Girl scout cookies or just a mess on a plate

Today was a day of prayer and fasting! We prayed for two hours for drought , the church, and the people of the town. It was an awesome time of praise and praying together with fellow believers. The time just allowed us to focus on praying and drawing closer to God. Although, its rainy season here , we have been without rain for quite some time. It hasn’t really rained since we have arrived here. In India, they use the water for hydraulic power, so without it electricity outages , like we mentioned yesterday occur. Also today in India there is a festival ,in which they worship their demon goddess. Many of the school kids and our neighbors have been worshiping and providing sacrifices , and singing in the streets. It’s an eerie ritual, so we have been praying very hard today, and would appreciate the extra prayer!

We also worked with the kids today! We are starting to get very attached, so our mothers better be prepared for some tag alongs when we return (we wish). The kids truly are amazing! They are always keeping us on our toes and active. To all the mothers and fathers out there we salute you for all your energy and hard work.

In other news, we could never pass as the perfect Indian housewives. Number one the apartment is a wreck haha and most Indians seem to be neat and tidy. Although I am proud to say we do stay caught up on the dishes most of the time :). Another issue may be the cooking scenario. Tonight’s attempt at sugar cookies turned more into sweet biscuits. We blame the Indian humidity but it may just be the cooking skills. Most importantly the “cookies” are edible and the girls will appreciate them tomorrow. Tomorrow is our sleepover with the center girls, so it should be a jolly good time.

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Barefoot Birthday

It turned out to be a hard day today. It wasn’t a bad day by any means, just hard. We have had been without electric on one side of our room today and the kids have been restless today. It is amazing in times that seem hard that God shines his light through. Light has seemed to be the theme of our day today. It’s also amazing how blessed we really are. By American standard, people who are “poor” may only have one pair of shoes , or an ill-fitting pair , or even some with holes. Well by Indian standard poor is having no shoes.

Today we attended a shoe assembly in the school. This is a poor area so some of the children do not wear shoes to school. A group from the US named “Team India” supplies shoes for all the children in need. It makes me wonder what more we could be doing? It only costs $100 to provide a scholarship for a student to attend our school and receive uniforms. There is so much need both here and around the world. The body of Jesus needs to get it in gear and start moving. We need to get out of our own little comfortable lives and step out and make a change. There are so many ways to help. Prayers and action is what is needed. I hope you will consider this and reach out to someone near you and lend a helping hand.

Another first happened today as we attended our first Indian birthday party. We didn’t know Stephanie but she is a part of the congregation and today is her 16th birthday. This was very different than American birthday parties. We started with singing praise songs and then Tim read some Scripture. They also prayed for blessings for Stephanie.

The whole family room was packed with people. At least 25 people seated on the floor and in any nook or cranny available. It was great to see the camaraderie they have here. The lights went out while we were singing our worship songs so we sang by flashlight. Instead of blowing out the candles, the birthday girl cut a piece of cake and fed her immediate family and grandmother from it. After the “ceremony” the family offered everyone food up on the roof. It was in a tent made from fabric and we used flashlights to light the tent .

God’s light has really just surrounded us today. Ironically ,we sang this little light of mine this morning, but the song really is true. We are called into the darkness of the world to be the light, the source of hope, because we know Christ. God has spoke to us today through light. He gave us a day of beautiful sunshine, He gave us flashlights to keep singing His praise at the party, and He even restored our electric. Giving us , you guess it light.
This is the verse of the day that my bible gave me, but I thought it was very fitting.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)

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Hot hot hot!

Today we started off on our normal routine. We went to morning prayer, taught, and tutored until the evening. Another one of our ministries is spending time with the center children after school. Katie is heading up the younger children and the girls. They do crafts, play games, and sing songs. There are always giggles coming from this group. The “Olympic Games” began today for the older boys that live in the center. Today was the long jump and table tennis. It’s just amazing to get more connected with the children through games. Another exciting part of the evening was attending an Indian Bible study!

We started off being very culturally appropriate , by expressing close relational bonds with one another. In other words , we loaded up in the Caravan ( 14 people in an 8 passenger vehicle) and were on our way.

When we got to the Bible study , it was in a beautiful Indian style home. It had beautiful archways above the doors of the house, and large windows. Since there were thirty of us attending the Bible study we had to sit very close and bring in chairs from the other room just to fit. We started off the service by singing. There were Hindi , English , and Kannada languages represented at the Bible study, but we only sang in English and Kannada . The lesson came from 1 Peter 2nd chapter and talked about submission to authority. We are supposed to be submissive to our governments and superiors, however, God’s law should be what dictates our actions.

After the lesson the hosting family provided us with dinner. Dinner is traditionally not served until 8 or 9 at night, so Katie and I sometimes have a small dinner before or just snacks. The food tonight was very pungent aka SPICY!! Our mouths were on fire. Usually we try to finish all the food to not offend the cook, however, tonight our taste buds could not muster the strength to continue on. After dinner they did serve us an Indian dessert that was sweet and thankfully not spicy.

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Koot Koot and Berre

You may be wondering about the words in the title. They mean sit sit and write in Kannada. These are the key words and some of the few words that Katie and I know how to communicate with the school children. We are working with some of the children at the School which is actually right below our apartment. Even if we didn’t have to wake up at 6:20 am the drums and children would wake us up at 9:30 :).

The school system is very different here than in the US. The schools at least in this part of India require that the children wear uniforms. Girls wear green plaid skirts and boys wear jeans or shorts (they are secretly Marshall fans). It’s also more military style. Each morning ,the children assemble in the courtyard where they are lined up by grade and according to height. Also, boys and girls are in separate lines.

The assembly starts with the children reciting the Lord’s prayer, although most of the children are Hindu. Then the children sing the national anthem followed by the “band” playing as they march into classes. All of the children are very respectful, however who knows what they are really saying to us haha. This school goes from LKG (lower kindergarten through 10th standard). The classes at our school are extremely large especially for the small classroom sizes and only one teacher per standard. In some classes there are up to 50-60 students per class.

I have been working with the second standard students with anyone that is behind. Here in India they don’t hold the children back and don’t really have a special education program. Also, with the large class sizes there is no individual attention. The language barrier makes it difficult to tell the children what we want them to do, but we make do. I have been trying to help the children learn their ABCs and numbers better. It is astonishing how much the children’s knowledge varies jn one standard. I had two groups of children today. The first group had difficulty with the multiplication chart and some did not know how to write their letters or numbers. The next group knew the multiplication chart and was able to spell words. In the school systems over here it is all about repetition. Handwriting is one of the marks of how intelligent you are. Most of the work is copy writing homework multiple times.

Katie- I have been working with the 1st standard students! Just like in the US , the students are adorable but ornery . Here in India , they are labeled as smart or “dull”. I have been working with the students to learn ABCs and how to count . The kids are really making improvements , we have almost mastered the alphabet and counting to 30. This may seem like an easy accomplishment , but in India they teach the kids three languages and none of these students that I have been teaching speak English, so I’m very proud of them.

Also in India , different signs mean different things. For example ,raising your pinky means you have to go to the bathroom. Today for example , one of my 1st graders did this motion and I motioned him to go on. We were upstairs , the bathroom was downstairs, so he just ran to the side and giggled . When I was telling ,the other kids “ba” or come on , he was standing there laughing. Judging by what he was pointing at , and trying telling me he either went to the bathroom in the slide or in the washing machine. Kids are so funny.

Another one of our duties is to help the center kids with tuitions aka homework after school. I have made a special connection with a little girl named Gagana. She is a girl a labeled as a dull student, some even label her as crazy. She is a littler slower than the other students, and she has some learning needs. In India , learning disabilities or special classes for slower learners are nonexistent. Although working with her to write simple sentences , the alphabet, even writing on the lines is challenging, it is definitely rewarding. She is not a typical fourth grader but she teaches me lessons when I’m supposed to be teaching her. The biggest lesson or reminder she has taught me is more and more about how in different ways we all have a special need . That need is fulfilled by Christ.

For any teachers out there that may be reading our blog, if you have helpful tips on how to help students write on the lines or write words in general, please shoot them our way.

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The pictures from yesterday :)

We had an action packed day!

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We Bought A Zoo!!! Not Really, But More Importantly We Rode An Elephant!!

Today was deemed a tourist day where we went and saw some tourist attractions in and around Mysore. We started the day by going to the Chumandi Hill. This is a large hill for this area that overlooks most of Mysore. The main attraction for most of the visitors is the temple on top of the mountain, however, for us it was the views of the city. The hill offers a 180 degree view of Mysore.

Our next stop was at the Queen’s summer palace which has been converted into a hotel. The palaces in Mysore are truly beautiful with unique architecture and vibrant colors. We were able to go to the restaurant in the hotel where we were served tea. It was like being proper English women and the server wore a waistcoat and bow tie. It was quite the shindig with pinkies extended of course haha.

We then stopped at a bird/butterfly sanctuary with a lake. It was really good to see the more natural and cleaner part of Mysore. It really is a tranquil place surrounded by intriguing trees especially banyan trees and colorful flowers. The highlight of the trip was the bird sanctuary when a peacock fully extended it’s feathers. They are gorgeous animals with their dark blue heads and colorful feathers.

Since, we were already acquainted with animals we decided to go to the zoo. We saw countless animals, but our favorite was the elephants . They had both African and Indian elephants there. They also had hundreds of other animals. We are getting used to the fact that we have to pay more to go places, and that since we are so fair skinned that often people stop,and take our picture, so relating to the animals at the zoo was pretty easy.

After the zoo, we went to the Mysore Palace . It is really a switch to go places in India, because in the US its no shoes no service. However, in India its exactly the opposite, in most monuments. Anyway the palace was absolutely beautiful! It had some of the most extravagant architecture we had ever seen! There were colorful teal columns made of cast iron that held up a ceiling of peacock inspired stained glass ceiling. It was spectacular to see. Several of the past king’s furniture and artifacts. Elephants were carved into many of the royal family’s possessions. The grandeur of the palace was just amazing to see! The palace tour also allowed us to learn more about the city. After the palace we got to ride an elephant! We were beyond excited!! Riding an elephant is something we were dying to do , so riding it was one of the highlights of the day!!

Following the palace tour, we went to the Brandivan Gardens. The scenery was tremendous with a backdrop of a dam. The wall of the dam backs the garden area so it’s a great mixture of greenery and stone. The garden had a wide variety of flowers but the main eye-catcher is all of the fountains. The garden is set up in tiers and on each level there are several fountains. It has been a wonderful day and these are some of the memories we will never forget! (especially the elephant ride).

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Auntie auntie auntie

This wonderful name is said hundreds of times during the day! The name auntie is what children call people who are older than them, much like we would say ma’am in the US.

Today like everyday we woke up and helped the girls in the center get ready for school. Between looking for uniforms and doing hair, and devotionals, it is a full time job!

We are with the kids pretty much sun up to sun down. Always hearing “Auntie! Auntie!”. However, it’s awesome that the children are opening up to us. The youngest girl, Steffy, who was very shy now talks to us and gives hugs. The children here are so loving and respectful.

Another part of our mission is helping students with tuitions aka tutoring. During school hours,Katie helps the first standard and I help the second standard students to better understand the English ABCs and numbers. This is actually quite difficult because the majority of the children speak the local dialect of Kannada. They are also learning three languages at one time. Kannada the regional language, Hindi the national language, and English. The school seems to use repetition to help the children learn and they often must copy write letters and sentences several times. It’s a bit repetitive repetitive, Iet me repeat, it’s bit repetitive for them but I guess it does the trick.

Today was another first for us. Our friend , the youth pastor ,Daniel got us some coconuts that were still green. You are supposed to drink the coconut water as well as eat the meat inside the coconut. To open the coconut they used what I would call a small machete. Thankfully we had a before and after the first-sip-photo taken and the results are clearly evident in the photos haha. My face ended in a grimace because I think the coconut water tastes like grass. Katie kept a composed face but disliked the taste as well. It was a good experience and we will try most anything once. Mind you I said ONCE!

Then we tried what are called “chots” . This is local food from vendors on the street. Yes that’s right the street, we checked it’s ok to eat them, we still haven’t drank the water , though we seem to have tried just about everything else. Anyway, we had a spicy food that was a dry cauliflower with spices. It was very good but very HOT :0!!!

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Coconut Smoke and Sneezes

Yes, that’s right. An odd combination but a part of our lives for the past couple days. Here our neighbors find the 70 degree weather to be chilly so they burn coconut shells for heat. We have been told this is a toxic mixture which isn’t so good, but all it seems to make us do is sneeze. I have probably sneezed more in India than my entire life haha. This morning Katie awoke to the smoke filling our room, which she thought was a fire, but it soon aired out.

Here are some pictures of things we’ve encountered from traveling the city this week!

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Please notice the cow is in the house, a different kind of pet than in the U.S ;).

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Matthew 25:40

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

We got an eye opening experience today when we were taken to a women’s and men’s beggars colony. It’s not a line of homeless people or where people go to beg even. In India they take adults with mental illnesses and put them into small barracks. There were hundreds of men in a building no bigger than a small church sanctuary.

These men and women were very sweet and kind, but we were just shocked to see so many people living in these small government subsidized homes. It really put biblical reading about beggars into perspective and widen our world view about things that go on today and how the bible is always relevant.

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Our Visit to Prison

Today we went to the Mysore Central Prison where 100 women and 1,000 men are imprisoned. This is the largest prison in this state. The women are separated from the men and we were taken to the women’s quarters. It’s not as strict as American prisons and the ladies were able to have their rooms open and it was mostly a community setting. However, the housing is overcrowded and the women sleep on the floor. The ladies have different charges against them and sentence times can range from a couple weeks to the death penalty.
We had a prayer meeting and small worship service in one of the women’s barracks. Sister Charlene, one of the women from the SIO ministry, led the women In singing Kannada hymns and she read a Bible lesson to them. Then the ladies came up and we prayed for them individually. Most of the ladies asked for prayer about their upcoming court dates, and some of the women have Supreme Court tomorrow. The women also asked prayer for their families. Although we couldn’t understand much of what they said and their English was limited, it was a powerful time of prayer and bringing hope to those in hopeless situations. We aren’t sure what background the women came from, what religion, or what their crime is but we wanted them to know there is hope and freedom in Jesus. It was a tremendous experience and showed us that God is with us no matter the circumstances.
Love,
Katie & Tessa

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