Wings in India - First Report Saturday, March 18, 2006
 

By Ann Edenfield Sweet

 
     

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This is the first report from India. It was filed by Ann Edenfield Sweet on March 18, 2006.

We all have arrived safely in India and are now at the Rev. Glory’s Motherland Orphanage and Home. It is lovely! We are at a retreat in the middle of busy, crowded India. This morning we were formally greeted by the children (about 50 of them) with national dances, praise dances to God, songs and official greetings from Rev. Glory. The children purchased special garlands of greeting and each of us were presented with these gorgeous, fragrant garlands. Gardenias, marigolds, jasmine and other colorful flowers were beautifully strung like Hawaiian leis. The children had practiced the dances for over two months in anticipation of our visit.

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that we will basically live here for about the next 8 days, so we won’t have to carry our heavy bags (70 pounds each) everywhere we go. We have very comfortably rooms with private bathrooms and showers, and Rev. Glory’s wife has prepared delicious Indian meals for us.

We had quite an exciting journey getting here. The flight from Newark was 13 hours 18 minutes. We stayed at the Methodist Girls School in Delhi and Doug and I, who arrived a day earlier, met with Bishop Nimrod Christian, two District Superintendents, and at least 12 area pastors. We toured the 110 year-old girls school named after the first Methodist missionary to India named Bishop Butler. The students are on “spring break”, but we met the 70+ teachers who were busy grading papers. The rest of the team arrived that night and Doug and I were able to meet them at the airport.

The next morning we got up early. Many of us didn’t sleep that night, got to the Delhi airport by 7:30 am, and found our flight was delayed to Bangalore for almost 4 hours. The Jet Indian staff were so kind to us. They cut our overweight baggage fees in less than half, invited us to the Business Class lounge where a complimentary buffet was available to us, and we were treated so well. After the 2 ½ hour flight to Bangalore, we finally arrived around 4:00 pm and were so pleased to see Andrew, Rev. Glory’s brother, the first in line to meet us.

He had reserved a very nice van for us, but I don’t think he had any idea how many bags we had and how heavy everything was. Three very capable young men piled ALL of our bags (at least 18 suitcases) on TOP of the van! We had gone 41 KM when the back right tire went flat! The driver quickly pulled to the side of the road and within seconds there were many people around us. Thank heaven for cell phones, because soon Andrew notified us that he had arranged for another van to come to our help. The police officer, who was directing traffic directly across from us, soon even came over to meet us. Doug gave him an American quarter, as he collects foreign coins, and soon we were talking and visiting with him and many others. One peanut farmer came by and the police officer bought us peanuts – 1 rupee for a small bag, and the exchange rate is 43.55 rupees/dollar. The farmer was so pleased that we liked his peanuts. We shared a Guideposts sweater with the policeman and another man who had an infant nephew. We gave everyone pens and we were told later that we were probably the only “white faces” the people had ever seen. Everyone was so happy to see and meet us, and shook our hands heartily. One older woman took my face and Shelly’s face in her hands and brought us to her in an embrace. We were quite touched by our unexpected stop.

The driver, and all the “good Samaritans” who came along, quickly had changed the tire. The police man had come back with a beautiful bouquet of red roses and gave them to me! Here we were TOTAL strangers, and he was so kind and helpful! The roses were bundled in white paper so as the sun quickly went down, I stood on the edge of the road and waved the bouquet of roses with the white paper as a guide to the speeding traffic that zoomed by to try to help protect the men as they changed the tire.

We were stopped for almost an hour. Another van arrived, and most of the bags were taken off the roof of the first van and placed inside. Rita road up front with our driver David, and the rest of us piled into the second van. We now still had a 3 ½ hour drive ahead of us. And what a ride it was! The excellent, experienced drivers totally entertained Doug and Paul with their heroic passing and at the last minute avoiding head-on collisions! Shelly described it like a video game, although this was the real thing.

We found out that President Clinton had visited southern India several years ago. He saw the road conditions and promised aid. They now have in sections beautiful 4-lane highways. (Well, that’s probably an exaggeration – but at least they are 4 lane roads.) But at least half the way we were able to experience typical 2-lane rural highways! Whew – what a journey! We held on for dear life, laughed, said many “OH MY’s” and arrived safely around 10:30 pm. Rev. Glory and the older Bible School teachers (about 12) were waiting in the dark to meet us. We were greeted, given the gorgeous garlands, and then fed a feast! I didn’t realize I was even hungry. We all enjoyed the tasty Indian food, had homemade coconut bread/cake made by Rev. Glory’s wife, and finally crawled into bed well past midnight. I had not slept in two nights so it sure felt good to lie down!

This morning we organized our many gifts, food items, and then had our first breakfast/devotional. Doug and I met a year ago today, so Doug’s devotional focused on 1 Cor. 13 and we all shared about our families, loves, and blessings in our life.

After the colorful, entertaining program by the children this morning, we then led them in singing. We taught them Alleluia, Praise Ye the Lord, Shake a Neighbor’s Hand, Lord I Life Your Name on High, and Pharaoh, Pharaoh. The children and adults thoroughly enjoyed all the singing and sang, clapped, and enjoyed everything we did with complete joy.

We were then invited to help serve the children and staff. They sat in a large circle on the floors. The cooks had prepared a huge pot of rice, a bean/lentil dish, spiced grated beets, a sweet 6 inch long “treat” that almost looked like dried apricots, and everyone was given a fruit that looked like a smooth-skinned kiwi fruit. We all helped dish up the food and served everyone the food on a metal plate. They don’t use silverware, so the children quickly mixed the food with their fingers and I don’t think there was a single piece of rice left on their plates!

We were then treated to a special lunch in the smaller dining room. The food was delicious. The temperature is quite hot – probably high 80’s with heavy humidity, so I was surprised when I could actually eat much food. We’ve been boiling water like crazy and trying to keep hydrated.

I think we all feel like we’ve found a beautiful, foreign “retreat center” in the middle of India.The children and staff couldn’t be more loving or welcoming.

We are going to a disabled home tonight where there are at least 100 mentally handicapped children. We will do a Wings Party for them.

We have already gelled as a team. Please keep us in prayer for good health, but know that we are being so well cared for. I feel like I have entered a small part of paradise where I’m fortunate enough to experience and become a part of it for a short time. This is a place where we have already been showered by love, and I’m sure we will gain far more than we will give. But we will do our best to share Christ’s love with everyone we meet.

Please share this email and our Wings website with others who may not be on the Wings mailing list. We will send all email messages to Jim Harmon, our webmaster, and he will put our updates on our website. We will probably not be able to send out individual emails to everyone.

Know that you ALL are in our thoughts and prayers. We feel safe, loved, and oh so VERY welcome!

Blessings to all!

In His love,

Ann

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