The last few days here at the Agape Home have been wonderful. On Friday we flew from Yangon, Myanmar to Coimbatore with 2 long layovers in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia and Chennai, India. In Chennai we found a hotel and got a few hours of sleep. When we arrived back at the airport, we found out that our flight had been moved up 15 minutes earlier. Before going through security, I was stopped and told to put tags on my two bags. In the confusion of going through security, I lost of track of Pastor Ike and Joshua thinking they had already gotten through security. When I got through security and didn’t see them, I assumed they had already made it through and proceeded to board the plane since we were in such a hurry. I hurried to the gate and boarded the plane only to find they weren’t on board. Joshua and Pastor Ike also had some problems with the tags on their bags and people cutting in front of them, so that is why it took them longer to get through security. As I sat on the plane, I started to think how shocked Paul would be when I arrived alone, but thankfully a few minutes later Pastor Ike and Joshua showed up.
Monday morning the group of 13 men with Piter arrived from Odisha. (3 of the men from his group weren’t able to make it including Pratap.) I was shocked to hear what they went through to get here. If I ever start to complain about traveling difficulties again, I need to remember their trip. They took a train ride from Odisha that took 2 days and 2 nights to get here. The train car they rode in was made to seat about 10 people, but there were 50 people packed into the space with standing room only. If I understood correctly, they were only allowed to use the restroom once during the entire train ride. More men arrived this morning and this afternoon. 10 of them came in some sort of vehicle that looked like it could only comfortably seat 4-6.
We started the conference today (Tuesday). Their singing is very joyful, thankful, and passionate and I love to hear them sing! I also learned a few other things today. They don’t necessarily stick to schedules, and often ask us to do something impromptu. Toward the end of the one of the messages, one of the men asked Joshua if we would sing something for them after the message. We sang “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.” Later I was asked to lead the children in singing “Jesus Loves Me” at the beginning of one of the sessions. Most of the men don’t write out what they plan to say ahead of time. They spend time studying and thinking about the passage/topic, pray about it, and then write down a few Scripture references they plan to share.
Pastor Ike preached the first message this morning on having integrity as a church leader. It was a very powerful message, as were most of the other messages. All the messages were in English, Tamil, and Oriya (the language spoken in the state of Odisha). When the other men preached I thought it would be easier if someone translated the message into English for us privately, but apparently none of the men speak both Tamil and Oriya fluently, so English is used as the language for translating between the two. I have to wonder how much is lost in translation when the last translator does not understand what is said by the original speaker. It will be wonderful in heaven when we can all understand one another. Joshua commented to me today, “We will have to explain it to them when we get to heaven,” in response to something that happened that we thought was funny.
We have had a wonderful time with the children here. We went through 4 of the 5 lessons with visuals related to the 5 colors of the wordless book. We are going to try to find time to teach the last lesson sometime in the next couple days. They taught us to play cricket (I still haven’t figured out all the rules), and we started teaching them how to juggle. Just when I got all their names written down, took all their pictures, and learned most of the names, several more children showed up this morning. Thankfully one of them knows a little more English than most of the children.
There is one important truth that I have learned: people are people. Aside from differences in food, language, dress, and certain customs, they are just like us. They face the same temptations we do, and are striving to become more like Christ. There is just one major difference. We have so much in America and are very comfortable, yet we want more and complain about our “trials.” They have so little and face such difficulties, yet they are so joyful.