Sunday, February 21, 2010


The doors of our air-conditioned vans swoosh open.

As if we're visiting dignitaries our 11 person team from Canada is delivered to a small, open-air church under a corrugated metal roof. A small mountain of kid-sized sandals sits close to a wooden beam holding up the roof. The constant honking of Indian traffic behind us is covered up by the pulsing sound of music. The voices of hundreds of children singing fills this tiny church in the center of the bustling city of Trichy, home to 1,139,000 people.

Not missing a beat in their up-tempo song, the children turn to watch the vistors come in. Their dark brown eyes grow round with excitement. Approximately 200 children sit on rugs, thick blankets, and bamboo matting on a floor of deep, clean sand.

We sit down to watch a camp follow-up program on couches specifically brought in for us. It's one of hundreds of follow-up programs going on in this district alone.

Tamil Nadu's evening air feels like warm silk. Our bare feet sink into the cool sand where the scattered rugs don't quite meet. Fluorescent lights hang from the ceiling so that the little girls's saris and churidars dazzle like an array of flowers. In contrast the boys wear mostly western clothes, short-sleeved shirts with shorts or long trousers. The children tuck their bare feet in as they sit cross-legged on the rugs. They sit so obediently, but like children from all over the world,every ounce of their nervous system strains to jump up and rush toward the visitors--to touch us--to make us their friend.

Our cheeks hurt with an exquisite pain smiling at the kids. We're only matching their wide grins for us.

The counselors--teenagers and youth in their early twenties, along with the pastor--run the program. The leaders and specially chosen kids from the congregation lead in the dance sequences. Each song, newly written by India Bible Camps each year, holds the children rapt. This year's scriptural theme, Victory Through Prayer is ingrained in each new song and deepens the children's understanding of faith in Christ.

My breath is taken away when children are brought onto the shallow stage to dance to various songs. The Indian style music, heavy with the beat of tom toms, and each willow-like hand gesture and foot movement holds traces of ancient India. In my spirit I feel the Lord's smile on this worship of Him so enriched with Indian culture.

At the end of the program the pastor instructs the children, "Stand up. Go to the visitors and tell them, 'Jesus loves you'."

Two hundred children rush toward our team with smiles and laughter. They grab our hands and each one tells us, "Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you."

With tears streaming down our faces we take each small hand, and say over and over and over to them, "Jesus loves you."

Can a person fall instantly in love with so many tiny faces at once?

As we leave and are about to get back into our waiting vans, the pastor beams with joy over the children.

He catches my hand before I can step into the van. "Pray for us. We cannot have church during the monsoon season. Heavy rains wash into the sand floor, making it dangerous with the electrical wiring. Pray for us, that God will provide the funds for a proper floor and roof."

Looking back on a sea of beautiful children's faces, I promise. "Yes, I'll pray."

If you're reading today, I hope you'll join me in that prayer for this pastor and his church in the city of Trichy, but also for the many other needs in so many other humble churches in India as well.

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