08.07.14

There is no solace for the introvert. Always a constant clamoring outside in the streets, even the safe confines of our bedroom, our one place of true comfort, the chaos is still ever present.

The days start early, invaded by honking, barking, yelling, and speeding vehicles. The jarring ring of our doorbell goes off, it’s the house cleaner, and though our dishes are cleaned and floor swept, I can’t help but feel a friction inside of me with this invader. India has crept in.

I make my way downstairs to my ride to work. Two little girls, the apartment’s caretakers’ daughters, meet me; they’re dirty and naked but have smiles across their faces. They ask where Auntie is, most likely for some little candy treats. I wish so badly to speak to them, with their parents, but they all speak Bengali and I am learning Hindi. Oh how I wish I pushed to learn Bengali. I hop on my bike and feel a tugging sensation, I look back and the two little girls stare up at me, smiling, giggling. They start speaking to me but I can only guess at what they are saying. I continue on after shooing the girls off to their mommy.

The roads are becoming more and more torn up by the construction, heavy trucks and rainy weather. I guess it’s no worse than the 100 plus degree heat wave that has been beating down on us the last several months. I pass the workers digging up the roads, piling up sand and stacking bricks. They have such worn faces, hands, feet. Are they here by choice or forced to work? I can’t shake the thought. Kids, women, they must be forced for one reason or another. There always seems to be too many of them working.

Off shooting the “main” road are alleyways leading to shacks and shanties; homes, houses. Looking down one, a small boy, he stands naked, well, besides a red band of thread around his waist. It’s a Hindu thing meant to ward off bad spirits and misfortunes. Yet the boy stands alone, crying, looking and waiting, for mom or grandmother I suppose. I wonder how well that string is doing for that little boy’s misfortunes.

Down another alley a girl is washing dishes in the street, on the other side I hear screaming and yelling, sounds of slaps and cries. It’s such a long bike ride. It’s loud, harsh, the horns firing off from everywhere.

In the middle of the road ahead a man squats near a manhole, holding something. As I come closer I can make out what he is holding, an arm, protruding out form the manhole. The top of his head is just visible, his mouth just above the murky blackish-silver water. It reeks of something awful. I don’t want to think about what’s in that filth let alone be chin deep in it. It’s an unwanted job though, and someone has to unclog the drainage.

The nearby artificial pools and lakes are no better and yet they are filled with people bathing in them and others washing their clothes from the water. The river close to the boys home is full of the stagnant drainage as well. The stench is unbearable. I have to pedal faster before I puke. How do these vendors sell any fruits and vegetables right off the bank of this terrible river?

It’s not even 9 in the morning and there’s so much to process. So much brokenness and I see it over and over every morning and every afternoon back to my apartment. So much happens in this short ten-minute ride everyday for the past eleven months. I don’t think much will change in the next thirteen.

There is a hope, a comfort. Greeted by the sweet hellos and warm hugs from the kids. This is why we are here, why we we get up in the morning and meet each grueling day. To love these kids, to share and show them what the gospel is and to give them a peek into what a true kingdom life can be.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27

 

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his blood

this is my little late to the easter party poem. inspiration comes from Luke’s recounting of the last hours of Jesus and from Isaiah 53.

betrayed, denied, mocked, and beaten,

His blood poured out.

despised, rejected, and stricken with grief,

His blood poured out.

stricken, smitten, afflicted, and wounded,

His blood poured out.

oppressed and slaughtered like a lamb,

His blood poured out.

Yet, it was the Lord.

Crushed and made a sacrifice,

His blood poured out for us.

For the will Lord shall prosper,

His blood poured out for us.

to bear our iniquities and account us as righteous,

His blood poured out for us.

to free us from burden and death,

His blood poured out for us.

once and for all, the victory is His.

His blood poured out for us.

6.5 months

It’s been a little over six months for us now. We had our first visa run to Thailand, explored our city of Kolkata, took a train to a beach town for my birthday, rigged a tree for Christmas and celebrated thanksgiving potluck style. We’ve had our share of overnight hospital stays. I’ve even run into a girl who I worked at a summer camp almost four years ago. A lot has happened to us in a short span of six months and it feels as though we have been here for years.

While we were back in the states preparing to come here, I didn’t think that we would have experienced so much in such a short period of time (and we still have a year and a half left). I didn’t expect some of the hardships that have come our way. I knew that moving our lives to other side of the world would be hard but I didn’t know just how hard. I never knew how much just walking out of our apartment door would be some days, or what 1.3 billion people really looks like all crammed together. There were many more moments than I’d like to admit that I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed and deal with the chaos of India (I still have those moments now). But here I am, six months later and still standing. But it is through no strength of my own.

I’ve had to find new ways to rely on The Lord. New ways to seek Him when things are going well and when things are going so bad I just want to yell at the top of my lungs. I’ve had to pray to see the world through His eyes, because if I didn’t, I would be holed up in a deep depression seeing all the injustices on a daily basis. I’ve prayed for a softened heart to deal with the locals and all that goes into communicating cross culturally. But I’ve also prayed in thanksgiving. For an undying friendship with a wonderful wife who I have yet to grow weary of (probably the best thing ever). For the times that we teach English to the four younger boys who dart to class with the biggest smiles on their faces eager to learn. For the relationships that we have built with all of the kids here. For the friends that we have made, both ex-pat and national. God has been quick to remind us why we are here.

And looking back at the first six months with all the hardships and victories that we have gone through, knowing that God has been there in all of it, I know that as we look forward to the next six months, I can reassure myself that He will be there. He will be there for the new struggles and obstacles that come our way and that we can rejoice in Him in the goodness that he will bring in those six months as well. And I know that because He has brought me to this point, He will carry me through the next six months and beyond.

advent poem

this poem reflects the season of life that we are walking through. we had read Habakuk and afterwards wrote this poem. i feel like it connects to where we are and to the advent season.

Come, hear my voice.

Come, hear my cry.

Come, lift me up Lord.

For my soul is dry.

Come, bring restoration.

Come, bring new life.

Come, in my affliction, Lord.

For I am in deep strife.

My heart aches with pain.

My feet crumble beneath me

but you, Oh God, have rid me of my stain.

You are my healer, restorer.

You are my all.

You are my everything.

You have heard my voice.

You have heard my cry.

You lifted me up

My soul, no longer dry.

You have brought restoration.

You have brought new life.

You came in my affliction and fixed my strife.

You have healed my pain.

You strengthen my feet beneath me.

You, oh God, have rid me of my stain.

He restores my soul

its been pretty easy to get wrapped up and caught in india. with all that we do there is not much time for rest. for me especially because this is such a patriarchal culture, things that alex would normally do or help with, she can’t. so it can be very easy to forget to take care of yourself. but without caring for yourself, your body begins to shut down and reach its breaking point. that comes much quicker in a new living situation. we had just had our a/c unit installed, it only took 9 hour too. pretty fast right? the best part about it was that the outlet the unit is supposed to plug into has no electrical current. i was not to happy about that. my reaction was to completely shut down. all the little things that had upset me before caught up with me and not being able to get a/c was the last piece missing for a breakdown. my breakdowns involve a lot of silence and just tuning out the world around me. but that isn’t a good solution to any problem. it won’t fix the a/c, it won’t get us internet in our flat, and it won’t help in resting in the Lord. i’ve been reading the Good and Beautiful series by James Bryan Smith (total shameless plug. the books are fantastic) and each chapter ends in a spiritual discipline. this one was praying Psalm 23. its filled with all kinds of truth and goodness that comes from the Lord.

“He restores my soul.”

He truly does to. as i was reading through it, i realized how i wasn’t resting in the Lord. i was putting myself through the motions to get through my days. and true rest is so rewarding. a spiritual discipline that flips what you think are your priorities and places God at the forefront. it allows you to know Him and all that He offers. it’s a wonderful refreshment from all the chaos that comes from life in india. and i can see better through the chaos, through the unknowns of the day and love and serve better in each day.

we’ve been in Kolkata for a over month now. that month has been a very long one, one that has felt like a full year. we have experienced a multitude of things in what has really been a very short time period. we’ve been kicked around, pushed around, thrown around, picked up and then kicked down again. but, we are still here, we’re still standing, and we know we are in the place that God has prepared for us.

 

we started off our move with Alex being sent to the hospital for a pretty nasty stomach bug. we actually ended up going two times within a week we started in the ER. she had IVs put in, had some blood tests and 6 hours later we were sent “home” with some meds. well that didn’t work. we had to go back and that time we had an overstay that ended up being two nights and three very long days.

{afterwards we had heard of stories of other couples that packed their bags and ran for home because they were met with illnesses right off the bat}

 

the first two weeks of us being in Kolkata, we lived in a hotel. we had separate twin beds and we constantly digging through the 9 very large very packed bags and boxes we brought over to find the simplest of things. {other people in our line of work have flats lined up for them to move right into. we only moved into ours a full MONTH after we landed. we’re still waiting on furniture to be delivered}

 

many times we set out with a plan only to find out that you have to throw it out the window. life in india is different than life in the states (not that we didn’t already know that) but it isn’t something that you can completely prepare for. you can go into the next stage of your life with so many expectations, ones that seem harmless and good but can be expectations that wreck what is lying for you in reality. a lot of what we have learned in this very long month of living Kolkata is to have a lot of patience, a lot of faith, and to be able to laugh it off. the things that you plan for a day ahead can and will change the next morning, and if you’re lucky you’ll learn of it before you arrive at your destination.

 

i’m glad that i have an amazing wife and friend in alex who supports me, keeps me grounded, and loves me well through this transition of ours. we are a pretty solid team and we both point each other back to God when we are struggling or when we are doing great. all we have to do is seek Him and look for Him in our lives. we’ve come this far with that faith and know that that faith will continue to carry us through whatever He has in store for us in the future.

 

Jai Masih Ki

 

p.s. alex has pinkeye. poor thing can’t catch a break. pray for quick healing.