This day was a busy and full day. We woke early and dressed for the graduation ceremony. After breakfast the guys went over to the seminary to finish up some teaching. The car came for us next. It was harried getting out the door, because we had to pack for the whole day of being away. The kids were also a bit grumpy since we woke up early after a late night out. But all that was in God's hands. We arrived at the seminary only to find out they weren't quite ready for the ceremony, so we instead, toured the printing press facility. It is amazing what God is doing in this place. The staff is so passionate about their work. For those who don't know – Mano runs a printing press that publishes 150,000 tracts every day in 18 different languages. These are then spread throughout India by pastors and others. One woman's job is to do follow up work. If they contact Mano via the tract, she sends out a Gospel of Mark book. This is all quite remarkable.
After our tour it was ceremony time. How wonderful to meet all these eager Bible students. They hunger and thirst for knowledge of the Word. Ed and Abe passed out all the certificates to the students and we were able to meet them and congratulate them as well. After this was picture time. Then the women and children were whisked away to change clothes for our journey.
We set out about 1pm for our trip south to Pondicherry. This is the location of the orphanage that Woodside Bible has adopted. But first, we stopped at a crocodile farm. Never before have I seen so, so many crocodiles in one place. I think over 1000 of them. Kind of creepy actually. If that wasn't enough, they also have snakes that they pull the venom out of to make an antidote for snake bites. Yes, I was within 10 feet of two King Cobras and some other more more venomous snakes. The snake handler said, “If you want to meet your Maker in 4 hours, have the King Cobra bite you. If you want to meet your Maker in one hour, have this little black, slithering creature bit you. Okay, well that was enough of that adventure. Time to move on....
Our next stop was the Blue Elephant Restaurant in the very touristy town of Mamallapuram. Since this is on the coast they specialize in seafood. Hmmm, not exactly my favorite. So they bring out the freshly caught fish on a platter and you choose what you would like cooked for you. Ugh...really? Nasty! I chose a very boring egg fried rice. Yup – very similar to what you would get at your local Chinese restaurant. Sheila joined me in abstaining from the fish foray. For the rest of the adults and Josh, well you would have thought they died and went to heaven. They enjoyed their meal to the full or should I say fill?
After dinner we drove by very ancient temples. They date back to about 900 AD. It really was a quite a site. I would have enjoyed getting out and exploring it a bit more, but our time was very short. So we were content with watching through the windows with an occasional stop for pictures. Then something very strange occurred. A funeral procession right down the middle of the street right past our cars. What was odd – the body was lying on what looked like a decorated float and carried through the streets. I would have thought that it was a parade. But then I saw the body. After the body passed all the shop owners sprayed down the front of the sidewalks as a cleansing ritual. Talk about out of the everyday norm – wow! That was simply, downright bizarre.
Okay - moving on south on the East Coast Highway we finally arrived to our destination – the Bible Tract League Rehabilitation Center. This place was built in the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated this area. Many in the area were fishermen by trade, but after the catastrophe, they deemed that trade unsafe and wanted to be trained in something different. So this place was built to teach sewing and computers and other trades. It now houses a church in the lower level. One year from now it will be home to about 20 orphans. Our church's first team is heading out in February to work on this building and convert it to an orphanage. Things that need to be done include finishing a barrier wall and building up the land around it. Most of the land is currently under the water table. The second floor needs to be partitioned into boy's quarters, girl's quarters, common areas. Also, a dining room needs to be constructed and more toilets. While there we prayed over the building and I felt as if on sacred ground. I absolutely can't wait to hear of the stories that this place will have in impacting lives for eternity.
We finished up here and moved north to an established orphanage. Here we met children that were lovingly cared for by amazing people. There was a 3 year old by the name of Christopher that was abandoned by his parents. This orphanage took him in. Oh, if only I could bring him home and raise him as my own. What a precious child! The kids sang for us, and recited scripture they had memorized. Josh did some juggling tricks for them with a J316 ball then explained the significance of the ball. He then presented two of the balls to the caretaker for the children's enjoyment. Three boys pounced on the balls and were so excited. Josh's charge to them is that when he comes back, he wants those boys to be better at juggling than him. One boy enthusiastically took the challenge.
It has been an amazing day. It has been full of wonderment and fascinating sites as well as a joyous hope for the future.
I feel as though I need to interject something about driving here. You know how we enjoy a dotted or solid yellow line that tells you which side of the road to stay on? Well here, that line is merely a suggestion and many times today I found myself staring at oncoming traffic thinking, this is it – I will surely die now. Then the masterful hands of the driver would wiggle us in next to a bus, back on our side of the road. Wow! Talk about a faith drive. Yes, I will admit that I covered my eyes more than once. I was, after all, riding shotgun in the front seat. And yes, they drive on the wrong side of the road here, but driving is complete anarchy so just honk your way through. You will get there. I joked that I should take the wheel. I would just lay on the horn and not stop till we got back to our hotel. Well, I decided that was a for sure death sentence so I stayed put.
I can't believe it is Friday and we leave this place tomorrow. I will miss it. I am wonderfully blessed by my visit here.