A Day of Praise
Sunday was probably my favorite day in Hampi. Having missed the sunset last night, we decided to get up early to see the sunrise. I found it peaceful being about to walk down the roads in the quiet of the morning. Following the sound of Hindi chants, we made it down to the river just as the sun was peaking over the mountains. The locals were doing their morning washing and bathing; the slap of the clothing resonating across the river.
The sun is always very red-orange here with little color affecting the sky itself. Emily says this is due to the pollution in India, which causes the sun to look redder. Ready for some warm beverages in the slight chill of the morning we sat at a German Bakery. I was joyously content with a good cup of filtered coffee (served café au lait style) and a croissant. It was not a flaky French croissant, but chewy and yeasty. Yum!
When I had met Ruby the other night, she had invited me to church on Sunday morning and I was eager to experience it with her group. So at 10am I showed up at All Tribes Café. The group was excited to bring me along and I was giddy with joy to meet them. We drove up a hill via rickshaw into a small village. On a dusty hill sat a small cement church.
Walking in the space was very small and simple. From the ceiling hung colored tinsel leftover from Christmas. At the front was an alter and to the side, a set of drums. The pastor stood at the front wearing a white tunic, his daughters stood next to him wearing their most colorful dresses. A few members of the group explained to me (having been here a few times) that we would be leading the congregation in a few songs! I was so ready to praise the Lord! When the service began there was only about a dozen or so in the church. The drums started and songs of “alleluia” rose up from the congregation. Then they invited us up to the front. A guy named Ben led us on the guitar. We sang 4 or 5 songs repeating them over and over, singing for almost an hour! I wish you could see these people praise the Lord. Many of them had no idea what we were singing but lifted their hearts up to the Lord. Tambourines and maracas were rattling along with the drums and a chorus of clapping. But the most memorable moment for me came within a song I didn’t even know. The lyrics were about lifting your heart to God and surrendering to him. One of the girls had explained the lyrics and invited them to give it all to the Lord (which was then translated by the pastor). As we repeated the song over and over it became more and more natural. People began singing and praying out loud, in both Hindi and English, totally giving their hearts to praise. I found myself in a place that I have not been in since coming to India- being so caught up in worship that my heart and voice speak for themselves. It made me miss having a place to worship, a church community, and singing on worship team. As the service continued I was able to really pray to God, enter a state of confession, and still observe those around me. I loved the beat of the worship songs they sang in Hindi. The voices rose to exhilarating levels from young and old alike! We took a time of offering and were able to receive communion as a community. The scripture reading was really neat- the pastor asked on of the students to come up. They switched off reading verses in English than Hindi and then together at the same time!
Then three of the students had prepared short messages to give, testimonials of sorts. It was neat to not only hear what their story was, but to hear it in such simple terms. With the translation aspect the student would say a sentence and wait for the translation to be spoken before talking again. They were able to bring their experiences down to the basics and back to the simplicity of the grace and love of God. By the end of the service my heart was completely filled with contentment and joy. The “passing of the peace” time came at the end of the service. As I walked around shaking hands and sharing “peace” or “alleluia,” I was in awe of how welcoming and appreciative the people were. I realized that people continued to come throughout the service so that by the end there were close to 30 or 40 people in attendance. I am so grateful that I was able to meet Ruby to invite me here, which led me to meet other believers! It makes me more motivated to find some churches in Hyderabad.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty relaxed. We had to check out of our room at 10am so we were carting around our backpacks. Being in a pensive mood, I decided to chill at another restaurant to write. It seems like a silly thing to do in your last few hours in this beautiful place, but it was just what I needed, some Maria-time. I love being able to travel with people, and the four of us are very compatible and respectful, but I found that I totally need that time of worship and relaxation as my experience here. I think we each have realized that though we have shared common wants, there are times that we each wanted to do something different than the rest of the group. This is good to keep in mind for the rest of my travels in India. I want to be able to travel were I want and do what I want, but you are always catering to others in your travel party too. Part of me would have loved a day to myself just to be able to truly hang out with other foreigners. Many of the people I met here, like Itzik, were traveling solo and met all these new friends in staying here. Hampi is a perfect place to do that because of the low-key atmosphere. I would have liked to have some more quality time in making these connections.
But alas, our time came to a close in Hampi. I was truly blessed to be with Emily, Rachel, and Anna! Good people. good food, good memories…what more can I ask for! May the travels continue!
This picture is for you Dad! This is the largest Hibiscus tree I have ever seen!