Saturday, March 23, 2013

Driving, Driving and more Driving

Day 3 – Driving, driving, and more driving

Today started out early as we had a long drive to a Compassion project near the Bangladesh border.  While here, we have been driving in small mini-van/suv like vehicles that fit 6 people including the hired driver.  We piled in, our whole group plus the LDP students, and began our trek to the Raghabpur Baptist Church Compassion project.  And trek it was.  First off the driving here is, how shall I put this…very different.  It is very aggressive and seems to not to have any sort of rules or regulations other than the horn.  The horn here is a staple to driving.  If you don’t have one you better not get on the road.  Indians use the horn like Americans use (or should use) their turn signals.  It is blown to say they are moving over in to your area of traffic and you better watch out as well as when passing other vehicles or just when they want you to move faster.  There are not many if any lane markers here and at times there can be 5 vehicles next to each other on a road not bigger than a two-lane highway.  Cars are not the only vehicles here but they share the road with buses, rickshaws (three wheel motorized carts), bicycles, man pulled carts, and motorcycles. 

You know the driving is kind of bad when the Indians in the car are eating a nausea preventing candy because they are starting to feel sick!  We finally arrived and as Ryan put it “that felt like a 2 ½ hour roller coaster” and Becca responded “yeah but it wasn’t any fun and I like roller coasters!”  We shook off the nausea and car sickness and began to walk toward the project.  This project was in a rural, town like area.  We were welcomed by children playing the drums and scouts saluting us (this project also has a scouts program); and then by being handed a rose boutonniere.  We were ushered into seats in front of hundreds of children in school uniforms waving and smiling at us.  The pastor and program director welcomed us and informed us about the program there as well as introduced his staff.  The children then performed for us – a little girl sang a song in Bengali, an older boy sang a worship song in English, and a little girl dressed in traditional Indian dress performed a dance.  After that we got to meet the students in smaller groups and ask them questions.  Most all of them come from Hindu or Muslim homes (mostly Hindu) and they only heard about Jesus when they came to Compassion.  A few have Christian parents but not many.  We taught them songs/dances such as Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and Father Abraham – we were giggling as much as the kids were!  From there we had lunch – rice is a staple here plus some sort of chicken dish and vegetables.  Chicken is the main meat of choice here as they don’t eat beef (Hindu’s believe cows are sacred) but mutton (adult sheep meat) and fish are also commonly eaten.  We then split into groups to visit some homes.  At each project we would go to a student’s home to meet their family and see where they live.  These homes were all one room buildings with just the necessities.  It was very surreal to be in a home smaller than my bedroom where 3 or more people lived.  The families were very welcoming to us in their homes and after learning their story we could pray for them.  This particular day my group was at a home where a middle school girl lived with her mother.  Her father had been killed in a motorcycle crash seven years earlier and her older sister had recently gotten married so it was just the two of them.  The girl’s older sister was only 17 but had to get married because the mother could not provide for any more education for her and there was not much hope for her with out it.  Wow.  Heartbreaking.  There is hope for the mother and younger daughter though because Compassion is providing education for her as well as food and spiritual guidance.  Compassion usually only sponsors one child from each family because the sponsorship benefits the whole family – many times it takes the burden off the parents for the child being sponsored and they only have to worry about providing education and food for their other children – also Compassion has classes for the parents and when a sponsored child receives gifts they are shared with the whole family.  So Compassion did take the burden off the mother we visited for providing for her youngest daughter but she was still unable to fully provide for her eldest daughter so they decided marriage was their answer. 

We prayed for this family and then headed back to the cars to begin our long journey back to the hotel.  Once back we changed and went to a mall for dinner – this mall was 4 stories and had lots of nice shops.  You have to go through a security check before entering any mall here – so that’s a bit different than in the U.S.  We ate dinner at a place called Ivory – a mix of Mediterranean and Indian food.  It was good! 

Funny story to finish off this post – so I forgot to get cash out for the trip so was just planning on using my credit cards if I wanted any souvenirs or anything.  Well after dinner we passed a Citi Bank ATM and I was like well maybe I should get some money.  So I got 100 rubies out, thinking that would suffice.  I went to tell Audra and Angela my great news that the ATM worked.  After I told them they started laughing…you see 100 rubies is the equivalent of around $2…and we are assuming the ATM convenience fee was more that $2…hahah oh well – I’m always good for a laugh J             

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Meeting someone special

Today was such a great day!  This morning we visited the East India Compassion Office and were able to see how they do their ministry.  First though we were involved in their staff devotional, where we sang hymns in English, Bengali, and Hindu.  Roger, our president then led us all in a devotion on Mark 2:1-12 about Jesus healing the paralytic.  He pointed our three take away thoughts from the passage: 1) in verses 3-4, it talks about the four men who brought their friend who was paralyzed to Jesus; they were a team and worked together to bring him to Jesus.  This was then compared to the ministry we each do and how we are each a team with individuals working together to bring people to Jesus.  2) in verse 4 it says the friends dug a hole in the roof to lower their friend to Jesus since there was no room to get him in anywhere else.  This reminds us to do whatever it takes to get people to Jesus at any cost.  3) After verse 4, the four friends were not mentioned again in the story, instead it is about their friend and Jesus.  Jesus focuses His attention on the paralytic and not on the friends who brought them.  This reminds us that this ministry we do is not about us but about Jesus and whom we are blessed to minister to. 

It was really incredible to be together with the Indians at Compassion and our American staff as we worshiped the same God.  This is something I will not forget. 

So I have mentioned Compassion a lot and realize that not everyone reading this may know what they do or who they are.  Compassion International is a non-profit, non-denominational ministry that is ‘helping release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.”  They do this through different programs.  The Child Survival Program (CSP) is a program that helps mothers-to-be with preventative prenatal care.  This is for mothers and children age 0 – 2. 

The Child Development Sponsorship Program (CDSP) is the next program for children age 4 – 22.  This program reaches out to the poverty-stricken families, specifically a child, in different communities and provides basic needs such as education, health care, food, and spiritual guidance.  All these things are provided through the local church where a social worker, project director and accountant work together with the country’s office to help each child.  Each child is to have a sponsor, someone who ‘steps in the gap’ and points them toward Jesus, someone who believes in them and tells them they matter.  The sponsor also provides for the child monetarily, $38 a month, of which around 80% goes directly toward the child sponsored.  The other 20% goes to the general fund which helps support the children who do not yet have a sponsor.  Every child in the CDSP receives all the above benefits, not just the sponsored children.  The sponsored children though get the benefit of having a relationship with someone who cares for them and wants the best for them.  This relationship is very special and often times children call their sponsor sister, brother, uncle, or aunt.  In some cases children in the CDSP do not have parents and their sponsor in a way becomes like a parent to them.

The other main program in Compassion is called the Leadership Development Program or LDP.  This program is for students who have been through the CDSP and are now seeking a college degree.  LDP students are sponsored as well and it usually is around $300 a month to sponsor them.  LDP students not only go to college but also get training in leadership and discipleship.  This is the program Student Life brings their interns from for the summer Compassion representatives.  Each Student Life Team has an LDP who will get the chance to share their story of how they got into Compassion, how they came to know Jesus and what their life is like today.  It is a very unique and neat opportunity to have these students with us on our camp teams.  The LDP students are also the main reason we are here in India.  We are meeting the possible students who will be working with us and seeing what their lives are like here so that when they come to the United States we will be able to relate to them better because we have been to their home. 

Compassion also has a program called CIV which helps meet the needs people in the other programs might have, such as clean water, epidemics, emergencies, etc.

Other than the LDP, we work the most with the CDSP.  At each of our summer camps we provide the opportunity for people to sponsor a child.  We walk step by step with them through the process and are very transparent about the program. 

It was actually at the first ever Student Life camp I went to as a family group leader with my church that I heard about Compassion.  That week I felt led to sponsor a child, so I began to sponsor Mariam Nazareth Solis Parodi from Nicaragua.  She was eight years old when I began sponsoring her and I sponsored her for 2 ½ years.  During this time we exchanged letters and encouraged one another.  This past summer as I was working on a Student Life summer staff team, I began to sponsor another girl, this time from Kenya, Nyokabi Faith, who is 13.  Most of the time when you sponsor a child and you correspond with them through letters there is translation involved.  But with Nyokabi, she speaks English and is old enough to write to me herself so that is very special.  Right after I began sponsoring Nyokabi, I got the sad news that Mariam’s parents took her out of the program because it was not safe for her to walk to the church where the Compassion project was held.  I was literally devastated as I felt I had lost a little sister or niece.  Mariam is no longer getting the benefits of Compassion as her parents removed her from the program.  I pray for Mariam still and pray she will come back to the program one day or better yet know Jesus from her short time we knew each other. 

So I was back to sponsoring one child but felt that the Lord had asked me to do more.  Then this trip to India came up and we were shown packets (information and pictures of the children needing sponsors) of kids in the CDSP at projects we were going to visit.  If we sponsored these children, we could possibly meet them!  I began to pray and see if this is what the Lord wanted me to do.  When I looked at the pictures of all the children one little girl stuck out to me – her name was Shinia Parveen, an eight year old from Kolkata.  I did not immediately sponsor her but instead kept praying and coming by to see her picture in the office.  It was not until the Friday before we left for India that I decided to sponsor Shinia.  By this time, I found out that her project got taken off the itinerary and that the likelihood of me meeting her was slim.  That was okay though as I was still able to bring her and her family a gift and the Compassion office would give it to them.  So Saturday night after getting into Birmingham late from Atlanta, I went to Walmart and filled a tote bag with items to give to Shinia and her family. 

Once we got to India, I talked to Keith our Compassion representative and came to the conclusion that it was still a long shot for me to meet her.  So this morning I took her bag with me to the East India office and planned on leaving it there for her project facilitator to take to her.  Then this afternoon we went to a local project where three of our LDP candidates grew up and we visited with the children.  After our first visit, Sam, our in-country Compassion liaison came up to me and asked if I’d like to meet Shinia!  The Compassion office had worked it out for Shinia and her mother to get to the project, an hour and a half away from their home so we could meet!  I was shocked and so excited at the same time!  I then went to meet this small, shy, beautiful little girl.  Words cannot express how excited and happy I was (still am!)  I am so honored to be able to be someone in Shinia’s life – to point her to Jesus and let her know I love her and am praying for her.  I spent about two hours visiting with Shinia and her mother.  Communication was limited as Shinia speaks Hindu at home with her family and then Bengali at her school and Compassion project.  She knew very little English.  Sudi and Nehe, two of the LDP students helped us translate, but mainly we sat in silence, me beaming and her huddled on my lap.  I gave her and her mother the gifts I brought them, which was a really neat time.  Shinia absolutely loved the teddy bear I got her and never put it down.  She also enjoyed the bubbles and coloring book and crayons.  I have posted some pictures – but many more to come. 

After we played with the toys I got her, it was time for Shinia and her mother to go home.  I had the chance to pray for them both and got a hug and a smile from Shinia before they left.  My biggest prayer for Shinia is that she would come to know Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.  Shinia was wearing a necklace that indicates Islam so I do not believe her family are Christians.  I am so happy she is in Compassion where she will hear about Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for her. 

It was such a blessing for me to be able to meet Shinia and her mother.  It is something I never thought possible but through God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).  I would encourage you to pray about sponsoring a child.  Sponsoring a child through Compassion is fulfilling God’s Word in Matthew 28:19-20 by making disciples of all nations.  Compassion shares God’s Word and love to people all over the world and when people hear God’s Word and see and feel His love, lives are changed forever.  Please go to to learn more or ask me – I’d love to help in anyway I can.

After saying goodbye to Shinia, I went with our team and visited a home of a boy who is in the local Compassion project.  We met his family and learned how their lives are affected by Compassion.  This family’s house was one room with a loft above.  It was about ten feet by seven feet with six people living in it.  It was very modest but did have some electricity.  It was very humbling to see.  This family, though they do not have many material things, does have hope and joy because their son is involved in Compassion where he is getting provided for.  Compassion helps the family by providing food and general items needed in the home.  They are also helping by providing for all the education and health care costs for the boy.  It was good to see all this first hand as now I can explain better to others about Compassion and how they are using the funds provided.  I can be a better advocate because of what I have experienced. 

We finished the day by going to a local mall for a dinner filled with Lebanese and Mediterranean food – my favorite being the hummus of course!  During dinner we got to know the LDP students better and enjoyed fellowship together as a team.  I can’t believe the second full day here is gone!  So much has happened in such little time – I’m eager to see what else the Lord has in store for us!  Now off to bed – sorry for the long post but I’m not much for short and quaint – I’m an all kind of details kind of girl!

India...yes the real India!

Well here I am in India…yes India, a place I didn’t imagine ever visiting, but here I am.  I am not much of a writer (like my sister) but felt the need to write down what I am experiencing and seeing to remember and to share with others.  Please don’t expect full sentences or a great witty storyline – I’m really just going to ‘vomit’ all my thoughts and feelings here.  So here we go!

We arrived in Kolkata early this morning around 5:30AM local time, (10 ½ hours ahead of the states) after 33 hours of traveling – we were exhausted and stinky to say the least but all very excited to finally be here.  Two Compassion representatives, Sam and Phatboi, met us at the airport and we loaded up in a bus and headed to the hotel.  We passed through what is called the ‘New Town’ of Kolkata – an area of new growth and lots of construction all due to the technology boom that is supposed to happen.  We passed lots of people walking to work and just outside even though it was only 6:00AM.  The driving here is pretty different than the U.S. – horns here are used like turn signals and announcements saying you better move because I’m going to pull in front of you!  We shared the road with cars, taxis, motorcycles, rickshaws, and bicycles.  It took us about 30 minutes to get to our hotel, during which Keith our Compassion Representative, told us some information about India.  Our hotel is called Hotel Sonnett – a very nice place with modern furnishings.  The buildings neighboring the hotel are very different though – we have construction going on next door to an old building and across the street are huts and shacks where people live (with I’m assuming no running water or electricity).  These drastic differences are everywhere here – you will see beggars and little huts right next to a Land Rover dealership!  Tonight, one of the Leadership Development Program students said that in India the rich keep getting richer and the poor, poorer and that is the problem with their economy. 

After having some breakfast (I had the best oatmeal ever and some great coffee and fruit), Lesley, Audra, and I took turns getting showers (I felt like a new person!) and then took a three-hour nap.  We didn’t want to sleep all day as that would throw off our time schedule.  After our naps, we had lunch with the group – a much more Indian like meal, but I couldn’t tell you the names of what I ate! – and then we headed to the Mother House – Mother Teresa’s home and burial site. 

Mother Teresa’s home is in the middle of old town Kolkata where there are lots of people and street vendors.  It is not a big place but houses the sisters that are working and learning at the home.  I got to see the room where Mother Teresa lived – it was very modest with a small bed and desk.  It was also very hot as it is located over the kitchen but a note said that she never used a fan.  I learned from a museum like room about Mother Teresa’s life and what she accomplished for the Lord.  Mother Teresa was born in Albania, became a nun in Ireland, and then moved to India where she taught school before beginning her work for the destitute and dying.  We attended a mass there in the room where Mother Teresa’s grave is – the man who led the mass (either a brother or priest) spoke on John 5:1-15, The Healing at the Pool.  He explained how Jesus chose love over laws (healing on the Sabbath) and that Mother Teresa did as well and that we should all choose love. 

After this I saw the chapel where there is a life-sized statue of Mother Teresa.  It sits in the back of the chapel where she usually sat during service.  After her death, the sisters wanted her ‘presence’ to still be in the room, thus the statue.  The statue was little as Mother Teresa was very small. 

Our group went to a classroom setting then for volunteer orientation as we will be serving with different homes the Mother Home has set up this Friday.  The sister who trained us was named Sister Mercy Maria.  She is originally from El Paso, Texas and became a sister at the Mother Home in 1999.  Bethany, Becca, Lesley and I will be volunteering in a girls home where teenagers with special needs live.  I am eager to meet these girls and show them the love of Christ! 

After training we walked to the Mother Teresa orphanage down the street but were unable to get in because visiting hours had just ended.  We did get to wave at some children through the windows though J.

We came back to the hotel and had dinner with four Leadership Development Program students from Compassion.  Sandeep, Vicky, Nehe, and Sudi are all in their final year of college and have been through the childhood development sponsorship program and now a LDP.  Once Sandeep, Vicky, and Sudi get their visas they will be coming over to the United States to represent Compassion and Jesus on each of our summer staff teams.  We do not know about Nehe as she has to take exams.  It was so wonderful getting to know these students.  They are so passionate about Jesus and sharing their story with others for God’s glory.  I enjoyed getting to know them and look forward to working beside one of them this summer!

And now it’s the end of Day 1 in India and so much has already happened.  This trip really just came upon me so fast and I did not feel prepared but here I am sitting in India typing out what has happened.  I had not prepared my heart as long as I would have liked to and that stressed me out.  But Wednesday before the trip, I got on my knees before the Lord and begged Him to prepare me and my heart for what He is going to do here, for what I was going to see and feel, and whatever He was going to call me to do because of this trip.  And the Lord is SO faithful!  He answered that prayer by giving me a love for these people that I know is not of me and can only be of Him.  He has given me a heart of love and compassion on the people I pass in the street who look, act, and smell different than me.  I am so grateful that I have a strong, BIG God who takes care of the small and big things in life and who is always with me.  I give Him all the glory, honor, and praise and look forward to what He will continue to do these next few days. 

And now its off to bed – nearly 10:00PM here – Lesley and Audra have been asleep for about 20 minutes but I wanted to get this all out I remembered it.  Again please don’t judge my writing (incomplete sentences, run-on’s, etc) – I know its bad but I’m jet lagged and really just lazy to go back and fix it all!