Saturday, February 26, 2011

i came to dance, dance, dance, dance...

Last night our team put on the first program at the Harvest India campus that we are calling The Bridge. We've spent the last few weeks performing at local colleges to promote the event and rallying college age students to attend from the surrounding area. The hours of preparation, practice, planning, and promoting paid off ten fold as the event was a huge success, but not without it's challenges.

Our team has been learning quickly and thoroughly in our time here that nothing in India comes easy, and nothing worth doing comes without its challenges. If we weren't experiencing difficulties, then we would know that we weren't doing something right. We've tried to recognize that each conflict and difficulty is God's opportunity in disguise. It's our lion to slay.

We received news just before the event began that two of the colleges we had previously visited were not allowing their female students to attend because they felt it wasn't safe for them to be out at night. One of those two colleges is an all girls school of roughly 500 students. Once again, the Indian culture caught us by surprise as we were under the impression that the schools had already confirmed that they would be participating. So there we were, staring at about 70 students when we expected over 600 to be in attendance. This was our lion.

So before we hit the stage, we rounded up the team and the Harvest India staff and prayed over the event and whatever God had planned for it regardless of our expectations. It was out of our hands and we knew it. We had to just let go and trust that the seats would be filled even though we had no idea how.

The show kicked off with our MC's John and Bethany and slowly the seats began to fill with people coming in from the main highway. The Bridge band came up next and performed two songs, one of which was Billy Jean, and the crowd went nuts! They absolutely love Michael Jackson here in India and they showed it. Next up were the Minute To Win It games hosted by Lizzi and Taylor that gave the students the opportunity to win prizes such as sunglasses for the boys and bangles for the girls. After the games, Crystal gave a message on the importance of community and how God intended for us to live in it. The whole team took the stage after the message and performed an amazing dance choreographed by the very talented John Brokenshire that can be viewed by clicking HERE. Needless to say the audience went absolutely crazy! Afterward, The Bridge band came back on to perform one last song before the Harvest India team honored John with a plethora of garlands and hugs.

By the end of the night nearly all the seats were full and we had a rambunctious crowd of students dancing, laughing, and shouting right along with us. It just goes to show that if you put your faith in God and let go of your own expectations and worries, He is faithful to provide all that you need and more!
The Bridge band rockin' out

Crystal bringing the message

The Bridge stage and crowd

John B. with Christina & Suresh Kumar

The team in all its glory

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the week in review

Based on how crazy busy the last week has been, this single post is going to be more like 3 posts in one.  India has become challenging as well as comfortable on new levels for us.  The honeymoon phase of the excitement and newness of living in a foreign country has worn off and we are having to learn to work through things more constructively and with more grace for one another.  Each day brings about new challenges to face and process...yet some days bring about the same old challenges that just require time and diligence to overcome.  On the flip side, there are many day to day things that have become second nature for us as we are learning to integrate into Indian culture as seamlessly as possible...even though we stick out like sore thumbs everywhere we go!  We are just about halfway through our time here; it's mind-blowing how quickly it has gone by but we are all feeling much more solid in our groove and schedule.

Just over a week ago, we participated in a ritual that was inspired by the book of Exodus and the story of Passover.  John had been reading in the Old Testament and felt totally captured by how similar Indian rural village culture is to the cultures found in the Bible.  Based on this, he approached the team and asked us if we wanted to buy a lamb and carry out the detailed ritual explained in Exodus chapter 12, the instructions given to the Israelites on how to slaughter and prepare the lamb used to protect them on the eve of the Passover.  Some of the team went out to a local village to visit a shepherd to buy a one year old male sheep without blemish.  After the sheep was purchased, it was transported back to Suresh's home where it was cared for for 4 days.  Last Monday evening, a professional butcher came to Suresh's home and slaughtered the sheep and prepared it for cooking over an open fire pit.  Some of the team participated in watching the slaughter and were appreciative of the once in a lifetime experience of taking part in something so basic to our roots as humans: responsibly killing and utilizing livestock given to us for nutritional provision by God, while being reminded of His faithfulness to His people.  We then shared a huge feast of lamb with our whole team and many of the Harvest India staff.  It was super delicious; we were all stoked to eat some solid meat!

The day after our sheep-feast, we piled into a van and headed an hour away for the Andhra Pradesh coast where we stayed two nights in little beach bungalows that were literally right on the sand!  We were really excited to have a break as a team to just let loose, relax, and play in the beautiful and warm Bay of Bengal where the waves were perfect for body surfing.

The Team

We arrived back home on Thursday where we once again hit the ground running and headed to another college campus to do a night event that we call The Bridge.  It was a small school, very humble in appearances but the people there were very sweet and welcoming.  Most of the students were more reserved than the group at our first college outreach but we still had a great time playing music and games.  Bethany preached an awesome sermon (which was even more awesome since she had previously expressed her hesitation with public speaking!).

Our third college campus event came this past Saturday night.  We set up shop at an all girl's school where 500+ girls came out to participate in The Bridge.  The crowd of girls was SO energetic and fun, it was great to see them apart from boys, they really came to life!  They wanted to be close to us and talk to us every moment they could.  They screamed like school girls at a Justin Timberlake concert when Chris and the guys played a couple of songs.  They were racing to participate in the games and cheered their friends on with tons of enthusiasm.  I was blessed to give the sermon for the night, my first time ever delivering one!  It was a great experience.

Crystal with some of the students

Bethany and her fan club!

The boys, rocking out

Lizzi and some of the awesome girls at the event

Lizzi, Shiny, and Crystal prepping for the night

Taylor and Lizzi leading the Great Pyramid game

One of the game finalists hard at work

After a somewhat restful Sunday, we spent all day yesterday in meetings and planning for our upcoming college event this Friday night at Harvest India.  We are expecting that the number of students in attendance could be huge, as we passed out 1000 flyers and told all the students to bring their friends.  Tons of them seemed interested in attending this larger Bridge event, especially because we told them the 8 of us will be doing a special dance performance (video footage to hopefully follow...).

Last night we were invited by Suresh to attend the Bible Society of India's (BSI) 200th Birthday celebration of the Bible coming to the nation of India!  The event was held in nearby Guntur in a huge lot.  The stage was giant and the set up was completely professional.  We were told that over $300,000 was spent on the stage set up and the event and there were nearly 50,000 attendees each day over the course of the weekend.  Last night was the closing night of the event and due to rain earlier in the day there were probably not quite 50,000 people there but there were still multiple thousands.  It was awesome going to an event where we weren't expected to preach or stand in front of everyone and we could just be part of the crowd...or so we thought!  After sitting down at the event and getting settled in for the program, it wasn't but ten minutes before one of the several camera men spotted us in the crowd and decided to plaster our faces all over the jumbo-tron screen at the front.  It was great fun the first time...and the second time...but 5 or 6 times after appearing throughout the night on the jumbo-tron, we started to feel our "white-celebrity" status setting back in.  Over all the night was super fun; there were traditional Indian dance performances, dramas, music, a 200 person choir, and speakers from all over the world, including the US.

It's hard to see but this is us on the jumbo-tron!

Traditional dancing from Andhra Pradesh

Saturday, February 12, 2011

first college outreach

We have been very busy the last couple of weeks as we have been reworking our groove to fit into a culture foreign to us in every sense of the word.  Despite our lack of experience getting things done here, we are learning tons of valuable lessons and seeing the Lord use us to encourage some of the Indian people we are in contact with on a regular basis.  We have also been blessed with several opportunities to reach small and large crowds through different functions we have attended, including a pregnancy celebration and thanksgiving dinner, a pastors' conference, a large village crusade, and a college campus outreach in which we planned out all the details.  We have also been finding that participating in these events and outreaches is a huge blessing to us, individually and as a team.

The college outreach happened just yesterday evening at a local junior college that is located less than a mile away from our house.  It is a co-ed Lutheran college that has a lovely, tree-filled campus with an outdoor stage that we were able to use to put on an hour long program.  The program consisted of live music lead by Chris, with Cory on a second guitar and Taylor on drums.  The guys did 2 cover songs from popular American artists and one Hillsong worship tune to wrap up the night.  Crystal and John were our fabulous MC's and helped the program to run smoothly and transition well between activities.  After the first 2 songs, Lizzi presented and lead a game from the popular TV game show Minute to Win It.  We asked for volunteers to create 2 teams (one of guys, one of girls) to compete against each other in a game where the contestants had one minute to get as many little cookies from their foreheads into their mouths without using their hands!  The outcome was hilarious to watch, as completing this task took an array of facial twitches and creative moves to accomplish.  True to Indian culture, the girls were extremely shy and no one wanted to volunteer to play for the girls team.  After a whole lot of rallying, we got 3 girls to attempt the first round of the game.  The second round was a little tougher in the participation department so myself, Crystal, and Bethany jumped in to play for the girls and we totally schooled the boys, scoring a total of 6 cookies to the boys 3.  After 3 rounds, the boys ended up winning and were each awarded 100 rupees, the equivalent of about $2 (but it goes a whole lot further here than $2 would in the states).  After the game was over, Cory preached an awesome message about stepping out in faith, a truly relevant subject for the college students in India.

It was a seriously amazing night that turned out even better than we thought it would.  We absolutely did not anticipate the reaction we got from the crowd of 250 students, but we give all the glory to God for bringing His presence and joy into that place!  The whole team had a ton of fun planning the event and making it all happen and we are looking forward to doing more of these types of campus events in the near future.  One of the main goals of our team is to research the viability of a 2 year residency program with a specific mindset for the youth and college age demographic in this area.  We also are working on making a presence known in the local colleges and universities as we represent the name of Harvest India.  On February 25th, we will be holding an even bigger event on the Harvest India campus for all the colleges in the area (that will include more live music and even choreographed dancing!).  By doing these smaller campus outreaches, we are able to spread the word for our big blowout event coming up in a couple of weeks.

We are calling the Friday night events The Bridge and this is the flyer that Cory designed for our upcoming February 25th event:

Please enjoy a couple of photos from the event last night!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

pray for us.

It's been another awesome but tough week here in India...several of our team members have been sick again, this time with what we lovingly refer to as The Delhi Belly.  It hit some of us on Sunday and a few more of us on Monday and we have been slowly recovering day by day.  Most people are feeling on the up and up but a couple of us are lagging behind in recovery.  Myself and Cory received a visit from the wonderful Harvest India doctor tonight and were given some sort of miracle shot in our rear ends that is the common remedy for the travel sickness that Americans sometimes experience here.  John has also been feeling sick with a fever and body aches and Crystal who was sick Sunday and Monday and feeling better Tuesday is afraid her Delhi Belly might be coming back.  Crystal and John may receive the lovely butt-shot tomorrow morning if they aren't feeling better.  It's apparently a magic potion made up of vitamin K and antibiotics and I am beginning to feel its effects least it's making me very drowsy so I will soon be off to bed.

The rest of the team (Taylor, Bethany, Crystal, Chris, and Lizzi) are off at a night crusade with another visiting short term team from Holland.  The crusades through HI bring in thousands of people are a great way to spread the Good News of Christ to an area where HI is beginning to plant churches and foster discipleship.  Please be praying for the crusade tonight and that many hearts will be softened and turn to the Lord.

Please also be praying for the health of our team as we have been continually hit hard with sickness and we feel the Enemy really trying to hold us back from getting work done here.  It's been a constant battle physically and spiritually  but we are comforted knowing that those who love us back home are interceding on our behalf.

Despite illness we are mostly in good spirits and still excited to be a part of what the Lord is doing here in India.  More updates to come soon!