Monday, August 29, 2011

To The Ends of the Earth

What a great trip this has been. Yesterday was my last day of adventures here in Kerala so we went up to the mountains of Vagamon. These mountains are the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The luscious green color of the trees and grass engulfs all of your senses. It is like you can taste and feel the beautiful shades. As we were driving up the winding mountain the scene was beautiful, but a different sight awaited us nearer the top. As we climbed higher and higher the fog got thicker and thicker. By the time we reached the Kerala Christian Mission Retreat Center you could see nothing but thick white sky. It was like a huge cloud had come down to greet us. We walked up to a top porch of the retreat center and as I looked down all I could see was a portion of the tea plantation directly below us. The fog was walking along it, as if taking a stroll through the short bushes. There was a chilly breeze in the air and as we stood there it felt like we had reached the end of the earth. It was so serene and the fog was so thick that although you knew an incredible sight was sitting in front of you, you could not see it. I absolutely loved it. I realized that God called us to go to the ends of the earth and I had made it. After having been to the literal tip of the Indian continent and then to stand atop a fog covered mountain, I felt so very blessed. I knew at that moment that no matter how long the journey, there is always beauty at the end. God's blessings come through over all hardship and trials, all long winding roads and bumps in the path. If we look, even in the fog we can see the absolute beauty and blessings of the Lord.

Tomorrow in the early morning I begin traveling to Delhi. I will be there two days and then I will begin the long journey back home. Please pray fervently for my safety and for God's provision over the next few days. He blessed me with many angels throughout my journey here so I know He will provide for my journey back. Although I cannot believe that this month has come to a close I know that this is not the end of my journey, but the beginning of a great new chapter in my life. What a wonderful way to start, don't you think? 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Home Stretch

Hellooooooo out there! Shout out to my Christ's Church family: Today I went to a Christ's Church here in India! It reminded me of how thankful I am for all of you and how grateful I am for your continued prayers.

Yesterday and today were my last programs here in India (woohoo!). They were both for kids and yesterday's went really well and today's was just fine. I love that in all of the programs the group of kids have been different. The first group was really into the lesson and very responsive, the second was a very young crowd, the third was very quiet but really good at games, and the fourth group were totally not into it. Each session I had between 30-50 kids. I taught on Creation and how God made each child special. I had a couple funny moments throughout these sessions. I did an activity where the kids trace their hand and in each finger write a different thing to show how they are all similiar but not exactly the same. It was a lesson in being thankful for how God made you. In the first session when we asked the kids to write the name of someone they love one little boy said out loud, "Well if I knew the name of the girl I was going to marry I would write her!" haha, and then my other favorite was yesterday. I leaned over to look at the paper of the kid sitting in the front row, and where he was supposed to write something he was really good at he wrote Drowning. I laughed so hard I couldn't stop. But all in all the programs were great fun and a real blessing. Kids are the same in all countries and I enjoyed getting to spend some time with them.

If anyone reads this and thinks, man, I would love to go to India and do some childrens programs then don't hesitate! All the churches expressed a desire for more Americans to come and do programs in their churches. It would be a great opportunity for you and would truly enrich the lives of these kids.

Tomorrow I go up to see the mountains and then I will do some shopping here in Kottayam (pronounced Kotim). Then its just one more day and I am heading into Delhi for two days and coming HOME! I can't wait. I will try to update one more time before I leave, but if I can't then look forward to a great post next Friday.

Keep praying for me as I travel this week. I need safety, good health, and many traveling mercies. See you all SOON!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nagarcoil and the Orphanage

Interesting Fact: Did you know rubber is made from trees? They use the sap inside to make the product.

Word Failure: In Nagarcoil I saw a big neon sign that said Lords Blood Bank. I have absolutely no idea if it meant the Lords Blood Bank or the Lords Blood Bank, but either way it was strange. I also saw a brand of little girls clothing called Touch Me. Now who thought that was a good idea?

Celebrity News: Yes, in fact the celebrity is me. We stopped at a gas station in this tiny van this week (I felt like a crab leaving my shell everytime I crawled out of the van!) and there were some girls working there pumping the gas. They saw me in the car and of course began asking my host questions. (The questions are always the same: 1. Is she a foreigner? No, I'm obviously from here, is what I want to say but I don't. 2. And then they ask where I am from. Happens at least four times a week.) After they had watched me and giggled for a while each girl then came to the open window and wanted to shake my hand. I gladly obliged and they all giggled some more. Its hard to be a celebrity sometimes. :)

Hi hi hi! I am sorry my dear blog readers that it has been so long since I posted! This past week I was in Nagarcoil, which is in the southern most part of India. (And I did not have internet access.) This was by far my most favorite trip I took while here in India. The southern tip of India is BEAUTIFUL. It is a place many of us only could dream of seeing. It looked like a picture out of the movies. There were these gorgeous palm trees that backed up to these amazing hills and mountains. Everything was a beautiful green color and there was a cool breeze flowing in from the sea. I got to do a lot of tourist things which was fun, and one thing we saw was a fort right on the seaside from when the British occupied India. It was so cool, and when we walked up to the top I looked right out onto the ocean! It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. The ocean was backed by a beach, palm trees, wind mills (you know I am a sucker for utilizing alternate energy sources) and the mountains. Anyone who brought there ship in would have thought they landed in heaven. One amazing part about this city is that it is literally the tip of India. Here the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal all come together. Now, on my list of things to do before I die I have written "Stand in two oceans at once by going to where they meet and mix." EVERYONE told me I was crazy and that it was a silly thing to write down, let alone impossible. Well to all those nay-sayers I would like to tell you that I stood in THREE oceans at once! woohoo! One more thing off my list! At this beach you can watch both the sunset and the sunrise so we saw both. I woke up at 4:00 AM so that we could get to the beach on time. And man was it worth it! I have never seen such a gorgeous sunrise. Many people were there from all over India because it serves as a place for pilgramage. They were all worshipping the sun, but I worshipped the One who made the sun. I could not believe how blessed I was to be at the southern tip of India to see these beautiful sights. I wish all of you could have been there with me.

The trip was also where I gave my last womens seminar. Like I had expected, this was the best one yet. It was the smallest group of women, but I have learned so much about prayer myself over the past month that I was really able to convey with passion the importance and purpose of prayer in our lives. Afterwards, each woman came up to me and asked me to pray for a specific thing for them. This had not happened at the other seminars and it was really incredible to be given the chance to put what I had just spoken about into action. As I stood there and prayed for each woman they did not understand my words, but the power of God brought us together. It was really an incredible experience and opportunity. The power of prayer transcended the barrier of language.

The last thing to update you all on is my trip to the orphanage and old age home yesterday. This was something I had really been looking forward to. The home houses around 8 old ladies and about 10 girls aged from 5 to 10th grade. I got the chance to speak some words of encouragement to them and I really enjoyed the opportunity to speak of God's love for His precious lambs. I then got to see the facilities. The home where the old ladies are is falling apart. It is over 65 years old and the roof could cave in any day. The girls live down the road along a long dirt path by the river. It takes about five minutes to walk the path to their place. The goal is to tear down the current old age home and rebuild on big enough for the girls and the ladies. It is unsafe for the young girls to be so close to the river as they are exposed to bad social happenings. As soon as the money can be raised they would like to start the renovations, so this can be something you pray for. As we walked back from the girls orphanage it became dark and I required a guide to hold my hand so I would not trip or get lost. The girl was in the tenth grade and her name was Bonnu. She was so sweet, and though we only could communicate sparingly we laughed together as I made up a song spelling her name. I loved getting to hold her sweet hand and laugh and smile with her. After that all the girls came to me and we talked as best we could, relying on the love of God to again transcend our human language. When I left I waved and smiled, knowing that forever these girls will be in my thoughts and prayers. It was an experience I will never forget.

I know this was long but hopefully it satisfied your curiousity. Tomorrow I will post about my last two childrens programs. In less than a week I will be home. Hooray!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Inspiration from a Fishing Village

I conducted a childrens program in the awesome town of Aleppy yesterday. Aleppy is a fishing village on the backwaters. It was a beautiful drive and I got to see a lot of house boats, fishing boats, and rice fields. The road there was covered on both sides by water, then there was this other tiny strip of land with houses on it and each side of that was water. It was very interesting countryside and I loved getting to see how different people live. I made many friends along the way, simply by smiling from my car window! It was a joyful trip, right from the beginning. The church at Aleppy was wonderful. I got to sit and talk with their pastor, Prince John, for a while about his vision for their community. (Yes, he has the coolest name ever.) He lives in a community that is majority Hindu, and his vision spreads outside his church to how he can impact and change those people who don't know of Jesus Christ. His church only has eight kids in it, but for their childrens programs they will have up to 120 kids in attendance. Many of these kids are Hindu or Muslim, and by getting their information when they come the church makes sure to follow up with each child. His strategy involves remembering the children's birthdays by bringing a small gift to their home. Many parents have forgotten the celebration and are overwhelmed with this act of kindness. Many times, they allow Prince to come in and pray for their family. In this way, he is invited into their homes and their lives. And he has more plans as well. He seeks to start a counseling program for the police force in order to help reduce crime, and he also hopes to conduct a week long intensive course in English to engage the community. Both of these programs would bring people into the church that would normally never set foot there. He is determined to build relationships in order to eventually be able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is a man with vision, a man who is not content with just the Christians in his church but wants his entire nation to know the Lord. It was an inspiration to see his efforts in Aleppy. The program went well too. I spoke on Creation and how God created man special. Many of the children were Hindu so it was an incredible opportunity to share the word of God with them. I truly enjoyed the kids, though they were younger and more rambunctious than my last group, and I hope that they were impacted in some way by the lesson I brought them.

The church at Aleppy really inspired me not to be content with sitting happily in my church. We must be determined to reach those around us in our communities, though it will take time and effort. I hope that everyone who reads this will send up a prayer for Prince John and his church, and my hope is that he will serve as an inspiration to pastors here in India and to everyone at home. He is the epitome of a disciple maker and we can all learn from his big ideas and positive outlook. If he can get Hindus and Muslims to send their children to programs at his church then we can certainly do the same with our neighbors. We must simply make the effort, trusting that God will take care of the rest.

Tomorrow I leave for Nagarcoil where I will spend 3 days and teach my last womens seminar. I have high hopes for this trip and I believe it will be my best talk yet. I am going to the Southern most part of India and it should be very cool! I praise the Lord for all He has taught me through observation on this trip. My prayer is simply that I will take all I have learned and put it into action in my heart, words, and deeds when I return to the United States. As always thank you for your continued prayers. Please do not cease to pray as my trip comes to a close. I need your prayers for health and safety now as much as ever. Can't wait to see you all soon!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Roller Coaster Highway

Last night I went to Cindy and Martin's house for dinner. The run down of my family here is Reni and Rajan are my mom and dad, Cindy is their daughter and Martin is her husband. Cindy does all of my translating and general running around. Needless to say, I could not do anything around here without Cindy! The neighbors picked me up and we rode to their house with the windows down. It was night and the air was cool and we passed little roadside towns, coconut trees, people walking, and it was a great trip. I breathed in the air, watched my surroundings and thought, wow. I am really in India! Then we almost got hit by a bus and ran into by a car so my moment was interrupted! haha, but that is the Indian experience for you! Everyone in the car had a great laugh becuase when the bus came by so close and blared its horn so loud my automatic reaction was to flinch and squeeze my eyes shut. Sadly shutting my eyes did not keep the others in the car from seeing me when I reacted! haha, It felt like a roller coaster ride, that is for sure. When we arrived we had an amazing dinner cooked by Martin, the best food I have had since I got here. (Yes, I realize that most of my posts have at least one reference to food.) He made a special plate for me, plated just like at a restaurant, and I had buttered rice with cashews and dried cranberries, coconut encrusted chicken bites, fish, and some chocolate to finish it off. The man should really open a restaurant. Another cool thing Martin can do is carve wood. At their home was a 20 foot root that he had carved into a huge fish. It was so awesome. He already sold it to a new hotel. The man has talent. The ride home was another roller coaster except it was one of those where the whole time you wish you had never gotten on. The other brother drove home and he drove soooo fast and it made me nervous. He was actually only driving 45 km/hr, which I don't think is really that fast at all, but it felt like it on the winding roads!

Today I conducted my first childrens program. It was so dysfunctional but so fun. The kids had a lot of energy and were really responsive when we asked questions and played games. I have some work to do to make my program a little bit better before I conduct another one tomorrow, but I had a great time. I have about four more programs with the children so I am really looking forward to ending my trip with such great energy! My last womens seminar will be this week and since I have already done two, I fully expect this one to be my best. The only downfall to everything is that my parents did not give me a name condusive to international travel. Every kid asks, "what is your name?" and when I tell them they give me a blank stare and go, "huh." haha

I'll end on a note of food (obviously, you should expect this by now) and tell you my favorite snacks here:
1. Afternoon coffee with milk and sugar
2. Fresh cashews (fresh and local, so good)
3. Tiny bananas. They have a really thin peel and are really sweet and tasty.
4. Tapioca sticks. Comparable to potato sticks. I had no idea tapioca was like a potato. I thought it was a type of pudding.

I'll be home in two weeks minus a day! Looking forward to sharing my adventures with all of you in person!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yumm Yumm Eat It Up

I just ate pizza. mmmm, pizza. Surprisingly my pizza had mussels, squid, and prawns on it and I still ate it! I am really branching out. I am not sure that I ever told the story of my first pizza experience here in India. The day after I arrived we took the train to Kannur (the train with the icky bathroom). Kannur is gorgeous and right on the coast so I got to see the ocean which was very cool. While there I was still recovering from the trip over. I still had no luggage and sadly I forgot my shampoo so I did not wash my hair for four days..I'm sure they were all wondering if I ever showered at all..it was pretty gross.. but at any rate my family and the family we stayed with were kind enough to take me out for pizza as a reprive from Indian food. Kannur is a bigger city than where I am staying with a lot of huge coconut trees and beautiful green colors (not to mention a TON of mosquitos!). While there we visited a Hindu temple which was interesting, but also very sad to me. It was disconcerting to watch people worshiping a false god. But despite heavy downpour we left there and found USA Pizza. Should feel like home, right? Well, I was a little concerned when we pulled up because there was not a single person eating there. I wondered if this was really a trap for pizza loving tourists, but in fact, it was not. I did fear my life as the pizza arrived, having seen the bathroom and wondering if the cooks had washed their hands...but in the end I did not die and the pizza was fine.(Although I'm not sure they lived up to their name). But today's pizza was mm mm good. The closest thing to America since I have been here (other than eating at KenChick fried chicken.) So there is my pizza adventures! Normal food we eat here is rice, chicken, lots of fish (my family eats the bones, the head, everything! I was not that adventurous), chipatis, these white foamy pancake things, more rice, things like tortillas, curry. It is not that bad once you get used to it. I'm eating a lot better than I did when I first got here!

I do want to clarify something I wrote in my last post. I wrote that God could not have taught me the lessons I am learning here if I was in the States, but that is not true. What I really meant was that I never sat still long enough to hear the lessons He was trying to teach me. He had to literally take me as far from my busy life as possible, all the way across the world, to get me to be still and quiet enough to hear Him. Here I have had a lot of down time, which proved to be a blessing, and I have finally been able to hear the soft quiet whisper of my Savior. Everything has come together so that I would hear Him. I have no travel companion, so my thoughts are His alone. I brought a Nook with tons of books, but only three happened to load, so I spend my time reading through the New Testament. I don't understand the language so instead of thinking about my response I can be a quiet observer of His church. My communication is cut off with my friends and family, so I am forced to depend on God alone. All of these things He worked together so that this trip would be just me and Him. Finally, away from my constantly busy life, I have been able to simply listen. I am so grateful for that and  I encourage you to find some time to truly leave everything behind and just focus on you and God. It is hard to find time, I know, but I promise it is so so worth it. I see God's hand in every tiny detail of this trip and I cannot wait to tell anyone who will listen all about it when I get home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fish, Church, and a Wedding.

Hello my dear friends!

This morning I went to the fish market! I saw the biggest fish I have ever seen. They all stared at me before they got their head chopped off! Rajan made me promise that if he let me go I would still eat fish at the house. Haha, he knows me too well. I will post the pictures when I get home!

An answered prayer: The other day I was complaining to the Lord (yes, complaining and not praying) about my trip here. I wrote the words that I simply wanted companionship and responsibility and I left it at that. Later that day Rajan asked me if I could sing, and having this inablilty to ever say no I responded that I could and he decided I would sing in worship the next day. I was not exactly elated but I went to practice anyways. There I met two great guys about my age who both spoke English (it was for an English service) and we really hit it off. I had so much fun singing with them and they lead guy asked me to also invite the congregation to worship and pray after the songs. "You are giving me so much responsibility!" I responded, not realizing that this was exactly what I had asked the Lord for only hours earlier. Then throughout the day different groups of people kept popping up in the house. A woman and her friend that would be new to the church, who also spoke English. Next came a young couple from North East India. The man had come to India from Myanmar and they two spoke great English. I also learned to communicate with the deaf/mute cleaning man and I found out the grounds keeper who drives us sometimes also speaks some English! I had a great day, not realizing that this was all the companionship that I had asked the Lord for. It was not until a day or two later when I jumped up from my bed, suddenly realizing that it has been GOD's hand who worked everything out that day. I had tangibly seen Him answer my complaint. It was an awesome moment of clarity, that the Lord does hear our every thought and He does respond!

On Sunday church was great. I had so much fun helping to lead worship and I was really blessed by the service. They even asked me to sing again next week and I hope I can. It was a great experience to worship the Lord with believers in a church across the world from my home. The next day was the wedding here. It took 25 minutes and three helpers but I eventually got into my purple and gold saree and everyone was quite impressed! Generally here my hair is half dry, my face has no make-up, and I look a little unkempt. Everyone was amazed what a nice saree, some makeup, and a hairdo could accomplish! Everyone kept saying, "You look so cute in saree," or one friend said, "You look very very very very very nice." I think they were all amazed to see this huge white amazon woman in a saree. I did not mind the attention. haha. It was an interesting weddding with a very long ceremony, and I enjoyed the experience a lot. There were about 1000 guests in attendance! The bride and groom were very cute and there will be pictures of me with them in some wedding album in India for the rest of time. Kind of funny to think about...

All in all it is going really well here. I miss home but the Lord is working in my heart in ways He could not have in the States. This Saturday I start a whirlwind of Childrens Programs and some more Womens Seminars so my request is that you pray Philippians 6:19-20 for me: "Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words will be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." I appreciate all of you that read this and I will report more soon!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A really good story....

The other night I got a chance to finally skype with my parents. I had not actually spoken to them with our voices since I left the States so it was a joyous occasion. Dad and I were even genius enough that we called Mom at work and put her on speaker phone so she could join the conversation too! Needless to say, we were pretty proud of ourselves. By the time I finished talking with them it was about 8pm and I knew it would be about time for dinner. (At this point let me set the stage of where I am. To get to the computer I leave the house, walk across the drive, in a door on the side of the church, up some steps and down a short hallway to the office.) I look into the hall and notice there are no lights on and it has gotten dark. So being a genius I find a light switch, turn on the light, and head downstairs. Now here it gets tricky. The bottom of the stairwell is dark, but I know where the open doorway is supposed to be. As I head to leave though, instead of air I hit solid wood. I realize that the door is closed. No problem, right? Wrong. As I try to open the door it won't budge. Being smart again, I just figure it is stuck, so I try to pull and push harder. No luck. I run my fingers along until I find a light switch, turn it on, and realize the truth- I have been locked inside the church. Now this was a bit disconcerting because there is no other way out and I am trapped. I have no phone or way to call the house butI realize I can open the window next to me. Sadly, I cannot jump out the window because it has bars, but I can look out the window. Unfortunately I see no one. I do see the little boy in the house and try to wave at him, but he doesn't see me. At this point, I wonder if I will miss dinner (it is the important things I worry about, you see.) because obviously I have been forgotten about. Just as I am wondering how long it will take to grow out my hair Repunzel style or convince a mosquito to act as a homing pigeon, I see someone coming. Now I switch to thinking how I will communicate in sign language that I have been locked inside a tower to someone who does not speak English. But lo and behold! It is the ONE person I know in all of Kerala, other than my family, that speaks English! I yell, "T-Jo!!" He sees me in the window and politely says, "Oh hello! How are you?" (Apparently not realizing that I am a prisoner). "Great!" I reply, "But they locked me in the church..." He laughs (naturally) and runs to get a key and save me from my peril. T-Jo. Perfect timing. My knight in Indian armor. It really was amazing that it was him who came out of the building next door, so this post is dedicated to you T-Jo! Thanks for saving me from 3min of peril and distress! haha

On another quick note I went to a prayer and fasting meeting yesterday. It was really cool to see people praying for hours and really dedicated to speaking with the Lord. Usually we all try to be busy during prayer meetings so we don't have to go, but as I sat on the floor people shared stories of how they had been praying that God would let them be able to come to the meeting. It was of the utmost importance to them. It was a very cool experience for me to be a part of and really made me aware of what prayer is supposed to be like.

My time here is a blessing but I miss all of you! Until next time!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Learning to Communicate

Good things to report my friends! On Tuesday I gave my second seminar (for a different group of women than the first seminar) on prayer, here in Kottayam. I was a lot more relaxed this time and I had added some more substance to my talk so I was feeling confidant (thanks to the Lord). And I am happy to report that it went splendidly! Although at 10am there were just two women, we ended with about 35, and I really feel that the Lord spoke through me. Near the end I had to fill more time so my translator Cindy whispered to me to add more as I went along, which was a daunting task, but the Lord filled me with things to say. The women were so responsive and four came forward to share afterwards. One even came forward to say that she had been encouraged by the Lord to get a group of women together to go around and pray for those who are hurting. The Lord spoke to her when I told them that as women they can make a difference through prayer. The funny thing is, is that I am the one teaching this women about the power of prayer, yet I feel that I am the one learning the most. These women have amazing stories of how the Lord has provided for them in times of need that I cannot even imagine. I have realized that I am a wimpy pray-er! We have life so easy in the States that we forget to pray for BIG things. We don't actually believe that God can miraculously heal the sick, and bring our friends to know Christ. I have really been challenged to have a more consistant prayer life asking for bigger things, thanking Him for more, and being more confidant that HIS response will be the right response, even if it is not what I want.

I have also been challenged in another way. All my life I have said I would give up anything and everything for the Lord, but now He has brought me somewhere where I really have to do that! It is so much easier to say it than to do it. I think I finally can understand the song "Lead Me to the Cross." It says, "rid me of myself, I belong to You," and "Everything I once held dear I count it all as loss." Man, this stuff is not easy! Am I really willing to give up my comfort? My cleanliness and hot showers? My habits? My appetite? Even communication with my family and friends? These are the questions the Lord has been asking me, and I have been struggling with them. A quiet suburban life in the States really looks appealing right now! But then I remember. This life is not for my comfort and desires. We have one reason we are here- to build disciples that know and love the Lord. Am I really willing to disobey the call of Christ because I don't like to sweat? Or eat spicy food? It seems futile to desire these things in the midst of a country where less than 3% are Christians. I am not saying that I now love all the hardship and swing into difficulty- it still stinks a lot of the time! But perspective is everything and I am thankful for this trip and the teaching the Lord is doing through it. I feel closer to Him than ever, as He says to me, Meredith, are you really willing to do this?

In other news I rode a boat yesterday and that was fun. I also have seen an elephant, run across a busy  road (don't worry mom, I held someone's hand), and gone to the market to buy bananas. Pretty thrilling life :) Sunday I will go to church and then Monday I am going to a wedding so that will be a fun post for sure. Please pray that the Lord will continue working in my heart and that I will not resist Him. Pray for my relationships with those around me- that they would transcend the language barrier.

I miss and love all of you! Fight to keep perspective of the bigger picture as you go through life today. Praise the Lord that He never gives up on us!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Post you have all been waiting for!

Disclaimer: If you are hoping to read this post in the native language of Malayalam (spelled the same backwards and forwards) I am sorry to disappoint you. After a week I know 0 words of the language. I will try to add some new vocab into my next post!
Wow! What a week it has been! It has been full of ups and downs, highs and lows, but the Lord has been faithful through it all. He is my sustainer and provider when I do not think I can go on. So now I will list for you the top 10 things you should know about my trip so far! (In no particular order)
1. Jet lag+Culture shock=Not fun. The first four days were really hard because I was battling against a lot. I had a really stressful 24 hour journey through unknown cities and airports and things were moving along as soon as I got here. Since the time is opposite here I really struggled in the middle of the day to stay awake. This led me to be dizzy, sick feeling, and narcaleptic. But I am proud to announce that I am now on my third day of not having a nap! Woohooo! They only thing is I still wake up hungry at five am (your dinner time) so when I wake up again at 8:30 my body is very angry at me for not feeding it.
2. The roads and traffic here are CA-RA-ZY! There are two lanes but they seem to be optional. People weave in and out of traffic, narrowly missing oncoming cars and buses. The horns are used a whole lot more than the brakes. They signal that you are coming/going/passing/turning/there/muchmore.It seems like the rickshawls, buses, cars, and motercycles are all elbowing each other to get to the front of the line. The car always wins (which I ride in) but the bus can be a bully. A lot of the roads are also filled with huge potholes so it is quite the wild ride! But these people seriously know how to drive. Stick an American in this traffic and we would crash in two seconds, but the Indian people are very skilled at what they do. I am sure they would not stand for Atlanta traffic.
3. The food. Oh the food. It has taken me a while to get used to that one. There is so much flavor in everything! It is either really sweet or really spicy or just really flavorful. I never realized how bland our food is at home! My tastebuds rejected everything the first few days but now I can eat a lot better. The funny thing is that everyone here eats with their hands! Even rice! It is so messy. I always know where I am to sit though because they set out a fork, a napkin, and a bottle of water. I am determined to eat with my hands by the time I leave!
4. **This story not for young children! ..just kidding** A bathroom story. Oh the bathroom. There is no such thing as a clean public bathroom here. And no public bathroom has toilet paper, which I don't really understand and I prefer to not think about. The other night we had to ride a train through the night to get to another town. I woke up at 2am and of course had to use the bathroom which I was not pleased about. I had to wake up a member of the family I am staying with since they did not want me to go alone (more on why later) so after suffficiently scaring the crap out of one family member (I think she woke up and thought I was a ghost since I am so pale), I woke up the mother and went. Now, let me explain this bathroom. It is simply a metal hole in the ground of the train with two raised parts for your feet. There is a small spout and a cup (gross!) and everything is wet. I seriously prayed to the Lord that all that wetness was not pee and bravely went in. Now let me paint another picture. The train is moving and it is not moving smoothly. It bumps and squeals and jerks, and I am really not a fan of germs (which this bathroom is crawling with.) So I cautiously put my elbow to the wall, spread my feet as far from the hole as possible for fear of falling in, and...well you know the rest. Although it was very difficult to keep balance, use the toilet, and not pee on my pants. But I survived! (Insert cheers here). I washed my hands four times when I got back to my bunk on the train and I might wash them again just thinking about it...
5. There are two things that I have not found here: Any other people with light peach colored skin and anyone else afraid of germs. I seriously wonder what people think when around the corner comes this huge white person walking with a little Indian family. They all stare at me like I am an alien. It is very strange. Also, there is no concept of germs here. None at all. And I wash my hands after I touch my shoes, the door, my other hand, some else's hand, a faucet, a lamp...ok not really but I do wash my hands a lot. It is probably good for me to be in a place with a lot of germs. It makes me think of America as really shiny, white, and clean.
6. I did stay at the home of this really good looking Indian guy for the past three days. But don't worry moms and prospective men-who-want-to-be-my boyfriend, his parents did not propose marriage so I left still single.
7. God has been so so good to me on this trip. It has definitely been the hardest thing I have ever done, but He is teaching me, picking me up, and helping me grow each step of the way. Though it is tough to be disciplined like this I am very thankful for God giving me this opportunity. It is a neat experience to have no other choice but to rely on Him for everything. It has really strengthened my prayer life. And the one thing that always brings me comfort is reading scripture. That and eating cheez-its.
8. Your prayers sustain me! Thank you so much and please please do not cease to pray for me. It gets easier to be here every day but I need your prayers. They are being heard I assure you!
9. The electricity is not 100% reliable here. Every now and then it just goes out and you simply wait until it returns. The other night I shut off the power in an entire house by turning on the water heater. Oops.
10. Lastly, I am the proud owner of an Indian wardrobe! We went on a shopping spree to replace my lost baggage and I got a couple tops, two chudidars (google it) and a sari. Everything I own is 2XL haha. People think it is funny that I dress Indian and I like it because it breaks down some barriers. That and it feels like you are wearing your pajamas all day which is super cool!

My luggage comes today and I cannot wait. The Lord was faithful in bringing it to me! Again, I miss you all and I thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. This is the adventure of a lifetime and I take it one day at a time. Everything is a blessing! Love you all!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Here!

I am here! And it is rough so far. It is really hard to be in an unknown place and to travel really far...and to lose your luggage! Please pray for me as tonight I travel by train to another city. Pray for my health and that the Lord would sustain me. I miss home a lot right now but I know it will get easier as the weeks move by. I will say India is an interesting place and I have a whole new wardrobe of Indian clothes! Which is cool. The traffic is crazy and the food is REALLY flavorful, but it is all part of the experience. Keep praying for me and pray my bag will show up. Until next time- love to you all!