Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Safely Home and Greatly Blessed

February 19, 2007

Dear Friends and Family
,

Thank you so much for your prayers. We had no sickness to speak of and nothing that kept us from being where the Lord wanted us to be and doing what He had in mind. We arrived home safely and on time and with all of our luggage! O'Hare which had been under delays and falling snow just an hour before was sunny and dry when we arrived. God answered our prayers so specifically with sunshine and clear dry roads all the way home to Madison. Katherine's dad who came to pick us up saw 15-20 cars and trucks off the road from slippery pavement and accidents on his way to O'Hare. We have a Big God!

Team works

How amazing it was to see His plans unfold as He used the four of us as a team though we'd never all worked together before.

One night that stands out as proof of God's leading us as a team is the last night of village meetings in the coal mining area. At the evening meetings usually only two of us spoke, but this night we felt that all four of us were to speak. This could be very tricky, since whatever time we speak is doubled by the time the interpreter uses. A 10 minute testimony becomes a 20 minute message.....

We were told that there would be many unbelievers invited to the meeting that night and that we should share the gospel. As the worship began Katherine was moved to dance and took a few of the children out the back door with her to dance in worship by the entrance to the church. They laughed and danced worshipping with streamers our friend Debbie had made and sent as a gift for the churches. The children were exhuberant worshippers!

When it came time to speak Katherine felt let to share about fathers and children, especially daughters, and how she is building her own relationship with her father and how our fathers affect our relationship with God as Father. Ron thought he was going to share about a mountain climbing experience but ended up sharing about his own father and his own weaknesses as a father and how God is growing him in that area. Laura and I went on from there following the Spirit's lead with the whole evening centering on father child relationships and the father heart of God. Each of us just spoke from our hearts as God gave us words.

When the meeting started only Katherine knew what she would speak on, but God gave each of us a message following His theme for the night. It wasn't really a theme aimed at nonbelievers, but centered around encouraging fathers to love their children, spend time with them and follow God's example of parenting. For a brief few minutes we wondered about the turn the message had taken, why God had led our thoughts and words in that direction rather than a gospel presentation with a call for salvation.

After the meeting the local pastor maneuvered us back up on the platform with about 15-20 men for a photo shoot. I then learned that this crowd of men were all pastors and they and their families were most of the attendees that night. We didn't know who the audience was, but God did and He knew what He wanted those pastors to hear. When I told the rest of the team we all just burst into big smiles of understanding and joy at being so free to be used as God wanted, not as we planned.

Preschools
Katherine was able to spend a morning with the children in one of our preschools for poor children. The children are so adorable, you can't help falling in love with them, even the ones full of mischief. We were happy to be able to bring funds to continue the two preschools through April. What a bargain we get for our money! $150 funds a preschool for 25 poor children for a month. This pays the teacher (giving a job to a couple of wonderful Christian young ladies to help their families survive) and not only enables us to teach the children Telugu and English alphabets, numbers to 100, colors, shapes, fruits and vegetables (that they have never seen or tasted), animals and Bible stories, but we get to share God's love in practical ways like providing food, an egg and milk for each child 6 days a week, the only protein most get in their diets. This will enable them to have more normal growth of brain tissue as well as giving them the skills they need to enter public schools. If you, your Sunday School class or group would like to help fund a preschool for a month or two please contact Sherry or Laura. We'd really like to see this continue year round as many of these 2-5 year-olds are otherwise left home alone while parents work.

This year we'd also like to give a new outfit of clothing to each child just before Easter and again at Christmas time. Some of these children have to borrow clothing to have something to wear to preschool. If this need touches your heart please let us know. About $10 buys new clothing for one child, a dress for girls, shorts and shirt for boys.

Tsunami orphans
If foreigners were allowed to adopt children from Andhra Pradesh I think I'd have brought them all home with me. The first two we met were beautiful 13 and 11 year old girls, the oldest ones, who were living with Pastor Sam and his wife along with an 8 year old sister of one and Pastor Sam's children. 15 of the children have agreed that they would like to come to Vijayawada to live in our Orphan Widow home as soon as we are able to take them. We've debated renting a house and setting up a temporary home until we can build, but funds won't allow us to do both. As it is we're hoping to be able to send some money to Pastor Sam on a regular basis to help feed and clothe the children, but this does not give them stable places to live, they bounce from family to family or sleep at the school or anyplace else they can find.

The building commissioners in Vijayawada have made it very tough for us to build up on the church and use one floor for the orphan widow home, but it seems that God is opening doors to be able to purchase lands. One parcel adjoins the church owned vacant lot behind the church and if we are able to purchase that we could build up 2-3 stories and have enough space that way. Another possibility is a parcel a few blocks away that is 4 adjoining lots which would give us 250 sq. yards of land, enough to build on and have room for a playground and garden as well. It is also on the edge of the "suburb" and has open lands around it with fresh breezes. We are awaiting a call from our partner pastor there to find out the true costs and give the go ahead. We have enough funds to buy the second parcel, but would need more for the first as it is in a higher value district. We'll need to make and meet a commitment of funds for three years to apply for preapproval from the government for us to donate the funds directly. This means we'll need a good solid idea of what the Lord is going to supply through us for this work.

We purchased materials enough to get the building started and have gained much understanding and good wisdom on how to proceed in our partnership in this project without creating any legal problems for our local partners there. The Indian government is sensitive about foreign involvement and wants to protect foreign investors from local charlatans. We are blessed to have such wonderful Christian family in India in whom our trust is proven.

We may be taking a small team to India to help with the orphan home construction this summer. If you are interested please talk to either Laura or myself. We'll be working alongside the local Christians who are also volunteering their time. We may have to hire a few skilled workers there to make sure we are able to meet all the standards necessary for a safe, comfortable and usable home for the children. Katherine believes that the Lord would have us also start a School of Worship for the children and youth there. Some of the children were very excited about the possibility of learning music and dance for worship. This fits in the overall vision of what God is calling us to do there in India. We'll be watching for His confirmation in this.

We're praying for a gospel jeep (actually a Mahindra Bolero - it has real doors), one large enough to transport the orphans and things we'll need for taking care of them as well as heading out into the back country on adventures with Jesus. Looks like we can get a good one for about $7,000-8,000 US dollars. Pastor Daniel is keeping his eyes open for a good deal and will let us know when he finds one. The "jeep" will also be a big help in the construction and for team transportation.

Big Surprises!

How wonderful it was to enter our new FCMI guest rooms for the first week of our stay in India. They were beautiful, far beyond what I had imagined. Exquisite tile floors, real windows, doors and paint that keeps the heat out and repells and exterminates mosquitos. Amazing stuff, that paint. The rooms were comfortable, very large, large enough to be divided into two rooms each should we want to do that. We also had our own western toilet and shower room. There was a balcony all around and a wonderful view from the roof, now another story higher. It was so beautifully finished. The room Ron and I stayed in was made ready for air conditioning, something we hope to be able to buy before I return this summer if possible. We also have our own common sitting room complete with propane stove for making chai if we like. Did I say the rooms were beautiful? They are beautiful! Cudos to Pastor Daniel.

But the biggest surprise came on Sunday morning at the end of that first full week in Vijayawada. My husband Ron and I were pronounced "married" Indian style as he presented me with a gold chain during worship that morning. Wedding rings are not common in India, but all married women receive a gold necklace from their husband which he places around her neck at the wedding. She then wears it as a sign that she is married. All these times I've gone people have wondered that I am not married and I've had to explain about American customs and wedding rings. Now it is plain for all Indians to see that I am not available! It truly touched my heart that my husband would do that for me, especially in church before all my brothers and sisters there. The whole place broke out in applause.

Want to get your share?
Katherine, Laura and I are happy to come, complete with saris,
and share our trip and God's work with you (maybe Ron too?). Give us a week or two and we'll have lots of pictures ready to show. You probably won't want to see all 3,000+ pictures that we took. We're still listening for reports from the pastors on the fruit of our labors as they follow up on those God touched through us. Laura and Katherine worked on preparing a "Sari Slide Show" of all the beautiful colors and women in saris wherever we went. We saw some pretty fancy saris, especially at the wedding we attended in Hyderabad.

We had a wonderful time in the coal mining area, despite our expectations of the worst as we were told we'd be staying in miner's quarters. Miner's quarters turned out to be a little duplex, freshly whitewashed inside, on a street with lots of families with whom we quickly got acquainted. It became hard to get time for a nap after lunch with neighbors and school children stopping by. Katherine and Laura shared the front room of our "house" and one afternoon were quite determined to not answer the door and to catch a bit of quiet time. However, the children were more persistent and won out in the end. Three girls had brought a birthday cake for all of us since we would not be there for our birthdays. They wanted to celebrate now! We gave in and ate birthday cake and fruits. We were invited for lunch the next day, way across town, at one of the girls homes. Her father is a doctor, a nonbeliever. We were able to bring a touch of Jesus into his life and left his home with our arms filled with gifts. Please keep praying for the doctor. We encouraged him to read Luke's gospel since it was written by a doctor. His wife came to Jesus on one of our earlier trips.

Laura and Katherine were thrilled that we did not schedule another trip into the coal mines.

FCMI and Problems at home
Well, wouldn't you know it, we thought to pray all kinds of things about and for Full Circle's work in Madison while I was away except neighbors trying to shut down our work because of a parking violation. Turns out it is illegal to park on an unpaved place. We had been parking in the side yard as the church has done for years. This was especially necessary while we were working on the place. The police received a complaint and served papers to shut us down in 10 days. They notified the owner of the building and said that we would have to cease operations.

When I heard the news I went to prayer. What could I do 13,000 miles away? God spoke clearly to me, "This is My ministry, not yours. Whether you do anything or don't do anything will not make a difference. I will take care of it." So I took Him at his word and did nothing. Two days later I received a phone call from Roger, our Day Center manager, telling me it was all resolved. The owner, Mr. Olson, and a wonderful man from Heartland Credit Union (just met Robin Marhon the day before I left for India) had gone to bat for us and things are all set until some time this spring when we presumably have to do something about paving our parking area. We were also told that the pastors at God's House and neighbors in the area stood up for us as well. We don't know who signed the complaint but we're praying that God will soften their hearts and take away their fear of the people we invite into our ministry home.

Nice to know that God is in charge!

A big thanks to all of you who help fill the circle at Full Circle. Some of you pray, some of you give, some of you serve, some do all three. Together we can fill this circle with God's love and see Him transform lives here in Madison and in India or wherever else He leads us. I know the circle isn't complete yet, but someday we'll all be in that unbroken circle with Jesus shining in the middle and no more night, no more tears, no more pain -- what a celebration that will be!

Well, now back to the everyday adventures here in Madison as we reach out to the lost and the lonely, the homeless and the disposable people. It sure is cold here! My blood was just getting thinned with all that curry and chili spice adjusting to India temperatures. Now I can't seem to get warm. May God have mercy on me and keep me mindful of my blessings.

Those of you praying for my daughter, please keep the prayers coming. The struggle with Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia still goes on. Anxiety and fear rides in on top of these sicknesses. We're hoping to see the tide turn one of these days soon. Pray that she'll keep holding on to Jesus as she has and that she'll see his love expressed to her in practical ways.
My love to you all,
Sherry

Thoughts for the future:
We'd like to teach on nutrition in India. we'll need to do some research to find nutrition info on foods used or available there. If any of you have good sources please let Katherine or I know.

Sherry O. FCMI Director - office 608-251-0555, cell ph. 608-577-3264, email sheroliver@sbcglobal.net
Laura J., FCMI India Coordinator- home ph. 608-833-7921, email lauron@charter.net

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