Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Yes, that is what the Indian population call it! And for good reason. Today, we traveled to a place that gives houseboat tours. We actually had this all lined up and reserved for Tuesday. The problem with going Tuesday was the statewide transportation strike. So on our way we prayed that God would make a way for us to enjoy this particular touristy attraction. We had heard so many people who recommended this to us. Our bus driver told us that they were booked for the day and no boats were available. I was blissfully unaware that there might be a potential problem with getting a boat. I also had no idea of what to expect once we arrived. It turned out that our bus driver had connections with this industry. And he worked those connections for us to get a two bedroom houseboat for four hours. All I can say is WOW! It was the most fantastic day that we have had since our journey began. Words can't describe the beauty. They just can't! I won't even attempt it because it would be such a pitiful disgrace to what we saw and the relaxation we felt. The only thing that could have made the day better would have been the absence of kids. They just can't appreciate peaceful surroundings for four hours. But I could see coming back and booking that trip for a couple of days! That would be great fun.
So, that is it. That's all we did today, and it was glorious. One nice thing that was truly unexpected – Papa bought us a houseboat made out of rosewood as a souvenir to remember our day. That was so nice. It will be proudly displayed in our home as a fond remembrance of the best day in India – so far!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
And so we begin. The worship is segregated. Men on one side and women on the other. Women cover their heads here. For the whole service! Blessy did prepare me for this. As the music began, my thoughts drifted to Woodside Bible. Not because they were anything alike. Mostly I was doing a mental comparison. And the song that kept filling my head was, “I'm coming back to the heart of worship.” There was one man on the bongos and another with a tambourine. This made up the whole of the band. There was no bass, electric or acoustic guitars. There was no piano accompaniment. There was no pre-service practice or warm up. But the people sang! They raised their voice and they raised their hands to offer their worship in their tongue. And I kept thinking that sometimes, it is necessary to strip it all away and simply come. At one point the power went out. At WBC this would have been a nightmare logistically. But these people where totally unfazed by it. I on the other hand felt like going to my knees and beg God to restore the power. It was hot and the only thing propping me up was the 12 ceiling fans on high. They don't run without power. It eventually did come back after a half hour or so. But again, no one seem fazed by it.
Another contrast was the length of service. We started our worship service at 10am. Things wrapped up about 1:30pm. Yup! You read that right. Wowzer. My children will never complain of being bored in a WBC service again! Not that they regularly complain, but now they have a whole new appreciation for a one hour worship service. Ed and Abe both gave great messages. Blessy and I both shared a few minutes as well. What is funny is Blessy and I had not spoke about what we were going to say and in essence, we shared a very similar word. When we first arrived, there was a Bible conference at the church. And I remembered looking up and seeing all the lights on in the church. The church is positioned on the top of a high ground. So I immediately began thinking that it would be appropriate to remind them of being light to a dark world in desperate need of Jesus. Blessy shared the same verse. May God put that verse into action in these people!
Just before church let out it began to pour. And I mean pour. Throw in some thunder and lightning too. The thing is – I knew it was going to pour the night before. There was a ring around the moon. I was taught in Brazil that a ring around the moon brings rain in the noon. Sure enough. The other thing is I prayed that God would restore the water in Papa and Mommie's well, since we were using up so much with 10 extra people showering and laundering. I told this to Papa and he laughed! The other blessing that the rain brought was people milled about after church to talk with us but mostly Blessy since this was her home church. I guess when church lets out here – it is a ghost town within 5 minutes. Another major contrast between WBC and here. Guess we brought a little WBC with us! As is the Roden and Philip way – we finally left the building about a half hour after church let out. We walked to the pastor's house for a very nice lunch. I could really dig living that close to church. We walked up a flight a steps to get to church. About 20 steps to the pastor's house then reversed to get home. Forget something – no biggie, just run home and grab it. Be back in one minute. That would be cool. But alas, tis not my fortune. I must drive 10 minutes in orange barrel land. So note to self, don't forget anything!
The rest of the day for me was restful. I am having a real hard time with water retention. I am trying to drink plenty, but the change in diet along with the heat is causing some real hardship. The rest of the day I spent with my legs elevated. I should drop about 10 pounds of water when I get home. My biggest fear is that my ankles will look like raisins. Fun Times!
To my church family who is at this minute worshiping, I love you so much. I am praying for you and can't wait to worship again with you all.
The theme park was small by American standards, but was full of adventure and just the right size for the kids. Being so fair, I spent a large part of my time finding the shady spots. I really hate sunburns. I was left for awhile with a sleeping Jonathon. This was actually fun. I sat on a bench with a sleeping baby in a stroller next to me. Oh the looks I got. I even had one man come up and asked if he was my child. I laughed and laughed. Apparently he missed that week in Biology class. I was able to explain in sign language that his parents where on the nearby ride. I had fun watching people watch me. I was wearing sunglasses so they were none the wiser that I was watching them. They would look, then do the double take. Then they would pass by and get several steps away before they looked back. Apparently I am the amusement. But the kids were a treasure. Two of the girls just came right up to me and started asking questions. They wanted to know all about us, and their English was very good. When Rachel came back she caught a tiny tiny toad. It was probably the size of of the tip of the pinky. These little Indian girls were absolutely mesmerized by it all. It was the sweetest thing. In all I had about 35 people stop by and as I like to say, “work on their Inglish.” But the highlight of all – was when a group of school girls around the age of 15 asked to have my picture taken with them. There were probably a dozen of them. Blessy explained that they were probably from a remote village and I may have been the first white person they had ever seen. I hope I left I good impression. I smiled and laughed, but my children laughed harder. Josh said he was so lucky to have a “famous” mom. I will remind him of that.
I have found that the Indians we have encountered are very curious but for the most part shy. But the few who are more brave are very sweet. Today was no exception. I have fallen in love with the people here. I will definitely treasure all these sweet memories. My only regret is that I didn't get a picture of me with the school girls.
To Jerry Hines and Steve Zarilli - thank you so much for taking our kids to Cedar Point. I will not tire of writing that particular check to you.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Today, I want to share a story that I was told on Tuesday. I saved it for today for a very special reason. It was like a gift given to me. No, I didn't open it, but yet it was so special that I will treasure it for years to come.
Blessy's mom hired extra help for our visit. After all, feeding twelve for breakfast, lunch and dinner is a far cry from feeding two. The maid that she hired was a Hindu. Immediately upon entering this house, she could tell it was not a Hindu home. There are no gods or idols set up here. The maid told Mama that she had been having these dreams about someone named Jesus. Mama took the time to explain to her about Jesus and Christianity. Right here in this house the hired maid became a Christian. Now I am sure that if God was drawing this woman to Himself through dreams that He would have used someone to tell her about Jesus. But He just so happened to use our visit as the catalyst for this conversation and conversion to take place. I can't even tell you the magnitude of how that hit me. It was a gift. A gift to me from my Heavenly Father – that said, “I needed you to be here at this time so I could show this woman what Christmas and ultimately Easter are all about.” All the homesickness in the world can not take away the joy of salvation. I shall treasure this memory and pray diligently for this woman to find a church home and someone to show her the Bible and teach her of a rich life in Christ. The gift that keeps on giving!
May you also have Christmas that is filled with the love of Christ. And may you experience Immanuel – God With US!
With Love, from Vettiyar, Kerala India
Again – another leisurely morning. Today, we went to visit another Aunt and Uncle. This Uncle is in charge of a Bible school here in Kerala. We listened to his frustrations with the school as well as successes. While we were there another cousin came for lunch. Commander Matthew is retired from the Navy here in India. He now coordinates several church plants in Northern India. He showed us a powerpoint presentation that showed just how lost this country is. I would love to give you all the stats that he showed us, but I am sure I will confuse all the numbers. He gave us a copy of the powerpoint so we could take it home and really look it all over. I know this – it is a place very desolate of Christ. But oh how that makes just a little light really shine. As we were flying over Iraq on our way to Bangalore, there were long stretches that I saw no lights on the ground at all. Then I would look down and see what looked to be one lone light amongst a vast area of darkness. I pray that soon, there would be light all over this country through the work of Commander Matthew and Dr. Mano Daniel.
After our meal we took our pictures, prayed for the ministries and headed out. We took a little detour on our way home. We were very close to the seashore so we had the driver of our bus take us there. It was fun to sea the Arabian Sea basked in the sunlight. It isn't exactly the picture of sugar sand beaches that Florida is, but it was fun. I stayed back in the bus. I hadn't used any sunscreen and it would just be a matter of 5 minutes before I was a crispy crab. Getting some Vitamin D and overdosing are 2 very different things! I prefer the just enough method.
After dinner the pangs of homesickness started to kick in. I can't remember ever missing church on Christmas Eve. I am sure I have due to sick kids or something, but nothing that sticks in my head. It is so strange that there is no mention of Christmas. It is truly just another day. Chuck Swindoll's devotional the other day (Dec 22) helped to make me see how Jesus birth was just another one, not really spectacular. And how each day – rebirth is happening all around yet no one stops to take time to see it. My prayer is that this land will truly experience the gift of Christmas – Salvation.
So last night was a roughy for Abe and Blessy. Gracelyn was sick most of the night. We aren't quite sure what she ate that didn't sit, but so far, she is the only one who is having this symptom. Hoping that it stays this way.
So this was the day that we were meeting Blessy's grandfather but more fondly called up-pa-chin. He is 82 years young. He is a master story teller and we were able to hear only a few of them. He just gave up driving two years ago. He has been driving for ages and has never got in an accident. That is truly remarkable in this country. He was a high school teacher teaching English. So we were able to communicate flawlessly with him. We also got the four generation picture with Blessy's mom, Blessy and the children. It turned out wonderfully. (correction note: Meeting grandpa happened on Monday- my days are blurring together.)
A bit later we left the kids at home with Josh and Hannah being the nannys while we went out on the town. Okay, so it really wasn't all that, but a refreshing break anyway. We were able to get several pictures developed for the grandparents. Interesting tidbit – Ed put the pictures on a USB drive and handed it to the developer dude. He processed it and handed the key back to Ed. When we got home, Ed loaded the USB drive and was very thankful for Antivirus protection. The developer's computer was loaded with viruses that promptly loaded them on Ed's memory stick. Ed just wiped it clean, but still. WOW. While we were in town we were able to observe a strike. Angry people gathered in the streets demanding more money. This is when we learned an interesting Kerala factoid. Kerala is a communist city state. Back in the 50's the Chinese Maoists moved into the territory. They quickly established the government here. The land is very fertile. The most fertile in the country. But that requires a lot of labor to harvest the rice paddies and tea plantation and all the other crops. The people are constantly demanding more and more and so they strike. In the process they cripple the towns. We have been notified that next Tuesday is a transportation strike statewide. No public transport of any kind will be allowed on the streets. Even if you own your car – you will not be able to drive it. Everything comes to a halt. The danger of this was shown in a local paper yesterday. A similar strike happened a few days ago only it wasn't state wide. A boy was being taken to a hospital by rickshaw because he was very sick. The rickshaw was stopped at a town square and the air was let out of the tires and not allowed to pass. Ah! Communism! What the locals haven't realized is that if you demand too much from the rich – they just move on. Take a look at Russia. This is the only city state that has not exploded from high tech jobs. No industry wants to move here. And why would they? To have to deal with repeated strikes and people unable to get to work. I wouldn't start a business here. But changing the mindset that is very established is hard to do. So that is the Kerala history lesson of the day!
Our evening ended quietly as most evenings do. We gather in the living room and sing hymns and praise songs then take turns reading the Bible and pray. I do love that.
This morning we got up early. We had to get an early start for a trip down through Kerala and to the Southern most tip of India. Why? Because that is where 3 major bodies of water all gather in one spot. It is on this spot that you can see the sun rise in the east and stay all day to see the sunset in the west. To the east you have the Arabian Sea. To the west you have the Bay of Bengal and to the South you have the Indian Ocean. Three unique tides that converge at the same location. No where else in the world does this occur.
Our bus driver told us that it would take about 5 hours to get there. But we planned to make a few stops on the way. First stop was Thirvandrum. This is the capital of Kerala. This is where Blessy's Aunt and Uncle live. She fed us lunch, and we washed up and and used western toilets! One great thing about this Auntie's house was screens for all the windows. This was the first place I had seen that! That is the one thing missing at our place. It would be so nice to throw open the windows at night and let the cool air in. One problem – you will let in every mozzie and other creepie crawlie in as well. So we suffer in the heat with our ceiling fan on high.
After this stop we stopped by Abe's Aunt's house. Abe's uncle passed away the week before we arrived here in Kerala. Abe and Blessy wanted to give their condolences. This was a super quick stop with Ed and I staying in the bus with all the kiddos. One problem – It was hot on that bus, no air conditioning. So without the bus moving, we were dying. Thankfully it was a 10 minute stop.
Once the visiting concluded we began our journey on farther south. By my estimation we had traveled an hour and a half to reach Thirvandrum. So we should have had another three and a half to four hours to go. Ha, ha, ha! By the time we reached our destination it was a total of 9 hours. Granted we still had to drive back. Oh this was not good. It was closing in on dinner time. We stopped at the Cape and walked by foot down to the seaside. Everything I had every heard about life in India came true here. Watch your step – fecal matter and urine everywhere. The smell was like an outhouse and a dump at the same time. Because that is what it was! There were people everywhere. They were preparing for a big Hindu festival. Of course we are the only white people. So we were approached by many beggars for money. There were booths of trinkets for sale everywhere. Sadly, it was an overcast afternoon and there would be no sunset for us. My first inclination was this place is very dark. Not as in amount of daylight but spiritually oppressive. When we arrived, I was ready to leave. Thankfully, that is pretty much how it all went down. We were there for about one hour. What can I say? Got the photo! Got the Conch shell! Will get the question right on “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader!”
We loaded up the bus and started looking for a restaurant. Our driver knew of just the place – oh great! I didn't trust this driver any more. Oh, how I longed for Bola and Boscar. These were are drivers in Chennai. They were the best. To give you an idea of how bad it was – rickshaws were passing us on the street. So we waited while he maneauvered us to our dinner stop. Of course we asked for a place with Western toilets. I don't think he quite understood. We didn't mean West India toilets. So once again I found myself holding it! And holding it and holding it and holding it! I am so glad God gave me and my girls elephant bladders. I wasn't even in the mood for eating. I think all the jostling in the bus and smells of the day had pretty much taken away any appetite I had for food. Our quick stop ended and we were winding our way north for what seemed like an eternity. The good news – there were no roaches on the bus. For I don't think I could of handled another 15 hours of transportation with roaches. I have that to look forward to next Wednesday. One other nice thing we did on this trip – Ed and I started listening to Mark Driscoll's series on Song of Soloman. We have two messages down. Many more to go. So far it is very entertaining and thought provoking.
Our day began at 6:30am. We finally arrived back to Papa's place at 1:30am. Whew – long day.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday was just an assimilation day. I spent a lot of time in prayer. My devotional had an interesting statement. “God wants to give you the tools to live successfully or leave successfully (ie a situation that you shouldn't be in).” To be honest – I wanted part B but would be happy to have a part A. One thing I knew, I was not currently living successfully. I was merely coping. So I began to pray for God to show me how to live successfully in this new reality. Funny thing, He reminded me that I packed Burt's Bees insect repellent. I started using it. Seems to be working. I also used it in the bathroom by the window. We had no mozzies in the bathroom after that. So slowly but surely it is getting better. I am still homesick though. Reading everyone's Facebook status on making Christmas cookies, wrapping presents, decorating and the like, makes the reality of missing Christmas that much greater. Good news – I have successfully learned how to eat everything with just my right hand. No utensils required. Sad news – Rachel just can't eat with her right hand. She is a lefty and that is that. So she may offend some, but I will not even try to force the situation. We are Americans and we use toilet paper and we wash our hands. That is our reality.
After touring the Basilica we traveled the road that goes along the beach. Chennai is home to the second longest Beach in the world right off the Bay of Bengal. We saw all the fishermen's boats and nets. And right off the sidewalk is where you go early in the morning to buy the fish that was just caught. By the time we arrived, it would have been a good time to pass on the fish. It was already hot outside and the fish had been sitting for quite awhile. Yes, you can imagine the odor.
Driving along – we arrived at the Mylapore Temple. This is one of the oldest Hindu temples in India. The whole area is full of different Temples to any number of the 2 million gods that they need to please. It was something. But I am glad we just drove by. After this we went to a couple stores. Blessy and I headed to a Children's clothing store to find churidars for the little girls. No such luck. Ed and Abe headed to the Christian bookstore. The good news – Blessy and I had all the money. So any purchases had to go through us. We met up with them and found that they only had a handful of books. Relief! I kept reminding Ed that we only had limited poundage for our luggage.
This pretty much concluded our tour of Chennai. We made our way back to our hotel to pack up our bags to make our 8pm train to Kerala.
Friday, December 18, 2009
After our tour it was ceremony time. How wonderful to meet all these eager Bible students. They hunger and thirst for knowledge of the Word. Ed and Abe passed out all the certificates to the students and we were able to meet them and congratulate them as well. After this was picture time. Then the women and children were whisked away to change clothes for our journey.
We set out about 1pm for our trip south to Pondicherry. This is the location of the orphanage that Woodside Bible has adopted. But first, we stopped at a crocodile farm. Never before have I seen so, so many crocodiles in one place. I think over 1000 of them. Kind of creepy actually. If that wasn't enough, they also have snakes that they pull the venom out of to make an antidote for snake bites. Yes, I was within 10 feet of two King Cobras and some other more more venomous snakes. The snake handler said, “If you want to meet your Maker in 4 hours, have the King Cobra bite you. If you want to meet your Maker in one hour, have this little black, slithering creature bit you. Okay, well that was enough of that adventure. Time to move on....
Our next stop was the Blue Elephant Restaurant in the very touristy town of Mamallapuram. Since this is on the coast they specialize in seafood. Hmmm, not exactly my favorite. So they bring out the freshly caught fish on a platter and you choose what you would like cooked for you. Ugh...really? Nasty! I chose a very boring egg fried rice. Yup – very similar to what you would get at your local Chinese restaurant. Sheila joined me in abstaining from the fish foray. For the rest of the adults and Josh, well you would have thought they died and went to heaven. They enjoyed their meal to the full or should I say fill?
After dinner we drove by very ancient temples. They date back to about 900 AD. It really was a quite a site. I would have enjoyed getting out and exploring it a bit more, but our time was very short. So we were content with watching through the windows with an occasional stop for pictures. Then something very strange occurred. A funeral procession right down the middle of the street right past our cars. What was odd – the body was lying on what looked like a decorated float and carried through the streets. I would have thought that it was a parade. But then I saw the body. After the body passed all the shop owners sprayed down the front of the sidewalks as a cleansing ritual. Talk about out of the everyday norm – wow! That was simply, downright bizarre.
Okay - moving on south on the East Coast Highway we finally arrived to our destination – the Bible Tract League Rehabilitation Center. This place was built in the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated this area. Many in the area were fishermen by trade, but after the catastrophe, they deemed that trade unsafe and wanted to be trained in something different. So this place was built to teach sewing and computers and other trades. It now houses a church in the lower level. One year from now it will be home to about 20 orphans. Our church's first team is heading out in February to work on this building and convert it to an orphanage. Things that need to be done include finishing a barrier wall and building up the land around it. Most of the land is currently under the water table. The second floor needs to be partitioned into boy's quarters, girl's quarters, common areas. Also, a dining room needs to be constructed and more toilets. While there we prayed over the building and I felt as if on sacred ground. I absolutely can't wait to hear of the stories that this place will have in impacting lives for eternity.
We finished up here and moved north to an established orphanage. Here we met children that were lovingly cared for by amazing people. There was a 3 year old by the name of Christopher that was abandoned by his parents. This orphanage took him in. Oh, if only I could bring him home and raise him as my own. What a precious child! The kids sang for us, and recited scripture they had memorized. Josh did some juggling tricks for them with a J316 ball then explained the significance of the ball. He then presented two of the balls to the caretaker for the children's enjoyment. Three boys pounced on the balls and were so excited. Josh's charge to them is that when he comes back, he wants those boys to be better at juggling than him. One boy enthusiastically took the challenge.
It has been an amazing day. It has been full of wonderment and fascinating sites as well as a joyous hope for the future.
I feel as though I need to interject something about driving here. You know how we enjoy a dotted or solid yellow line that tells you which side of the road to stay on? Well here, that line is merely a suggestion and many times today I found myself staring at oncoming traffic thinking, this is it – I will surely die now. Then the masterful hands of the driver would wiggle us in next to a bus, back on our side of the road. Wow! Talk about a faith drive. Yes, I will admit that I covered my eyes more than once. I was, after all, riding shotgun in the front seat. And yes, they drive on the wrong side of the road here, but driving is complete anarchy so just honk your way through. You will get there. I joked that I should take the wheel. I would just lay on the horn and not stop till we got back to our hotel. Well, I decided that was a for sure death sentence so I stayed put.
I can't believe it is Friday and we leave this place tomorrow. I will miss it. I am wonderfully blessed by my visit here.
We began the morning with our devotion time and prayer with the staff and a couple of the pastor's wives. Then we broke that session for tea time. They are very strict about tea time here! Nothing stops it. But, blessed be the name of the Lord – Mano loves black, brewed coffee. When I heard they were making him a cup, I asked if I might have spot of it. Oh glorious, glorious day! It was so delicious. The ladies were all laughing at the expression on my face. I have no idea what it looked like, but I am sure it was probably like the expression of biting into a most heavenly dessert or something like that. What a nice treat.
After tea (coffee) time we found more women made their way to our meeting spot. One woman traveled 200km to be with us. I found the women to be hungry for the Word. They have no idea how much that was a ministry to me. After a brief devotional, I wanted to know more about the women and how to pray effectively for them. What transpired next blew me away. The first woman got up and introduced herself. Then she began to share her testimony. She was so hated by her mother-in-law. (Let me stop here and interject that when a woman is arranged in marriage, after the ceremony she goes to live in her in-laws home. Many times they are treated very poorly.) She had her first baby and at three months old he developed an ear infection. Her mother-in-law took him to the Hospital and they told her to put drops in his ears. The mother-in-law proceeded to the pharmacy where she bought sleeping pills. In the end, she basically drugged the baby to it's death. The heartbreak in this woman's story wrenched at me. I wanted to leave the room and sob for the pain this woman had endured. Then she told of how she came to Christ. About how He revealed Himself to her in a dream and she woke up and went out seeking the village pastor's wife. She converted that day. Her husband also converted and now they are both in ministry. This was story number one.
One by one each of these women shared stories of immense loss, sorrow and abuse. And yet, each one all shared about the victory of converting to a walk with Jesus. Each and every one of them asked prayer for their children. They pray fervently that the children would follow Christ and serve Him. Again, I am humbled by the intensity of this desire. For that is the prayer for my own children. Every single one of them asked that their ministries would expand and more people would learn to follow Christ. Oh, that it would be my prayer every day as well. We closed our time together, and I came back to the hotel room completely shell shocked. I was equal parts encouraged and saddened by all I heard. In the end I found myself praying prayers of gratitude that I was born into a loving, Christian home, in a country that offers much more opportunity for growth in the Word. At the same time praying that I would not be allowed to become stagnant in my faith even if that meant being pushed into my panic zone.
A few hours later we were picked up by our driver and taken to Mano and Sheila's house for dinner. She made us an incredible dinner of fish curry, chicken, shrimp and the whole works. We enjoyed laughing and eating together, we also enjoyed some time spent in prayer together asking God that He would continue to bless the ministry in Chennai. The girls also enjoyed their time playing with Rathini. Then came the witching hour for little ones and we had to be off for the night. When we got back at the hotel, Rachel had a major meltdown. But I will save that story for another time. Let's just say it was all over a toothbrush! Good grief – Good night.
*A quick shout out to my faithful prayer warriors, I love you and thank you, thank you, thank you for you prayers for this day.
So we woke up with the men and went down and had breakfast with them. Got to be honest here – having curry first thing in the morning is starting to wain in its appeal to me. So this morning I stuck with toast and jam. I know – so boring. One other thing that is wearing is the lack of decent coffee. All coffee is served with milk. Well, when you pour it – literally chunks come out of the pot. It is the skin of the milk – think pudding. I just can't stomach it. I like it black! Blessy promises me that her mom will make me black coffee when we get to Kerala. I told her to plan on making a whole pot for me.
After breakfast – Sheila came by to pick us up for an afternoon of shopping and lunch. We started our adventure at an artisan market. We picked up little homemade trinkets as souvenirs. Then we headed over to Spencer's mall. This is a mall that would be considered high end. You can get just about any name brand shoe, purse, clothing that you want here. Fun, but a bit on the expensive side. After this the kids were getting a bit restless so we went to lunch. Authentic South Indian vegetarian cuisine was on tap. Sheila ordered a sampler platter for Blessy and I. I successfully ate without utensils except for the rice. I can't seem to get the hang of that. Maybe with a little more practice. After lunch was one more stop – Shopping for Churidars. This is the traditional Indian dress. Very fun, however, the little ones were all shopped out. They were ready to go back to the hotel. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Sheila and Mano's daughter got the day off school. So Rathini, a very sweet 10 year old, also joined us for our shopping adventures. She loved on the little ones, and they fell in love with her.
After we were done, we were dropped off at the hotel and pretty much crashed. By the time Ed and Abe got back from teaching I was almost asleep for the night. I told Ed to wake me at 6am. Then went to sleep without dinner, for sleep was far more important.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Choosing today as the day of rest was good. It poured outside today. We are told that it doesn't rain this heavy at this time of year. In fact it doesn't rain this heavy for the long duration hardly ever here. Parts of the city had to be evacuated it was so intense.
Around 8pm the guys showed up with a light dinner. This works out nicely as we really don't want to eat heavy dinners just before bed. However, we have learned that 8pm for dinner is early here. They normally eat at 9:30 or later. Then they head right to bed. Again, another great eating habit – NOT! The guys were tired after a long day of teaching and we were exhausted from a long day of rest:) So off to bed.
*An Indian Christmas funny: I had this thought last night. You know how It's A Wonderful Life says every time a bell rings an angel gets it's wings. Well, if you applied this principle of every time a horn honks, an angel gets it's wings – There would literally be millions of angels getting wings every second. It's loud here. I thought Ecuador was loud – Nope. Hands down this place is MUCH, MUCH louder.
Good night all!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Once we arrived, we hauled our luggage off the bus and into the waiting porter's buggy. That is when we realized that Abe and Blessy had left one of their bags behind. The one with all their meds and supplements. A quick call to Blessy's brother Benji, and they where on their way to our first train stop for an intercept. It worked! Barely.
Next up was the train ride. Our idea of first class and their idea of first class = way different. But it was comfortable enough and I did manage to catch a few Zzzzz's on the ride. It was hard not to just peer at the countryside though. At one point I looked out and saw a hill of rock formations. Most of the rocks were rounded and were at least 10 feet in circumference. The ones lower to the ground had sayings on them. Sayings like, “Jesus Saves, and John 3:16.” This along with others that depicted Jesus life on earth in picture form. The verse that popped into my head was – If you do not worship me, even the rocks will cry out and praise me. (Esther translation.) What a beautiful picture of that verse that is burned in my head.
Other train notables. There are constantly vendors going back and forth selling everything you could possibly want. Lay's Potato Chips, Masala Dosa, Water bottles, Tea, Chai and many more. We didn't partake, since we were not sure how the food was prepared or if the water was clean. But interesting nonetheless. The guy sitting next to Ed and I ordered a plate of Masala Dosa. Once he finished we were curious as to where he was going to put his plate. He walked up to the door of the train and threw it right outside. Hmmmm – no wonder this country is so dirty. And I don't even want to know if he washed his hands. On to Bathrooms. Yes, they have them. Not funky seats either. But flush and watch it go right on down to the train tracks. Oh My – YUCK! And we watched numerous people walking said tracks. Just Gross!
Arriving in Chennai was also fun. The first thing that assails your senses is the smell. Think outhouse. The next thing that hits you is heat. It is hot here. Not nearly as hot as June and July, but still between 85 and 90. I guess in the summer – the heat is so intense it takes your breath away. Around 110-120. And believe me, you are not going to jump in a local lake or water hole. I just won't even go there for you.
We checked into our hotel. It is really, really nice. But costly by Indian standards. Our snack lunch was around $30USD. For a snack? We went out and bought vegetable and egg pastry puffs for dinner. Enough to feed all 10 of us for 125 rupees (roughly $2.50) and this filled us up. Go figure. Bottled water in the hotel is 60 rupees ($1.20) for 1 liter. While Aquafina at the local grocery was 196 rupees ($4) for 9 two liter bottles. Needless to say – the grocery store wins.
We met with Sheila for awhile this afternoon just planning out our upcoming week. For now – I will tell you that tomorrow is a rest day and for sure shopping is on tap. That is all I am going to say for now. We have a great week in store. Pray that God will use us in a mighty way to show the love of Christ to others.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Time to go to bed. Five am will arrive early! Our train departs at 8:30 tomorrow morning for Chennai. So the question is- why am I up at 3:30am typing this thing? Seriously? Ugh! Sleep on the train? Sleep optional? Hopefully this week we can get on track. Looking forward to connecting with Mano and Sheila!
If I were comparing Emirates Mall and Dubai Mall, I would say that Dubai Mall was similar to Somerset and Emirates Mall was like Lakeside. Inside this mall was the famous indoor ski slope. And for $50 you could ride down what looked more like the bunny run for 2 whole hours. What was fun about this mall was all the Christmas decorations and holiday music. I felt transported back home in an instant. We even saw carolers singing at a local restaurant. To hear the sound of O Holy Night stopped me dead in my tracks. Are we in an Muslim country? Surely they are not allowed to sing this song. When they got to the part “when Christ was born” they substituted child. But still I was reminded that even Jesus is in this place whether they want Him to be or not. One piece of architecture also reminded me of this fact. There is a hotel on the beach that looks like a sailboat. Only at the top where the two sails converge there is also an antenna. So from the water it looks just like a cross. Seeing it, you might think it a church.
After our time at the mall we needed to get home. The assistant pastor of the church that Ed spoke at was taking all of us out to lunch. Well, it was 3pm so we will call it “Linner.” Again Arabic. I swear I could live on this and nothing but this. Today's meal was more the fast food version of last night's fine dining. But you know – I think I liked it better! The atmosphere was less formal and seemed more relaxed. This could all be my perspective of having ample amount of sleep though. On our way out Josh was explaining the J316 ball to the assistant pastor and his family. Our waiter was very curious and stepped over to hear Josh explain all the colors on the ball and what they stood for. Seed planting!
After our meal we headed home to pack up all our gear. Our flight to BLR was scheduled for 9:30pm. Because of the rain we needed to head out a little earlier. Rain here means flooding. And it doesn't take much. They have no drainage on the roads. Why waste the money when sand will just fill it the 350 days of the year it doesn't rain? Again loading up all our gear was such an undertaking. We brought a lot of stuff. But how do you pack for being a month away from home? Once at the airport we breezed through security and went to the rather long line for KingFisher Airlines. We knew this would be awhile so we plopped the girls down in the chairs while the men waited for our turn. It was at this point our angel in red swooped in to save us. She saw our family and opened up a new counter to process all of us at once. There was a slight problem with Jonathon's ticket – which our angel in red promptly called and sorted out. And just like that, all our luggage was checked and our boarding passes were in hand. There was no doubt that God had a hand in smoothing our path. While waiting for the boarding gate to open I had my first cup of brewed coffee! Oh, my goodness. It tasted like a little bit of heaven. Seriously! For the woman who starts her day with a gallon of the stuff, I don't think I have even had half a gallon the entire trip so far. The other thing that we noticed in the airport was the gold kiosks! Oh yes, I shall return.
We boarded our plane and enjoyed fantastic service from this airline. US airlines have so much to learn. Seriously! My cup of coffee was well and truly in my blood stream so sleep was non-existent. That gave me time to catch up on journaling and other things. We were told that this flight was 5 hours. But the reality was 2 hours and 47 minutes. SWEETNESS! The flight was half full so Ed and Josh enjoyed 3 seats for the two of them. All in all – it was great. Then landing. I kind of had a wave of fear wash over me. I don't know why. I was concerned for our health and safety and had no idea what to expect. Then I just had to take time to remind myself how faithful God had been in leading us to all of this and know that He will continue. We disembarked and went through all the security checkpoints. Then we got our luggage and knew that customs came next. With our 4 carts piled high with suitcases, the customs agent waved us through the doors. Abe turned around and said, “Folks, that was customs and we are now done!” Are you kidding me? We heard some pretty bad stories about customs in India and Dubai for that matter. Once again – God nudged me and said, “See? I got your back!” Okay I admit to having a thick skull. Sometimes a 2x4 is more appropriate. But I did see. God is GREAT!
Before the Dubai Mall – we went to a store that reminded me of Meijer or Super Walmart. The lower level was groceries, while upstairs you had everything else. Manoj spoiled our kids rotten. Hannah chose a Churidar (Indian dress) as well as a watch. Rachel also received a watch. And Josh got a Cricket bat and ball. Great, another sport for him to master.
After our shopping expeditions we headed back to Manoj and Nancy's apartment for a late lunch and to prepare for evening church. They do church on Friday in Dubai. It is like our Saturday. So this was Ed and Abe's first preaching adventure. I stayed back at the apartment for nursery duties. Church is a bit different here. Common is a 2.5 – 3 hour church service. Wow! After church the Sr. Pastor took us out to a very nice Arabic restaurant. The only problem – I was so terribly tired from my early morning. By the time they arrived back at the apartment to pick us up it was already 9:30pm. Needless to say - I wasn't in the mood for being social or eating. I really wanted bedtime. All the way to the restaurant I prayed about my attitude. After all – this was an expensive evening they were treating us to. The dinner was really fantastic. I love Arabic Food and so does the whole family. This is good because we have had a lot of it.
While I was taking care of the kids, I had some time to do devotions. While I was at it I listed some things that I really like and things that I miss.
Things I like:
1.Food, Food, Food ( Masala Dosa, Idli, Chicken Fried Rice, Lentil pudding)
2.Groceries delivered to your door! Need a gallon of milk? Just ring the grocer and they bring it to your flat. Yee and Haw! I could dig that.
3.Watching Joshua and Jonathon interact. Josh is the big brother of the whole group. But Jonathon doesn't believe it. He runs to Josh with exuberance any time and doesn't want to share him. It is so sweet.
Things I miss:
3.Alone Time – guess I do need some. Who knew?
4.Brewed Coffee. Although the instant isn't bad.
5.Hot shower (All I have had is cold and at best lukewarm)
6.Warmth (It is chilly and rainy here. They only see rain about 10 days out of the year. And it has rained the past two days. What? Oh for the love! Better than snow or cold though. I would be woefully unprepared for that.)
Here is to a better night's sleep tonight!
Over all, we have found the people friendly. Once again the hospitality by Manoj and Nancy overwhelm me. We found out this evening that people from their church have been calling all day making sure we got in okay as they had been praying for us. The body of Christ is amazing. Tomorrow – I have been told that we are going shopping. I hope they aren't teasing me. Ed and Abe will be speaking at the church here. Then fun times afterward. But I will save all that for tomorrow.
My prayer for our journey. Well, He most certainly was ever before us. Let me recount how - All our baggage was under the dreaded 50 pound marker. Our flight from Detroit to Atlanta was a real rocky one. Being a nervous flyer already, I just kept praying that God would somehow make a way for us to sit together on the next flight. As soon as the gate agents arrived in Atlanta they were able to get all of us in row 30 (the one behind the bulkhead) and also row 37 and 38. The only one who was seated alone was Hannah. So we prayed again and one man was willing to give up his window seat to take a dreaded middle seat for 14 hours. (Probably because he took one good look at Jonathon squealing away in Ed's lap and took that into consideration.)
Next hardship – baggage. We arrived to the baggage claim and retrieved all our luggage. One missing. Joshua's suitcase wasn't there. I thought the poor boy was going to cry like a baby. So we just sat and prayed while Abe and Ed went to file a claim. Already exhausted, the last thing we wanted to worry about was whether or not we would have to go back to the airport in the morning. After filing the claim, we went back to the baggage belt just to be sure that maybe someone realized they grabbed the wrong one, and sure enough, there was Joshua's suitcase. Oh, the relief that washed over all of us! Next up, customs. They ran our suitcases through their machine and the dude that was suppose to be checking them out wasn't even paying attention to the screen. Another woman had his attention on something else. Once again, ever before us, our way was paved. We quickly met up with Manoj, Blessy's brother-in-law. He took care of everything from there. We loaded our 14 suitcases, 7 carry-ons and 9 backpacks. Whew! It was a LOT of stuff. But we had it all! We were dropped off at our apartment, freshened up, then walked over to meet Nancy (Blessy's sister.) They are truly beautiful people. But what else did you expect? They are related to our sweet Blessy. After a true Middle Eastern dinner – it was time for us to crash. And we certainly did just that.
Our children have been troopers. They have experienced some disappointments and handled themselves well. Hannah left her Zune on the plane. So that is gone. I knew it would be something! But it is all minor all things considered.
Up next touring Dubai and AbuDhabi. (Oh, did I mention it is shorts weather?) Just thought I would throw that in.
Monday, December 7, 2009
While many of you following us on our journey know the Philip family. Some of you do not. And since we are going to be one big family of ten and I will be blogging about all of us, I figured that I would introduce this special family to those who don't have the privilege of knowing them.
Abe Philip is an Indian born in America. He is a native Detroiter. He works for Ford Motor Company in Safety management. He and Ed have so much in common that we figured they really are twins. If I want to know if Ed will like a gift, all I need to do is call Abe to see if he would like it! They share the same birthday, and so many other things that it would be to long to list. We have found about 5 or so differences to date. #1 difference would be their collegiate loyalty! Abe shares my passion for all things Michigan!
Blessy is also Indian. She was raised in Kuwait until the first Gulf War. Her family then left for their homeland. Her brothers reside in Bangalore and her mom and dad live in Kerala. We will also have the privilege of seeing her sister who lives in Dubai. Blessy is a homemaker, and lover of God's Word. This has been our uniting of hearts. God has woven in us a sisterhood. And since we are married to 'brothers' we never run out of things to talk about.
Their children are Stephanie - age 10, Gracelyn - age 5, and the little spit-fire Jonathon who is 21 months. It is noteworthy that Jonathon loves Joshua. This is good. Josh may be the only one with enough energy to keep up with this little guy in the airport while we are waiting for flights. And I am sure that this summer Josh will start teaching Jonathon some of the finer points in soccer. Scratch summer - make it this trip.
So today will be spent wrapping up some last minute checklist items and CLEANING the house. I know - cleaning before departing is so crazy. Why, oh why are women hard wired like that? My brother is staying here, so it isn't like it won't be lived in for the time we are gone. I don't know - it's like it brings closure to one time frame and opens your mind to a new. Is anyone else like this? Or am I just strange? Okay - don't answer that last question.
So it looks like we will be getting out of dodge (AKA DTW) before a storm hits. This is good news. If you would like a prayer request for your prayer closet - Please pray for the weather to be tranquil upon our return as well. (Also that the storm holds off for our Ecuador Mission Team to land safely at DTW later tomorrow.)
I don't know if you all know this but I really hate flying. A LOT! I know all the stats so please don't go there. Flying is just stressful for me. I am locked in a glorified tin can at 35000 ft with a bunch of strangers and two strangers controlling the whole mess. For a minor control freak this is a stressful situation. I also can't sleep sitting upright. This presents another challenge in our journey as we will be in a plane for a long, long, long, long, long time. So would you pray that God would bring a peace over me and allow me some rest. I am not a nice person without sleep. Ask anyone who knows me! They can confirm this. Thx.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
This morning I had the privilege of attending the ladies brunch put on by WBC Women's Ministry. It was beautiful and my only Christmas gathering this season. I am reminded of how blessed I am to be part of such an awesome church with great sisters in the Lord.
The last day or so has been an emotional ride. Processing through all the emotions of leaving for a month to a world far away without creature comforts of home especially during the holidays has left me spent and on the verge of tears more than once. I really didn't see this coming. I figured after 20 months of planning, what could possibly be left to process? HAH! I am the fool. Please don't get me wrong - I am very excited about what is coming, but this is the biggest undertaking yet for our family.
Coveting your prayers.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tue 8-Dec Depart DTW @ 3:05pm
Arrive ATL @ 5:16pm
Depart ATL @ 8:20pm "
Wed 9-Dec Arrive DXB @ 7:15pm
Thu 10-Dec Dubai
Fri 11-Dec Dubai
Sat 12-Dec Depart DXB @ 9:55pm
Sun 13-Dec Arrive BLR @ 3:35am
Mon 14-Dec Travel to Chennai for afternoon arrival (Train #2295 Sanghamitra (Depart 9:15am; Arrive 3:00pm)
Tue 15-Dec Chennai: Teach
Wed 16-Dec Chennai: Teach
Thu 17-Dec Chennai: Teach
Fri 18-Dec Chennai: Teach
Sat 19-Dec Chennai: Teach; Travel to Kerala Train #2623 (Depart 8pm; Arrival 8:38am)
Sun 20-Dec Arrive in Kerala
Mon 21-Dec Kerala
Tue 22-Dec Kerala
Wed 23-Dec Kerala - Cape Comorin
Thu 24-Dec Kerala
Fri 25-Dec Kerala - Christmas
Sat 26-Dec Kerala
Sun 27-Dec Kerala
Mon 28-Dec Kerala - Munnar
Tue 29-Dec Kerala
Wed 30-Dec Travel to Bangalore Train #6525 (Depart 3:25pm; Arrival 6:20am)
Thu 31-Dec Arrive in Bangalore
Fri 1-Jan New Year's Day
Sat 2-Jan Bangalore
Sun 3-Jan Bangalore
Mon 4-Jan Bangalore
Tue 5-Jan Bangalore
Wed 6-Jan Depart BLR @ 6:00pm
Arrive DXB @ 8:40pm
Thu 7-Jan Depart DXB @ 11:30pm
Fri 8-Jan Arrive ATL @ 6:25am
Depart ATL @ 10:20am
Arrive DTW @ 12:25pm
I love the title! This isn't Farmville or Zooville. This is my real life. I might be willing to trade (recipes and such), and if your going to give me an animal - please make sure it is skinned and ready to consume.
I was musing the other day about starting a FB application called Islandville. All you would do is lay on a hammock all day long and friends could come by and give you a drink. Now that sounds like an awesome way to waste some time!