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more than we anticipated

                                                                                                            Keren School children
Helen reports on her time spent with Beth On Track in India.
'    ou will receive more than you will   was to serve God in a different way      friendly teachers and students at
Y    be able to give' are words that
struck me at the Interserve weekend
                                          and to grow in faith. We were aware
                                          that six months away from home
                                                                                   school, we began our busy schedule.
                                                                                   Everyday we 'tucked' our sari, then
Beth and I took part in as part of our    would present us with various
                                                                                   walked to the high school campus
preparation for our six months in         challenges, which would lead us to
                                                                                   (about 15 minutes along the main
India. I wondered if these words          depend on God and teach us more
would come true for us and how.                                                    road from Joy's house) and lead
                                          about how to follow him closely.
                                                                                   morning prayers. Following a few
We had long before decided to go to       Interserve seemed the most suitable      minutes of singing, we gave a short
India together in our gap year after      organisation for us and we were          talk on a Bible passage and gave the
finishing our A levels. Beth had          accepted as On-Trackers. Beth and I      students a principle to challenge them
developed a strong interest in India      were to spend four months helping in     for the day ahead.
as a country, and I had become            the Keren School, an English medium
determined to return to India since                                                We were also given a timetable of
                                          primary and high school in
my first visit with my family in 1999.                                             English lessons for students between
                                          Checkanurani, a village in Tamil
Beth and I agreed that we should find                                              standards 2 and 8. Our lessons
                                          Nadu, South India.
a short-term placement because we                                                  usually involved activities like reading
both wanted to develop a deeper           After our orientation weekend, we        storybooks, acting out role-plays,
understanding of the Indian culture       flew to Mumbai in January 2005. In       listening to story tapes and singing
and recognised that it would only be      Madurai, Tamil Nadu we were met by       new songs.
possible to do that by living and         Mrs Joy Rajan, the Principal of the
                                                                                   Beth and I were also involved in the
immersing ourselves in it.                Keren School.
                                                                                   teachers' prayer groups, running
Our other main reason for spending        After a week of settling in to our new   English classes after school for
six months overseas in Christian work     home and meeting lots of very            teachers and leading Bible study

iv                                               FOURTH QUARTER 2005
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       The hostel children and their wardens    Children's holiday club at the primary school    Helen (left) and Beth at a wedding reception

groups for older believing students.           students. Because many students                  before. Elijah's words in 1 Kings, 'If
Our spare time at school was spent             came from very broken homes, where               the Lord is God, follow him, but if
chatting to teachers and playing with          alcohol and violence were common                 Baal is God, follow him', seemed to
the kindergarten children. We were             problems, Joy and her staff took on              be directed to the Indian people so
therefore able to get involved in the          the role of teaching Keren students              clearly. We often found that Indians
activities of the school and immerse           how to behave morally and spiritually,           were more than happy to accept
ourselves in the Indian culture. It was        as well as academically. Students                Jesus along with their Hindu gods but
a privilege for both of us to feel so          were discouraged from watching films             struggled to accept him as the one
much a part of the school after just a         and going to the cinema and were                 true God.
few weeks.                                     prevented from having relationships              Beth and I also learnt during our
After a full day at school my highlight        with the opposite sex.                           morning prayer preparations that it is
was the hour I spent playing with the                                                           not us who can convict people of the
14 children in a nearby hostel. Joy              the Bible came alive                           truth but the Holy Spirit. As soon as
                                                                                                we submitted to God and relied on
had set up this hostel with her                     to us in a way it                           his strength and power, we both
husband, Rajan, last summer to
house missionary children whose                    never had before                             experienced him guiding our thoughts
parents worked in dangerous parts of                                                            and working through our morning
North India. Beth and I grew very fond         At Keren all students are given two              prayer talks.
of these children who lived as one big         vital gifts: fluency in English and the
                                                                                                On one occasion Joy mentioned to
family and also attended the Keren             choice of following Jesus for
                                                                                                Beth that we should pray for rain
School. On Tuesdays and Thursdays              themselves. For those that did
                                                                                                because the land had been suffering
I taught recorder to a group of them,          commit to following Jesus, Joy and
                                                                                                from an increasingly severe lack of
which they picked up quickly.                  Rajan organised various camps over
                                                                                                rain over recent years. As a result
                                               a number of weekends to bring                    Beth held a prayer, meeting at
We realised quite soon that Beth and           believing students together in praise
I would not be the ones starting                                                                lunchtime for three days. The following
                                               and worship. Outside speakers were               week Checkanurani experienced
something 'big' in this area but that          invited to give talks on the Bible and
God had already started to do                                                                   God's answer to prayer, and it rained
                                               encourage them. The camps were key               heavily for three days. Not only was
amazing work in the lives of hundreds          to the growth of believing students,
of Hindu students and teachers who                                                              this a blessing on the land and for the
                                               who often had to hide their new faith            farmers but also a wonderful witness
passed through the school. They                from their family or face opposition in
often approached us individually                                                                to students and teachers.
                                               openly confessing their conversion.
asking for prayer and support                                                                   When the time came for us to leave
concerning personal problems.                  Beth and I had a very happy time in              Checkanurani at the beginning of
Through such experiences we came               the Keren School and felt supported              May, Beth and I agreed that we had
to know the openness and honesty of            and welcomed by all. However, there              learnt far more than we had
the Indian people and soon became              were times when we struggled.                    anticipated. On leaving England at the
close friends with several of them.            Perhaps the hardest thing was to                 start of the year we clung to Joshua
                                               prepare the talk for morning prayers             1:9 – 'Do not be terrified; do not be
Hospitality and generous giving are
                                               everyday. We often lacked inspiration            discouraged, for the Lord your God is
also strong qualities of the Indians.
                                               and were unsure how deep to pitch                with you wherever you go.' We
Time and time again we could see
                                               the talk. It was during these times,             experienced this verse in its fullness
how our friends would go beyond
                                               when it took hours to put together a             during our four months in
their means to make us feel welcome
                                               short Bible talk, that we felt most              Checkanurani, witnessing God's
in their homes.
                                               stretched. However, it was through               protection, faithfulness and constant
It was evident throughout our stay             these challenges that we learnt the              presence throughout our time in India.
that the teachers had a passion for            most. It was incredible how the Bible            Thank you to all of you who prayed
their jobs and cared much for their            came alive to us in a way it never had           for us; we really valued your support.

                                                      FOURTH QUARTER 2005                                                                  v

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