31 July 2007

From Rick Nelson

On Monday and Tuesday we have had a chance to do some sight seeing and shopping for gifts. Of course the greatest gift of the Gospel has been given to all the Indian villages where we have visited. And they have left us with the memories that will last forever.

There are many things that I look forward to when I get back to the States. There are not as many things that I will miss about India. But there is one thing that will never get old. Yesterday after visiting the Santhome Cathedral Basilica some of the Mission Helpers were comunicating with a five young Indian school kids. As we drove off the kids spoke some of the very little english that they knew. They ran down the street after us yelling, "Bye, bye, bye!" They kept running and waving until we were out of site. That will never get old.

I guess I would like to take this oportuntity to thank the Mission Board and the MHT leaders who made the trip possible. It is clearly God's will for us to continue this program. Also, thank you to everyone who kept us in their prayers as we were here in India.

Rick Nelson
Mission Helper - India

28 July 2007

From Pastor David Baker

One of the outstanding features of the evening services which sticks out in my mind is the night that a group of Hindu adults congregated outside the church to listen to what was going on. Our driver was also outside and walked in and out among them. He overheard them talking among themselves and saying that they were impressed with the Christian religion. Hopefully, something good will come of it.

On another night, we were told by the Pastor in advance to expect 40 children for VBS. Before we left to go to the church he called Jyothi and reported that we should expect 50. By the time VBS actually started we had 95!

On another night we were at a thatched roof church. It rained heavily on the way there, and it never stopped raining while we were there. The heavy rain did not stop either children or adults from coming to church. They packed the place even though they were drenched by the rain on the way there. V.S. would not allow anyone except Sandy and I to get out of the car and go into the building. The roof leaked and the wind whistled through the cracks of the walls. We were both soaked from rain and from the leaky ceiling. But I preached a brief Gospel message; we distributed gifts; and we left . . . in the driving rain.

Yesterday, July 27, 2007 was a milestone for brother V.S. Benjamin. It was his birthday. He is 87 years young! He remains quite active . . . spending time outside supervising the work at the CLCI rice fields; attending some of the nightly VBS programs and church services.

Also, the CLCI Seminary had a group picture taken yesterday. All 34 Seminary students were there for the picture. It was taken in the courtyard of the compound. It was impressive! Special T-Shirts with the CLCI logo were given to the 14 students in the graduating class for the picture.

Tonight (Saturday), we are scheduled to be at the church of brother Barnabas. On Sunday, we are at the mission compound for VBS with the children, Worship Service, and the farewell. Sunday night we travel to Chennai to meet up with the other two teams of the BELC.

From Kate Friedrichs

Wandanalu and greetings again from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India!

This is probably the last email update I will be sending from Guntur (where I've been for the last two weeks) as we are leaving tomorrow (Sunday) evening to meet up with the rest of the group in Chennai. I'm really looking forward to seeing them and to swapping stories! After arriving in Chennai, Monday and Tuesday will be spent sightseeing and shopping. We depart the Chennai airport Wednesday morning, have about a day of sightseeing in London, and arrive in Chicago on Thursday afternoon. If that sounds like too much to fit into that short amount of time, it's because there's a 10.5 hour time change. :)

Our time in India has been an incredible blessing, and I've so enjoyed getting to know the Benjamins and others -- they are wonderful people full of Christian love and hospitality. It's also been wonderful interacting with the orphans and all the children. I'm really going to miss those from the CLCI compound! And although I'm looking forward to coming home, I know it will be sad to leave them all on Sunday!

More about the CLCI Bible College
In my last email, I had talked about the CLCI seminary. I wanted to share a little more information with you. I had previously indicated that there were 17 students, but it turns out I was wrong. There actually are 32 students enrolled! There were 17 in class that day because of a bus strike and working in the fields. The maximum number of students they can take is 32, and there are actually nine on the waiting list! The students attend the seminary for three years, and in spring of 2008, there will be 14 students graduating -- the 10th graduation of the CLCI Bible Institute. The students range in age from 18 to 40.

CLCI Orphanage
I also learned more about the orphanage. The orphanage has a capacity of about 30 children. They range in age from 5 up to about 15. For various reasons, the children can not stay at the orphanage past about age 15. Fortunately, the government has a program that pays for childrens' schooling, higher education, and dowry, and also gives them a job! Students can qualify for this by performing well on a particular test, and from my understanding, many of the children at the orphanage do this. Even though the children leave the orphanage, they have been brought up in biblical teaching and with the knowledge of their Savior, so when they leave, they still stay in the church and continue in faith. Praise the Lord for this blessing!

Shout His Praises from the Rooftops
We have only two more VBS sessions left. Brother Jyothi reported a couple days ago that we have reached more than 900 children already, plus adults -- wow! But Brother Nireekshana also shared something that I hadn't thought of.... In addition to the children and adults who are present at the VBS and prayer meetings (some CLCI members, some other Christians, some unbelievers), there also are people sitting in their houses nearby hearing the message projected over the loud speakers! We are reaching even more people than we realized! What a blessing! May God's Spirit work saving faith in their hearts.

Thank you, as always, for your continued prayers and support. May God fill our final days with good memories and productive work through His Spirit!

To Him be the glory!


27 July 2007

From Rick Nelson

My previous letter for the blog was explaining about how poor the people are here in India. Well on Thursday we experienced it. It was a tough blow for our group. We came back to the hotel and some of us broke down. Tears were shed. It was extremely painful for all of us to see.

We visited a tribal village outside of Sri Kalahasti. Where these people live, the Hindu's will not come in and teach. These people are the "outcasts". None of the adults know how to read or write. The kids do have the oportunity to go to school. The parents work not to earn a living. They literally work in order to live. I snuck a couple of pictures of the huts where they sleep. These children sleep on the ground. Their roofs and walls are made of sticks, branches and leaves.

Before we left we pulled together some money. It was taken by the pastor and used to buy food for the whole village. Rice for more than 150 families. Think about what I just wrote. The offering that was collected was not used for a new ceiling fan, windows or doors for their worship facility. It was used to feed these people.

The only way I can contain myself when thinking about the widespread poverty across the nation is that they do not know how badly they have it. The children were just like any other kids. They laughed and giggled. They sang and listened to what we had to say. We taught them about their Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. That is worth more than all the rice in the world. Hopefully these people will be lead by the Spirit and included in His Kingdom. We understand that feeding these people is not the answer to their deapest need. Although that is the most obvious when you look at them. They are forever branded in my heart. Please pray for these people that they will drink of the living water so that they will thirst no more.

I can and will talk to anyone who wants to know more about this experience. I feel that it was very important for us to see and know about this. The fact that India is filled with these "outcast" tribal villages cannot be overlooked. Prayer is needed. I feel that we have a tremendous oportunity to share the Gosple with people who are rejected by the religious people in their own country. The door is WIDE OPEN. If you do not believe me, ask anyone that is on this trip. Better yet, experience it for yourself in 2009.

Rick Nelson
Mission Helper - 2007

26 July 2007

From Laura Hulke

Hello, everyone!Yesterday, we left Kadapa and arrived in Tirupati in the early afternoon. Victor had bought Alison and I punjabis on Tuesday, so we wore them all day. They're actually quite comfortable! Punjabis are a whole outfit that consists of very loose pants, a long dress-like shirt, and a shawl that is worn over the shoulders. My punjabi is black and white, and Alison's is red, gold, and white. Buying punjabis and saris is an interesting experience. The men keep throwing out more and more colors and patterns for you to choose from and expect you to decide very quickly. Women do not always shop that way!

We were very excited yesterday to meet up with the other BELC group, who is staying at the same hotel we are in Tirupati, the Hotel Bliss. This hotel is nice. When we arrived yesterday, we were told that there weren't any standard rooms available, so we will be in deluxe rooms for these first few nights. What a trial! Alison and I were delighted to find that our hotel room has a king-sized bed, a loveseat, a mini fridge, a full set of sheets on the bed, a table and chairs, a bathroom with a shower and curtain, and...my favorite part...toilet paper in the bathroom. What delicacies! It was wonderful to take a shower (rather than just dumping water on my head) for the first time in over two weeks.

It was also so encouraging to reconnect with the other BELC group. Alison and I talked with Dani and Danielle for a few hours last night, just swapping stories (they have a story about a bull who charged their VBS class) and showing off our saris and such. We think of the CLCI group often and wonder how everything is going for them. We'll be with the other BELC group until the end now. We also are back with Moses and Sonjay, and we met D. Paul this morning. We are looking forward to teaching three more classes and reaching more people here, especially since we've had a relatively light week so far.

Here's the plan for the rest of our time here: Today and tomorrow - The other group is off for classes and VBS, and we'll be going to Renigunta for our VBS class in the afternoon. Saturday - I think we're going to see the famous Hindu temple near Tirupati (people seriously make pilgrimages here), and then our group will be teaching VBS. Sunday - Church with D. Paul, and then the other group is teaching VBS. Then both of the groups will go to Chennai.
Monday and Tuesday - in Chennai, Wednesday - in London, Thursday - back to Chicago!

Blessings to all of you! Laura

From Heidi Maas

~The typical fare we enjoy at our host's compound is chicken or mutton with rice, along with soup, a side thing, and a fruit bowl. Also juice and water and then tea in the afternoon. But the last few days we've had new things, and they've caught on to give us smaller portions. One day we had various vegetables (beets, carrots, etc) mixed into the rice with shrimp. Also had scrambled eggs and garbanzo beans mixed in with a whole hard boiled egg on top. One day we had mystery meat which was pretty good taste wise but had the consistency of a hotdog....in India. We've also had deep fried tortilla with sugar inside, bread sandwich stuffed with garbanzo and egg, "French toast," and French fries. And they made us homemade poori yesterday- a real treat!

~One of the pastors wives asked me to French braid her hair. She really liked it. Then one of the Sunday school teachers wanted to do my hair in Indian braids. I liked it! It is so much fun to get to know these people on a day to day level.

~We got pulled over (random search?). Well, they were lucky because we didn't have the title papers in the SUV. But it was nothing crazier than a long wait of not knowing what all was going on while a mob of men talked with our driver outside the car. I love India! A new thrill, a new adventure, a new challenge every day.

~You know what else I really love? Every church is decked out in decorations like they're having a party every Sunday. Some have shiny sparkly streamers and others have tissue paper cut in decorative shapes. But they all have something up all year round.

~We were invited to sit in and listen to the sem classes the other day. It was pretty neat!

~Last night was incredible. It was at a super huge and beautiful church (like med. US size!). Well, it started out normal enough, except the kids were more excited than usual and that made for an interesting case to control. But we had great help from the seminary students and pastors. Still, nothing stood out the entire night incredibly out of the ordinary. These last few nights we've been able to hang around and talk with the people instead of rushing back to the hotel. We usually wait for Pastor Baker to pray over the adults while we visit and take pictures of everybody else. Well, last night while Pastor was praying, Whitney sat on the floor with the kids and started talking with them. Soon she suggested they pray. So she had a mob of little kids all bowed in prayer around her. I was thinking how so incredibly priceless that was when the older children started lining up in front of Kate and I. And one by one they removed their caps (boys) or covered their heads (girls) for prayer. I panicked. Ugh I panicked!!? There I had been admiring Whitney and now I was faced with the same opportunity...and I panick! Why? Why when I've been given a spirit of power and not timidity? I called Kate to my rescue and 10 seconds later I was clay in the Potter's hand again instead of a rock on His wheel. But it wasn't like I mustered myself up to it and then went ahead with it. I felt like a mouthpiece simply being spoken through because even though this was something new, it came without effort. Granted, I fumbled and mumbled over my words (it was nice that they couldn't understand my blumbled speech this time), but that didn't matter. The Holy Spirit was interceding to God the Father with groans and sighings (Please teach this girl to pray, Father!!). I'm sure He was also interceding in the children's hearts to! make a connection in spite of the language barrier. After praying for each of them, they'd look up and the expressions on their faces were priceless. Oh the faith of children! It was...I can't even describe it yet (rain check on this). But in simplistic words it was the bond of Christian Love that is so strong and surpasses everything. There were some 20 plus kids that each of us prayed over. I was so thankful for the opportunity to stay, esp. after such a roudy start. It ended most amazingly.

~One church we visited had a little drummer boy. He wasn't much older than 7 probably but man! Could he drum it! He played with every ounce of energy he had and he was so good! He played both the indian drum and american drum. He even had the serious "rocker expression" while he played. Also at that church a gecko ran through the crowd and caused quite the interruption (since people sit on the floor). But that was normal; as was the lightbulb stick falling to the ground and burning a hole in someone's shirt and then the carpet and later the power going out...they take it all in stride and maintain a very respectful and orderly atmosphere though. It's so terrific and oddly enough- refreshing to see.

~At another church, it was pouring rain after we finished teaching. And the SUV had to park a distance away because of the condition of the road. So we walked in the rain and mud! And it was so exhilarating! So refreshing! And it was so great cuz everyone along the road was smiling as we tromped through the mud (maybe they thought we were crazy, but I like to pretend they were smiling with us). :] And we had a great laugh about being wet...yes! - Just about being wet! - when we got back in the car.

~A new unique thing: as part of honoring us at one church, the children put flowers in our hair. Indian flowers smell sooooo good!!!

All for today.....Heidi Spring

From Dani Beekman

Hello everyone. We had quite the eventful day yesterday, I thought it was worth sharing. We are in Tirupati and we traveled to Sri Kalahasti for classes. We were hanging out in someone's house working on our craft. We of course gathered a crowd. There were about 8 women outside of the door just watching us. They motioned to Danielle and were pointing to their sarees. We didn't have sarrees. They giggled. They left and came back with pink sparkly bangles. Yes, pink AND sparkly. They told us to put them on our hands. So I did. Danielle couldn't get them on. They found some that fit Danielle and they were very excited. They came back a little bit later and they put jasmine in our hair it was so great. I think they felt bad for us. I must admit we probably do look kind of sad. At VBS that afternoon, everything was going as well as it could. We finished our lessons and the song and we just handed out the pens. We had VBS in the back street. There was a cow that had been wandering around during the whole thing. He wasn't a huge cow, but he had big horns. The cow got spooked and decided that he needed to go through the children. So he did. I had no idea what was going on. Children were jumping and screaming. There was a little girl that was stuck in between the cow's horns. A guy plucked her out. Lee, out of instinct, grabbed the bull by the horns. About 5 men also jumped on the cow and they got it out of there. I'm pretty sure that I witnessed a miracle last night. No one got hurt from the cow. One girl was crying because her foot hurt, but she was walking at the end. It was pretty much chaos after the cow. We decided it would be best if we just left. We got in the vehicle and we were discussing what had just happened.

We got stuck in traffic because there was a political demonstration. Some men were protesting congress. They had flags and were shouting and they were burning effigies. It was pretty intense. They marched past our car and Pastor chanted, "Congress, congress." Our driver was very concerned for our well being and told him, "No, no." There was an article in the paper this morning saying that they arrested some of those men. Like I said, it really is a miracle that we are all doing so well. We have definitely been able to see the hand of the Lord in everything that has happened.

Thank you all for your continued prayers.

25 July 2007

From Pastor Ohlmann

Things are busy here. It seems that there hasn't been much down time this trip other than traveling from place to place which almost qualifies as work itself. We are staying out in a town near many of the districts of the BELC so that we don't have to make that long drive through and from Chennai each day. We are staying in one of the "holiest" cities of Hinduism and the hotel is very nice but we don't spend much time here because it is still a 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hour drive each day to where Gui and I are teaching pastoral in the mornings. In the afternoons we travel to village congregations for the Children's evangelism programs. Yesterday we left at 8:30 am and got home at 9:30 pm. Today wasn't be quite as bad since we are a little closer to Sri Kalahasti where we will be teaching.

The hotel where we are staying here in Tirupati is a first class hotel but we are paying about $23 a night, which is very, very expensive here. They gave us a discount because the lady that checked us in remembered me from previous visits. Most of the hotels we stay in are about $12 to $15 a night. While this hotel is very nice, this is still an India hotel, so things are a bit dirty and not as comfortable like we expect in the US. I feel guilty staying here when we sit in the homes of our pastors over here and see the humble dwellings that they call home. What our group will spend in one week on hotel bills could pay the salary of one pastor for 6-8 months. I wonder to myself what the pastors think when we stay here. But they are the ones who find these hotels for us. I think that they view us as weak Americans who need these kind of amenities.
The routine has been the same as usual for me from the other times I have been here, except that we are driving from Tirupati instead of Chennai each day. We will stay here for 7 nights, so it is nice not to pack up and move every couple of days. We can hit four districts from here and the new BELC Bible College in Nagalapuram. We taught there the past two days. Today we went to Sri Kalahasti and again tomorrow and then Chittoor for two days. On Sunday we will go to church in the morning followed by VBS for the children. Then we will go see the big Tirumala Hindu temple complex at the top of the mountain after church and then off to Chennai for a couple of days of sight seeing and then HOME!!!

In Christ,
Pastor Ohlmann

24 July 2007

From Rick Nelson

I have gotten used to the smell here in India. I have become accustomed to the heat, the traffic, the massive amounts of people, and the general filthiness. The one thing that I am still struggling with is how poor these people are. God promises to provide us with food, clothing and shelter. Some of the people are clothed in tattered old clothes and their housing is barely shelter. I have seen some people this trip that look like they haven’t eaten in a couple of weeks. The water the Indians drink is from a well. But the plumbing from the houses runs outside and into the ground. Most houses do not have running water. Many do not have electricity. None of the houses are airtight; few have roofs that do not leak; bugs are the normal inside. Most people own bikes; some are motorized. A lot of people walk where they need to go. Very few people eat out and I have not seen a bar or pub. Food is not scarce but some people work all day so they can have money for food at night. Not many people here have a bank account where they keep their life savings. That is kept right in their pocket. So what is the point? I realized the poverty level when I first got to Chennai. I chose to suppress/ignore it until today. It has been weighing on my heart more and more. I finally put it together why it has been such a burden and why this really matters to me. Ya see, these people live in a society where poverty is the norm. A dark, dirty, sad, filthy life that they are completely used to. They know no difference. It was the world they grew up in. They do not know any better. This is how I wrote them off and did not let this poverty, that is all around me, bother me. But if you substitute the word “Hinduism” in the place of the word “poverty” in the last paragraph, that is where the problem lies. A person’s soul is something that we cannot put a price on.

We are not here in India showing the natives about our flashy,glitzy lifestyles. We are here showing them the Light of our lives. This makes me happy to know that we are helping. But helping is not solving. The very first day we got here, Pastor Ohlmann had a devotion. He suggested that we may get overwhelmed by the massive amounts of people and the few lives, in comparison, that we will actually touch. So for now, I am left with this helpless feeling. I think if enough of us experienced this, a difference could eventually be made on a much bigger level here in India. Perhaps that is the purpose of this Mission Helper Trip.

Rick Nelson
Mission Helper - India

23 July 2007

From Laura Hulke

Hello all -

I just wanted to send you all a quick update to let you know that I am feeling much better than yesterday. You might have read Pastor Reim's update on the blog that I was a little under the weather. I was running a slight fever and was very tired. I also had a little bit of an upset stomach, but it wasn't caused by food poisoning. Today, I am still a little out of it, but well enough to teach and all.

Not sure if I told you about Saturday yet. We went to a memorial park for the grandson of Gandhi. It was very peaceful there, and we were even able to have an impromptu VBS class of sorts! It was nice to get away from the noise and bustle of the city for a few hours. We even fed the monkeys. :-)

Sunday, we went to church in a village close to Kadapa. I have no idea what the name of it was. I wasn't feeling well throughout the service. During Pastor Reim's sermon, I decided it would be best if I laid down inside the van, so I went to the back of the church to tell Victor. He thought I needed a bathroom, so he led me outside, and a crowd of children followed. I finally was able to explain what I wanted, but I wasn't able to stay out there long because the children and others passing by were constantly peeking through the windows of the van. Not exactly relaxing. After church, I came back and slept for almost the rest of the day and night.

Today, we all went to Victor's house for Bible class. Alison and I left to pick up some pens for the children, and then we went back to the hotel. We've found a decent restaurant to eat at, so I was able to eat something for the first time in a day and a half. That chocolate milkshake really hit the spot!

This afternoon, we taught part of a class to a group of children from the surrounding area. We later found out that they didn't go to Victor's church. They were such good children and sat and listened so well that we were disappointed when they had to leave partway through Pastor Reim's lesson to go back to school. Apparently there was a little bit of miscommunication as to how long they were able to stay. All we can hope for is that the seed of the Gospel that we planted flourishes through the work of the Holy Spirit.

We leave Kadapa in two days! :-) We're looking forward to meeting up with the other groups soon.

Best wishes to all of you,

From Alison Hansen

Greetings from Kadapa,My spirit has been lifted since I last wrote. Thank you for all your prayers. I have no doubt that the Lord has been at work on all of us here in India. Being in India not only allows us to preach the gospel but also enlightens us to who we really are. My whole group sees my weaknesses when we are in the trenches. I am so blessed to have people who will listen and give me Godly advice and not just let me whine. A passage that really helped me when I started complaining was Phillipians 2:14. Our Lord tells us that whining and complaining avail little and that we need to take our cares and troubles to our Lord and not let ourselves get down. In the reality of the situation, we are only in India for 3.5 weeks. Such a short time. We need to be at our best not only for the children whom we are teaching but also because the Lord tells us so.Laura Hulke and I have been singing this song for a few people at random times. It was originally a wedding song, but my mom changed a few words.
We have been singing it as a prayer for the people of India.

Lord God of Heaven
Come be our guest
Bring now Thy blessing
Bring happiness
Now to this people
Now to this land
Who in thy keeping
Go forth hand in hand

Give them your guidance
Give them your love
Give them your comfort
Peace from above
Give them the courage
Ever to say
"The Lord is my Master
Tomorrow today."

Father of Mercy
Send now we pray
Unto these people
Who stand here today
Treasures of wisdom
Which built on Thee
Make a solid foundation
Forever, forever to be

Jesus our Savior
This bond we commend
This bond to enlighten
This bond to defend
To Thy gracious keeping
To Thy holy love

Oh Bless it and keep it
Shine Thy light upon it
Thy peace Lord give to it
Both here and above


From Pastor Reim

Hi everyone,
Today has been a day of interesting events. When we returned to pastor Victor's house, many of the pastors from this morning were still there. I was talking to some more of them and learned that two of them serve in villages where a Terrorist Group has been quite active. One pastor said that two people from his village were killed recently by these communist terrorists. It sounds like they are a type of Robin Hood gang. They attack government buildings and the rich and they try to help the poor and down trodden. However they are also aposed to Christianity. This one pastors and many of the people from his village have been sleeping out in the fields because then they can see the terrorists coming from a distance and can run and hide. They are living in fear. Yet this pastor still had a smile on his face and continues to teach and preach the word of God, trusting in the Lord for protection and blessing upon the word he proclaims.

What a blessing we have of safety and freedom. That is not something these people enjoy. Yet they trust the Lord so much more for their safety. Pray for them. What a blessing that the Lord has given us such dedicated men to work with us in this dangerous field. May He bless them richly.

After a little while a group of children gathered. It was about 4:15 and they came directly from school. We sat down with them and began teaching them. Then one of them said they were supposed to be back at school. Apparently there is a late afternoon class where they are supposed to check in with the teacher to check their homework or something like that. Some of the girls left, and the rest stayed. We managed to get in most of our stories, and then the teacher came and scolded us all and told the children to come. We did not realize that their time was so limited.

We also did not know until afterward that only one of the children was Christian. These were not children from any of our churches, they were school children that pastor Victor invited to come in. They were mostly Hindu children. So it left us with both saddness and joy. We wished we would have been told more clearly who these children were and the time we would have so that we could have made the most of our time. On the other time, we were happy to have had that opportunity to talk to them at all. We can only pray that God will work through the little seed that we have planted today. Hopefully also pastor Victor may have more opportunity to talk with these children who walk by his house on the way to and from school. Victor is so great with the children. He has a good repore with them. He jokes with them and talks with them and loves to lead them in song. He also has a great love and desire for their salvation.

So our teaching day was cut short, to give us more time to relax this evening. The four of us are planning on playing cards this evening.

Blessings to all,
Dave Reim

From Dani Beekman

Hello everyone.

There has been so much going on its hard to keep it all straight. I'm not sure where we've been and I don't know how to spell where we are, but we are all doing well.

There's a few stories from the past week that I thought were worth sharing. On our way to a restaurant one night, Danielle and I were bringing up the rear in our procession. D. Paul pulled up in a rickshaw and told us to come sit. How could we say no? So we got to ride while the boys had to walk. D. Paul told us that our driver has a hobby of collecting coins from different countries. Danielle and I started digging through our wallets to find USA money. Our driver ended up with a dollar bill, 2 quarters, a nickle, dime, and a couple pennies. He was so excited. He could not stop smiling, he was studying the dollar so intensly. We went in and ate and when we came back he was waiting for us with a pen and wanted Danielle and I to sign the dollar. We did. Pastor told us that we had just agreed to marry him. I panicked. I didn't know if he was serious. The driver took us back to our hotel, Pastor said we were going to meet the inlaws, it was funny.

We have been handing out pens to all the children, and adults at VBS. Everything is nice and calm until we whip out the pens, then it gets kind of crazy. At one of the villages we were at, we ran out of pens. I felt terrible, and I was scared. Danielle and I had women with crying children come up to us and ask for pens. We both dug through our back packs and found 3 more pens. Sampath looked at GUI and said, " They are demanding pens, should we go?" The next day at classes, the pastor of that congregation had taken names of everyone that did not receive a pen and he gave it to Pastor Ohlmann. We owed him 25 pens.

We had a VBS at a Bible Institute, I'm not sure where we were. There was a little girl there, that I can't stop thinking about. She had Down's Syndrome. She was the happiest little girl, I helped her with her craft. She kept saying "Hi!" and she would tickle my cheeks and then giggle. She couldn't write, and they told me she couldn't talk. I took her hand in mine and helped her draw crosses and hearts and happy faces on her craft. She was very excited and started drawing crosses herself. She was amazing. I wanted to take her with me. All the little girls here are so amazing. They are all so happy.

We have little more than a week left. Thank you all for your continued prayers, and please keep em going. It's encouraging to know that so many people are thinking about us and praying for us.

22 July 2007

From Pastor Reim

Greetings brothers and sister at home,

Today we went to the village of Chennur, about 10km north of Kaddapah where we are staying. When we got there we sang some songs with the children that were there until the rest of the people gathered for the worship service. Just before we started pastor Victor told me that these were Hindu families. I later learned that most of them were converts from Hinduism, but there were also some Hindu visitors. I spoke to them about the mercy of God through the story of the calling of Matthew. I adapted the message to fit their situation and pray that the Lord gave me the right words and that He will work through them. When church is over, many people line up for us to pray for them. They have so many physical ailments that they want prayers for. But we also pray for their souls and salvation.

After lunch we go back to the same congregation for an afternoon VBS. We have 105 children and many adults. This afternoon, sister Laura was not feeling well. She takes her turn at the hotel while we go. Alison and I split up her story to teach. We pray that Laura will be ok. The heat, and food and long days all wear us out. I pray that the Lord will grant her as quick a recovery as He granted me and give her renewed strength to continue the work.

It is quite apparant that the children in this village do not know as much about the Bible as some of the others. So our message is all the more important here. This group of kids is much harder to control during the craft time. They were great for the story but not they can't control their energy and excitment and it gets quite noisy. That makes it more difficult. It is fun that they are so excited about it, but it makes it more exhausting for us.

On the way back to the Hotel, we take a small detour to see an ancient Hindu temple. It is a very beautiful sight along a river at the base of a hill, called the hill of flowers. There are not many flowers now, but you can imagine what it may have looked like at one time. Tradition has it that the man who built this temple was a Hindu priest who was a disciple of the Apostle Thomas, who is reported to have come to India. He learned the gospel of Jesus Christ, but then was under great pressure from his fellow Hindus and diverted from the gospel. He apparently tried to combine Christian teachings with the Hindu belief. He built this temple along the river. Of course, combining Christianity with Hinduism destroys Christianity. It is fitting that this temple now is vacant and only a haunt for birds and wild animals. That is quite picturesque of what happens when you try to combine Christ with any other world religion.

The Lord keeps giving us unexpected surprises. We went to eat at the Mantra Restraurant. Actually it is the only decent restaurant near our hotel. They seated us in a private room with a table for about 8 and there were only the 3 of us. Laura did not feel like eating today. Not long after we sat down they brought two young Indian girls in to sit at our table. We bagan talking with them. They spoke fairly good english. I noticed one of them had a cross on a neclace so I asked if they were Christians. They said they were. We had a very enjoyable visit with them while we ate. They were sisters who were going to school here. Their father had died when they were young and their mother lived in Hyderabad. They are going to engeniering school, in electrical engeniering. They hope to be able to get a job and help support their mother. But their real dream is to come to America some day. That seems to be a common ambition of many of the young people here.

We look forward to a good night sleep and pray that Laura is better tomorrow.

Blessings to you all,
David Reim

From David Reim

Hi everyone,
Things are much different here in Kaddapa than they were in Nellore. We have been told that there are many factions here in the Kaddapa and Kurnool districts. Pastor Victor was very reluctant at first even to let us walk around in town by ourselves. But we are venturing out a little more now.

I talked more to pastor Barnabas in Allaggada where we spent two days teaching the pastoral classes. He said that it used to be a very dangerous place to spread the gospel. It is an area of India that has had a lot of violent factions between Moslems and Hindus and they have both attacked Christians in the past. He said there were many bombings and killings. But he said that has changed much in more recent years. Things have settled down a lot. The prime minister of this area now is a Christian, which has no doubt helped many things. So we feel much more comfortable now.

Our first day of classes in Allaggada went very well. We had 12 pastors gather from the Kurnool district. They were very receptive of the instructions. Pastor Barnabas invited us to his home for lunch. He was very happy to say that we were the first people from the CLC to eat at his house.

In the afternoon we had our largest group of children so far. There were about 95 children and several adults. They were so good and eager to learn. They listened very attentively for our hour and a half lesson. We gave them some time to stretch and get the wiggles out. They really like to study the pictures carefully. Pastor Barnabas said that only about 1/3 of those children were from his congregation. We pray that the Lord will work in the hearts of the over 60 children that were not in the church.

Pastor Barnabas told us that he started that congregation in 1991 with seven people meeting in his house. That was during the time when it was very dangerous to publicly proclaim the gospel. But he said the Lord blessed them and now they have about 80 members and enjoy much greater peace and safety. It is very heartening and inspiring that the Lord moves people like him to risk their lives for the work of the gospel. And to see the Lord's blessing on their efforts is a cause of great joy.

They have a very nice church in Allagadda, one of the nicest we have seen so far. Pastor Barnabas built that with his own money. He had owned some land somewhere that he sold and was able to buy this property and build the church. Now he has plans to enclose the whole property with a wall, and eventually build up other buildings for teaching. He is new to the BELC. He has been with us for a little over a year and is a very dedicated man. What a blessing to have him working for us in this area.

The second day here, the rest of the team had to go without me since I got very sick. David Lueck took my notes for the pastoral training and he went through that with the pastors. And Allison Hansen took my story with the chidren. They went to a village called Suddapali. The power went out in the church, which is a common thing, so they had the VBS outside. They had a large crowd of about 150 people, probably 65 were children. Once again they were all very eager to hear the message we have to bring. I did not hear a figure, but I am sure most of those were not from the church. Praise the Lord. That is one of the great advantages of us coming over to teach these VBS lessons. Our presence attracts a lot of attention. We can't even walk down the street without everyone staring at us. So many people come, they hear the message of salvation from creation to judgement day and eternal life. Then we encourage them to come back and learn more from the pastor in the village. We tell them they are very blessed to have a pastor here to teach them the word of God. So just as Paul says, We plant, someone else waters, but God gives the increase.

I feel like I missed out, but there is no way I would have been able to make it. I am thankful that I had the day to rest and recouperate.

Today is a day off, which is good. Pastor Victor took us on to a botanical garden that was planted in honor of Rajiv Ghandi, the son of Endira Ghandi. He was the previous prime minister until He was killed by a radical group of insurgents.

I pray that God will be with you all, and bless you.
Dave Reim

From Kate Friedrichs

Hello all and greetings in Christ!

Today is the 13th day that we have been in India, and we will be leaving the country again in less than 10 days! It's hard to believe that our trip is more than half over already!

Before my update, I have a quick question for everyone. Do any of you have an orphan that you are sponsoring through the CLC Kinship Program? If so, I can take a picture of him/her if you would like. Just send me the child's name. We did that for someone in the Vernon, British Columbia congregation, and would be happy to do it for anyone else. Thanks!

We've had an incredible variety of experiences at the churches and congregations at which we hold VBS...we never know what to expect! (Last night, a salamander scurried through the children and across Pastor Baker's feet!) I just wanted to share a couple of these and some other fun experiences with you.

"Let it Rain"
Wednesday night was pouring rain at our VBS site! When we arrived, the rain had just begun to fall, but soon it was gushing from above like from a faucet! The church was just a small hut made of sticks and thatch, and 76 children (wow!) plus adults were packed inside! Because of the weather and limited space, only Pastor Baker and his wife Sandy were allowed to leave our vehicle to teach. The rain was coming through the holes in the roof, as well, so Pastor preached a quick message on the Gospel, they handed out gifts of balloons and pens to the children, and then returned to the vehicle...all while it was still pouring rain! Sandy said the faces on the children were just precious -- so excited to see their brother and sister from the US and to hear about Jesus! I wish I could have seen them, too! The whole thing reminded me of the Michael W. Smith song, "Let it Rain," so Heidi and I listened to it on the way home, while the rain continued to fall outside.

Yes, they do have pizza in India, but like most things, it's not quite the same as in the US -- it's got a little bit of spice to it. We discovered on Wednesday night that we can get it delivered to our hotel! In actuality, one of the hotel workers picked it up and brought it back for us, since we didn't want to go out in the rain again! We made sure to tip him! In the end, we ended up getting a medium cheese pizza delivered to our room at 10:30 pm for 118 rupees -- less than $3! It's amazing how inexpensive things are over here!

Seminary Classes
On Thursday, Pastor Baker and Pastor Benjamin said we could sit in on the seminary classes to see how they teach. Pastor Baker is going through the book of Matthew, and when he teaches, he says a sentence in English and Pastor Benjamin translates it into Telugu. The classroom is no bigger than 16' x 30' with 5 sets of tables and benches. There were 17 students, and whenever Pastor asks for a volunteer to read from Scripture, someone starts right away. Sometimes more than one person starts reading, and it seems that whoever is loudest or most persistent gets to finish the reading! It's so fun to see how excited the students are to learn more about God's Word so they can share it with their congregations. As Sandy said, it truly is the Spirit's work to change their hearts from Hinduism, Islam, or whatever other religion they may have been to a true understanding of the Bible!

A Blessed Evening!
VBS on Saturday night was incredible! The music, children, pastor, prayer opportunities...everything was just wonderful! The church seemed somewhat large compared to others, and when we arrived, there were only about 20 children. By the time we finished the craft, however, we estimated that more than 65 children had heard about their Savior! In addition to that, Brother Jyothi told us later that there was a group of Hindus standing outside, and that they were "impressed" by the news of Christ that Pastor Baker had shared in his sermon! I pray that God will work faith in their hearts through His Spirit. I know He will accomplish His work! One of the best parts of the evening was the opportunity to pray with some of the congregation members as we were leaving. It took some time, but it was so worthwhile because of the encouragement I received from knowing that we really are making an impact, and because of the encouragement I was able to give to them as a result! May God bless our brothers and sisters in Christ and strengthen their faith!

Thank you the email responses that I've been receiving. They really are encouraging...more than you know! Please keep them coming! Thank you also for all your prayers. God really hears them and is blessing us in so many ways!

In Christ,

21 July 2007

From Mike "GUI" Gurath

Hello Fellow Americans!

This is Mike "GUI" Gurath from BELC Team #1 finally contributing to the communal blog. It has been fun reading all the different perspectives thus far.

Before we left for this trip there were some that asked me what to expect while here in India. As you can tell from the many stories all you can really do is expect the unexpected, go with the flow, and know that God is good. Other than that the only preparation advice is to bring plenty of Pepto, Immodium, and TP for the duration of the trip. And you can expect to learn a little bit of the foreign languages as well. For instance, Lee Klammer asked an English speaking passer by what a "cow pie" was. The student replied "Ca-oo Patt-ee." It didn't take Lee long to realize that the fellow had just said "cow patty" a term he was already all too familiar with.

All joking aside I am thankful for the opportunities to fellowship with our many brothers and sisters over here. We get to see first hand children hearing about their Savior for the first time, men of all ages taking the time to deepen their understanding and advance their training in God's word, and to work side by side with our pastors and district leaders.

It's great to be able to go and share stories about the experiences here so that as a church body we know a little more and have a clearer picture of the overseas churches. Then our fellow pastors here go from being unreadable names in the bulletin to real people with names and faces, faithfully carrying out the work of the Kingdom. Those numbers on the member stat sheet are turned into actual faces in real places who have shared a song of praise, a "cool drink", or even a simple folding of the hands and a "Praise the Lord."

It is truly a blessing for brothers to dwell together in unity and even more of a blessing to extend that sense of unity to everyone back home. I appreciate you all who have lifted us up in prayer over the course of this trip.

Mike Gurath

From Aprill Lillo

Greetings from the CLCI team! We have settled into a predictable schedule here in Guntur. We also have come to the realization that if we are going to be able to eat the large lunch they give us at the Institute, we have to skip breakfast or have a small snack.

I have also come to the realization that we are guests and under the rules of the house. We are forbidden to leave the institute for our safety and recently the children were told to limit contact with us to a handshake. V.S. is very worried about our health and has stated that too much contact will make us sick. As a mother this is devistating, but I know that V.S. is looking out for us. I was using the children at the orphanage as a sort of substitute for the hugs and squeezed I was missing from my own children. I am reminded that I can show my love through the Word of God. I take comfort in their enthusiasm. I treasure the "jam sessions" we have in the church with drums and tambourines. The children love music, and they honor their God in this way. Although physical contact is now limited, I can still sneak a smile and share in their praises.

The congregations we have met are equally happy to sing praises. The other sisters and I always leave with a smile on our face and a memory that will always be with us. Jesus is such a large part of these peoples' lives that it makes me reflect on my own life and where I have placed Jesus. I pray everyday for humility. The congregations treat us with such respect. The only gift I can give back in such a short meeting is the message I have from the bible to share.

Wow, is all I can say so far.

I am so thankful for this opportunity!

From Laura Hulke


I really wish I had the time to respond to all of you who write me such thoughtful replies to these emails, but please know that I really do appreciate your taking the time to respond! I love checking my email so that I can keep in contact with all of you whom I so dearly appreciate.

It has been a rough few days for us here in Kadapa. Neither the city nor the hotel has turned out to be as much of a disappointment as we previously thought, which is a blessing. The staff actually made our beds yesterday! However, we still have to put the garbage cans outside of our room so that they remember to clean those out. I don't really like thinking of where the garbage will end up.

For the last two days, we drove to the village of Allagadda to the church there, which is led by a man named Barnabas. It was about a 1.5-2 hour drive, and along the rocky roads of India, it is not very comfortable. We sometimes joke that our driver thinks he is in the "India 500," because he really does not seem to grasp the concept of moderation as he is driving. It's always a really fast acceleration followed by braking very quickly. We thank God that we do not need to make that particular drive again.

The Allagadda class was our largest yet - almost 100 children! Praise the Lord! Pastor Reim, Alison, and I taught the children how to sing "Jesus Loves Me," and Barnabas' daughter, Mercy Elizabeth, asked me yesterday to write out the words for her so that she can use it in her Sunday School class. Yesterday, we drove a short distance to the village of Suddapalli (I think that was the name) and taught class outside because the power went out in the church. This probably was a good idea, however, because there were over 100 people (David Lueck estimated almost 150) there, with about 60 or so children. When I was teaching my lesson yesterday, I said: "Now here's why this story is the most important one you'll ever hear..." and then paused for our translator, Santosh. During that pause, a goat (in Telugu, "maca") walked right in front of me and completely stole the show. Perfect timing on the goat's part!

Pastor Reim was ill Thursday night and all day yesterday, so he wasn't able to accompany us to Allagadda yesterday. We are thankful that he is feeling much better today. We have the weekend off, to a certain extent. This afternoon, we'll be going "sightseeing" with Pastor Victor, and tomorrow we'll have church. Monday and Tuesday, we'll be teaching classes here in Kadapa and the surrounding area, and then we'll be going to Tirupati on Wednesday.

Keep thinking of us and praying for us! I look forward to the time when our groups are reunited in Chennai. There is something about strength in numbers that I think we might be lacking at the moment. But "Praise the Lord" for the work He is doing over here through us and the other Christians!

In Christ,

20 July 2007

From Lee Klammer


Today, we are in a small city called Tirupattur.

Our hotel is a pretty low quality compared to American standards; however, it only cost about $10 a night; so we like to think of it as a very nice camp-grounds plot.

Like wise, the food in this town leaves something to be desired. The first restaurant that we visited served us tap water with a dirty sock over the nosel (probably to act as a filter), and the server had his fingers inside all four of our cups as he brought them to us. The food was handled in much the same way; so all of us ate sparingly. We will be eating a lot of crackers, biscuits, and "dried meat" while we are here.

VBS classes have been going quite well; the children seem to be enjoying the stories and the visual aids (felt board and hand puppets). However, the craft has become chaotic nearly every time we have attempted it. We will be trying different methods as we proceed.

As you maybe have read in many of the other blogs, many of the MHP travelers' spirits are somewhat low. I expect that the lack of regular diet, the deprivation of restful sleep, the stress of being in a different culture, and the regularity of not being regular are wearing on all of us.

It falls on each of us to look past our own needs and focus on the work that we have come here to do; but your prayers for our spirits, our wellness, and our work do us much good. So, please continue to offer up prayers on our behalf. Thank you.

Lord's blessings to all of you State-side.

In Christ,

From Heidi Maas

may-koo wan-den-al-loo! (Christian greetings to you)

~Three days ago we pulled over on the road and flagged down a guy on a bike carrying coconuts (he had a lovely bunch of coconuts, doodly dee, there he was a standing in the road...:] (the song we started singing from the Lion King when we saw him..:])). He pulled out a machete, hacked off the top in pieces, and then gouged a hole on the top and inserted a straw. It is supposed to be good medicine for one's stomach. I think it would have tasted better with some ice in it, but it was very good and the experience was most novel. :]

~Two nights ago we were rained out when we arrived at our teaching station. They had trouble keeping the generator on and the roof was leaking. It was a straw and bamboo hut, the way I'd envisioned all our churches to be. And it was standing room only with 76 kids and 12 adults. But because of the rain, only two people went in and presented a brief message and gave the children the gifts. When they came back out to the car we had been waiting in, one was in tears and both were very moved. We felt like bursting the doors on our car that held us captive from running in there and sharing more of Jesus with all those kids who didn't mind walking home in such weather. The only thing that kept us at bay was knowing that breadyGod works all things together for good and that it would be rudely bold for us to storm out like that.

~We saw people walking on the road in mid calf deep water. It was not drip-drip rain- it was just bucket after bucket being poured on the head. There was a bus that fell off the road right as we passed it; our angels are watching out for us, for sure. Indian thunder sounds more like drums than a bowling alley and their cows moo like creaking doors. Just fyi. :]

~Just as disclaimer, for whatever it's worth- the impressive scorpio we ride around in is not the CLCI's car; it's rented. (sometimes the communication here has holes in it...:])

~Last night we had another large turnout, but fortunately the weather held because half of the church was outdoors. One of the children was the drummer, so he was playing very loudly and intensely. One of the pastors decided it was too much and took over. But it was still a very lively worshippy crowd, nonetheless, and they raised the roof to heaven anyway.

~I do not doubt that there is incredible freedom in being an American; there's no country like it on earth. But on a small scale of "freedom," India seems more relaxed. On the roads and the public services (that I have seen so far) seem to be governed by very few rules (there are no speed limit signs or anything yet I've never seen anyone speeding; people know their own limits I guess if they drive something that can go above 40 miles per hour). There seems to be less red tape and cookie cutter regulations, and forget politically correctness (Indian people tend to be blunt and forward)! For example, the way they drive seems to be governed by basic, common sense principles. Like the trucks hauling two lanes worth of hay (with no wide load sign and a few riders on top the 30 foot stack) are not going to do you any favors. Work around them. And on down to the bikes that are small, vulnerable, yet maneuverable that can be run off the road in an emergency with no sweat to them. Or if you pass another car and you miscalculated the time and oncoming traffic is coming on very quickly, they'll slow down and let you squeeze back into your lane. People are careful not to get into wrecks cuz no one's insurance is guaranteed to cover it! And there is high value on keeping your neighbor safe in most circles.

~The various churches blast their services on loud speakers in the late evenings to compete for the crowds (and no one calls the cops with a noise complaint). The only functions I've seen the police perform is directing traffic during rush hour and patrolling the airports.

19 July 2007

From Rick Nelson

This trip to India is not for the physically weak. The day to day grind, with travel and the heat really wears on the body. Plus the potential for food and water contamination lurks at every meal.

This trip is not for the emotionally weak. Being away from home, family and the simple conveniences takes its toll.

This trip is not for the spiritually weak. I have found out very quickly that your trust must be in God or the many worries that come up would just be too much to handle.

But that is what we all are. Weak! We each are emotional train wrecks, physically hanging on to each day by a thread, and spiritually irresponsible.

In India, I have noticed that I am not in control of anything. I can prepare and be mentally alert, but whatever happens, happens. In everything that does happen, I need to look to God and have faith that He indeed does work it all out for His Glory. In America, I am comfortable with my surroundings; I know the culture and people around me. Sadly, I have become calloused to how fragile life is. We trudge our way through life ONLY by the Grace of God, whether in the States or in a country 4000 miles away.

Rick Nelson
Mission Helper - India

From Laura Hulke

Hello, everyone:

The first thing I want to ask of you is to please continue your prayers for all of us here in India, but also to pray for the spirits of my group. We left Nellore today, a city that we had been growing used to, as well as the company of Sanjay and Moses. We drove for about three hours to the city of Kadapa, which has already struck us as being harsher and less welcoming. Victor told us that it's not a very good idea for us to venture out by ourselves, which is a little discouraging as we were used to being able to leave our hotel rooms in Nellore. Also, our hotel isn't as nice, and we'll be staying here for a week. It isn't horrible, though. Things could definitely be worse. In any case, I've been feeling a little disheartened today and I know that the other group members have been, as well.

Quick updates on the week, as my group is waiting for me to finish with the computer:
MONDAY - Taught VBS in Krista Patanam. This church actually had a roof made of stone! The kids were a little crazier here, but it was still fun. I didn't feel very well on the ride to the village because our driver drives like a maniac on the bumpy roads, but I felt better after getting some "fresh" (if you could call it that) air. On our way back, we stopped at a pizza place that Sanjay had told us about. It wasn't bad, but I still crave Pizza Hut.

TUESDAY - Alison and I stayed at the hotel instead of going with "the Daves" as they taught their class. We went to a clothing mall, and Alison found a beautiful sari that she later decided to buy. One thing I can't get used to is how much people stare at us as we walk around. I think I've mentioned it before, but I feel the need to point it out again. I could never be a celebrity.

In the evening, we had my favorite VBS class yet in Alamulakandriga. The children were very lively and well-versed in Scripture, so it was fun to ask them questions and have them respond. It was also the nicest church we've been to (at least for VBS) so far. It is completely made of concrete, with Bible verses painted in Telegu all over the inside and outside walls. I recorded a short video yesterday on my camera that I'm very excited to show people when I get back, because it really encapsulates (is that a word?) the spirit of the worship services here.

Also yesterday, we went to a sari shop that Moses knew of, and I picked out a beautiful sky-blue sari. Moses insisted on buying it for me, which was really unnecessary, but he seemed happy to do so. We also had to pick out fabric for the blouse and petticoat that I need to wear underneath it, and then we went to a tailor so I could get measured for it. I had no idea that the process of purchasing a sari was so complicated! This morning, Sanjay brought it to me at the hotel, and an Indian woman named Susan helped me put it on for the first (and probably only) time. I wore it until we got to the hotel in Kadapa. It really is beautiful.

I must go, since everyone is waiting. Please continue to pray for us! You have no idea how much your thoughts and words mean to all of us over here. I thrive on two things: seeing and teaching the children, and keeping in contact with all of you.

As our brothers and sisters in Christ say very often over here, "Praise the Lord!"


18 July 2007

From Todd Ohlmann

All is well today (Wednesday) in Chennai. We (Myself, Mike Gurath, Rick Nelson, Lee Klammer, Dani Beekman, Danielle Ryan) have finished our classes and VBS's here in the big city and we are headed to the Vanniyambadi district for a few days. I'm not sure what the phone or internet capabilities will be there since we are staying in a hotel and area of this district where I have never stayed before.

Vaniyambadi is a distant district that has had very little Christian contact over the years. This is the district where the 2005 Mission Helper team that I worked with taught over 250 kids and several adult on-lookers in one village where there are no other Christian churches in the immediate area. A few months later Pastor Koenig returned to this same village to find 90+ individuals waiting to be baptized! We pray for the similar opportunities in the coming days.

Please keep us in your prayers along with our families and congregations.

In Christ,
Pastor Ohlmann

From Rick Nelson

It has been said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I have also heard about militaries cutting off the chain of supplies coming into or out of a country. This will choke the food or economics of a State. We had a chance to spend a day with one of God's women yesterday. We took a rickshaw over to Mary Koenigs flat and spent some time looking at pictures and talking about life here in India. We participated in Mary's primary ocupation for the last few months which has been making plaster plaques using plastic molds. We also painted a few samples. These will be used as examples when they have crafts for the Indian children's Bible School. It was really nice being able to talk with someone that understood english. I cannot imagine how nice it is for her to have us here. She is a half a world away from everyone she knows except Dave. I have to be honest. Not everyday do I find myself remembering Missionary Koenig in my prayers. And sadly I cannot say that I have ever prayed for his wife and family. I would suggest that we start remembering not only Missionary Koenig in our daily prayers but also his supporting cast. Without the sacraficial support of his wife and his children/grandchildren's non-voluntary separation from Dave, we may not be so blessed to have him here in the foreign field(s).I feel that their efforts cannot be overlooked and our gratitude needs to be shown. Praise the Lord for the sacrafices that the Koenigs have gladly made in their lives by the Grace of God.

Rick Nelson
Mission Helper - India

From Dani Beekman

Tuesday. July 17 8:20 PM.

Don't worry the BELC 1 team is not lost. We are all alive and well. We are in Chennai. This is our last night. We have taught 3 VBS classes already. It's getting a little easier. Who knew that hundreds of big beautiful brown eyes could be so intimidating. Danielle and I have been composing a list of things that are coming home with us. I think we started off with a few orphans. Our list has grown. We currently have a cow, a puppy, a cat, a frog, a millipede ( it was red and black) Danielle thought it was neat, and maybe a rickshaw. We have a couple dozen kids, the albino man that was at the top of our steps when we arrived in Chennai, and the little doorman that greets us every time we come into the hotel melody with a salute, we name him Sarg. We are also contemplating bringing home some marsala lemonade or maybe just some gutter water. So that we might invigorate all of your senses with the sight, taste, and smell of Chennai. Danielle and I also decided that it would be really nice to be able to flush with confidence. That was what Danielle said, I can not take credit for that genius phrase. It is so true though. It would be nice to flush the toilet without having to turn on the water first, then push the little lever, then watch the water go round and round, while you stand there contemplating when it will ever go down, then you begin to wonder: where is that water going? Then you tell yourself not to think about it and eventually the toilet is flushed. This afternoon the four of us ( Lee, Rick, Danielle and myself) went to the Koenig's flat and hung out with Mary. She is amazing. She is in the process of making some 900 plaques for Bible classes, so that they can paint them. Lee and Rick got the dirty job of making some of the plaques, Danielle and I got to paint some samples for her. I felt like I was in VBS again. It was great. Then we went out for lunch at this crazy nice mall. It is better than any mall in the US. Danielle and I saw our first grocery store in India in there, so of course, we had to go in. We bought snacks. They had Cadbury chocolate bars. FANTASTIC!! We ate at a Subway in the mall..it was amazing. Mary is really amazing. I admire her so much. It really takes alot of trust in our Lord to do everything that she and Missionary Koenig are doing. It was great to sit there with her and have a normal conversation, where I could say more than "is ok" or "No." There has been so much going on if I were to type it all I would be in here all night, and quite frankly I don't really want to do that. So until next time, keep up all the prayers.

In Christ, Dani

17 July 2007

From Kate Friedrichs


That's Telugu for "Christian greetings!" It has been so fun to pick up Telugu words from our hosts and the children that we interact with in the CLCI! A couple days ago, Nireekshana actually taught us a song in Telugu...now let's hope I can remember it!

The past four days have been somewhat of a blur. We've settled into a routine which is kind of nice. In general, we go to the CLCI compound in Nidubrolu during the day, spend time with the orphans and other children when they return from school (after 4 pm), and then go to a village to greet the congregation and teach VBS. At VBS, we sing action songs, teach lessons about Jesus, and lead a craft; Pastor Baker then preaches a sermon on Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It's a good message for us to hear, too, because even though we aren't doing much physical activity, all the travelling is rather tiring!

At the Orphanage
The children at the orphanage are just wonderful. I learned the other day that not all of them are orphans. Some are the Benjamin's children and some are just children from the village who want to see the "Sisters." (That's what our fellow Christians call us -- brothers and sisters in Christ!) We sing action songs with the children quite often, and they really love "He's got the Whole World in His Hands" (very fitting) and "Heaven's Hokey Pokey" (Thanks for teaching me that one, Laura!) They actually ask for them by name! :) We've also taught them how to give "two thumbs up" and say "good job!" It's so cute!

First VBS
On Friday, we had our first VBS in a village in Andhra Pradesh. There were about 70 children and 50 adults squeezed into a church no bigger than 20' x 30'! And the church itself is nothing like an American church. It's simply one room with walls and a roof. The churches we've been to have concrete walls and a thatched roof made of branches and mud. It was so exciting to see the different style of worship that the people have. First of all, the service is in Telugu, and everything we say is translated by Brother Nireekshana or Brother Jyothi. The people are quite expressive in their worship and occassionally the entire congregation will shout out "Praise the Lord! Hallelujiah!" What a blessing to see how God's name can be praised around the world!

Praying with the children
We've been asked a couple of times to pray for people at the congregations, but on Sunday a couple of the children at the orphanage asked me to pray for them, too! In actuality, I had to kind of assume that's what was asked.... Since they don't speak a lot of English, it can be difficult sometimes to communicate, but they are teaching me Telegu words. One girl looked at me and said "pray," and another agreed, so I figured they wanted me to pray for them. I stopped right there, put my hands out, and held theirs. Several other children put their hands into the middle of the circle, and I said a brief prayer. It was so amazing to see how much these children know and love Christ, and to be able to pray with them. Wow!

Bread, Toast, Butter, Jam
Sunday also brought a little bit of familiarity to my life. When I went to breakfast, I ordered a "Jam Sandwich" or "Bread, Toast, Jam" as Pastor O. had called it. It was blessedly familiar -- four pieces of toast, butter, and jam. After all the spicy food we have been eating, I'm thankful for a "normal" meal! As Laura wrote in one of her updates, India is not for the faint of heart! A couple days ago, I discovered a salamander in the shower with me and last night we were swarmed by small insects during our teaching. Yikes! And, I've mentioned before how crazy the driving is, but what Pastor Nolting said was true -- riding in a car in India gives new meaning to the passage "pray without ceasing!"

Looking forward....
Today we're back to the orphanage again and then to another village to do VBS. A couple people on my team and on other teams have been sick, so if you could continue praying for us, especially for our health, that would be great. God truly does hear our prayers!

Prayer requests
I also have a couple prayer requests for people we interact with, as follows:
1 - The babu (gentleman) that Whitney gave a Bible to at our hotel.
2 - The people in the congregations that we visit. There are so many lost souls in the villages that need to hear the gospel. Please pray that the people in the congregations may be a shining light, like the lighthouse on the Indian Ocean that we saw in the fishing village last night!
3 - Madhevi (I'm not sure if that's spelled correctly) -- She's the Sunday School teacher at the CLCI in Nidubrolu, and she is pregnant with her first child! She's due in November!

Thank you all for your continued messages and support! I really enjoy the email responses that you send -- they are so encouraging! I'm sorry I can't respond, but please know that they really do help!

Love in Christ,


From Alison Hansen

Hello friends and family,

Well, we are scheduled to teach in one more small city near Nellore tonight and will be leaving tomorrow for Kadapa which is north of Nellore. I will miss our nice living arrangements. Apparently this is one of the nicest hotels we will stay in. The other ones did not change our sheets and keep the rooms clean. At least this one does every morning. We had one little gecko friend visit us. They like to hang on the walls, but he never bothered us. We are getting some bug bites though. Not sure when or where. But Laura and I have experienced some red bumps on our legs and arms. Either spiders or mosquitos I suppose. It really isn't bad though. We have air conditioning and just make sure we wear sandals as much as possible. The custom is to take off your shoes before entering a building, but I kinda don't do it much except for church. I forgot one time and Moses kindly reminded me to take them off...oops!!

The church we went to last night was very nice. It looked relatively new so we were wondering if it was built with some money from the CLC in the US. The kids were a little more rowdy than were the ones the night previously. We tried to keep the little boys in control as much as possible.

I learned a lot of Telegu yesterday at Moses' house. There were two girls there who I had met previously--Sunneetha and Sreventi or something like that. They taught me many words and phrases. 'Neara challa poravu'' means "I am tall." So I have been using that a lot when I want the kids to laugh when I stand up. "Wanda nalu" is Christian greetings. I am writing them phonetically not with correct spelling. I learned and wrote down many more words so I will try to teach you when I return. I so want to take those girls back with me to America. They want to go to. I would love to show them how life does not have to be so dirty and hot. I want to show them snow and other things we have in America. I will pray that maybe someday they can come.

Today the Daves went to teach their pastoral classes this morning and Laura and I stayed behind to do our own thing. We did some lessons for Sanjay as we are teaching him Spanish. We also did a little browsing at the local shopping mall. I found a saree that I love.

It is 995 rupees which is about $25 but it is amazing. I will pray about it. I thought I would wait until I got to Chennai so I wouldn't have to lug it around, but I really do love this one. We went out for breakfast this morning and had TOAST WITH JAM AND CORN FLAKES WITH MILK!! Crazy, i know. I felt so spoiled. I think I may have gained some weight back :) Hope all is well back in the States.

In Christian love,

From Heidi Maas

Hello from India!

~Last night we had a unique experience. We travel to a coastal congregation in fisherman's village. I was seriously 15 feet away from dipping my toes in the I Ocean! The pastor at the congregation is one of the CLCI's star musicians- vocal, guitar, etc. One really awesome thing is that pastors do not just attend the functions at their own churches. At each service there are at least five other pastors or seminarians. One played the drums and another took pictures. They are a very close knit bunch. There is also a "papararazzi" of the CLCI (or rather, paparaja :]). They're a two man team who photograph and video tape the various functions; they carry around a bright bright light for evening functions- not hard to miss.:]

~We travel in one of the CLCI's car which is a large SUV called a Scorpio. It is shiny bright red. It would turn heads int he states so when we go to these villages where hardly anyone has cars, the Indian people give us priceless faces and reactions as we honk our way throught their village.

~I was very ashamed last night. We had bugs galoro in the church; they were attracted to the light. I had a terrible time concentrating cuz I was itchy-swooping bugs off me continuously. I felt like such a rich, white, spoiled American to be letting something as small as a bug interfere with my ministering. Our slogan to help remind ourselves next time is this: "God is bigger than bugs!!"

~The orphans are so wonderful. They come running, "Sister! sister! Photo? Game?" They are hams for the camera and love all games. Most speak very good English. Two days ago they kept asking us to pray for them. It is so...so...special to have 10 kids crowded around you, hands piled together and just all able to pray to the same God, to pray to the Father that we all share together.

~The Inidans are a very serious and dignified people most of the time. But get them cracking up at a joke, and it is a riot! They have the hugest smiles and silliest laughs; part of the humor lies in the fact that it's such a surprise!

~Did I mention I love Indian music? They like a strong beat and they like it loud and fast. They also have dignified chant-like songs that they'll sing over and over in prayer meetings (I think that's where) to emulate a small taste of heaven. Purposefully creating emotion for worship! And the music is so singable! I'll be bringing a few samples back, for sure. :]

~We finally saw two cats last night. Up until then we'd only seen dogs. Go figure- they were running from the dogs and looking for the fish in the ocean!~One of our bus boys asked one of the girls in our group for a Bible. She gave him hers and this morning we saw him trying to read it. We recommnded John and Psalms, as good starting points.~They have a plot of property that they hope to build a school on someday. It would hold 150-200 students and have 8 teachers to run it, all for the price of only 75,000 American dollars. It would take a year for it to be built and filled with kids they expect. Right now there is just a barn on it. A teenager at the compound joked that for now just the cows and chickens are at school!! :]

Blessings to you all!!!
Heidi Spring

From Whitney Martin

Yesterday, while waiting for our ride, I had forgot something in my room and went upstairs to get it. I went in my room and got what i needed. i turned aroune to leave and one of the Indian workers in the hotel knocked on the door. I opened it and he said "Bible." "Bible?" i said. i was scared that he would find out i was a christian and persecute me or put me in jail or something. But then he said "yes Jesus book" I supposed he wanted a Bible to read.... but i didnt want to give him one of mine! He just kept looking at me... i said "English Bible?" Yes he replied. I soon got over my selfishness and gave him my small NIV Bible. An older lady was with him outside in the hall and when i was leaving they gathered around it and began reading it!!!

The next morning (today) my group saw him again and he wanted to return it to us. We told him to keep it and told him to read the Gospel of John and Psalms, but that all of it was good!:)

This experience has definitely not only changed my trip to india, but my life too! At first on the trip i was getting frustrated bc when we teach, the kids dont really pay attention, just the parents. But this story is proof that God's word does not return unto him void!! I really think that i am goin to have a great trip now, just because this one person came to me and wanted to hear of God's word.

Whitney Martin

From Rick Nelson

It has been 9 days since I last saw a McDonalds. I do not miss it. It has been 9 days since I paid over 3 dollars per gallon for gas. I have not thought about bank statements, bills, or work in over 9 days. The bill for breakfast this morning was $4.12 for four grown men. That included 2 bottles of water and coffee. It has been 9 days since I had a hot shower. I am perfectly fine with that since it is so warm over here. I have not washed my hands with soap and water for 9 days. Hand sanitizer is wonderful stuff! I have not had a nice cold drink of tap water in 9 days nor do I want to for another 17. I have not stayed in one lane of traffic for more than 500 feet in over 9 days. I have prayed an extra prayer before each meal for 9 days asking God to keep this meal from causing me any sickness. In fact it is amazing how fragile you realize that your life is until you are exposed to a foreign culture. I have not had the opportunity to be disrupted by a cell phone call in 9 days. It has been ok. I have not seen a Walmart in 9 days. Believe it or not you can find anything you need in India in a one block radius just like in the United States of Walmart. I have never tasted such good fruit; fresh lime soda, mango, pomegranets, bananas. It has been 9 days since I kissed my wife and family goodbye. I do miss them. I have been able to write and call as often as I wanted.

So far it has been an experience that I will never forget. God has truly blessed the CLC and His Kingdom's work here likewise. I am still trying to figure out who is getting more from this experience - the Indians or us. Perhaps that question is not meant to be answered.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here blew.
Praise Him above you heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Rick Nelson
Mission Helper - India

From Laura Hulke

That's so fun to say. I greeted the VBS class last night with that and they giggled and responded with their own greetings.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to the worship service at the BELC church. Moses ran the service, but Pastor Reim preached the sermon on Matthew 9:9-13. The service was difficult to follow since it was, again, virtually all in Telegu, but it was once again uplifting to know that people were worshiping the Lord. After church, we ran through the craft that we'll be doing in our evening VBS sessions with the kids that were at church. They will be making wall hangings that have English words on one side, and then they'll write in Telegu (or Tamil, depending on which province we are in) the same thing on the back. There are also some pieces of fabric glued onto the cards that remind the children of various aspects of Jesus' life and our Christian lives.

I accidentally deleted all of my pictures on Saturday night, which was pretty heartbreaking as I had taken some great shots of the kids in the CLCI orphanage. I'm hoping that the others who were there that night were able to get some nice pictures that I can have, too. I've already made up for the lost pictures, however, as my camera has been out very frequently since then!

Last night, we taught our first "official" VBS class in the village of Downthali. For the rest of the trip, my group will be traveling in an SUV-type vehicle to all of our upcoming cities and villages. It took us a while on a bumpy road to get out to the village, and when we arrived, I was startled to see that the church was pretty much a shack. It had partial concrete walls, and the roof was made of branches and twine, basically. The floor was, I was later told, packed cow poop. Woo-hoo! I told Alison on our way back that by the end of this trip, I will be as tough as nails. No more complaining here! When we entered the church, the congregation was singing and clapping along to a drum beat. The children stared and stared at us as we entered and sat. We tried to wrap up the lessons quickly, especially as it began to rain (and the rain could easily come through the roof since it wasn't a complete roof), but the rain stopped and we turned on a light in the church. When we administered the craft, Sanjay, our interpreter, told us that many of the people probably would not be able to write, even in Telegu, because they probably weren't able to get a very good education in the village. So sad! I guess that thought never even crossed my mind.

Today, Alison and I are sitting around as "the Daves," as we call them, teach the pastors. We'll be going to the village of Krista Patanam tonight to teach another VBS class. In the meantime, Moses was kind enough to offer his computer so that we would not have to venture out to one of the Internet shops. I love being able to connect with all of you back in the US!

Something I've been thinking recently is that's going to be a little strange at first coming back to the US and seeing streets that are wide and cars that stay on their own side of the street. No shops everywhere, very few "interesting" smells, and people that don't stare at us wherever we go. I guess I've already gotten used to this a bit. Not that I would say that it's comfortable, but it's not as startling as it was at first.

Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers. Keep them coming! :-)


From Heidi Maas

Greetings to you all!

~Yesterday we went to the oldest CLCI congregation. Their unique aspect of their "honoring ceremony" was the children threw flower petals over us. There were about 15 of them and each had a large handful of golden petals that they threw. They thoroughly had fun making the Americans sprinkled with golden goodness and we were thoroughly thankful for their kindness.~The power went out when I taught again yesterday. Not sure how to interpret that...:]

~Our new tradition for the last two days is singing praise songs in the car. After our lessons each day, we drive about 40 min back to our hotel and sing songs to pass the time; some are in English and some are in telegu. It's so amazing cuz it's so natural. And imagine an SUV about the size of a Landrover, I think. In America, it would seat seven comfortably. We fit 11 plus 2 or three kids. We are each other's seat belts and it is instant family-ness cuz of the close quarters. (there is AC or windows to help out) :]

~Another reason why India almost feels safer than US is cuz for every one person on a street who might want to mug me or whatever, there are nine others who want to protect the American.

~Yesterday the oldest pastor in CLCI (V.S.Benjamin) made a beautiful speech. One of the girls didn't feel like eating her food cuz she felt nauseous. VS assured her that he would find her a doctor to figure out why her stomach was not OK. She politely declined and said she probably just needed sleep. But he went on to explain himself. "I do not care how much it costs; money does not matter. Your health is more important. I want you to get better. You are all to me as my sisters, my daughters. It is my duty to protect you, to keep you safe. I will send you healthy back to your parents in America." And he kept insisting on this.

~The other day we went shopping for sarees (traditional Indian women dress) with the pastors' wives. Apparently Indian women do not shop like we do, at least those in our group. You go, you look, you you like, you buy. We went, we looked for a long time, we liked a lot of things, and remained indecisive on what to buy. So we didn't. It seemed very frustrating for the employees who were trying to understand what was happening.

~Yesterday was a very successful craft day with the kids. They all were able to finish their project and they were smiling so big as they all held them up high. ~I noticed that 99% of Indian men have mustaches. I was curious about this and found out that is a firm Indian tradition. Someone once shaved his off and his family told him: "If you ever shave it again, you will not have a place in this house." And he tried talking to his friends they asked him: "Who are you?" The only reason men choose not to wear them is a health issue. A moustache is a nuisance for collecting dust, bugs, and other things.

Blessings to you all!In His love,
Heidi Spring

15 July 2007

From Kate Friedrichs ~

Hello all!

Here's my most recent India update. There's much to say, so I've tried to divide it by topic and day. Enjoy!

KateWednesday, July 11, 2007

A long ride....
What a day of blessings! It started out rather long and slow, but the end of the day was filled with great things! We left Chennai in the morning for an 8 hour bus ride up to Guntur (in Andhra Pradesh state) which is closer to the CLCI. The CLCI seminary and orphanage are actually located in the town of Nidubrolu which is, I think, about a 45 minute ride south of Guntur. The bus ride felt long, and it wasn't until after 2:30 that we had dinner at an "interesting" restaurant on the side of the road. We actually sat outside under little "hut" structures...I think the Indian people who were there were surprised to see 16 white people at the restaurant! We definitely stand out in a crowd -- I guess it's part of the experience! (more on that later)

What a sight!
The very end of the bus ride was actually the best part of the day! I had been napping, and awoke to some commotion and much honking (which actually isn't strange at all -- honking is a requirement for driving in India!). I sat up and Alison directed me to look toward the front of the bus. What I saw outside was the most delightful sight -- a white car with a banner that said "CLCI" was leading us to our hotel! And to top it off, Pastor Jyothi Benjamin later stepped out to direct us, and he was wearing a green Immanuel (ILC) t-shirt! It was so amazing! Joy and excitement filled my heart, to know that here -- halfway around the world in this vastly different country! -- were my brothers and sisters in Christ who share the same faith and worship the same true God! What an incredible blessing! I'm really looking forward to meeting more of the people in the CLCI, and to worship with them in the coming weeks!

Arriving in Guntur
One nice thing about arriving in Guntur is that I will not have to be travelling again until the end of the trip when we return to Chennai to go home. As I may have said before, I will be working with the orphans and congregations in the CLCI, which means Guntur is my home base. The hotel we are staying in is rather nice -- we actually have a bathtub, and the "boys" (the staff) will bring us coffee or tea in the morning and do our laundry for us!

In the evening, we walked around and found the Internet and phone shops, a place where we can buy bottled water (very important!), and a good restaurant -- the Palms (I think that's the name.). We ate there for dinner, and I discovered some more Indian food that I enjoy! Mmmm...gulab jamoon -- it's a delicious dessert that's similar to a donut hole covered in syrup...only better! I think I'm going to get used to being here! :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007
Buddhist temple
Today we saw a Buddhist temple that is being built and a Buddhist museum. It's so sad to see what the people do for these false gods. The artwork was carvings were very intricate, and the building itself was quite large, but it saddens me to think that they put all this time and effort into something that can do nothing for them. Someone said it would take them another two years to finish it! One entertaining part of the trip, however, was a gentleman who was laying on a bed of nails. He even had people walk across him! Yikes!

Visiting the CLCI --
Come, Now is the Time to Worship!
In the evening we went down to Nidobrulu to the CLCI compound (seminary and orphanage). We were welcomed like royalty! They had a welcome service, banners with all of our names, and even flower leis for us! Everything was so beautiful and filled with color! The worship here is different from the traditional American service that I'm sure you're all used to. First of all, we sat outside in the open air of the courtyard. Colorful lights hung down the outer walls, and many green plants filled the space. As with everything in India, color was everywhere! The service included much singing and dancing, and some clapping and waving of arms...all in praise for our Savior God! Pastor Jyothi Benjamin, Pastor Nireekshana Benjamin, Pastor Ohlmann, and Pastor Baker all spoke of God's blessings, as well. One thing that was definitely different was that most of the service was in Telegu! And when Pastor Ohlmann and Pastor Baker spoke, Brother Jyothi translated for them. :) Even though the language was different, it was still so evident that God was at the center of the worship and His name was being praised!

The joy of the children!
Probably the most entertaining part of the evening was the children! They are such a joy and filled with joy for the Lord! When we first arrived, there were not many in sight, but when the service began, there were probably 50 kids (30-35 orphans) sitting in the front, laughing and looking at all of us! They seemed even more excited to see us than we were to see them! As I was taking photos, one girl caught my eye, and I winked at her. She was excited, and she mimicked me by winking back! We actually ended up winking, waving, and smiling back and forth at each other for much of the night! Some of the other mission helpers also joined in on the fun...she would catch one person's attention and wink, and then see another person, and wink again, and then smile with delight! She even caught Pastor Ohlmann's eye, and I saw him wink at her, too!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Plans for today....
Today I get to go back to the orphanage to see the children again! In the evening, we'll be going to a village to teach our first VBS lesson. I'm excited to see another congregation and to tell the children about Christ, but I'm also somewhat nervous about teaching. My story is the Crucifixion and Resurrection, so it's incredibly important! I know that God will give me the words, but if you all could say an extra prayer for me and the other volunteers, that would be great. Thank you!

Love in Christ,


From Heidi Maas ~

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Good morning to you all!~

Wow, wow, wow- these people sure know how to throw a party! Last night we went to Nidobrulu (note- I said it was Gunthur before, but it's Nidobrulu where the orphanage is) for the welcoming ceremony. The whole place was decked out in lights and color. I started tearing up before the ceremony even began; all the effort they put forth was overwhelming. The music and the kids were what really got to me. They were singing their hearts out to the Lord and dancing in rhythm with the beautiful gifts the Lord has given them. They had a four-man band- two drums, keyboard, and guitar/vocalist. It was authentic worship, not just a show. And the whole thing was on loudspeaker so the entire neighborhood got to hear it. They served us all soda pop and had a banner for each of us with our name on it. They gave us seats of honor in the front row. Pastor V.S. Benjamin came to each of us and blessed us by marking our foreheads with his thumb with the sign of the cross. People sometimes call him the godfather of the CLCI; he has a presence that is very holy and very impressive, yet extremely humble. They called us individually to the stage after the ceremony began and adorned each of us with garlands made of real flowers. Mine was primarily jasmine and smelled almost intoxicatingly good (it was very very fragrant :]). They also gave us gifts of Bible college Bible covers and a small trophy-like memento with the country of India on it and our name. Sometimes I think we hesitate to show such honor to each other because we are fearful of it going to our heads. But I found out that it's just the opposite. It was extremely humbling because we deserved none of it, yet they gave and served us as if we were kings and queens. And the amazing thing is that is who we ARE in Christ; I think sometimes we get bogged down by the law and forget that Christ has given us ! a brand new hope and future in His overwhelming (almost intoxicating :]) Love and grace gospel. No, we don't deserve it, which is why it is so shocking and stunning. We had a feast afterward and then they came around with a wash bucket. (note: we don't use silverware- just hands). They come to you and wash your hands right there at the table. And the pastors were the ones who served the food. It was truly incredible. The feast we experienced and enjoyed last night was not the food primarily, but the fellowship and Love which was so filling spiritually. I am so glad I get to go back for the next three weeks; it felt like the home I'd always been dreaming of but never found. -Heidi

Saturday, July 14th, 2007
~Apparently every congregation we visit adorns us each time with flower garlands and banners. And other special acts of service are unique from congregation to congregation. for instance, at our first church, the power went out while i was teaching. The people started singing until the lights came back on. the fans however did not. So the pastors took up the task of fanning us. One cannot refuse their service; that would offend them deeply. I feel deeply indebted to these people for their incredible services of love to us. How can I possibly thank them enough? I think it's similar to how we show thanks to God: receive the gifts that are offered with a thankful heart. 'How can I thank the Lord for all His goodness towards me? I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. These are such a special honors that is a continual reminder of the whole idea of being loved deeply even though it is undeserved. And can never really be repaid in full.~Last night we left the dry season (mid-May to mid-july)( Ps- feb to may is the HOT season). :] It was raring to rain like a wild horse at the starting line of the race while we were teaching on the rooftop, but it waited kindly until the door was closed on our car to burst forth and pour and pour and pour. God is so awesome.