Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Breath of Life

We started the 4th group of health classes today and my excitement has been charged again. Our Breath of Life curriculum covers maternal and child care from prenatal nutrition through home health and water sanitation. Training Rosy and Paulus' staff and field workers has been an incredible learning experience in and of itself. They work in 125 villages surrounding Madurai, which are grouped into 6 clusters, each with 25 villages. There are 2 supervisors for each cluster who manage the field staff and report back to the leadership. Each cluster is also assigned: 5 Animators who visit pregnant mothers and conduct health education classes, 25 Tuition Center Teachers who run after school tutoring programs for children at risk of falling behind in their studies or dropping out of school, and 150 Change Agents or volunteer peer tutors who hope to educate others in their community to improve the overall situation of those they live among.

Our fist class included the leadership and all supervisors. They were a fun group to teach! I know most of them from previous trips and it was easy to talk openly about their doubts and our cultural naivety.

The discussions have been really lively and tested my knowledge a lot. We've learned a lot about common beliefs and practices--and have done our best to understand the reasons behind them. We have so much to learn from one and another and I'm so grateful to be apart of the work here. Our partner's ministries from the top to the bottom, bottom to top are a real inspiration. I love meeting so many wonderful people and working together to come up with local, useful, relevant solutions to their concerns. It's been great to get out of the journal articles and WHO website and work directly with people instead of statistics. Yes there is extreme poverty in India, yes it can be hot, yes the food is different, yes we have very different perspectives on life--but when you really get to know the people none of that seems to matter. We're all just doing our best to provide for our families and communities. I often feel that I'm learning more from them than they from me. Just the number of volunteers and staff that have dedicated their lives to help others is an example we can all learn from.

I can't wait to come back in the next year or so and see how the class has given our partners the knowledge and tools to affect change!! As well as reunite with good friends.

With Love

(Our internet isn't working well--if you'd like to see pictures check out my VTRC album on Facebook!)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fourth of July in India!

Jessica is making me right this blog post. So here it goes...

We are very patriotic people and decided it was a must to celebrate the Fourth of July. Getting out of the clutches of the British is something we share with the Indians so it was fun to share our Independence day with them. Erika, Jessica, and I all wore red, white, and blue for the occasion. We decided we were going to tell everyone we saw happy Fourth of July. Paul, our driver and close friend, met us at our door. I told him Happy Fourth of July and he had the most confused look on his face. He was probably thinking that us crazy Americans celebrate random days of the year. I have a feeling that Indians don't say Happy August 15th on their independence day. I explained what it is to him and he laughed. That seems to be his response to most of the things we say. I'm not sure if its an, I get it or a "just smile and nod." We then proceeded to our very important training with Raymond and his staff. They pretty much had the same reaction as Paul.

The real fun started when the Samuels kids got home from school. We had gone grocery shopping earlier for the special ingredients for our Fourth of July feast. We headed to the kitchen and to the cooks horror began mixing our concoctions and making as much mess as possible. The girls and I started on the apple pie first, since it was the most important. (Alisha LOVES apple pie) Erika mashed the potatoes(with her fist). And Jessica worked on the greenbeans. Someone (I don't remember who) went to the Chicken Cottage across the road and got some rotisserie chicken. We added a big bowl of macaroni and cheese and watermelon to the table to complete our all American Fourth of July dinner. We sat down and all ate like kings, American kings that is. All of the kids seemed to at least like a couple of things and Annie cleaned her plate.

The pie wasn't ready yet so we decided to sing patriotic songs. Luckily the words to most of them happened to be in the back of the Hymnals the Samuels own (weird right). Even with the words I think we made the neighbor dogs howl and Amy covered her ears. They all got a good laugh out of it though, so all in all it was worth the headaches.

In true American fashion, no Fourth of July celebration is complete without playing with fire. Timmy had leftover fireworks from Christmas that he let us use. So we went out into the quiet street the Samuels live on and we played with sparklers. I think us adults (if you can even call us that) had as much fun as the kids did.

Finally the moment we had been waiting for, the apple pie. It turned out amazing!!! We put ice-cream on top and ate to our hearts content. I think Alisha ate two slices :)

It was a Fourth of July I will never forget.



Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Guest Appearance by Mark Lewis

Well Hello Everyone,

I guess you can call this a guest contribution to the Worland’s blog... Jessica and the entire team have been so busy that she asked me if I would be willing to share a few thoughts and experiences from my perspective about the missions team. Be forewarned this is my first attempt at blogging and I’m not a very gifted writer so this is bound to be a little rough.

Let me start out by saying that it has been my pleasure serving with Jessica and everyone on the missions team. It has been my first experience with missions and it has been amazing to see how the power of God works, as vineyard would say, in a naturally supernatural way. For those of you who don’t know me or who I am, I have been acting as a liaison for the team. A communicational hub between India and KY. When I first accepted this part of the mission team it was slightly out of disappointment because I really felt that God was calling me to be a part of the team in India. What I didn’t understand at the time was staying back is an important facet of missions. God has revealed to me how this role has taken some pressure off Jessica’s shoulders, has made the distances seem less vast and less lonesome for the team.

Not only do I feel like this has been a benefit to the mission team, and kept the church more involved, but this has served as a huge affirmation to me that God wants me to be headed towards missions in the future. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that I would have told you global missions “isn’t my thing” and now I can’t wait for the day when its my turn to sail across the pond. It has been amazing to me to witness the miracles and even to be a part of some of them from such a physical distance.

When Jessica first started relaying pictures and videos back to me with all the things they were accomplishing in India, I was amazed at how God’s hand was touching so many lives through all of our actions. I have never before been aware of the true power of God and I know that I'm only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

One of the most moving experiences that I have been a part of was when Jessica told me about Annie's mother struggling with cancer. She was in Madurai to schedule a surgery with an oncologist. Annie's cousin, also a doctor, looked over the medical charts and her expectations were very grim. Family was stopping by to say their goodbyes and Annie was trying to arrange for her brother to make a visit from Chicago. When I heard this, I felt that God was impressing upon my heart to pray with this family and for this woman. I have never before felt this impressing need for prayer for anyone, much less someone that I have never met before who lives in a completely different country. Nonetheless, I had Jessica drag her computer in front of this lady at 10pm India time and we said a short prayer together. Jessica told me that the Annie and her mother were extremely touched by the gesture and were so grateful that we cared enough to pray for them. The next day Jessica gave me the update after the DR's appointment. The oncologist called it a miracle. Her chemo was much more effective than they thought. Surgery is no longer needed and they gave a 99% chance that the cancer can be treated with medicine! This may not seem like anything to many people over here, as we have all grown accustomed to DR's getting things wrong and the “miracle of modern medicines” but I really feel that this is a God thing and I am blessed to have God use me as he would from such a distance.

I am so blessed to be as much of this mission as I am, and only hope that God will be able to use me in the future like he has with this trip.

Blessings and Prayers to All and May God’s Hand Continue to Touch Our Team
Mark Lewis