Thursday, August 9

Jai Masihki

Before I left for India I asked our supporters for prayer in several specific areas.  As I was making the list, this one popped in my head and I put it down with the others.
Pray for my ability to stay engaged.  The foreignness of it all will make me want to withdraw in order to cope.   But I want to be bold and confident. 
 A friend of mine read that one and latched onto it, imagining how she'd likely need the same thing if she were going.  Everyone comes back wrecked from India, right?  So she said, "When you get back, I want to hear about the times when you stayed engaged even when you didn't want to."  [I'm telling you, get yourself a friend like this.]  Now I had a focus and a personal mission.

She's coming over for tea in a little bit to hear my stories of courage.  This is what I'll tell her:

  • I walked through Muslim streets as a foreign woman.
  • I let the traffic happen all around me and just trusted its rhythm.
  • I hopped into rickshaws and taxis without my guides.
  • I didn't have a cell phone to call for help.
  • I ate everything.
  • I went without make up.
  • I ran through a train.
  • I touched the orphans.
  • I walked on a foot that wanted me to stop.
  • I took on more so my husband could rest.
  • I prayed for a women who could have easily prayed for herself.
  • I taught church planters what it means to be a good pastor, to be unified and to have joy.
  • I navigated a different foreign city, Zurich, on my own.
  • I refused to feel uncomfortable.
When we arrived we had less than a day to acclimate before hopping on an overnight train to our first village destination.  We were to teach church planters from the book of Philippians, Sunday morning, Sunday evening and three times on Monday.  We had worked out a schedule.  One of us would "share" for about 20 minutes each time and Dan and Chip would alternate the actual "preaches" for about 40 minutes. Not knowing if women would be there and not knowing the acceptance level of women who teach I was not prepared with more than two "shares."

Then our Western sequential planning encountered an Eastern culture.  Fresh off our long flight and overnight train on the way to the village church Sunday morning, everything was changed.  Five preaches and five shares turned into 5 shares [1 mine] and 10 preaches [3 mine] an hour and a half each over three days rather than two.   By Tuesday afternoon we were exhausted.  Spent.  Run over.

But I didn't shrink from the challenge.  I love to teach.  Of course, I love to be well prepared, to teach to an English speaking group, to make eye contact and nuance everything with body language, intonation, questions, pregnant pauses and purposeful movement.  And truthfully I most often speak to women -- not church planters.  Limitations being what they were, I didn't let fear be an additional one.  I could have declined both the invitation and the challenge and not received the grace.  I could have shoved everything to my pastor husband and feigned fear and trembling, but I trusted the God who had brought me there to do the work he wanted.   And in the end what was running over was really his lavish love for his church in India and for me.

India gave me the opportunity to not be afraid.
Jay Masihki: Christ is the Victory.

Monday, August 6

Normal Day


We begin normal life again today.  Laundry.  Shopping for food.  Taking J to Taekwon Do.  Pulling the weeds.  Our life is rarely glam and travel.  Actually, never glam.

Normal has a new nuance though.  Everything I do is post-India.  And in my head I am, indeed, thinking that as I go about.   When I do laundry, I can hang dry my clothes and know that they'll dry today.  When I shop, I don't have to shoo flies away from tomatoes.  When I drive my son to his class, I can stay inside the lane lines and trust others to do the same.  When I put my hands to the earth it won't be layered with defecation and trash.  I can put it to my nose and smell it.

I heard a horn this morning some distance down Broadway. And in that quiet moment, it took me back to the mornings in the flat on Shivalik.  On our quiet street, the occasional horn would alert me that others were stirring. The fruit vendor sounding out his call from his wooden cart.  The housekeeper letting herself in to wash yesterday's dishes. Metal cups and plates rattling.  Stale air reminding me that two showers would be on the day's agenda.

Most friends held the expectation that this would be a life-changing trip.  That when we arrived back we'd be different.  Perhaps startled into a new way of living or guilted into something more simplistic.  Perhaps that's true a little.  But for me it was life enhancing.  Everything that I do here, my friends in Delhi do there.  She can cook a fabulous Italian dinner or homemade chicken soup if she wants to.  She can get her clothes pressed for 80 rupees.  She can stop at the market for milk and eggs and bread.  She can sit in a coffee shop.  She can call home.  At the core, we live similar lives.

What I'm left with is the feeling that life is the same everywhere.  Mine may be easier, cooler, cleaner and for that I can be very grateful, but all of humanity wrestles with the same F's:  food, fuel, faucets, feces, fodder, financing.  And so we are tied together by our similarities rather than torn apart by our differences.

I move through my normal day feeling the rhythm of Delhi; sometimes I am chaos too.

Friday, August 3

Day and Night

God in the Yard: Week Eight
"Morning never seemed that astonishing until I started going outside at night... My senses woke to things that day, in her bustle and brilliance, had eclipsed.  A variation of experience highlighted contrasts, deepening the separate experiences of sunup and sundown.  One informed the other.  In these changing contexts I felt like a different person, more raw and attuned at night, more bold and curious by day.  I became more comfortable trying on these different selves." -- L.L. Barkat

This has been my India experience.  Life in the U.S. being day and life in India being night for so many reasons.  Night is something you just move through, even closing your eyes so that it goes faster.  Night is simply where you wait for the day.  But I had to walk through the night, eyes wide open.  And there were details in the night that I took note of.  When I did, night looked a little different.  And day grew that much brighter.

The boy in the day care with the scabs on his face was still a boy who liked to play Legos.  The family in the hot one-room apartment where we painted next door still nuzzled their baby and kept her cool, asleep in just her diaper. The boys in the childrens' home without a family still buzzed and played and bounced exactly the way my boys do.  We don't play and nuzzle and buzz because we live in the light of day; we do these things even with night all around us.  Because our human spirit knows that too much night will never grow a thing.

We in the day like to live only in the day.  We push away the night.  It either frightens or bores us.  But those who live in the night know how to live in both.  They are tenaciously unafraid. 

I have seen the night... sickly water, putrid trash heap, choking stench, hopeless shrine, burning body, beggers at every idle window, t.b. patient leaving life, fly-covered woman lying in the roundabout, babies asleep on concrete, men peeing in the field outside the train, long judging stares, police with machine guns, pushing...

But I also saw the day peeking through...families, beautiful careful dress, simplicity, pragmitism, conserving energy, finding solutions, old men worried I'll trip, helpful police, thorough tour guide, the pastor's wife who offered me chai, the children who want their photo with you, the people of God's church in India, showing them the iphone photos of snow, sensibility. 

And home, I suspect will feel brighter, less weighty.  Night informs day.  My night self encourages my day self to be bold and confident, to look for the beauty among the ashes.  And my day self can look at the night with less sorrow.  Both belong to God's rhythm.  He is everywhere still.