Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's crazy to think that over half my time here is already done.  I've definitely started to become more comfortable here and I know it will be hard for me to say goodbye in a week and a half.  On the other hand, I am really missing my family, friends, and fiancĂ© so it will be good to be home with them :)

Every night at dinner we go around the the table and we share what our "Happy and Crappy's" of the day were (Also sometimes called "blessed and stretched" or as one of my teammates said, "Chocolate and Vegetables").  So, I thought I would share what my "Happy and Crappy's" have been thus far.

-The starchy, scratchy feeling my clothes have after I wash them- I have yet to perfect the art of hand washing my clothes ;)
-Being sick- nothing serious, just a cold, but it has been draining me a little so pray that God will give me energy.
-It can be discouraging learning about how some families here don't believe that education is important. Some won't send their kids to school, even if the tuition money is donated to them.
-It breaks my heart to see how so many of the women here don't think they are beautiful or have worth.  Pray that God will use us to show them how loved and valued they are.
-Some of the hardest times for me have been going on house visits where women will open up to us and tell us their stories.  They talk about being beaten by their husbands and it makes me feel so helpless.  I just want to do something to protect them, but I know that's not my job.  Pray that God will comfort and protect these women and that He will change the hearts of the husbands and men that are oppressing them.

-The women here and their incredible hospitality.  Even though they have very little, they are so generous to us.  Getting to know them has been such a humbling experience and they have taught me so much about how to give joyfully.
-We live just a block away from a store called the Yellow Shop that sells ice cream and cookies.  It makes me very happy :)
-How the kids shower us with hugs and kisses everyday.
-Riding through Goa on the back of a motorbike- so scary, but so fun!
-Sharing the gospel with the children at Tuition- pray that God will continue to work in their hearts and be present throughout their whole lives.
-How my teammates can me laugh until I cry :)
-Milk tea, milk tea, and more milk tea... so good!
-The rain and the coolness it brings
-Seeing God work in the lives of these little children and the women we work with.  He is so powerful and faithful.
-How eager the kids at Tuition are to learn.  I'm praying that God will give me the same thirst for knowledge that they have.
-My whole team- they have been my family here and I have grown to love them so so much!  They are an amazing group of women who have been my support throughout these past weeks.  I have been learning so much from them and I can't thank God enough for putting them here with me.

God is working in so many ways here in Goa, many of which I'm probably still unaware.  I feel so incredibly blessed that God has given me this opportunity to join in His work here for these six weeks.

Thank you all for the prayers and support.

Love you all!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Week 2

So, this was our first full week and I'm exhausted, haha.  Our team has split up into two groups.  One group goes and works with the women, teaching them how to sew, embroider, and make other crafts.  My group goes and works with the preschool and a program called tuition.

In the morning we typically have breakfast and devotions around 7.  We have an awesome cook who makes delicious food (we are so spoiled).  He has made us a few Indian dishes like chicken and vegetable corma with rice and he has also made us some more familiar dishes like spaghetti.  Fortunately, my stomach has been agreeing with all the food so far, so that is a huge blessing!

We are usually on the morning bus by 8 because preschool starts around 8:30.  This week of preschool was really fun, but also pretty tiring.  I help out in the nursery with about 12 three-year-olds.  For almost all of them, this is their first time away from their parents so this first week was pretty rough.  The teacher and I spent a lot of time trying to get them to stop crying.  Towards the end of the week, they were starting to get used to us a little more, so that was helpful.  One little boy, Abisheck, to a special liking to me, and would start crying whenever I put him down or left the room.  Even when he would stop crying though, he would never smile.  I made it my personal goal to get this kid to laugh, and sure enough by Friday, after much tickling and hugging, he cracked a smile and started to giggle.  It made my day :)

After preschool we have a break for a couple hours where we either go get lunch, explore, or go home and rest for a while.  Then around 3:00 we head into the slums for Tuition.  We have about 40 kids that come and fit into one of the Pastor's tiny living rooms.  These kids are so easy to love.  Whenever we walk down the alley of the slum, kids will poke their heads out of their houses and start screaming "Teacha! Teacha!" and come and hug and kiss us.  We begin tuition by having all the kids say, "I am special. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am loved".    Whenever we ask the kids who loves them they always say, "Jesus and Teachers".  It makes me so sad that children here rarely mention their parents loving them, but I'm glad they are learning about God's love for them.  Each and every one of these kids is so beautiful and I think they have all stolen my heart.  I just pray that God will give me his heart to lavish love on these kids who need it so badly.

It breaks my heart to see the kinds of conditions these kids live in.  The entire slum is filled with trash and sewage.  Many of the kids also don't eat anything until the snack that we pass out at Tuition, but I've never heard any of them complain about being hungry.  Looking at their lives has really made me step back and consider how extravagantly I live my life.  There are so many things that I have that I hold onto so tightly that aren't even a necessity.  Even my life at the guest house here in India is far above what these kids have ever known.  I'm ashamed of myself for complaining that I don't have enough to eat, or that I'm hot without my air conditioning. I know God is working and changing my heart.  I pray that I can learn to live in a way that's pleasing to Him here and when I'm back in the U.S.

I've come to learn that women and girls are not valued in Indian culture.  Our translator told us that sonograms were outlawed in India because too many people were aborting their baby girls. This past Monday, we were able to meet one of our student's 14 day old baby sister.  She was so little and beautiful.  Through the help of our translator, the mother asked if we would want to take the baby back with us to America.  Our group laughed it off at first because we thought she was joking, but the translator explained to us that she really was willing to give up her baby.  The mother explained that she already had two daughters and that because of the dowry system, a third girl was too expensive for their family.  It broke my heart that a mother would want to give up her precious baby daughter.  I guess it is common for families to be disappointed when they have girls.  It's been our prayer that God will show these families how special and wonderful their daughters are.  We hope that by loving on these girls, their parents will realize how valuable they are and learn to love them too.

God has been teaching me so much here.  Even though it's easy to get discouraged with how much darkness there is here, our God is greater.  God is working here and He longs to redeem the hearts of these people.  Pray for strength and endurance for our team as we start to get into the routine of things.  Pray that God will reveal Himself to these people and open up their hearts to Him.

Thank you so much for your love and prayers!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

India is incredible.  The more I'm here the more I feel blessed to have this amazing opportunity.  In some ways, India is what I expected it to be and in other ways my preconceived notions have been completely stripped away.

Traveling went really smoothly, so praise the Lord for that.  Even though there was a little confusion at the airport in Mumbai, our team was able to figure it out.  It was a huge blessing to travel together because I can't imagine making that trip on my own.

When we first arrived in Goa the locals would openly stare and take pictures of us.  Since it is almost monsoon season, tourists are pretty rare, so it is pretty uncommon to see seven white women walking down the streets of Goa.  I've come to the realization that I will no longer be able to blend in for the next six weeks.

One of my first observations was the incredible disparity between the rich and the poor.  There are really nice houses and five star resorts amidst the rubble of extreme poverty.

Our first day was super relaxing and we were able to rest and recover from our jet lag. We had some time to spend on the beach with the Lord and it was really needed.  The beach is beautiful and today we were able to explore more of it.

On our second day, our team split up to go to two sites.  I went to go work with women who were being taught how to sew and embroider.  I was so humbled by how warm and accepting these Indian women are.  They immediately made us feel right at home.  Even though there is a language barrier, many of the women can speak fairly good English.  My teammates and I are attempting to learn some Hindi.  I've realized that I'm pretty terrible at it, but at least I can make them laugh at my poor pronunciations.

On our way to the women's center, we encountered some street children. My heart broke for them.  It was so amazing to watch our leaders treat them with love, giving them hugs and telling them how beautiful they are.  I wanted to do so much for them, but I felt pretty helpless. Our leaders explained that we can't give them money because these children are owned and the money goes straight to their owners.  They explained how important it is that we love on these children because they are rarely showed any affection at all.  In India, and Hinduism, it is a common belief that those who are deformed, widowed, or poor have done something in their past to deserve their current situation.  Therefore, many have little to no compassion for these beggar children.  There are so many opportunities to show Christ's love here.  Pray that I make the most of these chances.

I think it will be difficult for me to remember God's sovereignty in the midst of such extreme injustice.  Pray that God will continue to remind of His power and faithfulness.

Another thing I've come to realize about Indian culture is that personal space does not exist.  We travel by bus to certain places and I can honestly say I don't think I've ever been closer to 24 other people.  I couldn't help but laugh as the bus driver encouraged more people to hop on when I already felt as though there was barely enough room to breathe.  This is kind of a silly prayer request, but I do get a little motion sick on the bus rides, so if you could pray that God would prevent that, that would be awesome.

I feel in general that getting sick is almost inevitable, but please pray that I will trust in God no matter what.  He is bigger than any illness or injury.  There are also two Indian women that come to the center that have meningitis.  One of them passed out while we were there.  Please pray for their recoveries. One of them has almost been quarantined from her family because of her illness so pray that God will show her his deep love for her.

My teammates and leaders are incredible.  God has given them such beautiful hearts and I feel so blessed to know them and be working with them.

Pray against sickness and exhaustion.  Pray that God will use us despite our weaknesses.  Pray that we can shower these people with God's love and they would know that it comes from our Heavenly Father.  I feel so incredibly humbled and honored to be able to have this experience. God is good.

I'm sorry this was so random, but I just had a lot on my mind.  I hope it's not confusing.  Thank you so much for the prayers! I love you all!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

3 days till India

So, I would just like to preface this blog by saying that I am not an eloquent writer by any means, so if you're reading this I hope that you will bear with me as I attempt to articulate my thoughts.

Only 3 days left until I fly to India.  To be honest, I still don't think it has hit me that I'm going to be living on a different continent for six weeks this summer.  How this whole summer came to be still astonishes me.  Without God putting the beautiful Ali on my wing this year, none of this would be happening.  As I was first getting to know Ali she told me about how she was planning to apply for SOS (Summer of Service, a mission program through Northwestern) and apply to volunteer with an organization called Rahab's Rope. At that time during my life, I had really been searching out what area of Social Work God was calling me to. Before meeting with Ali, I really felt a pull on my heart to work with women and children.  Ali told me that Rahab's Rope is a Christian organization that works with women and children teaching them different trades to prevent them from being pulled into sex trafficking- so immediately I was interested.  Ali encouraged me to apply and I did, only half expecting anything to work out. To my surprise, things did start to work out.  Rahab's Rope accepted both Ali and I, and a little while later, both Ali and I were accepted into the SOS program.  It has been a pretty crazy ride since then, preparing, fundraising, and praying a lot. God has been so faithful through it all.

As my time in the U.S. comes to a close I am getting very anxious and excited for my trip.  I really don't know what to expect while I'm there, but maybe not having expectations is a good thing. I just pray that God will work through me, despite my weaknesses. It's almost inevitable that I will make some sort of faux pas, but I pray that it won't interfere with the relationships I'll make while I am there.  God is doing and will do awesome things on this trip and I can't wait to be amazed.

Please pray for safe travels (God willing)