Thursday, March 31, 2011

prayer and praises

We can't believe it but we only have 6 days left in Tenali working with Harvest India before we start heading home. These three months have blown by and left us shocked that we're going home already. God has done so much in our time here and we are so excited to see what He has planned for us as we come home to process and plan the next steps for this RockHarbor & Harvest India partnership.

That being said, we are struggling to get through our last few days here. The Indian Summer has arrived. It's become stiflingly hot, humid, and pretty much miserable. From what we have heard from the locals, when Summer arrives, life slows to a near halt. Nobody does ANYTHING, and we have quickly realized that we also don't feel like doing ANYTHING. It's too hot to even think. On top of the heat almost everybody on the team has gotten hit with some sort of flu/cold/sinus/diarrhea bug that's laying people up for 2 to 3 days at a time.

So it comes down to this... we are in major need of prayer. Pray that God gives us the strength to get through this last week spiritually, physically and emotionally. Pray that He guides us as we process and assess all that we've learned, experienced, and seen in our time here. Pray that those of us who are ill are healed quickly. Pray that the few of us who have not gotten sick would remain healthy. Pray that God's will would be made clear to us as we wrap things up here. Pray that God would give us the diligence to finish out our time here strong and thoroughly. Pray that it would somehow miraculously get COOLER here in India. Pray that God would grant us the patience and faith to trust in Him as we figure out jobs, living situations, and futures upon our return home.

At the same time we are praising God that our time has been such a huge blessing and success. We are thankful that our team as a whole has remained healthy, aside from a few sour stomachs and Lizzi's morning sickness. We are thankful that we have been blessed to work with such an amazing group of people as the staff of Harvest India. We are overwhelmingly blessed by Suresh and his family in the ways that they care for and love us. We are extremely thankful to Rama Raj and his family for looking after us in our beautiful home and for showing us the ropes around town. We thank God for the Harvest India residency team and all that they have walked along side us through and for being patient with us in learning this foreign culture. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord for all that you carried us through and all that you have provided for us in India!

We were also blessed with a visit from our dear friends Chris Ward & Andrew Richards this last week. They got the four day whirlwind tour of many of the ministries that Harvest India is blessing the people of India through, and I know that they were both blown away by all that God is doing. God is doing amazing things in India!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

the month in review

How is it that the time goes by so quickly here?  It's mind blowing that it's been a month since we wrote the last team blog post...and we have done a whole lot!  Here it goes...

Shortly after the last blog post recapping our Bridge event dancing, we said goodbye to our dear brother John who went back to the States for the summer.  It was an interesting transition considering we lost a team member and the person who took care of most of our team-to-Harvest India communication.  We desperately needed to figure out the dance of communication with HI here so ultimately it was a great time of learning even though we miss John.

You can always count on India to be extremely unpredictable at times.  We had a monkey sneak into our house and steal some bananas...which presented some amazing video footage of Cory, Bethany, Taylor, and myself trying to protect our homestead against the attack monkey.  I will hamper Cory to get that footage up here so you can share in it, but in the meantime I was able to snap a couple of pictures during the chaos of the event which I will share below.  We had a great laugh about the whole thing when we shared the story with the rest of our team who had sadly been out working while it happened.  Luckily, Mr. Cheeky Monkey has not been back to visit us since, for which we are very grateful.  The reasoning behind that might have something to do with our latest house addition...a dog!  Suresh, not even knowing about the fateful monkey incident, sent over (the VERY next day, post-monkey) a dog to "protect" us.  We named him Baxter and he is mostly a good dog, though he barks non-stop if we ever have to put him on his chain in the yard.  We have also learned another interesting India fact through our acquiring Baxter...most Indians hate/are terrified of dogs...and they also think that EVERY American owns a dog, so naturally we would automatically want one.  Ah, the joys of cross-cultural living!

Monkey stealing bananas from our table!

Taylor and Bethany keeping a safe distance

This past Wednesday morning, our team left bright and early to board a train headed for Chennai, Tamil Nadu.  Our sole goal of hitting the town was to track down some pizza (oh, and to pick up Andrew and Chris, two pastors from Rockharbor at the airport).  After a 6.5 hour train ride in a mostly comfy AC chair train car, we arrived in Chennai and set out to eat as much Pizza Hut as we could manage...and we did.  It was glorious!  It was great taking a break from rural life and seeing Chennai, which is a huge and fairly Westernized Indian city.  We visited 2 malls in one day, the second of which was literally nicer than South Coast Plaza (for those of you OCers) and had a movie theater that would rival any Vegas nightclub!  We watched a movie and relaxed in the leather arm chairs of the theater (which also boasted an internet cafe and video game room with big screen Macs.  We stayed that night at a hotel and then Thursday morning once again ventured out, this time to actually get a little work done.  We visited one of the HI children's homes that is a couple hour drive outside Chennai so we could gather sponsorship information and pictures.  The home was so wonderful and the kids and staff offered one of us the best experiences we have had at any of the children's homes.  We went back into Chennai in the late afternoon and visited one of the huge beaches there.  We put our feet in the ocean and sat and relaxed in the wonderful ocean breeze.  We also got to visit St. Thomas Basilica which is built on the supposed burial site of the Apostle Thomas, who is credited with bringing the Gospel message to India.  That same evening we headed to the airport in Chennai to pick up Andrew Richards and Chris Ward, the two pastors on the annual RH pastor's trip to India.  We were super excited to greet them and have some fun new visitors in our midst.  Andrew has never before been to India so it's been fun teasing him about cultural nuances (such as eating with your left hand, a no-no, which he did the first meal we all ate with Suresh).  

Crystal took a short ride on a horse in Chennai

Since getting back to Tenali yesterday morning with Chris and Andrew in tow, we have been very busy, as the pastors are getting the royal ministry tour of HI, and we are joining them in most of their outtings.  It's been so awesome to see the ministry again through new eyes, as neither of them have before been to Tenali or seen the breadth of the HI ministries.  Last night was the annual HI Bible college graduation which brings together Bible college students from all over South India for a huge celebration and graduation.  Chris and Andrew were VIP guests and spoke a message and greetings at the event.  The rest of us from the team were also honored by being sat in the front and given caps and gowns to wear.  At the end of the ceremony, all of us got to help pass out diplomas to the graduates, which was really fun.  Many new pastors (men and women) were commissioned last night and we were able to take part in their joy and accomplishment as we prayed for their new callings and ministries.

Andrew speaking at a leprosy camp

Andrew handing out food to a leper

The team working hard to pass out rations to the lepers

Chris Ward praying for woman at the leprosy camp

This morning we held our last Bridge event for this 3 month Residency Team.  It looked very different than our other Bridge events.  We held the first church service ever at the site of the new HI church building on the HI campus!  Suresh and his team made sure we had an awesome set up and sound system under the church structure as we christened the site with the first official service, calling the local youth to step up and pray for the church plant, and possibly even step up to get involved.  It was invigorating holding a service at the church site and seeing the incredible turnout of youth and young adults, even during the education system's statewide exams.  God is so faithful!  We lead a Western-style service complete with English contemporary worship songs, communion, and a great sermon from Pastor Chris.  Afterward, we all ate lunch together, the whole team, the HI staff, and all the attendees of the service.  We were able to really fellowship with a lot of the youth and hear their heartfelt excitement to serve the Lord.

It's difficult to believe we will be leaving Tenali in only 10 days.  Much of our ministry and work will be wrapping up in this next week and we will begin our debrief and preparation to go back to the States.  Thank you for your continued prayers and thoughts over the next week and half as we prepare to step back into Western culture.  Please pray specifically for our reverse culture shock, which always presents many challenges after living an extended time abroad.  We will SEE you all soon!