Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Around Home at Christmas

Starting new Christmas traditions while still honoring the cherished traditions of our childhoods is not easy.

Starting new traditions while living in another culture--one that doesn't care much about Christmas--is even harder.

But the lesson we always try to impart to Rebekah when she refers to the USA as 'home', or to Mississippi as 'home', or to Siliguri as 'home', or to India in general as 'home' (all of which she has done in the past 6 months), is that "HOME" has a tricky definition.

For now, home is wherever our journeys have us spending the night…

As long as we're together…

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wearing Ourselves Out

While much of the excitement we have during December here in South Asia is meant to distract ourselves from what we are missing back in the USA while also forming our own family Christmas traditions, much of what we do is focused upon showing others why we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas morning and the following few days are spent just catching up on sleep and recovering from the colds that have latched on to our worn out bodies, trying to recover as the cement and granite building we live in retains the coldness from the previous night.

But the faces of the men, women, and children who now have heard of Jesus's coming,

Who have copies of DVD's telling the story of His life in their hands,

Who have warm blankets,

Makes our enduring of the sicknesses,

And the tired feelings,

And the creepy Santas we had to endure…

All worth it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

'Tis the Season, 2013

We try to distract ourselves from missing family and friends during December…

With Kimchi.

Okay, kimchi is only one of the ways we celebrate here, and we did get to delight in our Korean friends' kimchi at a Christmas celebration at a local Christian seminary last week.

In some bigger cities in South Asia, a person might even imagine they are in the USA during this season, with decorated malls and ads with Santa Claus hanging from street lamps.

But this is quite a sleepy little town.

Despite the young adults from various churches or Christian groups coming by dancing and caroling,

We have to make our own Christmas atmosphere.

So we become "those people" who decorate so much more than everyone else, 

So that every visitor, repairman, or neighbor who comes by wants to pose with our decorations.

We had others put up the Christmas tree and fluff out the branches on Thanksgiving,

But we then went about decorating as well as one can with our limited supplies.

Now we have stockings hung,

Shiny tinsel stuck around our door, 

Gingerbread house painstakingly and messily assembled,

And one very excited little girl who, (like last year) loves to pose, and who asks each morning, "Is it Christmas today?"

We even have to decide each morning where Rebekah's Elf on the Shelf will show up the next morning. What says Christmas more than posting Elf on the Shelf pictures?!

As we prepare for a couple busy weeks of trying to turn a non-Christian culture's attention to Jesus, pray for us, and know that we at least have Christmas lights hung around our house to remind us it is December.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Week of Thanks, 2013… The Ups and Downs

Life in South Asia is a roller coaster. Everyday. 

Seeing South Asia through our friends' eyes and through their questions was GREAT! One minute, a little part of our everyday lives that excited them made us smile, and then an experience that served as gut-punching dose of the fallen nature of so much of society here made us refocus upon why were are here.

We got to see Mt. Everest!

Then we saw the beautiful ISKCON Temple
(International Society of Krishna Conciousness, formerly Hari Krishnas), 
Complete with terrifying scenes of a mythological Krishna's antics painted all over the ceiling...

We saw the Basic Health Clinic started in a local slum area by our friend,
Which our U.S. Church's Youth actually paid to rebuild after the city tore down the clinic!

Then we saw people praying to a form of god created a few centuries ago in an attempt to bridge the differences between Hinduism and Islam...

We ate some amazing chicken curry and butter paneer!

And we strolled between neighborhoods where women are explicitly enslaved and exploited daily
And one where families are trapped in generations of poverty...

We drank some of the world-famous Darjeeling tea in Darjeeling!

And we saw tiny villages with enormous temples dedicated to those gods who can bring them power...

We got to experience the roadside chai stalls where you can relax and make new friends while drinking 10-cent chai! 

And we were sometimes 'stretched' to try new cultural things, such as the Eastern toilet...

 We ate beef at a Muslim dhaba while journeying through the villages one day!

And we saw women bowing down to a small stone idol begging for a better marriage and family life…

To the end, we were immersed in South Asia, 
And even if we barely impacted the South Asian population,
God taught us greatly through this busy, roller-coaster ride of a week.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Week of Thanks, 2013… Doing Some Work

Our friends from Mississippi certainly did come to hang with us on Thanksgiving and encourage us with American candy and snacks, but they also came to work beside us in what God is doing in North India.

We would not ask a group to pay thousands of dollars to come over here unless they could add some value to our work, and also unless they could accomplish something we couldn't do without them.

So whether it is teaching transferrable, cross-cultural principles of group reproduction that are way over our heads,

Meeting guys at the roadside chai stall we never would have stopped at if our American visitors didn't love chai so much,

Telling stories in their own ways….

And dancing in their own ways….

And drawing huge crowds wherever they went...

We would not be where we are in our work without these friends of ours.

So Eddy/Jay/Jeff/Keith/Laila/Molly...

You're welcome back anytime!

(especially if you bring more Gummie Life Savers and Slim Jims)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Week of Thanks, 2013… Thanksgiving Day

While our friends from other parts of South Asia and from the USA were visiting us last week, we were constantly driving, riding the train, and hanging onto rickshaws as we traversed our city and our state.

But we knew that most of us were going to miss our families and friends back in the USA on Thanksgiving Day, so we tried to A) distract everyone with an awesome day, and B) try to make as close to a Thanksgiving Meal as we could.

Last year we gathered together with dozens of our friends in our town, and this year the gathering was going to be even bigger. But we wanted to climb in the car at daybreak and climb many thousands of feet up to Darjeeling, where we could experience some of the beauty and uniqueness of that city.

It was chilly and partly cloudy, but our Mississippi friends warmed themselves drinking Darjeeling tea, buying Darjeeling tea, and catching glimpses of Mt. Kanchenjunga (the 3rd highest mountain in the world, located here in our country).

We then drove back to our town in the afternoon. As we learned our first year, Kristie's traditional Thanksgiving Chickens are an excellent replacement for the American Turkeys that are not available here, and a few packs of Stove Top Stuffing, some fresh bread and vegetables, and pumpkin pie made our meal seem… almost like home.

In the evening, we followed our tradition of putting up the Christmas Tree on Thanksgiving evening. This may be the real reason we had our friends come visit this week. Laila and Molly were super excited about helping us!

But unfortunately, some of our guests--Jay McGuirk--just sat on the couch and reminisced about the just-eaten pumpkin pie while the girls did all the work.

Maybe next year Jay will visit again and actually help the ladies out!