Thursday, June 23, 2011

From My Perspective

Trying to answer the question "How was India?" is difficult. Even when presented with more specific questions like "Did you enjoy yourself?" or "What was the most surprising part of India?", I'm still at a loss in how to explain. There is so much to say (and process) that only small bits and pieces of a narrative seep out.

I will say that the experience itself was incredible, amazing, and surprising.
I've tried describing it in this way:
Before going I had the feeling I knew at least a little bit about India. I've heard stories from Jessica and her dad, I've read about it, I've seen pictures and other media. During my experience I realized that none of that was ever really disproven or false. However, experiencing (the very localized) part of India with all of the senses, all at once, and without the lens of someone else's view, I was completely struck by the overwhelming...otherness...of India. That's not quite right though. It wasn't overwhelming in that I couldn't handle it and shut down due to so much sensory input. And I don't use the term "otherness" to imply any sort of negative or derogatory meaning.

Perhaps this is a better explanation:
Have you ever been to an ocean? Do you remember your first time seeing the ocean and then swimming in it? Think about the entire experience and then think about what it would be like to explain that to someone who has only seen pictures of an ocean.

I've never experienced anything like India before and I'm not going to be able to explain it or my experience in one grand narrative. At least, not anytime soon. Until then, I hope pictures and stories of my trip to India help to create or inform your own perspective.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Team Happenings

We're having an AMAZING time in Madurai. God is alive and well and using the entire team to encourage our brothers and sisters here! Some of you may have heard the team missed their flight in Delhi but your prayers worked wonders and the arrived in Madurai on time and ready for bed. Tuesday morning we hit the ground running. The girl's and I visited the Lydia Home for HIV Positive Orphans. The kids were so glad I returned with friends--and for a whole day visit! We sang worship songs, made crafts to decorate the home and spent quality time with the kids. Wednesday we did a similar program at the Sahayam Home for Widows. They sang for us, we tried to sing for them. We made heart baskets that were easy enough for the blind and disabled and they were so proud to hang them all in the hall! We were also able to buy them each a new sari! You can't imagine the joy on their faces! Since the widows and orphans no longer have families, or family members that claim them, it meant so much that a group of girls from the other side of the world would travel so far to spend time with them and pray for them. It's amazing how such a small gesture can have such a ripple effect.

Thursday we visited a few villages 2 hours outside of Madurai. The team was blown away by the work being done in this area. We visited three different programs run by our partners. First we heard the testimonies of adolescent girls who were rescued from working in match factories (small illegally run sweatshops). The girl's were so happy to be heard and share the stories of how Christ brought the Samuel's and gave them a new life! The second program was a group of women that have been taught to start a community savings program. They have been able to give out loans for home businesses and attend training programs on topics like composting, irrigation, and maternal health. They have even taken the plan a step further and have given donations to handicap women in their village that are unable to contribute to the savings account. These women truly understand what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Friday we spent time with Randy and Mike at the Retreat Center. They were leading a pastor's training seminar throughout the week and have amazing testimonies as well! Pastors searching for answers for years, struggling with their faith and leading a congregation, who found the answer to their struggles in three days!!

Thank you all for your support and prayers! The work here couldn't be done without you! Please continue to pray for the safety and health of the team. We've been busy and have much more ahead of us. Pray that we can serve through the power that God will provide!

I put together and update video for Vineyard. Here's the video so you can SEE what we're up to!

Can't wait to bring you all to Madurai the next time!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Mangoes were in season

It takes a long time to get to India from Lexington. I think I hold up to travelling okay. Unlike Jessica, who can fall asleep in a car ride to the grocery store, I can't fall asleep easily on planes. I also wasn't ready for the heat of a real Indian summer (not to be confused with the colloquial term associated with above average temperatures in the autumn).

The long travel, the lack of sleep, and the heat all conspired to steal my appetite for a couple of days. I ate just enough to keep myself going and Annie was gracious enough to serve some very simple and bland foods. I also drank what amounts to a small lake of water.

Then something happened on the third morning in India. I woke up actually feeling a little hungry. Jessica and I were greeted by a plate of delicious mangoes.

This was my favorite part of breakfast for almost the entire trip. Between all the Samuels', Jessica, and me, we polished off a plate like this almost every morning. While I never got my full appetite back, the breakfast that morning was the start of really enjoying the food and the cooking.

We even tried to eat in the same fashion - without utensils. We used our hands. And you know what? It actually felt pretty normal. I wasn't very good at it, I was only slightly less messy than Amy, who is 18 months old. But it made sense and it worked to eat like that while I was there.

I've already forgotten most of the names of many things we ate, but I think I'll be able to recognize it when I see it. I'm hoping it won't be too difficult to find authentic southern India cooking here in Lexington.

Here's Amy, who proved that children are just as adorable and mischievious no matter where they live.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

You want me to do what?!

Saturday night I was playing Rummy with Richard's kids, their new favorite card game since Chris and I taught them how to play, when Annie got a phone call. It was Getzie. Getzie is an incredible woman that has worn many hats in the local ministries here. She's got a lot of spunk and we've always gotten along really well. Currently she coordinates the VBS Programs and village ministries. We attended a village VBS with Getzie a few weeks ago and it was wonderful to see the children who were the first generation of Christians in the area recite chapters from the Bible, sing worship songs they learned and perform skits they wrote themselves! Getzie called to confirm I was attended church with her in the morning. Since I said yes she asked if I could give some testimony or small message. I agreed and she had me right where she wanted. I'm still in awe of the directions that followed, "Great! A thirty minute message should do. We're looking forward to hearing your sermon in the morning! See you at 10."

This is why we've started telling teams to prepare a message or testimony BEFORE they get to India. Because you will be asked. Honestly a 12 hour heads up was very generous. Too bad I don't take my own advice and had to prepare something early Sunday morning. I just tried to ignore the fact that I was expected to give a SERMON in the morning. My pep talk was repeated several times that night: "It's no big deal. Think of it as a testimony. That's less pressure..."

Since Chris left India I've had a lot of alone time, which I've spent reading "Radical" by David Platt. It's incredible!! And everyone should read it!! But that's another blog. By no coincidence, this book talks about the responsibility ALL Christians have to preach, not just pastors. This realization helped so much in preparing for the service. While I'm not a trained pastor and there are many more well equipped inspiring speakers, sharing the love of Christ is something I try to do everyday. This day would just be with a microphone.

The service had already begun when I arrived at church and Getzie met me outside with a big smile and a hug. Then she asked me for the passage I would be using for my message (it was no longer disguised as a little testimony or short something lol). Though I haven't experienced such a thing firsthand I've seen many other missionaries go through similar situations. 1 Peter 4:7-11 provided the context for my ramblings, which were surprisingly very calm. I even noticed one woman was still awake!

While preaching to a group of 20 widows, 11 HIV positive orphans and a small group of nearby villagers was not on the agenda when I set off for India--I'm glad it's been checked off the to do list. God is so good. And so generous to allow me to be used in such a way!

I won't put you through the sermon but I will leave you with the same challenge I left the widowers and children. Salvation doesn't stop at our spiritual wellbeing. As Christians we are responsible to share the love of Christ with those who have never heard. The challenge: step out of your comfort zone and share Christ's love with someone this week. Leave a comment and let us know what happens!

With Love

Monday, June 13, 2011

Welcome to India

Late in the flight from Brussels to Chennai, while over India, I took a small walk inside the plane and ended up by the bathrooms in the back to do some stretches and wait in line. I was standing behind an Indian woman holding her baby (I'm guessing about 12 -18 months old). I do what a great number of people do when a baby stares - I smiled.

She smiled back and moments later the mother smiled also and handed me her baby so that she could use the bathroom.  After a few very blank and stunned facial expressions exchanged between the baby and I, we started smiling and playing. She only needed some movement to start laughing.

So here I am on a plane holding a mother's child that I've never met and the only way we can communicate is with smiles and head nods. I assume she thanks me as she emerges from the restroom and reaches to take back her daughter. 

In retrospect, what I'm going to do, run off with her baby?

I tell Jessica about it when I return to my seat. She smiles and says "welcome to India" as though I'm in for many more of these types of encounters.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A short video update

Hey Everyone

The trip has been incredible. Chris is out with the librarian from the Peniel Rural College visiting a local university and preparing his guest lecture on critical thinking and resource evaluation--if you know Chris, this is exciting! I stayed back and put together a short video update of our trip so far:

More to come!
With Love