We arrived on Sunday night to a welcome celebration of children dancing and playing drums, and the women who stay at Happy Valley embracing us while wrapping us with beautiful leis made of flowers and leaves from their compound. It was easy to feel at home in this jungly, mountain area.
We were welcomed again on Monday by the students at the Mt. Carmel School, run by Sam & Bana’s ministry LifeChange International and were able to observe how things work at the school. They have Preparatory (for those who are just starting the school), Pre-nursery, and Standards 1-6 where the students are taught Orissa (regional language), Hindi (national language), English, Social Science, General Knowledge, Geo-Science, and Conversation classes.
By Tuesday Court and I were placed on the schedule as English, Social Science, and Math teachers for Standards 3, 5, & 6 and helping in the Nursery. I am excited to see how this school will flourish and expand in the future as Sam has a vision to make it the only school in their area of Khandamal to teach and offer boarding for Standards (grades) 1-12. How amazing would that be?!
Our daily schedule (except for Wednesday which was a holiday for a Hindu god) usually consists of being at the school from 8ish to 1:30ish, then eating lunch around 2:30 and taking a nap or preparing for something that we have been asked to do (which everyday there is more to add to our list of tasks to help with for the LifeChange ministry, whether at the school or here at Happy Valley– God is keeping us busy!) From 3-5pm is pretty much designated as “rest time” though. After resting we visit different houses of family members of Bana & Sam, or parents of the children that we are teaching. Every day seems so laid back but also full of new adventures and new people to share the love of Jesus with them.
It has been wonderful to get to finally see the place that I have heard so much about from Courtney, and meet the wonderful family that is front and center, chosen by God to be led by His Spirit to run this ministry. The more I get to know them, the more I have a deep love and respect for how they demonstrate the love that God our Father gives us when he adopts us and calls us his children.
“By this we know love , that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:16-17)
Sam and Bana have opened up their home not only to us but also many boys and young children that stay on the compund with them while they attend school.
“Beloved, if God so loved us (that he sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him), we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 3:(9)11-12
I see the love of God clearly through the love that Sam and Bana show us as well as every person they come in contact with. It is incredible how much favor they have with the community here. Besides the daily increasing number of people we’ve found that are related to this couple, Christians and Hindus, government workers and political leaders, influential pastors, and humble parents only wanting the best for their children all are putting their faith in the mission this couple has of making a difference in their village for the better; the difference being the transformative power of Jesus Christ.
Court and I even started calling them Mom and Dad as we can tangibly feel the love that they have for us. They have even picked out clothes for us! Last night sealed our relationship when they took us shopping for sarees because we wanted to fit in more with the culture. After the two shop owners (which both have children in the school where we are teaching) started two-by-two laying out beautiful pieces of fabric for the sarees, our “parents” helped to ensure we were making the best decision and receiving the best quality. Sam, like a good dad, told us which ones he liked the best w/out trying to influence our opinions too much. Bana made sure that I knew the sequins would probably fall off the one I chose, and that it might not be very soft on my skin. After choosing our favorites, Papa Sam taught us how to wear the excess fabric as a scarf, and after demonstrating on himself (too fast for us to take a picture), he tied one around each of our necks. I felt blessed and totally comfortable with this new relationship!
I could go on and on about how much I am jealous for the deep, loving relationships that take place between family and friends here, but I will save it for the next time. This family has indeed been a reflection of Jesus for me, which is awesome! God is so gracious to sacrifice his own Son, Himself as Jesus, so that it is possible for us to have a relationship with the Him, the King of Kings when we turn from our selfish desires and trust in Him. The best thing for us is to be in His presence, where there is fullness of joy!
With my family here in India I can see that they are trusting in God, seeking his face, sitting in his presence, and their joy and love are both a result of that.
One last comment:
I have to share with you how PSALM 103 has been refreshing to my soul nearly every day this week:
“Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and do not forget all His benefits – who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases.”
So amazing. So wonderful. This psalm has been a promise from God that I can be thankful for even while I’m almost always sweaty, tired, stomach hurting (getting better, Praise God), stressed out over our speaking in front of people, or letting the enemy divide Court and I…. I must remind myself: don’t forget all His benefits. He has given me everything I need in Christ to be satisfied, and also to be more than a conqueror to anything that comes against us, and doing His work.
And as I speak about being refreshed, the rain is coming! I love seeing the hand of God working in this place.
I encourage you to read Psalm 103 and be blessed!
Please pray for us and India,