What To Do In Nagpur

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I think Jaimie and I have both said a dozen times all ready – “What am I doing here?” It’s not always easy to see the forest through the trees. As my days go on, I’ve been focused on studying through the Gospels and casually reading through the letters. One thing I’ve been noticing about John the Baptist and Jesus is they both brought a very urgent, change-now message. A focus on the end-today mentality. So how am I to do that here?
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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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These Are The Best Keys (Learn About Ganesha too)

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People just hand out anything over here…like a scooter to a white kid!  (Some rupees helped facilitate this deal) I don’t have an Indian drivers license, an address, credit cards, bank accounts, or a healthy grasp on road rules here… but I have a scooter!

the idol ganesha

Ganesha is the Hindu god who starts the ball rolling. Before a Hindu person would begin anything – a new work venture, for example – they would worship Ganesha for good luck. I’m sure you’ve seen a few pics on the blog. Here is another. It’s almost identical to Christmas – except I think Americans spend more on Christmas and it lasts longer…and we don’t worship the tree. Anyway, the next five or six months, there will be a lot of festivals. But the festival for Ganesha is the kick-off. The streets have Christmas-y lights, there are stands selling Ganesha statues and temples all over, and people are busy shopping and full of stress.

Here is how this 10 day festival of Ganesha works.

photo 1Day One

You purchase a stand (temple) and a god (Ganesha – made out of clay) and keep him covered until you or a priest comes to your house and uncovers Ganesha. When he is covered you decorate his stand, much like a Christmas Tree. There are lights, colors, stands, etc. Once he is uncovered you give him offerings of incense, burning oils, foods, money, etc. (Not like a Christmas tree).

During the Festival

One would usually have a feast or party called Ganpati, dedicated as an offering to Ganesha. The day doesn’t matter. Jaimie and I were invited to one of these feasts the other night – we were unknowing that the whole buffet was an offering to the Hindu god Ganesha.  Once we arrived, we soon learned this – and, didn’t stay too long after.

Day 3, 5, or 10

Now depending on your culture, heritage, religious sect… I’m not too clear on these details… you would take Ganesha and put him in the lake. Because he is clay, he usually goes down easily and dissolves – but if he floats, it’s considered very bad. So you can pay a local boy rs.50 (about 1USD) and he will swim Ganesha out into the lake and sink him for you.

What else Happened This Weekend?

Jaimie and I went to a roller blade competition, watched a little TV, went to church, and…  Visited an Orphanage! The owners were very curious about us and we were excited to ask some of our questions on how to get one started. We got a quick tour of the facility and enjoyed our time. We also got a lot of intel on how to get a Christian orphanage up and running successfully. We will continue to move ahead and keep you guys informed!

Some Highlights This Week

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I’m not going to sugarcoat this – it’s tough to adjust living in another country. I’m sure everyone would like to hear a ramble of the list of complaints that Jaimie and I have been annoying each other with, but I’m going to skip a few of those and stay positive today! I’ll share some highlights. At the end of a hard day, it’s getting easier for Jaimie and I to count the good things that happened, especially when I read scriptures like this:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. – 2 Cor 11:23b-27

I think the most difficult thing Jaimie and I had to endure so far is that our ceiling fan is broken + we don’t have air conditioning in the living room.

Focusing on what we do have

colored cows1. Colored Cows

I was so lucky last week that on one of my 100-degree walks home, I was accompanied by these colorful cows. Not only that, I heard a story yesterday that one of my co-workers here was hit by a cow while driving a scooter (the cow hit him).  And our driver nicked one once. There are cows everywhere. Most of them look a little dingy, but beautiful cows like these almost outshine that rooster with earrings we saw three weeks ago. That’s right! A rooster with earrings.

toilet paper in an indian bathroom2. Toilet Paper in a Random Bathroom

We went to a place that serves Dosa (look it up). They had 100’s of choices, even an American style. (I didn’t want to break their hearts and let them know there are no American Dosas.) Anyway, after dinner, we went to wash our hand (because silverware is hard to come by here), and we found toilet paper in the bathroom!  We’re halfway through our fourth week and this is the first time I’ve seen it in a public facility.

color

cookies3. Color & Cookies in the Apartment

Jaimie did it! She made chocolate chip cookies and added some color to our living room. It took 2 weeks to find chocolate chips.  Don’t think now they came in a packaged bag; these mini chocolate chips came in very small ziplock bag (we’re still wondering where they really came from). And we bought a bed sheet and hung it up by tape.  Any better ideas out there?

Jaimie and Ben at the lake4. Went to the Lake & Watched the Sunset

A couple of co-workers took us out to the lake, got us ice cream, took us for a drink, and then dinner one evening last week. We had a great great time. Until then, Jaimie and I have been busy with lots of other things, and spending time with our hosts (which is such a life saver and great blessing!). But last Saturday we had the chance to enjoy the company of some new folks and make some new friends and see some new things. Even a giant rat joined us at the lake. …ahhh, memories.

5. Last, but not Least, I Got to Driveben driving in india

I had no idea how much I missed driving until I tricked someone into letting me.  Just kidding – one of my friends from work graciously let me drive his car. The steering wheel is on the right side and all the traffic is backwards to me, but I didn’t care (which may have been a problem). You can see the joy in my eyes from the photo Jaimie took.

Last Words

Oh! I almost forgot. The best moment last week was when I was asked what the spots on my skin are (freckles) and if there was a solution for them. We all had a great laugh.

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 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!

The funny thing is…

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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!

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!

ben and jaimie party
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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!