Sunday, January 30, 2011

a shout out

Today is not only Sunday (which has meant a wonderful day of church at home, fellowship, and relaxation) but it is also Taylor and Bethany's one year wedding anniversary!  We want them to know that they are a wonderful and integral part of this Residency Team and we stinking LOVE them!  Congrats, you two, on one year of wedded life were totally handpicked for one another in order that you could come to India and serve the Lord through your work here!  Please also note that they met on a RockHarbor India team and therefore have come full circle in their relationship...which is pretty rad.

Oh, and, you're hot...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

dancing and colds and dead bodies, oh my!

It's been several days since you have last heard from us and for that I apologize.  It's been a bit of a hectic week here in Tenali-land.  Five out of 7 team members were feeling some degree of sick with a cold that was floating around.  I am happy to report that we have mostly recovered and are back to our regular full schedule.

Monday was our first full scheduled work day during which we visited the Ashraya house on the Harvest India campus and helped with a quick job of counting and sorting some fabric.  Tuesday we braved our first day of teaching English at the Harvest India Public School which was a bit of a crazy adventure...but served to teach us some valuable lessons.  We spent much of the day observing classrooms and trying to gain some perspective on the teaching style, which proved to be incredibly difficult considering all the classes were taught mainly in the regional language here, Telugu.  It was a great learning experience as it forced the team to come together to answer some tough questions about our expectations, limitations, and goals since none of us are really equipped as teachers, especially not as teachers to students with English as a very weak (at best) second language.  Luckily though, some of our team members are passionate about teaching and hanging out with the kids at the public school so we know that God definitely has a place for us there.  Please continue to pray for that specifically as we learn to navigate how to make it work and to best serve these kids and their dedicated teachers.

Wednesday was Republic Day here in India which is very much like Independence Day for the US.  It is a national holiday celebrating India's formation as an independent republic (more specifically the induction of their constitution) after the British Raj finally vacated the country.  It's a big deal here and is celebrated with a day off from work and school.  The kids at the public school performed dances and drills, and played special games commemorating their independence.  Our regularly scheduled work day was halted as we were invited to join in the festivities.  Thursday was a much needed day of rest as we recovered from illness and laid low at home doing laundry and running some errands.  Yesterday we ventured out to the site of the new church Harvest India is building on their campus (it's still early in its construction, pictures to come soon).  This is potentially the site of the future church RockHarbor will help support Harvest India to plant so we are intentionally seeking time out each week to meet at the site and pray for an extended period of time.  We met up with our Indian Residency Team members and all shared a time of devotions and prayer.  It was a solid time of connection with them and a time to refocus on our goals and the big vision for the Residency program as we once again put into perspective the reason we are here.  Today we had a bit more unscheduled time so we decided to walk to the downtown Tenali market to check out the surroundings and buy a couple of needed items.  On the way there we heard extremely loud fireworks up ahead and as we came around a corner we saw a Hindu funeral procession coming down the street complete with drums, horns, bottle rockets, and a corpse on top of a car with the head fully exposed!  It was quite a shock and a sight to behold, albeit really creepy...and Crystal was able to discreetly snap a quick picture of it.  Welcome to the unpredictability that is India!

We have a very full and awesome schedule for the coming week so we will be sure to keep you better updated on the days ahead.  We love and miss you all!

Here comes the corpse...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the adventures of a sunday morning

This morning the whole team ventured to a small Harvest India house church...not only small in congregation but also small in room size!  Roughly 30 people were squeezed into a room about 9 feet x 12 feet big and needless to say it was cozy quarters and quite warm but so full of joy and the Lord's power.  The church is newly started and has already grown quickly.  They are in the process of trying to build a church that will hold more members but for the time being they are meeting in a home.  It was an incredible blessing to be in the presence of such a wonderful community of believers and to worship side by side with them.  Taylor shared an awesome message about the importance of bearing fruit in our lives for the benefit of others and God's kingdom.  Lizzy also shared a great encouragement about the power of prayer.  After the service, Rajesh (an HI staff member) and his wife Anu, hosted us in their home for biscuits and a cold drink while we chatted and fellowshipped with them and their adorable one year old son, Leo.  It was a great way to spend a Sunday and to connect with some of the people involved with Harvest India.

The house church congregation.

Lizzy and one year old Leo who is too adorable!

Lizzy, Crystal, and Elana on the ride to church.

True Indian driving...while texting and holding a one year old!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

home sweet india home

We're finally getting settled into our new house and making it feel like our own. We absolutely love our new home away from home! Click here to watch a video of our new home in Tenali. 

After our first full week in Tenali we're beginning to get a feel for our neighborhood and we think our neighbors are beginning to get used to us as well. Every afternoon groups of kids come rushing to our front yard after they get out of school. They yell up to us from the street and jump around trying to get our attention. They love it when we take pictures of them and are eager for the opportunity to practice their english on us. They are pretty darn cute!

Here are a few pictures of some of the kids and a few of our team from this last week. Enjoy!

Elana, Anita, and Crystal looking good!

The neighborhood kids

One of the adorable girls in our neighborhood

Tony and his family live on the top floor of our house.

John, Rajesh, and Daniel

Cory, Elana, Anita, and John

Taylor, Chris, and Sayuri

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

one week in...

The whirlwind of life continues as we have spent the last several days seeing a portion of the incredible ministries that Harvest India fosters here in Tenali.  Since I last dropped an update we have visited an elderly home and an AIDS hospice, dedicated a water well, checked in at the Asraya rehabilitation house for women that left the Red Light District, and met a fun and rambunctious group of young men that live on the streets and beg at the train station but that come and receive hot meals and a shower at a day program run by HI.  It's been a huge blessing to get a small glimpse into the ministry we have come to support and to see the amazing amounts of planning and manpower that goes into keeping it running on a daily basis.

We are off to begin another full day here in Tenali.  This morning we will be attending a birthday party for the one year old son of one of the staff members here at HI.  We will then be visiting one of the schools that HI runs before ending the day with a visit to the incredible orphanage that houses 400 children on HI's main campus.  It is always tons of fun to hang out with the kids, they are so full of life and want so badly to be loved on.  More updates with pictures to come soon!

Lizzi praying for a patient at the AIDS hospice.

The food storehouse at the HI orphanage...
this is only 2 days worth of veggies!

The sewing center at the Ashraya house
where women who came out of prostitution and
sex trafficking sew beautiful PJ pants that are
sold in the US through International
Princess Project.

Marlyn praying for one of the young women
of the Ashraya house.

A young woman of the Ashraya house,
a truly joyful soul.

Piles of shoes outside every door...true Indian style!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

home in tenali

Crystal, Bethany, and Taylor enjoying Indian breakfast
in Hyderabad
After a long and tiring (though exciting) five day trek, we have finally made it to Tenali and are getting settled into our new house here.  Let me start off by saying how awesome the house's nicer than any of us expected.  We are in the heart of downtown Tenali and therefore smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle of this little town, which means we are not only close to shops and places to eat but we are greeted each morning with the sounds of India!  In fact, our back wall is shared with a mosque that is so close we could throw rocks into their backyard...and can hear very clearly the 5 time-per-day call to prayer over the loud speakers!  This is all fine and good until the 5am call to prayer...we are definitely thankful for ear plugs around here.

I am happy to report that the whole team is in good health and good spirits.  We are excited to begin our work here and jump into life in India.  We will be taking the next week to rest up, get acquainted with our surroundings, and learn how to become independent in our new town.  We started things off true Harvest India style when we arrived here at 5am this morning and snuck in 3 hours of sleep before heading out in two teams to local churches to fellowship with some of the dedicated believers in the area.  It was a blessing visiting some of the local Christian communities, being a part of their worship, and praying for many members of the congregations.

John preaching in a small Tenali church
My team had an extra special experience as we were blessed with the presence of our dear friend John Brokenshire (who has been living here with Harvest India since last October, read about his adventures here) and his lovely parents Mark and Marlyn who are visiting him here for 3 weeks.  This is John's second stint in India and his parents first visit out to see what their son is doing across the world.  John preached in church and his parents were able to see firsthand just how dedicated John is to serving Christ in India!  It was awesome to be a part of this wonderful family's reunion and to see the pride in Mark and Marlyn's eyes as John passionately shared his heart.

Elana & Crystal on their first camel ride in Dubai
Getting to India was a long journey but we made sure to have some great fun along the way.  We had an eight hour layover in Dubai on the way and we got to visit the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.  Crystal and I also decided we really wanted to ride a we did!  It was super fun and exciting, and even a little scary!  Camels are crazy giant animals and I had never before been so close up to one.

Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts...and for stopping by to read our blog.  More updates to come soon!

Prayer requests:
-Please pray for Lizzi, our pregnant team mate, who is experiencing the joys of first trimester morning sickness...on top of all the smells of India!  She has been a trooper so far!
-Continue to pray for health for the team as we are settling into the diet here and trying to catch up on our sleep.

Much love from India!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

away we go!

image copyright © 2011 elana grace photography
I know I speak for the whole team when saying that the last couple of months have been a crazy whirlwind of preparation... and it's all leading up to our departure in only 4 days!  We take off from LAX at 10:00am Wednesday morning to venture out on a crazy and incredible new chapter of our lives that is sure to be wrought with unknown, mishap, laughs, learning, and ultimately the spreading of the love of Christ.  We are beyond excited to partner with the amazing staff of Harvest India to live alongside one another as we learn and grow while remaining sensitive to the ways the Holy Spirit is moving in South India.

As we throw together the last minute details and struggle to not get caught up in the stress of this transition, it's important for us to stop and do two things: 1) Remember that the Lord is in control and is our ultimate Provider; and 2) This wouldn't be possible without the incredible support, love, and prayers from all of, thank you!

Specific prayer requests for the next week:
-safety in traveling
-health of the team members as we adjust to new foods, etc.
-grace in the cultural transition, culture shock, and lifestyle adjustments

Since ultimately our general goal as a team is to form a community within the Indian culture that includes Indians, we want to specifically ask for prayer in that community formation from day one.  We want to remember to keep an Acts 2 mindset that encompasses the reason for community: wholehearted discipleship and devotion to following Jesus together.  Please pray that we would learn to exemplify that in ALL of our actions and throughout the routine of our life in India.

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer. 
-Acts 2:42

There are things in our near future that will be difficult, mind-blowing, and heartbreaking as well as things that will be life-changing, joyous, and awe inspiring.  As we head out on this adventure, we look forward to keeping you updated on all that God is doing in and through us during our time in India...

Away we go!