with her. I wish I could bring her back home with me to meet all of you!
We had a delicious lunch there that afternoon with ice cream for dessert! We were asked to take group photos with the pastors on the roof, and the mission helpers talked with each other about how being up on a flat roof like that really helps you imagine some of the Bible accounts such as David watching Bathsheba on the roof and people lowering the sick and lame man through the roof to get Jesus to heal him. After the photo taking, we stayed up there for awhile to look around and enjoy the breeze.
We had our first VBS session that night...and it was quite the late night session! We arrived around 8:30 pm, but no one was there yet because it had just rained earlier and there was a delay. I think we started around 10, and all of our lessons went longer than we had expected, and by the time we wrapped everything up, it was close to 1 AM! We all tweaked our lesson plans to condense them and Saturday's lessons went much more smoothly and efficiently. We started VBS earlier on Saturday night and were done by 8:30. I want to write more about Saturday's sightseeing and teaching, but will save that for a separate post.
It's 7:30 AM here in Guntur, and we are leaving for a Sunday church service at 10. We'll be doing our VBS lessons at church, and it sounds like we don't have anything scheduled for tonight so we can rest. Thanks for your continued prayers!
- Sister Becky and Sister Raven