Our last Sunday in India. Three churches visited.
This morning like last Sunday we split up into two groups to visit two different churches. This time Dave, Lauren, and I went with Bishop to one of the churches. Elton, Sarah, Amanda and Heather followed Keren and Promoth to their church where it also happened to be the church's anniversary.
Keren and her family had presented the women with beautiful sarees and for church we decided to wear them to be in our "best". The day before it seemed to be a hit with the kids when we wore it for the last day of VBS. This time we decided to be brave and try to attempt to put on the sarees ourselves without our professionals from the day before. The other girls did fairly well with the help of Lauren's lead. I tried to bring it back with previous saved folds but utterly failed after 30 minutes and just started all over; thankfully we all passed when the pros saw us.
Last time I went with Promoth and didn't have to share at the worship service, but legend has it, if you go with Bishop, be prepared to share something. Although we thought we had 45 minutes to prepare on the drive, maybe 20 minutes had passed and we had arrived. I jot down a few bullet points and had an idea of what to share. I was a bit nervous having never shared in front of church formally before. Lauren and Dave were pros at this point.
There was a surprise welcome when I felt a few pinches on my toes from some tiny red ants, but a warm welcome when we recognized some of the kids from VBS and coincidentally, they were also on the bus ride that Amanda and I went on the previous week. We followed the Bishop in and sat humbly in the front of the church trying to look formal in our sarees and necktie ready.
The kids shared what they learned from camp, with a summary of S.O.A.P. using the verse "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. Lean not on your own understanding..." Then a boy who was maybe 3 years old recited about 50 verses in 2 minutes! I thought he was going to say a verse or two and then it kept going! Very impressive.
The Bishop prompted that the ladies would share first, then Dave. Luckily, Lauren went first and shared about her life this past year and the struggles she's been going through and how Jesus heals. Then I shared some of my testimony on how God spoke to me one night about missions and how I ended up in India. The kids shared earlier the same verse that I used about trusting in the Lord and seeing where he'd take me in this life. Thankfully for the translation time, I was able to gather some thoughts to figure out how I would transition part of the story together. It wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be (except for the guy falling asleep in the back) and it actually felt really good to share. It was Dave's turn next and he talked about his journey and how he made it to India. He also shared something new about a fear he had and had a similar message of trusting in the Lord and his future. The Bishop then summed up all our messages and then they blessed us with a yummy chilled green coconut to drink. Nobody got up to leave until we finished our drinks and left the building. I would have liked to stay and talk a little to everyone, but it was our time to go. They walked us out and stood by the gate while they bid us farewell.
Our group was the first to arrive home and had some extra time so we learned about Dave and how he wooed his wife. Very interesting stuff, but I'll let him tell you the details. It was about an hour or so until the other group arrived tired and drained. Everyone had shared and Promoth had to keep sharing until the food for the anniversary was ready. Since we had to leave for the evening church service at 5, three of us decided to stay in our sarees through lunch and the afternoon to not attempt to wrap, fold, and pin the outfits all over again. Thus, sarees all day. Lauren would say, "Yes, my Christmas ribbon," because of the stiff and plaid material. Heather had "extra" material because she was so petite and it was another challenge because hers was so soft it was bunching up and poofing out under her. We managed.
It was a long, dark bus ride to the church that met in the evening but we arrived safely to the sound of drums and singing. It was the first time our whole group was able to attend a service together. The church welcomed us with open arms and even had a few well-prepared performances. The young girls had beautiful white dresses with scarves over their heads and even glitter makeup on their eyes and cheeks. They danced gracefully in a circle around a boy who was portraying Jesus. Then the boys danced to a local song cheerfully shaking their hips with their hands on their waists and stomping their bare feet. Everyone was very impressed. Elton spoke his message about God remembering His people in India, and how He'll never forget them even when He doesn't seem to be around. We were able to talk to some people afterward and one lady came up to me gladly sharing how she was a teacher too at a local school. The girls giggled after their pictures were taken and we shook hands with a few of them. As we got on the bus, a few boys ran up to us to say a few last words, and everyone smiled and waved goodbye as we waited for the bus to leave.
All in all, it was a lot of church to have in one Sunday, but it was an honor to be accepted the way that each person did. Our sarees made it through the day temporarily, but the memory of the warm smiles and handshakes from these people will remain forever.