India- Day 5
The day didn't start too early which was a real blessing for those of us who had become really sick overnight. The bug moved through our team like wildfire, and only six of us were able to muster the required energy to head to Bashir's church service today which was for the Hindu members of his congregation. Unlike the church service on Friday, today's service was filled to over flowing, with some people having to sit on the stairs to take part. Amazingly nearly 200 people dressed in every imaginable colour and pattern, (children and adults) packed into a space the size of a large Australian lounge room. It was noisy with the sound of excited children who were curious at the sight of their Australian and New Zealander visitors (members of a Baptist congregation who have been working with the Freeset team digging holes for trees and doing numerous other manual labouring jobs).
The church service started with several young children giving the visitors a bunch of colourful and highly aromatic flowers, the stems of which had been wrapped in alfoil. Then a group of older children sang some songs all the children knew. Bashir then stood up and introduced Meena who led the rest of the team in a few songs. One of the favourite songs of all the congregations we have attended is "This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made" and today was no exception. It was great to hear them singing it in their own language - Bangla. Following these songs, Nelia shared her story of growing up in a very poor family in the Philippines, and how she learnt about Jesus when she was working in Bahrain. Jan shared a story about the way God helped her when she was working in a very remote school in the Kimberley; and Meena shared about how she is from a Hindu family and became a Christ follower as a result of attending Riverview Church. All of these stories were shared with Bashir interpreting the English to Bangla.
The finale of the morning was the handing out of all kinds of presents the India Impact Team had brought with them from Perth. Elizabeth and Elisa took a huge bag and handed out little teddy bears to the youngest children, Eleaine and Jan handed out "pearl" bracelets to the young girls and mothers, and Meena and Nelia gave baseball caps to the young boys and men. All the older women were promised a new sari, which will be bought for them in the coming week.
With everyone happy with their gifts, members of the congregation slowly filtered out to go back to their homes. This gave our team, many of whom were feeling quite exhausted from "the bug" to have a little break, before the next special event for some of the children.
As a result of the kindness of the Riverview family in Perth, money had been sent ahead for Bashir to buy a gift of new clothing for different children in his community. Elisa and Eleaine did a great job of helping with the coordination of this well organised exercise. Every child was delighted with what he or she received. A yummy lunch of samosas and lemonade was also provided and everyone went home with a huge smile on their face and a full tummy.
We said our farewells to Bashir and his beautiful wife Ayesha, and wandered down the rough alleyway towards the main road where we caught an electric tuk tuk to take us back to our hotel.
By the time we got back Karen was showing signs of life again. As the afternoon progressed more and more of the team began showing their faces. We sat around a dining table in the hotel's restaurant sipping black tea and eating "safe" snacks, debriefing and encouraging one another as the bonds of friendship grow ever stronger.