From Heidi Maas --
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
From Rick Nelson --
We had a chance to see the orphans at the CLCI headquarters on Thursday. I wish I had the chance to spend more time with them. Due to a language barrier, I could not effectively ask their names, ages, likes or dislikes. I am in awe of how I was effected by those little children with whom I did not share a single word. How could there be such a connection? We spent about 4 hours with them. In just a short time everything changed. All they did was smile, laugh, giggle, sing, dance, wink, listen, sit, jump and wave and all of the Mission Helpers hearts had melted. No longer is that jpeg with a push pin through it meaningless. No longer will I ever see these children as pictures from some place far far away. No longer will those beautiful little brown eyes not effect me. These are all precious, living, breathing, loving, wonderful, innocent, perfect, believing children of God. They have been blessed with life in this world but not much else. They do however have love and affection and a playful spirit that should be the envy of any child anywhere in the world. All they were looking for as I looked deaply into their warm, brown eyes, is to love and to be loved. That is it... life is so simple. It was truly a heart wrenching experience that I wish everyone could somehow experience. Words cannot describe what we witnessed and felt on Thursday.
CLC Mission Helper
From Alison Hansen --
Greetings to you all from the wonderful city of Guntar,We traveled from Chennai to Guntar a couple of days ago now. It is a much smaller city and I enjoy it much more than the bustling Chennai. Apparently Chennai has between 5 and 7 million people so no wonder it was so hard just to cross the street. The trip to Guntar took us a little over 8 hours but was well worth it.
Yesterday, we went to a Buddhist temple and I got a lot of cool pics. We also went to an Indian museum. After that we went to have some Indian pizza. Not too different from American except that cheese pizza is simply cheese and bread/crust, no sauce. That's ok though. Last night was the big deal though.
All 16 of us went to Nidobrolu to visit the orphanage and seminary. What an absolutely amazing time!!! I can not put into words what these people did for us, but I will try to explain as best I can. We got there around 6PM Indian time (we are about 10.5 hours ahead of you all in the midwest) and saw many Christmas-like lights covering the buildings. As we walked around the corner of the trees and bushes we saw a big stage with 16 banners all saying our names and where we were from. So amazing. We sat and were served pop in glass bottles. Sprite and Thums Up (strong version of coke) was served. Then we were given a tour of the building that one of the groups will be working. Very simple, but so nice. Then the music began...and didn't end even when we left around 11:00. The music was so wonderful...I could tell the Holy Spirit was working. We sat back down and waited for more people to arrive including the children, women, men, and seminary students. After the music and singing was over for the men, then the children got up and did a variety of dances and songs. I snapped many pics of them!! So then we had some words by V.S. Benjamin, Jyothi Benjamin, and Nareekshena Benjamin, the men in charge of the CLCI in Nidobrolu. We had an Indian dancer dance for us, she was a friend of the Benjamins. Very beautiful. Then we were presented with leis or garlands of jasmine and marigold flowers. They smelled divine. Some sermons were given by both Todd Ohlmann and David Baker. Then the gifts were handed out to the seminary students--Bible covers with CLCI and other words printed on them. We also were given gifts--Bible covers as well as trophies with our names on them.
What a privilege. I really felt and still feel so undeserving. These people are sooooo good to us. After the closing prayer by Nareekshena, Danielle Ryan had the idea of handing out stickers to the young ones. So a few of us helped her with that. The kids loved it and us. Am wishing I could have spent more time with them but realize they have some wonderful teachers staying here to teach to them. We ate rice and chicken and then left.
What a night. Gotta tell ya, I was pretty beat after it was over. So much excitement and it really never lulled. Like I said, it is really hard to put it into words how amazing this experience was. It just shows what a great God we do have. I am praying I can be as much of a blessing to them as they were to me. Well, two of the groups leave from Guntar to Nellore today. Our group will be dropped off and possibly teach tomorrow. Kinda have to be on our toes as to what and when we will be teaching.We really do have some wonderful people here in India. I wish all of you could see what I have seen.