Has is only been 2 days? I can't believe that. It seems like much more. Our days start with a lovely Indian man, Sunji, fixing us omelets, coffee and chai tea. Today I was able to skype with David and the girls. That was a fun surprise. After that we headed to the school to teach Bible stories to 4 different grades. I was the storyteller for Daniel and the Lion's Den. I didn't have my Bible with me so I had to tell it from memory. I think it went well. I LOVE the little children with their wide eyes and ready smiles. They are just precious and I could honestly spend all day with them. Their sweet voices looking for confirmation as they call out, "here, ma'am'. They asked if my name was Jackie like Jackie Chan and I said yes, just like Jackie Chan and they laughed. They are delightful.
After story time we had another traditional Indian lunch. Quite spicy, but good. We went to share our testimonies with 9th graders in the early afternoon. We broke up into teams and the kids were in groups of 15 or so. There are many more boys in school than girls and so I said I would talk to a group of boys since we didn't have enough men. I began to share my testimony with them and am embarrassed to say that I made a couple of cultural mistakes. It is difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that many of these children, especially the older ones, attend this school for the free education and not at all for the Christianity. What I know now, that I failed to realize before my talk with them, is that many are actually hostile to Christianity. So, in my naive' way I began to share about finding the one true God at age 11 and how He loved me and how that changed my life...etc. As I finish these boys start asking me questions...very hard questions about how I know who God is and why I believe in Christianity when there are other religions that teach the same things....they were intense, but not intent on learning and listening...intent on proving me wrong. I think I handled it ok at the time, but later in the bus I wept silent tears because I could hardly stand the fact that I had possibly offended the very people I wanted to minister to. I don't write this so that anyone will try to "fix" my mistake...I just want to say that my world view is being so stretched on this trip. I am a small minded person who lives in a "Christian" nation and who forgets, even accidentally, that these people have extremely strong beliefs and I need to be very sensitive to who they are. I need to be educated on how to share my story. Using the term, "one true God" could have been, and probably was, very offensive. They didn't do anything wrong. They were not disrespectful, but I think I was' unintentionally, and it broke my heart. They are not waiting for us to save them. Even though I KNOW that we are not the "savior of the world" it is so easy to forget that. Every country does not want to be America and every person does not wish to be American. I learned a valuable, albeit painful, lesson today that I will not soon forget. Humility is my friend and I will embrace him.
Directly after the small group time we headed to a Hindu Temple dedicated to Kali, the god of death. I could not bring myself to go in. For whatever reason I just could not. Even being in the marketplace that led to the temple area was intensely sad to me. There were beggars, many of whom were children. At home we have homeless people and beggars, but not children. Even though I knew to expect it, it made me very sad. Today I saw the India that many of you told me before hand you wouldn't want to see.It was sensory overload. The smells and the sights and the filth was everywhere. It was exactly as you would imagine. Even the slums weren't this bad. The people here were going to worship a god of death. They blacken their children's eyes to ward off evil spirits. Tiny little babies with thick black circles under their eyes. The hopelessness of it all is disheartening. Terribly terribly sad. The people in the slums were friendly and happy, but the people in the market place were solemn and didn't smile or say hello. I don't even know how to adequately describe it except to say that I did not find one single thing to take a picture of. It was just too sad. Most of the group went into the temple and they said it was very intense. I'm sure some one else will blog about it and share their experience. For me the market was enough.
After the temple we headed back to the lovely coffee shop we went to yesterday. We all talked at our little tables. One gal, Frances, has been here nearly a month with Ananthi and the other one is part of our team, Chelsey. Both are 19 year old girls from large families. Both have been home schooled at times and both have a part in caring for their younger siblings. Both are very mature for their age and both are crazy about adoption! I wonder what we talk about??? Frances has a little sister my Ellie's age from the same province in China so we connected on that level immediately. Chelsey has 2.5 year old twin foster children in her home right now. I love being with these gals. We really do talk about all kinds of things and I love it. The rest of the team is wonderful too. At dinner tonight we watched the USA vs Algeria soccer match and laughed about all kinds of things. We laughed hard and I needed that. God is so precious to give us the gift of laughter. We laughed at each other and ourselves. Laughter is such good medicine and gives us "classics" to laugh at again and again. It is very bonding to share laughter together and we certainly did that tonight. When we came back to the flat a certain leader had taken some Ambien. Suffice it to say that when it kicked in he got funny. I'm thinking he should take that pill once he has climbed into bed. I'm just sayin'.
Tonight I am thankful for laughter and new friends and "classics" to celebrate in the midst of heartbreaking sadness. I am thankful for husbands at home who take care of the kids. I am thankful for God's redeeming work. He can use my failed attempts to speak truth into the hearts of young men who aren't even interested. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the broken and to offer them hope in Jesus. I am thankful that God loves humility and He desires to build that in me...and often times it is in the midst of humiliating circumstances that I learn humility. Please keep praying. I desire for God to make me more culturally sensitive and wise. I would love it if you would comment here and let me know how to pray for you. It would be an honor to take you before the Throne of the One who loves you intensely.
More photos from yesterday: