Just interesting to read and reflect back - here are my musings on our first full weekday in Vellore, Monday 9th February:
Today started as a bit of a wildlife experience with a gecko, a frog and a spider all in the bathroom. Breakfast was more "Indian" than yesterday, but enjoyable. After breakfast we set off on visits, with the now usual hair-raising drive through busy traffic. There really are loads of motorcycles of a range of varieties.
First we visited a special school where they care for children with cerebral palsy. It is really remarkable what they achieve with minimal resources. The children were all gathered in an assembly – at least those not out at ordinary school. First, some explanation was given as to what happens in the school. This was followed by a brief programme with a song, a recitation and a dance. We then led an Assembly, with different members of our group reading, speaking and leading a song. I then offered a prayer and the children went off to their classrooms while we had some light refreshments. We then went to see them in their classrooms, though some of the staff came asking for blessing as we were leaving the main hall. It is amazing what they achieve. The teacher in the classroom I visited explained how they have individually tailored programmes. So, for example, one girl who can’t use her hands draws and colours with her toes. We then saw the treatment room (or gym). The equipment is limited and old, but it is there and used – including parallel bars, a treadmill and an exercise bike. In the activity room a range of things were going on, including match-box making and basket-weaving.
Next we went the short distance to visit an HIV Aids project where we met the staff and heard of the work they do, offering support to families whom this effects. There were a few mothers making paper bags.
Next stop was the church offices, where we met Bishop Rajavelu. We had formal greetings and were each presented with a garland and a shawl – a traditional welcome. On to lunch – chicken monica for me.
We left there to go to a school that has been supported by one of the Norfolk schools in the Diocese of Ely. We were greeted and sprinkled with petals as we walked across the grounds. Inside we were greeted by all the children who both sang and danced as they offered a short and colourful cultural programme. There were a number of speeches and introductions and one of our teachers spoke to the children on our behalf.
We then – and in groups by now – returned to the guest house for a quick freshen up before going off to a wedding. Three groups went to three different weddings. Ours was at the church where I am preaching next Sunday. We arrived late and sneaked in at the back – but were soon ushered to special chairs on the platform. Despite what seemed to be an abundance of clergy – someone reckoned nine – Fiona was asked to put garlands on the bride and groom and I had to present their marriage certificate and give them a blessing.
We then had a chat with the minister there – Sharma – who took us to see the newly opened church library and then on to his house for something to eat – my first experience of no cutlery! We then returned to the guest-house for evening prayers which focussed on the encounter Jesus had with the man at Kursi and some further thinking about encounters.