Becky again, with some more CLCI team memories...and a correction to my previous post: We drove to Ongole on July 20, not the 13! Oops!
On the evening of Thursday, July 21, we went to a reservoir that was nearby a Hindu temple. The sun was beginning to set which made our walk around the water extra beautiful! Pastor Jyothi was very protective of Raven and me, requesting that Raven and I hold each other's hands as we walked down a rocky path towards the shore. He also made sure to hold my hand as I navigated a pile of sandbags that led to the boat we took for a scenic boat ride around the reservoir. My parents were happy to hear that I was in such good hands! :) As we began our boat ride, Nireekshana joked, "Everybody pray!" which made us all laugh...and when our tour guide let Pastor Joel and Alex take turns steering the boat, Nireekshana laughed, "Now everybody REALLY pray!" It was fun to spend some relaxing, quiet time on the waters with our CLCI friends and enjoy the sunset and the waves.
After the boat ride, we walked through some gardens, and then across a long bridge towards a Hindu temple. There were a bunch of monkeys along the road on the bridge, and we ended up spending so much time looking at and taking photos of the monkeys, that the sun had completely set and it was dark when we finally reached the temple. The doors in the temple for the rooms that held the idols were closed/locked for the night, and we commented about the "gods" needing to sleep after doing nothing all day. Since that night, I have been reminded of these passages from Jeremiah 10: "A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good." As I wrote in an earlier post, these visits to temples are a strong visual reminder of the need to share the Gospel and point lost souls to the one true living God, who "never slumbers or sleeps." (Psalm 121:3-4)
That night during VBS, a young couple brought their baby for her first rice ceremony. Before the ceremony, Pastor Jyothi told Pastor Peter that the couple would also like for him to name the baby, so "think of a good name." I don't know what I would have done under that pressure, but Pastor Peter did very well! With only a few minutes to decide on a name, he announced that he had chosen the name "Ruth" and explained how Ruth in the Bible was the woman who gave up everything to follow God. He then blessed and prayed for baby Ruth and her parents. It was very beautiful!
On the way back to the hotel that night, Pastor Jyothi asked Raven and me what we think of the Telugu language. We said that we really like it and would love to learn more, but that it sounds very fast to us and we had difficulty remembering the few words and phrases that Pastor Peter had been trying to teach us. Jyothi nodded and then asked us what we thought was difficult, "The consonants or vowels...?" We said "maybe the vowels," and that turned out to be an accurate thought as he revealed to us that there are 26 different vowel sounds in Telugu!
Thinking back to that conversation, I just remembered something that Pastor Nireekshana's wife told Raven and me that first Friday morning that we spent at the CLCI seminary, having coffee with her. She said, if we only learn one Telugu word, we should learn "Wandanalu" which is the Telugu greeting that the Christians use with one another and I'm told is like "Praise the Lord!" All of us mission helpers used that greeting as we introduced ourselves before our lessons, and I smile whenever I think of all the children enthusiastically shouting "WANDANALU!!!" back at us after Pastor Jyothi's prompting. That is one Telugu word that will stick not only in my mind, but also in my heart!