15 July 2007

News from Nellore ~ Laura Hulke

Wandanalu!That is a Christian greeting in Telegu.

I am in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh at the moment, accessing the Internet quickly before heading to a restaurant for dinner. We were well fed for lunch, so I'm really not very hungry, but I know I will be soon. Yesterday was a pretty uneventful day. Ten of us left the group in Guntur to head to Nellore, so that was another fun bus ride. We also met Moses Raghu from the BELC in the evening and went to a Chinese restaurant. Yes, a Chinese restaurant in India.

Today, we spent almost the entire day at the BELC church in Nellore. We were warmly greeted by men, women, and children. The morning session consisted of some singing, then a review of the book of Acts. We had prepared some questions for the congregation, and it turned into a very lively competition between the men and the women. We were absolutely astonished by their extensive knowledge of the Bible! I don't think I could've easily answered some of the questions that we asked them. It was so wonderful to hear the people singing hymns in Telegu. Again, I was struck by the idea of praising God in a language other than my own, a language I'd never heard before.

After the quiz session, we were mobbed by the children once again. They are so irresistible! I held one little baby boy for a while and made him giggle by tossing him up in the air. Then, when I gave him to someone else, I found a wet spot on my leg. Whether it was from him or from my sweat, I guess I'll never know. In any case, this trip is not for the squeamish! We took so many pictures with the women and children, and they asked for our autographs and phone numbers. Lee and I tried to learn how to count to ten in Telegu. When we asked the children to count in English, they could, quite easily. They also knew their ABC's.

The other BELC group left us then to head to Chennai, so we got the chance to practice our VBS lessons with the children present. It was wonderful to get to run through our stories with these children who already believe before we share with those who may have never heard it before. Tomorrow, we'll be going to church here in Nellore and doing the craft with the children. It's the children, really, that get to me on this trip. They are so adorable and energetic and heartwarming. They freely give handshakes and hugs and smiles, and they're so excited to see what their picture looks like on our digital cameras. It's the children, also, that get to me when our group is approached by beggars. We've been told that giving money to beggars isn't always a good idea, because if we give to one, we could quickly be mobbed by many. I've managed to slip a few coins into the hands of some children here and there.

That's another thing - money. Everything here is ridiculously cheap. We ate at a Chinese restaurant last night, and my table's bill came to about 450 rupees, or a little over $11. We each ordered an entrée, and Danielle and I both ordered appetizers. Internet access costs about 50 cents an hour, and our hotel room is about $12-$13 a night, per person. We can buy a 2-liter bottle of water for 20 rupees, or 50 cents. Ridiculous! Last night, I really wanted to go home. I miss the conveniences most of all, like not having to carry toilet paper around with me and not having to worry about what I'm eating or drinking. But today, being around those fellow Christians, I really felt rejuvenated. I hope that we can be a blessing to them as they are to us.

Wishing you all the best,