Dry Bones

“I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I The Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares The Lord.” Ezekiel 37:14

I have been working at an insurance company for over a year now. While I never dreamed of getting into the insurance field I have actually come to enjoy it. In addition to interacting with my colleagues, I get to assess risk and practice my negotiation skills. I am beyond blessed to have a great job that allows me to interact with awesome people while also providing for my family.

While acknowledging my gratitude and overall enjoyment of my day to day job, I sometimes feel like I am missing something. Prior to my job, I have had ample opportunities to travel, spanning 3 continents and several countries. I have studied other cultures and have learned how to help people in poverty. Simply put, I never anticipated having a ’9 to 5′ in my hometown. Reflecting on my past experiences makes me compare my life to the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37.

My upcoming trip to Haiti has helped spark life in my bones again. I have been busy planning and meeting with people to develop different ministry opportunities in parts of Haiti. I find myself consistently thinking about different scenarios while also drawing closer to God. In 12 days I will get on a plane and head to a small island the size of Maryland. While I am there I am expecting to see my dry bones come alive!

Planning

I am beyond excited about my upcoming trip to Port au Prince Haiti with Back2Back Ministries. I leave on April 26th and will be there for five days. While it will only be for five days, this is a trip that I have been working towards for a better part of the past year.

While trying to prepare myself, I have met with Back2Back staff, research development in Haiti, and have reviewed my past coursework on community development. I have been able to learn about amazing developments that are already happening in Haiti, such as Haiti Recycling (www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6VfyAvAYnE), which helps create entrepreneurs while maintaining a sustainable environment in Port au Prince. Additionally, I have been reviewing my past microfinance work in India to see how micro-lending can possibly help create jobs in various communities that Back2Back is working with.

Obviously I hope that I can help in some way, via my past experiences or through my education; however, I also know that I cannot go in with the mindset that I have all the answers. My main goal is to go to Haiti to experience the culture, to meet people in different communities, and to share a meal or a conversation with these people. My hope is that I will be able to interact with the people in the community to learn about their passions and desires in life. Oftentimes, it seems that these trips make more of an impact on me, than vice versa.

Honestly, I think that this is how it should be. I am not the solution to the various problems of Haiti, but the people living there are. I am just excited to be a part of it in some small way.

1 John 3:16-18 states, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

I hope that this trip is able to show love to my neighbors in Haiti, and that this action will be able to be used for the Glory of God.

Headed towards…

After quite the hiatus, I figured that it was time for an update.  So much has happened since my last blog.  I received my Master’s degree, started my first full-time job, GOT MARRIED, and went on my honeymoon. 

Now that the dust has settled, I realized that it is time for my next project.  As you are probably aware from my past blog topics, one of my great passions in life is Christ-based international development.  I have had internships in Mexico and India, and was able to take a trip to Nigeria.  While it has taken a bit longer than expected, I am happy to announce my next trip will be to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with Back2Back Ministries.   

Over the next couple of months I plan on sharing more about my upcoming trip to Haiti and some goals that I hope to accomplish.  In the meantime, please click on the link below to learn about Back2Back and their involvement in Haiti:

Back2Back in Haiti

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

She said yes!

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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 :)

Starts with Goodbye

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.

Squash

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.

International Day of Non-Violence

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:

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Nohkalikai Falls
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Elaka Nohsngthiang Falls through the fog

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

Overdue Update

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

Bandh (Not a typo)

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!

Personal Legend

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.

Why?

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.

Endless blessings

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