Becky and Raven here again (Becky typing)! We're hanging out in our hotel room at the moment after eating a big Indian buffet-style/continental breakfast and taking our anti-malaria meds. :) Raven told me I did the Indian head wobble this morning when I was responding to a question she asked me (they sort of wobble their heads back and forth to say yes instead of nodding up and down like we do), and I didn't even realize I had done it...so I guess I am acclimating well to my new environment! ;)
Yesterday's church service was such an awesome experience for me. I definitely had some emotional moments, being so filled with joy and gratitude for being there. We taught VBS before church to an adorable group of children of various ages, and many women came to church as well. There were very few men, and Pastor Jyothi said the men were out working in the fields and couldn't attend. We also met the pastor's son and he introduced me to his sister. I told him how my father is also a pastor and he smiled. He seemed to enjoy talking to fellow PK Alex too. :)
Raven and I teach the song "I've Got the Joy Down in My Heart" to the children before our lessons, and we both cannot get that song to stop running through our heads. But I don't mind too much because it's exactly how I feel when I'm with my Christian brothers and sisters in India - "I'm so happy, so very happy!" I definitely felt the joy in my heart as we sang and clapped to the song and I looked into the smiling faces and big, beautiful eyes of the children singing and dancing along with us. These kids fill my heart to overflowing, there's no other way to describe it!
I found myself going into full school teacher mode in the middle of my lesson yesterday, when I noticed a group of boys chatting away and disrupting some of the kids around them. While Pastor Nireekshana was translating something I said, I leaned down towards the boys, gave them the "teacher look" (but with an immediate smile) and held my finger to my lips to quiet them. I don't think they expected it, haha. But it did the trick. ;) I was waaaay more gentle in my approach than the Indian adults are....the other night, rowdy kids got a swat with a stick by one of the men! For the most part though, all of the kids have been very attentive, especially for sitting through 4 different lessons and having to listen to English first and then the words repeated in Telugu.
After teaching, it was time for the church service to start. Pastor Jyothi had a few Sunday School girls come up front to do an absolutely adorable, energetic action song. I got a video of it that I will upload and share to the blog when I get back home next week. I had only been to one other church service in India besides this one, and I saw similarities in this service to the one I attended in 2013. Lots of repetitions of what the Pastor says (like a congregational response, but because they don't have bulletins/service folders to read from, they repeat each phrase as the Pastor leads). There was lots of singing and clapping, accompanied by a rhythmic drumbeat, played on bongo type drums by Pastor Nireekshana. I was able to pick out the "traditional" aspects of a Lutheran service... invocation, confession of sins, scripture readings and sermon text, offering, benediction, etc. Pastor Fleischer preached the sermon with Pastor Jyothi translating. It was based on the text of Matthew 18, about the disciples question of "who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Pastor introduced it with the story from the previous night of when the political leader came in and everyone stopped what they were doing to honor him. He talked about how being so great and important is appealing to all of us, but that Jesus used the example of a little child to show us that believers should be trusting, believing, humble, and follow what their heavenly Father tells them to do, just as very little children are and do. Pastor Fleischer had many sweet little children in front of him to use as visual examples of his preaching!
Communion was very similar to what we do in the US, except the congregation formed more of an assembly line and grabbed their bread from Pastor Fleischer, their individual wine cup from Pastor Evensen, and received a blessing from Pastor Jyothi ("May this eating and drinking strengthen and preserve you..."). He put his hand on their heads and then traced the sign of the cross. Everyone then takes their bread and wine to their own spots on the floor and consumes it there. I got a little teary-eyed and emotional as I received the Lord's Supper from these three wonderful pastors and took part in it with CLCI church members. Such a blessing to have this unique experience.
After church, we distributed gifts to the children and adults. The kids then repeatedly came up to Raven and me, saying "Hi! Hi!" and shaking our hands. There was a group of little girls that kept crowding around me, just beaming with joy and just wanting to stand near me and smile their gorgeous smiles. I asked if I could take a picture with them, and as soon as I brought out my camera, a few more girls came running up to the join the picture. Later, one little girl gestured to me that she wanted to take a picture with me, and as I kneeled down beside her to get ready to take a "selfie" with her, a bunch of the others ran up and gathered around me. I thanked the kids for the pictures, telling them that I would look at them at home and be able to always remember them and pray for them. They all just smiled and giggled and covered their faces in glee and embarrassment. :) One of the girls said "pen" and pretended to write on her palm, and I figured out she wanted my autograph when several other children held out their hands. Alex loaned me a pen and I began to fulfill a dozen requests for hand autographs, feeling like a celebrity. The pastors began telling me, "Sister, it's time to go." So I began saying goodbye, which prompted all the kids to repeatedly shake my hand and say "Bye! Bye!" Pastor Jyothi said something about "They want to take you home with them!" But I didn't catch if he meant the mission helpers wanting to take the kids home or the kids wanting to take us home. Either way, I would agree to it if I could! The children were so precious and smiled their ways into my heart...."down in my heart to stay!"
The sweeties also ran back to our vehicle just as we were about to drive away, carrying a bottle of Mazza (mango juice drink) that I had left in the church. They didn't want me to forget it. Aww. :) Part of me thinks they just wanted an excuse to see us again though! ;)
Today (Monday) we are planning to tour some Buddhist caves and then go right to our teaching location after. However, we learned this morning that the CLCI's vehicle broke down and had to be towed to a shop to get fixed....so please pray for that! In the meantime, we are hanging out around our hotel and relaxing. The wifi has been having issues so not sure when and how often Raven and I will be online, but we'll update when we can!