We left the red light district and drove back the way we had come. It was only about ten minutes before we turned from the main road into a smaller neighborhood. The roads were definitely not paved and at one point we drove down a road that was much too narrow for our car. We had to back up and go another way. After driving around the small neighborhood for a few more minutes we finally pulled up to a larger road with Team A’s cars parked at the end of it. We got out and walked along a dirt path to a giant building that had no walls. It was a church. You could see people bustling about in a makeshift kitchen. There were giant cauldrons where you could see people stirring rice which was put into giant bowls and carried into the church.
Walking up to the church we ate lunch at on New Year's Day.
We walked up a ramp to get into the building and took off our shoes before entering. There were rows of tables with Indian people sitting at them eating. We walked to the stage and met up with Team B who had done their event in this very spot. Kids were crowded around the some of our team members playing instruments and they were trying to teach us songs. Kids were hugging other team members and getting their pictures taken. We milled around on the stage for a few minutes waiting for our chance to eat. When it was finally our turn, we went and sat down.
Lunch on New Year's Day. These are members of the church we were eating at.
People immediately set out plates and cups for us. They walked by with a bucket of water and ladled it into our cups. All of us looked at each other skeptical if we were supposed to drink that or not. Soon, someone came by with our water bottles which meant we would have clean water to drink after all. I coughed and dumped the water over my shoulder to get rid of cup of water. After a minute or so, people came up and served us. Rice was dumped on our plates, then chicken and then some other things. The food was plentiful and it was good. There was something that looked like chicken, but it was much darker. I went to eat it and it tasted TERRIBLE; it was liver. In our training, we were told that we needed to finish ALL of our food, so we had to try and finish it all, but I couldn’t imagine finishing the liver. The girls I sat next to also tried to dump some of their chicken on my plate when I wasn’t looking. I became too full to finish, but was scared to insult anyone. I got out of my obligations when people started to clean up the tables. They rolled up the table cloth, plates and all. I got to sneak that food away. There was no way I was going to have any more of that liver.
Only after the trip did I realize the significance of that church and our eating with them. The lunch was a huge festival to celebrate the New Year. The church as a whole had fasted for three days before New Years and this was them breaking the fast. This church was located where Rock Harbor and Harvest India had done a huge crusade three years prior. Out of that crusade, many people came to Christ. So many people came to Christ that 32 small churches were planted from it. Of those 32 churches, 16 remain presently and the one we were at had a normal attendance of 240 members. I imagine that no one who was a part of the crusade would know the lasting effect that it would have. I realize that the members from our team have no idea how God will use our trip and what sort of lasting effect we will have.
We left the church and got back into our cars, which were surrounded by people wanting to shake our hands shouting, “Happy New Year!” at us. The cars drove the long trip back to our hotel. Along the way, I found out that they were looking for people to do the next outreach event and also to teach Sunday services at a church. I volunteered for both. I felt that since I was on the speaking team I wanted to make the most out of it. At the hotel, we had some downtime which I used to prepare the two messages I would give. I had some ideas previously, so I took them and ran with them. After about an hour or so, I was ready with all that I was going to teach the next two days.
In the evening, we gathered and went to Suresh’s house for a night of the sexes. The guys would spend the night hanging out with Pastor Suresh and the women would spend time with the women from the Ashraya House. As we walked up the stairs into the house, the men stopped on the third floor and went into a dining hall, while the women continued on up to the roof.
In the dining hall, we took our seats with Suresh at the head of the table. We were served dinner and spent the time talking about manly things. We got the chance to ask Suresh any question we wanted, which we took full advantage of. After we were done eating, Suresh brought in gifts for us: lungis. A lungi is a man’s skirt which you wear around the house as pajamas. Poorer people wear them every day to work. They were what we were passing out to the men at the events. Suresh handed a stack to each side of the table and we took one and passed the stack down. I ended up with a green one which I traded for a black one (I didn’t care, the other guy did). He then taught us how to wear it. It was actually quite difficult to figure out for me. It was only a giant piece of fabric, but you have to tie it a certain way. Also, I am much skinnier than Suresh, so the large piece of fabric was extra large on me. After fumbling around with it for a while, I had Suresh tie it on me. It worked like a charm, except for the fact that I could feel the circulation being cut off at my waist.
Men wearing their lungis.
When everyone was wearing theirs, we posed for pictures and then did what anyone else would do: go upstairs to show the ladies. We walked very carefully up the stairs; the lungis were long and tripping was a huge possibility. Upstairs, we found about 50 or so women sitting at the tables. There were groups of our teammates with groups of the Ashraya women. We showed off our new clothing and they all appreciated it. After a few minutes, we finally went back downstairs and got dressed. Craig announced that we had a phone for the team to make calls home, so I finally called my family. The connection was terrible, but I spoke to my mom for a few minutes. When I was done on the phone, the men came in from somewhere and announced that they had just baptized one of Suresh’s foster daughters. I was amazed at the fact that they did this, and that I missed it. I was a little disappointed in that, but was glad to have talked to my mom. When all the guys were back together, we got into the cars and headed for the hotel. We had a chance to get to sleep early and we didn’t want to waste it!
Pastor Suresh's foster daughter being baptized by Josh and Daniel.
The ladies, on the other hand, had a whole night left. I wasn’t there, but I hear it was a powerful night. The Ashraya women are women that have come from prostitution or abusive households to live. They are given food and shelter and the opportunity to make clothing for living wages. The women spent the first part of the night sharing their testimonies. Women got up and spoke to the group, bearing their hearts and souls and showing where they had come from and where they were and how Jesus had moved in them. The women spent the rest of the night in fellowship. They ate dinner together, painted each others’ nails, and drew henna on each other. Hearing about the cool things that they did made me a little jealous, but I knew that it wouldn’t be the same with men there.
The ladies listen to one of the Rock Harbor team members as she shares her testimony.
That night, I went to sleep thinking about how awesome the next day would be; I was going to preach. I was right.