*This was written Tuesday June 28 but we were without a good connection at the airports. We have since arrived at Union Biblical Seminary and are able to update again!*
Our last day in Chiluvuru was wonderful - but it's sad how fast our time here has gone! We are now sitting in the Hyderabad airport on our way to Pune, but here is a quick update from Monday:
Today is a special day - we've arranged an appreciation meal for the staff of the Clinic! The local Byriani expert arrived early in the morning to start preparations for the noon meal. Byriani is a special, well-known dish from this region - all the spices and any veggies and/or meat are cooked right in the rice, all done in one large pot - the blending of flavors is delicious! As we ate breakfast we watched him prepare a marinade for the chicken and cut up vegetables before we left for a morning out.
This morning we enjoyed the cooler weather and took the long way to get to Pastor Gopao Rao's home. We passed by Bashu's and said hello, and walked past the Roman Catholic Mission School and orphanage on the edge of town, and went to the area on the other side of the canal by the Three Kings Church. The team talked about the concentration of Christian ministries in this particular part of the villages - where historically people in lower castes would have lived.
Upon arriving at Pastor Gopao Rao's house, we were warmly greeted in the beautiful orchard that is their front yard... Later we would enjoy fresh-picked guavas! After the normal pleasantries and introductions (the previous night after church we had been interrupted), we asked him and his wife to tell us a bit about their story and how they got to the place they are now.
Gopao Rao is incredibly passionate about his ministry in Chiluvuru, he is the pastor of the Church located at the clinic. He worked for the railroad for many years, his vocation he called it, but all the while he was preparing for his passion: full-time ministry. Soon after his retirement party 10 years ago, he made the switch and started putting all of his energy towards his passion. It was very energizing to hear their story and humbling to hear their words of affirmation to us - excited for the four young girls dedicating their time and money to their faith journey. After an hour and a half with them, drinking sodas and eating guavas, they prayed for us and we were on our way, back to the clinic for lunch!
Lunch was incredible to say the least - and not just the food, it was good to share a meal together with the doctors, nurses, and other staff working at the clinic. The dessert was a new experience too! Fried sugar cane straws with molasses on the inside - nothing like balancing the savory spices with super sweets! Another example of India in extremes. :)
The afternoon was spent packing and napping, as has been the usual for us in the village - and then at 5 a group of us headed downtown to play volleyball with some of John's friends from the village. After, still not hungry yet, we stayed late and chatted a bit - American movies, studies, and questions about hobbies and such were our focus, it was very good getting to know our neighbor's better, and to find out just how much we had in common!
After leftover Byriani for dinner, we stayed up and debriefed our day and our whole experience in Chiluvuru. Many mixed emotions as we look ahead to Pune - anticipation in learning more about the work at UBS, but sad leaving Chiluvuru just as it seems like we are starting to build relationships.
After a late night, the team was slow to assemble for breakfast in the morning... Though, the girls reminded us that 7 is still earlier than they would ever be up in the summer at home :)
Unfortunately, we had to make a last-minute decision to bump up our departure from the clinic due to weather... This made our goodbyes harder than we anticipated because many of our new friends weren't yet there. But, nevertheless we took off for the Vijayawada airport to begin the last part of our time in India, with Union Biblical Seminary in Pune.
Thank you for continuing to keep us in thought and prayer back home!