I’m not sure what you all think of when you hear about India, but the chances are pretty high that it may not be completely what the majority of the pictures I have posted look like. I’ve given you a pretty good idea of what living in a city in India looks like, but yesterday was the first day that we got really far out of the city and embraced village life for a few hours.
Does this look more like what you imagine when you think of India?
Yesterday morning we went out and did some errands, then around 3:00 we headed out with Sukumar, one of the ICM staff who works closely with CCDC – Covenant Child Development Centers. To give you a basic run down of what CCDC does – it is basically a before and after school program for 25 children in villages. The kids come, get tutored and homework help from a teacher that the pastor has hired, are served one (hopefully two soon) good meal, worship, learn about the Bible, and then are sent home in the evening. It is a GREAT program because it helps kids get help with their education that they would NOT be able to get at home, plus teaches them about the Bible, and puts food in their stomaches. The kids in this program also have the fees for English school paid for them in an effort to get them an English education and break the cycles they’ve been in for so long.
We were going to do a couple hours of VBS (as we did the day before at CCH Addanki), but instead of just having the children in the program, we would also have as many village kids that wanted to come since it is still summer break from school in India as well. So, we made plans for anywhere from 20 to 50 or perhaps 75 kids.
On the drive to the village, Sukumar told us quite a bit about CCDC and just how important it is because Hinduism and trafficking are so promiment in these villages. The goal is to educate these students, introduce them to Jesus through the church the CCDC is at, and eventually introduce their families to Jesus as well. So, there are SO many benefits from this program – education, food, and eternal life!
When we got to the village, Courtney said, “this village looks familiar. Were we here last year?” I wasn’t as certain as her because it was daytime and all the villages we went to last year were at night. However, as we drove through, more and more things looked familiar and we were both pretty convinced we may have been at this same village last year. As the children started coming, we recognized a few faces on a year older body. We told Sukumar that we thought we may have been here last year and he asked the kids if they remembered us. Sure enough, over 90% of them instantly said that they remembered us! How crazy – out of all 22,000 villages in Andhra Pradesh, we were randomly at the same one that we had been to last year!
Wish your church was pink?
Pause as I apologize for how long this post has already been/will be. Today was probably one of my favorite days in India thus far and I have much to say about it. :)
Anyways, we went to the pastor’s house while the children were gathered. The weather cooled a little bit in the time we were waiting, so we decided to walk to to the church and hold our VBS there. As we walked and got started, our numbers multiplied from about 20 to – well – this is how many we had by the end:
Not only that, but pretty much the whole village was crowded around the church watching us. We started out with a few games, taught the kiddos some exercises (we did this at camp. The kids all loved it, and it’s super adorable to watch, so we’ve decided it is going to be a staple in all of our VBS’ too. :)), then did a lesson with them on the Good Samaritan. We had a coloring sheet for them about the story, a memory verse, and then we did another game, a few action songs (Indians LOVE the Hokey Pokey!), then prayed for several people before heading back to the pastor’s home for dinner!
One thing you should know about being white in India is that people go out of their way to serve you here. I can’t tell you how many cold sodas we have been given, how many expensive (by Indian standards) meals we have been prepared just because it would be an honor to have us eat with them, how quickly an Indian will run to find us a chair (no matter where we are), bring us a fan, carry our stuff, and pretty much anything else you could think of. It is quite humbling and makes me feel a little guilty (but deep down, it’s really nice. :)), but it would be offensive if we didn’t let them do these things for us! The people in India love to serve, but especially in the villages. We discovered this last year when we would go out for village church in the evenings.
This Kansas girl loves being out in the villages. It is more quiet, the people are great, there is such a sense of community, and there is so much love to go around. It even smells a bit like cattle (actually, probably water buffalo)…ahh, the smells of home. :) I felt SO at home sitting in the red dirt with these kids, loving on them, and playing with them. I’m not sure I stopped smiling the whole time. :) (that’s probably not true. It was still pretty hot, though considerably cooler than it has been lately).
The pastor’s family cooked us a phenomenal chicken curry and chippati meal. The chicken was probably the best village chicken I have ever had (as far as what I remember from last year). They are such servants, bringing us coconuts to drink (yes, don’t worry, I still hate coconut. Even when it’s in milk form. Even when it is still warm…blech. But I choked it down. :)), buying us glass bottles of the coldest soda in the village, cleaning our hands for us, and just bending over backwards to bless us!
We headed out of the village a bit after 7. The drive home was full of conversation between the two of us and Sukumar as he shared his testimony with us. He has worked in so many different jobs, at one point making 33,000 rupees a month – equivilant to about $650 in the US, a phenomenal amount of money for an Indian – as a bank manager.
He also worked as a telephone operator for a company that sold products in the US. Now, this was an interesting conversation. I am sure that perhaps your blood is boiling as you are reading this as you think about some experience you have had with an obviously foreign phone operator for a company. Sukumar shared with us quite honestly about what it is like to be on the other side of that. He told us how hurtful Americans are. He talked about how we take things way too seriously and are only concerned about ourselves. He said that he talked to more angry/mean/rude people than nice ones. He told us how much it hurt his feelings to be treated like that. Please take this into consideration next time you have to make one of those “dreaded calls.” Though these people may not live in the US, they are people too. They have feelings, and those feelings get hurt just like ours do. You likely won’t be the only person who would be rude to them that day, but you could perhaps be the only person who is nice to them. Which one would you rather be?
Anyways…back from that rabbit trail, Sukumar and his wife Hannah both had high paying, high end jobs but they decided to give them up and work for God. Sukumar told of how phenomenal the blessings since making that choice have been. He talked about how blessed he was to have changed job fields so much because he can now use all of those talents for the glory of God through his position with ICM.
We had a great time talking to him and learning so much about his life and story. Today will be another trek out to a different village later this afternoon (we will be at the village as you are probably waking up and reading this) for another VBS. Apparently this village is kind of tricky to get to, so pray for safe travels and, for once, no rain because rain would make it VERY hard to get to/out of this village. But tomorrow is the start of rainy season here, and we are very hopeful that this will actually bring rain and hopefully cooler temperatures!
I will probably post another shorter blog when we get home from the village tonight. Mostly because I got a new sari yesterday that I will be wearing today and I just want to show it off. ;)
Missing Kansas quite a bit as I woke up to see pictures of the storms that rolled through last night! Not much I love more than standing at the Metro with a cup of hot tea and some of my favorite people watching a huge storm roll through. Call me crazy but I LOVE a big ‘ol Kansas thunderstorm! I will be home in just 2 short weeks – and I can’t wait! I’ve got nine days left in Ongole, 2 days in Hyderabad, 3 days in Europe, then Kansas it is!
Have a great day!
Oh, also, is this NOT the cutest picture you’ve seen in a long time!? This little guy was SO happy as he took his bath – singing, dancing, and just loving the water! So fun to watch. :)