"Art" is this week's theme at PhotoFriday. This is a shot from my recent trip to India. Everyday we would have some time for arts and crafts with the children at the orphanage. We were amazed at the creativity the children displayed in their projects.
There is part of me that wishes the tickets were dated for tomorrow. Alas, I meet the team in two hours to head to the airport. Don't get me wrong, I am excited about heading back to India. I just wish I could get a little more sleep, especially as we will have the fine entertainment system on Singapore Airlines. You do not want to miss that.
Honestly though, I am looking forward to returning to the orphanage. I think you can see by the smiles on the faces in my photos from previous trips, that the place is full of joy and love. It is too bad many of you could not join us to experience it firsthand. I have said it before, I think the kids are not the ones who get the most out of our visits. Often my mind and heart have been given a healthy dose of reality. I am not sure what God has in store for me on this trip, but I look forward to discovering it.
A few more items need to find their way into my luggage and I will be ready to roll. Speaking of rolling, enjoy this fun video of a rickshaw ride from last year's trip.
My sleep pattern has been goofy since returning from break. I know that the garbage man shows up at 4:30 most mornings. I know this not because he disturbs my sleep, but because often that is my sign that this body should really be in bed. I am just going to assume that it is my body just getting ready for the next adventure. In four days, I will be back in Bangalore, India. Right now it is 3:20 AM in Korea, but only 11:50 PM there. See, I am already on a good schedule. I am just in the wrong location.
The PhotoFriday theme this week is "Sunrise." It must be proof that I am not really a morning person, when this is the only sunrise photo I have. I took this from the top of an orphanage near Bangalore, India. I am excited to be able to return there in about two months. This will be my third time taking a group of students from our school to work with the children there.
It has been over ten days since I returned from India, and I have been pretty quiet on this page. I think part of the silence is because it took me longer to process all my photos and videos. Plus, it has been a crazy week or so of just trying to get back into the routines of life with twenty-nine students.
But I am back and ready to share. So grab your blankets and milk, cause it is story time. While you gather around, I'll share a couple of my favorite photos.
If you remember from last year's trip, I enjoy riding in rickshaws. I think my enjoyment comes from the fact that every time I get in one an adventure is just waiting to happen. This year it was no different. Our first full day in Bangalore we loaded up into five rickshaws to head to a main shopping area. Somehow it was my rickshaw that managed to get lost on the way.
A week later some students and I were riding in another rickshaw, heading to the same shopping area, when it broke down. And per my experience, it broke down in the middle of a busy intersection. I jumped out with the driver and proceeded to help push it out of harms way. We then sat for a few minutes while the driver opened up the back hatch and went to work on the engine. Soon we were back on our way, with yet another rickshaw story.
The best rickshaw story also happened the first full day in Bangalore. Keep in mind Bangalore is a city of over six million people and a crazy layout of roads and streets. It started after we finished dinner at a restaurant, which coincidentally I ate at shortly before getting lost last year. All the female students were going to ride back to our lodging with our local contacts. This left only the leaders and one male student to ride in rickshaws. So we split up into two different ones. Both drivers were given specific instructions on where to go.
Well, minutes later my rickshaw passed the fire pump station we were to turn at. The driver turned, but then got confused. We ended up circling around a little and then stopping in front of a store in an area that did not look familiar. I gave the driver the number for our contact and he walked off in search for a phone. While we sat there in the dark, we noticed another rickshaw approaching from the other direction with some foreigners in it. They were our foreigners, the other leaders. Somehow we all managed to get lost, but find each other in this crazy city.
Our driver came back and started driving slowly, with the other rickshaw in close pursuit. After a few blocks, I actually recognized a building and got my bearings. These came in handy when the driver came to stop and started looking around. I began to point to the left and was able to direct the rickshaws to where we were heading. For the second time in about a year, I was helping a lost rickshaw driver find his way around a city I barely know. What a great feeling.
I have the feeling I need to stop talking. Be sure to check out the photos and videos from the trip.
It started as a joke. While riding around in Bangalore, I had noticed mustaches on many billboards and posters, as well as in real life. So I turned to one of the other leaders and said we should name March the Mustache Month. We would encourage all to join us in growing them. It would be a celebration. And I am pretty sure I wasn't serious about the concept.
But then we came across what could be one of the coolest 'staches I have personally seen.
The momentum of that mustache was monstrous, and the joke became a reality. Thus, we have declared March Mustache Celebration Month. So if you can grow it, show it! I was shocked and comforted to find out that we were not alone.
I leave you with a photo of three cool guys sporting mustaches for inspiration for your own. So join us in the celebration!
Just wanted to let you all know I'm back from India. I am a little slow on the processing of photos, videos, and stories for you all. But don not worry your precious little brains, they will soon arrive online at a website near you.
I did put this one together of an auto rickshaw ride through the streets of Bangalore. In the words of Caedmon's Call, "Rickshaw wallah begs the question, 'are all those red lights just suggestions?' Oh, it's gonna be OK, they know dead men can't pay."
By the way, I'm still lice free since '83! The school nurse, who recommended me wearing a helmet to play football, gave my head a thorough look over the other day and gave me the clearance. I still have to wear the helmet though.
I must thank you all for the feedback I got from my India posts. Perhaps more of the journals will show up later, including some of the passages that prove it wasn't all great thoughts hitting the page.
So this weekend, I continued to process what I learned and continue to learn from the trip. Thanks to some amazing friends who were kind enough to listen to me ramble and even caused me to think deeper. Sure, I might blame one great conversation for my lack of sleep and a stubbed toe. But even in the lack of sleep, I found ways to be challenged, and to challenge others. Isn't that what it is about?
In all this, I decided to start TV turn-off week a little early. It might come as a surprise that I unplugged the television and shut down my torrent program. Do I really need to know who wins the Amazing Race? Do I need to watch yet another episode of Law & Order? And eternally speaking, does it really matter what is on that island? GASP - did he just say that?
When I explained this to my parents, my mother told me not to get too radical. I don't think I'm going too radical, but I am tired of being too complacent.
I have really been trying to figure out what is the best way to explain the week I had in India. I've read the accounts of threefriends who were there, and wondered why can't I express similiar thoughts.
So, instead of trying to come up with new words, I decided to post some of the thoughts I scribbled out in a little journal I kept during the week. I've posted them on the dates that they were written to keep them separate. And for the curious, not all my thoughts and writings are being posted. There are some things I'm still not ready to openly admit on such a public forum. But I do think I've tossed enough out for you to really see what was happening around me, and in me...
Finally, thanks to my friend Dave for letting me pour out my thoughts the other night. You are a good man. And as you can see I wimped out when it came to the poetry. Perhaps it will show up later.
Those of you who are not Dave, take the time to read his thoughts based on our conversation. For this is what I'm hoping the posts from the trips cause... people to stop and think for a minute or more, because that is what I've been doing for two weeks now.
I'm back and still processing everything that occurred this last week. Words can only scratch the surface of all that I saw, felt, thought, and experienced under the Indian sky. Photos might do a little better at giving you a feel for this last week of my life.
For hours I've tried to make this post more than the three sentences above, but at this point that is all I have. My heart grows heavy looking back on those photos, and I can not find words to tell the stories. Maybe tomorrow...
I've got two hours before we meet and I would be content spending it here with my trusty cup of chai. Sure it would be nice if someone would join me and chai, but for now I enjoy the solitude. Cup number two arrives. The services is great, the music pleasing, and for the moment I'm the only foreign looking person in the joint.
There is something I really enjoy about being a foreigner. Even more so when it is starkly noticeable. Sure it was nice to blend into the crowd in Europe, only to be outed by my accent. But here and in Korea, I don't have to do anything to tip people off. My large build and whiteness broadcast it. I still enjoy it though when Korean children walk up behind me to compare how tall they are to me, or when they get that shocked look on their face when they first see me. I love that kids in India and Philippines have called me "Big Show."
Oh sure it would be nice to fit in, to speak the language, to buy the clothes off the rack, to fit into the shoes, but that just won't happen soon.
Perhaps I love this feeling because it reminds me that this place is not my home. The countries I'm in are not home, and never will be. And it is a good reminder that until I end up on heaven's shores, I'll never be home. I'm just an alien and stranger in this land. My nomadic life, my vagabond attitude puts me in good company of Biblical characters who also longed for a home. I just wish I longed even more for that heavenly home...
The other day I was discussing how I feel sorry for some of my friends. I feel sorry that they have not had an experience like this. I feel bad that they are stuck in a rhythm of life that only beats at one pace, and does not allow for the chance to live outside of the norm. To be able to take a week and live among some orphans, to build a home for the homeless, to paint walls for a ministry, to mend a fence or set up a playground. These are all things that have made me the better. And it was because I took the opportunity, the chance and the risk. I have been able to see some amazing things on the way and meet some amazing people. To have worked with David and Shoba here in India, the people at Dublin Christian Mission, the various crews of MCYM in Europe, the people of Philippines' Habitat for Humanity... Again, I am a better person just by knowing these people.
Then there is the knowledge that comes from experiencing different cultures and lands. I've learned more about this world by seeing and experiencing it than I could ever learn by reading about it. I can recall the smells, sounds and tastes of far off lands most people only see in the movies. I know only briefly what it is like to live in different lands, to be a citizen of this world.
So how can I express this thought or feeling to others? How can I motivate my friends to take a break from their lives, to step outside of their world? How can people be motivated to lose themselves for the sake of others? Odds are they will find more of themselves along the way...
So what is next? What happens when we leave here. In a few short hours this place will become just a memory. It will live on only in photographs and stories. But it can be so much more. Perhaps this week God has taught you something about yourself. Maybe you learned more about service, love, patience or sacrifice. Perhaps you learned more about others and how to relate to them. Maybe even God has spoken to you for the first time that you actually took the time to listen. If any of these are true, great. Write it down, tell a friend or family member, impress it on your heart and brain to keep it with you.
Sure it was easy to love those kids, but what about others in your dorm, your roommate, your classmates, your family, or teachers? Will you spend the time and energy on those people like you spent on kids who you still can't fully pronounce their names?
And as you return, and as this time becomes a memory, I challenge you to pray for those kids. When you look at the photos, when you tell the stories, when you think about this time - pray for these kids. Pray that God would continue to use this place and the staff here for his glory in the kids lives.
As I read Psalm 86:1-3 today, I can't help but think about these kids. Sure part of it is because they are all doing their chores right now, but I read about being "poor and needy" yet "call to you all day long." Those kids live that out. As I was pushing two boys on the swings, they were both yelling out "Jesus" as they hit the highest point of their swing. And I don't think it was because I was pushing that hard...
At the same time I wonder really how "poor and needy" I am. Sure I am wealthy compared to most of the world, but wealth only goes so far. There are areas in my life where I am poor, where I am lacking...
Again, I come to this rooftop to look at the scriptures, pray, write, and prepare for the day. I look over the kids who cheerfully are going about their chores. They wear the same clothes they've worn for days, but they also wear the same smiles they've worn for days...
The water tank is full, but for some reason the water is not flowing down. Thus, I start another day without a shower. How can I complain in light of all I've seen these last five days? I know I've said and thought it before, but how can I honestly continue to live the life I've lived after an experience like this? Entertainment appears vain, the things I talk about trivial, the fine meals I consume are wasteful. I pray that I would become more focused on the eternal and less on the flesh. 1 John 2:16-17 reminds me that:
"For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."
I pray I would be that man that lives forever. I don't want to desire what the world holds dear. I think I've passed on fame and fortune, but there are still some aspects of me that need to be put to death.
Yesterday, we arrived at the orphanage to the cheering of about one hundred and forty kids. These kids appear to be some of the happiest kids I've seen, which is saying a lot for their circumstances. Last night Mike and I joined in the pre-dinner singing time. We listened as they sang song after song of praise from memory. Then they quoted Pslam 110 from memory. Then more singing... These kids really appear to love Jesus. Even wile swinging today, two of the kids were singing various songs of worship. So this is what the faith of a little child looks like...
So yesterday, I was swinging on the swing when this cute little girl wanted to sit on my lap and swing with me. I picked her up, and begun to swing for a little bit. Slowly, I began to notice that my leg was feeling damp. Not knowing what to do, I kept swinging. Figured it was too late already. Then one of the local missionaries stopped to take a photo, so I had to continue to smile and pretend all was well. Needless to say, I soon changed my shirt (as it was also soiled), yet left the jeans on the rest of the day.
Tonight we got back to the place we were staying by rickshaws. As the kids were heading in, I waited in the truck for Malka, as we were going to go to the grocery store to pick up some stuff. As I waited, the driver started the truck up, I mentioned we still needed to wait on Malka. Shoba told the driver, but he said something back and proceeded to turn the vehicle around. I was then told that one of the students had left his camera in one of the rickshaws, and while the driver discovered it, he also kept it for himself. One of the other drivers tipped us off. So we were going to chase him down. There I sat in the back of the truck, wondering how in the world we would find the specific rickshaw in this city.
We came upon the driver who tipped us off a couple blocks away. He directed us straight ahead. A few more blocks ahead we encountered two more of the rickshaws we had used. They talked to the driver briefly, and pointed to the right. We followed this road to a major road, that was full of rickshaws. After a few blocks, Shoba happened to notice one that she thought she remembered. We stopped, and the driver and her got out. The approached the driver, and a few minutes later returned to the van. In her hand was the missing camera. The prayers I had been praying had been answered. She told me she went right up to the guy and said, "Give me my camera." After some awkward silence he finally reached into his pocket and pulled the camera out. All three of us in the truck were amazed and how we were able to find the one rickshaw in a city of thousands of rickshaws.
We went back to the grocery store, and as I went in they went back to get Malka. I told them to make sure to tell her the story, as it wasn't just me being rude...
In a few days, count them four I'll be on a plane to Singapore En route to an orphanage in Bangalore. Among theteamleaders there is good rapport And a great group of students whom we adore. One of the leaders and I went to a store Arts and craft supplies we were looking for. We bought a bunch, but still need some more. There will be singing, games, and fun galore As into the kids the love of Christ we will pour For that is the India trip's one central core. Your prayers for the whole time we do implore Like against stomach problems which we abhor.