Yesterday, I talked to Andrew at length on the phone. The Team is now settled in Repalle and learning about their new home and the ways of its people. The compound is an organized and secure place and the guys were welcomed warmly. His most profound 'first impression' of India was simply the sheer numbers of people. Here are some randomly arranged details of V-Team's current experience in India.
Travel from Uganda to India meant 3 total days of travel with only 5 total hours of sleep.
Arrival. When the team arrived at IREF, they walked through the front gates of the compound to find a professionally made banner stretched over the street which had words in Telugu (indian) and english to welcome the Team. "Evan Stookey, Andrew Leigh, and Christian Outlaw" were spelled out on the huge welcome sign.
Also, as a welcome, all of the IREF children were lining both sides of road. Hundreds upon hundreds of children were waving as the 3 guys walked down the length of about a city block.
Youth. Upon arrival, they moved into a Youth Conference with another throng of 5,000. Evan spoke, Christian and Andrew led so music/worship. Then... they slept.
Girls. The IREF compound houses over 2,500 students from early grade-school up through Nursing School. A majority of the students are girls. The guys are surrounded and feel, a little awkwardly, like 'rock stars.' Evan has fore sworn his physical appearance since Africa and wasn't worried about being surrounded by girls. Apparently, he has grown his bushy hair out, parted it down the middle, and combs it down straight and nerdy. This new look is combined with a ridiculously long beard, and the fact that he has started buttoning his shirts all the way up to his chin. For all intents and purposes, he should be quite 'safe' from female attention. But, Andrew laughs as he explains that this has had quite the opposite affect on the school girls of India. Instead, they have taken to standing right in front of Evan to say, "You are so beautiful!" He is mystified by this.
Food. Andrew observed that IREF is a highly organized ministry that is a well-oiled machine at feeding thousands of people in a day. And they are adept and gifted at hosting Americans. Their hostess, Dee Reba, has given them the option of eating either American or Indian food. And the Team has made it clear that they don't want any special provision. They are eating what everybody else is eating.
Serving. And, they are watching and praying about where God wants to uniquely use them in this new place. They are looking for ways to serve the children and leaders of this School/Church/Orphanage over the next 3-4 weeks.
Upcoming for the Team @ IREF: Another Conference. This one will be for adults. And is expected to draw an estimated 15,000 people from all around the region, to experience worship, and hear the message of Jesus.
There is only limited internet connection in Repalle, so the guys will not be able to post many pictures or video until they get to Thailand, in February. But, keep checking back for written updates!
More later ...