15 August 2007

From Heidi Maas

Hello from the USA!
This is my final entry for the 2007 India blog , but India is far from being far from my mind, even if it is in miles. Please feel free to write back and ask questions; I can more easily respond now that I’m in the States.

When I left India, I was still trying to process everything I experienced there. Fortunately, I had the blessed opportunity to attend the CLC Youth Conference in Como, Colorado shortly after my return. Spending time with fellow believers in the Word helped me find perspective and sort through the new information in my head and heart. The theme for the conference sessions was Jer. 29:11 "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'"

We don’t always know why the Lord calls us down a particular path. I did not understand why God would want me to go all the way to India and teach children when I had no previous Sunday school, VBS, or any other teaching experience. So I did not go to India thinking, "I should go do VBS in overseas because teaching is something I really know how to do." Nope. It was more like, "Heidi, this is God. Pack your bags. I have work for you in India." God proved that He does not need His instruments of service to always come as pre-packaged, ready-to-go tools. Most often He starts off with just clay. We think we are not qualified, but we forget that the Potter shapes the clay into something useful on His wheel. Yes, as a lump of clay I was useless, so God called me to that wheel while in India. I was nervous to teach, but God equipped me for "every good work," moment by moment. He gave me courage to publicly pray for and teach the children, strength to settle tensions among the orphans, and confidence to speak with a Hindu for hours on the plane. He made provisions for me to be able to enjoy the food, the heat, and the wild traffic. The Lord also gave me tolerance for the smells and protection from the pollution in the cities. These were all gifts He provided out of His grace!

And now that I'm back, I'm finding out that the plans He had in sending me on this trip are not limited to India nor the 26 days I spent there. This trip to India is proving to be only the beginning of a bigger plan for the Lord’s Kingdom....

May the Lord bless you all and keep you all. I thank you for all your prayers and praise the Lord for keeping everyone safe on this trip so that the workers were enabled to scatter seed in His kingdom! Glory, glory and praise to our almighty God!!!

Your sister and fellow servant in the Word,
Heidi Spring Maas

"So is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11

14 August 2007

From Kate Friedrichs

Hello all!
I've been home from India for about ten days now, and it's been nice to be able to reflect on the journey...the amazing people we met, the interesting sights (and smells), and the blessed memories that will not soon leave my mind.
I've also been able to upload some photos to ShutterFly.com. I'm new to online photo sharing, so I hope it works OK. Below are the site and password if you're interested.
Password: Emma (my middle name).
One of the first things my roommate asked when she saw me was, "What is one thing you learned while you were in India?" My response: "That the rest of the world is not like the US!" Having travelled internationally herself, she smiled, nodded, and agreed. And how true it is. There are so many things that were different in India (no toilet paper, the crazy driving, the dust and animals everywhere, etc.), but yet the opportunity to spread the gospel abounded and God blessed this work. Although there were differences, the people with whom we interacted, particularly those in the church, were so wonderful! They welcomed us into their lives, and we were able to share in the blessing of Christian fellowship with them.
One thing that stood out to me as we stopped in London and have now returned home is the mindset of people in India. Wherever we went, people wanted to help -- they weren't focused on possessions or themselves. It was so refreshing to see compared to the materialism and self-centered attitude of Americans. This was quite evident in the church. They didn't have much -- maybe no roof on the church building, probably not a fancy sound system, and certainly not an organ! -- but they have our Savior God and His holy Word. And they join in praising Him together and share that good news of Christ with others!
For the video that Rick is putting together for the trip, I answered the question, "Why is the Mission Helper Trip (MHT) important?" I think most people (including myself originally) mostly think of the evangelism to non-Christians when they think of the MHT. And that is important, of course. As Pastor O. said, it's the main purpose of our trip. But there is much more than that. I hadn't realized it before being there, but our time spent in India was extremely encouraging to the Christians who are there. More than once we were thanked for giving of our time, money, and safety to go to India. They were incredibly appreciative! And as much of an encouragement as we were to them, in some ways I felt like we were getting more more encouragement being with them...seeing their simple and "childlike" faith, but also great and strong faith. It was such a blessing!
So what have I learned from my trip to India? I've learned that God, people, and relationships are much more important than material goods; that it's nice to be part of a community and to share things. I've learned that God's love and salvation truly is for all people of all nations, regardless of race, color, class, or situation. I know without a doubt that God is always with us and keeps us in His loving care, no matter where we are in the world.
As my life returns to "normal" I continue to pray for my Christian brothers and sisters in India, who are now more than just random names to me and who, I hope, are people whose stories you feel you know a little better now, too. Please continue to remember them in your prayers, that God would bless their lives and the work they do -- that more people would come to Christ and receive the blessed gift of salvation which we have!
Blessings in Christ,

07 August 2007

from Laura Hulke

Now that I am back in the United States, I thought I would send out one last email of thanksgiving and thoughts to all of you.

I am so thankful that all of us made it home safely, and that we were kept in God's care the entire time we were in India. True, we missed the conveniences of life back home, but our situation was never so trying that we could not do the work God had set for us to do.

Something that I will never forget was how uplifting and encouraging it was for us to spend time with the pastors and Christian communities in India. They were excited to see us, and we were delighted to see the work that they are doing in a country that so desperately needs to hear the Gospel. We are grateful to them for their hospitality and kindness, and we look forward to hearing from them in the future. It is wonderful to see first-hand how the Gospel has spread around the world and continues to be spread by these amazing people.

It was a delight to teach not only children, but also adults that accompanied the children to our classes. I pray that the seeds that we planted through God's Word will grow and flourish by the Holy Spirit. I will continue to pray for all of those in the mission field, especially David and Mary Koenig and all of the pastors that we met abroad.

Thank you to all of you for your support and prayers before, during, and after the trip. Please continue praying for the people over there and the work that they do.

In Christ,
Laura Hulke

04 August 2007

From Pastor David and Sandy Baker

Now that we are back home in Chicago, Illionis, it is time for reflection upon our trip to India. It was a real blessing to see the joy in Christ among our brethren in both the CLCI and the BELC. Their dedication and committment to our LORD and Savior is wonderful. We came home blessed and encouraged by the members of the CLCI and the BELC!

Poverty abounds but the riches of Christ Jesus our LORD were proclaimed in India. Many seek wealth and fortune there but our brethren have the Pearl of Great Price. in India, we saw the Gospel at work and saw the way it changes lives. In a nation which still holds on to vestiges of the caste system, among our brethren it has practically disappeared. Our congregatons and leaders reach out with the Gospel to the poorest in India . . . something unthinkable among the Hindu's, the Buddhist's, and other religions. Our people show kindness and compassion on those of lower estate . . . something unheard of among non-Christians.

We also had the opportunity to spend a day of sightseeing in Chennai. It was awe inspiring to visit the supposed place where St. Thomas was murdered and also the place where he is supposed to be buried. Both are in Chennai.

The 2007 Misison Helper Trip was a wonderful experience and I would recommend all to participate, if possible.

David & Sandy Baker
Ascension, Batavia, Illinois

From Alison Hansen

I am home on the farm right now reflecting on my experience in India. So many thoughts and not so distant memories come to mind as part of the trip--the late night talks with fellow Christians, adventurous rides on rickshaws, dodging cattle while driving through cities and countryside, and especially all the children at the VBS sessions. I would be deceiving you if I said it was all fun and games. There were a lot of tough times as well. A person can look at the tough times and let oneself get down about the various situations or realize that the Lord is making one stronger through every situation. I was very humbled by the whole experience and realize that I need to prioritize missions in my prayer life and do all I can to support the work we are doing over there. I am very glad to be home here in the states, but will be even happier to see all of the people in India in our heavenly home someday.
Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers and I would ask you to continue to pray for the children, pastors, and lay people that they would be willing and able to reach as many other unbelievers as possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
In His Service,
Alison Hansen

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