Sunday, January 31, 2010

India Through My Eyes.

Many people have been asking to see pictures I have taken since I have been in India. I have taken tons and am working on creating an online album so you can view them all at once...but until I make the time to complete that task, I decided to at least tantalize your senses with a few shots that will allow you to see a small glimpse of the India I have so far experienced; pictures honestly don't do it justice.

I have to admit, I have a hard time even looking at these images as I have seen so much more behind them that will stay with me forever. Since most of you may not ever have the chance to see these hidden treasures and tragedies with your own eyes, I have attempted to capture bits and pieces of this intoxicating nation, whether it be beauty, filth, joy, or sorrow. I hope you will be impacted by these tiny slivers of my experience.

Young girl with her baby brother in a small village outside Ludhiana.

Women carrying water jugs in a poor village outside of Tenali.

Young Hindu girl with her proud mother on a ferry ride to an island village outside of Tenali.

A slum in Tenali; people gathered to receive handouts of food.

A beautiful woman in a small village outside Tenali that begged me to take her picture then show it to her on my camera.

A roadside food stand where we stopped to eat.

Hindi words painted on the inside of an abandoned stable outside the city of Ludhiana.

Doors into an Indian home, Ludhiana.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

[Insert Clever Title Here]

Current Soundtrack: Death Cab for Cutie

It's Saturday and I am supposed to be working...but I can't concentrate at the moment. For the first time in a couple of weeks I am sitting comfortably in just a long-sleeved shirt indoors...rather than having to bundle up in a coat and scarf to be warm. For this small thing, I am grateful.

I have been doing some reading on culture shock and adjusting to a foreign lifestyle. The simplest way to overcome the trials of this major adjustment is to focus on the things about the new culture that you really love and appreciate. I have spent a good amount of time mulling over the things about Indian culture that I dislike, detest, despise. The last couple of days I have tried a different approach as I have sought out to dwell on the things about this place that I love.

I love my space heater. Yes, it sounds mocking and sarcastic, but I mean it in the most genuine of ways, I would be miserable without it. In fact, I may not even still be in India if it weren't for my trusty little heater sidekick. Heat is something I have never stopped to think about as a blessing. Let me tell you, when you live in 40-60 degree weather in an uninsulated, concrete building, you learn to appreciate things like heaters.

I love the many rich visuals of India. Sometimes it is impossibly hard to SEE some of the things here but more often than not my visual senses are overwhelmed with beautiful colors, textures, and people. Despite all the ugly parts of humanity, there is much beauty to be appreciated in this country.

I love the pace of life here. But, to be completely frank, I also hate the pace of life here. Time in India is completely loose and flows at its own speed. Nothing moves quickly or with precise intentions; things seem to almost skip and trip forward and randomly, by complete chance, end up in a somewhat recognizable state. Everything about my driven, type-A way of living is being challenged here. If I don't have something to DO or focus on at every moment, I immediately feel bored, unused, unfulfilled. In reality, I believe the Lord is trying to teach me to slow down and just be. Sure, we all talk at times about learning this cliche lesson...but never has it truly been put into effect as it is here in India. I aspire to learning and mastering the discipline of being; many great people have chased this goal in their lives. I hope to be able to soon report back that I am content with being still, being alive, and just simply being.

I love that I have the opportunity to appreciate the small things in life, the things you always long to appreciate but you never really have the capacity to. Things like a warm blanket, a close friend, a long hug, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Thank you, India, for all the things you are teaching me and the ways in which you are challenging every fiber of my being. May I learn to bless you as much as you are blessing me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Butte If All Must Ash?

This is why we should not share a desk.

Stubbornness, Ice Cream, and Brass Tacks.

Today is a good day to blog...mostly because I don't feel like doing it.

I do my best work when I am being stubborn and subsequently broken of my stubbornness.

Two mornings ago I threw a fit made for a cranky 3-year-old. It was embarrassing...and though in the moment I was glad only Cory was there to witness it, I am now defeating my shroud of privacy by sharing it here. I feel the best way for me to grow and bear fruit from my efforts is to be transparent. So, I had a toddler-sized fit complete with crying and dumping things out of suitcases...merely because I felt the deep need to control something...yet everything about India and being here means giving up that control.

And for us controlling types, this will just not do.

I am now forced to place one foot in front of the other even when all I want to do is whine in the corner that things are too difficult. Of course this is difficult, Elana, this is full-time missions...

Anyway, on to things more important than (though not as substantial as) my pride and my constant struggle for humility in this foreign environment...

For a more positive reporting, I have literally been healed. Over the past few years I have developed a serious sensitivity to certain types of dairy, mainly milk and ice cream. When it finally resulted in violent vomiting every time I drank milk or had ice cream, I was forced to give them up. It has been nearly 2 years since I have had any milk or ice cream at all...until a couple of days ago. I decided to pray to ask the Lord to heal me of whatever it is that makes me sick with dairy...and I wholly believed He would do it. Since I can't get soy milk here in India like I could in the States, I figured it would just be easier to be able to drink cow's's in everything here, including the tea which is given to us all the time as a gift of hospitality. So, I decided to have some tea with milk in it earlier this week...and presto, I felt fine. I then moved on to a little milk in my cereal and abracadabra, no problemo. To REALLY test the validity of the God-healing theory, I had an ice cream cone with Cory...and, success!! The existence of ice cream and my ability to eat it = there really is a God.
Please note photographic evidence.

Now, down to brass tacks. India is a difficult place with many cultural obstacles for little ol' Western-minded me to overcome. I admit, the last week has been scarred with many moments of weakness in which I considered throwing in the towel and running away back to the States. BUT, I know that I am in the middle of God's will for my life, I have a peace about this being the right thing for me. And come on, what growth and good ever came out of something easy? Growth takes perseverance which comes from the testing of one's faith (James chapter 1)...which, let's face it, just plain hurts sometimes.

So, for all those who have been asking how they can specifically pray for me, today I need prayer to experience the joy of the Lord in the trials I'm facing. We serve a faithful God, whom I know will never leave me or forsake me and I need to cling to that promise in this moment.

Thanks to all of you who are loving and supporting me...your encouragement and prayers go a very long way.

Infinite x's and o's from India...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Welcome to India. Ok, so I have possibly already worn my welcome slightly...I have now been here for 15 days, if you don't count the time it took me to travel from the States. I feel as if I have already lived a legitimately lengthy lifetime since I have arrived in this mysterious place that is India. If you sense an air of sarcasm in my tone, you would be correct in assuming that adjusting to life here isn't all sitars, incense, and maharajahs. However, dear India, I must admit you have captured my heart in a way that surprised me, the result of a complex intertwining of ugly and beautiful, elegant and hideous, intoxicating and gag-worthy.

I would like to start from the beginning but alas, trying to completely describe my experiences here thus far would take days...if it's even a possibility at all. Suffice it to say that the last 2 weeks were filled with many wonderful moments and intense ministry as I built great relationships with 31 amazing individuals...while simultaneously overwhelming my senses with some of the most gruesome, stomach-churning, and gut-wrenching things I have ever laid eyes on.

India is so poor. "Poor" is a rather pathetic adjective in this case, it perhaps even wins the understatement of the year award. The living situations of the people I have encountered recently are more than mind-blowing, they are inconceivable...and I have even SEEN them. Spending two weeks in Tenali, India was merely embarking on the tip of the world's largest iceberg in the middle of the Arctic ocean wearing only a skimpy bikini. Translation: it would be completely impossible to solve every problem, clothe every child, and feed every empty tummy that exists in that city...and coming to that realization was a hard knock to my ever-lofty savior complex. What great humility I faced seeing the realities of the Third World. It was so heartbreaking that I initially shut off entirely, feeling nothing but...nothing. After a few days stuck in the abyss of nothingness, I had a total breakdown, finally feeling the overwhelming heaviness that is India itself. I figured all I could do was to love the few people I came in contact with, meet a few needs, and encourage a few souls toward the freedom found in the Lord...and then come to terms with the fact that change comes slowly but one soul touched is still a step in the right direction.

Fast-forward to today...I am now in Ludhiana, India, a city north of Delhi. How far north depends on the type of vehicle you take to get here...6 hours by car, 4 hours by express train, and 10 hours by cockroach infested slower-than-molasses-train, our personal favorite and preferred method of transportation. Cory and I arrived in Delhi this past Saturday. I ended up very ill from dehydration for the night but was well enough to travel by said bug-train on Sunday afternoon and evening. Let's just say I was NOT prepared for all that is India train travel and it's less than comfortable accommodations. It IS true what they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

I promise to start to blog more from here on out, I am finally settling in and starting to actually work. Until then let's take a moment to appreciate some new-found India-isms:

-Ludhiana. Population: 3.5 million. Stoplights: 1. You do the math.
-Indians eat ketchup on their pizza. Before you scoff, TRY IT.
-In India, speed bumps = speed breakers...this phenomenon not only takes the place of stoplights on the road, but in homes and buildings you will find that doorways are raised about 3/4 of an inch from room to room...and do dandy at breaking your speed via tripping you. Every time.
- Indians refer to surge protectors as spike busters. It's true. And for the last few days when an Indian person would refer to a spike buster, I was sure they were saying "spy buster" and wondered what fabulous video game, stun-gun shenanigans I was missing out on. Clever Indians.
- There is no such thing as trash day here. When your trash builds up to an impassible pile in front of your residence, you merely throw a lit match towards the general direction of the vile skyscraper...and the trash is officially taken out. Best chore in the world.
-Fact: your bathroom is where your behind is.
-Fact: it IS possible to get sick of Indian food.
-Fact: Indian people are incredibly hospitable.
-Fact: riding in an auto rickshaw in India is one of the great milestones in one's life.

More to come soon.

P.S. I am going to attempt to learn Hindi. I already know 3 words.