Here's a video of our Kid's Camp that we led for Bible Faith Mission in India. If you remember reading in earlier posts, we decided to scrap what we had planned for the camp and start from scratch the night before. It was a challenge for our team, but God was good to us and we made it through well and grew closer in the process. Check out the video summary and then get a little glimpse of Lauren midway through the camp... needing to grasp every ounce of strength to make it through... check it out.
As I said in the previous post, this is only the final chapter of 2009. In fact it's better analogized that these last 2 years are the first 2 chapters of a long, thrilling novel. And wondering after each page, "What's going to happen now?" or "What will God do next?" So it's really just the beginning.
As a disclaimer... I believe that God is doing an amazing work among the Dalit people right now and especially through BFM. We've spent a number of posts sharing about God's heart to bring spiritual and social liberation to an oppressed and often silenced people group in India. This continues to be the over-arching narrative of our relationship with Bishop and family and our connection to India. These final stories focus in on what God has been doing in us as we've followed him.
Let me expand on a few that sum up our entire trip:
I don't want to embarrass Dave. But I'm pretty proud of him. Yes, *tear*. He led well, enjoyed the kids, was a total team player. But that's not what I'm most encouraged by.
Dave's a diamond in the rough, a passionate guy with a huge heart and fighter's spirit. But the last few years have been challenging for him for a lot of reasons... juggling the responsibilities of taking care of his family, dealing with the pressure of living the Silicon Valley life and wrestling through things in his past. It's as if he's lived the last few years with a 50lb weight vest. It's hard to fight when you're carrying extra weight.
But India was in many ways a "rebirth" for Dave, if not a turning point. The turning point being Dave discovering that God does in fact know what he's doing, that he is faithful and that his love for him is unquenchable. And when you see that about God, you can't help but to be free. Dave and I have spent many hours talking through what freedom really looks like in Jesus... it's simple, but not easy... to embrace the freedom that Jesus has secured for us on the Cross. Like all of us, it's not hard to understand; it's just hard to live out. But beginning the few months before and then continuing into India, Dave started to "get it"; he began to really understand freedom and living with a reckless abandon for Jesus. He preached powerfully, led with conviction, shared with honesty. But even better... he began to hear God again. I mean really hear him... feel his presence, enjoy his embrace.
There's something about trips like these where you wake up and your goal is just to listen to God and do what he says. And when you start listening to God, you discover he's not an abusive disciplinarian, he's not the distant/uninvolved father-failure, he's not an ultra soft teddy bear. You discover that he deeply and passionately loves you and that he wants you to run with him on an adventure that'll stretch every part of your being. You'll experience God and life in such a way where you'll never want to turn back. It's not easy, but there's a truly intoxicating feeling of trusting and following Jesus.
There were many moments where I thought Dave wasn't going to make it on this trip. A few times where I thought his fear might do him in. But Dave's journey reminds me that God is constantly at work in us to root out the things that keep us back and help us take hold of the things that will give us life. I'm reminded that God doesn't give up on us, that he doesn't lose sight of our potential and that he's excited for each step we take towards him and his purpose for our lives.
I considered not returning to India earlier in the year - because I really didn't know why we were supposed to be there. Not that there aren't great reasons to be in India. But I just didn't know why WE were supposed to be there. If Dave was the reason... than that was reason enough. I'm excited to see what God has in store for him and this truly is just the beginning of his book. Keep reading.
BTW - I could share a story like this about each person on our team. Maybe I'll do that on anther post.
:: Puzzle Pieces - Sarah and Keren
We were on the mini-bus to Kanyakumari and I was sitting next to Promoth, Keren and Sarah. And Sarah asked Keren about this building on the BFM campus with a sign that reads, "Women in Rural Development." [WIRD] Keren shared that about five years back, she felt like God was giving her this vision of training and employing Dalit women in hopes of developing a people group that's long been marginalized in India. She bought several sewing machines and began employing local Dalit women to make clothing to sell in the local market. The problem was that they were able to produce, but had trouble distributing and selling. After about two years, the project came to an end and now the machines and building are largely unused and unoccupied.
After hearing that, Sarah then shares how she has had this long held dream of starting a baby clothing business. But she wanted to run it as a social enterprise where she'd employ people in distressed areas and a portion of the profit margin would be reinvested back into the local community. Sarah shared that she wants to do the design, will work on the marketing and distribution, but has never really known where to produce the items. And after Keren shared about the WIRD project, Sarah thought that maybe we could produce the items with Dalit women.
Keren shared that when the WIRD project came to end, she got a lot of criticism for investing in the machines and she personally experienced a lot of grief for her failed endeavor. She knew however that God told her to buy the machines, but she just didn't know what was to come of it. But God repeatedly told her to "wait". And so when Sarah began talking about her vision and the idea of producing the products in India, God reminded Keren right then, "This is why I was telling you to 'wait'."
As I said before, after the first trip, I still wasn't sure why we were supposed to be there. I gave a lot of thought to not going back. But God has been teaching me a lot in recent months about perseverance, about the value of "slow and steady". That often the real fruit comes only after seeing something to completion even when you're not assured of the results. In an "ADD" culture, it's really hard to live out.
I remember listening to Keren and Sarah's conversation and thinking to myself, "Man, I'm really glad we came." That even if we didn't do the medical clinic, the kid's camp, the pastor's training, that this was reason enough. We could not have orchestrated this; this had been in the plan all along. I had no idea... but God knew all along.
And again it was a sober reminder that my role is to follow. It's God's role to make things happen.
:: Not Here For You
I was slotted to give the opening message at the EMOS training gathering. I was actually quite honored that Dr. Selvaraj would ask me. When we got there, he gave me a very ceremonial yet warm and humorous welcome and I then went up to speak to a very select gathering of pastors and Christian leaders.
When I got up, two other men got up along side of me to translate into two different Indian languages. It didn't seem odd in anyway since we had everything translated for us whenever we spoke. But as we got started the rhythm [or lack thereof] of having what I was saying translated twice was throwing me off. It's hard to describe - all I can say was that I was flustered. And I ended up giving a very disjointed message and didn't really say what I felt like God was leading me to say.
On our way back to the BFM campus, I had to confess that I was feeling pretty down on myself. I was even thinking that I messed up a connection with a very innovative and intriguing organization that would have boosted Haven's mojo by just being connected with them. That's how pathetic and self-seeking I think sometimes.
As I was working through all those thoughts, the rest of the team was talking about Dave's last few months and his story of how he got here [India]. And Dave mentioned that his wife had shared a prophetic word with him but he couldn't remember it. And of course I remembered it. So I interjected and told them what Rachel said... that Dave would eventually have enormous influence and that the work that God was doing in him now would yield amazing fruit in the future.
And right then God whispered in my ear, "Remember... you're not here for you. You're not here to build the 'Kingdom of Elton' or the 'Kingdom of Haven'. You're here to build my kingdom." I immediately felt a bit of shame for having felt so bad. But the shame eased out quickly and I felt free from the pressure of building my own empire and exhilarated again to be a part of what God is doing in the world. Maybe my role was just to bring Dave or Sarah or anybody on our team to India. Maybe I'm just the bus driver. If so, that's more than OK. If that's what's needed for God to accomplish what he wants, then I'm happy to do it.
And again, I realize... I'm glad we came. I needed to understand my proper place - I follow him, he doesn't follow me. To understand that he is God and I am not. I'm glad we came so God could do a work in the lives of our team members. I'm glad we came to hear the testimonies of those women missionaries being sent back into hardest areas of India. I'm glad we came to see how much God has already done at BFM in just one year's time. I'm glad we came just to be with Bishop, Keren and Promoth again; to hear from their heart again and be inspired by their passion and commitment.
Any one of those reasons is reason enough. But really the best reason over and above the rest is that God told us to come... and when he leads we'll get to see what our imaginations couldn't even dream. And we'll get to be the son or daughter that marvels at the grand work of the father and recognize all along his way is always better than ours.
To finish this monster post... I just want to say that I'm very proud of our team. Trips like these push at all the wrong [or right?] buttons, it reveals our character and it forces us to understand the Gospel once again. I sense also that we are playing a small role in God's move to bring revival and liberation among the Dalit people. God is doing a grand work through Bishop Moses, Keren and Promoth and I'm glad we can be a small encouragement to them. We learn SO MUCH from them. I feel very blessed to call them our family.
Thank you so much for praying and supporting us in innumerable ways. Your prayers were heard, your funds well utilized, your encouragement well received. Thank you.
So we look forward to the coming years... we've only finished two chapters in a long novel and we're asking, "What will happen now?" and "What will God do next?" And I believe those are the right questions. We'll follow this post with more info on BFM and how you can partner with them in the near future.
Thanks again and on to chapter 3.
...for 2009 that is.
Sorry this has been delayed for so long. But let me wrap up what our team has so eloquently documented with regards to our time in India. Our first trip to India [last year] was indeed a first trip. We didn't know what to expect, we were learning from scratch and developing new friendships.
But this year God seems to opening the door wider, showing more of what it's inside. Shedding more light on why we're there, why God kept subtly pointing us towards India.
A quick rundown of our last few days in this post... and then some reflections on another post:
:: Shopping > Monday
We finally got to buy a few things; Keren and Promoth graciously took us into Trivandrum even though Jenis was sick. They have been AMAZING hosts and love us as family. We made 3 stops: tiffins, fabric and jewelry. And if we're honest, it was the Sarah and Heather shopping show with Christine tagging along. Faint interest from Amanda; none from Lauren. And Dave and I were just happy to have air conditioning. We ate lunch at a nice hotel... Dave and I had a Coke. It was gooooooood.
:: EMOS > Monday Evening
In the evening, we participated in a training event hosted by Evangelical Missions Outreach Service that equips Dalits to plant churches in some of the most hostile and unreached areas of India. Every year they host a training intensive to train and then deploy their workers into the field. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were welcomed very ceremoniously and lovingly by Dr. Selvaraj and Rev. Sudhakaran.
This year's class was entirely women from the most highly persecuted areas of India. It broke our hearts to hear stories of how many of the women lost family members, friends and homes to Hindu militant persecution. But it was truly inspirational to hear how these women found greater passion to continue their work to share about Jesus to a dying world. These women showed us the real cost of following Jesus. But also that Jesus is worth giving everything for.
It's unfortunate that we only got to spend a short time with them. We'll see if God would open up more doors in the future to support the ministry of ICRO/EMOS.
:: Tip of India! > Tuesday
We took a day trip with Keren and Promoth to Kanyakumari which is the southern most tip of India. It's a really interesting place because Hindu men must make their pilgrimage there at least once in their life. When we arrived there were tons of young men dressed in black and orange wandering the streets. There's something religiously significant about this location where three seas converge to one point... suffice it to say, the place was beautiful, the water warm and clean and it was a needed respite for the team.
We got to visit the two main sites in Kanyakumari, Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue. Throughout our trip we'd discover interesting tidbits about each other... ie. Amanda LOVES killing insects, Heather is completely up to date on Fergie gossip, Christine loves jumping on random busses with kids. During our time in Kanyakumari we found out that Dave and Lauren don't like boats. After a little convincing and weighing the options, Dave and Lauren got on the creaky boat to take the short ride to both the memorial and the statue.
Left: Our beautiful hosts and partners, Keren and Promoth.
Right: At the beach in Kanyakumari.
Left: On the road to Kanyakumari through Tamil Nadu state... "Looks like Hawaii," says Sarah.
Right: We found the real location of the island on LOST. At Thiruvalluvar Statue.
Left: Posing at Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
Middle: Ordered a Pepsi at brunch... needed straws though... Dave keeping his lips away from the rusty bottles.
Right: India style brunch... delicious.
All in all it was a great day to see some really beautiful parts of India. Keren and Promoth were really informative and hospitable tour guides. And our little day trip was helpful just to expand our vision of India, gain a greater sense of the people and their journey. It was a good day.
:: Flight Out to SNG > Tuesday Evening
We got back to BFM mid afternoon tired and ready for a nap. But our day wasn't close to being over. We finished up packing, bathed and got ready to go to the airport to board our late night flight to Singapore. I think we were ready to go home... though not in the "pedal to the metal, don't look back" sense. At least not for most of us! We knew that God had done a work in us and our time in India had become way more than just "bearing with the elements." We knew we wouldn't leave the same and we were thankful for that. I was pleasantly surprised that most of our team wouldn't think twice about coming back. More on this in the next post.
We arrived in Singapore early Wednesday morning... way early, like 5am. We said goodbye to Dave who wouldn't do the debriefing in Singapore with us. It was a genuinely sad moment. As we walked out of the airport to board our transfer to the city, Lauren muttered, "I miss my twin." Amanda said, "That Dev is a very unique person." We all missed him... including myself! Whenever we were out and about, with 5 women, 2 men, we'd always walk in a line - me at the head, Dave at the rear. I felt pretty secure and trusted Dave to make sure all our valuables [the 5 ladies] didn't wander off. We had a good time in Singapore, but it wasn't the same without Dave.
We spent the 2.5 days in Singapore eating heartily, enjoying ultra clean bathrooms and taking time to process our experience. I was encouraged to hear what God had been saying to each of our team members as we ate meticulously baked Asian pastries and McDonald's breakfast. I knew that God had a reason for each person to be there and it became abundantly clear during our debriefing time.
When we arrived back in SF, we were glad to see Dave and Rachel who graciously picked us up. We feasted at Dave's family's restaurant and reminisced the grandeur of the last two weeks. There was a joy of having lived through an adventure together and because of that we would share a special connection with each other.
I'll share a few post trip meditations on the next post - but here's the rundown of our last few days. We're glad to be home, but looking forward to how God will continue to expand our vision not just for India for what he's doing here and all over the world. Amen.
Our last Sunday in India. Three churches visited.
This morning like last Sunday we split up into two groups to visit two different churches. This time Dave, Lauren, and I went with Bishop to one of the churches. Elton, Sarah, Amanda and Heather followed Keren and Promoth to their church where it also happened to be the church's anniversary.
Keren and her family had presented the women with beautiful sarees and for church we decided to wear them to be in our "best". The day before it seemed to be a hit with the kids when we wore it for the last day of VBS. This time we decided to be brave and try to attempt to put on the sarees ourselves without our professionals from the day before. The other girls did fairly well with the help of Lauren's lead. I tried to bring it back with previous saved folds but utterly failed after 30 minutes and just started all over; thankfully we all passed when the pros saw us.
Last time I went with Promoth and didn't have to share at the worship service, but legend has it, if you go with Bishop, be prepared to share something. Although we thought we had 45 minutes to prepare on the drive, maybe 20 minutes had passed and we had arrived. I jot down a few bullet points and had an idea of what to share. I was a bit nervous having never shared in front of church formally before. Lauren and Dave were pros at this point.
There was a surprise welcome when I felt a few pinches on my toes from some tiny red ants, but a warm welcome when we recognized some of the kids from VBS and coincidentally, they were also on the bus ride that Amanda and I went on the previous week. We followed the Bishop in and sat humbly in the front of the church trying to look formal in our sarees and necktie ready.
The kids shared what they learned from camp, with a summary of S.O.A.P. using the verse "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. Lean not on your own understanding..." Then a boy who was maybe 3 years old recited about 50 verses in 2 minutes! I thought he was going to say a verse or two and then it kept going! Very impressive.
The Bishop prompted that the ladies would share first, then Dave. Luckily, Lauren went first and shared about her life this past year and the struggles she's been going through and how Jesus heals. Then I shared some of my testimony on how God spoke to me one night about missions and how I ended up in India. The kids shared earlier the same verse that I used about trusting in the Lord and seeing where he'd take me in this life. Thankfully for the translation time, I was able to gather some thoughts to figure out how I would transition part of the story together. It wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be (except for the guy falling asleep in the back) and it actually felt really good to share. It was Dave's turn next and he talked about his journey and how he made it to India. He also shared something new about a fear he had and had a similar message of trusting in the Lord and his future. The Bishop then summed up all our messages and then they blessed us with a yummy chilled green coconut to drink. Nobody got up to leave until we finished our drinks and left the building. I would have liked to stay and talk a little to everyone, but it was our time to go. They walked us out and stood by the gate while they bid us farewell.
Our group was the first to arrive home and had some extra time so we learned about Dave and how he wooed his wife. Very interesting stuff, but I'll let him tell you the details. It was about an hour or so until the other group arrived tired and drained. Everyone had shared and Promoth had to keep sharing until the food for the anniversary was ready. Since we had to leave for the evening church service at 5, three of us decided to stay in our sarees through lunch and the afternoon to not attempt to wrap, fold, and pin the outfits all over again. Thus, sarees all day. Lauren would say, "Yes, my Christmas ribbon," because of the stiff and plaid material. Heather had "extra" material because she was so petite and it was another challenge because hers was so soft it was bunching up and poofing out under her. We managed.
It was a long, dark bus ride to the church that met in the evening but we arrived safely to the sound of drums and singing. It was the first time our whole group was able to attend a service together. The church welcomed us with open arms and even had a few well-prepared performances. The young girls had beautiful white dresses with scarves over their heads and even glitter makeup on their eyes and cheeks. They danced gracefully in a circle around a boy who was portraying Jesus. Then the boys danced to a local song cheerfully shaking their hips with their hands on their waists and stomping their bare feet. Everyone was very impressed. Elton spoke his message about God remembering His people in India, and how He'll never forget them even when He doesn't seem to be around. We were able to talk to some people afterward and one lady came up to me gladly sharing how she was a teacher too at a local school. The girls giggled after their pictures were taken and we shook hands with a few of them. As we got on the bus, a few boys ran up to us to say a few last words, and everyone smiled and waved goodbye as we waited for the bus to leave.
All in all, it was a lot of church to have in one Sunday, but it was an honor to be accepted the way that each person did. Our sarees made it through the day temporarily, but the memory of the warm smiles and handshakes from these people will remain forever.
>> Children's Camp: Day 3 of 3
Our last day at kids camp! The kids actually got some sleep from the night before; unlike the previous night where they stayed up all night. I was actually kind of disappointed that they couldn’t pull another all nighter, because I was planning on joining them for some cricket. The kids told me how much fun it was from the night before and wanted me to join them, but for them to be awake for 48hrs straight was pushing it. Part of me didn’t mind getting some sleep because I wasn’t sure how I would function at camp after staying up all night.
Kid’s camp started off with Elton leading the group in a devotional. After the devotional, Bishop got to spend some time talking to the kids and testing them on what they learned throughout the camp. One thing I will point out is that whenever Bishop is talking, people listen. This just shows you how much Bishop has done for the community there and how much the people respect him. I was lucky enough to go to church with Bishop on both Sundays and had the honor of having Bishop as my translator. I figured if my preaching sucked, Bishop would use his power and make it meaningful to the congregation.
After Bishop was done sharing with the kids, we went into our last lesson of the camp. This lesson was led by Christine who shared the story of Jesus walking on water. Christine and Amanda stayed up late from the night before writing a script so they can use the puppets to teach the story. The puppets were well received by the kids as I’m sure this is not something they see every day. We ended the lesson with some self reflection time by using the SOAP method. (Scripture, observation, application, and prayer; this was a favorite method of some of our leaders =)
After the lesson, it was TEA TIME! Tea time is something I wish we had in America. Twice a day, the kids must stop everything that they are doing and go get their milk tea. At first I wasn’t used to the idea of stopping everything to have tea, but toward the end of the week, I was loving the idea!
After the kids loaded up on their tea, it was time for some good old piñata time! Earlier at camp, each group spent some time decorating their piñatas so we could fill it with candy only for them to later destroy their lovely creation. We broke the kids into four groups, 3rd & 4th graders, 5th & 6th graders, 7th & 8th graders, and 9th & 10th graders. Each group gets their own piñata to destroy. As you can probably imagine, a game where the kids can use a stick to hit a box as hard as they can in hopes to get some candy can get pretty crazy. I believe most of the 3rd & 4th graders each got a chance to hit the piñata since it took the whole group to break the piñata. By the time we got to the 9th & 10th graders, you could feel the excitement and energy in the room. The kids were not only loaded on tea, but now they are loaded up on sugar as well. When a 10th grader finally broke the last piñata, someone told all the kids that everyone (all 93 of them) could go up and fight for the candy. I was standing in the front and all I saw were a sea of kids charging up to the candy pile as if someone had just discovered a gold mine. It was NUTS! Sending all the kids up is definitely not something I would recommend we do again in the future, but since no one got hurt, it was pretty awesome to see kids diving into the pile in search of candy. Another thing I noticed was that all the older kids would share their candy with the younger kids who weren’t able to get any candy. I’m just thinking to myself, man how do I teach that to the kids (or even some adults) back home!
Every fun camp must come to an end. As we finished cleaning up the piñata debris, it was time to sing our theme song one last time. After the song, we got together to take one big group picture. As we began saying our goodbyes to the kids, it was a bittersweet moment. We were all worn out from camp but being able to hang out with the kids really brought a lot of joy to my heart. The kids would come up to us and ask if we would come back again next year. A few days ago, my answer would have been “I’m not sure”. But now I can confidently say that “YES, I would come back if God allows me to”.
I want to wrap up the kids camp with one of my favorite moments. On Saturday night, after we finished watching the movie, we had about 30 minutes to burn before dinner. Karen and Promoth brought out these Christmas cards for the kids to decorate. At first I wasn’t sure what the cards were for, but after looking at them closely, I realized that these are the Christmas cards that the kids mail to their sponsors back in US. It finally hit me, I realized that these are the kids that you see on people’s refrigerators when they sponsor a child through Partner International! I don’t know why, but that hit me pretty hard as I never thought I would meet any of those kids that my friends sponsor from back home. It also made me realize that it is because of the sponsorship from back home that these kids even have a chance to get an education. I was watching the kids decorate the cards and I could tell that they are very thankful for their sponsors to give them the chance at getting an education. I know these kids work very hard at school to take advantage of the opportunity that they are receiving. My message back to the sponsors is that, you ARE making a difference in these kids’ lives.
The camp ended around 1pm and we were supposed to head out to the southern tip of India that afternoon; however, due to the heavy rain we proponed the trip to another day. Since we were stuck indoors, we got to hear more team members share their stories. I really enjoyed the time where our team would open up and share their stories with each other. The stories were very encouraging as I was able to hear about how God is faithful and how God never left us. For me, this turned into a common theme. Seeing how God was there for everyone and how we just needed to obey Him. I’m also very thankful that the team allowed me to ask them the hard questions and not just giving me the dirty look or shutting me off. I’m thankful that I was able to be part of this team and I look forward to working with them again in the future.
>> Children's Camp: Day 2 of 3
The week is coming to an end and I am proud to say that we have survived numerous mosquito attacks and 12 straight hours of kids camp. Though it was long, tiring, and some parts brutal, it was still an awesome and enriching experience. Which parts were brutal you ask? The ARTS AND CRAFTS! Don't get me wrong – I love arts and crafts. I actually crafted all of Russell's badges from UP out of felt for a friend's Halloween costume. I also give Sarah props for her creativity in putting all the arts and crafts together. It was more the chaos and lack of control that I didn't like, which I admit was my fault.
The first craft was making a piñata (yes, we're bringing a little Mexican culture to the kids in India). I basically just dumped all the material into the middle of about 20 kids and let then go at it. Let's just say it wasn't the best idea since kids don't really understand the concept of sharing. The second craft consisted of creating a puppet sheep out of a white paper bag and gluing photocopied sheep parts (the face, ears, arms, legs...) cotton balls, and googly eyes to it. Since we only had one bottle of glue and I needed to gain more control, I decided it would be best to hold onto the glue and give it to the kids as needed.
- "Ma'am! Gum! Gum!" (They call glue gum)
- "Ma'am! Please! I beg you!"
- "Ma'am! Eyes! Eyes!"
- “Ma’am! I only have three legs!”
Now just repeat that for an hour straight and that sums up all of our experiences making the sheep puppets.
For those of you who know me and know of my “special” speaking skills, you would be pleased/surprised to know that through God's empowerment and with Elton's help, I delivered my first ever teeny-weeny mini sermon about Jesus feeding the five thousand and being the bread of life. Lauren gave hers on Jesus healing the sick. Speaking only for myself, it actually wasn't nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be and felt good in the end. Although, I'm not sure if I would jump at the next chance to preach given the opportunity.
As kids have much more energy than the old geezers that we are, we took them outside to play amoeba and sharks and minnows. You would think that after running around so much they would be pooped and tired, right? They actually came back in with more than enough energy left to put on a talent show for a full hour. I was pretty amazed by some of the performances, especially by the kids in my group (coming from a biased view of course). Two of my girls who would always giggle and hide their faces every time I ask them questions actually volunteered to sing! Another performance that really surprised me was the Michael Jackson performance led by Jibin, also part of my group [see video below]. This boy had all the Michael Jackson moves and totally melted my heart when he started to moon walk across the concrete floor. I want to take Jibin home with me.
We ended the night by watching Chicken Run on the projector and drawing thank you pictures for each kid's sponsor. Watching Chicken Run with the kids was great. Even though they didn't understand all the words, they still understood the movie and cheered when the villain fell into the pot pie machine and got a taste of her own gravy. I was also a little worried that some might turn into vegetarians because of the movie, but all fears were subsided when I saw them eat chicken for dinner later that night.
All in all, it was a fun day and it was such a blessing to be with them for 12 hours out of the day. They are always so joyful and happy to see us that it really touches our hearts. There are about 93 kids total and whenever we split into our small groups, my kids always rush into our meeting corner shouting, “Ma’am! Sit here! I got a chair for you!” while placing the chair next to theirs. It’s also really cute when they try to scoot in their chairs from behind to sit next to me. Elton was right: even though I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge to offer these kids, just the simple fact that I am here is enough.
That's all for now!
>> Day 2 Video
>> Children's Camp: Day 1 of 3
Thursday night was the first day of our 3 day Children’s camp. Each time we tried to work on our program, we felt completely unprepared and overwhelmed. Wednesday night Dave and I made an executive decision to scrap the pre-packaged VBS program we brought and write our own. It was a decision that was pretty much made out of desperation as the packaged lessons just didn’t make sense to us. We decided on the theme The Miracles of Jesus. It was a long night of brainstorming and we all went to bed feeling extremely uncertain of what the next day would bring.
Thursday morning during our team devotions, we all felt pretty defeated and worn out. We prayed together and acknowledged we wouldn’t be able to get through this camp on our own strength, but were in desperate need of God’s help. The rest of Thursday morning was spent cramming for that night. We literally took this VBS one day at a time.
5:00pm approached a lot faster than we were ready for. As we walked towards the building, you could hear the voices of the children singing praise songs. That sound of them singing energized me and I suddenly felt ready to go. Dave thought of doing our team introductions like they do for NBA teams, and the kids really got into it giving us high fives and cheering. We started the night off with our theme song, “I’m keeping my eyes on Jesus” a song that we will never forget, even if we wanted to. The kids loved it and did an awesome job even the first time around.
After the theme song was when the night got a bit shaky. We started with an icebreaker that was a bit more challenging than we anticipated. Each team had to race to line up in order – by height, age etc. We later found out that the kids here don’t really play competitive games which is why our icebreaker pretty much failed.
The Bible lesson for the day was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. We told the story using the kids as actors. We then broke into small groups to discuss how we could apply the lesson to our lives. The application time was the icing on the chaotic cake. The language and cultural differences were a bit more of a barrier than we imagined. The kids all understood the facts of the Bible story, but it was hard to help them make the connection to how it related in their own lives. So application time turned into just talking with the kids. They were very interested to know about our families, America, our hobbies. Even though the day didn’t go like we would have wanted, seeing their smiles and their excitement despite all our mistakes was such a blessing. These kids really radiate so much joy and love and you can’t help but smile when you see them.
>> Day 1 Video
>> Day 1 Video
It's been a long day... so let's begin.
Wednesday AM - Pastors' Training
I led a 4hr training session for the local Bible Faith Mission pastors [about 50 persons]. We did something similar last year on our first trip and made numerous cultural errors and did not present all too well. But God redeemed the time [thankfully]. And we learned a lot about the struggles of our new friends and what it means to be a Dalit Christian pastor. This year I felt like God was laying a simple message of encouragement to my brothers, to remind them that God has not forgotten them, that he won't leave and that he's doing a work through and in them. I took some time to encourage my brothers and was able to present some simple material on church-planting movements and discipleship. We'll leave the rest to God and see how He'll bear fruit from it.
Like last year, the pastors asked heartfelt questions. One pastor stood up and shared that there is a group in the US that is funding the construction of a large Hindu temple constructed here in Kerala; upon it's completion, it'll be shipped back to the US. He then asked, "How can we sustain when even the Christian countries are funding Hinduism here in India?" It was a very sobering moment and I was at a loss as to how to respond.
But the Holy Spirit was gracious to give me a simple response – that though the powers that oppress free movement of the Gospel seem insurmountable, the Gospel was meant to flourish in the margins, in places that seem least viable, in the midst of persecution, oppression and poverty. Maybe a reason we have not seen significant revivals in the United States?
In the end, it was another opportunity to learn more about the struggle of my brothers laboring to lead churches while working against government, extremists and caste. Please pray for these pastors and leaders – there is so much working against them and they teach us every time what it really means to take up our cross and follow.
Wednesday Afternoon – Children’s Camp Prep
We started looking at the VBS package that we purchased and realize that it was garbage. There’s not much more to say about it. So we began the process of writing our own stuff the night before. Yes, ambitious. We’ll see how it turns out tomorrow.
Wednesday Night – Dinner Debacle
So we decided that we’d cook for the Bishop and his family as an introduction to Chinese food, but primarily to give them a break. They’ve lovingly served us and it’s not easy to feed 7 people, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It began with us taking stock of what we could cook. It came down to green beans, fried rice, stir fried chicken and green onion pancakes. Seemed doable. We started and things just took longer than we expected. A few things that were working against us: foreign kitchen setup with stoves equivalent to camp burners, unfamiliar ingredients and not entirely understanding the preferences of the Indian tastebud.
When we were ready to eat, we were almost 45 minutes late [they normally eat at 8:15p], kitchen was a mess, food didn’t look quite right and we didn’t even have time to finish the fried rice. There was this feeling of impending doom.
When we finished praying, the Bishop’s wife scooped some green beans that we stir-fried with some Hoisin sauce. And as she put the bean in her mouth, she immediately spit it back out and quickly moved [by hand] each bean to Bishop’s plate. I had to stop my mouth from dropping to the floor. I looked at Dave and he had this expression of pure dejection and later quipped, “Tonight, I’d rather have been a coward than a failure.” We were pretty embarrassed!
The chicken and the onion pancakes had a better reception. But it was hard to ignore the pain of green bean “FAIL”. Bishop’s daughter Keren said it well, “My mind says yes, but my mouth says no!” We were able to really laugh it off as we finally made it to the end of dinner. Keren even joked that they would take a picture of the dinner and put it on the fridge as “inspiration” to other foreigners who want to volunteer to cook! Bishop’s family were good sports and they appreciated the gesture even though they had to supplement that night’s dinner with some leftover Indian food from the night before.
Again we learned a lot and shared a very memorable moment with Bishop’s family. And hopefully our week doesn’t continue on that trajectory! God has still been good to us and we’ve been learning a lot. We look forward to sharing more soon.
They call me “The Doctor.” Every time I’m introduced to someone here in India, they make it a point to emphasize the fact that I’m a medical doctor from the United States. It makes me feel quite uncomfortable since I don’t like having that extra attention and pressure. Originally, when I was preparing for the trip I was told that I would only be seeing 60 adults, right before I left the number turned into 60 families and all 750 children at the school. Thus, you can imagine how I must have felt the night before the big day-nervous and apprehensive not knowing what to expect and feeling completely overwhelmed and under-prepared.
The rest of the members of the team received a crash course in pharmacology,taking vitals and abbreviated medical histories the night before and set up shop in the adjoining room to help screen patients for me to ease my work load. It was a huge help and blessing and enabled me to be able to see 53 patients in 4 hours, which definitely goes down in the record books. It was a grueling 4 hours in 85 degree heat and 95% humidity wearing scrubs and my white coat (needed some street cred with the locals as I’m a female and young looking) with the fan and power periodically going in and out. Yet God was faithful and didn’t give us more than we could handle. Interestingly enough the medical problems I saw here were pretty much the same as in the US-diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heartburn, headaches and general aches and pains with the occasional bilateral perforated ear drums and unstable angina. Through it all God reminded me that the pressure I feel is not on me but Him as He is the ultimate healer and physician. All he requires of me is to show up and love His people and He will pour out His blessing. Healing often does not revolve around the treatment of physical ailments but involves the outpouring of love.
In the afternoon, Amanda and Christine decided to ride the bus with the children to see what their homes and villages looked like and took the bus that went to the most rural location. Crammed in with close to 100 children and teachers they endured the bumpy, winding ride to the village which was home to a rubber plantation and a few coconut leaf-roofed houses. In addition, they experienced the hospitality of the teachers and students who not only acted as tour guides but invited them to their houses for tea and bought them snacks from a local store. Meanwhile, Dave toured the main road in town, drew a lot of stares wherever he went, witnessed a large fireworks show and got to ride in a cycle rickshaw.
This evening the Bishop shared some stories of Dalit oppression which just broke my heart. In one story, a higher caste man was plowing a field but since he only owned one ox, a Dalit man was hooked to the other side and treated as if he were just another animal. Not only are Dalits treated as animals but they are often used as slave labor to plant rice for the upper caste Indians and in one instance a pregnant woman refused to plant rice and was beaten to death and buried in a nearby field. In addition, once when it was time to plant rice, the Dalit workers placed a baby in a nearby forest and covered it with banana leaves. The baby started crying but the owner of the field would not let the Dalit mother take a break to feed her newborn. Later on that evening when the Dalits went back to the spot they had laid the baby, they could no longer find her and after much searching finally found her bones and discovered that an army of ants had come and eaten her. The progress and change that we have seen here at the BFM is only a result of the transformative power of the Gospel and we must not forget that the level of oppression demonstrated in the above stories is still running rampant today. It is a shame and a tragedy that most people in the World continue to remain ignorant and apathetic.
On a happier note, Elton received an email that the camera he left on the airplane from San Francisco to Singapore was recovered when the plane landed in Zurich and will be waiting for us in the Lost and Found in the Singapore Airport. Praise God!
Today we met the children. All 850 of them. They greeted us at their morning assembly with a reading of a Bible verse, their pledge of allegiance, a song, a prayer, and a current reading of the top news and then Elton gave a quick introduction of our team. We then got the chance to visit their classrooms. Some of the kids were extremely shy while a couple others sang “Bah-Bah Black Sheep” at the top of their lungs. We also visited the highest grade level (equivalent to 10thgrade). To get the conversation going by asking them who their favorite movie stars were. And of course..Brangelina was mentioned. What was even more striking however was when we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. We got the following 5 answers: doctor, engineer (software specifically!), lawyer, teacher and pastor. Through my own personal lens I was somewhat disappointed with the lack of originality, but what makes their answers significant is that they are children of the Dalit caste of India.
The Dalit caste are also called the untouchables or the no-caste. The other 4 castes of India don’t even acknowledge them as a caste because their “duties” in society are to be the sewer cleaners, garbage sweepers, and laborers. Many Dalits are uneducated and don’t have the money to attend a school and if they do, they are undermined by their teachers and classmates. Their plight is very much equivalent to the plight of the Black Slaves in our American history. The hope here in this school is that by giving them an education, they can move past the societal stigmas of uneducated Dalits and be major influencers in the world. We’ve celebrated the first African American doctor, lawyer, engineer and teacher in our own country. Martin Luther King himself was a pastor. The hope is that one day in India these Dalit children will also be celebrated for their achievements.
The other highlight of our day was seeing the children off. All 850 of them piled into 9 school buses (you do the math.) We were again greeted by big smiles and ‘hellos’. I had my camera in hand and that was an automatic hit with the little ones. They all crowded around to see photos of themselves on the preview finder.
The rest of the day consisted of prepping for our upcoming children’s camp and the medical clinic that we are going to host for the staff of the mission. Dr. Lauren (DL as I so aptly like to call her) gave us all a crash course on prostate and lice detection. I kid. But in all seriousness, we realized that we have a possibility of seeing at least 60 staff members and their families in one day. To give you a current idea, American doctors usually only see 40 patients at best in their practices per day. So we will see what is to come and we are praying that our Father will give us the divine intervention and the healing powers to heal the sick.
We finished off our supper with Bishop telling us his conversion of how he became a believer which is a medical miracle in itself. But the even bigger back story is the story of the founder of this mission. The founder of this mission was originally from the highest caste, Brahmin, (Hindu priest caste) but became a believer. His story is that one day he and a gang of people were ready to persecute a bunch of Dalit pastors in a church and he was appointed to murder the pastor of the church. As he was about to step foot into the church he was immediately hit by the Spirit of God and God said to him, “He is my servant, do not harm him.” He was stuck paralyzed on the ground for a whole hour and was not able to move. After that experience he came to know Christ and repented of his sin.
However because his family was Hindu they disowned him and took away his wife and he was left homeless until a missionary took him in to share God’s love for him. As he was being taken care of by these believers he realized the need to love and educate these Dalit people and so the beginning of this mission was planted.
What really amazes me about these stories is that Bishop Moses has reiterated again and again, God has a sovereign plan. Sometimes we may not know what he’s doing in the midst of serious pain and trial, but God knows what he’s doing.
I’ve been wrestling a lot with how do I reconcile with injustices like these in the world; enslaved people unable to get education, own land and have personal dignity just because of skin color and caste. I realize that I myself have been born into a privileged “caste” even though we may not call it that. I have the ability to get an education, I’ve been blessed by the financial stability to own my own property, and be a free person. I can choose to keep on living this way and not acknowledge the brothers and sisters around me that don’t have these privileges, or I can do something about it. We don’t live for ourselves in this world, our God has put us here for the world.