by Emma Passaglia
The arrival of the Christmas season shows how Children of Faith functions as one big, happy and sometimes chaotic family. In the US extended families gather together to prepare and celebrate in a many different ways: the sharing of elaborate meals, hours of shopping for the perfect gifts, ceremonies and traditions that have been passed down for generations… At Children of Faith, Christmas is no different.
This year, the season itself started with Pradeep, one of our oldest boys, taking a few days off of school to decorate our campus. Singlehandedly, he constructed three large, 3D stars to sit on the roof of three different buildings on campus. At night, the stars light up the village and spread a message: a time of celebration is here, and all are welcome.
While Pradeep was working hard on the campus, preparations were being made elsewhere.
Anand and Rosie went into the city to hand-select outfits for the kids. As you might imagine, this was a long process- more than 100 children of all ages and sizes needed new clothes to wear on Christmas day, and the store clerks had to find extra inventory to satisfy Rosie and Anand. Even when the clothes were purchased, the work was not done: on Christmas Eve, each outfit had to be tried-on and carefully hemmed. The process was long, but definitely worth it! Each child was ecstatic to receive their new clothes, and the bus to church on Christmas day was filled with the brightness of colorful fabrics and laughter of delighted children.
This was a special Christmas Season with the new children and so much to be thankful for this year. The children were wide eyed with excitement and joy! Ours hearts are full.— Rosie Thandu
Speaking of church, the large family of COF attends services and events often this time of year. On the last day of school, the kids hosted an afternoon of Christmas songs and skits for the teachers and staff to enjoy. Christmas Eve had a similar celebration with kids from COF and Anand’s church performing for the congregation. In the midst of these events, Rosie and Anand each traveled to take part in celebrations across the state, sometimes driving for up to 5 hours to participate in the festivities with family and friends! Each event led up to the main church service on Christmas Day. This was a time for praise, readings, sermons, prayers, and gifts for the poor and widowed. The congregation took turns leading each other in song and dance, and the church was filled with joyful noise for the entirety of the celebration.
One of the most important parts of this event was the Christmas lunch that was prepared by and served to the congregation. This communion allowed for fellowship and shared nourishment as primary schoolers ate next to the elderly, and it also ensured that each attendee left with a full stomach!
On the menu were some of India’s most popular dishes, Chicken Curry, Biryani, Vegetable Curry, Yogurt, Lentils with Vegetables, Chips and Indian Sweets. If you haven’t ever tried Biryani, a mix of rice with spices, meat and vegetables, our children will tell you, it is their favorite!
This gives you a snapshot but doesn’t do not fully show the wonderful chaos of an Indian Christmas. Christian churches throughout Visakhapatnam are covered in bright lights as the congregations spread joy through their neighborhoods and villages. Traditional ‘Christmas stars’ are hung everywhere, almost as a calling card: those who live here are celebrating the birth of Christ. Another important aspect of the Christian faith in India is noise! Each church is equipped with loudspeakers that are used liberally; and, at all times of day, celebratory music can be heard throughout the region. It is not uncommon to be between two churches and hear two different hymns simultaneously. It is also clear when services are held, as loud music, singing, and prayer can be heard for miles. As Christians we celebrate and trust in God this Christmas to guide us through religious controversies in India and around the world .
Please continue to keep the Children of Faith in your prayers. On Christmas Eve, the first Omicron case reached Visakhapatnam, and a rapid spread is predicted. While the children are safe on campus, another government-mandated school-shutdown could occur, and all could be sent away to unsafe and unhealthy environments. Please pray for the health of the region, but especially for the health of our kids, our staff, and the rest of our family as we attempt to navigate the rise of a third wave.
Help us continue transforming the lives of our children by giving to Children of Faith. Thank you for your ongoing support, love, and prayers, even in a time of fear and uncertainty! Happy Christmas; Merry Christmas!