Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mission2India Day 2: Main Church

Another lovely Saturday and another chance to blog.

Today, I enjoyed the sunny, slightly too hot, yet still beautiful weather by taking a hike with a friend.  Then, we watched Oceans 11, which I had never seen all the way through before.  Great cast.  Intriguing movie.

After some other random errands, I came home to eat some leafy greens (trying to get more of those into my diet) and to relax for a bit.  I meant to do laundry today, but I just didn't have the motivation.  Oh well, that's what Sunday afternoon is for I guess.

Tonight, I am excited to share my second blog entry from India.  It contains lots of uncontainable excitement as I reunited with loved ones from my previous trip.  Hope you enjoy!

Please note, that I have decided to abbreviate names with first initials to respect everyone's privacy.

8-17-14
Day Two: Second Flight, Arrival, and Main Church

          A bit of sleep.  An almost finished movie (Million Dollar Arm).  One final meal.  Hyderabad.  Contained explosion of excitement.  Confusing customs forms.  28 pieces of luggage.  Customs.  M!!!!!!!!!!!!!  One joyful hug!  Garlands of flowers.  Group photo.  Totally happy.


          After all that, we walked out through the rich darkness to the vans.  It took several guys ten minutes to puzzle piece the luggage together in and on the vans.  I enjoyed watching and listening to the team’s “oohs,” “ahhs,” and laughs etc. as we sped into the city.  They were all especially excited by the fish building as I had been last year.  All I could think though was, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”  When we arrived at the hotel, I helped assign rooms and then gave instructions for the next day based on what the pastor and I had discussed.
          After most people dispersed for naps, M, H, K, T, and I prepared crafts for the predicted 115 Sunday School children.  My initial reaction when the pastor said that number was: “crap!”  I had forgotten to consider Sunday school kids when we made our supply list for crafts. 
          Fortunately, H is amazing and had more than enough “Jesus Calms the Storm” materials.  As the others cut streamers, T helped me prepare what to tell the team at breakfast.  I am so thankful to have a “cabinet” to run things by.  As much as I act like I know what I am doing, I am figuring out a lot as I go along.  Not a comfortable feeling. 
          We wrapped up around 6:00 a.m. and headed upstairs to sleep in our “way too nice” hotel rooms.  Upon seeing the room, I was impressed by the comfort of the beds and the overall cleanliness.  Not what people would expect for a mission trip.  However, I was relieved to see the bucket shower and to realize that the power cut in and out. 
          My roommate, K, and I settled in and then passed out to sleep for an hour.  Unfortunately, we thought it was one hour later than it was, so we woke up at 7:30, not 8:30.  I was fully dressed before I realized my error and called H to confirm.  Oops.  We laughed and went back to sleep.
          After our interrupted nap, it was finally time for the day to begin.  Breakfast for me was dosas with daal and a hard-boiled egg on the side, eaten with my right hand only of course.  My taste buds rejoiced to discover they were back in India.  Major disappointment occurred though when I tasted what I thought was chai and discovered it was milky coffee.  Sad day. 
At breakfast, I successfully made my announcement and sent everyone to finish getting ready.  10:00 a.m. bus loading. 
As we drove to church, it was fun watching the team react to the sights and the traffic.  It was still relatively calm out, but busier than it had been at 4:00 a.m. 
Partway through the drive, I announced that soon we would make a right turn into an alleyway and then we would arrive at church.  Sure enough, a minute later we did exactly that.  I was ecstatic that I somehow remembered the relative location of the main church.
The church however was not the same at all.  Instead of being one level, it was now three.  The whole thing was concrete and open air.  Clearly under construction.  Following our hosts, we made our way up to the second floor where rows and rows of plastic chairs had been arranged on two sides of an aisle.  We walked down the mat covering the aisle and took seats in the front two rows on the right.


Almost as soon as I had set down my bags, I looked up and saw P!!!!!  He was playing guitar and preparing to lead worship.  When he saw me, he stopped and came to meet me.  The first words out of his mouth were, “Your dream came true; you are back where you belong.” 

Yes.  Yes, I was.

Less than a minute later, MASSSIVE EXCITEMENT occurred when U and the girls came and found me.  I have to confess that part of me feared they would not remember me from last year. 

The opposite was the case. 

U, A, and two new girls were giddy to meet me.  Pr, A, and others came in and went to sit in chairs off to the side.  I was so honored when they beckoned me to join them.  Then, I nearly cried when U showed me that she kept a picture of us together in the cover of her Bible.


The service started and all the girls rose and stepped onto the platform stage to help P lead passionate, spirit-filled worship.  As the singing continued, I tried to step out of observer mode and into worship.  There is nothing like worshiping in another language and culture.
Communion was served by the women of the church including some young adults.  I like that the church respects them.  Unfortunately, they missed giving me bread and juice and I was too shy to ask. 
Next came Sunday School.  Eight of us headed down the cement stairs to the ground floor.  When we arrived, the kids were singing and dancing to “Father Abraham,” so we all jumped in right away.  Then, Pastor Z., the children’s pastor, came and asked for the group leader.  I stepped up.  We went over the plan while the team continued to sing and do motions with the kids.  Once business was taken care of, I joined the fun.  Then, I introduced the team and we led songs, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Jesus in the Boat.”  It took a bit for the kids to catch on, but many did.  K. and I talked later about how special it was when we made eye contact with individuals.  Their faces would always light up with smiles.  They loved being noticed and made to feel special.
Right after the songs, the kids moved to circles and team members began passing out supplies with H. as facilitator.  We were all set to go when suddenly we were called back upstairs for introductions.  H. quickly taught the Sunday school teachers to make the wave craft and then we trooped up the dusty, concrete stairs.  When we had gathered on stage, I was surprised, honored, and humbled to be called the team leader and asked to say a few words.  I greeted the people in Telugu and winged a few words about coming back to India and how thankful I was to be there.  Next, the team introduced themselves and T. led a few songs.  The roles were reversed from earlier as we stood on stage.
Back downstairs, the craft had been successfully completed.  K. rocked out the story narration, while the rest of us acted out the events.  The kids used their streamers to make raging waves for the storm.  Jesus questioned our weak faith and amazed us by taming the sea.



We closed with more songs and offering collection.  When asked for offering, my mind was blown as I grabbed the random 20 rupees that our church treasurer had given me from the church offering.  She had kept it for years after someone randomly donated them.  Then, she decided to give them to me to take to India.  God clearly knew we needed that money.  Otherwise we would have had no offering to give.

Lunch was mild goat curry and rice served by the girls.  During down time, I tried to introduce team members to the girls in order to be a bridge for new relationships.  I hope that me knowing them won’t be a hindrance.
Walking out of the church was walking into a spiritual battle.  The open air church and the outdoor temple had been warring all morning.  Today was a special holiday for Hindus, so they were a bit vocally rude as we walked by.  Too bad.
Back the hotel, R., S., C., and I found the “fitness room,” which was a hotel room with a few random machines.  I ran on the powerless elliptical while the others lifted and did ab work.  You could have filled 3 buckets with my sweat by the time we were done.
Short nap.  Sudden rush to the bus.  Drive to the pastor’s house.  Party.  Huge crowd.  Lots of singing.  Pastor and wife renewed vows.  Curry and sweet bread pudding.  Spicy curry was intense.  Short time with the girls.  Ride home.  Debrief in room 315.
At the debrief, many shared passionately about their first foreign worship experiences.  After that, S., I., Ki., H., K., and I were champions of supply organizing.  We realized that we should have counted, divided, and packed in a more orderly way.  I felt badly, but was blessed by the fact that everyone jumped in and just got it all done.  Plus, it was awesome to realize that we had 3 toothbrushes per child, two coloring books per child, and much more!  God really multiplied our resources!

Finally it was time for bed.  I crashed hard and slept well all night.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mission2India Day 1: Letting Go and Going

Ahhhh.....

What a relaxing Saturday.

The day drifted by with a walk, some Bible reading, healthy meals, a movie, baking, and too many episodes of Switched at Birth.

I still have to pinch myself to realize that I have the time to relax and to choose what to do with my time.  I realize I need to tweak some things during the week days to give myself more structure, but the weekends are totally flexible.  Most have been social, so today I opted for "Me Time."

The highlight of the day was finally catching the movie, The Hundred Foot Journey.  Definitely worth seeing.  It was a great story of family, food, and cultural clashes.  All my favorite things.  I especially loved that the main character was an Indian chef.  I was salivating over the curries and the other amazing dishes throughout the movie.  :-)

Speaking of India, I promised to share more about my trip.  Our month anniversary of being back in the U.S. is coming up and I have yet to post any journal entries.  However, that is about to change.

In fact, here is the first entry from my Mission2India journal.  One more thing before I begin though, for the sake of safety and confidentiality, I will not be posting names or specific details about the team, the locations, and the people of India.

Now, without further ado, join me for the beginnings of Mission2India.

8-16-14
Day One: Boot Camp Recap and Travel



          Can someone please pinch me?  Am I really on a plane in Doha, about to take off for Hyderabad?  Mission2India is real!  It’s happening!

Before I get too excited and too behind on my journaling, I should probably back up and talk about our final training: Boot Camp.

          Boot Camp began breakdown in the bathroom. 

The weight of every plan and every held back emotion hit me full force.  I went from hectically running around trying to do it all by myself to weeping in the bathroom crying out to God admitting that I can’t do anything alone.


          Though it was a messy start, the whole thing turned out to be a blessing because I needed to let go from the beginning of day one or else I would have kept going on my own power instead of letting go and trusting God.  As it turns out, we had a relaxing, fun, crazy day of ice breakers, conversations, and bonding.  Exactly what we needed.


Still, by the time we wrapped up around 4:00, I was exhausted to the point of tears and immobility.
Fortunately, several team members came over to my place to help pack supplies for the kids.  As they rushed around stuffing duffel bags with crayons, coloring books, toothbrushes etc., I just stood there wanting to help, but incapable of doing anything.
Later, after a stop at the church to drop off the duffel bags and a bite to eat at Applebee’s, I finally had some time to myself.  As I walked through the dark neighborhood, I bawled again as I talked to mom.  Lack of sleep, extreme stress, and intense excitement are a bad combination.  

          Friday dawned.  I was still tired, but more peaceful.  Listening to Isaiah 40-43 while trying to sleep had eased my physical and mental tossing and turning.  Day 2 of Boot Camp was relaxing and productive with human knot hilarium, Telugu lessons, song practice, devotions, and incredibly powerful prayer stations.
          Though I had planned the stations and participated in them the year before, they did not fail to have a heavy impact on my weary soul.  In fact, the most impactful one brought together the loose lessons that I had been learning over the course of the past two days.
          The station was about “Letting Go” of idols and things that keep us from surrendering to God.  Seemed like a logical first stop since it seemed pretty clear that I needed to let go of some things. 
          I chose a rock from the pile I had laid out and began to list the chains that I knew were cinched around my heart: selfishness, pride, perfectionism, fear of man, control.  I cried as I realized that the whole rock was covered.
          Looking at the little wooden cross before me, I knew I was not ready to lay the rock down yet, so I picked up a Bible.  At first, I didn’t know where to turn, but then, Isaiah 40-43 came to mind.
          The passage began: 

“Comfort, comfort my people says your God.  
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, 
that her sin has been paid for."
-Isaiah 40:1

Sweet comfort.

          Conviction came next with the realization that I am nothing and that all I do will wither away, but God is great and mighty.  

"Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
    or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
14 
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
    or showed him the path of understanding?"
-Isaiah 40:13-14

How could I even begin to think that I could “instruct the Lord as His counselor” or teach Him the right way?

          Tears began to dot the pages as the reality of how often I try to control and even be God hit me like a train.

 A few more passages of painful rebukes and then this...

“But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-Isaiah 41:8-10
         
Looking down at the Sharpie covered rock that represented my sinful heart, I wept.           

           Though I am covered in sin, God chose me.  

                           He chose me to serve Him.  
                                      
                                             He has not rejected me.  
                         
                                                                    I do not have to be afraid.  

                                                                                                       He will help me.

Seeing the cross before me, I laid down my rock.  In a fresh way, I remembered that it was and is only because of the cross that God could choose me; that because of Christ's blood, God can look at me and not see the sin, but see His Son’s righteousness.  Christ paid my debt and I am not rejected.  Amen. 

Needless to say, I left the station with a lighter, more joyful, heart, mind, and soul that freed me to experience the rest of the stations fully.

Eventually the prayer time wound down and it was time to get busy again.  Still, even as I zoomed off to the bank to get money, I felt peace.
When I arrived back at church, I was encouraged to see a large group of friends and family had gathered to pray with us all.  After I spoke a bit to thank everyone, we gathered into circles and prayed.  It was such a blessing to hear others lift up the team in prayer.

At 4:45, the "amens” faded and it was finally time to go!

          We headed downstairs, loaded up, and journeyed over the GWB to JFK in four cars.  Amazingly, God answered our prayers and there was very little traffic even though it was a Friday night in NYC.  We all arrived with plenty of time to spare.

          Our time at JFK was spent checking in, going through security, getting food etc.  Typical airport stuff.  My parents called to pray for me and to say “goodbye.”  So nice.
          At last, it was time to board the plane!  Hurray!


All went well on the first flight.  I watched Divergent and Amazing Spiderman 2.  After the second movie, I slept and ate in periodic intervals and tried to prevent cankles by making circles with my feet.
          Transferring flights in Doha was easy except for the excruciatingly hot wait on the steps outside the plane. 

          Now, only a few short hours stand in between me and Hyderabad!!!!!!  Wahoo!!!!

----------------------------------------------------------

So, that is how Mission2India began.  Tons of tears.  A lesson in "Letting Go" that Elsa would appreciate.  13 hours in flight.

Stay tuned for more.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently: I Am Alive and Blogging




Oh my goodness.  Where have I been?

For the first time in months, I actually have more than 5 minutes to breathe, relax, watch TV, read etc.  It is glorious, but strange.  I do not know what to do now that I am not moving, working multiple jobs, preparing for India etc. etc. etc.

In fact, my summer jobs are over (minus some tutoring), I'm all moved in to my new place, and I'm back from India.  Sad about the last part.  Can't believe the trip is over.  So much to process.  So much to miss.

Hopefully more to come.

More about India later, but for now, I am happy to link up with Farley for this month's Currently.  I can't even say I'm surprised it's September because I was living at a breakneck speed for the last few months, so it makes sense that summer's over already.


Listening


Due to moving and canceling my personal TV services, I have failed to keep up with one of my favorite shows.  Fortunately, the episodes are slowly, but surely becoming available online so I can catch up.  I'm not very far in, but no strong favorites have emerged yet.

Loving

Though the trip was short and I am sad that it is over, I am still so happy about India.  I will confess that I was nervous to go back because I was afraid that my mind had created an fantastic and nostalgic love that was not true and sustainable.

Let me just say, that my fear was totally wrong. 

The very second we landed in India, I felt as if I had come home.  When I saw our wonderful hosts, I cried with joy as I reunited with my family.  From there, all the sites, sounds, smells, colors, tastes etc. all filled my sense and my soul to the brim.

Bucket showers?  Yay!

Crazy traffic?  Bring it on!

Spicy curry?  Give me more please!

Speaking in Telugu?  I'm your student!

Squat toilets?  Okay, let's not get crazy.  I could take a pass on these.

Take all that excitement and multiple it by 4,000 and you'll get a sense of the joy I felt when I got to see all the orphans and their caretakers!  The fact that so many remembered me and I remembered them made my heart swell.  Words aren't enough, so here are my two favorite pictures.  More will be coming soon.



Thinking

Labor Day Weekend was amazing!  It started out as a blank slate and was quickly and spontaneously filled time down the shore, workouts in the park, playing cards, and going to movies with friends.  Ahhh...so nice.

Wanting

Being so hectic made me sloppy and lax about my eating habits, so a few pounds crept on.  Then, I gave myself permission to stuff myself with Indian food while in India, so a few more crept on.  Now, it's time to get back to regular and even more frequent workouts and to get some self-control when it comes to food.  

Any ideas for curbing a stubborn sweet tooth?

Needing

Summer jobs are over.  Tutoring is winding down.  I'm back from India.  Now, on to the new and exciting adventure of my new job!  Before I can begin my work with World Orphans, I need to build a team of financial supporters and prayer warriors.  I will be sending out my first support letters soon and will share more info on here in the near future.  I am nervous, but excited to see how God provides and to join together with others to care for orphans.

Trips


This is hard because I would and want to literally go everywhere!  Whether for pleasure or missions, I can't really think of any place I wouldn't want to go.  For vacation places, Greece has been at the top of the list for awhile now.  Ireland's on the list since my traveling buddy and I have talked about exploring the isle in an affordable way.  Finally, Alaska is just beautiful.  My parents got there for the first time a few summers ago and fell in love.  Now, it's my turn to go!




Ahhh, it felt so nice to write this.  I hope to show up a bit more often now that things have settled down.

Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day!  Also, praying for everyone as they go back to school.