Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Day...

As the sound of the morning traffic thunders in the streets below, we awake to the reality  of this being our last day in India. Although many are tired and long for the days familiar ground once more, emotions are, as always more complicated than that. While our realities consist of daily adventures to Starbucks on orderly paved streets, enjoying laughter with friends and family, digging back in to the grind of 24/7, fast food and fast paced, the reality for many of those here in India is not the same. 
Today is going to be a long day. We are leaving our hotel in about 3 hours to take the familiar bus ride to the Home of Love, which is on the outskirts of Chennai. The solitude of the surrounding village is quiet in comparison to the noisy city. The Home is a perfect oasis, and behind the newly painted gate rests the contagious hope and laughter that has infected each of us. Many of the girls have decided to dress in the native Indian sari for women. After we arrive at the Home we are having lunch then we are going to be a part of a baptism service. After the service will be our last time to hang out with the girls - this inevitably ends with tears in the goodbyes. 
Though our sadness is because of our known distance we rejoice in this:
The Kingdom of God is alive in India. The Holy Spirit is active and there is a coming revival. Today we will all be witnesses to that. In a culture that has all together deemed four girls worthless - in just a few hours they will publicly declare that they are NOT of this world, but they are of Christ. 
Four girls have waited several years for this moment. It is tough for us to understand this, because in the United States we have the freedom to be baptized at any moment. Yet, in India this is not the reality. At the age of 18, one can step outside of their families inherited religion of Hinduism and make their own decision to follow any faith the desire. Often this new desire is met with harsh resistance which includes persecution both emotionally and physically. 
Four girls today, although disregarded by their earthly fathers will find security in their Heavenly Father.
Four girls today will make a promise to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ in India. 
Four girls today will make it their mission to love the poor and downcast. 
Four girls today choose the Kingdom of God over this world. 
And we are witnesses to this!
This is why the Home of Love is so important. Yes it provides the girls with food, clothing, shelter and an eduction. But more than much more than that - these girls are passionately taught the Gospel. They are equipped with the TRUTH of the Word and as they come to Christ they are filled with the POWER of the Holy Spirit. 
This is how we change the world - One Girl At A Time Through The Gospel. 
As we finish packing our bags tonight and head to the airport to board our flight home we will never forget “the HOME”. It is truly amazing the impact that just a few weeks can  have in our lives. But as we sit on the flight and fight to get comfortable enough to watch any inflight movie, we do so remembering this truth.....
By the time we lay our heads down to sleep tonight over 13,000 girls will have lost their lives simply because they are girls. 
The disturbing statistic is not the number of girls who will take their last breath today, but rather the number of those who know this truth and yet do nothing. 
How do you change a culture?  One girl at a time.  Do something.......

Workin' at the Home


Today we started our projects at the Home of Love. Over the course of the next week and a half the team will be painting one of the school's building and the front gate, as well as preparing the property for the new wall that will be built over the next few months.
The sun was bright today as we all put on our paint shirts and work gloves. Most of us are becoming accustomed to the heat; the key has been staying hydrated. We primed most of the building today and painted the front gate. Everyone worked hard for the Lord and some of His wonderful daughter's today. The before and after pictures of the building, gate, and wall are sure to be shocking.
The team works really well together. We laugh and joke together knowing that the bonds we form here are truly unique and life-long. We pushed through our fatigue with kind words of encouragement from one another. God has been faithful with answering our prayers for team unity.


We broke out the paint and were pleased with the color combination chosen by our more artistic team members. What was once a flaking dirty pastel yellow will be replaced by an olive green base with white and red accents. Approximately half of the building was painted just today! We were all more productive than anticipated.
We were faced with the difficulty of the leaking water tank on the roof. The water has caused a lot of damage to the wall and the tank. A thick layer of residue kept us from priming and painting a large section of one of the walls. The leaders decided to call a contractor to see what could be done about the water damage.
Aside from that minor set back, the team tackled the day's tasks with gumption. We were a well oiled body of Christ! The wall that had yet to be primed was scraped and sanded to remove the flaking coat of the previous paint. Hopefully the process will allow for the new paint to last longer and look better.
The gate received a second coat today and the Home of Love logo was painted on the adjacent wall. It is really shaping up! Those who worked on the fence/wall today were exceptionally brave. The fence that is currently protecting the property has to be moved back so the wall can go in its place. A few team members sustained minor cuts from the barbed wire that was moved. The cuts were cleaned and the team members were diligent and went right back to work.
After we finished work for the day, we spent some quality time with the girls. Bart and Missy taught the girls how to play Sardines today; they got a kick out of it! The older girls really enjoy visiting with us. They like to ask about our homes and our families, and tell us about their dreams and where they've come from. Some of my most extraordinary moments from this trip have come from talking with these girls.
The day left all of us wiped out. Some of the team went out to dinner and some chose to stay in, snack, and rest. There will be lots of work to do tomorrow.


The team has been doing devotions together every morning when we get to the Home of Love (HOL). After we spend some time worshiping we dive into the Word and discuss how it impacts not only our time here in India, but also back in the States. We are currently studying James and really appreciate how straight-forward it is while also trying to implement the challenges of 'faith with action' from the text.
The team continued to paint the building and the smaller fixtures (signs, railings, doors, windows). The colors have come together so well! The front of the building is nearly done, but the putty on all of the window sills has rotted out, so we are scraping it and replacing it.
Today in particular was a little harder than the two previous days, mostly because the team was really worn out from work and playing with the girls. We have really come to appreciate those who do manual labor as their trade! The fatigue caused spirits to be low and some tensions and frustrations. At the end of the day, each of us could recognize the factors at play, and come to an understanding and peace.
After we were done with work for the day, there was an incredible thunderstorm today that pushed us into the big pavilion. We made the best of it and sang worship songs and danced around. A lot of the little girls fell asleep during the storm. They are such precious gifts!
We are excited to see the finished product and hope to serve the girls in anyway we can with the time we have left.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

India Blog - IJM

This Blog Was Written Last Week And Is Being Posted Now Due To The Internet (or lack-of) Situation

June 28th, 2011

Today we had the privilege of being invited into the Chennai headquarters of IJM (International Justice Mission).  We had an excellent time of worship with the staff and then Nirup preached a brief message to the entire group.  The message was very applicable to exactly what IJM’s mission is: rescue and restoration to those that are victims of slavery (forced labor, illegal detention, police brutality, sexual violence, sex trafficking, or illegal property seizure).  

The Chennai office focuses on bonded labor, which is forced labor for long hours a day with little to no payment given for an entire family.  We heard some stories about the process that the staff goes through when they are brought information regarding a potential issue regarding bonded labor.  They were gracious enough to let us in on the details that are involved with each case they handle.  We were informed specifically about a case this year (which made worldwide news and tomorrow will be on CNN) in which 520 people were rescued from a brick kiln.  The stories they told were absolutely indescribable with words.  The oppressive conditions that people are forced to work in, with little to no food to feed their families; all with the impression that they are working to pay off a debt which continues to climb by the owner’s choosing.  These people believe that they are eventually going to be freed, which many times is not the case unless someone intervenes.  Besides the rescue of these bonded laborers, the other important thing that IJM works at is making sure the owners are prosecuted legally.  

They have lawyers who work on staff to study the Indian laws and prosecute the owners so they are unable to do the same thing again.  They also have social workers on staff that then work with the laborers for 2 years following their rescue to make sure that they are able to make a smooth transition back into everyday life of freedom:  through hygiene discussions, helping them get skills to get a decent job, etc.  All of this is done by IJM with the foundation of Christ.  They many times have to be secretive about their physical address of their headquarters and make sure security is alongside them wherever they go, but they do it because Christ has called us to help those that are less fortunate.  

Christ wants justice brought to these people, and the staff (worldwide) at IJM is the vessel on this earth that brings justice to these heinous situations.  It was a privilege and honor to be able to speak to this staff of people.  Their hearts for God are evident through their work and their everyday lives.  The rest of the day mainly involved shopping and then spending some time at the Home Of Love with the girls for a little bit, both of which were fun in their own ways.  The one thing that I have consistently been learning throughout this trip so far is the idea of the Kingdom of God.  Many times we surround ourselves with like-minded people with the same ethnicity and same worship styles, etc.  

The thing that has opened my eyes while in India is that heaven will not be secluded like this. There will not be sections of people that like gospel worship, sections of people that are Indian, or sections of people who are white.  We will ALL be worshiping God TOGETHER for eternity.  That is why I think seeking justice, through organizations like IJM, and caring for the hungry, widowed and orphans is so extremely important!! 

I praise God for opening my eyes to these things and I am excited to see what else He has to teach me the rest of the trip!!