Well, we are alive! In case you have not heard there were 7 bomb blasts here in Bangalore and many others in another city in India. We are all safe and the blasts were far enough away we did not hear or see them (Bangalore is a very big city). But besides not getting blown up, we have been really busy.
Shortly after our hospital trips we had a unique opportunity to bless Prem & Rita, our inda-parents (inda- is a prefix we use to describe something in India. This was developed because, although most things that we could get in the U.S. are available to us here, everything has a unique Indian addition). What we did is made them an American meal. Rita had been raving about how last years team had made Lasagna so we decided not to be outdone. We made Lasagna AND brownies. We were surprised that we were able to get all the materials (with much improvisation, of course) and shocked when it all turned out delicious. Despite a minor miscalculation on cooking time (dinner at 8:30pm) we had a great time laughing around the dinner table.
The following Saturday (July 19th) we went on a trip with the boys that live at the school to a place called Nandi Hills. It has been an enjoyable experience to invest deeper in the relationships we have been building with the boys in the hostel. The hills were beautiful and it was fun to get out of Bangalore to hike around.
That next week Prem took us to visit some of the ministries in Bangalore. It has been encouraging to see the way that people have let their passions really be shaped and fulfilled by God. First we went to the Bible Society of India, which is the largest translator of bibles in India and has been around for about 100 years. They had all kinds of bible paraphernalia, most of which we didn’t know existed (the entire bible on one page?). Then, Wednesday we toured the Baptist Hospital in Bangalore and got to spend some time with some other college students from the U.S. they were are very friendly, but it was kind of strange to interact with white people again (I know that sounds weird, but you don’t realize the cultural bubble we live in in the Northwest until you come to a country where you are the minority).
On Thursday we went to see The Dark Knight in the theater 1km away. It was an inda-movie. Once we found our assigned seats, but before the feature presentation began the houselights came on and everyone stood up, removed their hats, and sang the national anthem. Then almost exactly an hour and half into the movie the screen when blank, the houselights came on and everyone got up to leave. This was the intermission (every movie in India has one) Kevin and Roderick went to get some snacks, but came back to the seats empty handed. The movie commenced and within twenty minutes a person came to our seats with a tray of food. Kevin gave her some rupees and she gave him and Roderick the tray of food. This was the food that they had ordered during the intermission and it was delivered to our seats.
Friday of that week was when we were set to leave for Goa. Goa is an old Portuguese colony that is right on the Arabian Sea. The beach was beautiful and the water was warm, even though it rained the majority of the time. But the most memorable part of the trip was the inda-train ride. We had to travel overnight by train, 14 hours, to get to the state of Goa. It was quite an adventure. We had to get on to the train quickly; it only stopped at our station for 2 minutes (I’m not joking). Once on, we found the accommodations rather cozy. We settled in and got a full night sleep. In the morning we were a little more ambitious and explored the train some. We got to talk with the couple in the compartment next to ours and found out they live in the same neighborhood in b’lore and were in the same compartment as us on the ride back from Goa too. We have exchanged mobile numbers and hope to have dinner with them some time before we leave. The train gave us a new perspective on how pleasant and engaging the Indian people are. As we walked down the isles of the train we would run into random people that would ask us all about our time here and about the states. A common greeting after hearing we are from the U.S. is “America, huh? George Bush?” once we got a “How’s Bushy?” On the way to the toilet or just exploring we were often offered cigarettes, biscuits, beer, or anything else they had to give. The experience convicted us that we have been much too reclusive here and need to get out and meet people. At one of the stops Kevin and Roderick got off the train to get us all breakfast (Masala Dosa….mmmm). We began to worry when the train started moving and we still didn’t know where they were. A couple minutes after we left the station they came, panting, up to the compartment and we learned that they had waited until the train started moving, intentionally, so they could dramatically run and jump onto the train.
Once in b’lore Wednesday was our first day back at school and it was also Amber’s last day before she went home. Amber was another missionary here at Prem & Rita’s, working at the school. She hails from the thriving metropolis of Ritzville, Washington and attends Witworth University as a student of theology. Amber was really part of the team and she (having arrived two weeks before us) was like our inda-big sister. After school we visited a ministry called World Cassette Outreach of India. They make recordings of the bible in different languages and dialects in India to provide to the illiterate, tribal people of India (approximately 52% of India is illiterate. That number is hugely underestimated due to the fact that the Indian government defines literacy as being able you sign your name). It is also noteworthy that they seek to do it in different dialects and languages because the common estimate for the number of languages used in India is over 1600. Also visiting that ministry was a group of students from Northwestern College in Iowa who have been in India a month and are leaving tomorrow. It was fun talking with them and comparing experiences. Amber’s flight was scheduled to leave b’lore at 6am Thursday morning so she had to leave the house at 2:30am to get there in time. The girls stayed up with her while the boys slept until 2:30. When it was time for her to go we all saw her off. Today we had a half-day at school so, reinvigorated by the experience of talking with people on the train, we set out to be more social. God blessed us. While we were in a sweets shop one guy mid-twenties noticed our white skin (not hard to do) and decided to strike up a conversation. It was really fun; we got cokes and talked about culture and actors and by no fault of our own, religion. As it turns out he is a Muslim and he was very open with his faith and we were obliged to reciprocate that openness. After talking for 45 minutes we had to go, but we got his number and hope to meet with him again soon. This afternoon Prem took us to two more ministries: Far East Broadcasting Associates (FEBA) and Gospel Recordings. FEBA uses radio and handwritten, personal follow-up to encourage and share the gospel with all of India. Due to federal regulations they are not allowed to overtly share the gospel on the radio, but that is where the personal follow-up comes in. FEBA gets thousands of letters from listeners around the country and use those avenues to bring people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. They have even seen Hindu priests come to Christ through their programs and letters. Gospel Recordings focuses on the illiterate peoples of India and provides tools for churches and missionaries to share the gospel in over 500 languages using pictures and recorded scripts.
At school we are sort of being weaned off of the kids. Whether it is for their sake or ours, we are not sure. We have spent the last couple of days doing some much-needed organizing work in the library of the school. Roderick has also been tasked with writing several descriptions of events for Rita to use in promoting the school. If we are honest with ourselves we are starting to get anxious to be coming home, but we still have a lot of great things planned and every intention of being fully present here until the final moment. We miss you all terribly and always appreciate your emails of encouragement. Please be praying for the ministries we’ve mentioned. They are fighting the good fight and doing so with such passion and drive.