after a great night’s sleep, we woke up early to head back down to the ganga.
it was so fun to experience india in a new way – in the early morning, as the sun was coming up, as the city was waking up. we decided to take bicycle rickshaws down to the river instead of a taxi.
it was mellow and quiet. easier to take in than the craziness of the city at full speed – slowly!
as pretty as this looks… can you tell how smoggy it is?!
some of these pics are really for my dad (he’s a boat guy), i just loved all the weathered wood and faded colors!
and then you look in the water.
ohmyword it was nasty dirty! and this is their holy water!
the amount of trash that was in there was shocking.
early morning the locals come out to bathe (much fewer now since its winter for them also, but in the summer this place is packed!).
the women’s saris added so much color to an otherwise dingy environment.
we took the stairs up from the ganga to walk back to the street, passing cows on the stairs, of course.
the amount of fresh produce we saw was amazing, yet when we asked one of our guides about it (because we were never served fresh veggies in any restaurants) he said that they were so filled with pesticides that he believed they caused cancer. huh!
we took auto rickshaws back – a totally different experience than the bikes! it was crazy – almost like riding in a bumper car super fast, weaving in and out of people, bikes and cars (only not actually bumping into anyone – but coming oh so very close!).
after breakfast we headed out to visit our first training center. empart, the organization we went to india with, is focused on church planting and they do this through training centers where they train 25 men at a time for a year, preparing them to become pastors and church planters. this day was what we came there for: to see what God was doing through empart and to encourage the men to keep pressing on in the great commission!
as we pulled up to the training center, across from it was this (above). this was a site we saw ALL OVER. ok, prepare yourselves… its cow dung! some industrious person realized that if you take a pile of dung in your hands, pack it in tight, and dry it in the sun, it can be used as fuel and as building material. crazy, but smart. but still not a job i’d like!
when we got out of the car we could hear loud praise music, drums and clapping. the men were lined up in the courtyard, each of them holding marigold leis for us – we felt so honored! they had prepared this great welcome for us! this was one of the first powerful moments i felt in the training centers, where i felt the uniting power of God in a faraway place.
after more time of worship and brief introductions, tim, our pastor and friend was asked to teach, then a few others from our group followed him. thankfully, we had a translator!
the training center was a small room with peeling paint (really pretty actually), 3 rows of narrow tables and benches, packed in with guys. their space was small and tight but never once did someone seem irritated by the lack of elbow room – how spoiled we americans are!
one thing that was awesome was whenever a speaker from our team mentioned a verse reference, before the translator can even translate it, the students were already turning to the passage. we made a little secret game out of it to see if we could be faster than them – it didn’t happen much! their bibles were clearly loved and well used, they knew them well.
a couple other fun things we noticed: they did a lot of call and response – when someone would say “hallelujah!” everyone would shout “hallelujah!”, the same with “praise the Lord!” and “thank you Jesus!”. also, they pray very differently than we do. when we do corporate prayer, we either just listen and pray along silently with one person leading, or we take turns. the indian people all pray at the same time. all of them. together. it was so fun to listen to, but so hard to pray along with!
here’s a look at their daily schedule, 6 days a week. it is intense!
after the teaching time, we had a little down time with the guys – here sean was showing some of them pics of our kids. they thought it was funny that we call silas “monkey”!
this is the pastor of the training center and his sweet family. what a sacrifice they all have made for the sake of spreading the gospel!
one of the things the indian people do well is hospitality. we were always offered water everywhere we went, then welcomed into homes and offered chai and some sort of snack. a place to sit was always made available for each of us. one thing that struck me was that even when we were packed in tight the hosts never apologized for their space, but were happy to have guests and to serve us. it made me think of all the times that i apologized for not having enough couch space, or having a messy floor, or … it made me realize its not about me! when you are a host it is about your guests and not where you feel your failures are.
here’s our whole group, just before we headed off for the afternoon.
after learning about the sewing centers that empart runs, i reeeeally wanted to visit one. and thankfully, tim really pushed for us to see one and they made it possible to go! so we took a long drive outside of the city, past village after village on our way to the sewing center.
then we started passing these fields of bricks.
we saw very few wheel barrows while in india, but plenty of clever ways to move things from point a to point b. this guy rigged his bike to move tons of bricks – he was teetering here on the very edge of the road!
these 2 were making the bricks, which was really cool to see!
then we walked down a small brick and dirt pathway, past a few mud huts with thatch roofs to an opening in the middle of a small village, where the sewing center was set. i was anticipating a building with tables and chairs and basically something so different from what i saw. smack dab in the center of this village, on top of grain sacks, was a group of 10 women and one teacher – this was the training center.
and it was perfect.
it wasn’t my western vision of what it would look like, it was what made sense for them. these centers are very strategic opportunities for empart.
these women are given an opportunity to learn a trade for free that they would never have otherwise. they are given the chance to provide for themselves and their families.
and they are also told the gospel while they are learning a new skill set. as the teacher is teaching the women tailoring skills, pattern making and embroidery, the gospel story is being weaved throughout their days and many of the women come to christ through it, and can then take it back to their families and communities.
empart is welcomed into these communities because of the good they are doing for them, in providing a help in the training.
after 6 months of training, each of these women are given a hand-crank sewing machine to start their new businesses with.
this is a way that we can support them – by buying a sewing machine for a graduate of the sew & sow centers – how awesome is that?! to spend $75 to help a woman and her family rise out of poverty is so doable, right?
the women were very sweet to let me join in to try the hand crank machine!
it was a little tricky pushing with one hand and cranking with the other, but pretty much the same as an electric machine otherwise – fun!
the ladies also sang a couple worship songs for us.
then there was this baby girl… oh she was so cute!
this put real meaning behind “it takes a village to raise a child” – literally, the whole village was helping the mother (a sewing student) to raise this child while she was learning.
can you see why i was so taken by her?! just precious.
travis got in on some baby loving – i’m guessing he was missing his own 4 babies back home!
just past the sewing center was the church.
it was a small brick building that 25 people worshipped in every sunday.
the people of teh village were so sweet and welcoming!
as we headed back to our cars, the whole village…
walked us out! it was so fun to have a sweet farewell!
then we hit the dirt road again to go visit another pastor and his family… of 12!
another strategic way empart works is through children’s homes, not just orphanages, but actual homes that children can live in, with families. orphanages are great and needed, but children are raised with no real sense of a mother and father. through empart’s children’s homes, children are brought into a pastor’s home and family and are raised with a healthy view of what it is to have a mother and father. not only is this beneficial for the children but also for the pastor. the villages that may have not welcomed the gospel into their community will usually open wide their arms for someone willing to take in the orphans – indian people are very family centered and love to see their people cared for.
the home we visited had 10 children, 8 of them little boys, ages 4 to 12, that the pastor and his wife took in. these kids were all so sweet and sang us a couple songs for us, then served us (you guessed it!) chai. behind them you can see 5 bunk beds, all lined up in a row.
we left their home as the sun was setting and i crashed hard. the day was so emotional and overwhelming – pushing me to think in ways that i never have before, challenging me to be someone different. i was so exhausted that i slept on sean’s shoulder for the long ride back to the hotel, then skipped dinner and went straight to bed. i was wiped, way too tired to process the day!