Dear family and friends at home,
We had the most incredible welcoming ceremony last night at the CLCI headquarters in Nidubrolu, India. It was overwhelming to see the joy and excitement of all the people for our coming. There were pastors from around the CLCI, children from several congregations in adition to the Benjamins and the orphans and seminary students. There must have been 80 people there.
First we got a tour of the compound. The rooms where they teach the seminary students are small and modest, but you can tell they take pride in keeping it looking nice and can definately see who they follow and serve as there are pictures of Jesus all aound the rooms. The room where the orphans sleep is very stark. They only have a woven mat to sleep on the cement floor and a small box for their clothing. It seems very hard to us, but this is more than many children have in India. When you see some of the children on the streets, you can see right away that the children in our orphanage are very well cared for.
They put on a big program of celebration. It began with a small group singing and playing Indian Christian music. There was a keyboardist, one playing some type of bongo drums, and another playing an electronic drum set. Several others sang the songs of praise to the Lord.
Then the children sang and danced for us, and another young lady did a traditional Indian dance. It was all very beautiful and moving. Each of us were called to the front, one at a time and honored with a beautiful and very fragrant lay around our neck. Then there were messages of welcome from Jyothi, Nireekshana, and V.S. Benjamin, followed by sermons by Todd Olhmann and David Baker. There was a time for presenting gifts to the pastors and seminary students, more songs and the prayers and benediction.
Then the fun began. The children gathered around for pictures and lots of smiles. Some of our girls gave each of them a sticker. The children loved having their pictures taken and it was a special hit for them to see their pictures on the cameras.
We were seated as guests of honor at a grand banquet feast of very authentic Indian food. We were served a very healthy protion of seasoned rice and chicken cooked in some type of curry sauce. We dig in with our fingers just like they do since there is no silverware. The seasonings for the dinner are just wonderful. Even the gizzards and liver tasted great cooked in their special sauce. At the end we received a small cup of liquidy sour yogurt with pieces of red onion and herbs. It was very tasty and worked to cleanse the palate after the somewhat spicy dinner. The whole dinner was a real treat. When we were done eating, they came around with a pail of water and a towel to wash our hands.
It is time to leave and go back to our motel, but the memory of this night will stay with me for many years. These are such a beautiful and gracious people. Even though we live a half a world away and are separated by a language barrier, we feel an instant and powerful bond with these people. They are truly our bothers and sisters in Christ. All night they were saying, Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!
We came here to encourage and teach them, but I have learned so much from them. They are far better teachers with their lives and examples. They live in a true joy of the Lord. They teach joy and contentment and a trusting confidence in the Lord. Nireekshana told me today, "we have a good life here in India." That was quite a startling comment after seeing the poverty, and dirty conditions that the people live in. But now I see, they do have a very good life indeed - a life that is not marked by comforts and convieniences, but a life that is truly good, living under the grace and love of God. They find real joy in serving rather than being served, much like their Savior. I thank the Lord that I have had this opportunity to learn from them, and I pray that I may be as much a blessing to them and teach them as they have taught and blessed me.