Sunday, 20 October 2013

How to set yourself up for failure while abroad and possibly alienate people.

Here is a new recipe I recently came across to set yourself up for failure while abroad (in my case India-- just think curry) and possibly alienate people (though not anyone on my team here, because they are loving people):

1. When getting dressed, put on M.C. Hammer-esque pants that come equipped with a drawstring as opposed to the button and zipper on your skinny jeans.
2. Sometime throughout the day, manage to subconsciously tie that very same draw string in a double knot--- genius, I know.

*I was literally thanking God this happened on Saturday as opposed to Thursday after some airplane food. This could have been devastating for me, but was averted by delicious (and safe) home cooked meals by Anu (my sweet Indian mom who lives upstairs).

That's enough bathroom talk for now.... I really want to thank everyone who sent me birthday wishes for the big 3-0! Seriously, thank you so much :)  I completely failed to reply to all the Facebook messages and emails, but I still want you to know that I feel loved! I really need to get back into the wonderful world of Facebook. It's been about a month and a half.

As for India, the state-wide strikes (yep they're happening here too) and some extended holidays have really cut into our teaching schedule. It's been almost a month, but we should be able to start teaching again this coming week. I'm really excited to get back into a regular schedule. In the meantime, we've been trying to connect with some Harvest India staff... In fact, last Sunday I got to paint 70 nails :) It was nice to have some girl time with Carli, Kacie, and Sreelatha (Ravi's wife). And the other night, while Ramaraj was at work, Anu made some mahindi (henna) in her kitchen and did a lovely design on my hand. I'm hoping that tomorrow night I'll be able to paint her nails for some more girl time.

The team and I also had some time to do some traveling. We went to Mumbai for 2 full days. I was expecting much of what I've already seen in India, but that city definitely has its own personality-- some  good and some bad. First and foremost, we found a starbucks!!!!

Yep, we got in on Monday night and I had a decaf pumpkin spice latte!!! Not only was it the first sugary-delicious flavored latte that I've had since leaving home, but it was also the first decaf coffee as well :)  I entered the Mumbai airport security Thursday morning to head back to Tenali with my fourth latte of the trip in hand. Please don't judge me.... Please.

In addition from the beautiful architect and delicious food, we saw some of the heaviest poverty I've ever seen in Mumbai. The slums are literally right next to or across the overpass from incredibly beautiful and rich areas. One night, John, Kacie, Courtney (Kacie's sister) and I were walking to go to a famous ice-cream storefront and we saw 2 children (probably around age 5) sound asleep on a well lit sidewalk-- no blankets, or pillows, or even a mat. It was tough. Sort of like one of those things you look away from because it doesn't make sense and its not something you want to see, but you can't help but remember and ponder later. It really was heartbreaking, and still is.

On a lighter note, Tenali is so great.  It was different entering back into India in this stint of the trip.  As most of you know, I spent an extra month in Palestine to finish up a dance project, so I got back to what I like to call my "second home" later than the rest of the team. Our first six months were spent acclimating to our new life and family while immersing ourselves in the culture and ministry. But for some reason, I entered India with the weight of the "what's next" question. Will I stay until April? Or should I go back to the states in January? Am I going to travel on my way out? What about work, school....?" So many big questions, so many options, and incredible friends (Indian and American) to serve God's people with. There was this urgency to figure things out and have all the right answers immediately. To make matters worse, it was really hard for me to be fully present in what was happening in the moment while trying to find answers for the future. It was rough. But the good news is that God is bigger than these big life questions. The beauty of it all is that I don't have to have it ALL figured out. Granted I do need to figure out when I'll be back in the states and have somewhat of a plan for picking up where I left off, but these decisions don't have to establish my future.

I don't have all the answers but I do feel free to be in India-- and that freedom is a gift that I am choosing to hold onto :)  I still have unanswered prayers, but just because they have yet to be answered does not mean that they fell on deaf ears. He's heard them and I trust that in His perfect time we'll hear/see/live in the answers. And isn't that so much better than anything that I could possibly come up with. After all, 1 year in India was not originally on my agenda, but His story is so incredibly beautiful and there is no other place on earth that I would rather be writing this from.

Please continue to pray for Harvest India, my team and I . Christmas is coming up as well, so naturally there will be dancing!

*Thank you so much to all my friends and family who have supported me both financially and through prayer. Amazing news... I'm almost fully funded! I have $23,854.96 promised, which mean that I only need to raise an additional $1,145.04 by January. Please prayerfully consider helping me reach my goal  :)  

Sunday, 25 August 2013

It's Official... Ive become my High School Chemistry teacher!

The past week has been filled with sad goodbyes and long-waited hellos; I am back in India!

Palastine was so much more than I could have planned for. When I left India in April, Bethlehem, Palastine was just a visa run so that I could return to India for a second six month stint. But as usual, God proved to me that His plans do not fit in my perfect little box. Bethlehem rocked me. Their hunger for the arts is palpable and it was such a blessing to stand beside them and play a part in their summer projects and classes. Here's a small taste of what I was able to help out in:

Please don't judge me. I wanted to dance my interview instead of speaking, but they said no. Seriously Rami, you should have just let me stick to what I am good at!  :) 

Saying goodbye to my new friends both in and outside of the Diyar family was hard and filled with tears (whether you saw them or not). As the locals say "Enshalla" or "God willing" I will return :)  And I really mean it. I hope that it is God's will for me to go back to Bethlehem. And soon! 

India is even more beautiful than I remember.

My memory was first jolted at the airport in Mumbai when I saw a petite woman in a beautiful bold-colored sari. During our first six months, my team would tease me because nearly everyday I would sit in the back of the car gawking at the brightly colored, sparkly, simple, extravagant, beaded, bold, beautiful, etc. saris. They really never got old to me. So yes, the first rekindling of my love for India came in the form of a sari as I sat in what seemed like the never-ending line for customs in Mumbai. Thank you Lord :) 

Then, the sweet and caring people at the Vijayawada airport. I met soldiers who want to come and celebrate my birthday with me in Tenali, a local pastor, a nurse, a doctor, a woman visiting family who is actually from the states, and others. So good :)

On the ride home, it was such a joy to see what the rain has done to the scenery. Everything, seriously everything is green!!! So, so, so beautiful. This really is God's country!

It's been 6 days and a slow intro back into life here-- which really is a blessing. I've said "hi" to a few friends, and am looking forward to many more to come. Thursday was our first day of teaching chemistry- no wait English! :) and this is why.... Back in high school, my chem teacher would always get chalk dust on his face; it was pretty funny. This time around, I am teaching English in the schools in Tenali as opposed to dance which means lots and lots of writing on chalkboards. Yep. I was covered in chalk dust after teaching on Thursday. So yes. It is official: I have turned into my high school chemistry teacher! At least that means that one day I will get married and have a dog as a pet, just as Mr. Rivas did, right?! So yes mom and dad, there is still hope. Maybe. Possibly.  :) 

Please continue to pray for my transition back into Indian life :) I'm caught in between grieving my friends in Palestine and the independence I had there and enjoying the beauty of India with all my friends here... all the while missing friends and family back home. It's a lot, but God is good and He is sufficient!

Friday, 26 July 2013

House of the Word

Yep... It's been a long time, so here's a list of what I've let you miss:
  • Christmas with my Indian family!
  • The RockHarbor team came to India
  • A monkey pulled on my nose ring-- note to self, wear a stud around monkeys
  • I watched fireworks at he RH orphanage for new Years
  • Carli (now Hill) came to visit and, along with the fabulous Alicia, we went to see the Taj Majal and Jaipur
  • I ripped my one pair of jeans doing a handstand for a picture--Thank God for long punjabi shirts
  • Our team had the opportunity to start an all-Enlgish church service
  • We retold the Good News through dance for Easter
  • The RH medical team came to India for the first time
  • We went to Petra on our way into Israel for our furlough--- guess who met up with us? MY BROTHER!!!!!! So amazing!!!!
  • Jon Austin and I went to Greece!!!! Once again... Amazing!!!!

  • I started teaching dance at Diyar in Bethlehem
  • I fell in love at a coffee shop.
  • Not really, and this is why:  1. You have to have a heart to fall in love :)  and 2. I really really really miss good coffee shops at home. Does anyone know if Starbucks or Coffee Bean or Pete's is planning on moving into Tenali, India? Is there a number I can call to suggest that? Can you do that for me?
  • I went on a tour through the Holyland with Telos and literally wept at Jacob's well. God is so good and He loves me so much that he pursues me. Sometimes I just need a little reminder :)
  • I helped choreograph for a show called Paletime with teenagers- the show came together in 3 weeks. If anyone needs a director at home contact Elizabeth Malone-- She's a local
  • I taught a college course-- you may now refer to me as Professor. Not really!
  • I continued teaching dance at Diyar in Bethlehem
So why is this post called "House of the Word"? Excellent question. I thought you might ask :) Since coming to Bethlehem in early April, I've been volunteering at Dar Al'Kalima. It is a branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church also known as Diyar. Along side a school and college (and not to mention an incredible massage therapist), the facilities house a center for youth where they offer classes in dance, theater, visual arts and swimming. Dar Al'Kalima literally translated into english means "House of the Word". So beautiful!!! So for the past 3 months, I've been working at the House of the Word :)

Dance is a big part of the culture here in Palestine-- perfect fit, right?! The only problem is that the people here do not have the resources to dive into very many styles of dance. Right now, the center offers Depka (a beautiful traditional dance style), beginning ballet, and break dancing (by a talented self-taught dancer). There is a hunger for more stirring within Dar Al'Kalima.

Earlier this year, Rami, my boss, and a few others began praying for a contemporary dancer to come to Bethlehem collaborate with them on a show called "Out of Place". And then God brought the Residency team to Bethlehem...

Within a few days of meeting Rami and the Dar Al'Kalima staff, I was asked to stay an extra month to finish choreography for "Out of Place". My initial reaction was "Are you crazy?! You just met me and my heart is still in India..."--- but my filter only let me reply with, "Ummm... I'll pray about it." So I did, and God began to work. He tends to do that when you leave Him space :)

So, I'm staying one extra month in Bethlehem. My official return date to India is August 19th, which is definitely on my heart even though I love it here as well. It took a ton of prayer and discussion, but I completely believe this extended stay is in His will. It's amazing to sit in a place that you know God has called you to. Even though Bethlehem feels like a third home to me, I still get amazed by what happened here. I'm a 3 minute walk from where tradition tells us that Mary gave birth to the Savior of the world!!! Incredible!

Please continue to pray for India and all that the team is doing there as they try to re-enter into the culture after being away for 3 months. Also pray for what God is doing in Bethlehem. In terms of my work here, I should finish up the last bits of choreography at rehearsal tonight, though we have a lot of "cleaning" to do. Please pray for my dancers, the actors, and the people coming to see the show as it tells the incredible story of the Palestinian people and the hope they still have for a beautiful future.

One last need--- well for today :)  I'm just over half way through my 15 month adventure overseas. However, I'm still in need of financial support. At this point, I've raised $18,539.96 of the $25,000 I am committed to raising for India. This means, that I still need to raise $6,460.04 over the next 5 months. Please pray and consider joining me in this through monthly or one-time donations. I have a website to help you do so:

Thank you so much for the ways many of you are supporting me financially and spiritually!!! It has been a huge blessing to step into the work that God has prepared for me. Shout out to my Life Group---Thanks so much for all your letters!

With all my love from Bethlehem,

Monday, 10 December 2012

He Answers Prayers

Today was tough. Last we had heard, Ravi was unconscious and partially paralyzed in a hospital bed, and awaiting brain surgery. After praying as a team along with Suresh, Danny, and Ramaraj, we decided to drive to Guntur to see him. I don't think any of us had a plan or knew what to expect. The car ride for me was filled with tears in the midst of singing along with worship songs. Another lesson of praising him through the sorrow (I had my first taste of that this past June when my friend's dad passed away... We miss you Jun).

I had never been to a hospital in India. This particular hospital seemed to blend in with the rest of the town. Even the paramedic van was parked in front of a random store. The front of the hospital reminded me somewhat of the USC ER facility (on a much smaller scale, of course, and minus the metal detectors). We walked up the ramp above the ER and were immediately greeted by some Harvest India staff and a few of Ravi's relatives. Ravi did not have surgery yet, but had recently woken up and was now talking. Praise God!!!

They asked if we would like to go in and see him. Of course!

Just then a woman in a pink and brown sari came out wearing a paper mask over her mouth. It was Ravi's wife. I had been wanting to meet her, though not under these conditions. I knew that she was a staff nurse and that she had prayed for me, but that was about it. My heart sank when I saw her. She didn't say anything, but lead us into the building and down a hallway to the left. When we got to the door of what I assume was the critical care room we stopped and learned we could only go in two at a time. Angela looked at me and asked if I wanted to go in first with her. I would love to say that I immediately jumped at the opportunity, but I definitely hesitated. "Yes, yes. I want to go in."

Ravi's wife led Angela and I into the room. There were patients separated by single curtains to the left and right of us, but it was all a blur. I had no idea what to expect. I knew that Ravi was in a motorcycle accident and was not wearing a helmet (which is the norm in India). I tried to prepare myself for the worst even though I didn't want to see it. We approached his bed and aside from the breathing mask, he simply looked like he was sleeping. He had a couple of bruises on his left temple, but even those were barely visible. His wife gently shook his arm, quietly spoke a few words in Telugu, and Ravi slowly opened his eyes. It was beautiful!

Small talk was hard. I instinctively shut down when I can't find the words to say. "It's so good to see you." I meant it. In the midst of simple words of conversation, Ravi said "Praise the Lord." That's so Ravi. Yes Ravi, praise the Lord that He's brought you this far. That He heard the prayers and cries of all of us who love you and all of those who love us. Praise God that you are safer now than you were even 2 hours ago. Praise the Lord for being the ultimate healer and comforter. Yes Ravi, Praise the Lord!

We prayed over Ravi and his wife, and just as we were turning to walk to give the rest of the team some time with this amazing man of God, the they walked up. It was amazing to pray over them as a team. We learned that it was his left side that had been paralyzed but he was now able to move his limbs with only some numbness. Praise God Ravi, yes, Praise the Lord.

Ravi will stay in the hospital for the next week or so. His brain is still hemorrhaging, though is getting better. As of this afternoon, Ravi is not going to go into surgery, but it is still an option. Please continue to pray for him. He's come a long way in the past 24 hours but is still not in the clear. He'll be under close watch for the next week. God did so much today in just a couple hours, I pray expectantly for more of the same in the days to come. Please keep his wife and 2 boys (I think they're 2 and 5 years old) in your prayers as well.

Thank you for your prayers. He hears them!!!
Matthew 8:14-17

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Please Pray!!!

One of my dear friends here in India was in an accident last night. This past weekend, we had a crusade  in a near by village. Ravi was there Friday and Saturday, but when I looked for him last night, I did not see him. In the moment, I just assumed he was somewhere on the grounds and that I just could not find him. We just got the phone call from Suresh. I'm heartbroken. You may recognize the name "Ravi" from one of my previous posts. He and his family have a picture of me from two years ago on his fridge and not knowing that I would return to India, they've prayed for me. At this point, all that we know is that he is in critical condition with a head injury in a hospital in Guntur and that he is scheduled to go into surgery soon. Please, please, please pray that he would be healed.  Pray for his wife and two sons. "We love you Ravi and our hearts and prayers go out to you!"

Thursday, 6 December 2012

When God Reads Your Heart

After writing the previous post, I closed my laptop and walked to my room thinking "I would really, really love to take a dance class right now."

Well... Let me tell you about Sherkar (my Indian spelling is terrible, I'm sure of it). I absolutely adore this man. He is a sanskrit teacher at KSK Jr. College as well as discipline extraordinaire!

He is amazing in my dance classes. The girls love yet completely cower at him when he lifts up his stick! Kacie and Angela go to class with Daniel and Danny as their translators, and I get Sherkar to keep the girls in line.  I love Daniel and Danny, but I wouldn't have it any other way!!! Sherkar got me space on the rooftop for class, unscrews the cap to give me water while I'm teaching and makes the girls perform Indian dances for me while he plays music out of his phone! He's as absolute joy!!!!

So today, upon arriving at KSK, we sat down in Paul's office for a few minutes to relax before splitting up to teach. This time, Sherkar calls to me and asks me to come with him for one second... "Of course!" Instead of leading me out the front entrance of the college (which we use to go up to the rooftop), he leads me further into the college, through the courtyard, has me wave "hi" to a few classes and then stops me at the last class to the right. Quick backstory... From the moment I found out I was teaching dance here, I have been wanting to sit through one of Vijay's classes (he is Harvest India's dance instructor)... And now back to the REAL story... Sherkar led me to the room where Vijay was teaching some familiar faces; yyep, some of my dancers! It was amazing! Danny followed and began translating the song the girls were dancing to. "Welcome to the temple of Jesus." In the midst of this, a chair was brought over for me, along with my backpack and some chai, and Sumani stood beside me and fanned me with a clipboard! Whoah, talk about star treatment :0) I felt like a princess. Sumani was insistent about fanning me... It was completely adorable!!!

My dance class was cancelled for the day, which was completely fine. I could not have been happier to be watching an Indian dance class! But then I was invited to take his next class!!! Oh yeah, God gave me the dance class which only 4 hours ago literally seemed years away. AMAZING! And we danced to "Pray for India!" So fun! I was sweating like crazy, but it was such a blessing to take a class and do someone else's choreography. I cannot put into words how ecstatic I was to be dancing in that room, with those girls and Vijay at that very moment. It was incredible! Literally a gift from heaven :)

Thank you Lord!

Thank you Sherkar and Vijay for an amazing time at KSK today! I don't know how this day could have been better :)

Umm, oh yeah... well just one more quick story... While having dinner with Kacie, Angela, Danny, Vijay and Paul, a squirrel jumped, from I don't know where, onto my shoulder and across the table onto Danny's shoulder. Yyyepp. It definitely scared me and I ended up with my feet on the bench and practically in Angela's lap. Histerical! All I wanted to do was shake it off, oh-oh-oh, but unfortunately I didn't have the space or the company for that. I literally felt fur brush across my ear. MY EAR!!! Ahhhh! Just the replay in my mind gives me the heebie jeebies! So funny!

Praying that your day is filled with incredible joy as well.  Let's close this post by sticking with the theme:   Pray for India!!!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

How to Make an Indian Quesadilla

1. Move to Tenali, Andhra Pradesh (or come visit me)
2. Purchase Chicken 65 and Naan (butter or garlic, I personally love garlic on just about anything) from Vijay's restaurant in Tenali (Suresh Kumar , Revi or Danny can help you with this) and refrigerate over night
3. Purchase butter and american cheese (you will probably need to go to Best Price in Vijayawada)
4. Crisp up one side of the naan using a frying pan and the butter
5. Flip the naan, fold it in half and stuff with as much chopped chicken 65 and american cheese as desired
6. Flip your quesadilla at least one more time and enjoy!

I hardly ever eat american cheese back in the states, but it is an absolute blessing to have here--- two words "grilled cheese!!!" Totally worth the gluten baby I get post-consumption! 100% :)  Like most Americans, my Christmas season is generally filled with tons of food-- cookies and candy from friends at Chili's, snacks while endlessly rehearsing for RH services (I especially miss this), Christmas parties with friends and families-- so it only feels natural to discuss food.... If I were back in the states right now, I would start off with a Pumpkin latte (usually I would go to Starbucks for this, but now I'm kind of partial to Gypsy Den), eventually progress my day into either a steak or sushi, and finish it off with a decaf mocha or hot chocolate at the beach or a park (basically anywhere outside where there are no mosquitoes). Yyyyyep.

Christmas is popping up all over Tenali and it is so beautiful. The Christians out here hang stars in celebration of our dear Lords birth. I saw the first star a week ago or so on our way to teach at KSK college. Our 45 minute drive to KSK which once felt daunting is now filled with lights and sporadic reminders that God is on the move in India. Literally every star brings a smile to my face. I love Christmas. Kind of funny that even though we may have been the only ones in Andhra Pradesh to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Christmas lights still went up the following week! Just a sweet little taste of home. Our star of lights just went up yesterday :)  Thank you Ramaraj and Suresh! It means more to me than you know.

While skyping with my mentor Tracey and my bell Michelle, I was surprised by tears of longing for my family and friends back home. I miss you! Christmas is going to be different this year. While at times this "different" is going to be hard, God opened up my heart and mind to remember that different doesn't always come with a negative connotation. Yes I have friends and family back in the states that I would love to hug and say "Merry Christmas" to, but I also have a new family and new friends to create new memories with here. My heart isn't limited to a SoCal Christmas. Christ still broke into world as an infant, and that is worth celebrating regardless of where life is or takes us! The meaning behind Christmas stands the same, the celebrations will just look a little different. I'm excited to celebrate the birth of Christ here in India surrounded by new friends and family. I expect that it will be more of this dichotomy that I live in, well I guess that we all sort of live in in one form or another. Looking back and missing pieces of the past, yet excitingly and expectantly awaiting what is to come. For me, the "past" is friends, family, traditions, independence, etc., and naturally, the future is taking the beauty in India and watching and experiencing God in the midst of it.

I know I said this back at home as well, but I keep having moments where God so sweetly reminds me how much he cares with just a few simple words. I'm not going to go into a giant description of my junk, so I will bring you into my story mid-chapter. India has ignited some pressures that life tends to fan into exhaustion here. The worst part is that this pressure comes from within me. It's not any other person here is speaking into it; yet, all the same, it's exacerbated. Anyways, I came to place where I literally said, whether out loud or just to myself, "It's not worth it." Immediately, God responded with "But I'm worth it."---- Aaarrrgh! He won again :)  Of course He is. Immediately following, Ephesians 5 came to mind. Once again, God is good and I am in awe of just how BIG He is. I fail to understand how He can be so intimately concerned with my thoughts and still have time for the rest of the world. I'm just going to have to settle into knowing that I will never be able to fathom it, nor do I need to :)

May God bless all of you in the States! Please continue to pray for India!