On November 15 I got in my car to drive to the Dayton airport. For the first time in over 4 months I would be seeing my beloved Brandy. Her plane, an hour late, finally landed, and I could see her walking in the airport. As soon as she past the ‘restricted area’ in the airport we embraced each other with a hug and Brandy asking me, “Why are you wearing a suit?” If you know me at all, you know that I simply don’t dress up. Anything more than a t-shirt seems unnecessary to me. Ignoring her question, I got down on one knee, took a ring out of my pocket, and asked the question! After a seemingly endless pause, she said Yes!!!
Four months away from Brandy was the most difficult part of my internship. But that is over now, and the next story in our lives is about to begin!
We will be posting engagement pictures soon
Wow. I cannot believe that four months has come and gone so fast. But now the countdown has begun: 6 days until I am on a plane back home. I feel as if I am in the middle of a whirlwind that only picks up speed.
For the past couple weeks I have kept myself quite busy. I led a bible study, that pretty much turned into a 40 minute sermon. I have also led various devotions and given my testimony upon occasion. In addition, my final 2 grad classes are nearly complete as I put the finishing touches on both of my final papers, applying for around 75 jobs, and do Skype interviews in the middle of the night. I spent 3 days at a residential microfinance training in a Catholic retreat house. Because of my attendance, the training was coined a ‘multinational training.’ For some reason, I was put at the center of attention at the training (and for some reason I mean most likely because I am white). I certainly dislike the extra attention, as my goal is normally to fade into the background as much as possible. And I have also continued playing squash and hanging out with my buddy Oman. We started playing thumb wars, and “stone-paper-scissors” as Oman calls it.
Now that I have reached my final week in Shillong I have also begun to say my goodbyes. Last night I went to my house group Bible study for the last time. It was hard to say goodbye to my peers and elders that have been so instrumental in keeping my faith strong over these past few months. They put together a potluck dinner and gave me a farewell present as we parted ways. This afternoon I went to Subway for the final time. That last sentence probably sounded ridiculous, but whenever I am missing home (or missing food from back home) I go to Subway for a turkey footlong to satisfy my stomach. Various friends and peers have begun to say their goodbyes. And tomorrow I will attend church in India for the final time. I am not good at saying goodbye. Unless I am extremely close to someone I will say as emotionally unattached as possible. But these goodbyes are beginning to get to me. I guess when it’s all said and done, Shillong has captured my heart. While I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life, I will also miss Shillong and all of the people that I have gotten to know over these past four months.
Last year when I was in Mexico I attempted to blog once a week about my experiences. I was there for a measly two months and failed miserably. I only managed to blog a few times over the summer. This time around, I have also attempted to blog once a week, but that too has been in vein. However, unlike last summer, I am not just going to quit altogether, so some progress has been made.
For the past six or seven weeks I have started playing squash after work. This was done as an attempt to fill a couple hours in my evening with something active, and a way for me to release after a day in the office. Besides my week in Manipur, I have been faithful with my playing squash, going to the court three or four times a week. To be honest, it was somewhat of a scary experience going to play a game by yourself. Luckily for me, two locals also play regularly at the same time as me. They took me under their wings, so to speak, and I have developed two great friendships as a result.
To be honest, going to play squash as been one of the most rewarding activities that I have done since I have arrived in Shillong, but it’s not for the reason of playing squash. There is a small, 4 year old Nepali boy (named Oman) that lives in the same building as the squash court. Initially I took attention to him because he was always dirty and his clothes were torn. I guess you could call it anything from empathy, compassion, worrying, or perhaps judging. Although I can assure you that my intentions were pure. Initially I bought some paper and crayons so he could color while I played squash. Our friendship slowly began from that time. We have since attempted to learn the English alphabet (I even properly said ‘zed’ rather than ‘z’ for his benefit) and practiced counting in numbers.
Not long after that, Oman found a flat, square piece of wood that he used as a squash racket because he wanted to play with us. Let me tell you, he is really good for only being 4 years old. He also likes to climb on me, run up my legs to do a back flip, and just hang all over me. One day he was pulling on my shirt and saw my cross tattoo and he immediately said “Jisu, Jisu!” He then grabbed his necklace from under his shirt to show me his cross, and again said “Jisu, Jisu!”
There is not necessarily a moral to this story, other than the fact that I have grown close to Oman. I have enjoyed interacting and playing with, but more importantly, loving Oman. I don’t know what will come of Oman in the future. I have thought about it. I have hoped that he will go to school, graduate high school, and go to college. I have hoped that he will always remember Jisu and know that He died for him. I also hope that he remembers me. And I hope, that in one way or another, I will have had a positive impact in Oman’s life.
Christ call’s us to plant seeds and bear fruit. Fruit takes a long time to grow and ripen. Often times, people plant seeds but then are never able to see the fruit that is eventually born. It is my hope that I have been able to plant a seed in Oman’s life, although I know that I will more than likely never see the fruit from the seed. And for that I am humbled and thankful.
- October 2, 1869- One of the most important days in Indian history. On this grand day, Mohandas Gandhi was born. 77 years later, on August 15, 1947 gained it’s Independence from Britain. Gandhi quickly became known as the Father of the Nation. Not only is October 2nd one of three Indian National Holidays, but the UN also declared October 2nd as the International Day of Non-Violence in 2007.
In honor of this, I did something non-violent today! Enjoy the photos:
Our God is a God of peace, and not of violence. Our God established an upside-down Kingdom where peaces overcomes violence, good overcomes evil, love surpasses hate, and eternal life outlasts death.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5: 22-23
Arriving in Shillong was the first time that I truly experienced culture shock. My past trip to Nigeria was too short to experience true shock, and I went unscathed during my time in Mexico do to the similarities of the living accommodations. However, my time in India has been quite the different story. I immediately felt some sort of shock when I first arrived to my room in July. Looking at the outside of the room, it looks like an old-English style house from the earl 1900’s. Entering the room, I immediately felt overwhelmed. Only a few inches separated my head from the ceiling, and I had to duck down whenever entering through doorways. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have hit my head on the light’s that hang from the ceiling. The beds here are different; my feet hang off the end of the bed, and the mattress, which is only a couple inches thick, lies on wood planks. I am fortunate enough to have a western-style toilet; however that is a rarity here.
In addition, walking to work also proved to be a challenge. When I walk on the sidewalk (when there is one), I have to try to avoid hitting the hundreds of people I attempt to pass, and when I walk on the road, I have to avoid being hit by all of the cars and motorcycles. Additionally, the streets are so loud, as cars endlessly honk their horns. Walking, which is normally a leisurely experience for me, had turned into a stressful hassle every day.
Looking back on my immediate culture shock, I feel a bit silly. None of these issues should have been issues at all. I now love my bed here, and I cannot wait to crash into it every night after a long day. I am also thankful for the rest of my guest room, as it is so much nicer than I really ever could have imagined. Having a western-style toilet is a luxury that I was not expecting. I have also learned how to drown out the sound of cars honking their horns, and for the most part, have avoided any problems during my stroll to work.
Maybe my first round of ‘culture shock’ was not culture shock at all; maybe it was just me overreacting to a new phase in my life. But if that was not culture shock, I have sure endured it this past week on my trip to Imphal, Manipur. For my internship, I flew to Manipur with a co-worker to meet and interview clients. Everything about Imphal was different than my experiences in Shillong. The roads seemed to be a never ending roller coaster that you just want to end. I found myself continuously holding on to whatever grip I could manage to attempt to steady my body. The guest house where we stayed was also a very different experience. I did not have the luxury of a western-toilet. However, I am thankful that I brought along my own toilet paper so that I did not have to experience the traditional Indian way! Additionally, there was no running water in my room. Instead, there was a large bucket filled with water to get me through the week. It was supposed to be used to flush the toilet and to bathe oneself. I also experienced the fear of eating food from a little roadside ‘Hotel’ (for which I later paid the price). I did my best to embrace all of these experiences and live in the moment.
Honestly, it was a challenging week for me; however, it proved to be an invaluable experience for which I am forever grateful. I was able to meet with 8 different clients; we discussed their loan experience, their struggles, their joys, and everything else in between (I will soon be adding some success stories to our Facebook Page (SoFMEDA) and website (www.sofmeda.org), so please check those out). I was also able to see a small bit of their lives. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was a very spiritual experience for me. I will just say that I have come to realize that we all live in one world, and that the people who live in villages in India are not so different from people living in the American suburbs. I was able to look at their faces and feel their pain, their struggles, their joy, and their hope. Everyone faces these same feelings, and while we may come from extremely different backgrounds, God is still everyone’s creator, and He loves all of His creation. And because of that, there is reason to hope.
This is what the Lord says – “Fear not, for I have redeemed; I have summoned you by name; YOU ARE MINE.” -Isaiah 43:1
Ever since I arrived in Shillong, all I have been hearing about are potential bandh’s. I had no idea what this was, I couldn’t even understand what people were saying. To me, it sounded like people were saying ‘bunt,’ but I knew that they were not talking about baseball. According to wikipedia, a bandh is “originally a Hindi word meaning ‘closed’, is a form of protest used by political activists in some countries like India and Nepal. During a Bandh, a political party or a community declares a general strike. Often Bandh means that the community or political party declaring a Bandh expect the general public to stay in their homes and strike work. The main affected are shopkeepers who are expected to keep their shops closed and the public transport operators of buses and cabs are supposed to stay off the road and not carry any passengers. There have been instances of large metro cities coming to a standstill.”
There has been a lot of civil unrest in Northeast India. The Northeast contains seven states, and they are largely separated from the rest of India, connected by only a small piece of land. The civil unrest is for a variety of reasons, but a main reason is that the Northeast wants to be independent of the rest of India. This has led to violence in the Northeast, however, violence is not expected to come to Shillong.
I had my first bandh experience on August 15th, or India’s independence day. As a precaution, I stayed in my room all day, but there was no trouble. A second bandh just happened yesterday, September 6th. I was a little more adventurous this time, so I went for a walk on the main city road in Shillong. All the shops were closed, there was no public transportation, the only people working were military men with their big guns, enormous bullet proof jackets, and helmets. I must have seen over a hundred kids in the streets playing with plastic bottles, hitting balls with sticks, and just running around. It was a beautiful scene.
Not only did I get a day off work, but I was able to catch up on all of my homework, read for leisure, and watch some Boy Meets World. I still do not know exactly what a bandh is, but I do know that I like them!
Rather than going into facts about my week, I have decided to take a different approach for this week’s post. Just recently I finished reading The Alchemist, and I found it very moving. Below is an extended quote from the novel:
“What is a personal calling? It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you here on Earth. Whenever we do something that fills us with enthusiasm, we are following our legend. However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our dream.
There are four obstacles. First: we are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible. We grow up with this idea, and as the years accumulate, so too do the layers of prejudice, fear, and guilt. There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there.
If we have the courage to disinter dream, we are then faced by the second obstacle: love. We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dream. We do not realize that love is just a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.
Once we have accepted that love is a stimulus, we come up against the third obstacle: fear of the defeats we will meet on the path. We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: “Oh, well I didn’t really want it anyway.” We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and that the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.
I ask myself: are defeats necessary?
Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times.
So, why is it is important to live our personal calling if we are only going to suffer more than other people?
Because, once we have overcome the defeats-and we always do-we are filled by a greater sense of euphoria and confidence. In the silence of our hearts, we know that we are proving ourselves worthy of the miracle of life. Each day, each hour, is part of the good fight. We start to live with enthusiasm and pleasure. Intense, unexpected suffering passes more quickly than suffering that is apparently bearable; the latter goes on for years and, without our noticing, eats away at our soul, until, one day, we are no longer able to free ourselves from the bitterness and it stays with us for the rest of our lives.
Having disinterred our dream, having used the power of love to nurture it and spent many years living with the scars, we suddenly notice that what we always wanted is there, waiting for us, perhaps the very next day. Then comes the fourth obstacle: the fear of realizing the dream for which we fought all our lives.
Oscar Wilde said: “Each man kills the thing he loves.” And it’s true. The mere possibility of getting what we want fills the soul of the ordinary person with guilt. We look around at all those who have failed to get what they want and feel that we don’t deserve to get what we want either. We forgot about all the obstacles we overcame, all the suffering we endured, all the things we had to give up in order to get this far. I have known a lot of people who, when their personal calling was within their grasp, went on to commit a series of stupid mistakes and never reached their goal-when it was only a step away.
This is the most dangerous of the obstacles because it has a kind of saintly aura about it: renouncing joy and conquest. But if you believe yourself worthy of the thing you fought so hard to get, then you become an instrument of God, you help the Soul of the World, and you understand why you are here.”
-Paulo Coelho, Introduction to The Alchemist
I urge you all to seek God and find your personal calling for this life. And when you find it, don’t let anything prevent you from achieving your calling.
Well I am finishing up Week 5 at my internship today. I honestly don’t know what I am going to write about on this blog, but I told people that I would post at least once a week, so this is me keeping my promise.
I would like to begin by thanking all of you who are reading this for your thoughts, prayers, and support. You may not realize it, but it is through your prayers that I am able to persevere day in and day out while I am here. When I post, I normally try to tell funny and encouraging stories. While everything I have posted is true and actually happened, it is not the whole truth. Life here is also hard for me; as it should be. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and this is no different. Every day amazing things happen: from being able to go to Bible studies, share my faith with both believers and unbelievers, help those in need, draw closer to God, studying God’s word, putting in a hard days work and looking at God’s beautiful scenery all around me. But at the same time, daily trials also persist. Getting sick on average once or twice a week, getting stuck outside in the pouring down rain, when you walk past people and they just stare and point at you, feeling alone in a sea of faces, not understanding what people are saying, even if it is in English (or at least Indian English). The point being is that life is not all daisies and sunflowers (maybe not the best metaphor).
Over the year (especially these past 5 weeks) I have learned that true joy cannot come from circumstances. If it did, then I would not be joyful often (1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Be joyful always). But joy happens when you react in the right way to those circumstances. This past week I would find myself getting upset, irritated and annoyed when I got sick or when I had difficult times dealing with the vastly different culture. After about one and a half days of being like this I realized that while I was in pain and frustrated, it was not those things that made me unjoyful, rather it was my attitude and my response. At that time I changed my attitude and started to communicate with God more (1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually). Once I started praying, I began to give thanks to God. One night as I lay in bed something strange happened. It was after a very long day that did not go well, but I just started smiling in my bed. I realized how amazing God truly is. I was able to travel 8000 miles to a small city half way around the world, and that God is so great that He let me be a part of something bigger than myself. I rejoiced in that. I gave thanks for my pain and my sickness and my situation. The circumstances no longer mattered. I was focused on God, and once that happened, I was joyful (And let us not forget 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus).
So I tell you this in a manner of gratitude. I surely would not be able to be here if it weren’t for all of you. Your prayers, encouragement, and love help me through the days when I feel like giving up. God bless. I love you all!
I have already been in Shillong for four weeks now. It is hard to believe that I have already been here a month; time really does fly by. Now that I have been here for a decent amount of time, I have settled into a bit of a routine.
Monday through Friday I wake up around 7:50 am and have breakfast at 8:00. After breakfast I have my quiet time and then I leave for work around 9:15. The walk to work takes about 30 minutes; you stay on the same curvy road, going up and down steps on the sidewalk to avoid being hit by the trucks. Albeit once I just escaped an oncoming vehicle, but my backpack was not so lucky!
Work is supposed to begin at 10 am Monday through Friday, but timing is quite relaxed here. Every morning begins with a group prayer session to thank God for bringing us to work safely and to also pray for the necessary work to be accomplished. After prayer, it is work (and tea) time. So far at work I have helped introduce a feasibility study which I used to help further train some SoFMEDA clients and I have also been doing research for a new medical loan. These have been my main two projects, but other small things always seem to pop up throughout the day.
Around 1:00 every day is lunch. Most people in the office gather together to eat. Despite the fact that I bring my own lunch to work, I am still required to take other peoples food. I have learned a bit of the Khasi language, and everyone at the office repeatedly tells me, “shim” which means take. I try to reply, “em” (no), but I am told that is not an acceptable reply. Most days I end up eating about 3 full lunches!
After lunch is another tea time, followed by yet another tea time around 3:00. Work continues until 4:00, which is when our daily devotional begins. Devotions begin with a song, followed be a message reading and someone talking about the scripture. We then enter into a time of prayer. Prayer is quite different here.. everyone prays allowed at the same time. This took me a while to get adjusted to, but I am starting to participate! Work normally ends around 4:30, and then I normally make it home by about 5:15.
While this is my daily routine, I have yet to find any day here as an actual ‘routine.’ Every day something comes up, from an additional Bible study, to being off for Indian Independence Day. I even played a round of golf yesterday, which is more golf than I have played in the last 2 years combined! Life here is an adventure. Every time I think I may have a dull, or relaxed day, something always comes up. While life is not always easy here for me, I still look forward to beginning a new adventure every morning when I wake up!
Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
- Helen Keller
When it rains in Shillong, it pours (or so I have been told). We are currently in the midst of a dry monsoon season in Shillong. My colleagues informed me that before I arrived, it poured constantly for a month. I came prepared for the rain. I brought a huge rain jacket to go along with my knee-high rain boots. I was ready to walk in the rain.
However, since I have been here, I have not had to walk in anything more than a drizzle. Sure, at night I am kept awake by the huge rain pellets being slammed in every which direction on my roof, but the rain is always gone by morning.
While I was still in the states people will ask me various questions such as, “What do you hope to get out of this internship?” or “What do you think Shillong will be like compared to America?” I would always reply in the same way, “I’m trying not to set expectations for myself, because I don’t want to limit my opportunities.” I thought that this was the perfect answer to their questions. The only problem happened to be that I was kidding myself. Of course I had expectations. I was expecting it to rain constantly, I expected the plumbing to be a lot worse than back home, I expected to get sick from the food, and I expected to have a hard time understanding people’s Indian accents.
My expectations, anxieties, thoughts, and worries were all in the wrong places. A few days before I left I spent nearly on hour on the telephone with a friend who used to live in India. I was hoping to garner my expectations by finding out about the ‘squatter’ toilets, and the possibility of not having access to toilet paper. I was consumed by these physical things.
Over the past three weeks I have learned a couple of things. First, I never should have said that I didn’t have expectations. Second, my expectations and worries were focused on the wrong things. I should have been expecting God to move in great ways while I was here. I should have expected God to provide for my every need, rather than simply worrying about them. I should have been consumed by the glory of our Maker, rather than being consumed by the troubles of this world.
“Let it rain, let it rain.
Open the floodgates of Heaven.
I feel the rains of Your Love,
I feel the winds of Your Spirit,
And now the heartbeat of Heaven,
Let us hear.
Because we want to see You;
Show us Your Glory.
And we want to know You, Lord.”
Let it Rain – Jesus Culture