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GO!Hi again! Last time I talked about our team meetings and how they calmed my nerves. In this blog post, I would like to inform you that I’m leaving for India in TWO DAYS. Guess what? The nerves are back again. Right when I thought I was in the clear, Satan threw me a curve ball. I’m currently writing this, not having been able to eat much today. The closer the date gets, the more it hits me that I’m traveling across the world to a country nothing like the one I reside in.

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Welcome back and thank you for coming on this journey with me! Last time, I told you about some of my excitement and some of my angst about going on this adventure. I’m overjoyed to tell you that a lot of that angst was quieted with a couple of meetings. The friendships I’m already developing with the mission team and the founder of CEM, Jaya Sankar, who was visiting Kensington last month, have replaced the fears that gripped my heart so tightly. It began with Jaya telling his story to our Global Outreach team.

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Editor’s Note: We get asked a lot about what it is like at CEM, but often when we invite people to come and see firsthand the amazing work of CEM and their reply is often, “Oh I could never…” Much of the time, it’s the unknown that is most likely to make a person disqualify themselves; so we decided to “pull back the curtain” and let you hear one person’s story – from the moment they are challenged to take the trip to the months after when God is revealing himself even when they are back in the U.S. You can follow Emily’s story the whole way.

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It’s amazing how a little individual attention and some of the most basic necessities can lift the spirits of a child. Our February team handed out new shoes to the GCH kids, calling each one up by name. Memories of all the high fives and hugs that the team gave them will last far longer in the memories of these kids than the shoes will.

Check it out!

How do you explain it? We travel 8,000 miles to the other side of the world to spend time with children, the elderly and the family of Christ’s Evangelical Mission (CEM). Some are visiitng again. For some, it’s their first time. But all have tears in their eyes on the last day as we walk the children to school. The only way I can explain it is a supernatural, one-way love that came down for us first. Once activated in us, our hearts are expanded to love others – complete strangers really, but knit together by the thread of God’s love and woven into a fabric that is beautifully human and gloriously divine. It is the tapestry of a family crest. It signifies our adoption into God’s family, that we are all sons and daughters of the King, and that our inheritance, abundant blessings of love, peace and joy, is dependent only on love – that we love God and then love others. It’s as simple as that. That is all we did this past week. We loved God and loved others. They loved on us. And we all shared a week that is incomparable to the other fifty-one in the year. My hope and prayer is that we will rediscover this week over and over again as the rest of the year unfolds.

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In our full Indian dress wear, just before MTS graduation. This has been a great team!image

imageThis is my first time to India, and the last place I ever thought I’d be. I felt God calling me to come on this trip though. This was certainly one of the best decisions I have ever made. Multiple times a day I am blown away by the outpouring of love these people have for me, and they barely know me. We are in a very poor area, but you constantly see people smiling and they seem so happy. A lot of people will ask you to pray for them too.

It’s moments like this that make me see that sometimes the only thing a person can hold onto here is their faith. The children wake up every morning and have chapel where they talk to God. They love Jesus and they love everyone here. All the smiles and hugs have been genuine here. We can learn a lot from them about faith. Maybe sometimes we could love a little more and smile more too. I can definitely see God’s work here at the CEM campus.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see” ~ Hebrews 11:1

Nikki

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Prema means love in Telugu. I do not speak Telugu but in the three days I’ve spent here in Rajahmundry, India I’ve come to see that the language of love is universal. Jesus knew this well when he said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

I was able to speak the universal language of love yesterday as we painted the nails of the elderly at the Agape Old Age Home. They spoke it back to us with smiles and laughter. I saw it as we massaged their arms and hands with lotion and they responded with expressions of relaxation and thankfulness. I was reminded of the powerful example Jesus set for us of love, when He washed the disciples feet.

The joy that the children and orphans who live here get from the simplest acts of love is astounding. This morning we walked all the kids to school. The whole twenty minute walk we held hands and enjoyed each other’s company. Then we hugged them and sent them off to school with love. This simple act of love is something I do for my own children daily. These kids don’t get that very often but today they were overjoyed to have it. When their school day ended a little boy named Rajesh came running out of the school and ran right into Jay’s arms for a hug! He was delighted to have his new friend there to walk him home from school.

The people here are so easy to love because they love us so easily. No matter what language you speak or where you live we all want to love and be loved. For this week, we get the gift of loving and receiving love here in this special place called CEM! A place where they are providing food, shelter, clothing and education to those that otherwise would be without.

“We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19

As the kids here like to say, ” Jesus loves me, Jesus loves you. So, I love you.”

Natalie and Jay Richardson

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After 4 flights and many hours of travel, we were exhausted and ready to be on campus. Most of us knew what to expect upon arrival, but it is still so exciting to be greeted by the children in this way. We walked individually between two rows of the cheering children as they threw flower petals on us. For those of us that were returning there was anticipation of seeing the children we already knew and grew to love. For the new team members it was an overwhelming, joyful experience, especially overwhelming afterwards when the children raced into us and immediately wanted us to know their names. Like all of us, the children love to be recognized and called by name. It is so difficult at first to remember only a few names, but after you start to pick up their names and see their faces light up in response, you try harder to practice their names to show them how much you care about each of them. The energy of those first few minutes with the children is magical. All of the travel instantly becomes worthwhile.

My favorite (Victoria) moments with the kids are the candid moments when we are playing and something unexpected happens. Someone trips on their jump rope or says something silly or looks at you in such a way that you connect. I feel like the girls that I met last year are long lost best friends of mine. We don’t know too much about each other, but still we KNOW each other. And it’s God’s love that links us together in this way. My favorite (Kyle) part was walking the kids to and from school today. I loved learning more about where they are from, their families, and what they want to become. I already feel a connection to some of the boys and know I will grow closer to them with each passing day. We both loved teaching crafts to the J.E.M.’s kids today and are looking forward to tomorrow’s craft. Hopefully we will be able to sleep more tonight so we will be able to match the energy of the children tomorrow. We are eager to see how we can be used this week and we are ready to show so much love to these people. God is doing amazing things in India and we are both so grateful to be a part of his work here.

– Victoria and Kyle

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For the past several years, the team blog has been a fantastic way for all of our family and friends to get live day to day updates on short term trips to the CEM campus in Dowlaiswaram, India. It is a live real time journal expressing what is happening on the trip on many different levels. It is a great way to pray for us as we know, this is ultimately a battle for the hearts and minds of precious people in advancing Jesus’ Kingdom in places like India.

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