There was a special program at school today so the lower grades were not present and the upper grades were dismissed at noon. This allowed Susan an opportunity to meet with all the teachers as a whole group for a very meaningful time of sharing and spiritual renewal for all. I was able to participate in part of this time and was especially touched as the last teacher shared a devotion that
When school was out we ran a couple of errands and headed down the East Coast Road to Vayaloor. Susan only screamed twice on the way. The first was when two vehicles were overtaking a third in our lane of traffic. I must admit I was a little rattled the next time this happened as a fourth vehicle decided to pass us going the opposite direction on our shoulder at the same time. Count them: five vehicles abreast on the same two lane road and I was the only one going south. Did I mention that all this is happening in India and I'm driving on the left-hand side of the road? "Surely the Presence of the Lord was in This Place." But other than that, it was an enjoyable leisurely journey through the country south of Mahabalipuram.
Truly amazing to us was the number of children that ran alongside the van trying to attract our attention as we pulled down the side road through the village of Vayaloor. We could not identify most of the kids but we were touched that the most energetic of all was a young man about 12 years old that is apparently mute. The watchman's wife had introduced us to this young man last year on the one evening we went to visit and we were happy to see he recognized us too. There have been several changes in the landscape along the road and a couple of times I was beginning to wonder if I had made a wrong turn or not made a right one. But God is good and we could soon see the bright yellow walls of the community center through the row of trees along the road.
When we arrived at the massive main gate, we found it hanging straight and true with the right side standing open. Two of the young boys, who had hung beside us all the way, were ready and willing to swing the left side open wide for our little van to go through. As we drove down the lane toward the community center, the place looked much the same, but as we drove closer, we began to detect some changes. On the ground in front of the center steps we discovered a recently delivered supply of rebar. It was also impossible to miss the massive stack of bricks which had also been recently delivered. As I got out of the van and began to wander around I began recall some hot and sweaty days in years past in this out of the way place.
Another significant change was that a cement roof has been poured to cover the three rooms that had been created by the British students two years ago. I wandered up the stairs and as I approached these rooms I saw that door and window jams had been installed, although the doors and windows themselves had not been hung. I wandered through the rooms listening in my memory to the cheerful banter of the students as they placed the cinder blocks atop each other to form these walls.
My exploration soon found me on the balcony off the back of the guest room and I looked across the field to the west at the peaceful scene of cows leisurely grazing as the sun started to set. As I moved to the south end of the balcony I was amazed at what lay before me. From this vantage point, I could see two men working with a pile of bricks. There were stakes of rebar driven in the ground with lines strung tightly between them. I could see that these lines were perfectly perpendicular and at the ends of some of these lines the men were building pillars of brick.
I have never seen a set of plans for the widow's village but I have talked to John enough to know that these stakes and pillars are in the location where the widows' cottages will stand. John talked to me Tuesday, on the way to Chennai, and told me that the contract had been let for the first eight units and work was scheduled to begin this week.
Could it possibly be that God once again orchestrated his plan in such a way to allow Jim Garvin from Texas to be present in India on the very day that construction began on the Widow's Village at Vayaloor? In my mind, I have always understood the need for the community center to make this project work but in my heart it was the widow's cottages that were the draw on my heart and now three years after that first tearful visit I was being allowed to see the simple beginnings of the widows cottages come to life.
Susan and I went down the steps and walked to the center of the field. I tried to imagine what it was we were seeing and how it all would fit together, but I was not able to do that from a few stacks of bricks. What I did understand was that this was a gift that only God could have given to me. We were standing on Holy Ground in the middle of India. There was no one with us but the watchman and a couple of workers. No one could understand our questions or explain what we could not clearly see. But we knew in our hearts that this was God offering of yet another gift just to us. We stood in the middle of that plot of ground and prayed joyfully and thankfully that we had been chosen to share this special moment with Him.
As we prayed we remembered once again the song we had shared with the teachers that afternoon. As we completed our prayer it only seemed natural to sing the refrain again:
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
In the last three years I have often wondered why God placed the burden of the widows on my heart. I returned last year and again this and I had not seen much progress, an impatient American frustrated by the pace. I'm thankful the project is in the hands of men more faithful than me. God chose Vayaloor to teach me once again the truth that John had shared our first Sunday we arrived: God is never late.
I saw today a new beginning at a village called Vayaloor. Praise be to God, who is present on time.
Genesis 28:16 "Then Jacob awoke from his dream and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the Gate of Heaven!"