Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Final Celebration

Our final day in Delhi and India all together began in coffee shops reflecting on the last six weeks  the Lord has given us and then a feast at Hard Rock Cafe. We had quite a lovely day and such a blessing to see how the Lord doesn't waste anything, not even a final day in a far off country.

Most of the team went out to an area with a handful of coffee shops and ate together, but then split up a bit to make sure they could find a cozy place to read and journal and reflect on the summer. Alecia and Mary Emily went to a shop together and found a sweet spot. After they had been there for a few hours, a guy came up to Alecia and asked her if she was a student and what she was studying, as he had seen her reading this book and writing a lot. She was able to talk a while with this guy and ended up giving him an extra Bible she had with him.

We all met back at the flat and soon thereafter left for Hard Rock. Amy had gone before us to set up the room with all the gifts and candies for travelling. Each person was given a superlative (make sure you ask everyone what they got!) such as "Most Culturally Versatile", "Most Likely to Use a Flow Chart" and "Least Likely to Bargain for a Rickshaw". (All jokes from our few weeks together.) It's been so fun to be here with this team and last night was a wonderful time of celebrating all the fun we've had together and the way the Lord has knit our hearts together. We are truly blessed to have had these weeks together, and I'm especially thankful for them as I am now staying behind in India to live here for the year. I can't imagine coming on my own and not having had these last five weeks to get acclimated to this new home without my team!

BFF with the Squatty
Most Likely to Use a Flow Chart

Almost everyone ordered a burger last night, and they were quite delicious; although, I've been sick today so I hope no one else has been as they're travelling back. The team is about half way now. They've been travelling, or at least on the go, for the past 12 hours. They left the flat at 5:30AM and should be boarding their flight in London soon to fly to the States. Needless to say, they will be tired by the time they hit American soil.

For the night, I also made a slideshow/video from all the pictures taken this summer. It was so fun to remember all the way back to Myrtle Beach up to now and see pictures of everything in between! From Myrtle Beach, layovers in airports, setting our eyes on India for the first time, riding in autos, eating Indian food, the fresh lemony scent at the Lemon Tree to celebrating 4th of July, riding a train to Jaipur, living in apartments, teaching in homes, trying on sariis, drinking chai, wandering around malls, sharing pizzas, dancing to Call Me, Maybe all around India, riding in a taxi to the Taj, and watching the Olympics together most nights, I'm so thankful for this summer. The Lord has been faithful, and by His grace, we have been found faithful. Love you guys - you carry my heart.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Final Days in India

It saddens me to begin this blog by announcing that this will be the last post sent from I-town. We fly out Saturday morning for Delhi where we will spend a couple days before we begin the trip back to the States. I feel like I can speak for the whole team by saying we are all not ready to leave and have enjoyed our time here much more than words can describe. Here are some brief updates concerning the last couple days…

The boys have made and strengthened some really great relationships with local brothers. They were able to meet and hang out with them all afternoon and encourage them. It has been very encouraging to see the impact our guys have had on their friends' lives and the passion they have for teaching them more about the Lord. Some of the girls headed to the mall to try to strike up some conversations with girls that could lead to relationships in the future. Pr@yerwalking, as we call it, really has taught us a lot, and shown us how dependent we really are on the Lord. While they were at the mall, Rebekah and I headed to the tailors where some of us had dresses made. The seamstress, Mahut, invited us to have a “snack” which ended up consisting of more food than we would eat over the course of two days. We powered through the gallon of rice and meet that was put in front of us but we could not handle the Indian style curd/ yogurt combo…it ended up in my water bottle when Mahut turned the corner. Gotta do what ya gotta do. That night our team split up into three groups and went to babysit all the kids so the team here could have a nice dinner out. We had a blast hanging out with all the youngsters and it is always nice being able to serve the team here and give them a night off. 

The boys went to a town around 2 hours away for a training. They always come back with lots of stories and learn so much on these trips. They are all challenged and stretched because they do some of the teaching, and they have risen to the challenge each time. By pouring into others and leading trainings the Lord has really taught them a lot and we all have enjoyed watching their growth. The girls had a day of baking for the team dinner, and then visiting one of our friends’ hostels. We went to go meet some of her roommates and enjoyed meeting some of them and seeing how college students live here, which is very different from American dorms. That night, we all met together at a friends' house and enjoyed a big dinner consisting of chili, salad, apple cobbler, berry cobbler, and apple crumb pie. Little tastes of home are always nice. Some of our Indian friends were able to come over too, and our time with them is always so precious. They were able to sit in as we finished our study of 2 Peter and watched some Olympics with us. Rebekah and Rakshit then treated us to a couple songs: Rebekah on vocals, and Rakshit on guitar. 

We had the opportunity to visit an orphanage that is about 45 minutes away, including some kids from a nearby leper colony. Upon arrival we were greeted by around 200 kids, ages 3-16. It is a Christian orphanage and we were able to enjoy 200 Indian kids singing us Christian songs in Hindi, something I never thought I would have the privilege of witnessing. Then Alecia (with our friend Priyanka translating) taught about the Battle of Jericho from Joshua 6. Afterwards we had them act it out for us. Some kids were the wall, the priests, and the Israelites. It was a chaotic experience to say the least, but we had a blast in the process. We then took the kids outside and played games with them for the next couple hours. We taught them Duck Duck Goose, Simon Says, and Sharks and Minnows. It was a sweet time with all of them and we enjoyed getting to take part in some children’s ministry. 

For dinner some of our Indian friends took us to a street market in the Muslim community. We sampled several different Indian meats and desserts. A few were too spicy for some, but overall the food was delicious and it was a fun experience. Heath and Travis regretted it a little when they found themselves in the bathroom throughout the night throwing up. Both have recovered well though. Now the majority of our team has shared in the lovely experience of being sick.

After dinner all the girls went to a local chai bar with one of our Indian friends, Priyanka. We proceeded to make it a karaoke night when “Call Me Maybe”, “Someone Like You”, and “Beautiful Soul” came on. We already get stared at so much by the Indians so we have decided to just have fun with it. Priyanka has become one of our best friends here so we love getting to spend time with her and encouraging her any way we can. 

It was men’s and women’s time today. The boys had a fun day filled with playing squash and had a great time with some friendly competition. The girls headed to a restaurant called “The Chocolate Room” and had delicious milk chocolate and white chocolate fondue. It was great bonding time for all of us and gave us a chance to reflect on our time here. Afterwards, we all gathered for dinner to eat some pizza. A bunch of our Indian friends were able to join us, so we had a good time just hanging out and playing some Wii. It will be so sad leaving all the great friends we have here. After dinner we all gathered around the TV, which we have done every night, to watch the Olympics till around 1 in the morning. We’ve found ourselves becoming a lot more patriotic than usual. 

Looking forward to seeing all of you guys soon, but saying goodbye to India will be bittersweet. 

Posted by Kelsey

Monday, July 30, 2012

Well the monsoon has officially arrived! Though the entire time we have been here has technically been considered monsoon season, it really didn't rain very much in previous weeks. However, this week the skies have opened up and it has rained like crazy. The streets have been completely flooded on some days, making transportation all the more of an adventure.

This past week the boys were in Gwalior for a training, so back here in I-town we enjoyed girls week! Our week consisted of spending time in the Word, going to the malls to share, equipping some of our sisters here, shopping, a spa day, and many other fun activities. Monday through Wednesday evenings we spent quality time with sisters here, training and teaching them from the Word. It was encouraging for us to be around fellow believers, and we pray it was encouraging for them as well. Monday night the ladies graciously let us dress up in their saris and we had a lot of fun as they fussed over us, did our hair, and put jewelry on us. Tuesday night, after the teaching time, they taught us how to dance to some Hindi songs, and Wednesday night they purchased henna and gave all of us elaborate and beautiful henna tattoos. Every night we were in their home they were incredibly hospitable and kind and it was a joy to spend time with them. We have been so blessed, as this has been our experience everywhere we go! The people of India have been very welcoming and go out of their way to help us, from opening new lines for us in stores, to inviting us into their homes and feeding us, to offering tours of restaurants, etc. We definitely do get a lot of stares, and everyone wants to take our picture, but personally I've rather enjoyed being a celebrity! We've all joked that when we get back to America we will miss being famous (we really have made it into the newspaper twice!).

One of our adventures this week was venturing to the Rajwada, which is a quintessential Indian market. We took a carriage ride around just for fun, basically making ourselves a parade. After this Amy took us to some awesome fabric markets where we all found scarves and fabric for clothes or crafts. For our women's time this week we went to the spa. I pretty much could have stayed there all day. For incredibly great prices we all got some combination of the offered head massages, facials, eyebrow threading, manicures, and pedicures.

The Lord's sovereignty has been evident throughout our trip, and this was further evidenced this week as Rachel and a local friend of ours were able to meet two young girls who just moved here and don't have any friends. This is such a perfect opportunity to develop a relationship with these girls since Rachel will be here for an entire year. We have all been learning what it means to be faithful to what the Lord has called us to, and rest in his sovereignty. We can't necessarily measure success here by outward evidence, and the temptation would be to get discouraged. However the Lord has been gracious to remind us that He is the only one who changes lives and calls people to himself, and we simply get to take part in His plan to bring himself glory. What a privilege and a blessing! Today as I was reading in 1 Corinthians 4, verses one and two reminded me of our time here.

"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.                    Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful."

As we spend our last week in I-town, please pray that we will be faithful servants and stewards of the message that we have been entrusted with.

And the last but definitely not the least bit of our news is.... the Olympics are here! We girls stayed up till three in the morning watching the opening ceremony, rejoicing in the fact that we were getting to watch it before everyone in America. Since then we've enjoyed watching whenever we can (even when that means staying up through the night) and have definitely bonded as a team through watching them. Since the TV channels we watch are not American, we are getting a broader view of events than we usually do. And by that I mean that we've watched a ton of archery, judo, handball, table tennis, etc, and we hear commentary from a non-American point of view.

At any rate, it's been a great week and we can't wait to see what this next week holds!

Posted by Alecia

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Link India: The Truth is Revealed

Please forgive the sarcasm that is about to follow.  I sometimes get into trouble for using sarcasm and wit too much.  The Indians we have encountered have been nothing but polite, courteous, gracious and loving.  We have enjoyed just about every moment here in India and that is mainly due to the people's undying commitment to hospitality.  Please join me in these next few paragraphs of taking a lighter, extreme view of our time in India. I hope you enjoy but remember, this blog is all in good fun and is not meant to raise any response except for laughter.

I am very excited to write the blog today. I finally get to reveal the truth of our time here in Indore, India.  While my colleagues like to believe that our native friends stare and take excessive pictures of us because of their interest and affinity for our culture, i would like to posit a different theory.  I firmly believe the people of Indore believe we are disgusting, dim witted and out of place. Don't worry i do have proof and no, there will not be a rebuttal.

I will first start with the most recent encounter and work backwards. With the guys in Gwalior, the girls headed to fellow believer's house to teach and share. The women we encountered hated the kurtahs and leggings we stylishlyed adorned. They rushed us to strip off our outer garments and then draped us in sarees. While all of us turned out looking beautiful it was a struggle for some who are not Indian size like, well, me. My hands were too ginormous to put on the bangles they offered and they were more than disappointed with the fact that my ears were not pierced.  To complete our transformation from disgusting American to full on Indian, we each elegantly adorned many different pieces of gold and bejeweled jewelry. Carly even had a piece that attached from her nose to her hair. We all received way more comments than we ever did dressed in kurtahs further proving their disdain for our sound attempts at dressing Indian.

Moving backward, Travis somehow forgot to mention our pretty awesome trip to the Amber Fort in Jaipur and with that he also forgot to mention our driver and scary experience involving kids. Our driver used his horn more than all of Jaipur combined.  He drove so fast with so much road rage that Indians were telling him to calm down (not a good sign). My conclusion is that he thought we smelled bad and couldn't bear (i always spell this word this way. One guess why) the embarrassment of having white people in his car. When we arrived at the Fort, we stopped so our driver could take a few moments to collect himself and get fresh air. While stopped our car was attacked by six angry kids. If we hadn't the good sense to lock our doors, I'm certain they would have taken our lives. As it was they settled for yelling "chocolate" at us and hitting our windows in a violent manner. I chastised Jenna for her feeble attempts at hiding her smile which only egged them on more. When they finally realized we wouldn't surrender our lives, they moved on. (No lie, I was afraid for my life.)

The third evidence concerns our rickshaw drivers who believe the longer we stay in India, the more we believe that we should pay higher prices for rides. After weeks of mastering the art of negotiating and bargaining for good prices, Travis was told a 60 rupee drive would take 300 rupees while Rachel was laughed at when she wanted one ride to cost 80 rupees instead of the proposed 150. Jokes on them, however, because we paid the prices we set out to get.

The most damning evidence concerns our trips out to restaurants and Easy Day, the Wal-Mart knock-off. Every time we enter an establishment (no lies, no embellishments, pure truth) a person follows us around with a mop or a broom. I can only conclude that they believe we have some disease that if not mopped up immediately will cause everyone within a 20 foot radiance to drop dead within seconds.

I lied. The most damning evidence is the fact that only two people have not fallen sick on our trip thus far. The subcontinent itself is out to get us with it's weird and strange food that's too spicy to consume and it's foreign diseases causing certain people to crawl everywhere they go and vomit everything they've consumed in the the past week. When will the persecution end?! (The most recent victim has been Rebekah. Shes holding in there though.)

Now, I know what you're saying. You're saying, "Mary Emily, everyone stares and takes pictures of you. Surely they love you!" I say to you, "WRONG!" The excessive photography that still persists is done by people that other Indians consider brave and self-sacrificing. These people take pictures so that propaganda can be developed in secret labs so as to make sure every Indian knows the dangers on consorting with Americans.

Then there are the little small things that happen that make me believe we will never be loved by the people of India: the woman who got off the elevator after one floor even though she had another floor to go; security guards giving Carly a chair to sit in because they thought she was too weak to stand while waiting in line for an open dressing room; letting Alecia cut in front of several women in the dressing room line so that Alecia could get out of everyone's presence faster; opening up another checkout line specifically for us so that we wouldn't have to intermingle with the native folk; people cutting in front of us in another checkout line until Papa Heath came in and laid down the hammer; and the fact that I was laughed by just walking through an isle in Easy Day. 

Unfortunately for my theory (and it is sound as can be seen by the fact that I took the time to write it down), Nathan and Kelsey seem exempt from the loathing that follows the rest of the team. These two seem to make friends easily and have a good time moving the conversation in the direction we all hope it will go. But I will keep my eyes out for any misdeeds befalling them. ...

Posted by Mary Emily

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our concept of time has officially been skewed. Myrtle Beach felt like last year, but it seemed like we were just getting settled into Indore. That being said, I’m writing this in Jaipur as we’re already on our midsummer excursion.

Monday was the last day at the hotel; when we go back to Indore we’ll be staying at the M’s houses. It was quite a scene transporting all of our luggage with rikshaws. Carly wasn’t feeling well all day, so she stayed in with Heath and Rachel (don’t worry, she bounced back the next day beautifully). The rest of us went to Rajwada with the main goal of riding an elephant; Nathan, Alecia, and Mary Emily were able to do so when they spotted one on their way back.

The 3-tier red-eye train to Jaipur from 10:30 Monday night til 8:30 Tuesday morning went well for some, not so much for others. Rachel, Rebekah, and I sang hymns, Nathan got stepped on by an Indian; Kelsey had the best night of sleep so far in India, Heath had one of the worst nights of his life, spending a large portion of it in the bathroom (AKA hole in the bottom of the train).

We got settled in on Tuesday to our hotel; went swimming and ate an expensive hotel lunch. Jenna arrived safely right as we were having our bible study on 2 Peter. All but Heath and Rebekah (also didn’t feel well, but just Tuesday afternoon) went to some markets. The pushy shopowners were frustrating, but some were able to buy art or textiles. Dinner was at a rooftop brick-oven Italian restaurant.

Heath still feeling bad and staying in on Wednesday. Busy, exhausting day. We went to City Palace; the guys were pretty awed by the weapons and the girls were able to have people draw some weird designs on their hands with bad-smelling brown liquid that leaves an orange residue for 10 days (henna tattoos). We took pictures in front of the water palace. Everyone was able to ride elephants, parading around a village with children running in our wake yelling hello. The group went to the restaurant Anokhi for lunch and the girls got some stuff at the adjoining store. Just as Heath started feeling better Wednesday night, Kelsey started feeling really sick with similar symptoms. She picked a better place to get sick, though; luxurious hotel sure beats an Indian train.

Please pr@y for continued intentional, missional living through the rest of the trip and after. Pr@y for health as well. 

Posted by Travis. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 12, 2012
Today was a lovely day! The girls took a break from reality by going to Café Palette to have some good vibes, talk and paint. Someone alerted the media though that 6 American women were painting, so naturally the media showed up from a couple different newspapers to interview us and take our pictures. The men went bowling with some friends at a place called Go Bananas! To add a little fun to the day when we arrived home from our day Heath, Nathan, and Travis had surprise notes for the girls telling us how wonderful we are! Since girls are so great, we made up a game for the boys. They had to guess who painted which painting from Café Palette and of course Travis won the game!


July 13, 2012
Today we had a social hang out day! Our group wanted to go see The Amazing Spiderman, but they were only showing it in Hindi. We ended up just going to have a family lunch at KFC. The manager asked us if we wanted to have a tour of the kitchen and of course we jumped on that offer. So hairnets and all we headed to the kitchen of KFC! We went to a 4D movie called Under Earth where we were tortured by fake bats and rain that ruined our hair. That night we went to training at a small neighborhood nearby and got the chance to go pr@yer-walking. We had an Indian feast that night which was spicy and amazing! Unintentionally though we insulted the Indian family because we only ate our one huge plate of food and did not stuff our faces by eating three plates of food.

July 14, 2012
This is that day of the crazy auto adventure! Words cannot even explain this incident, but here it goes. Mary Emily, Rebekah, Kelsey, Alecia, Rachel, and I had just left a friends house and walked out to the main road to get an auto to head back to the hotel. We were aiming to get an auto for around 60 rupees (very fair price), but the men at the block were trying to make us pay the outrageous price of 150 rupees (come on guys, this wasn’t out first day in Indore). We ended up leaving that block and attempting to walk across the street to more autos (harder than you think). As we paraded across the street, with beggar children on our arms, a steamroller towering over us, and scooters driving between our toes we finally managed to get a ride home to the hotel! That night we got the chance to go to an Indian wedding. It was very western, long, and there was plenty of spicy food! The boys especially enjoyed the chicken appetizers and the pink drinks. Our group also really got a kick out of Nathan aka national geographic photographer (if you saw his outfit you would understand). 

(awkward family photo)
July 15, 2012
Today we went to a local church and had lunch with some Indian friends. We were actually present this morning for the inauguration of this house church. We had a day of much needed rest! Our group once again ventured to the mall for dinner. A few of us went to Easy Day (aka Wal-Mart) to get some treats for our train ride tomorrow night! We will be heading to Jaipur for our mid summer excursion tomorrow. I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for us as our adventure continues. 

Quote of the week: while the whole group was riding down the elevator, Alecia decides to state, “I have a statement to make. My kurta has pockets.”

Posted by Carly 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Settling In

If you come to India, wear white pants.  You will not be
culturally relevant or stay cool in the day. They will tarnish.
They will make you stand out. This will come as a welcome
and laughable disappointment as it serves to remind you
 that through grace alone your rags have been washed
clean, compelling you to be unashamed of His power.

 Over the weekend, we decompressed with time alone to
study,give thanks, set objectives for this summer, and sing
together(Rebekah leads cause when she opens her mouth,
I feel compelled to shut mine. so, so good). We made it out
to the park for a camel ride (these walk down the street
though, no bid deal), bumper cars,and Frisbee. Kelsey
 celebrated her birthday on Sunday and what a perfect
day for it to fall on! We sang happy birthday to her and
some new friends when we met in the evening. It was as
tender as a butterfly with sore feet on a gentle breeze
gingerly seeking a soft place to land (true statement).
In following days we have transitioned out of orientation 
into a new routine of study/teaching (Papa Heath!), outings, 
and event time each day. Monday was the first day following 
this routine. I experienced it sick in bed but with meds and 
prayer, was better the next day (Hallelujah!). The guys met 
one of our local brothers/translators and caught up over 
chai and the girls did outreach and prayed over the city 
from the heights of the mall roof. Evening was an adventure 
as everyone went to Inspiration school where Rachel
 presented on family life. Kelsey presented on college life. 
We also presented on American culture, education, and
 leisure acticities. Travis and Alecia(who has now made it 
into this blog) demonstrated how to shag! Then we broke
 into smaller conversations with the students, which
 was somewhat overwhelming. So many questions!

Tuesday morning, Carly had a waffle for breakfast and
thoroughly enjoyed it (best she ever had). A few of the girls
met with some students from Inspiration and the others met a
local sister, whom theywere able to begin teaching and to greatly
encourage. Also, Mary Emily was able to return 4 Rupees that
she accidentally stole. The guys traveled to Rajwada to meet a
man Heath knew 2 years ago and hopefully we will eat with his
family soon. We walked slowly through the frenzied market
streets p-walking and stopped in a music store our local brother
frequents. We spoke at length with the young employees and
neighboring shop owner. In the evening we all returned to
Inspirationwhere the students presented to us on traditional
Indian dances and things that could only happen in India.
The best part of the day was back at home when our local brother
played his newly repaired guitar and we sang together!

On Wednesday, the guys met another brother and his
friend in the mall and after much debating discovered
we each had brothers in the other. It is so uplifting
 to find someone with sound beliefs living here. The
friend was from one of the cities we are visiting
next week so hopefully we will see him again! The
girls were in the mall coming down an escalator with
such grace and style that they stole the attention from a
cricket trophy photo shoot! They were flattered but humbly
and politely declined, walking on un-phased.
At night we attended a local gathering of the body,
personally one of themost encouraging things on our trip yet!
To hear them singing in their native language was phenomenal.
Being with them and hopefully encouraging them is why we
are here! We concluded the day with a family dinner at pizza
hut and walked home from the mall in the cool evening air
(which occasionally carries a whiff of stank). So far the
week has gone well and the work is going well. We are so
 excited for what more is to come for us and the people
of this city. We give thanks for you and your on-going support!

Posted by Nathan