Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tenali's Got Talent Dance

For those of you who need something to make you smile today... please enjoy this video of white missionaries dancing in India! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

He Hears Our Prayers - By Renee

Last weekend, we had a crusade in the Bapatla area.  Cory and Kevin documented the event while the rest of us prayed over the people as they stood with bold proclamations. The entire Harvest India staff was there along with a choir from the HI Nursing College and some talented students from the Quary School who helped spread the Gospel through dance.  Many people heard the the Good News, were healed, and experienced Christ in a new way. This wasn't just limited to the people in the surrounding village; the Harvest India staff were changed as well (I LOVE that we are considered staff now!).

As I'm sure many of you heard, Ravi wasn't at the Crusade on Sunday night. He was in a motorcycle accident earlier in the day. Here in Tenali, motorcycles are much more common than cars and helmets are a rarity. After being thrown to the ground, Ravi got up and brushed himself off assured that he was fine. Moments later, he collapsed and was taken to a local hospital in Bapatla. Recognizing that they did not had the facilitates to care for him, he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit in Guntur.

It wasn't until Monday morning that we caught wind of the news. In an instant, the room was shattered. We were told about the accident, the hospital admittance, and that Ravi was unconscious and paralyzed on one side of his body. This news literally rocked me. God has used Ravi in huge ways in India. I first met him 2 years ago on the RockHarbor two week trip.He is the director of the Harvest India Children's homes. Ravi is such a man of God and his love for His people is so evident. He's a quiet one, but a powerful servant of the King!  Two months ago, I had the privilege of meeting Ravi's sons and aunt at a local church service. His aunt had recognized me from a picture they have on their refrigerator. Ravi told me that they had been praying for me since our 2 week trip had left nearly 2 years ago. What a blessing!

After hearing the news, we cancelled our teaching schedule and instead decided to fast and pray for Ravi. Suresh came over to our house with Danny and as a team (along with Ramaraj) we prayed like I've never prayed before. We were broken and scared. Our prayers were honest and desperate. And the good news is, God heard them!

A couple hours later, we arrived at the hospital to learn that Ravi had recently woken up and was able to move both sides of his body! His brain was hemorrhaging, he wasn't out of danger yet, but God had brought him a long way. Angela and I were the first of our team to in and see Ravi in ICU. I had no idea what to expect. When we approached the bed, Ravi simply looked like he was sleeping with a breathing mask; there were no visible signs of trauma. His wife gently shook his arm, whispered a few words into his ear, and Ravi slowly opened his eyes. We could literally watch his eyes focus as he took in the world around him. His first words out of his mouth were "Praise the Lord!" Yes Ravi, Praise the Lord that He has you in His hands! Praise the Lord that He is good and just! Praise the Lord for how He has already healed you and will continue to heal you! Praise the Lord that you are safe in his hands! Yes Ravi, Praise the Lord!

It was a hard day, but in the midst of pain His sweetness reigned.

We were able to pray for Ravi as a team in that hospital room in Guntur; but the beauty of prayer (and God for that matter) is that it is not limited to a moment or a room. Within a few hours, literally hundreds if not thousands of people around the world were praying for a single man in India. The news quickly spread via Facebook, emails, and texts. RH pastors, life groups, and the India community as a whole were lifting up Ravi in prayer. That is what we are called to do as the Church. To love and uphold one another. So beautiful!

Ravi is still in the hospital but is out of the Intensive Care Unit. Praise the Lord! We traveled to Guntur yesterday to find the hospital room in much higher spirits. Ravi was more alert with complete feeling on both sides of his body though he was complaining of an intense headache (naturally). His wife was able to smile and tell us that after asking about their father for nearly a week, his boys are able to go see him--- they may even be with him as I'm writing this.

Last we heard, Ravi is scheduled to have another MRI to assess the progress of the hemorrhaging in his brain. After witnessing God's healing hands over this past week, I'm expecting to hear more good news. Please continue to pray for Ravi: for healing, for comfort, for His story and His plans to be revealed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

College Outreach

Performing at Amedkar College
One of the main reasons Harvest India asked RockHarbor to send a Residency Team to Tenali is to help them grow their college ministry. Harvest India is an organization that basically has ministry covered from birth to death, but they really felt like they were missing out on the college age kids. Recognizing that RockHarbor has done a fairly good job of attracting the twenty-something crowd, they approached our church about helping out.

Jump forward a year or two... now you have six Americans living in India trying to connect with the youth. How in the heck do you do that? By exploiting the allure of our "western-ness", and playing American pop songs and Minute To Win It games of course!

We've visited Ambedkar College, St. Peters College, KSK College, Harvest India Nursing College, and next week we'll be visiting JMJ College. We've spent the last few weeks performing songs, playing games, and connecting with local colleges all over Tenali. It's been a great way to spread the word about what Harvest India is doing in Tenali as well as inviting the kids to become a part of a larger community.

We've also been inviting the schools to join us at an event and competition that we are calling Tenali's Got Talent this December 28th. We are formatting it in the American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, and America's Got Talent type of competitions with judges and prizes for the winner. Each of the schools that we've visited will send two teams of students to perform a song, dance, or drama at the competition. Our team will also be performing some songs and dances to make things extra interesting. The winning team will receive a cash prize and the pride of Tenali!

Aside from all of the fun we've had, it's been a really encouraging and exciting process to see our team grow through this experience. We are all being stretched to step out of our comfort zones by getting up on stage to sing and dance, act silly, and speak in front of large crowds when those things may not necessarily be one of our strengths. It's been an a process that has really brought us closer as a team and forced us to rely on each other for support and encouragement. More than anything it's forced us to really rely on God to get us through each event. It all seems to fit the theme of "being called to be uncomfortable".

Here are a few images from the events so far:

Suresh welcoming students at Ambedkar College
Renee, Kacie, and Angela with students at St. Peters College
Students at KSK College
John encouraging the students to engage their community

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thoughts on Teaching - By Angela

Teaching in India is a very different experience than teaching at home.

There are a few reasons for this:
1. India is a collectivist society.  They consider the group before thinking for themselves. As an American educator a lot of the habits they have formed in school- things like sharing answers, shouting out an answer for another student, looking at one another’s papers- seem like cheating.  It is taking great effort for me to understand how they collectively have class, without assuming that they are not individually learning, or otherwise cheating.  
Some aspects of the collective approach to teaching are fun; they are very good a choral response.  When I say or write something on the board for them to repeat, the room rumbles in a rhythmic beat of syllables, it makes me feel powerful, like a high ranking military officer. They also genuinely want to help each other. I see no pride or arrogance in ones efforts. This is both good and bad for me, as a teacher. I like their humble and caring hearts; but, at the same time, I really do not know who originally came up with the answer written on everyone’s paper across the row.  I want them to understand that at this point I could care less whether or not the answer is correct, I just need to know who is getting it correct and who is not, and what I need to go ever again.

2. India is a respectful society.  Like in Spanish, the Telugu language has set apart words for respected people: elders, teachers, mothers, fathers and respected people in society.  It is a wonderful tradition and aspect to language that I feel we have let slip in our society. Never do I hear, “ma’am,” and the only time I hear children calling adults Mr. or Mrs. is in class to their teacher. 
When I walk into my classroom the students all stand and say “Good morning madam”  (I have been called madam more than I care to count-it makes me feel like an old woman or a brothel spinster).  Anyway, it is a sign of respect here and I appreciate it!  If a student is late to class they do not speak, they only stand at the door and salute until you invite or wave them in.  These are two simple examples of many that show the utmost respect these students have for adults, teachers, and education as a whole. 

3. Indian boys LOVE to dance.  Not much to say on that, other than that I have never seen a SINGLE boy in America as eager to dance as EVERY boy is here.  The kids, boys and girls alike, are truly enjoying Renee’s dance classes.  She is so good at simplifying the choreography to counts that language is not an issue. 

4. India is a society hungry for education.  Many students at home roll their eyes when they are assigned homework, dislike going to class, dislike their teachers, complain about the long days, fake illness, find any excuse not to attend school….I know, I was one of them! 
Schooling in India, in this area, for this caste of students is a PRIVELEDGE!  The students look forward to coming to class, they are as a whole eager to complete their work, and they appreciate their teachers. At home, even teaching kindergarten, I struggled trying to make the learning fun, relevant and entertaining.  Here, we have a chalkboard and crappy white chalk; no technology, no manipulative, no cool art supplies, and the students are enthralled with learning. Simple strategies like charades are a welcome break from day to day class work, and even then I feel that at home charades might not be enough entertainment for some. 

All in all, I love teaching here and I have a lot to learn!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thoughts on Holidays and Diwali

In America, we have weekends.  The rhythm of the work week says that we work Monday through Friday and we don’t work on Saturday and Sunday.  Indians don’t have weekends.  In India, you will see children going to school six days a week.  During exam times, they will go to school every day of the week to prepare for the exams.  People who own shops go to work every day of the week.  Some workers will work 6 days a week.  Churches start late because people need to work in the morning on Sunday and then will come in at 12 or 1 PM.  

During one of the first meetings with Suresh, he asked whether we wanted to have weekends.  We said that we did.  This seemed like it would be important for our sanity.  Some of the Harvest India staff will ask us to do something on Saturday, but then will stop and say, “Oh wait, you have holiday.”  The staff members refer to our weekends as holidays.  

I wondered how Indian workers keep their sanity without weekends.  One important thing to note: the people I work with are very depend on their daily wages.  If they don’t work, they don’t make money and they don’t eat.  Weekends wouldn’t be helpful for that.  Another note: they have so many national holidays in India that they don’t need weekends.  We’ve been here six months, but there is at least one large festival every month.  October had Dusserah and November had Diwali. 

Hindus celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, as a very important festival to worship the goddess of weath, Lakshmi.  The Hindu celebration focuses on the victory of darkness over light.  Hindus will say special prayers and go to special services on this day.  They celebrate Diwali by buying new clothing or jewelry or automobiles on this day.  In effort to make Lakshmi feel welcomed in their home, they will light small clay lamps and set them up outside their house.  They will also clean out their entire home and repaint it if they can afford it.  It is the beginning of the fiscal year for financial businesses.  Finally, they will light off fireworks (also called bombs) all over town to scare away the evil spirits.  To learn more about the celebration, please visit the Wikipedia page.

Our team got to celebrate Diwali.  Christians don’t really celebrate Diwali, but Suresh invited us to eat a nice dinner and shoot off some fireworks for Diwali.  I had to think about why we would be celebrating Diwali.  We don’t want to impress upon other Christians that we are acting Hindu.  We also don’t want the Hindus to think that as well.  I asked Suresh why we were celebrating Diwali.  He said that every year, people will just give him a ton of fireworks for free.  He won’t waste them, so he lets his kids and the house workers light them off.  He does it for his kids.  Thinking about it, it seems similar to Non-Christians celebrating Easter or Christmas with gifts.  If you use Diwali as an opportunity to light off fireworks and spend time with family, then how is it different than the Fourth of July?  Anyways, from my experiences here in India, I think that Indians will choose any opportunity to light off fireworks.  

Before we went to Suresh’s house, we checked some prices on fireworks.  Fifty Rupees (about $1) bought a package of 10 boxes of sparklers.  Twenty Rupees (less than fifty cents) could buy a bag of 100 small fireworks that look like mini sticks of dynamite.  Fireworks are CHEAP and legal here.  

When we got to Suresh’s house, there were a ton of fireworks and bombs.  Bombs are an appropriate name because when they light off they explode and make loud noises.  There were small sparklers that came in boxes of 100.  They were great, but short so some of the arm hairs feel singed.  There were some fireworks that went into the air and exploded.  There were some rolls of fireworks that were hundreds of small stick fireworks that when lit would set off a chain reaction of lighting up and exploding.  There are spinners that are attached to sticks similar to sparkers.  There are fountain fireworks.  All of these are really fun to use.
The Canadian team joined us as we lit fireworks.  It was amazingly fun yet super dangerous to American standards.  Bombs were lit and exploded a little closer than they should probably have.  Fountain fireworks were lit by other fountain fireworks.  I had a close encounter one time when I lit a fountain and it didn’t look like it lit up.  The whole thing was caught on video that can be seen here.  Cory also had a problem with a fountain firework.  You could light the fountains and then hold them as the sparks came out.  One Cory had exploded in his hand and burnt it.  We put ointments on it and prayed and it was healed within two days.  
Renee, Angela, Mercy and Kacie with sparklers.
I had so much fun lighting bombs with some Harvest India staff and then running the opposite direction for cover laughing the entire time.  Looking around, there were scenes of fireworks going off.  There was joy on everyone’s faces.  Suresh’s wife, Christina, looked like a little kid lighting off some of the fountain fireworks.  Suresh’s children and house staff were so excited and having so much fun.  During it, I realized why Suresh celebrated with fireworks for his kids.  It was a wonderful time celebrating together as one big family.  We weren’t celebrating Diwali with family, we were celebrating family with fireworks!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tour of the Thota House

Here's a fun video we put together that gives you a quick tour of the house we'll be living in for the next year or so. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Then and Now - by Kacie Clanton

I came to India for two weeks last December with RH church. It was an amazing experience filled with joy and huge feelings of being overwhelmed with the new culture, experiences and the thought that India would soon be my new home for over a year. I applied and was accepted on the India residency team before I had been to India. I just knew that this was what God had in store for me and I wanted to be obedient to his calling. At the end of the two weeks I wrote a letter to myself to be opened at a later date. The letter was meant to remind me of what I learned about myself and about God during my time in India. I brought the letter with me to India to remind myself now what it I know to be true about myself and about India that God has already revealed to me. It is overwhelming and a lot to take in being here and settling in to a new home in a new culture. This morning I reread my letter and smiled at some parts since they totally came true and felt refreshed at other truths that were written. 

Here is the letter I wrote to myself. May God continue to reveal His truth to me as we live in Tenali and as we try to assimilate to this new culture and people in order to do His work. I want to be a burning fire for God with a heart and voice of boldness and conviction. First step is reminding myself of what I already know to be true. 

January 7, 2012
Dear Kacie,
     You are God's beloved child. He has made you, redeemed you, restored you, and created you new in Christ. He has placed on your heart to step out in faith and to serve him with all that you have.      Remember how God worked through your fears, anxiety, and being overwhelmed. Remember He gave you the fruit of the Spirit of joy, faith, and boldness. Don't be afraid to continue to step out in risk for His kingdom. Remember the ways he has dissolved the last few walls around your heart to help you love as he created you to. Remember the God-given sheer joy of dancing with the kids during VBS. God is bringing you back to India for them and for a unique purpose. How are you being bold in prayer over the residency? How are you looking to God expectantly?
     You are slowly falling love with John. The spirit of fear and trepidation is gone. God has clearly written this story and had his hand in it the entire time. Step forward prayerfully, with boldness, expectancy, and with OPEN hands hands and freely given heart. In whatever context, God has chosen him for you. Continue to go where God leads. 
     Remember how each day in India, God began to grow your heart for the people and the country. Pray for those you interacted with and those who touched your heart. Prepare for the residency with expectancy of God to move mountains. Don't let Satan sneak in with thoughts of timidity and fear. God gave you the capacity to love greatly and love well in his name. You have the gift of getting down to the people at their level and being used by God. LEAN into the Spirit. God is faithful. Remember bursting with joy at the elderly home, the way God used the darkness of my past to shine his light to other women, and the ability of the voice God has given you. Trust in his gifts for yourself. Do not be afraid. Remember Psalm 91.  
     God loves you. You've been given a divine appointment. Prepare with gratitude and joy. The adventure is with God. What a joyful way to live your life. 


As I reread my letter, I was reminded that each day I should be praying expectantly about how God was going to work in this day. We've been here four days now. The work begins soon. For now we are settling in and trying to figure out how to live everyday life in India....laundry, cooking, cleaning, walking the neighborhood. This time to try and adjust is a gift from God and I am praying expectantly for the time when our work begins. As of right now, teaching, aquaponics, and outreach events will start November 1st, India timing of course. ;) I'm trying to use this time to prepare my heart with the posture it needs to be used by God in these ways to further his kingdom and not lose sight of what I have already learned about God and myself while I try to adjust to my new normal life in Tenali. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gracious Uncertainty

A lot of people ask me , "Why?"
Why would we go to India?  Why would we give up our cushy OC lives, our friends, our family, our jobs, the 72 degree weather, mexican food, etc...
IT'S JUST NOT PRACTICAL to go live in Thrid World country, there are just so many uncertainties... and uncertainty is not a very American trait, especially living in Orange County.  We spend a lot of time and money to make sure things ARE certain.

I'm not going to lie, I definitely have a lot of those thought go through my head when I think about what we are going to be embarking on in a few months.  Moving to India is NOT practical.  Who know's what's going to happen.  The uncertainties are ENDLESS!

So when I read today's Oswald Chambers devotional, it struck a big India chord for me and addresed where God stands in reagrds to our uncertanty and practicality.

Our natural inclination is to be so precise—trying always to forecast accurately what will happen next—that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We think that we must reach some predetermined goal, but that is not the nature of the spiritual life. The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty. Consequently, we do not put down roots. Our common sense says, “Well, what if I were in that circumstance?” We cannot presume to see ourselves in any circumstance in which we have never been.
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life—gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God—it is only believing our belief about Him. Jesus said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). The spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, just uncertain of what He is going to do next. If our certainty is only in our beliefs, we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled. But when we have the right relationship with God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Jesus said, “. . . believe also in Me” (John 14:1), not, “Believe certain things about Me”. Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in—but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Team, New Adventures, New Phase in India Residency!

A blog post outlining the new residency team is long overdue...but we are excited to announce that we will be going back to India October 2012-January 2014! Each team member has a different story as to how and why they applied and decided to join the India residency team, but ultimately it was the hand of God being placed over all of us, beckoning us to join Him in His work in India. Please stay tuned for more stories of our preparation and team building along the way as we get ready to move to India.

For now, fundraising has officially begin! Please check out our team website and individual team member fundraising websites for more of each person's story and ways to support!

God bless and may we continually be seeking His kingdom together!

Kevin and Angela::
Residency team ::