Let’s Talk About India: Good Friday Reflections

Over the last three or four years Holy Week has become one of my favourite times of the year. I love taking time out to really focus on all that Holy Week is, and having that period of time to reflect solely on all that Jesus did for us during this time, rather than it becoming just another something we need to live by (and, let’s be honest, it’s amazing to bring back the meaning of Holy Week and Easter).

 
As I’ve got older, I’ve also found that there are so many demands on my time. I’ve just been reading some wonderful blog posts by Kelly Needhamabout how much social media can take over our lives (and it’s honestly true…I’ve already checked my phone a handful of times since I started writing this post about ten minutes ago. It’s seriously dangerous!). I especially noticed this was true while I was in India. Spending time with the children was my absolute priority and my phone spent 99% of the time on airplane mode, and was only really used as a camera or a video recorder. I had no wifi so I couldn’t keep checking into Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and I can honestly say that being in a place where nobody could get hold of me was so liberating.

 
As soon as I got home from India and my phone came off airplane mode, I was bombarded with texts, Facebook notifications, tweets and I just wanted to turn my phone off and shut the world out again, because for five weeks, my focus had been on God and on the task at hand, rather than falling into the comparison trap over photos of Instagram or who was now dating who according to the world of Facebook.
Usually, I have to have my phone on me for work, but since I’ve been back from India, I’ve been signed off sick with a sprained ankle (but that’s a story for another time), so I haven’t needed my phone; I’ve fallen back into the habit of relying on it to keep me updated with everyone, rather than taking time out to actually spend time with people.

 
People keep asking me questions about India, and I still haven’t really been able to process all that I experienced while I was there, and I think a large reason behind this is because as soon as I got home, life returned to normal (including my slightly obsessive use of social media) and I didn’t allow myself time to sit and reflect on all that was going on. After seriously praying about this, I’ve decided to abandon my phone and all things social media for the Easter weekend and focus again on the reason behind this amazing time of the year. I want to be so absorbed in all that Jesus wants to teach me and remind me of over the next few days that nothing can distract me. And to desperately try and remember all that God taught me while I was away.

 
I’m reminded of this amazing verse in Isaiah 58:6, which says

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”

 
I don’t feel led to do a food fast over the next four days, but I do feel led to focus more on this sort of fasting; to get closer to the heart of God over this Easter weekend and to relive some of the precious moments I was able to experience while I was in India. To remember the joy of the children that I encountered (and they had this joy without phones/Facebook/computers etc. And I’m going to join them in that).

 
From tomorrow until at least Easter Sunday, my phone will be on airplane mode, so I won’t be able to be on Facebook or Twitter or whatever (and if you see me on it, feel free to tell me off!). I want to experience the God-given joy that the children at Frishta have, and I don’t want to let anything else get in the way. Tuesday is the first day of my last (ever!) term at Moorlands, so I’m using this weekend as an opportunity to spend time with people, rather than with my phone screen. And I honestly cannot wait.

 
See you on the other side!

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Thankful Thursday!

I’ve been reminded so much in Scripture over the last few days that we have so much to be thankful for. Since getting home from India and being back in a Western culture, I can really see that there is a desperate need for us to take time out of whatever we’re doing and genuinely think of all that we have to say thank you for; no matter how bad things may seem, God is still good, and He is still faithful. Today, I’m remembering 21 little faces of those who have lost so much, and these children are the reason behind me writing this today – because in spite of everything they’ve been through, they still take the time to say thank you.
So let’s say thank you.

  1. I’ve been reading through the book of Ecclesiastes over the last few days, and up to this point it had been a real struggle. However, I finally hit chapter seven this week and God spoke directly into the situation that I was in, and it brought a huge sense of peace into my heart. He is so faithful.
  2. Having a post-India catch up with a very special friend and sharing what God is doing in our lives.
  3. Getting ready to read through Isaiah with another very special friend. I’m so excited to discover all that God is going to say and do over the next few weeks as we work through this amazing book!
  4. Getting ready for Birthday fun! I keep joking with the kids in my Sunday School class that ‘m turning old on my next birthday, and they keep lovingly reassuring me that I’m not quite there yet.
  5. Being able to share about my trip to India with my wonderful Sunday School group!
  6. Spending a few days with my sister. Being signed off work with a fractured ankle does have its advantages.
  7. Being able to eat English food again.
  8. An amazing night’s sleep after a week of making friends with 3am.
  9. That big news that I couldn’t share for ages? I can share now – I’m going to be a Godmummy! 
  10. I have some other potentially exciting news that I’m not allowed to share yet too. But it’s big. And exciting. And your prayers would be wonderful!

 

{Playing Catch-Up With} Mail Call Monday!

So, being in India meant that I didn’t have my letters with me so I couldn’t share them, but it also meant that I had really sporadic access to the internet, so this s a bumper catch up edition of Mail Call Monday, which is teamed up with the wonderful Blogging from the Boonies!

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Whilst I was in India, I received an incredible six letters from my around-the-world family. On top of this, I also received a letter that got lost at the end of last year when I got home! I received two photo updates and a brand new correspondent child! There are also some exciting birthday and anniversary celebrations that have taken place, so this could be a pretty hefty post! You might want to get comfortable and maybe make yourself a coffee or something…

The first letter I received when I got home was from seven year old Rahul from India!

Rahul aged 7

Rahul sent me the Weather template, and I love the information provided on this template! He tells me that his favourite kind of weather is the summer weather and it is usually very hot where he lives. When the weather is nice, he enjoys playing, and when it’s raining, he enjoys playing with water. It’s wintertime at Christmas where he lives. He drew me a beautiful picture of a smiley sunshine, too! He also took the time to write out some words in Kannada – his local dialect. The letter portion of the letter tells me he is doing well by the grace of God. He thanks me for the letters and photos that I send him and he tells me that he’s praying for me and my studies.

The second letter I received was from five year old Joyonto from Bangladesh!

Joyonto aged 5

I was assigned Joyonto as a correspondent child last June, but his first letter went missing, so I only heard from him in January just before I left, so this letter was a surprise! He sent me the “How I have Fun” template. He tells me that his favourite activities is playing football when he’s outside and drawing when he is inside. He usually plays with his friends. He drew me a great picture (using only a red crayon!) of a stick person, a flower and something that I can’t fathom!

His letter tells me that he is doing well, and so is his family. He thanks me for his letters and he tells me that where he lives, it is currently winter. He tells me that he is praying for me and asks that I pray for him, too.

The third letter I received was from ten year old Krisna from East Indonesia! (Warning – this one is pretty heartmelting!).

Krisna aged 9

This letter was also quite a surprise, because I only received a letter from Krisna just before I left for India! He tells me that he is doing well, and he asks how I’m doing and what the weather here is like. He tells me that he’s excited about receiving my letter, and also for Christmas. He enjoys decorating the Christmas tree and “sharing love with my family and relatives”. The next line made me melt into a puddle on the floor. He says “Actually, I really want to spend Christmas with you but you live far away. I want to share joy with you.” I think I might just need to go out and hug this boy real soon. He asks me what I enjoy doing and if I like the college I attend.

The fourth letter I received was from two year old Irabizi from Rwanda!

Irabizi aged 16 months

It’s the standard “Relationship Letter” but I’m so grateful for these because they tell me information such as his height and weight, so I can have a real clear idea about how much he is growing. He is now 84cm tall and weighs 13.5kg at 30 months old. The milestones he has reached are singing and playing house and with cars. The letter, which was written by his father, tells me that Irabizi is fine and that he is growing well. They also thank me for caring about Irabizi and they shared with me Luke 1:45, which says “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished”.

The fifth letter that I received was from eight year old Elizabeth from the Dominican Republic, who is our family-sponsored child!

Elizabeth aged 7

Elizabeth sent us the “My Friends” template. She tells us that the thing she likes to do with her friends is read the Bible and her best friend, who is a girl, s special because she loves to pray and loves to share. She met her best friend in her back garden! She tells us that she enjoyed the letter and photos we sent her about our trip to London, and she enjoyed the photo of the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s horses. She tells us that she spent one month away from where she lives because her mother works there, and then she tells us that she eats a lot! She thanks us for our gifts and prayers and asks us to pray for her family.

The final letter that arrived whilst I was in India was my first letter from Dorcus in Kenya!

Dorcus aged 16

I have been waiting such a long time for this letter! Dorcus was sponsored in memory of my wonderful nan who passed away a few years ago. They both share a birthday, and Dorcus is exactly the sort of young woman that my nan would have made time to love and encourage.

Dorcus thanks me so much for accepting to be her beloved fried. She tells me that she enjoys playing legball with her friends and that she plays the striker position. She tells me that she loves her friends very much, and that she enjoys school and she works hard (Dorcus is currently below average in school). She shares with me Matthew 7:7 which says “ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and anyone who seeks with find and the door will be opened to those who knock”. She prays that God would bless me and she tells me again that she appreciates my support.

And the letter that went missing! Once I arrived home, this letter from ten year old Nova from Indonesia also arrived!

Nova aged 9

This letter was written back in September and arrived at the Compassion UK office in December and it finally showed up on my doormat on March 12th! Sounds like it’s had quite the adventure. But it’s worth it. Nova thanks me for the photo of the beach that I sent to her and she thanks me for the letters. She says “I am touched because you care for me and love me. I also love you very much.” She prays that one day she will be able to see me in person, and she’s sure that I am very beautiful.

Now, let’s talk about photo updates!

Some of you will know that I had to sit tight for a very long time to wait for nine year old Janki from East India’s photo to update. It finally updated just before I left, and it was so worth the wait! In the sequence below, Janki is five in the first photo, seven in the second (which was her current photograph when I was assigned her as a correspondent) and nine in the third!

Janki

The other photo update I received was from fifteen year old Chelsea from Ghana! The SMILE in this photo makes my heart so happy! I would love to visit Chelsea – I’d bet she’d be so much fun on child visit day! In the first photo, she is nine, in the second she is 11 (which was her photo when I was assigned her as a correspondent), in the third she is thirteen and in the fourth she is now fifteen.

Chelsea

(If you’re still on this crazy-long train at this point, reward yourself with a cookie. I promise we’re nearly finished!).

Let’s talk Birthdays!

On February 24th, my crazy-haired little Glen from East Indonesia turned seven!

Glen aged 7

And on March 6th, my new(ish) correspondent teen, Suresh Babu from India turned fifteen!

Suresh Babu aged 14

I hope and pray that these lovely boys had really special birthdays, and that they would know how loved and valued they are.

And now some anniversaries! (p.s. I’ve worked out that writing this with jet lag is painful. But I promise. We’re nearly done. Stay on the bus).

On February 21st, It had been two whole years since my friend called me up and offered to sponsor a child for me to write to. It didn’t take me very long to spot then three-year-old Blessing in the crowd of faces and welcome her into my family! She’s now five years old and she definitely lives up to her name!

Blessing

The very next day was a very special day for me. On February 22nd, I got to celebrate sponsoring Cristin, my very first Compassion-sponsored child, for three whole years! She’s the little girl in the denim dress who started this crazy adventure, and God has exploded it in ways I never thought possible. I can’t believe she’s now eight years old, and growing so fast!

Cristin

Fast forward to march 13th, and there’s a double celebration! It’s been a whole year since I was assigned now five-year0old Evis from Colombia and now seven-year-old Glen from East Indonesia! Time is going by crazy fast!

Evis aged 3

Glen

And now for the final thing, before we draw this crazy thing to a close (if you’ve stuck with me this far, you deserve a medal. Or another cookie).

Whilst I was in India, I decided to ask for another correspondent child. After spending the day with one of the local Compassion projects in India, I re-fell in love with the work that Compassion are doing and wanted to reach out to another child. Because I graduate from college in just a few short weeks, I knew that sponsoring a child may not have been the wisest thing to do, so I decided to ask for another correspondent.

God, typically, wanted to have a bit of a giggle. My last two correspondent children have all been from India, and I also had a correspondent child in East India so I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find out that my newest one was also from this beautiful country!

This beautiful girl is fourteen year old Soniya from East India. She is currently studying in grade 8 at an average level and is due to graduate from Compassion’s programme in December 2021. She celebrates her Birthday on February 5th and lives with her mother and father. Since she was registered with Compassion in 2002, she has had two sponsors and has only received six letters over the last twelve years. Her first photo shows her at around 11 years old and her new photo shows her at around 13 years old.

Soniya aged 12

Soniya aged 13

I’m so excited about getting to know her over the next few months!

OneWord365: January

This year, I have decided to have another go at giving God space in my life to teach me and help me grow – all surrounded by one word. At the end of last year, I felt God lead me to the word love, and that is what my focus has been so far for 2014.

Looking back over January, I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is that love is hard, and that it hurts. But it’s not quite as depressing as that (although, ask anyone who knows me – I often pretend that it is!). Love as a feeling is something that is easy because we don’t have a whole lot of control over it (and the whole mushy butterflies-in-your-stomach thing can actually be sort of nice. But ssshhh, that’s a secret!). But actually doing love? That’s hard. And painful. Because I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that love as a feeling isn’t enough. Love is something that we should be showing to those around us every single day. And not just towards the people that we actually love, but towards the people who we don’t really like, and to the people who wind us up and the people who hurt us. We are still called to love them. And that’s the love that hurts. When it actually costs us something, because there’s no guarantee that we’re going to get anything back.

The thing about love is that it’s always about other people. The Bible is full of practical (and sometimes rather impractical!) ways that we can love people, and there are two passages of scripture that really spoke to me about love throughout January:

Romans 12:9-21

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[c]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is probably one of my new favourite verses of Scripture, largely because of the first four words: Love must be Sincere. This isn’t something we can fake. When we love someone, it goes deeper than the feelings and the butterflies and all the other ickiness that we associate with love. There’s an honesty about it, we need to be devoted to one another, and this isn’t just the whole husband-and-wife scenario – this is the way in which Christ loves us, the Body of Christ, and how we, in turn, should love our brothers and sisters – in a real, honest way. And this is what I want to get better at this year. I want to love people sincerely. I want to be able to honestly rejoice when they rejoice, and hurt when they hurt, because I think that’s a beautiful Christlike example.

The second passage of Scripture that really spoke to me was also from the book of Romans:

Romans 13:8-10

Love Fulfills the Law

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,”[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I love the idea of loving people like it’s a debt you’re trying to repay, because when you have a debt that you need to pay back, the debt is there whether it’s convenient or not. We need to love people, both when it’s convenient (or when it’s easy) and when it’s inconvenient (or when it’s hard). I don’t want to love people for what I get out of it. I want to love people because I want to see people the way Jesus sees people, and as the end of this passage reminds us, love is the fulfilment of the Law.

It’s not until I have had time to stop and think over January (please kindly ignore the fact that we’re not halfway through February…) to really see all that God is teaching about this tiny four-letter word. If I’m completely honest, I was really nervous when I initially felt God leading me to this word, because I know that love makes you vulnerable, and being vulnerable opens you up to all sorts of hurts. But my experience so far is that being vulnerable, while sometimes painful, also creates so many opportunities for blessings. I’m seeing things in the Bible that I’ve read so many times but have never really noticed before. I’m looking for opportunities to show love to others. And I’m also beginning to understand more and more just how much Jesus loves me.

Mail Call Monday (Celebrations from India!)

(Please kindly ignore the fact that in most of the world, it is now Tuesday!)

One thing I really miss about home is being able to pick up my post, especially letters from my Compassion children. A real struggle for me right now is knowing that there should be a first letter from Dorcus in Kenya – the girl I sponsored last Summer in memory of my sweet nan who passed away when I was fifteen. I’ve been so anxious to hear from her, and a letter finally arrives when I’m out of the country! But I’m using it as something to look forward to when I do arrive home.

While I don’t know anything about the post that’s arrived at home, I do have two very special celebrations! Yay!

On February 12th, my sweet Betelihem from Ethiopia turned seven years old! She was so tiny when I was first assigned her as a correspondent, and while I don’t hear from her very often, she’s so special to me. Happy Birthday, special girl!

Betelihem

It also happens that my other celebration happened on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, which marked two years since I was assigned Betelihem as a correspondent! She’s my little Valentine’s girl. I can’t believe how quickly these last two years have passed, and I feel so blessed to have received such a special Valentine’s gift. I always remember Betelihem on Valentine’s day now J

The Day I Upset the Buffalo (and Other Funny Stories)

In an attempt to make your morning a little bit brighter, here are some silly (but all too true) stories that have happened to me since I arrived in India (which was two whole weeks ago, by the way!).

  1. Frishta own two buffalos. Or Buffalo. Whatever. Anyway, there are two of them – a mother and a baby. They’re huge and very smelly. But they are here. And for that, I’m trying to be grateful. But anyway. They’re pretty much free to roam around the site (which, by the way, is the same site where the children play. Remember this. It’s important). So. I was minding my own business, playing with the children and trying to convince them that I really was too big for the tiny see-saw. While I was trying to explain this to them (complete with crazy hand motions and trying to get them to understand English), I could feel something behind me. You know like in the movies, where you know something’s behind you, but there’s no way you’re gonna turn around and see just what is breathing down the back of your neck? Yeah, that. Next thing, I hear a grunting noise and turn around to come face to face with a buffalo. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever screamed so much in my life. The children thought it was hilarious. Until said buffalo took a step closer to us. Then they screamed too (and somehow thought it was perfectly acceptable to use me as a human shield between them and the buffalo. Delightful). I’m now convinced that the buffalos (or buffalo. Whatever) give me dirty looks every time they see me.
  2. Taking advantage of the buffalos, the milk we have here at Frishta is buffalo milk, not cow’s milk. I’d had it in tea without really knowing any different, so I wasn’t too worried. I’d been told it tastes just like whole milk we get in England. Fine. On my first morning of having breakfast at Jasmine House, I was offered a glass of milk, and then being given it before I could really say anything. Let me tell you, it tastes nothing like cow’s milk. They have to really heat it up before you drink it because it hasn’t been treated in the same way that we treat milk in England, and it smells like a farmyard. I’m not kidding. It’s not pleasant. But, out of politeness, I manage to drink this glass of buffalo milk. No problem. The next morning I go for breakfast, I’ve been promoted to a huge mug of the stuff. Problem. I can’t seem to communicate to the people making breakfast that I’m actually lactose intolerant either. Four days straight, I show up for breakfast and am expected to drink this huge mug of ‘milk’. Thankfully, they finally get it, and I get to switch to soya milk. I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief right now (and I also get cornflakes for breakfast now, too!).
  3. I was helping one of the children with their English reading (which is always fun – I spend most of my time wanting to correct what the author of the textbook has written!) and I came across a word that definitely does not exist in England – we have wardrobes – the people who wrote the textbook is convinced we call them steel something-or-others. So I had to ask one of the Frishta children what this ‘English’ word was. They all thought I was crazy (until I explained that whatever that word was doesn’t actually exist in England…).
  4. I got to help with the veg shopping at Dera Bassi market last week. This was definitely an experience. Dera Bassi is a little shanty-type town, with very few buildings and lots of stalls, all crammed with really bright coloured vegetables. Oh, and the sewage runs down the middle of the street. Dera Bassi never sees any tourists, so I got a lot of strange looks (even people driving past us would slow down just to stare at me. Another way to tell I’m not in England). Anyway, to get to said market, we rode in the Tata Magic. The thing about this car is that it technically shouldn’t be on the road. I was sat in the back of it and the metalwork sounded like someone torturing a herd of piglets. I was convinced the whole back of the car was going to fall off before we even made it to the market. But that is not why this is considered a ‘funny story’. Oh no. The funny thing is – I was halfway to Dera Bassi when it dawned on me that out of the three of us in the car, I was the only one with a driver’s license. And I wasn’t driving.

Welcome to India, folks!

Thankful Thursday {From India!}

Being in India has been so wonderfully/challenging/heartbreaking/joyful/different and it is a little bit overwhelming. While there are things about England that I’m missing {right now, the food is probably the big on, aside from friends and family}, I feel so blessed that I am able to spend these five weeks in India, even with all of the different sights/smells/etc.

I’ve been in India for ten whole days. I can’t believe how quickly time is going, and yet at the same time, it feels like I’ve been here for months. I go from wanting to stay here forever to wishing the next three weeks away so I can just go home, so my heart is in a little bit of a mess right now, but God is still good. So here are ten things I’ve been thankful for over the last ten days.

  1. Lots of big smile. The children here are so full of joy, despite everything they’ve been through, and I just love looking at their smiles. When I walk into a room now, I can hear chourses of “good afternoon, Shelley mam!” and before too long, I’m being enveloped into a massive bundle of cuddles with ten children all desperate to say hello and have a cuddle. And it’s probably the nicest feeling in the world.
  2. Feeling safe. After the disastrous journey  to get to Frishta, I’m suddenly overwhelmed at the different ways God protects His children. Never once have I felt unsafe since arriving in India, even with all the stories of tourists getting mugged and things. I always feel completely safe.
  3. Hearing scripture read in Hindi. This is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. Hindi is such a beautiful language, and hearing the children sing songs to Jesus in this language is just precious. IMG_3350
  4. Hearing God speak. It’s taken me to travel to another continent, but having precious time listening for God’s voice while I’ve been here, away from the distractions that I face at home, has been worth every mile I’ve traveled and every penny I’ve spent getting here. I think this is the main reason I’d be happy to stay here – because right now, I have time and space to listen to God, and between college and work and essays and eating-and-sleeping-and-breathing, I think I miss out on a lot of this at home.
  5. Seeing God’s creation in a whole new way. There’s a whole other story to this, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned while being here is that the God that I know and love and serve in England has come with me to India, and is the same God that I know and love and serve. And there’s so much power in realising this. God is God, no matter where I am.
  6. Being able to connect with people from back home. So I know I’ve said that I love spending time here in India, and I honestly do. This is probably the best thing I’ve ever done. But I’m a homegirl really, so being able to have quick chats with people back home makes me enjoy this time here even more, because I get my little taste of home, and then can move on from missing England and go back to spending time with the children here.
  7. The sunshine has come out! I’ve been waiting for this ever since I arrived, and it’s starting to warm up now, even in our little village. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’ve been able to go outside without a hoodie on! So I’m still in long sleeves, but that’s another issue. The fact is, the warm weather is on its way!IMG_3333
  8. Warm water. The water for the showers here is warmed using solar power, and we had no sunshine. No sunshine = freezing cold showers. While the showers are still cold, I do get hot water from a tap. So while it’s not a hot shower, it’s warm water, and it runs for as long as I need it, so I’m counting my blessings that I get running water AND it’s warm enough for me to wash with. Yay for silver linings!
  9. Learning new skills. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been a childminder, admin assistant, accountant, cook, storyteller,dance teacher, preacher, and all at the same time as being just me. I’ve learned things I do like doing, and things I definitely don’t like doing. And I’ve learned that just being me is actually pretty good.
  10. Having those “…But God” moments. There have been so many times where something could have gone wrong, whilst planning my trip, traveling, and even being here at Frishta. But God always shows up. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Thank you so much for keeping me and my trip in your prayers. I’ve got so many things I want to share, but time with internet access is pretty limited. I would ask that you keep praying for my trip, and I will try and share more as and when I can.

Blessings! xo

My First Day in India…

…didn’t turn out exactly as I had hoped. My first flight from London to Mumbai was pretty uneventful (i.e. boring. The guy next to me kept leaning so far to the left he was practically sitting on me, and the TV that was available broke about 4 hours into the 9 hour flight). We landed in Mumbai at 4am Sunday morning local time, (which is about 10:30pm Saturday night English time), and 25 degrees outside! So I was beginning to get tired. I got to the airport and waited around to pick up my suitcases and when they eventually arrived, I somehow managed to fall over one of them. In front of everyone. Smooth. Thankfully, an English lady and an American lady helped me up (and helped me to laugh it off. If I didn’t laugh, I’d cry).

Over at the customs desk, I was in a long line of people waiting to get my luggage scanned, and it suddenly hit me that I wasn’t in England any more. I was scared and tired and a little bit grumpy, so I cried. Embarrassing myself in front of hundreds of strangers very quickly became a new gift of mine! Thankfully, another lovely American lady and her husband chatted to me and managed to calm me down, and she gave me a hug. I got my luggage scanned and moved onto another queue for domestic flights to have my luggage scanned. Again. Once that was all done and my luggage was re-checked in for the next flight, I had to go through a security scanner before finally being allowed onto the coach that would take me to the other side of the airport. While I was on the coach, I got talking to an Indian guy who was visiting family. He somehow got the impression that I was here because I was arranged to be married to someone who lives in North India. But hey, he was nice and gave me the directions I needed. And I made it clear that I was not here to get married.

I boarded my final flight at 6:15am (12:45am English time), which departed for Chandigarh at 7am and making a quick stop off in Delhi. Another pretty uneventful flight, until we arrived at Delhi where I was told all flights in and out of Chandigarh had been cancelled until further notice. However, they didn’t explain this in English – just in Hindi. Which I don’t speak. So I picked up my bags and started to cry in the middle of Delhi airport. One of the customers at the information desk saw that I was getting upset and pushed me towards the front of the queue (although they don’t really queue here – it’s more of a free-for-all. You have to be ruthless to get anywhere near the front), insisting that someone help “the little white girl”. I was taken into the office where they told me that I had a seat on the next coach to Chandigarh (the flight was due to take 50 minutes. The drive would take 6 hours..!).

Thankfully, the coach didn’t take very long to organise, which was a real blessing because by this point, I was exhausted and I was feeling more than a little overwhelmed at the different sights/sounds/smells/colours and all I really wanted was my bed (and, at this point, I didn’t care if that was in England or India). I headed straight to the back of the coach to hide in the corner and sleep. By the way, they drive like crazies here. On a three carriage motorway, you’ll have as many as six lines of traffic, because you don’t look at the ground, you look in front of you, put your foot down and drive and pray you don’t hit anything. Oh, and it’s also acceptable to pile your family of three (or four. Or five. Or however many you can possibly fit. Including very small children) onto a motorbike and take off. Nobody uses baby seats or seatbelts – at one point, I saw a family of five in a car, with the baby sat in the front of her mother’s lap and two toddlers stood on the back seat fighting over something on the parcel shelf. Anyway, we had been driving for about five hours when the coach decided to break down.

I’m not even joking.

Again, everything was being explained in Hindi, and all I could see was people STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOTORWAY trying to wave down taxis. I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (don’t worry…my crying has just about stopped at this point). Thankfully (again), two lovely people who had been sitting at the back of the bus with me said that they didn’t want me travelling on my own, so they offered to share a taxi with me because they were heading past the airport. I felt increasingly hopeful that I would finally make it to the airport.

Until I saw the “taxi”.

Imagine a motorbike. With a box on the back. You sit in the box, with your luggage tied onto a shelf on the back. The sides of the box are made of tarpaulin, not metal, and these things weave in and out of the crazy traffic. They look like this:

So there was the driver and the guy I’d met in the front, with one suitcase. Me, the girl I’d met and some other random lady in the back, with another suitcase, and the other FOUR SUITCASES tied onto the back of this thing (and I’m pretty sure someone made me promise that I would never get in/on one of these things. Whoops). But hey, I finally made it to the airport at 6:30pm! My lift was there, and I’d never felt happier about being in a normal car on my way ‘home’.

Once I arrived at Frishta, I quickly put my luggage in my room and was taken off to one of the houses because they were having a birthday party for one of the boys. All the children introduced themselves and then we sang happy birthday. The birthday boy then went round to all the adults and fed them all some cake (like what English people do at weddings, although there’s more in your mouth and less on your face…) and we sat down for birthday cake and samosas.

I don’t really remember much more about my first evening at the village, but I do remember that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow that night, feeling incredibly thankful that I’d even made it to Frishta after that journey.

One More Day.

It’s only one more day until I’ll be on my way to the airport, to get on a plane to take me somewhere that’s worlds away from here.

Honestly, I’m not ready to go. I’ve got things that I still need to buy, my suitcases are barely packed, I need to tax my car before I leave, I need to talk to my bank and probably about one-hundred-and-fifty other things I haven’t even thought of.

But there’s something deeper about this trip that I’m not prepared for. I can deal with an empty suitcase and no shampoo and the fact that all the money I have is in the wrong currency. But I can’t deal with thinking about the stories of these kids. I can’t deal with the fact that these kids are unwanted and unloved by the very families they were born into. I can’t deal with the idea of seeing the hurt and rejection in their eyes.

But the only way I can even think about taking this trip is with an overflowing of Jesus-grace so I can take this overflow and allow it to flow over into these little lives of those who the world has written off, but who Jesus accepts without question or hesitation. And I want to mirror this for these kids.

I can’t even begin to find the words to explain how I’m feeling about my trip, because it still hasn’t completely sunk in that I’m actually going. And yet, somehow, in 26 hours, I’ll be leaving my home comforts behind as I set off for the airport and in 29 hours I’ll be getting ready to take off and leave England far behind. And honestly?

I can’t wait.

I can’t wait to be away from the pressure of Western culture and the sense of entitlement and be fully immersed in a culture that’s full of different colours and smells and sights and sounds.

But I’m afraid as well. I’m afraid of the changes that God is going to bring in me and the challenges I’m going to face. So, with this in mind, there are a couple of things that I would love to you to pray for.

  • Safe travels. My parents are driving me to the airport tomorrow. Please pray that they get to and from the airport safely. Please also pray that I get to India safely and that both my flights run smoothly and that in-country travel goes well.
  • Health. People keep ‘helpfully reminding’ me that I could end up with an upset stomach and insect bites and other ickiness. Please pray that I don’t get ill, and if I do, that I recover quickly and can get on with the work I’m going to do.
  • That I keep it all about Jesus. I don’t want to lose sight of why I’m going, and I definitely don’t want to go on my own. Please pray that I would have the courage to be obedient and step out in faith, even when this is scary.

Thank you so much for following my trip with me, and thank you for all your lovely words and prayers and support. I can’t wait to talk to you from India!

Mail Call…Wednesday?

So, life happened again. Between having the busiest term ever at college and preparing for India, I lost the ability to breathe and take five minutes for myself. But this five minutes happens to be at 10 past 9 on a Wednesday evening, so I’m just gonna go with it. Because it’s my first Mail Call Monday of 2014, and I got eight letters!

The first letter that arrived was my first letter from sweet Joyonto in Bangladesh!

Joyonto aged 5

I was assigned Joyonto as a correspondent back last June, so this letter was greatly anticipated! It’s a “My Medical Check Up” template. Joyonto tells me that his last check up was in the summer at his project and he went to it with his father. He felt nervous, but the check up went well! In the drawing section of the letter, he wrote me out some of his local alphabet and I got a very sweet little letter, too. He told me that he was happy to receive my gift (which I assume came from his financial sponsors). He bought a shirt, some trousers, shoes, some chairs and a table. He tells me that his favourite flower is a rose and he asks me what my favourite flower is too!

The second letter I received was from my sweet Janki in East India!

Janki aged 7

(Some of you may remember that I’m impatiently awaiting a photo update for this beautiful girl. It’s arrived! But I can’t share it yet, because I don’t have it. So you’re gonna have to sit tight for a little longer!). For the first time ever, Janki filled her side of the A4 page with her letter! She drew me a stunning picture of a peacock, too. She says she hopes that I am okay, and she is well and learning lots of things at her CDC. She tells me that winter is on the way, so she now has a blanket, jacket, shoes, a bag and some nail cutters. She wishes me and my family a happy Christmas and thanks me for the letters I send, and that she’s awaiting the arrival of the next one!

I then received a letter from each of my Colombian kids! The first one was from my sweet little Evis.

Evis aged 3

I am so grateful for tutor Ana at Evis’ centre – she works tirelessly to make sure we receive wonderful letters from our little ones! This letter tells me that Evis’ hobby is playing with dolls with her friends, and one day she would like to ride a bike. She sends me greetings and many hugs and thanks me for the letters I send her. She asks me to pray for her family and she tells me that she is doing very well at school. She send Philippians 4:13 and she tells me that she loves me very much. She ends her letter with cute little flower drawings!

My other Colombian letter was from my teenage boy, Adner.

Adner aged 16

Adner also thanks me for the letters I have been sending him. He tells me in this letter that he has finished tenth grade! He tells me that his health is good, but he needs to do more exercise. He asks me how my health is, and sends Jeremiah 1:5. He tells me he loves me and that he is praying for me. He sends me a sketch of some mountains at the end of his letter.

I then received letters from all four of my East Indonesia kids! I am being spoilt this month! The first one to arrive was from my sweet Glen.

Glen aged 7

My heart hurts so much for this sweet boy and all that he has had to face in his short life, so it’s always a joy to receive his letters and know that he is okay. This letter was the “How I Have Fun” template. He tells me he usually plays with his siblings and his favourite sport is swimming. When he is outside, he enjoys group studying and when he is inside, he likes reading (sounds like a smart kid!). He drew me a beautiful picture of some fish, and in his letter, he thanks me for the Bible verses that I sent. He says “although I am a little child, I believe that God will hear my prayers for you.” This kid is wise!He sends me Amos 5:6 because it’s his favourite verse.

The next letter to arrive was from Krisna.

Krisna aged 9

He thanks me for a gift I sent back last year when I got news that his house had been damaged. He also tells me that he always prays for me, that we will be healthy. He thanks me for the birthday card I sent him and that he’s grateful that I’ve become his older sister! He tells me he loves me and that he hopes that I am okay. His favourite Bible verse s John 3:16 and his favourite thing to do at the project is memorise bible verses!

The third ID letter I received was from Rendi (who happens to be celebrating his tenth birthday tomorrow!).

Rendi aged 8

Rendi tells me that he is happy because he received my letter, and because I am fine. He thanks me for the photos that I have sent. He tells me that he has lots of friends and he enjoys playing football with them, and he likes scoring goals! He tells me he helps his parents at home by sweeping the floor and looking after his little sibling, and that “I love my cute little sibling”.

The final letter I received was from Cristin!

Cristin aged 8

I’m so glad this letter arrived, because her previous letter left me with some questions that have now thankfully been cleared up! Cristin sent me the “What I Like Best” template. She tells me that her favourite activity to do with friends is reading and her favourite thing at the project is the lessons. Her favourite place to visit is the beach and her favourite thing to do with her family is playing. She drew me the cutest picture with my name in clouds and then she wrote her name in one cloud, ‘I (heart) michelle’ in another and ‘I (heart) vicky’ (my sister) in another! She opens her letter with “Shalom my amazing sister michelle!” She tells me she goes to her centre on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. She tells me that she has a new baby brother! His name is George and he is three months old!

Along with Rendi celebrating his tenth birthday tomorrow (January 30th), Rahul from India also celebrated his eighth birthday on January 14th! Happy birthday to two handsome boys!

Rahul aged 7