The things we have learned.

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Panipuri is a wafer type bowl filled with boiled potato and spices, then dipped into chili water that you pop in your mouth all in one shot. Such a rush!

It’s amazing how slow and how fast things go by in India.  Everyone has a slower pace, but the days go by so much faster.  We are now going into the third weekend in India.  Here are some quick tips for those thinking about visiting:

Top 5 Things to Know about Living in India.

  1. Don’t pay for things in advance when it’s delivery. I learned if something is rs15,000 ($300), like a mattress, that isn’t in stock, only pay for 1/4 the cost and negotiate the rest at delivery. If you pay for it all at once, there is no hurry to deliver (took 6 days)
  2. Don’t cancel your American phone numbers the first week. There are so many systems that use your phone number as a verification when you are locked out of your accounts due to “suspicious foreign activity.”
  3. Be prepared for the “American Tax.” It’s about a 200-400% markup on goods sold. It’s okay to say no and come back with a local friend.
  4. Tell each bank/credit card that you are leaving the country…then get ready for that not to matter. (Got locked out of 4 accounts last Friday)
  5. Buy your power converters in country.

The Excitement of India

India is an exciting place. Every food we try is a new and exciting flavor, every place we visit becomes the “new standard,” and our apartment is slowly becoming a new home. Jaimie and I have our ups and downs, but ultimately, we both love it here. The people are nice and friendly, everyone is excited to help, and there are so many new things to try.

Below is a picture gallery of a few things that took us off guard last week. Click the pictures to view larger.

The holiday game is a game where you make a human pyramid of men two stories high and try to break a clay pot filled with curd and rupees while the women throw water on you. So creative here!

Passage to India! (Ben & Jaimie’s Perspectives)

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Ben’s Perspective

Jaimie and I are down to a few bags in which we crammed all of the things we deemed as important to take to India. Everything else we either sold or stored. We both packed enough clothes for seven of our 360 days (tomorrow will be day 3).  We packed a couple of bibles, a few important books, computers, and Jaimie’s peanut butter. See the picture above for an idea.

Our Itinerary

We left our house at 6:15 a.m. and arrived in Washington D.C. around 11:00a.m. From D.C. at 3:00 p.m. to Newark at 5:00 p.m.  When we arrived at Newark, my mom surprised us with lounge tickets! We got a couple of glasses of wine, showers, and some snacks. We also sat next to some world travelers that were a blast to talk to – and taught us how to use the lounge the most effective way.

From Newark we got on a plane at 9:00 p.m. and arrived at Mumbai, India at 9:00 p.m. (14 hours w/ the time change).

After a 30 minute cab ride we finally made it to the comfort of a hotel room and went to bed around 11:30. 7:00 am came around and we got up, and took the hotel car to the airport and flew to Nagpur, India (our destination).

What is Nagpur like?

Nagpur is at the end of their monsoon season – which looks a lot like the beginning of summer/hurricane season in Florida. It’s bright and sunny during the day at about 90 degrees, then around 4:00 p.m. it begins raining and cooling off. It’s almost like we are home.

When we arrived in Nagpur, we were greeted by our great friends. We ordered Dominos pizza for lunch, rested, then headed off to see our apartment. Our friends are the most accommodating and friendliest people anyone will have the pleasure of meeting. We are so excited to spend time with them. Around 4:00 p.m. they took us to see the apartment they found for us, and it is amazing!

You’ll have to check back in a few days to see some pictures, and discover the new things we are finding out we need – and had no idea existed, and more!

Troubles

I have a saying: “I’m not afraid of the dark, I’m afraid of what’s in the dark.” Basically, it’s the unknown that strikes fear…which, coincidentally, are most of the things that are 100% out of my control. I don’t like to fly, check bags, switch planes, get into cabs in foreign cities with strangers, get rude looks when I don’t tip more than $10 to put my bag inside the cab when I asked him not to, wait for lights to turn green in the slums at 10:00 p.m. at night, etc.etc.etc. But this morning was a little humbling when I was reading Galatians. In the first chapter alone Paul mentions he went to Jerusalem, Arabia, Damascus, Syria, and Cilicia which seemed to be all within a 3 year period (could be wrong). I went to Nagpur…just one place, which causes me to lose sleep with anxiety.

I am excited that with this trip, I can already see that I will have to rely on God’s control, and the strength of our marriage. I alone, it turns out, can’t control much at all.

– Ben

Jaimie’s perspective

We made it! After a pretty leisurely flight schedule (two short layovers in the U.S., a 14 hour overnight to Mumbai, a hotel stay and a 1-hour flight to Nagpur), we finally arrived in our Indian hometown this afternoon. None of our luggage was lost, which is a huge bonus! Compared to our last trip, this one was a cakewalk.

Our Friends found a wonderful apartment for us, and we met the landlord (who also happens to be a doctor and lives directly next door). Our kitchen is huge, and we have two bathrooms and two bedrooms. Tomorrow, we will go shopping for a few furnishings and other necessities! The apartment is in a great location, safe and close to a market and Ben’s office. We will be able to walk to many of our destinations.

It has been comforting and greatly encouraging to have friends praying for us during our travel. I can truly see the impact of these prayers already. Our fears and anxieties, which have been many, have been overshadowed by the faith we share in Jesus. His hand is guiding us in it all.

– Jaimie

We Leave Wednesday Early Morning!

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We leave soon. Jaimie and I are at our last two days. We have started moving and packing. This week we threw out 7-8 garbage bags of junk. We’re busy moving furniture, packing bags, selling things, accepting donations (wink*wink*).  – Just kidding.  But seriously, many many people have been helping Jaimie and I tremendously by giving us their time, inviting us to dinners and lunches, giving us small checks and saying, “Here is for air and Internet.” It’s been so humbling seeing the generosity of the people around us. Thank you so much!

What Happened Friday Night?

One of these generous moments was Friday Night. Marco was able to shoot a video for us so we all can see what went on. Our closest friends threw a little going away party and you can be a part of it by watching the video below.

*UPDATE: Video removed for security purposes.

 

One Week and Counting

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We are leaving for India in one week.

What in the world happened last week?…let’s see:

  • Go to the Dentist
  • Go to the Doctor
  • Organize parts of the garage
  • Have a farewell party
  • Call car insurance
  • Quit my job
  • Have another farewell party
  • Research oversea communication
  • Begin the living will and that stuff.
  • etc…

That’s just me. Jaimie will have to tell you her full week. This week Jaimie and I already have 6 events on the schedule and I have 3 client meetings…and I’m sure more to come. It’s been extremely busy for us! But it’s nice that we don’t just sit in the house stressing about the move. There are lots of things keeping us busy.

Services Offered

One of my most favorite accomplishments this week is re-designing my entire website. From bottom up, Skillful Antics, now has a fresh new look on everything. One of the ways Jaimie and I are trying to fund our trip is to work for ourselves. Building websites for people is something I can do anywhere. So I encourage you to check out the new website and get a flavor of what I do for a living – if you know anyone who needs a website, I’d be more than happy to help them out.

What are Jaimie and I going through mentally?

I think I speak for us both when I say we are getting excited, nervous, happy, sad, etc. all at the same time. Jaimie and I are going to an area we hardly know. I’ve been encouraged to think this way:  “Think, here in America you write five things on a list and head out for the day and you can get all five done. In India, write five things on a list, head out for the day, and hopefully by tomorrow you will get the first one done.” Not being able to communicate, not knowing the roads, stores, prices, expectations, corrupt laws, etc. puts an unsettling feeling in our gut.

We are certainly not allowing that fear to cripple us. Moving forward towards God is the active command he gave all of us – but sometimes it’s a little uneasy. It reminds me of Abraham. God called Abraham to leave his hometown and trek across the land to an unknown area. It’s so scary for me to do something like this without receiving any type of “divine revelation,” and I’ve been there twice. Not only that, I’ve traveled to tons of places inside and outside the US. If anything, I think I would be considered an experienced traveler who already has connections on the ground. Abraham had nothing. Back in those days you never left your home. No wonder the faith he had was credited to him as righteousness.

Oh yes, and one more thing – about the “divine revelation” bit. I think you should know Jaimie and I haven’t been “called” or blinded on the road to Minneola. We’re going to India because we want to teach people about Jesus who haven’t heard about him. There are many places to do this, but we had connections in India and it seems like a good place to start learning how to go into foreign land. For everyone else waiting for a “mountain top moment,” you should know we’ve already been commanded to go out and teach people about Jesus (Matt 18:19-20). You can do that anywhere – it doesn’t have to be in India. But if you want to come and visit and fumble around with Jaimie and I, we have room!

 

3 Weeks and Jehovah Witnesses

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We are 3 weeks away and counting

What does one do before moving for a year?  Last week I:

  • Canceled health insurance
  • Re-worked life insurance
  • Added Jaimie to a bank account
  • Had her cancel two bank accounts
  • Trimmed the hedges
  • Had some meetings
  • Got new traveling credit cards
  • Canceled old credit cards
  • Got to the beach
  • …and I’m sure I’m missing a dozen more things.

This week is already scheduled full of events as well! On top of all that, some Jehovah Witnesses came to the door a while ago.

Jehovah Witness

What was I to do? I’ve never had this experience happen to me. For so long, I’ve had friends joke and spread gossip about what it was like. But I wanted to know the truth about Jehovah Witnesses, and I invited them in. After a puzzled look and a few moments of excuses, I welcomed them into my home – a husband, wife, and two adult children.

We sat and spoke for an hour. I’ve learned so much about the Jehovah Witnesses. To my surprise, there were many things they believed that Jaimie and I believe, that a lot of denominations around here don’t. Like when Jesus comes back, there will not be a “rapture.” He’ll come back and that will be that. And that baptism is part of salvation, and there is penalty for sins, etc. But there were some big inconsistencies as well. Like Jesus is the highest angel and there is no hell.

The great thing about talking to someone who believes differently than you do is how much you’ll learn if you’re prepared. I don’t consider myself to be wise. And I knew ahead of time if I want going to speak to them, I may get a little confused and have to research things later. And one thing that did puzzle me the most is that they believed that God created Jesus.

Cor 1:15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

With that scripture alone, with no context (which is what they explained to me) meant that God created Jesus. He was the “first born.” (There was a few loosely linked other scriptures). And I’ll be honest, that was tripping me up. Until a friend of mine recommend I do a word study on “firstborn.” That was the best piece of advice I got all week and really helped bring it into perspective.

Psalm 89:27 And I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

That scripture is talking about David, the youngest of all his brothers, and God is appointing him to be firstborn. As in a position of rank. Just like Jesus is the first position of rank over all creation. I’d suggest you do a word study of firstborn as well to get a better idea. Over the last week, I studied this and I come to find out that there is one God – the Trinity, made up of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has always been there.

One thing I walked away with is if you’re going to have a conversation with a false religion, do not believe in ignorance. Examine the scriptures, be very cautious, and seek wise counsel.

Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

 

I Quit & Looking for an Apartment

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I quit!

It was actually one of the best exits I have had at a company. I think everyone there looks at me through a “I don’t understand that” lens. But can you blame them? I look at myself through that lens daily. One person told me that they admire that I am doing something that I believe in. Never thought of it like that. I’m turning my life upside down, moving my wife and I to a foreign country, putting everything on hold – perhaps never to be picked up again, and all because I believe 2,000 years ago a man named Jesus was telling the truth.

Sneaky Sneaky Pride

When you put it like that, I’m doing pretty good. Easy to get that “look at me” attitude. But the mistake that I could easily make is assuming I’m turning my life upside down.

The last time I checked, I was bought with a price. (1 Cor 7:23).

We are six weeks away. The things that are important are becoming quick priorities, and the things I thought were important are being left by the wayside. And I am still struggling with pride. I am trying to watch myself, and watch my life at a distance to see where I am being attacked.

One thing that is really helping any pride issues I have is the pressing thought that now, I don’t have a job. Not easy to build up that sense of pride when you’re worried about not working. My company graciously asked if I could stay on a couple days a week and train my replacement. But at the end of the day, we are six weeks away.

Apartment Hunt

Living RoomSo what is the first thing one does when he quits his job? Looks for an apartment in another country, of course. I have a friend in India who is the most helpful anyone has ever been to me. He and I are hunting them down. We are looking at one closely, and it is $4,000 – for the year. It’s not quite like the one above, it’s more like the one to the left. Coincidentally, that’s how much our plane tickets cost. We can live in India for a year on what it takes to get there and back once.

It’s a 2 bedroom, so we have space for someone to come and visit. If anyone is interested, we got this! You can read our earlier post on tips for first time India travelers, and we’ll help you out along the way!

Also, if you need a website built, I’ll hook you up. (I’m out of work now – I’m pretty good).

Ben

 

P.S. The main image was acquired from IREO.

Hepatitis A Vaccination

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The Hepatitis A Shots

Jaimie and I got vaccinated Friday morning. How about that. What for, you ask? Hepatitis A & Typhoid. …what, you haven’t heard? You get Hep A from eating contaminated food (poop). You can imagine my surprise as well.

 

How many shots do you need for India?

What a great question. Here is the list of vaccinations and medication recommended for India travelers.

  • Routine Vaccines (MMR vaccine, tetanus vaccine, varicella vaccine, and yearly flu shot)
  • Hepatitis A vaccine
  • Polio vaccine
  • Typhoid vaccine
  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Japanese Encephalitis vaccine
  • Malaria medication
  • Rabie vaccine
  • Yellow Fever vaccine

The bold ones are the ones I definitely think I have. They want you to get everything under the sun these days. We’re going to a country where when you drink the water, you’re guaranteed sickness… and they want me to worry about rabies? In the great words of Sweet Brown

“Ain’t nobody got time for that” – S. Brown

For anyone thinking of taking a long trip: if you’re worried about what you should get, let me give you a little advice from a man who hasn’t taken a long trip yet: They will have medication where you’re going.

Once I become very ill, I might revise this post.

Ben

What am I Worried About?

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The sin of anxiety

That’s right, I’m freely admitting I am in sin. It’s terrible. Consider this first paragraph a rant of my weakness.  The funny thing is, I am worried about American things. First world problems. Not once has any stress come to mind about our time in India. I am wasting my thoughts on things like: what happens when the tags on my car expire, do I need to cancel my insurance…do I need travel insurance? How much is medication going to cost and what do I need, are the seals on my car going to dry out if it’s not driven, who is going to pay termite control, etc.  This is admittedly embarrassing.

The Cost of Discipleship

I have been reading a book called “The Cost of Discipleship.”  The author is making the connection that when you choose to follow Jesus, it cannot be on any of your conditions.  Unfortunately, as an American man, “on my condition” is the overwhelming mindset in which I find myself. This is why I am spending such great energy worrying about what happens next. What happens when I come back home?

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Well…if you were to look into my life, you will see that I did not believe that, and this last week was a rough one. By the look of things, I must have believed, “When Christ calls a man, he asks him to create a backup plan for everything he owns, patiently waits as he prepares his materials for safe keeping for his return to the above average lifestyle without skipping a beat.”

Continuing because of Grace

Hmmm… The only thing you should see when you look into my life is the grace that Jesus has given me to allow me to speak on his behalf unto the world – because I currently cannot claim that right. I am a worried sinner clinging onto everything that has no meaning. Why? Because I am weak and have been conditioned to think with the excuse, “Don’t sell something you’ll need to buy again.” Where is the line between obedience to God and worldly foolishness? Or are they the same?

Purchasing Tickets

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Buying Plane Tickets is the Worst

Purchasing tickets for me is one of the most difficult things that I ever do. I know that once I make the purchase, my view shifts quickly from “what a fun idea” to “there is no going back.” Even on short trips it is so difficult because so much money disappears all at once. I selfishly wish that I was going to Haiti, Puerto Rico, or any place where the cost of getting there wasn’t $1,000’s. But apparently there is no place for selfishness in God’s plan – which is another thing I struggle with.

If you have read this far, your assumptions are correct: Jaimie and I purchased our plane tickets to India this past Saturday. I’m not entirely sure how long we will stay in India. I’m planning on around one year. We just purchased one-way tickets at this time. We will be leaving the comfort of the American dream on August 14th. We’re going to a place where the beds (I’m pretty sure) are made out of straw, the water is unsafe to drink and we are pretty much guaranteed sickness… and toilet paper is a foreign concept.

Jaimie and I are doing this because we pray that God will see our obedience and draw closer to us.

Come near to God and he will come near to you. – James 4:8a

I believe that if I get rid of the stuff that I constantly hold onto for fear that it will be lost or stolen, that it will just be my wife, God, and the lost world. I won’t have time to worry about other things. I’ll have time to focus on my purpose – which is expanding the kingdom of God.

Counting the Items

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Counting the Cost Items

As Jaimie and I go through our things a thought keeps popping into my mind.

“How did I become like this?”

As I sit and type, I can barely move because of the clutter. I have so much stuff. I have a 5’x3′ desk, and it’s completely covered. I have accumulated so many things. The kitchen, by far, is the most organized distater in our home. It’s a whole room of storage cabinets. One of the smallest rooms in our home holds the most. It’s incredible. I counted the other day, we have 8 frying pans. How could this be? I had 6 guitars (for sale now), two cars, three couches, 2 beds, 5 dressers…and the list goes on. How did I become like this?

False Teachings

I believe it’s because that I have been taught that since I live in a “christian nation” that I can have my cake and eat it too. When Jesus says things like sell your things and give to the poor, or go and make disciples… He wasn’t really talking to me, right? What he meant to say is, stay where you are, work hard and make a lot of money, and then you can give a measly 10% to the local church and feel good about yourself.  That’s what Jesus meant to say, right? I look around, and shameful to admit, I must have believed that.

Here is some news. Jaimie and I don’t give 10% to the local church. If there is a specific need that the Church is asking for, we’re more than willing to help. But why would I only give 10% of a piece of my life to the local Church? Jesus commands us to give it all. (Which I have by no means figured out). How can I give it all? Every day I’m told through words or example through friends, family, media, government, etc. that I should keep it all. I should save, I should invest, I should buy fun things and take fancy trips. I should buy more homes, watch more TV, work longer hours to get overtime. Should I go on?

Giving it All

I have no idea what it means to give it all. But could it mean what I’ve believed it to mean for so many years? Save my things and write a small check once a week? I don’t think so. This is why going through all of my things and either throwing them out or selling them is so hard. Not because it’s hard to get rid of things. It’s because every day I see another item, I realize how much I failed Jesus in the past by collecting these things and holding onto them so dearly.