Monday morning we had our last breakfast at Golden Park Hotel in Malda. Lynnelle Bogan led devotion and she asked us to share blessings we have or blessings we have discovered during our time here in India. After devotion time we drove to a Santali village, among whom we have several Friends Churches. They welcomed us with their traditional dances and songs. They even let us join in. The native women balanced glass bottles full of water and with a flower sticking out the top, and danced with gracefulness. When we attempted this, we failed miserably.
Once we participated in their traditional dance, it was our turn. We taught the congregation Boom-chicka-boom, and if you are aware of that song, you’ll understand how fun/obnoxious it can be! It turned into a Santali-American “dance off” where we went back and forth in dancing.
As we set down to cool off, we asked the pastor to share his testimony to us. Pastor Balaram is a 22 year old and has been a follower of Christ for 8 years. 4 years ago, in 2013, he began to pastor Khonta Friends Church. His wife is pregnant with their first child. She is due in September, please be in prayer for a healthy baby as well as a safe delivery.
The congregation of this church currently meets outside of the pastor’s home. They are constructing a church but it is hard for them to build effectively because of monsoon season. In Santali villages the buildings are made out of mud. Then they stucco the outside to secure it and decorate. The stage of construction that they are on is still the mud foundation. So every time it rains the fresh mud “melts” away. The walls of the church are currently 3-5 feet tall and sturdy enough to stand on. The 10 of us, as well as DK, Choity and some of the congregation stood on the walls and prayed a blessing over the people and future of this church.
Then they served us puffed rice, (very similar to Rice Krispies) with bananas, cucumbers, and hard boiled eggs for lunch.
Our next stop was the “ruins” of a Compassion International facility, that the Friends church in Malda partnered with to serve over 100 children a year. The government of India has shut down all Compassion projects because of their slogan: “Releasing children from poverty, in Jesus name”. The Indian government offered for compassion to keep it’s doors open if they removed “…in Jesus name” from their slogan. They refused and Compassion of India was closed in January of this year. This refusal stood out to me personally because it is similar to what we are doing here in India. We can build relationships, help people, and even change lives, but if we are not going about our days in Jesus’ name then our mission would only help people for the rest of their lives, and not their eternal lives. During our time at the facility we went to the chapel and prayed for the Indian government’s hearts to become soft towards the spread of Christianity in their country and also for the community around the church and the children affected by the Compassion closure to not stray away from what they have learned.
On our way back to Hotel Golden Park we stopped at a 13th century mosque. This mosque is a memorial/museum. Since this day was a Muslim holiday, the end of Ramadan, it was very full. When the Indian people saw us Americans they surrounded us for pictures and selfies. It was the closest I’ve ever felt to being famous and chased by paparazzi. This distraction flustered the girls and made the tour of the mosque less enjoyable for us but nonetheless it was a beautiful place full of history.
Everywhere I go I share of my personal relationship with India because my family adopted my brother from here.
Keep us, as well as the people of India, in your prayers.
– Zack Leininger
Bethel Friends Church