The Problem with Combined Malayalam/English services, explained in a Songbook

I get it. There isn’t enough Youth or only English speaking people attending church meetings to justify a separate service. I understand the logistics but it doesn’t change the fact that combined services are ultimately unfair to those who attend. It all comes down to the song book. I just attended my first combined service in a long time and of 765 songs, 723 were in Malayalam.

If you have never attended a combined Malayalam/English service, let me explain. Malayalam is my mother tongue, the language spoken in Kerala, India. I don’t speak or really understand this language. My parents, as well as many of my friend’s parents came to this country and naturally wanted to attend a church that would speak their native language. It makes sense.

Their children grew up and didn’t feel the same familiarity with Malayalam or even grow up with the same jokes and culture and this ultimately created tension. Malayalam/English services don’t really work because regardless of how equal the service tries to break down time between the two languages, we still spend at least half of the service listening to a language we don’t understand. Or, I spend at least half of combined services listening to a language I don’t understand. They don’t work because we look at the songbooks, see the space left for the “English” part of the meeting and inherently know that the service isn’t for us, even if it claims to be.

Another problem is the fact that now, our English speaking youth or just our English speaking audience, has options. It’s hard to convince someone to compromise and try to enjoy a service when we can go to so many different churches and hear a message that is catered for an English speaking audience. But the only reason why I, like many others, have chosen to stay is because I have a heart for the Indian church. I have a heart for those children who grow up and may miss out on God in between the parts they didn’t understand in a service that was only in part geared for them.

On my end I accept that I should grow in maturity. Towards the end of the service, I just didn’t want to listen to a message translated to English. The messages never seems to have the same impact. But I also hold unto a hope for a better future. I hope that we have enough youth committed to justify a separate service. I pray for opportunities for those youth to have a voice in pivotal conversations. Because I love ending service and seeing my mom and dad afterwards, but I still want to attend a service specifically geared for me and others like me.

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The Story of the Supposed Missing Kid- or the Lost Sheep (PYFA Vacation Bible School)

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It’s the last day of PYFA and I’m leading children’s ministry. We’re almost done for the day when a frantic mother comes up to me and tells me her kid is missing and more importantly that this is my responsibility. (Spoiler Alert: He was with his father and brother)

You can imagine what happened next. Our volunteers stopped everything and, much like the parable of the lost sheep or the lost coin or the parodical son, we left everything behind for that one out of 80 kids we lost. (I might add we actually didn’t lose him) In that moment it was our responsibility that drove us to search for this ‘missing’ kid, but sitting with my mother she reminds me of how we serve a God who with a much greater love, not responsibility, searches for that one lost sheep. Thinking back I can’t imagine the love and pain God feels for us because he sees beyond our physical circumstance and knows who is truly lost is the crowds. He sees you and I and He, with great urgency, searches for his lost sheep.

Our supposed lost kid was with his father and brother- safe and sound. And I honestly never felt so happy to learn that a child was with his parents! I imagine how great God’s joy is when we choose to follow him and that he chooses to look for us when we’re not his responsibility- he does everything because of love.

This Sunday there is no “Sari Sunday” post. To be honest with you, before deciding to teach, I never imagined myself in children’s ministry; I’m now a Special Education Resident and will be a full time teacher next year at a high school. If anything, my passion is to work with teens, and managing large groups of young kids always seemed as a daunting, if not impossible, task.

When I thought I lost a kid I was filled with feelings of panic, sadness and doubt. This is my future career, isn’t it? But today I learned a lesson of how much it hurts to lose that one sheep in just a VBS. I worry about this VBS when I hardly think of one’s eternity. 

Luke 15: 4-7 

“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the [b]open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.