Saturday, February 5, 2011

India: Recap/Week One

I had such an amazing experience this trip to India. It's always a little bit of a challenge to describe these trips in a precise way and in a matter of one sentence, while doing it justice all at the same time. It almost can't be done. This trip was so life changing, eye opening and literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to go. I can't believe that I've had the privilege and blessing to go three times. WOW! There are several ways that I would describe this trip. I feel deeply connected with India, and love it so much! Even more than before. The people of India, Harvest India, the ministries they do and how big & at work God is. During this trip, I got so much clarity. I want to go back so badly, but the clarity that I got was I specifically want to be able to help out with the nursing school Harvest India has started, and also be able to help with the pregnancy center that is in the works. Something interesting about this trip is that I felt like I was attacked mentally; I was in a bit of a funk when I was in India and felt like in my own mind I had few issues and a hard time fitting in with the team while I was there. But I also felt that God was so near and sustaining me during the same time. And I have learned so much about myself along the way. I also really feel like India has sunk deep into the depths of my heart...really, it takes so much time to really be able to soak it in, get to know India and have it sink in. Even after going three times, I'm just beginning to scratch the surface.

Anyway, on to the details of the trip...I've decided to break it down into 2 posts, for my own writing to be broken up, and to also allow for anyone to read in two parts for ease:

Day one: we arrive to India at 4:30am. We wait for out luggage and find the Harvest India staff at the airport. At 6:30am we leave the airport after filling the bus to the brim with our luggage. We drove from Hyderabad to Tenali. Normally about an 8 hour bus ride. But we got caught in traffic and we didn't arrive in Tenali until about 5/5:15pm. That was after 22 hours of flying! But, all the tiredness and grumpiness was lifted when we had a orphans at the Harvest India public school give us such an amazing welcome. It felt like a welcoming back home, seeing Suresh and Christina and their family, and the staff I've gotten to know, and to see John Brokenshire again. I found out that the kids were also at the school so late because they get tutored until about 5. I was very blessed to also get to sit next to Tracy on the team during the long bus ride. I feel like we had good conversations and I got to know her a little better.

Day Two: Vacation Bible School with 800-1000 orphans. Beautiful chaos. I was helping with "Bible Verse Memory", which I had done last year. But was having a hard time getting in a grove with teaching the kids. A lot of things in the way we were teaching had been changed up from last year, and it wasn't easier and it threw me off. We also got to attend the wedding of one of Suresh's foster daughters, Kumari. This was a first for me. I knew Kumari. A young and beautiful woman of 20 years old. But there is a big amount of celebrating before the wedding. I got to see the exchanging of bridal gifts between families. Which is a big thing in the culture, and was so fun to see how Suresh and his "men" received gifts on behalf of the grooms family. Its a big deal. And then all the girls got turmeric on their feet. (Which sort of turned into a turmeric fight, started by the Indian women.) The wedding was such a unique experience. To give y'all an idea of what it was like, the bride and groom sat in these big thrown like chairs on the VBS stage. The Rockharbor team sat on stage with them. The couple had met each other before and talked, but had never touched. It was an "arranged" married between Kumari and the son of a Harvest India pastor. During the ceremony, the grooms friends kept coming up to tell the groom something. The ceremony was beautiful, and some of the big parts of the ceremony were when the fathers placed the bride and grooms hands together to hold hands for the first time. They had such innocence, and also peace about them both. The thing that must be known though, is that Indian weddings are taken very seriously. Both the bride and groom keep a straight face the whole time. Now Kumari lives with her husband, about 3 hours away from Tenali.

Day Three: Right after breakfast, we had a "Leprosy Camp" where we ministered to and prayed for people suffering from leprosy, and we provide them with food and clothing. This is a very beautiful ministry. At the same time it's a bit challenging for me because I feel like ikt's so hard to be there for only 10 minutes and then have to leave. I really need more time to grasp what we are doing and really see the people I am suppose to be ministering to. We are reaching out to these people who are outcasts in their own country because of their illness! But, I will never for the people who came. Especially a man named Israel, who is one of the most joyful people I've met. Right after that we literally hopped into cars to VBS. Again, beautiful chaos. I had been praying a lot because I hadn't been seeing or recognizing any of the kids from the last 2 years. It was a much better day of teaching the Bible verses...I wasn't in as much of a funk. Was starting to connect with the kids again, and loved singing their songs with them when we were all in the tent together.

Day Four: Last day of VBS. I had a sense of joy this day. And, I had a prayer answered. I saw several kids that I knew from previous years! Especially the little boy who was the youngest orphan Harvest India has taken in. And a friend of mine, who I met because we were both suppose to go on the December 2008 trip, sponsors a little girl that I spent a lot of time with. Her name is Nagassari, and she's gotten to meet her sponsor Erinn several times and they have a pretty special closeness and bond. I saw her in Bible Verse memory, and when I told her I was Erinn's friend she got so excited and we connected. During our lunch break, we had the priviledge of visiting with the women who live in the Ashraya house at HI. They are women who were once living in prostitution, and have be taken out of it and live at the Ashraya house making a living by sewing beautiful bags and pajamas (they call them punjammies). It was a very sweet time getting to see their work and talk with them and just be with them, knowing that God is so big and cares so much for us and does free and gives worth to people. Then, we finished VBS with a great time singing with the kids. Afterwards, we took ALL the orphans from VBS and went on a parade through the town of Tenali. I've done it before, but it seemed different this time. I just remember being struck with, "wow! We are walking in the roads of India. With real Indian people staring at us, and real India dirt and smells. And I'm holding hands with sweet Indian children who are so excited to be doing this with us." There were Harvest India signs with Suresh's picture on them and the kids would point and say "dad". And to be able to show the town that we are treating these children as loved and not by their cast; and the children got to feel apart of something so big (as did I) and watch as Daniel from our team preached the Gospel to the town of Hindus. The excitement was so big, you couldn't contain it.
Seeing as this was December 31st, we had a big New Years celebration that evening. The girls got dressed in their sari's, and we celebrated! We went back to the Harvest India campus in the tent that was set up for VBS. Before I could walk into the tent, Nagassari found me and handed me a letter to give to "Sister Erinn". The kids performed dances they had learned and some of the Harvest India staff and orphans shared what they were thankful for. Then it was time for the big firework show. As we got up from our seats to go outside, Nagassari and I found each other and stayed hip to hip the entire time. The men from the HI staff go all out crazy with homemade fireworks. It's the craziest thing to experience as these grown men are playing with fireworks and keep them in their hands as they are going off. To be holding hands with more orphans than you can fit around you, all talking and then watching the fireworks up in the air at the same time when they go off all saying "ahh" or "wow" together. We then broke bread all together to celebrate 2011! It was a late night, but seriously there is no other way to celebrate New Years.

Day Five: New Years Day! We held a clothing distribution camp for the poor. That's always a little hectic with so many people grabbing for clothes and also wanting to be close to the team. Then, we divided into 3 groups and went to New Years church services. The group I was in got had the privilege of attending church at John Babu's church. John Babu is a Harvest India pastor who also helped translate from English to Telugu during VBS. It was such a small church, but it was packed. And John Babu has such a beautiful family we were blessed to meet. We had some time to rest, and then we all ate dinner together as a team.

Day Six: We slit into two groups and went to Sunday church services. The village and church we visited was very welcoming. We got there early (a rare occurrence in India - haha) and got to walk around the village. It was a pretty big village, and they had a Hindu temple we walked to juts to see. One thing that stuck out to me were the one or two faces painted on the building that are scary faces painted red to scare away evil spirits. And no one was really in it or walking to it...which I am pretty sure is because the village has a good amount of Christ followers. Anyway, the church congregation was so ernest and powerful in their worship.

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