Diwali

Rangoli - women use sand to hand-draw images on floors and driveways.
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Well, Ben and I enjoyed our first Diwali!  This holiday is huge – kind of like Christmas for India.  There are colorful lights on houses, candles, artwork, music, sweets everywhere, and people going from house to house “calling on” family and friends (people still do that here and it is really cool!)  People light fireworks in the streets… literally, right in the middle of the street.  We were told this was a five-day holiday, but celebrations lasted from October 30th until yesterday… I guess people celebrate it on different days here.  I got hit by firework shrapnel twice during this holiday, once while riding on the back of the scooter – but we didn’t witness any house fires or injuries!
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Making Roti

roti
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I have been learning how to make a lot of new recipes since we moved to Nagpur.  My friend is an excellent cook and has taught me most of the things I know so far.  Ben has had to put up with a lot of experimenting, and some instant noodles when I get tired of cooking. One of the most important Indian staples is roti, a thin flatbread served with almost every meal.  It’s made with only wheat flour, water, and a bit of oil.  You roll the dough (pronounced “dove” here…) very thin and cook it on a pan.  Then you toss it right onto the gas burner so it puffs up in the middle. You top the finished product with a little butter.
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Contentment and Discontentment

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It is the best and the worst here.  I’ve never been so happy to be somewhere and so challenged at the same time.  I am learning a lot about myself in India!  One thing I have learned is that I have been very spoiled.  I am used to having what I need at my disposal.  I am used to having exactly what I want at my disposal.  I am sad to admit that I get really upset sometimes when I can’t get things I want.  Although I knew that it would be challenging here and I tried to prepare myself, there have been one or two times where I’ve laughed and said, “Are you kidding me?” Is this really how the majority of people live?  Am I really this spoiled?  Yes… and yes I am.
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Marinara and post-modernism

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It’s hard to believe we have been in India for over a month now!  Somewhere between weeks three and four, I started to feel more at home.  And, with the purchase of our little red scooter, we have entered a new and glorious era of freedom.  We can eat lunch whenever we want!  Sometimes, I can even stay home for half a day and enjoy some introvert time while Ben is at the office. It’s amazing how much three hours of alone time does for my emotional state.  I have been a much more pleasant person this past week!  Also, the apartment is actually clean.
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The little things

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For the past few months, our lives have been filled with excitement and activity as we prepared to leave for India. Our friends and family surrounded us. We prayed and dreamed of the things we want to do in Nagpur. We want to help orphans and adopt them; we want to tell people about Jesus; we want to train and encourage evangelists; we want God to use us to change the world. These are lofty goals.

But on the ground here, we knew we would come face to face with the reality that some of these goals will be long-term; they will require perseverance, patience, and suffering. Accomplishing them will be nothing short of a miracle. It will be God’s doing, in His timing. By ourselves, we are very incapable here.  We started experiencing this reality almost immediately upon arrival!

Even in daily life, it has been painfully humbling for me to be so dependent on God and others for (literally) everything. At this point, we cannot eat a real meal, get around town, shop, hold a conversation with most people, or even go to church without someone else’s help. This level of incapacity is so frustrating to me. I know God is using it to teach me to lay down my pride and depend on Him in each moment! I read Proverbs 3:5-6 Sunday and it really encouraged me in this area. I cannot even try to lean on my own understanding here, so I am learning to put my trust in the Lord and submit to Him.

I know that we will continue to pursue our long-term goals here as God leads us, and we are in this ministry for the long haul. I also think God is calling me to have faith that the small, daily things we do are meaningful too. Sometimes, I have a very limited view of what meaningful work looks like: Bible studies, counseling sessions, children’s services… Hopefully we will eventually have the opportunity to participate in these kinds of ministry here, but for now, what should we do? I am missing the activities I got to be part of in the US, and I’m dying to do something big and “meaningful” here.

This weekend I read what Jesus told his disciples about the kingdom of God. He uses three similar parables (the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost/prodigal son) to demonstrate a principle in Luke 15:10, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” In all of the parables, Jesus is talking about one individual. One sheep… one coin… one sinner who repents. Although this is not the only point of the lesson, I noticed that Jesus puts value on the individual… on the small things. One sheep out of 99 doesn’t seem like a “big” deal, but it is very meaningful in the Kingdom. Even if we see one person’s life changed, it will be meaningful and important. Angels will rejoice.

I started thinking more about the little things in life. What resources do I have? Our friend and mentor wrote a book about biblical principles that I just finished copy-editing. One of the principles is use what you have; don’t worry about what you don’t have (2 Corinthians 8:12). I remembered this for my life and decided that I would try to use the gifts that I do have in order to impact people’s lives.  I will strive to be faithful in the little things. If that means all I can do is smile and greet the boy who takes out our trash, I will do it. If it means I can say a word of encouragement to a friend, I will do it. If I can be uplifting to my husband, I will do it. I can be righteous and practice the fruits of the Spirit, and I will do it. I will look for any way I can show love to others. These things are really not what I would consider “ministry” – but they are the only things I have right now.

For now, I have faith that God is in control and will accomplish His will. I have faith that the little things are also important.

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

The funny thing is…

Our mattress right now - thats tree bark
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We have been in India for five days now! So far we have gotten situated and also visited the church, where they invited Ben to preach. Everyone was very welcoming. We also had lunch with the pastor and his wife.

It took us four days to get a bed for our apartment, so we spent our first night in our new home last night. Things are starting to get real.

The first thing I have learned in India is to wait. In the US, everything happens in an instant. Not so in India. We ordered a mattress on Saturday (Day 2). After we left, the store called. They forgot to mention that they didn’t have what we purchased in stock. It would take two days to deliver it. After that, they called and said it would take four days. Finally, yesterday they delivered a “temporary” mattress made out of tree bark that we can use until they deliver the real mattress (tree bark with a few inches of foam – yay!). Apparently, this is all standard procedure around here.

I have actually found a lot of humor in this so far. I’m sure I will have my moments of frustration, but right now it is just so fascinating. Actually, I think my naturally slow pace seems to fit in just fine here! Also, it is completely acceptable to be 30 minutes late to a function (and everyone is late, except to work). That is great news for me. The Indians have a phrase that helps westerners understand their mindset in regard to time. They say Indian Standard Time (IST) really stands for “Indian Stretchable Time.” Nice!

Besides the time thing, there are a few other idiosyncrasies that I have found particularly fun. Here are a few. As you read, please picture Ben and me looking bewildered!

  1. Our landlords are strict vegetarian (many Hindus are) and have asked us to refrain from preparing meat in our apartment.
  2. There is no hot water unless you boil it on the stovetop or flip on the shower heater. Our friends were really amused when we asked why our faucet didn’t have hot water.
  3. In India, the whole bathroom is your shower.  The shower head is placed on the wall with nothing to separate it, so you just end up getting the whole bathroom soaked! Note to self: move the toilet paper to a safer location.
  4. No one in India uses or owns an oven. My friend would like me to teach her how to make lasagna. We might try an experiment with a toaster oven.
  5. When you go shopping, you have to take small bills because even in the big stores, “no one has change.”
  6. The presentation of gifts is very elaborate and taken very seriously here (Suzie, you would love it!). Everything is wrapped meticulously. My friend admitted that she was puzzled when I gave her a tissue-paper-stuffed gift bag last December! This time I didn’t even bother to wrap her gift… oops!

I hope you found as much humor as I did in these situations over the past week! Our friends have helped us so much as we learn. I’m sure we’ll have more adventures this week too!

One Suitcase

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According to our research, it looks like United Airlines allows us each to check only one (1) suitcase free of charge on our flight from Orlando to Mumbai. Since there is a hefty charge for additional baggage, we will be sticking it to the man and fitting our entire lives into two bags weighing 50lbs and measuring 62.0-linear-inches. What?

Mostly I enjoy playing this game. How much stuff do we really need to bring, anyway? I usually just take a carry-on suitcase when traveling in the U.S. I am kind of a lazy traveler.

I have one tiny obsessive side that does not enjoy playing this game. (My “essential” books alone weigh at least 15lbs!) I can hear my sister saying “you’re a nerd!” but I can’t help it.

Now we are in the process of evaluating needs vs. wants. Luckily, I can’t think of very many needs. One of my well-traveled friends advised me to bring jeans and shoes to last a year, since I won’t be able to find my size in India (sad truth). Other than those and a few cosmetics (which are not technically “needs,” but whatever) I can purchase things there as needed.

Selling our things has been a freeing experience for us so far. We have gotten rid of a lot, and I haven’t really missed any of it! I’m kind of excited I’ll only have to keep track of one bag of stuff. Freedom!

I read a verse this week that encouraged me in this:

1 Timothy 6:6-8  But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.