On the first Sunday of our visit to India we were given the immense privilege of traveling with everyone to another school for Sunday worship. The ride there was long, extremely bumpy and at moments seemingly frightening but by this time we’d gotten used to the traffic system in India so an oncoming truck in our lane proved to bring us excited anticipation rather than sheer terror. Our drivers are amazingly skilled!
When we got to the city we started with the bathing ceremony, something I had only heard about but had yet to witness. All I knew was that we were going to be completely soaked afterwards and we were… drenched completely from head to foot. It started with all the girls standing on the ledge on the left side of the huge bathing pool and all the boys standing on the ledge on the right. After the pastor spoke and prayed something I didn’t understand, we were given the freedom to jump into the water and be ritually bathed by one another in a ceremony that they see as a sort of communal baptism. I know that this ritual holds for them much significance and I wish it was something I could continue to take part in because I found so much joy in splashing around in that water with all those girls, drenching them and allowing them to drench me. Though I’ve held caution against the water here in Agra this whole trip, there was no way to avoid ingesting just a little bit of that water because some of these girls splashed me like there was no tomorrow. Being able to experience freedom from the fear of water contamination and just embrace the joy that was present in the pool with those girls was one of the sweetest experiences of my life. My love for them, for India and for God was deepened as I partook in such a unique and significant ritual.
When the bathing ceremony was over, we got out of the pool and got in one huge line to continue in a ritual of prayer. Before starting the prayer walk we were marked with a bright pink cross on our foreheads and there was a holiness like I’ve never experienced as I glanced around at the multitude of crosses that marked us as followers of Yeshu. We proceeded to walk around the pool 6 times, repeating certain prayers over and over. The 6 walks around represented the 6 branches that are at the core of this ministry. There were also 6 bells to be rung at the beginning of each walk. The prayer walk lasted quite some time and all the while I was still drenched from the pool but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Though I didn’t understand what the others were praying, I was still able to participate in praying over them and over the ministry because God is up to some amazing things here and it’s such a pleasure and an honor to see. Walking around the pool with the people I had grown to love so much was such a unifying experience for us all and it helped make me feel more at home with these people. I know that the rest of my team would feel the same way.
After these two rituals we posted personal prayers on the prayer wall and then proceeded to the main worship service which was neat because we were able to take part in communion India-style, with fruit juice and chapatti! Then we toured the school there and got to see more of what the ministry has been up to since its foundation. It was incredible! I loved this day!