Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

'til there's nothing left.

It's our last full day here in India. Tomorrow (Saturday) we'll put on the Sabbath school and church service for the kids, then we'll pack, then we'll head to Vizak around 2pm--homeword bound.

This morning our team hiked up one of the mountains (in picture below) and had worship towards the top. Nick talked about how, here at the end, it's time to lay it all out on the field. We're all pretty tired at this point, but we've got less than 24 hours to REALLY show these kids what love looks like--what God's love looks like. So that's the goal focus everything we've got on these kids until there's nothing left. I think, "We can sleep when we're dead" were Nick's exact words. Amen, brotha.

Pastor Paulson (the principal here at the blind school) talked at our morning program about how this is the last day and how we can all look forward to seeing each other in Heaven one day. He talked about these blind kids finally being able to see our faces...and it was at that point that I got a little teary. I can't wait for that day--whenever it is--I'm not sure I've ever been more hopeful and excited for Heaven to come than I was this morning. Just picturing that moment when all the darkness that they've lived in for years shifts and focuses into shapes and faces makes my heart swell and my eyes tingle.

Anyway, it's not time to be sad yet. We've still got rotations to do and kazoos to give out to each kid (the staff are going to love us). I'm bummed that we weren't able to blog on here as much as we were anticipating. There are so many stories, adventures, and pictures that we wanted to share. Maybe when we get home we'll write if you're tempted to stop checking or following this blog as soon as we get to America...resist the temptation...there is probably more to come.

Until then, keep us in your prayers as we finish this off and as we travel home. It's a long flight back!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Let's Worship Together

There is something very special about worshiping together with the locals in a country different than your own. The differences are sometimes big and sometimes small, but it is the similarities that bring us into that worshipful moment together. The unity wraps us up and lets us forget that peace isn't always a given. The sweat may be dripping, the chickens may be adding their voices to the praise or maybe the stained glass windows wash the congregation in a heavenly glow. We wear different special things. We pray different ways. We sing different songs, but the worship is happening and the worshipers are giving their best.

Heart = Full

Blessings are abundant when we join languages, traditions and cultural preferences into something sacred and meaningful. On my "must-do" list in any country I visit, is worship with a local congregation. It has always been such a HUGE blessing in the past and the choice continues to be a memorable and meaningful experience for my faith, my thoughts on worship, and my views of the world. My life has been enriched by the sights and sounds of worship from other bodies of believers around the world. Sometimes (most times) I have no idea what is being said, but the blessing doesn't alway have to come from the words. It comes from the welcoming smile on a warm and friendly face. It comes from recognizing a hymn and singing along in English. It comes from the most basic act of joining in worship with others who are strangers but brothers and sisters in Christ. Worshiping in Boboli, India was no different. The blessings were abundant. The worship was meaningful.

On Sabbath, we had the honor of joining the Sunrise Orphanage in worship. The HEARTSIGHT team was asked to participate in both their Sabbath School program and their worship service. Sabbath School was the best! So fun! I laughed and smiled until my cheeks hurt! Chris Terry and I were in charge of planning the program for the Kindergarten 2 class. Or so we thought. We were actually just on the program for the "feature talk" as it turns out. The kids sang Old McDonald as their special song, had a scripture reading, prayed and then asked us for a story. They love stories. We had planned to tell the story of David and Goliath while we had the kids act it out. It went so well! The kids had so much fun playing the parts while Chris told the most wonderful version of the story ever! Our "David" was a tiny adorable little boy. Goliath ("Go-lee-ath" is how they say it) was played by Rachel, a shy petite girl that had some trouble with Goliath's deep angry rants, but did a fantastic job trying. Adorable! We had so much fun with them...I think they had a pretty good time too!

The church was a room on the roof of the Seventh-day Adventist school in Boboli. Everyone took their shoes off at the door and entered the one-room sanctuary with a reverence that was refreshing. The boys sat on the left, the girls on the right with the little ones sitting on the rug down the center. The girls in the choir sat at the front ready to fill our hearts with the sounds of praise. There were streamers hanging from the ceiling. Hanging just perfectly in order to miss the fans who were working their hardest to tease us with the idea of being cool. Ben brought us the word with the help of a translator. The littlest guy in the front missed the point while he was fighting his personal battle against staying upright, but overall it seemed like people were listening and catching what Ben was throwing down.

The windows were broken on the outside of the church...the inside was full of brokenness too. Broken hearts of children who had lost their parents. Broken souls full of questions. Broken people who had come together to form the glue that heals only through a body of believers who understand that One can make us whole again. Love makes a cheesy as that sounds. Tyler loves to talk about love. It is one of his passions. But rightly should be each of our passions. Love of a Heavenly Father, Love of a community, Love that transcends color, or race or religion...this is the glue for our brokenness.

Worship. Worship reminds me that I am broken. Worship reminds me that I have brothers and sisters all over the world. Worship brings me to a place of awe. Awe for the One who knows my hopes and dreams and fears...the One who loves me...the One who saves me...the One created me to Love just like Him.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

in pictures...

One of the beautiful views from Bobbili Blind School (Ben is actually hiking up some of that mountain as I type). Guys, India is beautiful. You know those pictures you see of India with the misty mountains and all the green? Well, it's like that--but ten times better. I love this place!

Asian Aid sponsors a school in the slums of Vizak. The kids are SO beautiful and full of laughter. We took them to a park for the afternoon and played with them until we could barely move--exhausted, but FULL. This is Ben putting on a little show while the kids ate their food.

Tyler entertained the kids while they ate. It was a tough crowd, but he persevered and brought lots of laughter and smiles.

We received a really beautiful welcome from the kids at the Sunrise Orphanage, with another sign and everything! We did an evening program for them, attended/participated in their church service, and then took them for a Sabbath outing. It was a blast!

Nick with some of the kids from Sunrise. We each were in charge of Sabbath school. In this class Nick told the story of Noah's ark and had the kids act it out. It was hilarious and amazing all at the same time

Varma's wife fixed us authentic Indian food...twice! It was DELICIOUS! Jessi was especially excited and was pretty much in heaven the whole time.

We took the Sunrise kids to the place where they're building their new orphanage. There's a river and lots of open space where the kids can play. They're going to love it!

There is SO MUCH life in these kids. I loved it!

Varma has been our main contact on this trip, arranging things and making us feel welcome. Sometime I'll write a blog on him. But for now just know that he and his wife run the Sunrise orphanage. They all call him "daddy" and he is SO GOOD with them. I have TONS or respect for this man.

Makes your heart melt, doesn't it?

Ben having a good time with the Sunrise kids. They love him!

Well, those are just SOME captured memories of what's been going on here. I'm sure you'll see many more before we're done. You may be wondering why there aren't any pictures of the blind children we're doing the camp for yet. Valid question. This first week we've been focusing on going to the other Asian Aid sponsored programs and showing THOSE kids the time of their lives. Starting today (in an hour, actually) we'll be putting on the HEARTSIGHT camp for the remainder of our stay. There has been lots of planning and talking and planning since we got here, and we are ready (so ready) to get started. The kids here are amazing and we're stoked to start to connect with them and love on them--even more than we already have.

Keep us in your prayers though, my friends. It's going to be a big push till the end and I'm sure we'll be exhausted--but it's going to be SO worth it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the beginning of something beautiful.

I've been sitting here for awhile trying to figure out where to begin. So much has happened in the last 24 hours and it all seems to meld together into one big, beautiful highlight.

Yesterday our team was picked up by Varma, Asian Aid's program director here in India. He is a wonderful man and is our new friend. Yesterday in the car he spent a long time patiently trying to teach us how to say things like, "What is your name?" and "How old are you?" in Telugu. I'll be honest and say I'm not a natural, but I think he enjoyed teaching us just the same.

After taking us out to eat (delicious Indian food! We win!) they took us to the Seventh-day Adventist school that Asian Aid is sponsoring in the slums of Vizak. This is about the time when my heart melted--and I think it will continue to be a puddle on the floor for the duration of this visit. They were such adorable children, full of laughter and energy. We are planning to take their school on a picnic on Friday. I am so, so excited about this.

Next was a two hour drive to the Bobbili blind school--our home for the next two weeks. Upon arrival we were met with the most amazing greeting I've ever experienced. ALL the blind children were lining the driveway in two rows and there was a sign with all our names on it, welcoming us to their school. When we got out of the car we were each given a bouquet of flowers from the littlest children and warm handshakes from the staff. Then came my favorite part--meeting the children. We got to go down the rows and shake hands with each one, asking their names and telling them ours. They were so polite and precious!

The welcome that we've received here has been really amazing. The principal, Pastor Paulson, and his staff are more than willing to do whatever we need to help us, and the kids have been so warm and receptive. The children here are really incredible and I know that we're all looking forward to connecting with them more.

Anyway, I was just told that the internet was going to shut off really soon, so I better publish this. Thank you guys all for being interested in this journey--we really appreciate your continued support and prayers.


Hello, India. Nice to meet you.

[Jessi, Chris, Tara and Tyler
Gettin' ready to board our flight from Frankfurt to Hyderabad
We met Ben and Nick after this flight]

Well, we made it. Turns out that India is quite the distance from our little apartment in Seattle--over 24 hours of travel to be more accurate. Those flights were pretty long, but when you mix it with movies, Set, sleeping and music, it's not TOO bad.

Right now we're in Hyderabad and staying in this little hotel just off the airport. Nick and Ben came in a couple hours after us and are still sleeping in their little beds. We'll wake them up soon so they can eat some breakfast, and then we'll have worship before catching our flight to Vizak. From there we'll get picked up by an Asian Aid worker and visit the Slum School there in Vizak to assess what we'll need to do to take the the kids on a picnic later in the week.

I can't believe this is actually happening. I remember MONTHS ago when Jim (president of Asian Aid) and I had our first conversation about this potential opportunity. It was a conversation in passing, really. He mentioned that he'd love to do a summer camp program for the blind kids in India, and I mentioned that I had lots of friends with blind camp experience who had a heart for this kind of stuff. Nothing happened for awhile, but then a couple months after that plans started to happen, the team was made, and tickets were bought. Crazy.

Nick just came out. I haven't seen him since we parted ways in Seattle, but here we are on the other side of the world, embracing and talking animatedly about our traveling experiences. Apparently the Emirates flight was the bomb dot com. Good. I'm glad they had a good time.

Anyway, we're all up now so I'm going to go. It's going to be the first time the whole team is together. I love these guys and feel so blessed to be experiencing this with them. We are going to have a good time. A good, good time.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

self-less. love-more.

In our worship tonight Tyler talked about God's love and how we have the opportunity to live that out and in to these precious children. He also talked about what it's going to mean to love each other during these two weeks--because Lord knows there will be times when we don't feel like it. And as we talked about it more we decided that what we really want, what we really need, is to forget self. We are selfish, prideful beings--but if we could just dig out of that and understand that our mission here is to love and love big--we could really do something extraordinary. So through that conversation our theme for these two weeks has become "self-LESS. love-MORE". I'll be honest and say that I've already used it to calm my pride once tonight--I'm sure I'll think it many more times before this trip is done.

Speaking of the trip, it's really about to start. We fly out at 6am this morning and are leaving for the airport in about ten minutes. Well, Jessi, Chris, Tyler and I are flying out. Nick has a later flight and meets Ben in San Francisco to travel with him the rest of the way. All of our stuff is packed, weighed, and ready to get loaded in the car. We're hoping customs doesn't raise too many eyebrows at the bags of pipe-cleaner, feathers, mini percussion instruments, glue, etc. that we've packed for two weeks of fun with these kids.

Anyway, people are starting to move out there so I better go. Keep us in your prayers if you think about it... and we'll be updating this as often as we can.

It's India time my friends!