Wings in India - Twelfth Report Tuesday, March 28, 2006
 

By Ann Edenfield Sweet

 
     

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This is the twelfth report from India. It was filed by Ann Edenfield Sweet on March 28, 2006.

Email Message #12 – Tuesday, March 28, 2006

We’re all in one row on a Jet India flight from Chennai to Delhi. The seats are so tight that I can’t even put the screen up fully, so I will type as quickly as I can and then make corrections later when I can read the screen.

It was 39.5 degrees today in Chennai. It was hot. We got up early and left our hotel for St. Thomas’ church and hill. The hill is 300 M. high and overlooks all of Chennai. Jesus’ disciple Thomas came to India to minister to the Indian people. He was slain on this site. In the small chapel at the top of the hill there is a cross that he carved that bled every day on Dec. 18th from the 1500’s – early 1700’s. Thomas brought an original painting that was done by Luke and that was also in the chapel. There are many buildings associated with the mission including a convent and a home for orphan children, but we weren’t able to meet any of the children as they were in school. There is a beautiful cross with Jesus on the cross with three figures at his feet. There is a rock grotto that was probably at least 30 feet high. The Virgin Mary was near the top and it was interesting because she was wearing a garland.

There was parking for only a few cars. There was construction all around the church and they were doing work down one side of the hill too. It looked like there were lights on the statue of Jesus so I’m sure that people would be able to see the cross from all over Chennai at night.

Last night we went to a leper hospital that was about a 1.5 hour drive from the hotel. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the buildings where they lived, but we could take photos once we got inside the meeting area. It wasn’t a church, but a multi-purpose room. One wall only had open spaces where the brickwork was latticed, so it was very hot inside.

Pastor Johnson had also joined us with 12 of the men in his choir. They wore white shirts and white pants and were a praise band. They sang and led the music for about 25-30 minutes and were fabulous. Pastor Johnson played the keyboard and I was surprised that he sang many songs in English. They sang “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”, “Celebrate”, and “He’s So Good to Me” – Yesu Navilah. The people at first didn’t seem too sure of us, and sat back a little. The singing got everyone involved. There was one elderly grandmother who held a little tiny girl. She clapped and clapped, and had a smile on her face the whole evening. When I took her photo with her little granddaughter, she just beamed.

Then we did out program for the lepers. I told them how I often described feeling like a leper when my first husband was arrested. It seemed liked after I shared my story they got even more attentive. Several elderly leper men leaned against the left wall, and although they didn’t get as involved as the ladies, soon they were participating, singing, and smiling too.

Because many of them couldn’t walk for lack of feet, or couldn’t shake a hand because they didn’t have fingers, we had them pat a neighbor’s back or touch shoulders, and the second verse was “Jesus is a friend, He’s the friend next to you” and they waved their hands in the air and smiled at those around them. They seemed like every other crowd of people we met, except that they were obviously very poor, very thin, and then when we placed gifts in their palms, we saw their fingerless hands or deformed fingers.

We bounced balloons around the room and had them try to keep the balloons off the floor. They had a great time doing this, and the little children helped keep the balloons off the ground for a long time. We had the children pop the balloons by either steeping or sitting on them, and by that time, everyone was laughing and having a true party!

Next we did the parable about Jesus calming the water. Our contact in Chennai was Pastor John Wesley. His father came to the party, so we asked him to be Jesus. We had Andrew be the pillow that Jesus rested his head on, and when the pastor pretended to snore for the people, they all just roared. The pastor really got into the spirit and thoroughly enjoyed himself. The children formed a semi-circle to be a “boat” and when the crowd became the wind and waves, they really joined in loudly and enthusiastically. It was such fun watching them have so much fun. Of course Paul tied the Bible story together beautifully for them, letting them know that Jesus will be with them in all the storms of their lives.

Wings bought the dinner for them and so we served it. A large, very hot amount of rice was wrapped in a banana leave, wrapped in newspaper. Each person also got a small bag of what looked like papaya, and then they each got a small banana too. When women got packets of food and they couldn’t hold the packets for lack of fingers, they had us put the food in their saris and they carried it that way. Apparently they are given large spoons with which to eat. their food. Their children live with them and I’m sure help them in many ways.

Pastor Johnson called John Wesley on his cell phone as we were going back to the hotel. He invited us to stop by his church for a short prayer. He wanted us to be physically in his church. Although we were exhausted, we were humbled by his request, so of course stopped by the church. Phone calls must have been going out in all directions, because Pastor Johnson’s father, the founder of the church, also showed up to meet us. We stopped for ice cream and Pastor Wesley’s mentor/teacher, came to the ice cream/fast food stop to meet us!

One tradition that we have found quite common, especially in southern India, is that if the father is a pastor, they often encourage their sons to also be pastors. This was true for Rev. Joseph, Rev. Glory’s father, as all four sons are now involved in ministry. Rev. Johnson’s father is a pastor, and his other two brothers are also involved in ministry. Rev. John Wesley is also part of a “pastor’s family”.

Chennai is supposed to be a city that has a “leisurely pace”, is calm, etc. The traffic was very congested and it seemed to take forever to get through the traffic lights. Policemen wore breathing masks, so the pollution must be a real problem. There was a constant haze in the air, although the air looked cleaner in Chennai than in Salem. It was so hazy that it was even hard to see the Bay of Bengal when we took off.

It is only 28 degrees in Delhi, so it will be good to have a little cooler weather. Tonight we will hopefully have an early evening and then tomorrow we go to the Taj Mahal.

Rita has been sick most of the trip and we are a little worried about her. I hope she will be able to go to the Taj Mahal with us.

In His love and service,
Ann

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