Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hyderabad Before Home

By the time you get this last blog, some of the team members will be home already! Never mind--I want to finish what I started! We drove almost 5 hours from Miryalguda (through horrific traffic related to a big exhibition) to the big city of Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh. After the intense pace of the meetings, it was great to relax, have the first real shower with hot water in almost 3 weeks, and do a little sightseeing and shopping. We hit the food courts at the Big Bazaar, tooled around the town in autocabs, and saw some of the most famous tourist draws. (We also spent a considerable amount of time trying to get from place to place, as our driver didn't know his way around the city!)Golconda Fort was first on the list of places to see. It was built by the Mogul rulers of this part of India about 500 years ago. In it's heyday, it had walls inlaid with precious stones; diamonds in the ceiling to reflect light; an advance warning system; natural air conditioning; a hand pumped water system that carried water from 4 resevoirs to the highest level; numerous escape tunnels up to 7 km long; a swimming pool; stables for elephants, camels and horses; a jail; a mosque; a Hindu temple; a judgement hall; and a double-walled plan where 4000 people lived outside the inner wall, and 3000 in the inner area!
The Chaminar and market area were great for browsing, but you had to watch out for aggressive beggars. You take your life in your hands trying to cross the street!
After much searching, we finally found a camel for the new team members to ride. No elephants, unfortunately!
Next stop for the team is Mumbai, Amsterdam, Boston, then HOME!!

Picture Key: 1-Riding a camel, 2- at the Chaminar, 3-Golconda Fort, 4-the team at the Bala Hisar Gate at Golconda Fort, 5-Riding the autocabs


I wish I had some pictures to add to this post, but they are all on Brenda's camera. You would simply not believe the outpouring of love from the villages at the final meeting. We were literally buried in garlands of jasmine, marigolds, and roses. We all got to say a few words to the crowd of about 500. As usual, it was a very emotional time with lots of final prayers, tears, and hugs. I am always overcome by how fast you can become attached to people who live in a different world, and speak a different language! Our mission in India is over for another year , but the memories will last forever.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Last Days

It doesn't seem possible we will be having our last meeting tonight! It will be so hard to say goodbye to those we have come to love over the past 2 1/2 weeks. Yesterday we had a baptism in the most inhospitable place yet! Because we and the native Indian pastors can hold meetings, but are not supposed to convert people, they have to find a non-public sight for our baptisms. (Our South Andhra Section president, Pastor P.J., actually got arrested one year!) Well, this place was certainly off the beaten path! We crossed a field to a big construction site for major irrigation pipes. They chose the first of several pits about 20 feet deep to the waterline. The edges were loose gravel and sand, and the water was scummy and muddy. They had to have pastors and Bible workers help the villagers down the steep grade of make-shift stairs of rock! 14 people, including Yellamma, our sweet little, young, Hindu mother with metastatic cancer, were baptized, and began a new life in Christ. It was wonderful to see!
Afterwards, while we were getting pictures of the group with their new Bibles, Yellamma almost fainted. In her weakened condition, the exertion and heat were too much for her. Workers carried her to our van, then into her fathers courtyard where we laid her on a cot in the shade. I honestly thought she had stopped breathing in the van! She rallied with water and rest, and we prayed for her. She even was able to attend the meeting last night! The subject was heaven, where there will never be pain, sickness, or death. She knows that unless the Lord performs a miracle, she will die soon, but I wish you could see her beautiful smile and the peace on her face. If we all came to India just so she alone could learn of Jesus, it was well worth it! Please pray for her earnestly that God's will be done in her life, whether to be healed, or sleep till she is raised healthy at Christ's coming. She has placed herself in His hands. We are sponsoring her 7 year old boy to our new school in Miryalguda. Her 4 year old girl is too young, yet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Day at Nagar Juno Sagar

Since the big Hindu festival prevented us from being able to visit in the villages in the morning, on Monday, February 9th, we drove 1 1/2 hours past endless, lush rice paddies to the huge dams and resevoir lake that supply the entire area with water--Nagar Juno Sagar. There are 2 earthen dams on each side of a concrete one that collect the water from the river and store it in a man-made lake that supplies the water for the giant canal system in this part of Andhra Pradesh. It took 10 years to fill it for the first time! It was low now in the dry season--down 40 feet, but in the rainy season it fills right up. The view was lovely, and we tried some fresh squeezed "lorange" (don't know what else you'd call a green orange!) juice from a street vendor. (Yes we know it may have been a bit risky, but was it ever good!) We had missed the ferry to the small island and museum, so we walked along the shore, did a little bird-watching, and got a very unique boat ride! They have these large, round, woven bamboo baskets about the size of a full bed. They cover the bottom with a tarp and then tar over it--instant open boat! You sit in the bottom and the driver rows you about with a wooden paddle. It was great going around in circles, too! Worth every bit of the 30 rupees a head (about 60 cents) for the experience! On the ride back, we stopped at the side of the road to watch monkeys, and fed them the rest of our loaf of bread and bag of chips!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On the Way to the Baptism!

Baptisms by a Rice Paddy

Today we attended the first of 4 baptisms of people in our villages. We gathered at the church for a brief meeting, then the candidates and church members climbed into a tractor wagon with some of our team for the ride through the rice paddies to the baptism site at the canal. Several of us walked along the red dirt road with the peaceful green rice fields spread out in every direction. Colorful birds, butterflies, and dragonflies flew about. It was so beautiful! Seven people were baptized from Potlapadu. We gave them new Telegu Bibles as a special gift. You can see from the smiles, the joy they felt!

Krista the Preacher!

Last night was awesome! There is a big 3 day Hindu festival going on in one of our villages (Lingala), so we were expecting a sparse turnout--even had to leave early for the meeting R/T all the traffic. 1.5 million people were expected to be in that little village! Not only did we have all the villages present, but our 16 year old Krista preached her first sermon (on baptism) under a full moon in a dusty Indian village on a platform made of scrap wood. She did a wonderful job, and gave a call at the end to the people to come forward if they accepted Jesus and wanted to be baptized. About 15 came, including the young mother with cancer I mentioned before! God is so good! Teenager, middle-aged, older--it doesn't matter--God can use everyone if we are willing!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pictures of Village Visits

Here are some pictures of us visiting in the villages!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sabbath Adventures

Our team split into 3 groups for different Sabbath activities. Phil and Brenda drove 3 1/2 hours to our 3 former villages near Guntur. The ladies who always dressed her in a sari, had one all laid out, and promptly wrapped her in it! They had a great time seeing old friends and touring the church buildings built in 2006.
Harry and Brian drove 4 1/2 hours (that's a 9 hour round trip for a 1 1/2 hour visit!) to dedicate our church re-build of the old falling-down one in Vattigudipadu, near Nuzvid. Ask Brian how he enjoyed that ride! They barely got back in time to wash up, change and head to the evening meeting! (Another 2 hours round trip!)
Nancy, Krista and Judy had Sabbath School and church with the children at the new school in Miryalguda. They recited Bible verses for us, and sang with such joy and enthusiasm! We told stories and took pictures and videos of them.

The Pig-Napping!

Our team member, Brian, has twice witnessed a unique event in our town of Miryalguda, where the hotel is located. Hundreds of pigs of all sizes and color variation roam the streets, vacant lots, and garbage piles of this "fair" city. To his amazement, in broad daylight, several men jump from a three-wheeled autocab and pounce upon a hapless pig. Amid screaming and shouting, the animal is quickly hog-tied and thrown into the back of the vehicle squealing bloody murder! In seconds, the men get back in and drive away with their fresh pork dinner! That's not something you see in downtown Freeport or Barre, Vermont!

The Lord Needs To Come

We are into the last week of the meetings. Tonight is number 10. Attendance has grown to about 400, and we have been having wonderful fellowship with the villagers. They love to sing the English action songs, and the kids are really into answering the Bible story questions. Our Pastors and Bible workers have done such a great job of keeping the crowd quiet and orderly! Brenda has been showing a slide show at night of the village visits we make during the day--they love seeing themselves on the screen! The sermons have been well received, and there will be some baptisms starting Tuesday.
The reality of the poverty and desperate needs of the people of rural India is again sinking in. In Dacharam today, an elderly man was sitting on a dirty cot with a leg cast to the hip. Outside, his wife squatted in despair--she is unable to walk, and he usually cares for her. The poor man cried, "There is no one to take care of us!" They are temporarily at their daughter-in-law's house. In another village, an old lady is homeless and lives off the goodwill of the villagers--she also cried. A woman follows a water buffalo, down the dirt road catching fresh poop in a basket to dry for fuel. Children play with old bike tires caked with dirt and manure. The children smile and wave, dressed in torn clothes held together with safety pins. The home of the Bible worker we had lunch in today has 2 tiny rooms and no windows, a dirt floor plastered with cow dung, and a little house sparrow that kept flying in to build a nest in a niche near the roof!
About this time you just want to sit down and cry, or get as far away as you can to try to forget. It's a helpless feeling--we have so much in America compared to most of the world. The Lord needs to come, so all this pain and misery can stop for those we have grown to love.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Bridge!

Remember the bridge where we got caught in traffic on the way to the meeting for 20 minutes? Well--you "ain't heard nothing yet!" You have to know how the Indian mind works to fully appreciate this, but I'll try to get it across (though far be it from me to infer I fully understand the Indian mind!!) On Wednesday night we were stopped for 1 hour. Last night, it was 1hr and 45 minutes! This is how traffic works in India (to the best of my limited experience!). A large vehicle (too large for it to pass the same size vehicle on the narrow space) starts across the bridge at the same time another one starts at the other end. They meet in the middle. Neither driver will back up. In the mean time, other cars, trucks, scooters, autocabs, tractor wagons, etc. proceed across behind the big truck. Everything stops. Other vehicles see the jam and think, I'll just proceed in the wrong lane and make matters worse, (but at least I'll be ahead of you!) Now picture the narrow 1 1/2 lane bridge solidly packed bumper to bumper with all vehicles going whichever way they want! Many of the drivers get out and hold a loud conference on the bridge. Other drivers are blasting the horn (because that is always so helpful!) About an hour into this frustrating fiasco, some one finally decides to back up. Others follow suit, and after a half hour or so, the driver starts our van, and we are off as if nothing happened! This happens nightly!! Are we just critical, or would it be easier to post a policeman at either end of the bridge with a walkie talkie, and let each lane go for 5 minutes and then switch?
Picture key: 1-the team visiting in the village (Phil was sick), 2-Judy, Brenda and Krista in a rice paddy, 3-the students of the new Miryalguda SDA School with their Beanie Babies!, 4-the ladies in the village.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Beautiful India!

I'm sure when people think of India, they think of the Taj Mahal, the crowded cities with their teeming millions, the sacred cows! This is only a tiny part of India. The India we see in the rural countryside is the real thing! 80% of the land here is under cultivation--in the USA, that number is 15%! In the early morning on the way to the villages, the mist rises over the half grown rice paddies that are like a lush blanket of brilliant green. The sun burns through as thousands of field workers walk to their labor carrying their tiffins (stacked stainless steele lunch containers filled with food). At mid day, dragon flies dart over the landscape, and birds call from the trees and bushes along the road. The large canal that is the lifeblood of this part of Andhra Pradesh, is deep, wide and swiflty flowing. All along it's banks, women in colorful saris beat their clothes clean on the rocks, while bright Kingfishers with red bills and irridescent turquoise backs fish in the water. At sunset, the red sun sinks into the horizen, reflecting pink, purple and orange in the water of the rice paddies, as farmers herd their flocks of goats and water buffalo home. In the evening, dim lights illuminate the small huts and homes of the villages. Tired people sit on the ground in their little yards and share their supper in the gathering dark. On the way home from the first meeting, the new moon and Venus hung bright and close in the black sky, and the stars shine without the competition of city lights. Each night, the moonshine gets brighter, making the palm trees form shadows on the land. Fireflies twinkle in the ditches by the side of the road. This is the India tourists never see, that we have been privileged to experience!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Village Visits!

We have started visiting in the villages, which is an awesome experience. We had supper at one of our Bible worker's houses--a culinary experience for sure! The ladies of our team got a lesson in chappati making. Maybe I'll give it another try when I get home!
We had an imprompto service in the Lingala Church that was built by Alex and Esther Norzow. 50-60 people meet there every Sabbath, and it is humbling to see their faith. There are very poor folks who have little in the way of material posessions, and nothing to look forward to in this earth except a steady grind of backbreaking work in the rice paddies. I am convinced that is why Jesus and His promise of salvation and eternal life in heaven are so precious to them. We walked house to house to visit and pray with the members, and those who are studying the Bible. Water buffalos lounge in the tiny yards, lime green parrots screech from the trees, small open cooking fires simmer pots of rice and lentils, pink bouganvillias spill over the walls of dried mud and cow dung, stiff roof thatch rustles as we stoop to enter low doorways, smiling children are eager to hold your hand.
I have to tell you one experience. A young Hindu mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She has 2 small children, and her husband left her when she became sick. Her father had 2 dreams where he saw a cross. He told her to stop worshipping all the Hindu gods and go to the Adventist church! She had been doing this, and coming to the meetings! It never ceases to amaze me how God reaches out to His children! Please pray for her.

Everyone Loves Beanie Babies!

On Sunday, we returned to the new school in Miryalguda to pass out Beanie Babies to all the students--what fun! It was so organized and orderly, I almost wondered if we were still in India! The kids loved them, and it happened to be parents visitation Sunday, so they were very appreciative, too. It was a pain to pack up all those stuffed animals and cram them into suitcases, but the smiles made it all worthwhile. We took pictures, so you can see for yourselves. Thanks to all of you who sent them with us!

Ibrahimpatnam School

I have to tell you about our visit on Sabbath to the Ibrahimpatnam SDA School, about 3 hours from Miryalguda. So much has changed in the years since we were there last! It has grown--457 girl boarders, 400 boy boarders, and 400 day students in pre Kindergarten thru 10th standard, which is the equivalent of our 12th grade! There are several new dorms, new housing, paved sidewalks, and a second story on the main building. We were able to see several of the students present and former team members have sponsored--that was great! The kids did the Sabbath School, Harry preached for the younger students, and Brian preached to the older ones and adults. How they can sing! We spent 9 hours in the bus that day. It was a long trip, but worth every bumpy kilometer!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The First Meetings!

Sunday, January 3oth--We have had 2 meetings already! The "road" to Narayanagudem, the village where we are holding the meetings, is a very loose term. Think the worst road you've ever travelled! Think an hour's worth of continuous potholes, and washboard made more interesting by the constant swerving to avoid 40,000 pound trucks, autocabs, bull carts, goats, pigs, cattle, water buffalo, motorcycles, and pedestrians, and a challenging short stretch of narrow dirt road that has a 10 foot drop-off into a huge canal on one side, and an 8 foot drop into a ditch on the other! Last night on the way home, we were stopped on a bridge under construction where 2 huge trucks going the opposite direction were in the middle where neither could pass, and neither wanted to back up! Finally one gave in!
Our meeting site is next to the church the Whiting, Maine congregation built 3 years ago! It was wonderful to see many of our village friends from our meetings in 2005, and to see how they have grown in the Lord! We were welcomed with the customary garlands of jasmine and marigolds. So far Phil and Brenda have preached, Krista and Judy have told the children's story, and Nancy and Brian the Health Talk. A crowd of about 200 were there the 2nd night. The kids are just as enthusiastic and full of life as usual. It is great to sing and pray with them. Keep praying more and more will come. Our pastors and Bible workers are doing a good job.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The New School!

Thursday, January 29th--I have to tell you about the wonderful new school that is being built in our area because of the churches that have been developed in the Miryalguda area. Our team from Northern New England built 10 in 2005, thanks to the generosity of many of you. A wealthy SDA Korean man donated $100,000 for the land for a school that was the vision of Pastor Bob Robinson and the Conference President here, Pastor P.J. It is great to have churches and Bible workers in the villages, but it is very important to have a place where the children can grow up in a Christian educational system. With further donations the building of the school began in October of 2007. It is amazing to see the progress already,and even though it is unfinished, classes began for lower and upper Kindergarden, and grades 1-4 this year with 6 teachers! They meet in the ist floor of the 3 story educational building-- the 2nd story is under construction now. The cafeteria/ girls' dorm is almost finished, and a 4-plex to house faculty is also under construction. The principal is a Godly, humble man we have met before. You should see the kids sing and pray, and they are so well behaved! They are living in several of the classrooms, and are sleeping on a concrete floor! We took lots of pictures (maybe I can learn how to add photos to the blog next year!) Brian helped the boys put new playground equipment in place! We brought 2 huge stalks of bananas (180 bananas to a stalk!), and gave each of the children a toothbrush, and plan to give Beanie Babies and Matchbox cars in later visits. They are learning English and are eager to test it out on us! We are committed to helping out in this wonderful endeavor, to see the school grow and prosper. If anyone is interested in sponsoring a child from one of our 5 villages, please let is know, and we will give you the details. It would be a great blessing to them- this is an opportunity most would never get.

We Have Arrived!

Hello to family and friends! It is Wednesday, January 28th, and we are getting settled in our rooms in Miryalguda, Andhra Pradesh, and are mostly over jet lag. We are in the same hotel and town as 2005, and not a lot has changed! The memories are coming back--only cold showers--if you want hot water, it's the bucket bath; frequent power outages; the pigs rooting in the garbage across the street; the little Ganesh (elephant god) shrine in the hotel lobby; not a lot of choices of places to eat (where we won't get sick!); lots of dust; we are a spectacle where ever we go--very few Americans in this town! There are blessings, though--haven't seen a cockroach yet; the hotel is relatively clean; we have air conditioning in our rooms (sometimes); and the hotel managers are very cordial.
The most exciting thing is that we have the 2 pastors we requested that we have worked with before, and love very much! We are going to be in the same 5 villages as 2005, so will see a lot of old friends, and are told there are many studying with the Bible workers. We begin our meetings tomorrow night, so please pray for us that God can use us to rightly represent Him and show His love.