Hi everyone! This is Becky from the CLCI team, now back at home in Wisconsin! I am sorry I disappeared from the blog for the last part of our trip...we were very busy sightseeing by day and teaching by night, and when I had free time at the hotels I would end up falling asleep! I still wanted to share some memories from the last week of our trip with you, so let's see what I can remember from where I left off...
On Wednesday, July 13, we left Vijayawada to drive a few hours out to Ongole, which would be our last big destination of the trip. We would stay in Ongole for four nights and travel out to surrounding villages for teaching. It was a bright and sunny morning as we ventured out to Ongole, but we were slowed down by some heavy traffic leaving the city, and by the CLCI's vehicle breaking down several times along the journey. Half of our team rode in the CLCI's Scorpio (usually Solomon, Pastor Joel, Pastor Jyothi, Raven, and me) while the other half rode in a rented vehicle with a hired driver (usually Pastor Peter, Alex, Pastor Nireekshana and Premkumar). Our team handled the vehicle issues very patiently and calmly...our driver would carefully guide the vehicle to the side of the road, all of the men would hop out of their vehicles to work under the hood and sometimes push the vehicle to get it going. Then we'd be off again for awhile before we'd repeat this process, but eventually we made it to our destination without too many problems or delays. By the grace of God, the Scorpio kept coming back to life and got us to all of our destinations safely for the rest of our travels! The CLCI would very much like to get this vehicle replaced, so please remember this need in your prayers!
During this road trip, Solomon kept us entertained by turning on a mix CD of hundreds of Christian songs that also included a bunch of familiar Christmas carols! Raven and I laughed and smiled as we sang along to an upbeat version of "Jingle Bells" as we drove through the sunny and hot landscape of Andhra Pradesh! Pastor Jyothi asked to turn the volume up when songs that Raven and I had sung during VBS came on (My God is So Great, I've Got the Joy Down in My Heart, What a Friend We Have in Jesus). It was a lot of fun to hear and sing a variety of songs, some of which were old Sunday School classics that I hadn't heard since I was a little girl. Pastor Joel, Raven, and I would come back to the hotel each night humming or whistling the songs as we walked up the stairs to our rooms, sometimes purposely trying to get certain songs to pop into one another's heads. The next morning, Solomon had the hip-hop/techno beat Christmas medley at full blast and I could hear it as soon as I got to the hotel parking lot. So when I opened the car door and heard "Feliz Navidad" was playing, I started singing it really loud and dancing outside the car door, which made Solomon laugh!
Wednesday night's events included a brief visit to a little girl's birthday party and a VBS session at a nearby church. We gathered with some children and adults at a church building near the birthday party. The children sang some songs, and Raven and I were asked to sing a song for them so we changed things up from our usual and performed "This Little Light of Mine." Then we were asked to distribute necklaces to each of the children. After I put a necklace around the neck of a teenage girl, she pointed to her cheek and said, "Kiss my cheek, please" with a smile. At first I thought I misunderstood her, but she repeated the request, and I kissed her cheek. She smiled really big, and excitedly placed a coffee flavored candy into the palm of my hand, saying "Take this!" She then ran over to Raven and gave her a candy too. Her excitement to be with us really touched my heart!
We walked outside to where the birthday party was being held, and were introduced to the birthday girl who was a wide-eyed little girl of three years old. We did a general prayer for all of the children, and in the short time before and after, many of the women and children introduced themselves to me and asked me to sit down with them for awhile, asking me if I came from America and wanting to practice saying my name. I was able to snap a few photos before we were told it was time to go, and we jumped back into the vehicles and waved goodbye to the kindhearted people who were just so welcoming to us in the few minutes we spent with them before we went on to our VBS lessons at another church.
Besides the Christmas tunes in the car, it also felt like Christmas in July as we were asked to present delayed Christmas gifts of shirts for men and saris for women at some of the churches. It may have been Wednesday night, I can't remember now, but a couple of the women that we presented Christmas saris to were women who had grown up in the CLCI orphanage. It was very neat to meet those women and see them continuing to serve and worship the Lord!
We had several requests for prayers that night, and one that stands out in my memory was a young man who came to me. He told me how he had just finished his schooling/training (I couldn't catch the exact details) and he asked me to pray that he would find a good job. That prayer request hit close to home for me as I too am currently looking for a new job. I don't think that young man realized that praying with him also brought me great encouragement. I trust that God will answer both of our prayers in His perfect ways and timing!