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!