Shortly before my last entry the Christmas season began and lasted until 1/1/2009. There was singing, dancing, prayer, playing and of course worshiping. Our Christmas season began on 22/12 with the nursery’s Christmas program they put on for the parents. The nursery, or preschool, consists of mostly the children from the home but they have opened the doors to some local children as well. The local children are not Christian but their families send them to our school so they will learn English. So it was good having the parents of the local children come and here Christmas songs. It was very entertaining seeing the children in their little uniforms and hearing their voices. For the rest of the week the other children continued to practice songs and dances that we will be performing on Christmas when the parents come to visit. On 24/12 the parents started coming. I took some great photos of the kids with their families and it was nice that some of the parents from Bander remembered me from when we visited. Since there weren’t enough plates for everyone, everybody eats off of banana leaves that are glued together. On Christmas Eve night all the kids received new outfits.
Christmas day was a very fun and exciting day. It was pretty much an all day party starting with a morning service. We actually had two morning services and during the second service the two choirs sang the songs they had been practicing all week. I don’t know the words, but they are the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Some of the parents had brought gifts for the home from their villages. Each family that brought a gift was prayed for and we blessed the gifts. I was asked to pray for Suvarna, Esther (one of my best friends) and their grandmother. We had lunch and then it was game time. Everyone gathered at the field to play a few games. The first game we played is the national game of India, kabadi. In a nutshell it’s played with two teams and one person from one team goes across the centerline and tries to touch someone and then make it back across the centerline without being captured. First it was the older boys versus the dads, then the older girls versus the moms and then it was my favorite, the younger girls versus the younger boys. Two of the girls, Monica and Rupali Dongre, really enjoyed tackling the boys. Watching Rupali play was like watching a wild animal stalk its prey before attacking. After kabadi we played a dodge ball game, men versus women.
After dinner everyone gathered again for more worshiping. The kids performed their dances they had been working on for the past week. Since I had already seen most of the dances I enjoyed watching the parents watch the kids. During the evening service the kids received a package with more gifts inside. I didn’t watch this because Sara and I had arranged for a surprise video chat with my family. So at 21:30, 8:00 Christmas morning back home, my sister surprised my parents by video chatting with me. We chatted for about an hour and then I had to get back to the party. The kids had started a bonfire and everyone was singing songs. Then everyone went around the campus to everyone’s room and sang some Christmas carols, in either Hindi or Marathi, I don’t know.
The New Years celebration was bitter sweet. I had found out the day before that my grandpa was going to die, passive euthanasia. It was tough being so far away from my family but they reassured me that grandpa was proud of the work I was doing and that he wanted me to continue and stay in India. The kids asked me if I was going home and if I cried. I told them no and yes. We went into the city for most of the day and I was able to post a video I made for my mom, as well as everyone back home, on facebook. At this time I found out that they were going to take my grandfathers oxygen away at 9:00. My mom was also online so I was able to chat with her about it. Once we got back to the home the kids did their normal routine and after dinner we started a bonfire. The kids sang tons of songs but I left at 22:15 to be alone at 22:30, the time they were going to take away Grandpa oxygen. I began praying and thanked God for blessing me with such an amazing grandfather and I asked him to be with my grandmother, dad and the rest of the family during this time. I returned to the bonfire at 23:30 and found that only about 1/5 the kids were still awake, but they were still singing songs. At 23:45 the singing stopped and we began a prayer session. The kids took turns in what I can only imagine as thanking God for the blessing He gave them this past year and to bless the upcoming year. When we finished praying it was 2009 and we shook everyone’s hand and told everyone “Happy New Year!”
On 28/12 the kids asked for me to give the message. I talked about my life and how it was they who wanted me to preach to them but it is they who preach to me everyday. I told them how awesome it is to be woken up every morning to the sound of their songs and prayers. The kids continue to enjoy my presence. Some of the girls tried teaching me the words to one of their songs but I can only say a few lines. I know the dance that goes along with the song and the kids are always asking me to sing that song and they laugh and laugh. They also love it when I “sing” the song that goes along with one of their hand clapping games. I also changed one of the lines in the song to include some of the kid’s last name. They love this especially since I mispronounce the name and my mispronouncing of the name means “old lady.” I find imitation to be the greatest form of flattery, and so do the kids. They love it when I make of them when they laugh, which only makes them laugh more. This one girl, Sonali Kodape, and I are always have very “heated” conversations which causes her to laugh and she is also the one I imitate laughing the most. Three of the girls told me that we are best friends, Esther, Jyotsna and Chaitali. Esther says that we have the same mom. So the kids are awesome and I am truly having the best time of my life. I love everyone back home and I thank you for your continuing support.