Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sweet Spot

When people ask about my time in Mumbai and I tell people about that I feel *homesick*, they scratch their heads and look perplexed.   “Why?”, they ask.  Not because they can’t comprehend it, but because there’s so much contrast between my desire to go back and the way I’ve presented the city.    I’ve taken pictures of trash and dirt and described pain and injustice.   What do I mean, then, when I say “It’s such a beautiful place”?    It took me a while to figure out where the disconnect was- but I’ve think I’ve figured it out.   I know what it is about India.  And it’s not just India.  

When deciding where to buy my first house, I was drawn to the most impoverished zip-code in the state of Indiana.   I would love to say that I did it for some noble cause or because I wanted to be intentional about glorifying the Lord while living in community with my neighbors.    But the truth is, I moved here for the same reason you moved to your neighborhood.   I just loved it.   And it took someone recently asking me, again, “why?”- with that same perplexed look in their eyes—before I saw the parallels.  
You see, God has been at work in my life long before I ever realized it.  I didn’t move here to save my neighbors.  This is just the heart He gave me.   When I look around my neighborhood, I don’t see poverty.   I see deep relationships, rich culture, and triumph of the human spirit… and I want to be a part of it.   I also see the absence of some of life’s greatest distractions: competition, materialism, pride, etc.   There is a simplicity here that makes it easier to stay in touch with what’s really important.   And it draws me in.  

If you know me at all, you know that more often than not- I come with a camera.   I take pictures like a tourist, anywhere that I am.  But I’m not taking pictures of the pain- I’m taking pictures of the beauty.  And I’m finally understanding that what I think is beautiful, sometimes just makes people scratch their heads.   One of my favorite things to do is walk around after a storm and take pictures of the reflections in the rain puddles, amidst the trash-strewn alleys.   There’s a contrast there that symbolizes resiliency.  I love anything that is real and raw and vulnerable.   There is something SO trustworthy about that.   

India was all of this… amplified.  It felt like home, because it WAS home.    I didn’t experience the anticipated culture shock because “home”, I’m finding, is any place that aligns with the heart that the Lord gives us.   And isn’t that the way that it always works?  

I tend to forget that there’s anything out of the ordinary or unique about my scenario, until someone from my home town comes to visit.   Inevitably, there is some level of “culture shock”… and I always find myself a little baffled.  I’ve even found myself wondering when that person became so dramatic.  But they aren’t being dramatic.  It’s just an experience I can’t relate to, because I’ve never experienced it. 
I’m different.  And I’m ok with that.  This has always been my comfort zone.  And that’s a comfort that can only come from the Lord. 

But here’s the thing.  We know that the Lord works all things together for His glory.   ALL things.  He doesn’t  provide us with a sense of peace and comfort simply because He loves us (although he does) or because he doesn’t want us to struggle.   He expects us to act.  To practice discipleship.  The gifts he gives us are not to be wasted.  
Being in India was, for me, a Sweet Spot.   According to Webster’s Dictionary (ok, I’m lying- it was… that just sounds so millennial.  But I digress….), the term “sweet spot” was originally used to describe “the area around the center of mass of a bat or racket, or head of a club that is the most effective part with which to hit a ball.”   In effect, it’s when all of the factors come together in just the right way, so that success is met naturally.   And isn’t that what happens when we use our God-given gifts and purposes?   That’s not to say that we’re not in the center of God’s will every time that we face challenge and tribulation. Nor does is it a promise to safeguard us from trial and heartache. We just have to remember that His ways are not our Ways and “success” is not always what we think.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What If...

When I got home in January, we had been asked to write some blog entries for the agency.   I was also being asked an onslaught of questions… and so it was only natural that as I was processing the questions asked, that's what came to mind as I was writing.   In essence, I was writing to answer questions.   But what I really learned was how backwards we do it.   It’s no secret that I've wrestled with Short Term Missions for a while.   It’s what made me steer clear of them until I was 35.  Which is sad, really.   I’ve since come to believe they have their value- but I also still believe there is much more we could be doing to give them integrity.   This entry will focus on just one of those areas.  As difficult as anything else during our short time in India, was watching these five women who were already at the end of themselves, bending over backwards to accommodate us.

"What if..."   What if we changed the platform of short term missions?  What if we made it about them, instead of us?   I mean, we often believe it’s about “them” now, meaning local/downtrodden populations.   But it’s really us about us.   It’s about learning and exposure and having our hearts broken by a God who loves this world more than we can possibly imagine.   And that’s ok.   Those are all really good things.   In fact, we should take ownership of them more often.  That’s the part we get right.   I don’t believe we should be undertaking massive projects about which we know very little of doing well, especially when there are perfectly capable local skilled tradesmen who would give their right arm for that work, which would strengthen local economies.   I don’t believe we should form really strong relationships/attachments to vulnerable people and then turn around and leave them in a state of bewilderment as we come back to our lives here in America… at least not without an absolute guarantee that you we will pour just as much energy into the relationship once we come home.

But there are those who should be doing all of those things.  The NGO workers.  The long-term missionaries.  The local partners.   And what if we made short term missions about them?   About those who are in it for the long haul and who are doing the real work?   STM's would still get the exposure and the front-line folks would get some much needed renewal- which helps with overall sustainability.  Win-win-win.

The gals on our team were already so overworked, and they further exhausted their time and energy to cater to us.  It felt backwards.  It felt wrong.   Of course, they never said this.  But if my experience and instinct is right, it's not because they didn't feel it... it's because they couldn't.   They can't speak it ever, except maybe to each other.   Certainly not publicly.   Their organization depends on it.   But I've been there, albeit on a much smaller scale.  I know what it’s like to think it would just be easier to do it ourselves then to host another group of Saturday volunteers.   I know what it’s like to worry, endlessly, about my neighbors who I love, because I know the odds that they will be exposed to things like entitlement, belittlement, ethnocentricity, and even self-glorification in the form of things like chest-bumping. (true story.)  Friends, please hear me.  This is not another slam against the church.  Our beauty is in our brokenness.  I fully believe that.  Furthermore, these things aren’t intentional.   Few things are.  People are generally very well intended, but this is the result of misinformation and a lack of understanding.   Until we learn otherwise, our culture comes with us- whether it's to the inner city or across the globe.   We don’t have a choice in the matter- it’s all that we know.

...which is exactly why we need to safeguard indigenous populations from ourselves.  That doesn't mean don't go- but lets shift our focus.  I would have liked nothing more than to stay holed up in our rooms for a couple of days, doing menial tasks that aren’t difficult but that are very time consuming- so that our hosts could have taken whatever money we would have used that day and enjoyed some time with their families:  be it each other or the girls that they love so well.   Get pedicures.  Take naps.  Get lost in conversations.  Go site seeing around their home country- to places they never have time to see otherwise.  Breathe.   If we could focus our energy on refreshing those on the front lines, think about how much more the recipients of their services would benefit.

This is what the Lord has been laying on my heart, lately.   And personally- I think the reason this isn’t happening already is because they don’t believe we’ll still come.  The NGO’s need us.  They exist on our support, alone.  And so they take the good with the bad and a whole lot of prayer.   Maybe it’s time to prove them wrong…

Thursday, February 6, 2014


When I signed up to go to India, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t even really know why. I had always had an interest in India, but never a desire to go. In fact, when I did decide to go- it was more to escape the States rather than go to a certain destination. I felt suffocated by the American Dream.

I didn’t know what to expect in the weeks leading up to the trip. I had read about Indian history and culture- and I knew enough to know that it was extreme. I tried to prepare myself to leave my comfort zone… and I ended up finding it instead.

It was the thing I least expected… to feel so comfortable. How can something so foreign feel so natural? In some bizarre way, it felt like I had come home for the very first time. Like I had been homesick this whole time and had just been calling it “frustration” instead. I still don’t know how God could burden my heart so strongly in such a short period of time.

I've been asked a lot of questions and one of the most frequent is: "Was the culture hard?". The answer is no. It was not hard. How can you be bothered by a smell, when the person it's coming from is smiling the most precious smile? How can you care about the cockroach in the windowsill, when the women on the other side of it have abandoned their idols, if only momentarily, to praise the Savior? You can literally WATCH Him working in their lives. How can you worry about the purity of the food, when it's being fed to you in the purest act of love and hospitality? Everywhere I turned, there was a positive that outweighed the negative. Maybe I've been desensitized by my background in sexual trauma. Maybe it's because I was only there for such a short time. Maybe I am romanticizing it all and I just didn't have enough time for it to begin to wear on me. In fact, I’m quite certain that to a degree- all of that is true and given more time to adjust, it would have gotten significantly harder. The injustices are great and the pain is raw. But there are also things like humility, hospitality, selflessness and relationship that are deeper and more genuine than some I have ever experienced.

I despair because I miss India and I know that I won’t go back unless He calls me to. To do so would be entirely selfish. These are real women with real needs and real connections being made and to go back simply because “I miss them”, would be reducing them to little more than a vacation destination… an attraction: a place where, in their presence, I find peace and comfort and fulfillment without any regard for their needs and feelings. I know that I am where I’m supposed to be for now… and actually, I suppose there is a little bit of relief in that. It IS the easier option. But there’s the voice in me that’s crying out to God: “Over there! That is where I am supposed to be! Release me.” I’m so homesick for India. I miss it every single day. I try to remember that I’ve only been home for a couple of weeks, but I talked to a friend the other day who fell in love with Kenya 14 years ago and still she loves and longs for it. I can’t imagine feeling this way 14 years from now. The question hammers in my mind: Why even expose me to it?

But then the whisper comes again: “Stay close and stay open. I’ve got this”. There is peace in knowing that I don’t have to have the answers. I’m learning to let go of the need to know and plan and strategize and, in turn, just rest in His promises and sovereignty…. to know that His plans for me are greater than anything I could design for myself. Perhaps one day I will return… maybe not. But more than geography, I long to be an effective tool for the Kingdom. And since it’s His Kingdom, surely He knows how best to build it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Love Without Hesitation

In India, there are beggars and street kids everywhere. It’s painful. Small children with visible bugs crawling through their hair approach you, using sign language for “food”. 10-yr-old girls approach with an infant in her arms. Women without legs drag themselves across your path. Every shape and size, they follow you to your car and knock on your windows. They approach you on the train. They poke you on your arm… over and over and over. And when you don’t respond, they begin performing: back flips, cartwheels… anything to up the ante. It’s truly heartbreaking. Especially in light of the fact that panhandling is often just another form of trafficking. You can purchase a child for less than the cost of a cow. And there are doctors who will perform amputations on perfectly healthy children because it increases the amount of revenue they can generate.

We were walking in South Bombay when she approached us after lunch. Instead of handing her money, our Team Lead slipped her arm around her shoulders. Momentarily startled, Rose nestled in beneath her. She talked and entertained and became our tour guide. It should have been more obvious- and I suspect that to our Team Lead, it was. It was just another performance. No different than the back-flips or the tight rope act. All with the expectation of receiving when she was finished.  Out Team Leader chose to love her anyway… determined, again, to break through the performance.

With the children, it’s easier. Get down eye level. Make a joke. Ask them their name and they are pulled out of “work mode” pretty easily. With Rose, it was much more sophisticated; more ingrained. What was playing out before us, without us even knowing, was a battle of determination between these two women- each determined to break the other first. It was a heart breaking exchange. With Rose, she took on what I can only assume is her daily role play: I’ll be whatever you need me to be. You could watch each transformation as it took place: I’ll be your entertainment. I’ll be your friend. I’ll be your project. And our Team Leader: determined to break through each act until there were no more left, continued to demonstrate love and patience and nurturing. She clung to the hope of making a connection.

When Rose finally realized that her efforts were not going to yield the outcome she was hoping for, she became disillusioned and desperate: She pleaded. She waited. And then she got angry. “You’ve wasted my time. Do not come back.” The act was over. You could see our Leaders human heart fold into itself. She ached… and she was hurt. I told her I loved how she continues to do it anyway… and then silently wondered if she really does. Does she still do it as often as she did 18 months ago? 6 months ago? 2 months ago? I know firsthand what continued hurt and disappointment and lack of response can do. It hardens you- it makes you jaded- it makes you wonder if all of your efforts are in vain. It makes you want to stop and sometimes, despite all of your best efforts, a part of you does. In a word? It makes you hesitate.

But that is all based on my own first-hand experience… from work or from ministry. This time, I watched it unfold as a bystander. And looking at Rose- I saw myself. How many times have I performed for the Lord? Fulfilling my “Christian Duties” with the expectation of a return on my investment? How many times have I stood before Him and demanded a response? I’ve gone to Church! I’ve prayed the prayers! I’ve read the Bible! I’ve loved my neighbor. I’ve tithed my 10%! Where ARE you?! Why aren’t you giving me what I’ve asked? How many times have I turned from him and said “Forget it. You’re not worth it.”

It’s never been quite like that, but might it just as well be? I may have never turned from Him completely- but have I ever said “Fine. You’re not answering, I’ll figure it out on my own? I’ll find my own way? My own solution. My own devices. My own comforts. Isn’t that what I’m doing every time my need for security sets in and I respond to it? And if it broke my heart to watch the hurt that Laura tried not to show- how much greater is the pain the Lord has felt? Pain that I, myself, have caused? I’m humbled, again, by just how great His love for us is. Constant. Unwavering. Without hesitation. And we are such a hard species to love.

I am so incredibly thankful for this ministry and for the courageous group of young women who reside together in Mumbai. Through their example, and the Lord through them, I re-learned discipleship. And I was reminded that we are called to love without hesitation. Life is hard and thank God for His grace because, in it, we’re allowed to grow. At one point or another, we’re all a little bit like Rose. But love prevails and hearts soften. And so, because of the relentless, consistent, unhesitant love of the Rahab’s Rope team, I also got to stand witness as the Indian women embraced love. And then they began to emulate it. They hugged. They shared. They fed. They washed feet. They reached out. Ministry is a partnership. It’s a beautiful, and sometimes painful, dance of give  & take, teach & learn… all in the freedom of grace.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


After years of mixed feelings about short-term mission trips, I read the book “Toxic Charity” by Robert Lupton. Lupton's book put into words, perfectly, my ambivalence about short-term trips and stapled my decision to go: "Look at any promo package for a mission trip and you will get the distinct impression that lost, starving, forsaken people have their last hope riding on the willingness of the US church groups to come and rescue them. (...) The emotional call goes out, promising to touch lives, change the world, and have a dramatic impact on those who will sacrifice their comfort to go. For a week! (...Nevermind that if the money spent on these trips were directly invested in the people being served, far more could be accomplished with greater effectiveness...). There is a place for short term missions, but they would have much more integrity if we simply admitted that they are mostly for our benefit... that we're off to explore God's amazing work in the world." - Toxic Charity

And that was it. I was finally able to reconcile what I had been struggling with. I did feel the Lord’s prompting, but for me, the desire was to experience my faith in another culture, to explore the issue of international trafficking, and to better learn discipleship. And I realized I was ok with that as long as I didn’t try to paint it a different color. I opted against signing up with any agency or church who echoed similar messages of personal glory and self-sacrifice, and after some research decided to apply with an organization out of Georgia. (Now my only fear was how to go without re-exploiting the exploited, but that’s another blog- and something I later learned I didn’t even need to worry about. They do such a great job about making sure that doesn’t happen.)

It was settled. In December, three days after Christmas, I boarded a plane for a 12-day excursion to Mumbai, where we would spend our time with those enslaved by the Red Light Districts: the women providing the services, the madams who enforce it, the men who were purchasing it, the children who are born into it…. all victims of the same cyclical, luring system of entrapment that chews people up, spits them out and keeps them coming back for more. A system where the very foundation is the spiraling of guilt, shame, fear, lust, control, desperation and despair. And it would be in a whole new foreign world. I tried not to form any expectations, but I did try and prepare myself to leave my comfort zone.
On the third day in Mumbai, I lay awake on the floor in the early morning hours and laughed at myself. I hadn’t prepared to leave my comfort zone at all. No, instead I tried to pack it in a bag and bring it with me. I thought about all of the anxiety in the weeks leading up to departure. My old friend, insecurity. How much time and money was spent frantically trying to plan ahead and prepare for every possible pitfall and scenario? The manic shopping sprees that resulted in things like 37 rolls of travel toilet paper, Go-Girl urination devices, 3 varieties of TSA-approved luggage locks, plastic baggies to carry my plastic baggies, four different Get-To-Know-Indian-Culture books, three different remedies for motion sickness… and so on. But cramming your culture into a suitcase with a 50-lb weight limit is no easy feat. Out with anything “unnecessary” – ya know, like books and shoes.

I acted a complete fool, y’all… 1 Backpack = a lock for each zipper to prevent pick-pocketing, padding in the front pocket to prevent damage and a metal plate in the bottom in case someone tried to cut the bottom out. (Matthew 6:19, much?) At one point, one of the girls on my team came up behind me to get her water bottle out of my bag and I nearly took her out. (In my defense, Indian men do keep you on your toes... as does living on the East Side, back home).

But by the second day, I realized that most of what I brought in preparation would go unused. Not because it’s not useful- but because it’s not needed. Leaving the states doesn’t mean there isn’t ANY culture… it just means it’s not yours. People live and function differently all over the world and don’t miss a beat. And so as we ventured out into the city with nothing but my little 3’x5’ knapsack, I left my giant TSA-lock laden backpack behind…”securities” inside. I never needed it. My “culture” was only weighing me down and it was causing me to miss theirs. The irony did not escape me. A primary goal of this trip was to “experience my faith in a different culture”. Not only was there nothing faithful about my behavior, but the western culture weighs me down emotionally every. single. day. And now that I had escaped it for a while- I couldn’t let it go.

It’s a theme that has repeated itself in what the Lord is speaking into my life. Lay down your cross and follow me. Trust ME. Need ME. Depend on ME. He didn’t teach us to pray by asking for our monthly bread or annual bread, but our DAILY bread. Every single day. Without ceasing. Don’t store up for the future- but trust that He will still be present to provide for your needs all over again. When he provided the Israelites with Manna, he gave them enough for each day. They couldn’t keep the leftovers for tomorrow (although they tried). Instead he continues to whisper: “Just stay close… I’ve got this”.

I absolutely fell in love with India. I didn’t experience the expected culture shock and mostly just found it beautiful. But I think a large part of that has to do with the fact that when everything around you is foreign, you’re forced into a deeper dependence on the Lord. Insecurity is grounded in fear and I’ve heard it said that “On the other side of fear, is Freedom”. That’s Jesus.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Excerpts from the Journal

(The following are truncated excerpts from my journal.  I should note that it's all out of order, I lost track of time there and stopped using dates after a couple of days...)

December 29:  We arrived in Mumbai last night... or this morning... (after 31 hours on airplanes, does it really even matter?)  It was dark, that's all I know.  The airport was dim and quiet.  No stores.  No restaurants- just security points.  Lots of them.  But once you got through them all, you walked outside into an explosion of people and lights and music.  India is an assault on all of your senses and so it can't be adequately described with any amount of words or media.  It simply has to be experienced.   I was exhausted and a little green around the gills, but straight out of the plane I was enamored with my surroundings: the the colors, the crowds, the people. (What are they doing having a party in the parking lot of the airport in the middle of the night, anyway?)

December 30: We had training this morning and then went to lunch.  We only found a rickshaw for three of us, so Laura and I walked- which I relished, actually.  It gave me time to take in the surroundings.  It's hard not to look men in the eye.  At one point, I actually winked at one!  (Oh, the horror!) I was really just trying to make light of one of my other America Faux Pas, but I'm sure what I've actually done is just reinforce his belief that all American women are promiscuous.  (Darn Hollywood, anyway.)   Because you eat with your fingers, they bring you a bowl with warm water and a lemon to soak your hands in after the meal.  I'm learning that Indian's don't really use soap either.  In fact, the water-lemon substitute is actually indicative of an upscale establishment.   After that, we went shopping and to the Taylor to purchase fabric and be measured for proper Indian attire.  While there, I was amused to come across a very large public nativity display, complete with pyramids... and "snow".   Awesome.  

December 31:   The children's home is alive with critters.  This evening we had a meeting to prepare for the Christmas celebration.  Sitting on the concrete floor, for hours, while trying to follow all of the rules is hard:  adjust your duppata, don't point your feet at anyone, don't look the men in the eyes, don't hand your glass to anyone with your left hand, don't turn down the food.   And there were bugs: mosquito's, aunts, moth worms/maggots.  Surprisingly, even they didn't bother me much.  (Ok, the maggot's bothered me some, but then the little guy just wouldn't die and I became mostly fascinated.)  And we actually do have a western toilet on the ground floor- but when I get up in the middle of the night and go down there, the "pets" are all very active.  Dogs, rats and who-knows-what-else, all begin scurrying.  I usually close the door and decide the squatty is perfectly sufficient.  And it is- they aren't nearly as bad as I had feared. In fact, in some ways they are.... refreshing.  (We won't go there today.)

December 31:  Tonight we decided to brave the streets and check out the New Years celebrations.  And then we got smart (read: scared) and came home.   We stood in our laundry well upstairs instead and listened to the music and countdowns.  The sweet kids across the street yelled up: "Happy New Year!" and then the men began lighting fireworks.   Soon, they started shooting the fireworks sideways while the boys ran down the road to try and catch them.  (Only in India.)  Next thing we know, a firework shoots down the street, up the side of our building, into our well, and under Jolene's blanket- next to her ankle.  Definitely time for bed!

January 1:  Early this morning there was some commotion on the street.  I went out to the well to see and a group of men were carrying on.  Another rode up on his motorcycle and playfully ran into the group.  The men began shouting and shoving and just when I thought a fight was about to break out- they began a game of what can only be described as red rover!  (If that's how you resolve things when you're almost hit with something- we handled the firework situation all wrong:  "Link arms girls, we're goin' down!")

January 2 (I think):  Another day in the district.  There's no way to describe it.  Food prepared on rocks.  Children bathing in the ally's.  Sewage running in open wells- and rats bathing in that.  Emaciated dogs everywhere you turn- breathing erratically and coughing up worms.  Fecal matter every few feet.  Random livestock running loose.  Loitering men undressing you with their eyes (and occasionally snapping pictures).  Tin roofs and curtain doors.  Blue tarps for rain guards.  Smells of sweat and rot and sewage.     And then.  ...and then a little hand taps you from behind.  "Teacher!" and you turn into the sweetest hug you've ever received.  And suddenly this place becomes almost beautiful.

January 3 (perhaps):  Oh, these people.  These precious people.  The way the love... they way they serve.  I am so smitten.  The girls bring us Chai Tea every morning and often stay to collect water or just hang out.   One of the girl's loves to practice writing her English... on our hands.  I love walking down the street to take the trash out and hearing "DiiDii!  DiiDii!" (Big Sister). I look up to the windows and see our sweet girls waving enthusiastically.   And the way the women at the district welcome us so graciously into their community!  This week, one of the girls turned 13.  It was amazing to watch her humility and hospitality and joy and love.  She came to the center for her birthday party carrying a surprise lunch for us all.  A full-on lunch.  Then after serving everyone, she went around the circle feeding us with her fingers.  She even "shared" her birthday with another girl who is leaving to go back to her home village.  She laid her head in her friends lap and wept.  She loves and gives so freely.  This 13-yr-old woman is modeling the woman I aspire to be.  What have I done to deserve the honor of standing witness to all of this? 

Later on "January 3" (or whatever):  Today Christina and I had our first excursion to the market on our own.   We needed to pick up the Sari's from the Taylor.  After playing with the street kids for a moment, we found an available rickshaw.  I learned a valuable lesson.  Always negotiate the cost before getting inside.  You're the only white people in a 50 mile radius and you still have the deer-in-the-headlights look.  Let's be honest- you have "clueless" written all over you.  They know you don't know the tricks of the trade, or your way around for that matter.   Savvy up, otherwise you'll be driving in circles around Mumbai for an hour before you realize it.   Once we made it to the market, we wove our way through the numerous crowds and vendors (that all look alike, by the way) trying to find the ONE two foot alley that leads back to the textiles.  Somehow, we made it and, luckily, they recognized us first and called out to us.  It was a new guy and so I didn't believe him at first (all of the vendors call out to us) but Christina recognized the booth.  I still have no idea how.  Bless her.  More bartering.  Valuable lesson number two: if you find the oldest man in charge, call him "Uncle" and get a little bit whiny- they almost immediately soften up and you can get just about anything you want.  But don't go overboard: no eye contact or smiling. Then you're no longer pitiful, but flirtatious.  While waiting, we purchased a couple of coconuts and drank the water straight from them.   And then we lost our appetites when a goat was slaughtered.  We finally made it back and never had to use the emergency cell phone at all!  Later we had dinner at Alka's house and accidentally took someone's parking spot.  In true Indian Fashion, he handled it by simply parking us in.  Alka went to his place and explained away "those poor confused white girls".   A few "I'm soo sorry, Uncle"'s later, and we were golden. 

Might be January 4:  I am hesitant to write, because how do you put this day into words?  It was the day of our Christmas Celebration.  About 75 women and madams were present.  They closed the brothel doors and loaded the buses.  Each with her own story that I can't begin to record.  They came with humility and thanksgiving- in itself, a miracle.  It was beautiful.  The leaders intentionally had the men from the church serve the women.  It was powerful for all involved.  Most of these women have never had a man treat them with dignity and honor and respect.  And as is usually the case when you serve others, then men were deeply touched by the women and came away with new commitments and convictions of their own.  They shared about them the next day.  At one point, one of the women ran across the center and grabbed arm, nearly dragging me back to the other side.   I assumed she had a photo op (they loved the camera!!)  But instead, she sat me down in a chair, removed my sandals, and began washing my feet.  Being served by those I came to serve.  Just. Too. Much.  Feet washing is a fairly major thing- Indians have some pretty strong rules about feet. Afterwards, we stood praying together simultaneously, through tears, each in our own respective languages.  It was one of my most very favorite moments.

I realized on the bus ride home that I won't see most of these women again.  I was overcome with grief and thankful for the privacy the seats afforded me.  For the first time I fully acknowledged the question that I've been afraid to ask.  Do I belong here?

January 5 (or something like that):  I've been remiss by not talking about the traffic.  It is noteworthy.   The streets are chaos, even at night.  Seemingly without rules or direction, cars move erratically, honking their way through traffic, narrowly avoiding other cars (/buses/rickshaws/motocycles/pedestrians/cattle/straydogs...)   There are no lanes.   As much traffic flows as can fit- and the general rule is that "there's always room for one more".  Red lights are more of a suggestion than anything.  And back in the States- we don't know how to use a horn.   Here, it is an absolute necessity and the sole means of communicating with other drivers:  honk. (I'm over here!)  honk-honk. (I'm going around you!) HOOONK. (don't even think about cutting me off!) 

On or about January 6 (I'm almost certain it's still January.. although it feels like August):  Today we went to South Bombay.  It's more diverse and we saw the first white people since arriving in India.   This only makes me want to go back to the Children's Home and the districts.  It's much more touristy and western.  Lots of shopping, the Gateway to India and the Taj Hotel.  I do appreciate the abundance of western toilets here.  The beggars are much more sophisticated and determined- which only suggests to me that the business of trafficking is more sophisticated and organized- and likely more violent.  Today I saw the saddest sight yet:  a young girl, maybe 5 or 6, riding a unicycle on a tight rope, while balancing things on top of her head.  I didn't even see what she was balancing because I couldn't take my eyes off of her little face.  Void of any emotion at all.   I asked Laura how long she has to do that... "all day, every day", she said.  So hard.

Friday, November 30, 2012

These are the kiddo's from my K-2 class... what a beautiful and perfect example of our community!

Yeilding Control... March 3, 2012

Control. It's a tricky thing: both binding and freeing, simultaniously bringing power and debility. It both calms and evokes fear. It is an object of emmense desire. And as soon as you have it, it has you.

Or so it's gone for me, anyway. I've been in control since... well, ever since I wasn't. I can't even remember a time when I have really let go. As a result, my life is one big bubble of safety. I don't take risks. I never miss a bill payment. I rarely put myself in situations where I don't already know the outcome.

But it's a double-edge sword. While my need for control supports things like independence, leadership, and stability.... it also has me maxed out at 33 years of age, because going any further requires too much risk. 

Don't get me wrong- I have done a great job of convicing myself that I really am quite content with my life. I have meaningful relationships and I know that I help people in my daily interactions. But it's all my own agenda. There's little room for the Lord's will in my life because surrender is not something that is in my vocabulary. Fear of hurt. Fear of failure. Fear of dependence. And when my sense of control is threatened, anxiety sets in.

Recently, the Lord has laid a path before me and I find myself moving towards it, almost against my will. It's almost as though I don't have any choice in the matter. There are days when nothing about the choices I'm making, make any sense at all (according to my own customs) and yet, heals digging in, I keep going. But I do believe that this is the Lord's guidance. The real chore now, is really learning to let go and trust that He will guide me. Learning to trust His promise of provision. 

The funny thing is, I know that I know that I know that whatever plans He has for me faaar outweigh anything I could possibly construct for myself. And when I think about that, alone, the dread leaves and I find myself overcome with pure excitement. And so, friends, if you are reading this- I am asking for your prayers that I go forward, living in the joy he desires for us, resting in his promises.