YOU WILL NOTICE A DIFFERENT SPELLING OF VASANTHA’S NAME. GOOD GRIEF—IF THEY DON’T KNOW HOW OLD THEY ARE, HOW IN THE WORLD WOULD THEY KNOW HOW TO SPELL THEIR NAME IN ENGLISH???
Saturday May 22 @ 6:30PM was our appointed time to arrive for the wedding reception for Vasantha and his new wife Sheshi. Since his younger brother was married on Friday, they had a combined reception. Smart thinking to combine two events into one! Amazing the forethought to have two at once. I guess Vasantha is a better businessman than I thought.
The reception for the surrounding villages was not to begin until later in the evening. They were expecting about 400 people; of course more will turn up when there is free food. The village chief and naturally Vasantha greeted us. It was neat to be welcomed by Mr. Vasantha, a married man now. I got the customary handshake from the chief, but a big hug from Vasantha. It is interesting that I am no longer the white guy (meaning stares of amazement) as I enter their realm. I praise God that He has allowed us to assimilate to some degree into their culture. Outsiders are normally NOT allowed in this village.
After the usual small talk and viewing of gifts the “official” ceremony began. There was an area of land with a blue-tarp-wall around it to designate the reception area. Since this was to be a “Christian” ceremony or more properly called a dedication of the couples, the villagers were only observers. They have no Christian concepts. On our way to the village Suresh had purchased four garlands to use for the traditional honor of garlanding the couples. Out of nowhere four SORT OF white plastic chairs appeared
and were placed in a row for the couples.
With a little pomp and flair they finally sat. Dr. Suresh began the program by giving a little talk. He asked Vasantha to open his Bible. Vasantha said. “I don’t have my bible with me, my friend has taken it from me to read.” We were elated to know this. So Suresh read Ephesians 5: 22-25, regarding Christian marriages. I am sure that he was reading and speaking in Marathi which most of the people do not fully understand. (They have no written language and use Marathi only for business.) Then he prayed for the couples and his two daughters garlanded the couples.
Upon Vasantha’s insistence I was also asked to pray a prayer of dedication on the couples. This was very difficult. Every word must be translated. Would they have any understanding of personal prayer?
I did notice (because my eyes were open) that when Suresh prayed there was talking and movement, not out of disrespect, but just daily life activities. BUT, not so when I prayed, which made it all the more difficult. Since Vasantha is the only true believer in the village we must not “appear” to be forcing Christ on them. (There is a law in India against conversion.) I was surprised that not a single man was under the influence of the “wine”. Very unusual for this type of occasion!
When this short ceremony was over and hand shaking (hugs with Vasantha) was completed, I was asked sit in a chair for THEIR part of the ceremony. Here we go again, me in the spotlight, which I do not like. I received the garland treatment, then given a card handcrafted by Vasantha which I realized was a birthday card. What a shock! As I viewed the card it was filled blue marks, which turned out to be thumbprints. The card was “thumb printed” by 70 of the villagers. Only two or three can write their names. The youngest print was a 6 month old and the oldest was 74. What a treasure……… 70 prints for my 70 years! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!
Then followed supposedly “the happy birthday song,” a complicated tune for them. I don’t know about the song, but I clapped to the beat. (The chief is in the white shirt)
The village chief asked us to stay for the dinner. Since I do not have a cast-iron stomach we thought it best to say our “good-bys” with a promise to return very soon. Earlier I had passed a hut with SOMETHING cooking and asked to see inside, given it smelled wonderful. The lid came off the small pot and BEHOLD a rabbit! Not much of a rabbit, but who cares when it smells so good. “NO”, I did not partake, but the temptation was there. Oh, for a stomach of iron
Walking out to the car I was sad to go since an acceptance of their warm hospitality is truly only shown when one eats food with them. We talked for a moment, and then Vasantha gave me another big hug of appreciation. I turned to the chief to shake his hand and thank him for letting me come to his village, but received a huge bear hug instead. He told Suresh how much we have taught him about love, forgiveness and “new” ways of life. I pray that God will through us help them to see the path to Jesus in all its fullness.
Heat of 117 degrees and all, it is God’s will for me to be here. God’s will always has DIVINE intention.