India: Day Three
Today we took a train!
There are two amazing experiences that I want to share. The first has to do with India's hospitality.
On the train, Josh (our director) was telling me about the incredible hospitality of Indians. He dared me to ask the woman next to us if she would house our group for the night - there were seven of us including the three cameramen, my wife, Justin, Josh, and me.
I told her (through Justin's translation) that we didn't have a place to stay in Madurai, and asked if we could stay with her that night. She immediately beamed with a smile and said, "Yes, absolutely!" (Here's her picture - don't you love her smile?! And no, we didn't really stay with her!)
India's hospitality is truly amazing. People here will bend over backwards for you.
Later in the day I stepped in some cow manure - kinda hard to avoid around here, since cows are considered sacred by Hindus and are allowed to wander literally everywhere. The stench was overpowering in the van, so I asked the driver to stop so I could get out and clean it off.
A Muslim man on the side of the road saw my struggle, and he brought over a towel and a bucket of water to help me clean off my shoe. I didn't ask. I didn't even look to him to help - simply out of a heart to help, he helped.
This is the real India - filled with incredible poverty, but also home to the greatest hospitality I can find. It's incredible!
The other cool thing we did today was visit a village where a Children's Bible Club was taking place. I sang songs, I heard Scripture readings, and I was just overwhelmed by the joy I saw in the kids' faces.
In fact, the entire village has been impacted by what's happening here. Not only were there moms and dads standing in the back, listening to the stories and songs, but Justin pointed out other adults watching in the crowd who don't have any kids in the Bible Club. This is one of the special ways that God is using India's kids to capture the hearts of grownups!
I am struck by the dedication of both the Club leader and the children. They meet every single day, they hear Bible stories, and they memorize Scripture. I truly wish more of us in the U.S. were as dedicated as these boys and girls are... something to think about.
Today Chris hopped on a train and headed out into India's rural countryside to visit a Children's Bible Club.
Click on the photos below to see more of his experience!
Welcome to the Family
Today's memory verse: "I will say to those called 'Not my people,' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.'" (Hosea 2:23b)
Can you imagine taking a complete stranger into your home?
We invite friends to come over and play. Maybe they even stay for dinner. Who do you usually invite to your house?
But a stranger? Who would let in a stranger?
In Hosea, God is speaking to the people of Israel, saying that He is disciplining them because of their disobedience. Through the prophet Hosea, God says, "Israel, you were not my people, not my family! You were strangers!"
But God is also talking to us today. When we become followers of Jesus, we are adopted into the family of God. Why would God let us into His family?
It is a special kind of love to take someone who is "not my people" and adopt them as "my family." The Bible says that is exactly what God did. He adopted us as His children.
Talk about it:
- If we are God's children, what do we call Him?
- What does our Father do for His children?
- Imagine you are a child in India, hearing about the love of a Heavenly Father for the first time. What would that be like?
India's children need the Gospel's message of hope: Children's Bible Clubs are bringing this hope to millions of boys and girls across India each year! Each $1 that you save in your suitcase will help another boy or girl in India go to a local Bible Club, where they will enjoy games, worship songs, Bible stories, and prayer. Here is the story of one little girl whose life has been transformed through a Children's Bible Club.
My name is Sarita. I am 12 years old.
Right now, I live in a slum in a city about 220 miles (350 km) east of Mumbai, in the state of Maharashtra. I'm the youngest and I have two brothers and two sisters.
I never got the chance to go to school because my parents don't work. They expect us kids to earn money. But we don't work a regular job - we make more money stealing.
The kids in my neighborhood taught me how to steal when I was eight years old. We would go to public gardens, markets, bus stations and railway stations to look for rich people and steal stuff like their cell phones. Then we sold them to customers at a low cost.
I could get as much as 800 rupees (about $20) for each phone - that's more than my dad could earn in two weeks!
We knew it was wrong to steal, but we had no choice. And after we stole something, my parents would sacrifice a chicken to our god, hoping that we would be forgiven.
One day the police caught me in the act. They slapped me and frightened me. My parents came to my rescue and begged for my release. They said, "My children are starving and poverty is forcing them to steal. Have mercy and leave them alone!"
The police did let me go - but they kept the valuables I had stolen for themselves.
Once, as I was walking through a neighborhood looking for opportunities to steal, I noticed local boys and girls smiling and laughing. I followed them as they walked to a Children's Bible Club. The next day, I visited the Club. I saw the other children singing songs and enjoying games, and I wanted to be a part of it, too! So, I joined the Club.
One day, I told some of the other kids in the Club about how the police had caught me stealing again. My Club leader overheard me, and she told me that stealing was wrong. But I told her that if I gave up stealing, my parents would punish me. Or, worse - throw me out of the house.
At the Children's Bible Club, I have learned so much about Jesus Christ. I know that He is the true God!
My favorite verse is John 8:12 - "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'"
I want to keep learning more about Jesus, and I don't want to steal anymore. But my parents are completely against Christianity. Please pray that my parents' hearts will be opened to knowing Jesus as their Savior.
One in six people on the planet lives in India.
- A nation of 1.1 billion people.
- The fastest growing country on earth. By 2025 India will pass China as the nation with the largest population in the world.
- Home to over 2,500 distinct people groups.
- Over 1,600 languages and dialects are spoken across India.
Did you know that India is divided into states, just like America?
India has 28 states and 7 union territories. Each state has its own government and capital. Each region of India has a distinct culture, with an incredible diversity in clothing, food, language, and customs!
Over 166 million people live in Uttar Pradesh, the state with the highest population. That's like squeezing more than half of the United States population into a state about the size of Minnesota!
Click here for a map of India's states that you can print and color
Many of India's state boundaries are defined by regional languages. For example, Tamil is the most common language spoken in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In Punjab, in north India, most people speak the Punjabi language.
Hindi is India's official language and, along with English, is widely spoken in urban areas.
With over 1,600 languages and dialects spoken across India, it is not uncommon for people from different regions of the country to be unable to speak with each other!
When you travel across India, it is truly like traveling through many small, diverse nations!
Print the map of India provided above. As you read the stories of children in each episode's bonus content, label the map with the children's names on the state where they live.
- As you go through My Passport to India, keep adding names and hang up your map in a place where it will remind you to pray daily for these boys and girls!
If you want to travel across India, the best way is to hop on a train.
There are over 39,000 miles of train tracks in India - that would stretch 1.5 times around the earth (at the equator)!
Trains are one of the most inexpensive ways to travel across India or within a city. Since most families in India don't own a car, trains give them an easy, affordable way to visit family or friends in other cities.
A 1,050 mile (1,700 km) train ride from Mumbai to Madurai would cost anywhere from 250 rupees (about $6) for a seat in the crowded, unconditioned general compartment, to 1,700 rupees (about $42) for a more comfortable seat with air-conditioning.
Only 3 of India's 28 states are not connected by rail (Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya, mountainous states located in India's remote northeast region).
Click here for a map of India's rail routes
India Railways is the government-owned rail company. It operates about 9,000 passenger trains and has an estimated 20 million train passengers every day. That's over 7 billion riders a year!
The fastest train in India is the Bhopal Shatabdi Express. It has an average speed of 60 mph (93 kph) and can go up to 100 mph (161 kph). This train travels 460 miles (740 km) each way between Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, to India's capital city, New Delhi.
Famous trains & railways in India:
- Darjeeling Himalayan Railway: Known as the "Toy Train," this railway was built between 1879-1881 and is about 53 miles (86km) long. It runs in the Himalayan mountains between the cities of Siliguri and Darjeeling in West Bengal. It is still powered by steam locomotives.
- The Fairy Queen Express: This is the world's oldest steam locomotive still in regular operation today. It was built in 1855, and runs between New Delhi and Alwar, to the Sariska Tiger Reserve. The train pulled by this locomotive can have up to 38 passengers.
- Himsagar Express: This is the longest train run in India. It travels 2,327 miles (3,745 km) from the most southern tip of India to the most northern state of Jammu & Kashmir in about 74 hours and 55 minutes.
Here are some ideas from other My Passport to India families on how to get started filling your suitcase with loose change to send more of India's kids to Children's Bible Clubs! Remember, each $1 you give will allow another boy or girl to attend a Bible Club in their own community.
"My 7 year old daughter is making handmade greeting cards to sell to raise money for Indian children to go to the Bible Club."
"I make handmade jewelry and donated a portion of my proceeds from a recent sale I had."
- "We've been taking some clothing the kids have outgrown to a local resale shop. Our plan is to put the money we earn from those sales into our Mission India suitcase."
"Each week, as I am preparing the grocery shopping list, I go over the things I am buying especially for the kids - juice boxes, fruit snacks, etc. They choose an item (or items) they are willing to give up for a week to put the same amount of money in their Mission India suitcase. It's a small scale sacrifice, but every time they go to the fridge or pantry, they see what's missing and remember that lives may be changed for eternity through their gifts."
"We decided that at any meal if a family member drank water instead of the other beverages offered (iced tea, juice or milk) we would put a quarter in our box. How could we not sacrifice something so small for those needing the Gospel in India?"
"My boys' Sunday school class just held a bake sale outside a local grocery store today to raise money for My Passport to India and earned $368! The kids and adults alike were thrilled."
"My daughters (6, 8, 10) are using my Cricut to make gift tags for Christmas gifts. All sizes and many Christmas colors, some with printed papers, using punches, etc. They are selling them for 25 cents each or 5 for $1."
- "[Our homeschool group] gathered with about 7 dozen muffins and cupcakes to sell for $1.00 each - each one to send 1 child in India to Bible Club."
"My girls filled the suitcase all by themselves, doing extra chores for their grandparents and even giving money from the tooth fairy. We learned a lot about India and had fun!"
Share your story
How is your family using My Passport to India? What ideas do you have about raising loose change to fill your suitcase for Children's Bible Clubs? We invite you to email your photos, stories, and ideas to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kids - we want to hear from you, too! Tell us what you've learned so far, or share your prayer for the boys and girls of India. Include your first name and age and, if you'd like, your state or country.
(By sharing your stories and photos you give Mission India permission to publish this information on our website and/or in other print materials.)