Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Three of my boys. Anuj, Akash (?), and Yash. Making trouble as always.
Ammon (left) and Yash, 2 of my trouble-making boys. I love them for it.
Ashley, Rebekah, and I eating lunch. We eat with our hands here. So good!
A little scared to try the yogurt drink. It was good though!
Waiting to see if it makes me sick or not. Ha!
One of the many beautiful paintings on the walls
at the school we're doing VBS in.
I'll write more tonight about the day, just wanted to post some pictures in my down time this afternoon. Did this instead of napping so hopefully I'll sleep tonight!
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Wow, what an incredible day. I honestly don't even have words to describe it. How do I put into words the significance of standing in front of a classroom of 30 children telling them who God and Jesus are for the first time in all of their lives? What words can possibly capture the feeling in my heart when I return to that classroom later in the day to find they have colored crosses on all of their crafts, one girl even writing (in English) "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. -Jesus." How can I tell you about the discouragement our team was facing after yesterday, and how God not only stood in the way of that, but completely defeated it today? In each of our 14 different experiences. I wish you could've come with me to the house church tonight as we sat in a 12' x 12' room packed full of women and children, listening to them praise the very same God we worship, and seeing their faces as I shared from the book of Ruth. And then walked the dusty, dirty, narrow alleys as each of the women took us to their houses to show us where they live and get us to pray for them. Praying with a Muslim woman after she asks how to pray to "this Jesus." Sitting on a bed surrounded by sweet beautiful children climbing over one another to sit next to you. Having an Indian woman tell you (via a translator) that she would normally be at home right now fixing dinner for her family but she wants to sit and listen and learn about God. And how you all are blessing her by simply being here. Having another woman come grab your hand, tuck your arm in hers, and say to you "Chalo" (Let's go), dragging you through the streets that she calls home, smiling from ear to ear the entire time. Meeting 3 children who are sponsored through Compassion International and getting to hear them sing "This is the day the Lord has made" in Hindi. No, I don't think any words will do this day justice. But I do know that I will never, ever forget this night for as long as I live. I will never forget how God showed Himself so real, true, powerful, loving, giving, and alive through the dirty, painted, beautiful smiling faces of these women and children dwelling in physical poverty, but living in eternal hope through Jesus Christ our Lord. Our God is alive and moving in India, and I am so humbled that He has allowed me to experience Him in such a mighty way today. Praise His Holy name. We are redeemed.
"Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other. Our God is Healer, awesome in power...And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?" -Chris Tomlin, "Our God is Greater"
VBS this morning. We had 950 kids yesterday, 1010 today, and its expected to keep growing.
One of the boys in my class who had never heard of Jesus.
He drew crosses on his craft after we talked about Jesus dying on the cross.
The beautiful women at our house church. They all sat on the floor and we sat with their kids on the bed.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Some of the older girls after VBS this morning
VBS started this morning, about an hour late! We are on IST, India Standard Time, or as they call it, India Stretchable Time. When they say be somewhere at 7:00, you can plan for at least 30 minutes of wiggle room. Guess this is the Lord's way of breaking my type-A, control-freak personality!
The first day was chaos. Complete chaos. But wonderful, beautiful, exciting chaos. We already had over 1000 kids the first day, we think. We haven't gotten the final totals yet, but our partners estimated about that many. This is incredible because we were praying for this number by the end of the week and we're already there, first day. Please pray that each and every single one of these children will come to know Christ by the end of this week. We know that God is powerful and faithful to do that, and we must expect great things from Him because He is a great God! We can't put human boundaries on His work here this week. I'm especially struggling with this, so please pray He will show me His power and completely blow through my expectations!
The children absolutely love our team because we're American. We're like rockstars here. They come up and say "hello mam, what is your name?" and stick out their hands. Now, if you shake one hand, be prepared to shake about 20, at least. I would not be exaggerating to say I shook about 300 hands today. They are so sweet though and I love them! They love to try out their English on us, and we try our Hindi phrases, but then they start speaking Hindi and I'm lost. Haha. I love them!
I am no longer teaching 4-6 year olds, but 10-12. I am so excited! I'll have to tell you that whole story later, but God is so so good in this! Very cool. I have an incredible translator, words cannot describe how thankful I am for her! She gets the kids so involved and excited about the lesson!
It is 11:00 and I have to be up at 5:00, so I'm going to cut this one short. Please be praying for Ashley and Daniel in the rec room. It is seriously hotter in that room than it is outside, which is saying a lot. Daniel got sick today, we're not sure if it was from the heat or a stomach bug, but please be praying he will be well. Pray for me as I transition from teaching lessons I had planned for 4-6 year olds to now teaching 10-12 year olds. And pray that God will continue to show His power to us through the numbers of children both attending VBS and who hear and trust in the Truth of the Gospel that is being presented this week. Oh, and I think I'll be sharing my testimony at a house church tomorrow night, so please please please be praying the Lord will give me the words to say so that the believers here will be encouraged in Him. More to come later, Jai Masikhi! Praise His Holy name!!
The kids in the worship room before it was full
The beautiful girls who asked to have a picture with me,
wouldn't let me just take their picture
Kids we met at the house church who also came to VBS
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Our group at the airport with our partners. It was a long 2 days.
"Jai Masikhi!" (Praise God!) This is how believers greet each other or say goodbye in India!
We are finished with our first full day and I am already amazed at the work the Lord is doing in India. We got to go to various house churches this morning in groups of 4. Ours was very small and very hot, but had lots of children, which was so encouraging. The whole service was in Hindi, so we had a translator so that we could understand. But, their worship was in Hindi and was incredible. We got to meet and talk with all of the believers afterwards, which was awesome. The children are so beautiful and so so sweet! They love the Americans, especially when you take their picture (which I did a lot of, see below) I tried out my new Hindi phrases I've learned, only to be met by laughter at my failed attempts. Guess the southern accent doesn't translate well.
The most amazing thing that I've seen today is how our cultures can be so different, but we serve and love the same One true God. He reveals Himself so differently to us in our respective cultures according to what He knows we need. For example, a woman today shared with us that she came to know Christ by being healed of a 12-year sickness. God is still the God of healing, and can bring people to Himself through that power. It's amazing to see how different our stories of salvation are, but the bottom line is that we have all been brought to the same saving knowledge of Christ--that we can do nothing to save ourselves, it is only by His grace that we are saved--no matter what country we live in. Whether we're 10 miles apart or 3000, God is the same God to us. He is unchanging and ever faithful. Jai Masikhi, Praise Him!!
Pray for us tomorrow. We start our VBS in the morning, so pray for me and the other 11 teachers as we teach about God's call. Pray for our rec leaders, Ashley and Daniel, as they bring the Gospel (and that they won't die from heat stroke in that room. SO SO HOT!) Pray that God will speak through us and that these children will only hear His words. Pray we will show His love to them, that they will know that they are loved and that they are not forgotten by the One True God! Pray that I will see and love these people as God sees and loves them. Thank you so much for your prayers! More to come later.
Three 17-year old girls at our house church. Gorgeous!
Some of the boys followed us outside as we left
Ashley and I with some of the kids/teenagers at our house church. It's so amazing to be here!
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Well, we are 2 days away from India!! I can't believe how close it is! I'm so excited! Still a lot to get done but we are so close!
So, in Ezekiel, there are lots of times where God lists out punishments that will come upon a people as a result of their sinfulness and rebellion against Him. At first it all seems really harsh. The punishments are things such as being driven out of their cities, being turned over to the hands of their enemies, having the sword brought against them. But these lists promising destruction are almost always followed up with the phrase "[and] then they will know that I am the Lord."
"When I make Egypt desolate,
and strip the land of everything in it,
when I strike down all who live there,
then they will know that I am the Lord."
There are examples like this all over this book, except most are longer. (If you want an incredible picture of God's grace in this book, read Ch. 16. Wow.) This phrase is so beautiful to me, partly because of its placement. In coming after a laundry list of punishments and destruction, it offers hope. There is reason behind the suffering--"then they will know that I am the Lord." God is still offering Himself to this rebellious, sinful people, even though they have repeatedly turned away from Him. There's no reason for Him to believe that they will do anything different with His love this time, but yet He still longs to draw them to Himself. Meaning He still offers Himself to us today. No matter how many times we rebel, run from Him, give our hearts to another, He is still there, longing for us, wanting to love us. He is faithful.
Just because He is faithful doesn't mean our journeys in loving and following Him are going to be easy. Just like Israel rebelled and worshipped other gods, so we also give ourselves to false idols in jobs, families, success, money, fill-in-the-blank. Meaning that somewhere along the way, God will probably bring "punishment" or trials along that will lay us desolate, strip us bare just as He stripped the ancient people, so that we are left with nothing but Him. And when we are finally free of all the distractions that we've built up around ourselves, that's when He's finally able to speak to us and make us listen.
Think about the times in your life where you've learned the most from God. I know in mine it's those times when I feel as though I am left with no one, nothing in this world besides God. He has stripped me bare, broken down everything I have built for myself, so that He can speak to me. Like it says in Hosea, "Therefore, I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her..." (2:14) He brings us to the "deserts" so that we will actually listen to Him. Even when the last thing we deserve is to be allured and spoken tenderly to, He does just that. Because God is love.
Today, I am thankful for the picture of grace shown in this Old Testament book because, if there was this hope for the people before Christ, how much more so is offered to us who live in Christ's death!
"Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore, speak to them and tell them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart...and then goes to a prophet, I the Lord will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.'" Ezekiel 14:1-5. Praise God for his loving grace.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The main religion of India is Hinduism, followed by Islam, Sikhism, and Jainism. All of these religions are different in how they were founded and what they believe, but one thing they all have in common is idol worship. In preparation for our trip, our team was told to not be surprised at the vast number of temples to various gods that we will encounter in New Delhi. Idolatry is rampant in this country as these people's hearts are being held captive by false gods. The temptation for us as we go into this context is to look at these people in judgement, wondering how they could put their hopes and dreams and life's goals into a pile of gold. However, if we were to truly examine our own lives, we would find that we do the same thing as these Indians, only our idols are not golden or tangible.
About a month and a half ago, the Lord gave me this strong desire to start reading Ezekiel. Now, I know it had to be the Lord giving me that desire because I've tried reading Ezekiel before and let's just say I was not very successful. But this time, the Lord has opened my eyes to the true meaning of this book. See, Israel, God's chosen people, they struggled in staying committed to God. They worshiped all kinds of things and engaged in all kinds of sinful practices. So, God sent Ezekiel to prophesy to them so that their eyes would be opened to their sinfulness, AND to the unconditional faithfulness of God. (That part's extremely important)
In his book Counterfeit Gods (I highly recommend this), Timothy Keller defines an idol as "anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give." In essence, an idol is anything that we stake our hopes, dreams, ambitions on or spend our lives working towards. I know for me these include marriage, a family, and success in my career to name a few. And none of these are bad things in and of themselves. But, when I start spending my life working towards a successful career, or spend every day dreaming of my wedding, that's when these good things turn bad. They are now capturing my full focus, they are drawing me towards a sense of self-sufficiency and control, and are slowly edging God out of the picture.
I've struggled with how to rid myself of these idols. I know that there are a few of them with which I have struggled for years, and it's frustrating that they still persist. But, the Lord in His grace has shown me recently that there's nothing WE can do in our own strength to tear down these idols. Only He, in His perfect unconditional love, can do that. He draws us near to Him, fills us with His love, reveals His beauty and power in such a way that He is the only thing we are able to focus on. And when we finally allow Him to love us this way, idolatry is no longer even close to being a temptation because we are filled with the only love that can satisfy. And He doesn't just put a little bit of His love in us, He fills us up so full that we don't have room in our hearts for worshiping anything else. HE becomes our life's goal, our ambitions and dreams are staked in seeing His face one day, and our hearts are enraptured by the one true God of the universe. Pray for love like this. Pray for God to capture our hearts again so that the idols we have built for ourselves are no longer able to stand.
Please be praying for me, that the Lord will continue to open my eyes to His truths about this and that He will fill me and tear down my idols before we leave June 3 (which is now on the weather.com 10-day forecast. Oh boy.) Pray for our team, that we will leave fully loving God so that He can work in us over there. Pray that God will speak to these people clearly so that they understand that He is the one true God, and that they will encounter God's love in such a way that all their idols will be cast down in the presence of the Almighty.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
So...I'm going to India this summer! In 15 days to be exact. I can NOT believe the trip is this close. Seems like just yesterday that I was starting my first year of PT school, looking forward to this blessed 10 weeks off that was still an entire year away, and praying for guidance on where to go on a mission trip during that break. Time sure does fly.
I am so thankful that the Lord has brought me as well as the rest of our team of 14 to this trip. Some of you may be wondering, why India? Trust me, I asked God the same thing, multiple times. Had you asked me this time last year where I would go, I probably would've told you somewhere like Peru or Kenya, somewhere that has beautiful landscapes and aren't so excessively populated. But, God in His sovereignty has brought me to this trip and I cannot begin to explain the change in my heart towards this country and her people.
It is so humbling to see God's power in leading me to this trip. I had been praying for about a year about where to go, and just figured I would know something as soon as I got the list of short-term trips. But when I started scanning the list, I didn't feel led to any one trip. I was a little discouraged, but thankfully got some wise advice from one of the women in my small group at the time. She told me to start praying through the trip options using my Operation World book so that I would have more information on the locations. I did that for a couple of days and still, nothing. I began questioning if going through my church was even what the Lord wanted, but then I got to India. As soon as I opened the pages to India, there was that feeling I had been expecting. Now, this is not to say that God isn't speaking if you don't get a certain feeling. But this time, it was undeniable. It was like putting 2 tuning forks side by side--India just resonated with me. And that's when I knew the Lord was taking me to this place halfway around the world that I had never even thought twice about.
This process of God leading me to this trip has taught me so much. I have truly come to see that His timing is always perfect. He could've told me where He wanted me to go when I first prayed about it, or even before that, because He is all powerful and all knowing. But He waited. He kept me from knowing because that made me seek Him out even more. This made me look back at all the times He's answered me with "wait" and see how, in my frustration, I completely missed the point. I want answers immediately, but the "wait" could very well be intended to make me (and you, all of us) draw closer to the heart of the one true God. I've also seen God's grace in even allowing us, His children, to go on trips like this to share His Gospel with the lost. God doesn't need us. 1 Corinthians 1:25-31 tells us that. We are foolish, weak, low, and despised, yet God desires to include us in His plan. So we go. We go where He leads us and we allow Him to use us to accomplish His purposes. And we know that He is faithful to complete them.
Please be praying for our team, as well as me individually. We will be gone June 3-12. Pray that the One true God will make His name known and His glory great among these people who worship thousands of gods daily. Pray their eyes will be opened to the Truth and that they will experience God's love through us. And pray that we will be humble servants, taking the Gospel boldly to these people through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. I'll be writing a few more times before we go, as well as while we're there (hopefully), so follow along if you want to hear what all God is doing through us in India!