Friday, February 4, 2011

Hello From !ndia

Hello from India, or as the advertisements’ say “!ndia” Sorry to be so long to update the blog. The pace we have been keeping and traveling without internet connections has been hectic to say the least. So I’m going to give an overview of the trip so far and then come back and fill in more detail as time permits.

As we were landing at 1:30 am in Chennai I asked Harry if we were getting a taxi and was surprised to learn that our hosts, Sudasana Rao and his son Raja would be at the airport to meet us! Later I learned they had taken a nine hour train from Rajahmundry, secured transportation for us to a hotel and had been waiting for us two hours to arrive. The hospitality of the Indian people will be an entry of its own later, but suffice it to say the people of India put everyone else to shame.

The airport was empty when we arrived except for the passengers of our flight. Harry said, “Watch. When we walk out the door there will be at least a thousand people.” I thought Harry was kidding and boy was I wrong! It was a throng of people, bicycles, auto rickshaws, taxi’s of every size, cars and carts as far as I could see. Remember, this is now about 1:45 am and these were just family and friends picking up the passengers from our flight! It was 3:30 before we were able to get any rest, and then it was a mere 4 hours because we had to get up and attend worship services.

They brought us up front and asked us to lead prayers, which was fine, but we had a double language barrier. Our hosts are from the state Andre Pradesh and speak Telugu, we were in the state of Tamil Nadu and they speak Tamil. The brethren there have a brother that can speak both Indian languages, so I prayed in English, it was translated to Telugu, then to Tamil, and then it was my turn again. It’s a slow process and it’s easy to forget where you are in your prayer thoughts having to wait. Harry said some words to them about the folks who began the work there in Chennai and we took communion with our brothers and sisters before we had to go. Brother Rao intended to take us to a different church and we stumbled on this one out of pure chance! Or was it? *grin*

The other church was only a few blocks away and we were in time for their services. A young couple who were graduated from Pepperdine University in California was also in attendance with their host, a local evangelist Tony Knight. Zach and Jenny Englund were traveling throughout India journalizing the work being done in the Lords church. They hope to bring awareness to the need to support the great work the local preachers are accomplishing and to show that more work needs to be done. They came to India on the longest Visa they could get which is six months and they are almost out of time. Commendable young folks like them are needed more and more in our churches.
The strangest thing happened after both worship services today. Old women came to me and Harry with their heads covered wanting us to pray for them. One of them wanted me to pray she would find a man! Brother Rao says that these folks don't understand that everyone's prayers are heard by God equally. They hope that by having a white missionary pray for them they have a better shot at the answer they want. The children all wanted to shake my hand. I think it was to feel if white skin feels like brown skin. One little girl came to me with a crowd of children and her teacher wanting me to pray for her because she had a fever. She was crying. I kneeled down and said we would all pray for her. Harry or Raja snapped a picture while I was praying with her so you can see these sweet little children. Debbie wants me to bring one home with me. Interestingly, the people are poor, but I don't think they know how poor. All the brethren wore their nicest clothes to the worship, but very few wore shoes!
It was late before we returned to the hotel and ate. Brother Rao asked me to take a walk with him afterward. The homeless sleeping on the sidewalks and door steps are plentiful and heartbreaking. I quickly learned that a walk in Chennai next to all that traffic is dangerous. I’ll have to do a special post on traffic in India. It beats everything I’ve ever seen! I have driven millions of miles in three countries and India will never be added to the list.
Our second day in Chennai was long. We thought we were supposed to register with our embassy in Chennai and the trip to get there took all morning. Our host was confused by Harry’s request and kept taking us to the wrong location. When we arrived the Indian guards refused to let us into our own embassy! I was upset!! They finally relented to let us into the embassy library where we got the information we needed. The other task for the day was to book travel on a train to Ongole to check on a children’s home and church Harry has supported for years. The problem with booking trains when you’re a foreigner is you get special preference and your sponsors do not. So we had to settle with an 11:30 pm departure that day with a 4 am arrival in Ongole, then leave at 10:30 pm to arrive in Rajahmundry at 8:00 am.

We were met at Ongole by our dear brother Joshua. He is a short and somewhat round fellow in his fifties and he came running down the train station platform with his hands held high and a big smile on his face like a little child running to papa crying “Brother Harry!” over and over. I will never forget that scene for as long as I live. We checked into a hotel for couple of hours rest and then went to the children’s home. The 20 boys who attend the school had made welcome signs and tied them in the trees. They also made a little banner and stood there grinning ear to ear when we arrived. It didn’t take long before they were all hugging and crying.
Vimala Prakasam and her daughter, Ravi Kumari, run the home and Joshua preaches there on Sunday afternoons. He preaches at three congregations every Sunday, which is common in India. The children had prepared to sing for us and recite scriptures. Harry and I spoke to them and Harry interviewed the children to gage where assistance is required. We went back to the hotel in the late afternoon for a couple of hours rest before the 9½ hour train ride to Rajahmundry that finished as an eleven hour ride.

On the platform to greet us were Brother Rao’s other son Bobby, and five of the local preachers who gave us a warm welcome and got us and our luggage to the Fred O’Neal School and Children’s Home. It is also Brother Rao and sister Elisabeth’s home and the meeting place for the church of Christ that has grown to 400 members. We wanted to have a look at the facilities when we arrived so we tried to quietly walk through the class areas to not disturb their lessons, but when they saw us they would jump up, salute and say “Good Morning sir!” with great big beautiful smiles on their faces. We were ambushed! They had prepared for our arrival and could hardly wait to say their English greetings they had learned for us.
The school is wonderful, well staffed and administered. I plan to do a post on the school.

After cleaning up and eating we went to do our banking and buy Harry some clothes as his had not arrived yet. Harry mailed his clothes to save from having to check bags. That afternoon we watched the elocution competition at the school and their final formation of the day when they sing and say their national anthem.
Now it’s Thursday and I’m in the village of Tuni where we arrived this morning after a three hour drive to attend a wedding at noon and a gospel meeting tonight. The wedding was beautiful and they asked me to speak for a few minutes to the newlyweds with advice about their marriage. They took us straight to the stage where the couple was sitting on high ornate thrones with those who were going to speak sitting on chairs and couches to either side. I was a little nervous and completely unprepared. Plus, I spoke last after they were married and everyone waiting in line to file past them on stage to greet them and have pictures. I spoke about the marriage relationship and walking with God from Ephesians 5. I finished with Psalms 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Encouraging them to always put God first and let His Word guide them. I hope that was what they expected. I had listened intently to several speakers, including Harry who delivered a wonderful message, but Harry’s was the only one I could understand!.
So, I hope the wait was worth it. I should be able to keep up with events now and blog about the culture and specific side stories that would have taken too long to do today. We have the gospel meeting beginning in an hour and at least one tomorrow before we return to Rajahmundry and I can post this.
Update on the update: We just arrived back in Rajahmundry at 2am Saturday morning after one wedding, four gospel meetings and a building dedication. All since Friday morning! Best of all ten souls were baptized into Christ! I’ll have tomorrow to do more work on the site and will give more details.


  1. Oh man it's so good to hear all of this. I'm going to check my email and see if you have sent me one about posting videos and pictures, but if you haven't check your email because I'll send you directions! You are a brave soul to walk on the side of the road in India. The traffic def. deserves a post of it's own. Tell India we say hello and we hope to see her soon!!!

  2. Thanks Kimberly, you're a sweetheart! I said hello for you and got a spicy reply to hurry back! I'll look for your email.

  3. This is just SOOOO interesting Tim! I bet Debbie reads all this and wishes she could be there with you! Their culture is very unique, isn't it? And I just fall in love with the children and young people! What a great opportunity for you to reach out to others for the many thousands of miles away.

  4. Dear Brother. Timothy Arnold & Family in Chris

    Greetings to you in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am Brother Suman Singh preacher Rajahmundry Church of Christ. A.P India.

    I like to inform you this Monday we conducted two days Gospel meeting after my Gods massage. One man and one woman come forward and accepted Lord Jesus Christ as personal savior they taken Immersed baptism in river. I and my co-preacher give Immersed baptism in river Godavari.

    They are wife and husbands they came from Hindu families age 45 wife and 50 husbands before conversation they worshiped stone Gods and monkey Gods only. But they came to meeting hearing word of God real God is Jesus Christ they knows immediately accepted Jesus Christ as a personal savior. I thanks to Lord Jesus Christ. We also change the Name because they took Hindu names (Kondal Rao ) wife name (Mutyalayamma) we change the Christian names John and Martha.

    Please pray John and Martha in your family prayers. I am so busy with Gospel works and St.Thomas school works. I am always praying for your family.

    Please pray for my family and my ministry works. Please send a reply I am waiting for your kind reply.

    In His Name,

    Church of Christ salutes you (Romans 16:16)

    Bro. Suman Singh Preacher
    Church of Christ
    Orphan children’s Home
    Door No: 8-18-7
    Govt Reg: 454/2007
    Khambham Choultry Street
    Rajahmundry-533101 E.G.Dt
    Andhra Pradesh India
    Cell no: 0091-9866186497

    School Address

    Bro. Suman Singh Preacher
    Thomas Public School
    Door No: 73-15-16
    Near: A.v.Appa Rao Road
    Gopala Nagar Pounth Road
    Andhra Pradesh India