Saturday, February 18, 2006

(email has been very difficult this week - no power then no phone lines and then no server! - sorry)
Dear Friends,
The last two weeks have been very busy! We’re sorry we haven’t been able to upload any pictures. Last week we attended the Diocese’ annual convention. The convention went from Sunday to Sunday. Each day there were three sessions. The morning session went from 10am til 1pm. Then we ate lunch together. The afternoon session went from 2pm til 4pm. And the evening session from 6:30pm until 10:30pm. Every session was filled with worship, sermons and songs. The Bishop had asked every preacher to preach at least one hour and preferably two! Harold did his best to preach for one hour! We included pictures of Harold preaching at the children’s program on Friday. He told the story of the lame man by the pool. Donna sang at least once a day. The crowds were unbelievable. At the beginning of the week there may have been between 1 and 2000 people. By the end there were at least 5000 and some counts went as high as 10,000. People came from all over the Diocese. They sleep on mats and pile into cars 5 times their capacity. We saw many simple jeeps with 15 people crammed inside. The worship is actually quite charismatic and there was some speaking in tongues (although it was often hard to tell if it was tongues or Malylalum (spelling?) which is the common language of this area although the Diocese also includes churches which speak Tamil.

A group of 8 people from the Reformed Church visited for the last three days of the convention. It was good to have some time to speak only English and to hear of news from home. We are feeling quite comfortable with our new friends in the Diocese. We are getting to know the pastors quite well. There has been some kidding that Harold is now part of the Church of South India. We do feel as if we have been adopted into the fellowship of this church and that the pastors are truly our colleagues in ministry.

This past Monday we went off to a wildlife refuge with the RCA team and the Bishop. We were able to take a boat and explore the area. You will see pictures of elephants and monkeys. Sorry ~ no tigers! It is very rare that one is spotted. They figure there are about 40 in the reserve. The next day we spent in meetings with the pastors of the Diocese talking about how we each do ministry. It was a good discussion which lasted about 4 hours.

Wednesday we went off with Annie and Abraham to the backwaters and to explore a bird sanctuary. There were some very interesting birds although we were surprised that there were few colorful birds except kingfishers which are quite beautiful but impossible to photograph. The first “birds” we saw weren’t birds at all! But HUGE bats!!! Our guide suggested they are about the same size as a large chicken and have a wingspan of over 3 feet. They reminded us of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz!

The four of us then ventured into the city of Kottayam to do some shopping. Annie acted as Donna’s fashion consultant and assisted in the purchase of Donna’s first sari! We then purchased the cloth to have 2 churidars made. These are similar to saris but are worn with pants underneath, also quite beautiful! Annie then took Donna to a tailor who took her measurements to “custom fit” these outfits! The total bill for the tailor was about $5! We had to chuckle during this entire shopping spree as the stores here are well equipped for tired husbands to sit as the women do their shopping ~ just like home! We thoroughly enjoyed this day with our new friends!

We head off for a big celebration tomorrow (Friday, February 17) where we are dedicating a new sanctuary at one service in the morning then on Friday evening we will have another service for a confirmation class and then the next morning we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of that same church. So, three services and three 1 hour sermons at one parish! After arriving back at the Bishop’s house on Saturday evening we will pack so that we might board our train Sunday evening bound for Jaipur which is in the northern state of Rajistan. Our train ride will take 2 ½ days in which we will not be leaving the train. Thankfully, we have an air conditioned sleeping compartment. We will meet our guide in Jaipur and after exploring Jaipur we will move on to Agra and the Taj Mahal and then Delhi. From Delhi we will take a train south along the eastern coast of India for 2 days arriving in Vellore where we will visit the medical center begun by the Scudder family (Reformed Church missionaries over 100 years ago). After arriving in Vellore in the morning we will board another night train back across India arriving at the Bishop’s House in the morning on Ash Wednesday. So, this may be our last posting until we return in 2 weeks.

Hope everyone is doing well. We miss you all but are learning a lot and have tons of stories to tell and pictures to share.

Harold and Donna


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