Thursday, June 7, 2012

Well today we just finished our last day of ministry here in INDIA!!! I can’t believe that we are finally done!! When I look back at our time here in India, I realized how much our team actually did while being here for 2 ½ months!! While we have been working in Bihar-Patna, we have done a wide range of ministry including house visits, teaching in slum schools, neighborhoods and at Vacation Bible Schools. We have worked and shared in orphanages, churches, youth fellowships and Bible Studies. We have helped remodel, decorate and organize a DTS office and apartments along with doing numerous prayer walks. At Bodagyah, we toured and prayed over Buddhist and Hindu temples.  We have definitely had a chance to use all our gifts and do a wide range of ministry.
            These past few weeks, we have been working with Vacation Bible Schools (VBS)  in an Assemblies of God church, a Baptist church and in the slums. At the Baptist church, there were probably around 150 or more kids who were all split up into age groups. Our team was also split up in classrooms to assist teachers who spoke Hindi and maybe some English. Laura and I were assigned to go and help two Hindi ladies teach 11-13 year olds. There were usually 35 or so students who attended our class. We helped teach the children worship songs with fun actions. We also taught them skits in which they performed at the end of the wek at the concert.  Every day, Laura and I took turns speaking for about 30-45 minutes. We taught on Creation, Adam and Eve, the fall of man, what a relationship with God looks like, how Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, how He died for us and rose again so that we could have a relationship with Him. Also, we asked the children if they wanted to have a personal relationship with Jesus and ask Him into their hearts and they all raised their hands. We prayed with them and they prayed themselves. IT was truly amazing because all 35 kids prayed the sinners prayer and wanted Jesus to be their true Savior, We have a lot of fun working with them and teaching them about the Bible and teaching them memory verses.  For an entire week, we worked with the VBS at the Baptist church. The next few days we worked with the Assemblies of God church.  We helped at a women’s meeting and led a VBS for two days.  We performed many skits, shared the gospel, did crafts, taught worship songs, and did games.
           We then traveled to an all girl’s orphanage where there were 8 girls or so. We led a program for them.  For the next few days, we traveled to slums and did children’s ministry, open airs and house visits.  At one of the days we did an open air in which there were probably 4 large tarps and blankets spread out on the hard ground.  A few houses surrounded the open area.  It was a very interactive program as we taught the children songs, performed skits for them, shared the gospel, performed magic tricks, and played games.  We did another open air out in the open in the slum last night. Many people from the slum village gathered around us as we sang songs, performed skits and debriefed them while also sharing the Gospel. We had many opportunities to pray over families, teenagers, and children. We saw people healed also during these times of back pain, headaches, stomach aches and many other ailments.  
      God is so good and its been amazing to see Him work these past few months! Our team is leaving Saturday morning to go to Agra and we will be there for 1-2 days sightseeing and going to the Taj Mahal.  It will be an 18 hr train ride. We then will travel to Delhi by train or bus to do more sightseeing and doing debriefing with our team. We  will be in Delhi for a day or so and then taking another train to Mumbai.  From there, we will fly out on the 16th on June and fly to Bangkok, Thailand where we will be sight seeing for a day or so.  I’m so excited to see Bangkok and stay in a motel. In Bangkok, we will meet up with the Nepal, Bangladesh,  Cambodia and Sri Lanka teams. We then fly together to Seoul, Korea and then to Kona. In Kona, we will all be reunited with our team leader and the Kyrgystan team. In Kona, we have five days or so of debriefing, sharing about our outreaches and bonding before everyone leaves the following weekend. Our graduation is on the 22nd which we are graduating from DTS! I fly home on the 23rd and I’m so overjoyed to see everyone! Please be praying for safety and health to finish off our DTS! Thank you for your prayers! Can’t wait to see everyone!! I have never been more excited to see family and friends!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Adventures in Bihar-Patna and update on ministries

Currently,  I am sitting at an internet café in Patna, Bihar. We have had a crazy journey while being here and have been able to see a lot of Bihar so far. Within the 3 weeks of us being here in Patna, we have been moving around a lot to different guest houses, apartments and ministry houses. For example, when we arrived in Patna last week, we stayed at a ministry house for a few days and went to a youth fellowship in which I talked about in my last blog. After a few days, we all piled into a taxi with one small backpack each and drove to another apartment about 45 minutes away. We have been working with a YWAm couple, Levine and Esther and staying in their home. Earlier this week, we remodeled their DTS room which is actually a few apartments. They are the leaders of a DTS which will be starting on June 9th. We completely cleaned the apartments scrubbed the bathrooms, the floors, the bedrooms and worked two days on remodeling and cleaning the rooms up. The boys put together bunk beds for th e incoming DTS students and inserted fans in the ceilings. The girls and I  washed and scrubbed all the dishes and appliance before I organized the kitchen. We then dusted, put up curtains and decorated the walls with Bible verses, encouraging quotes, a construction paper cross and decorative words to add color. Now, the DTS apartment is ready for their DTS to start! It was good to see the apartments in the beginning and to see how much work they all needed and by the end of the second day, all the rooms, the kitchens, the classrooms, bathrooms and bedrooms are all ready.
     Wednesday, we did house visits all day.  As a team, we walked in 115-116 degree weather to six different houses in the morning. At each house, we either prayed for the families, shared  encouragement from the Bible, shared testimonies or shared a Bible story. At many of the houses the families were very hospitable and offered us soda, mango juice,  snacks, fresh fruit and at one place, ice cream with a special pastry. At one of the houses, the mother humbled herself to get down on her hands and knees and wash each of our feet after we had walked a few miles to get to her house. Her hospitality reminded me of Jesus about how he came to the earth to serve. She was so sweet and offered us fresh bananas, watermelon, mango juice, ice cream and a fresh donut pastry. IT was such a blessing and I was amazed by her servant heart.
    On Thursday, we woke up early and put some clothes and supplies in our carry-on back packs.  Our team then walked with Esther to a place where we all loaded into a motorized rick shaw.  There was 11 of us in one rickshaw along with the driver and all our backpacks and supplies for the next few days.  We then were dropped off at a temple in which Rafael, a Brazilian man who works with YWAM as well, picked us up in a truck with a covered back. Four of us loaded in the back of the truck and the rest of us in the front. Rafael then drove us 3 1/2 hours to a city called Bodagyha. We then visited many temples in the city which is a tourist city for visiting temples.  I was amazed because many countries have built Buddhist temples in this city. This city is known to be the birthplace of Buddhism. As we traveled to the different temples, buildings and monuments, we prayer walked over the areas and interceded admist the spiritual warfare. These temples were huge and hundreds of people visit these temples every day to worship, burn incense, and pray to Buddha. We stayed at a guest house Thursday evening which was actually more of a hotel/hostel. But it was such a blessing because the rooms had air conditioning and there were two of us per room. On Friday, we visited more temples and in the morning, we drove out in the middle of nowhere to where there was a temple on the top of a mountain. This temple is known to be the place to where apparently Buddha fasted for 6 years in a cave to achieve ‘”enlightenment.” We walked up to this cave and saw the place to where Buddha apparently stayed. As we hiked up the mountain, there were monkeys that roamed the mountainside. It was quite entertaining to see how close we could get to them and take pictures of them. They were good sized monkeys and some of the mothers had little baby monkeys latched onto them. From the top of the mountain, it was a beautiful view onto the landscape below which consisted of flat desert land and some greenery. We then visited more temples before beginning the treck back to Patna. Despite the traffic, it took us 4 ½ hours to drive back to Patna. The driving was crazy as our driver basically played chicken with the other busses, rick shaws, bikes and cars. Watching everything from the back of the covered truck was quite breathtaking as we drove through acres of farm land. In this way, Patna is much different then Kolkata because it is definitely more country side and farm land. IT is more desert but Patna is more of a busy city.
     Anyway, this next week we will be helping lead a teen VBS and probably doing more house visits.  The following week we will be working with the Assemblies of God church and helping the pastor with different ministries. Hopefully, I will be able to blog sometime next week if I can find an internet café near our other house which we are going back to tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers . They are greatly appreciated. Please continue to pray for our safety, health and that we will be staying hydrated in this insane hot weather. Every day is quite an adventure and I am excited to see what else God will do in this state. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying yourselves. I can’t wait to see friends and family on June 23rd when I fly home. IT has been a challenging but awesome journey here in India! 

Journey to Patna

May 19th 2012
A sweet yet anxious voice interrupted my sleep, “Renae, it’s 5:30am, time to wake up.” Those words penetrated into my mind as my eyes fluttered open. After muttering those words to me, Sarah, my leader began to gather her hiking backpack and purse in an effort to be ready for when our train arrived at our destination-Bihar Patna. Ten minutes passed before I decided it was finally time to get out of bed. Stripping the white sheet from my body, I manuevered myself in a way to discretely climb down from my bunk. The other Indian passengers within our 3 tier AC carriage began to awake as well. It still amazed me that 8 of us (4 of our team members and 4 being Indian strangers) had slept in our tiny carriage. Within a 7 foot by 9 foot perimeter, 3 fold out bunk beds were stacked on both walls. Two more bunk beds were positioned next to the walkway. Our luggage barely seemed to fit underneath the 2 bottom bunks which also made for a tight fit and disruptful night’s sleep.
An older Indian man who was sleeping on the top bunk-opposite of me-stepped down onto my bed in an attempt to make his way to the floor. After he did so, I followed his lead and stepped down onto Joseph’s bottom bunk. Within a few minutes, I managed to brush my teeth in the small bathroom that reaked of urine and filth. Maneuvering my way back through the narrow and crowded aisle, I was able to wiggle my bulky hiking backpack from underneath the bottom bunk. All of a sudden, the train slowed to an abrupt stop. I whipped my head to meet Sarah’s glance and anxiously questioned, “Sarah, is this our stop?!” Wide eyed, she shuffled her way to the carriage next to us (in which the rest of our team was staying in) and before she could ask the question to an Indian man-Jordan, our student leader raised his voice and exclaimed, “Yes, I believe this is our stop. Hurry, we need to get all of our bags and get off now!” The havoc began because we all very well knew that train stops are short and the conductor will not stop the train unless there is an emergency.  We began shoving our bags out from underneath our bunks and slung our huge hiking backpacks onto our backs and positioned our bulky carry-on backpacks on our fronts and our pillows and other supplies in hand. As a few of us were doing so, Christy and Macy came rushing into the carriage from waiting their turns at the small bathroom. Panic and anxiousness was written on everyone’s faces as our minds focused on one thing-getting ourselves off the train before it started up again. Bags, pillows and handbags were being thrown in each other’s faces as we shoved one another through the crowded carriage and narrow aisle.  As soon as I saw Jordan and Sarah loaded up and headed for the exit door, I shoved my way through the havoc and took a deep breath before positioning  myself to jump out the door and onto the train platform. Once the 3 of us were standing on the concrete, Jordan threw down his mammoth hiking backpack. As he did so, we noticed that the train had started up and again and was beginning to jolt forward.  At a steady pace, Jordan and Sarah began to walk alongside the moving train while raising their panicked voices to yell to Laura, Macy, Christy and Jordan who were still stuck on the train. Jordan and Sarah’s brisk walk quickly turned into a steady jog as they ran parallel to the train. I looked at Sarah and Jordan and then peered at Jordan’s luggage on the ground beside me.  I realized that there was no way I could sprint after them while carrying all Jordan’s luggage- in addition to mine which was already strapped to my back and front side. With that, I made the quick decision to stay put and stand guard over our luggage. As I whipped my head around, I peered down the railway platform and spotted Macy still in the doorway of the train along with the others. Suddenly, she began to throw her luggage down to Jordan as he continued to run alongside the train. A few seconds pass before she made the brave decision to leap out of the moving train. Laura immediately follows her example-but she jumps from the train holding all her luggage and somehow manages to stick the landing. Chugga-Chugga-the train picked up speed as it followed its course down the tracks. Again, I squint my eyes to see and spot another figure jump from the train with arms completely full of a backpack, pillow, sleeping bag and handbag. I realize it was Christy and right as she hit the concrete, the weight form her backpack shifted to one side-causing her to land on her hip. Only seconds later did I see Joseph-his backpack strapped to his back, guitar in one hand, while both arms balanced his enormous suitcase. As he sprung from the fast moving train onto the platform, he landed with a thud. His body propelled itself forward as his knees collided with the cement-breaking his fall. 
     I held my breath in anticipation as I positioned myself on my tiptoes to see down the platform to where my teammates had all jumped at different places. Not even a minute had passed before I fixed my eyes on Jordan and his bright orange shirt as he started to walk towards me. Positioning my body so I could see past him, I was relieved to see everyone standing on their own 2 feet. He came and collected his luggage so that we could all walk as a team over the foot bridge that crossed the train tracks. Through all the commotion, I hadn’t realized that a vast crowd had formed around me and the whole ordeal. It was probably the first time, some Indians have seen white Westerners.
     As a team, we crossed the foot bridge and made our way to the street where rickshaws and taxis awaited eager passengers. To our disappointment, we quickly realized that we had exited the train at platform station PNC and we were instructed to get off at PNBE. After all that, we had gotten off at the wrong train platform because despite the language barrier, the Indian men in the train had told us that we were to get off at PNC. After phoning our contact, Daniel Ronjon to inform him of our situation, we unloaded all our luggage in a pile on the dirt ground outside the walls of the station. Everyone of us positioned ourselves in, around and in close proximity to the luggage. For the 30 minutes that we sat and waited for Daniel to arrive with the taxi, Indian men gathered on the stairs above us as they sat anxiously like spectators watching our every move. Living in India for 6 weeks now, I reminded myself that this is nothing out of the ordinary. Rick shaw drivers parked their motorized rick shaws and bikes in front of us on the street just so they could stare at us and study us Westeners, who appear more like aliens because we are out of our element.
      Relief washed over us when we saw the large white taxi pull up and Daniel and his co-worker, Marion walk out and excitedly greet us. Daniel climbed to the roof of the car and secured all the huge hiking back packs into place. Amazingly, we all pile into the taxi with the rest of our luggage. Squished like sardines in a jar, we drove about 30 minutes to our destination- a building that is used as a YWAM office. I can honestly say that driving in India can be one of the most frightening yet thrilling experiences. I found out that drivers don’t even take a driver’s test here, instead they just sign a piece of paper which allows them to drive. Driving anywhere in India is a crazy adventure and there has been a few times in which I have literally seen my life flash before my eyes because it seems as if many drivers play “chicken” on the road. God has definitely been keeping his angels of protection around us as we walk down the crowded streets and when we drive anywhere.
     Anyways, we are now in Bihar-Patna which is exciting! Three more weeks of intense ministry as we will be traveling and moving around a lot in the state of Bihar in India. Patna is the city that we are currently residing in. Yesterday we arrived by train and this morning, Laura, Jordan and I went with one of the translators, Daniel Ronjon to a village 2 ½ hrs away. It was a crazy and long drive but we finally arrived at a building literally out in the middle of nowhere. Bihar is more deserty and it is extremely hot. The average temperature is between 112-115 degrees!! AHH!! All we were told was that a few of us would be leading a youth gathering of some sort. So, we arrived and gathered in small room. Straw mats were laid out for us to sit on. Within a few minutes, girls, boys and teenages began to file in. In total, there was at least 20 youth of all ages including a few adults. Our translator led worship in Hindi and he prayed. Jordan then shared his testimony, Laura told the parable of the Prodigal son and I debriefed the parable, taught on it and shared the gospel message. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to do more worship together and pray over some of the youth. IT was a great time of fellowship and it was good because we were each able to share and teach from the Bible and from our personal testimonies. We didn’t know what to be prepared for but God gave us the words to speak and help these youth understand the love of Jesus. Some were Christians and others were not. I loved being able to work with youth and after 1 ½ hrs, we drove back to the place we are staying. Since we will be moving around a lot for the next month, we are leaving this building tonight and traveling 3 hrs by car to another village in which we will staying in a training center for a few days. We will be moving around quite a bit so please be praying for health and safety over our team. We will be working with slum children and youth, leading Bible studies, preaching in churches, teaching English in schools and doing whatever God leads or what other staff need us to do. I am excited for what God is going to do in Bihar these next few weeks!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Howrah Train Station

Train platforms crowded with people quickly come into sight as the local train begins to screech to a stop. Without thinking, I cup my hands around my ears to minimize the screeching that is ringing within my ear drums. Women stand up abruptly to gather their purses and children before shoving one another out the small door onto the train platform. The yelling begins as I try to keep my balance despite the constant pushing and shoving. Finally, I am able to squeeze my body out the little door of the train onto the platform. Immediately, I am engulfed in a sea of people as I try to manuever my way through the millions of people making up the mass crowd. I anxiously glance behind me to make sure my friend, Laura and our translator, Mithu is right behind me. Before I am able to grab Laura’s hand, an Indian man shoves me forward as he is rushing to catch another local train. His briefcase and handbag knock me into another older Indian man dressed in traditional attire. An angry woman behind me yells something in Hindi as she violently grabs her young son who is screaming profusely. Gripping a hold of my over the shoulder purse, I secure my hand on the zipper to make sure no child tries to pickpocket me. I brace myself for the excursion through the massive mob.   Men balancing huge bags (full of bottles and supplies) on their heads brush past me as they hurry to their destination. It looks like their necks are about to snap because of the weight they are balancing with their hands. Business men, dozens of school children, and anxious families surround me on all sides as everyone is rushing. I strain to hear the programmed train arrival and departure times as they are announced over loud speakers.  The havoc at Howrah Train station has definitely began. We hurriedly make our way through the train station bombarded with people. Mithu motions to me to make a quick dash through the opposing people traffic. As I do so, I count to three as Laura and I take a deep breath and push our way through. As we reach the other side, we let out a sigh of relief and step out onto the busy street. Taxis are honking constantly as taxi drivers are yelling trying to sell rides to exhausted passengers. We quickly look both ways to make sure there is no immediate traffic and then make a dash across the hectic street. Finally, we step foot into another train platform that is a little less hectic then the first one. Immediately, a stench of rotting garbage, human and animal feces, urine and rotting fish fill my nose. Garbage and feces cover the train tracks which are considered the universal bathroom in India. There is no such thing as garbage bins so trash is thrown and left wherever. Urine trickles through the cracks of the concrete platforms making its way to the railway tracks. Peering to the right I see a mother stripping off the pants of her young son as she squats him over the barrier of the train tracks to help him go to the bathroom.  As I glance around the train platform, hundreds of men, women and children are scattered on the concrete floor. Some are lying on straw mats but others are sprawled out on the filthy concrete. Families are gathered in circles on their mats scarfing down snacks and chugging water.  I look beside me to see an older mother sitting on the ground as her daughter stands behind her, discreetly picking lice from her matted, unwashed hair.  Both of their bodies are clothed in tattered, soiled outfits. The moment we exited the local train is when we started the 2 hour prayer walk through the station. Men and boys from ages five to their fifties are passed out along the platforms. Some have only a little bit of clothing on as they are passed out on the concrete. To my right I see a boy probably nine years old sprawled out-his hands clenched a rag reeking of glue to his mouth. As I step closer to ensure he was still breathing, I immediately notice deep razor cuts on his arms and legs. His arms and legs were gaunt revealing only a bony structure. Nothing could hide the depression and traumatizing life this boy had been living.   As we continued to walk through the station, my eyes caught a woman strewn out on a dirty, straw mat while her half naked baby was lying by her side. The baby almost lay motionless as it lay next to her-nursing at her chest. The dad sat cross legged next to her while smoking a cigarette. Their few belongings were scattered around them. I extended my hand towards them and muttered a quiet prayer over them. About an hour later, our team walked by this family again and this time both the mother and father were fast asleep on the mat.  I noticed that the baby was not in between them. In fact, six feet away, I saw the baby girl sitting with her bare bottom on the contaminated concrete. Her short course hair stuck up in all directions and her body was splattered with dirt. The only article of clothing that covered her body was a soiled, tattered shirt. Unlit matches were scattered around her fragile body. With her delicate but dirty hand, she tried picking up a match that was lying next to her.  Silently, she lifted her head to see if her mother was watching. Examining the matches circling her body, she turned herself onto her tummy to crawl on all fours.  With the little strength she had left, she crawled over to where her mother was sleeping on the mat. Her tiny fingers began to caress her mother’s face in a motion to wake her up. Even with the touch of the baby’s hands, the mother didn’t move. Again, the anxious child began to bang her little head on her mother’s head in order to wake her. At that moment, Mithu called out to me and broke my concentration on this child’s desire to be shown affection. Mithu then motioned for me and Laura to follow her to another part of the station. My heart broke at what I had just witnessed. This is just one of the many pictures I can paint for you with words but even words cannot describe the events that I witness every time we do our prayer walk at Howrah Train Station. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

So this morning,  our team had 2 hours of prayer, worship and intercession in which we asked God to reveal different pictures, words or verses to us concerning the next few hours in which we would be doing a prayer walk around where we live (in the suburbs of Kolkata.) In other words, its similar to a treasure hunt because we ask God in prayer to reveal things to us. As we all began praying as a team, we all started to receive pictures or words from the Lord. I felt God was giving me a picture of a little boy near the big stairs on the train station. I felt God was saying the name, Raju to me but I wasn’t completely sure. I also felt as if God was saying that as we went about our prayer walk that we should meet practical needs in the ways of feeding the hungry and bandaging wounds although I had no idea to how that would be fulfilled. Our team split into 3 groups and Macy, Christy and I were together. We were walking in faith!
       We walked out of our apartment/flat and began walking. First, we saw Christy’s picture come  to life which encompassed a woman bending over who had stomach rolls. She was fetching water from a water pump and letting the water pour into a metal bucket. As we rounded the corner of our apartment, we immediately saw her and knew it was the lady from Christy’s vision. Even though we couldn’t speak in Bengali to her, we asked her if we could pray (Pratna in Bengali) over her and she was open to it. Christy prayed over her and felt as if God was telling her also to pray over her son which we didn’t see there. After praying over her, we continued walking and went through the small tunnel to go to the train station. As we start walking along the water bank, we were looking for a woman in a blue sari because God had shown Laura a picture of this. All of a sudden, we hear the words, “Auntie, Auntie!” The three of us spin around and see 2 little boys with raggedy hair, tussled and unwashed hair and torn up clothes make their way to us. In Indian culture, little children are to call their elders either auntie or uncle. One of the boys came to me and lifted his pant leg to reveal a cut on his knee. IT was infected and there wasn’t much I could do for it. I bent down to his level and took out my first aid kit, rubbed an alcohol swab on it and then put a band aid on it to cover the cut. We started trying to communicate with the boys and found out one of their names was Raju and I forgot the other boy’s name. At that moment, I was so surprised because God had told both Laura and I earlier that morning that we would find a boy named Raju. Both the boys were around the same age and they were brothers. They grabbed our hands as we started walking towards the train station. When we neared it, they pointed across the way because they wanted to get some food on the other side of the train tracks. Once I realized what they were saying, I remembered what God had told me earlier about meeting practical needs of people (whether it be bandaging wounds or feeding the hungry.) We motioned with our hands that we wanted to buy them food, so they grabbed our hands once again as we led them over to a food cart on the side of the busy street where a couple was cooking some roti and lentils. Roti is like a mini tortilla that is fried, so we purchased 3 plates of roti and lentils. (one for each of the boys and one for the 3 of us girls to share) It was quite delicious and the boys thoroughly enjoyed their meal. The boys wolfed down the food with the water bottles that we purchased for them.
   As soon as I was about to take a bite of the roti and lentils, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and to  my amazement, I saw an older man standing there. His eyes met mine for a brief second before bending over and rolling up his left pant leg to reveal a freckled/spotted leg. (God had also revealed a picture of a spotted/freckled area of skin earlier in intercession) As I peered closer, it looked like he had been burned badly years back.  In the middle of the massive burn covering his leg, I noticed an area of skin that had a cut in it that was bleeding. He pointed down at it and I knew that I didn’t have gloves to properly dress his wound.  I put down my roti that was in my hand and began to dig in my purse for my handy first aid kit. I pulled out an alcohol pad and bent down on my knees to look up into the man’s discoloured eyes.  I motioned for him to rub the alcohol pad on his bloody cut and he did so. After the wound was disinfected, I unwrapped a large bandage and secured it on his leg. As I stood up, I noticed that a large crowd had gathered around the man and I.
    As foreigners, we tend to obviously stand out but it sure is interesting getting used to being stared at so much and indian men will just stop what they are doing and walk over so they are right next to you. They are very curious. Anyways, when the man saw that his wound was bandaged, he bent down and touched my teet as a sign of gratitude, honor and respect. He then stood up and showed me a sign of gratitude with his hands. I was quite taken back because in Indian culture, feet are basically looked on as dirty and disrespectful. When sitting in a house, you always sit with your feet in criss cross applesauce so that your feet do not show, But this man chose to bend down and touch my feet-he humbled himself enough to touch a stranger’s foot. After giving thanks, he made his way out of the crowd as so did we. We gave thanks to God with prayers because God had directed us every step of the way and He brought people to us that we didn’t know and directed us also to people (complete strangers). God revealed to us mostly all our visions and pictures that He had revealed to us earlier this morning in intercession. I thank God because He brought so many people to us in which we could just administer practical needs and pray over them. God orchestrated everything and it was amazing because that older man walked up to me and tapped on my shoulder. It’s quite ironic because I am the only member of our team who ever carries a first aid kit in my purse. This all occurred within 1 ½ hrs! Also, the other girl’s visions and words came alive to during that time. Everyone on our team came back with stories to how we all went treasure hunting for the Kingdom of God.
   Well that is what happened this morning and it was such a blessing to be used by God in that way. Im thankful that we have the weekend free to relax and get caught up on sleep. We are going to a huge market in Kolkata tomorrow called New Market! On Sunday, we might be speaking in a church to believers and sharing with them. On Monday, we work with Life Connection again for the next two weeks until we leave Kolkata! Three times a week we also go to Howrah and I have so many stories to how God is revealing himself and what He is doing in our team and in Kolkata! God is Good! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Broken heart for India

   India is completely breaking my heart. My world has been turned upside down as India has become my new home for the time being. The sights, the smells and the culture are indescribable but I will do my best to give you an idea to the ministry I am involved in and what we are doing here in Kolkata.
    I began ministry at Life Connection (the children’s restoration day program ministry) on Monday and WOW-God has broke my heart for the little boys (ages 4-15) that I will be working with for the next three weeks while in Kolkata. On Tuesday, there was probably 10 kids who came to Life Connection-which is amazing because apparently for the past few months, there has only been 4 or so kids who have attended. Wednesday, we had 13 boys come! We are still praying for girls to come but recently its been only boys. Basically what happens is our India team splits up into 2 groups. Sona and Chuba are a married couple who live in the apartment next to us. Sona is 8 months pregnant and expecting in a few weeks. They are the founders of Life Connection and have about 5 staff working under them.
    Every morning, our team gets together for worship, intercession and prayer at 6:15 am. We then eat breakfast at 7, get ready and leave by 7:30 to walk to our ministry. We break into 2 groups. Most of the group will go to Life Connection (which is a 20 min walk). The other group will go with another translator staff. They then walk 20 min to catch a local train to Howrah Train Station. Howrah is one of the biggest stations in India. 10 million people pass through it everyday. Basically, when you walk through the station, it feels like you are in a circus (dodging people during a Black Friday sale in the mall.) It’s Insane! In India, there are many children who run-away from home. Many of these kids are boys who are very young. The movie. Slumdog Millionaire becomes a reality and comes to life when you experience India in person. Although, the train stations and railroad tracks are completely covered in garbage, human and animal feces, food, sleeping dogs and passed out people. You can imagine the horrific smells while walking through the stations or next to the tracks. All the waste from the trains is dumped on the tracks. This is basically their idea of a sewage system. Many children runaway from home due to violence, abuse or too many people in the household. With that, many kids live at Howrah Train Station. At Howrah, there is specifically one man who knows how to attract the runaways. He is a Hindu man who does his little “business” with the children there. He finds some way to appeal to them and offers to “take care of them.” In reality, he finds the runaways, gives them an ID card (to keep track of them or to bail them out of jail). He sometimes feeds them and for awhile the children had to pay him 5 rupies. (50 rupies=1 American dollar) Many of the kids are employed under him and there are other adults who have become Controllers of the children as well.
      During the day, the children usually sleep at the train station and during the night, the children go on their search for empty water bottles because they can get 1 rupie per 1 waterbottle. They then have to turn in a certain percentage of money to their “boss” in whom they call Uncle. This man is nothing like an uncle or care provider. We hear stories from the children of this man beating them or the police beating them.  Because the boys don’t have positive role models to look up to and they are trying to do anything to survive, there is stealing and crime that occurs. Many children have become masters at stealing money from other children and from passengers. With the money that the boys have remaining, from their bottle collecting or whatever-they usually end up buying Glue. They then find rags and pour some glue on the rags, then put the rags in their mouth to inhale it and sniff it. They do this to get high and the majority of children are high in the station. When they get high, they are unaware of their surroundings and many end up finding razor blades in which they use to cut themselves deeply leaving gashes all over their bodies. When we walk through the train stations, many children and teenagers are passed out with rags next to their mouths because they were using glue.
    At the train station, we do a prayer walk three times a week along with working at Life Connection. We walk up and down the 23 platforms for a few hours praying and talking to children-trying to build relationships with them and doing our best to convince them to come to Life Connection with us. When we see children, we wake them up but it is often challenging to get responses from them because they are so high. They struggle to open up their glazed-over eyes.  The children are between the ages of 3-18 or so. It makes me wonder, “How do children ages 4-17 learn to get high off of glue and then cut themselves with razors?” This absolutely breaks my heart. Where is the childlike innocence? This is not just a nightmare, but a nightmare being brought to life. This is reality for these children (daily life.)
    After part of the group goes to the train station for the morning prayer walk, they start traveling back to Life Connection to meet the other group who has been there all morning working with the kids. Everyone does at least 8-11 hrs of ministry a day. They boys who come to Life Connection every day usually catch a ride on the local train from Howrah to the road where they walk 15 min or so to the ministry house. They usually show up around 7:30 am-8. Below is a schedule of our day at Life Connection:
8: Arrival, pocket check for the boys and registration
Team and staff intercession and worship
Bath time, powder and oil. All the boys bathe and shower. We then put powder on them which is like deodorant and it helps them sweat less. We then give them oil to put in their hair.
Breakfast and Lunch prep (requires lots of peeling, chopping and cooking for staff and kids)
Breakfast and Prayer
Worship and Prayer for the kids and we do it with them (interactive songs)
Story time (One of us tells an interactive Bible story which we like acting out)
Informal Study (we help the boys learn English and Bengali, their numbers and the alphabet) Also, during the time, we switch of playing games as well.
Lunch (usually consisting of rice, dahl (lentils), meat, and potatoes)
Chores, (sweeping, cleaning, dishes ect)
Games/Movie for a few hrs.
Clean-up and leave
Unfortunately, the boys have to leave the ministry at 4 to go back to the train station because there is no other house for them to stay at. Sona and Chuba are praying for a boys home in which they hope to open. They would need to be blessed with finances, a building and another committed staff in order for that to happen though. They want to open up a boy’ s home in which they can take in boys and keep them there throughout the day and night. Please be praying for this situation.
  Working with this ministry has broken my heart for the children of India. We don’t just help provide a day camp at the restoration home but we feed them breakfast and lunch. They get to eat as much as they want until they are full. If the boys have wounds and razor cuts, we help bandage them. They get a bath, new clothes to change into and people to Love on them. We teach them education and during story time, we each take turns telling Bible stories. I love seeing the boy’s faces come alive with anticipation when we are doing skits, telling stories, playing games, watching movies or just interacting with them. They are so hungry for Jesus and when we all pray, they sit there intently with their hands folded praying to Jesus as well. A few days ago, we were praying over each of the boys as the boys were praying themselves as well. One of them started crying and he later told us that he had seen Jesus in front of him while he was praying. He then told Jesus that he didn’t want to live at Howrah any longer. And he told us that Jesus said back to him, “Don’t worry, I will be with you.” This boy is probably 8 years old. All the boys have such a childlike faith and want to know more about Jesus! You see it in their eyes when they pray for each other and for themselves. These boys need attention and they long to be loved. We all do our best to just love on them and spend time with each and everyone of them.
  This is a bird’s eye view into what we are doing here in India during this month! Please be praying for all of us. We have all gotten sick at some point during this past month. It is very hot and humid as it is nearing summer. Thank you so much for your prayers and thoughts. This is a crazy adventure of a lifetime. Hopefully, next week when I have internet, I will post more of what we are doing and more stories! Love you all!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Arrival in Kolkata!

     Well, it has been a crazy journey these past few weeks! We left saturday from Lonavala and traveled 2 hrs on a local train to Pune. From there, we took a 30 hr train ride to Kolkata, India! We were so blessed because we were in an air conditioned sleeper carriage in the train. It was the first time we have had air conditioning! It was a long train ride but it was good. We were also served meals and recieved blankets, pillows, sheets, water and snacks along the way. It was amazing to be sitting in a train looking out over the beautiful landscape as we crossed the entire country within 30 hours! What an experience. Looking out the window, we saw swamps where women and children were bathing and washing their clothes and dishes. The train would slow down as we traveled through many slums throughout the countryside. The houses/shelters are made out of wood, sheets of metal, sticks and basically anything they can find. The middle class houses are made out of concrete and mortar. The landscape would change from desert to slums, to villages as we crossed over bridges and under tunnels. At around 6:45 pm on Sunday evening, we arrived in Kolkata, India. Immediately, as we stepped out of the train, the humidity wiped over us and embraced us. Hundreds of people were bustling past us at the train station holding huge bags of rice and supplies. Women were balancing huge bags on their heads as we pushed our way through with our huge hiking backpacks weighing our backs down and with our carry on backpacks strapped on our shoulders on our front. Our arms were completely full!
     We then found our contact who lives with his wife in Kolkata. They run a ministry called Life Connections which is a children's restoration home in which they take in street children who are either runaways or who are homeless at the train station. Some of their mothers are involved in the human sex trade and some are physically, emotionally and spiritually abused. We will be working with their organization starting on thursday. Basically, we will be registering the kids every day, bathing and feeding them, giving them clothes to wear, giving them meals, teaching them about education, hygiene and sunday school lessons. We will spend lots of time playing with them and interacting with them through games. Unforunately, Life Connections does not have room to keep the children overnight so it is a day program that they run. We will be working with them for the next month. During the day, half of our team will go to the train station where we will be doing prayer walks, asking God for healing over people and ministering. We are going to be walking with Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit. Please pray that God will continue to direct and guide us! We will be living in a flat/apartment complex near the organization. God has kept us safe and we are excited to see how He is going to continue to use us.
    Currently, we are living in a missionary house for a few days working with a pastor and his ministry where they set up Houses of Revival ( which are schools and houses in which children whose parents are involved in the sex trade, abuse, alcoholism ect, where the kids come to recieve an education, meal and learn about Jesus. Today we walked a mile or so away to work with one of these houses. THere were around 20 children that we taught. We taught them fun Bible songs, did a skit and then Macy and I taught them about the  body parts through memorization and fun songs! It was such a blast! we had no idea that we would be teaching a group of kindergartners-3rd graders for a while, but we definitely improvised and God gave us the idea to teach on! They were then also fed a meal of dahl and now we are back at the missionary house about to eat some lunch. God is good! Hopefully, I can update you all soon!