Monday, November 28, 2011

"The Accident" Day 3 Part 2

After our wonderful experience at the feeding program we all got in cabs to go to eat at a cafe in the "hippy" part of town. Ms. Monique told us there are a lot of Europeans who come and stay in that area and that they have some cool cafes and shops. So we all loaded into cabs and went on our way. My cab arrived there first, then the second cab arrived not to long after. We sat there for a bit waiting for the third cab which contained Noel, Tammy, Heather and Ms. Monique. We were all deciding on what to order when the burst into the cafe exclaiming "You will not believe what happened! We were in a cab accident and had to get out and run!" So basically what happened was they were in a slow collision where no one was threatened of being hurt but right after the collision happened their cab driver got out and started pounding very aggressively on the other cab's trunk and yelling. It was at that moment that one of them yelled "GET OUT!" Tammy was the first to exit the cab and when she did standing right in front of was a man. Tammy said she thought it was going to go one of two ways at the point. Thankfully the man was very kind and said to Tammy "you will be fine" and he passed her along with the other women to a man standing on the sidewalk who stood in front of the with his arm out in a protecting manner. Once they were away from the accident scene they began to see the mob form and decided it was time for them to get out of there. Although it was a scary thing to be involved in thankfully no one was hurt and we actually all laughed really hard about it. We still do :)

Preface to Day 3 - Part 2

From about the first second we arrived in India Deb kept talking about how she read in one of her books how bad the driving is which turned out to be completely true. She also told us that if a driving accident occurs anyone at the scene is at fault. She told us that a mob would form and they will pull people out of the car even if they are passengers and beat them up. This sounds crazy right? So Deb asked Noel who replied without hesitation "oh ya, that's totally true." So sweet Deb kept telling us if we get in a car accident we need to get out and run. It started to become almost a joke and we all laughed about it....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 3 - Part 1

Tuesday started with us going to the AG church. We took an amazing tour of the church, school, and hospital. We learned a lot about the church's history and the difference they have made and are continuing to make in Kolkata.

One of the things that we learned about on our tour was the feeding programs they have that take place in 8 different spots in Kolkata every day. We saw where the food is prepared and it was simply amazing to see how large the pots and burners were. One of the places that they serve food at is right across the street from the church. We were so blessed to be able to go and see how it worked. They have an amazing program where they give one member of a family a card with their name on it and how many people are in their family. Every day they come they get a day checked off. The same people work at the food stations so they develop relationships with these people, they get to know them by name. If they don't see someone for a day or two they start asking others about them to make sure everything is ok, they truly care about these people. It is also amazing to me that they give them the amount of food they need to feed their whole family. This is the only food these people will have all day. They receive rice as well as a cereal and curry so it is a well balanced and nutritional meal.

We went outside just as they were getting ready to serve lunch and they asked if we would like to help serve the food. NO words will ever be able to describe the experience I had there that afternoon. I can honestly say it was one of the most moving moments of my life. I will forever feel so honored that I was able to serve food to these beautiful people, I will forever remember their faces. I truly felt in that moment that God was using us to His literal hands, by feeding His beloved children. There were the 3 most beautiful older women who came through the line as I was serving and I laughed because they were yelling at all the young kids who were acting a little rambunctious. There was a young boy who was probably around 13 who had a huge scar from the corner of the left side of his mouth that reached all the way up to his left ear. There was also the prettiest little girl who was probably around 10, she had the biggest smile and told me "thank you" in English. She had on red earrings and I told her I liked her earring and her smile got even bigger. The thought of that day still stirs such strong emotions, I am crying as I write this. I am just so so thankful for such an amazing experience.

"Feed the hungry,and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon."
(Isaiah 58:10 NLT)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I know....

I know I have to keep going, keep telling my story and I want to... It's just that I keep going back there, seeing the faces, hearing the sounds. And it's hard to describe the love and protection you feel, for these people, for what you were able to be a part of. I want to respect all of that and to do it justice. These precious people, many of which I will never know their names, their faces are imbedded in my memory. I stay up at night thinking of them and my heart aches for them as I live in my comfortable world, a world so far from theirs. I pray continually and feverishly for them, that one day, on the other side of this life, I will see their faces again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Math Makes My Head Hurt

Another funny story I wanted to share from our trip was our experience at western union. You see I am right brained, I like to daydream, create, dance, read, and write. I do not like to do boring stuff like math and money conversion doesn't even make sense to me it literally makes my brain hurt. So, day 3 we went to western union and got a conversion rate of 1 american dollar to 48.5 rupees. Ummm 48.5? What am I supposed to do with the .5? I instantly started to panic. My head was spinning and my brain started to shut down. I eventually decided that I was going to just pretend that it is $1 to 50 rupees, and that would make it a little easier. So I handed the man my $60 and he hands be back all these rupees with 100 and 500 on them, I started to sweat. My sweet friend Heather who used to be an art teacher so our brains work the same way pulled me aside and said "does this make sense to you?" "No, I don't even know if I got the right amount back" I said. So Heather and I stood there in Western Union with our rupees and tried with our right brains to figure out a left brain problem. I think most people would have thought we were crazy and at one point Heather even said "We ARE smart, this is just not our thing." We eventually figured it out after repeating it over and over to each other. Heather had the genius idea of separating our rupees into $10 american equivalent stacks so we could quickly know about how much things were costing us. There were several other times were the two of us had to convene to figure these types of issues but luckily we had each other, the two little right brained artsy fartsies.

Here are Heather and I, should looks beautiful as always and I look like a hot mess.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Large White American Women

Although our trip was extremely humbling and life changing there was never a shortage of laughter. I mean have I not mentioned 1,000 times how awesome the 8 women I went with are? So I am going to share some of the funny stories too.

On Day 3 of our trip which I wrote about in my last post I mentioned that we went and had lunch at a cute little tea place and then shopped in a really nice outdoor market. We were all looking for some Indian clothes, specifically tops. Well, we noticed quickly that for the most part they weren't sized in S,M,L they were all numbers and weird numbers like 42,44...what do those numbers even mean? You couldn't try anything on so you pretty much just guessed and hoped for the best. We were at one shop looking around saying things like "oh I like that, that's cute" when out of nowhere the owner of the store walked up to me and said "we have your size, BIG size" with a big old smile on his face. He looked so proud that his store had material large enough to fit over all my white American flesh. I wanted to cry and politely followed him the the BIG size section. But don't worry, this was not the first or last time one of us would be called large. The day before someone told a girl on our team they didn't recognize her because she had gained so much weight and on our last day when we were at another clothing store the store employee told another lady on our team that they had big sizes for her. Let me mention that both these ladies are very thin, I would be happy to look like either one of them. So it pretty much became a joke about how huge we were, we definitely did not leave India with a good self image of ourselves, that's for sure.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hope in the middle of death and destruction - Day 3

One thing that we learned about Kolkata was that the name Kolkata comes from the Hindu goddess Kali and the original name for Koklata was Kalikshetra, meaning the place of Kali. Kali is the goddess of death and destruction. So we never really wondered why this place was so heavy, emotionally, physically, and spiritually because it was named after death and destruction for goodness sakes. With that being said it was very easy to see death and destruction when you looked around and it was simply overwhelming to bare most of the time but on day 3 we saw hope right in the middle of this city of death and destruction and that hope came in the form of some of the most beautiful children you could ever imagine.

Monday, October 17th
Monday started out with us going to Western union to exchange our money, and that story I will share another time, lol. Next we went to a very nice outdoor market where it was not crowded whatsoever. We had tea and ate at small cafe in the market and did some shopping. It was extremely nice and relaxing. Next we took an hour long bus ride which took us out of the city into the country (which up until that point I didn't realize they had) to the most beautiful childrens home. When we arrived there the silence was almost deafening in comparison to the city. The air was clean and I think we all took a huge breath of the clean air. There was green grass and so much SPACE! We walked down the gravel driveway around a random cow and up to this beautiful home. When we entered the gate we were greated by the home's mom and dad who are a married couple who live there permanently. They were the sweetest people, they were so excited for us to be there, they told us that the kids had prepared a performance and we would be the first people they have ever done it for! They also told us that they kids all got brand new outfit in anticipation for our visit. The dad gave us a tour of their home, the boys and girls rooms, their room, and the roof top area which is where I took some of the pictures below. In addition to the house mom and dad there are two other women who live at the home permanently. Out of respect to the children I am not going to share the specifics of their situations but basically these children are taken out of a life which is filled with drugs, abuse, and little to no food and they are brought to this home out in the country to live until they are adults. Their parents can call as well as come visit once a month and the parents have given them to this home willfully. They recieve an eduction, food, love and a safe and loving home. So after a quick tour we went to meet the children. When we walked into the room they were all standing their in the sparkling new clothes with the biggest smiles you have ever seen. They were so proud and held their heads high. They all said "HELLO" with their thick accents when we walked in the room. We took lots of pictures of them and then they started their performance. It was just precious, they recited bible versus and sang songs. Then, each of them stood up and told us their name, age, and some of their favorite things. The children ranged from 4-12. The 9 of us all stood up as well and told them our names, age, and favorite things. After their performace we went out to the courtyard where they had prepared a pinic snack. We served all the kids first and then ate with them. They all wanted their pictures taken and were are bunch of hams. After we were done eating we presented them each with a backpack that had a handmade blanket courtesy of Pam and her amazing team of women back here at home, a tooth brush and tooth paste and a little McDonalds toy. You would have thought it was Christmas, they were all so excited. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of all the blankets that sit folded in my kids closets that they use when the one they are currently using has to get washed and don't think anything of it. To these kids their very own blanket and tooth brush was a true gift, it was something of their very own. Each one was different and we asked if we should put their names on them and the hosue dad said "no I am sure they will remember which one belongs to who" with a smile. This home was such a place of love and happiness. I did not feel sorry for these kids, they were so incredibly loved and taken care of. The house mom and dad loved them unconditionally as if they were their own biologically children. After we hugged and kissed them good bye and all of us women shed a lot of tears we got back on the bus to return home.

As our group talked that night we were all so moved by the hope that the childrens home brought. How in the middle of this city, with all the poverty, dirt, trash, immorality, false idols, curruption and lust there is such an imense sense of hope and that the hope comes from these chidren. We all strongly felt that these children will be the ones to change their city and we felt honored to have been able to meet and spend time with them. Matthew 19:14 come to mind when I think of them "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children."
Oh how God must look down on these precious children and smile at his creation. They have the heart of Jesus and you could it in their eyes.

Driving through the city on our way to the children's home

A picture of the courtyard at the children's home taken from on the roof top patio

The view from the roof

The kids when we first met them, all so cute!

All of the kids with their goody bags

Pictures from the first 2 days

This was when we walked out of the Kolkata airport, I don't know if you can tell but all those white specks by the lights are bugs

Here is Eva singing at church on Sunday

Here is an example of the trash, it almost looks like leaves but remember they don't have fall, that is all trash.

This is the place we had lunch at on Sunday, see the drastic difference from the picture above?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 2 - God's Grace

Sunday, October 16th

This was our first full day in Kolkata and this is when I feel like it is going to get hard for me to try and describe things and do it justice. I hope I can do a decent job so that each of you can get a look into what we saw and experienced. So here goes nothing...

Sunday was a day that God completely showed up and granted me so much grace that I am still humbled by it. God knew exactly how much I could handle and it is amazing how He placed me and guided me that day.

The day began with myself and my roomates Amanda and Eva getting picked up by Ms. Monique and her family to go to church. We got picked up because Eva was singing and we needed to get there early so she could practice, the other 6 women walked to church later and met us right before service. We attended one of the english services. English is 1 of 8 different language services they have, I find it simply amazing that every Sunday the word of God is being taught in 8 different languages on one campus. After church we took a taxi to a local restaurant. This was the first time we rode in a taxi and we quickly realized a couple of things. There are no traffic laws. This means that you drive on which ever side of the road you want, you do not have to stop at red lights if you don't want to, you go whatever speed you want aaannnnd you beep your horn constantly.

Thankfully we got there safe and sound. We had to walk about half a block to the restaurant and this was the first time I had actually experienced being out in public on the street. This was a side street so it was not that crowded by Kolkata standards but by our standards it was packed. I noticed that we stuck out like a sore thumb and thought that I better get used to it because there was nothing we could do to help it. We walked past people sleeping on the street, people working, people socializing, and lots of trash... trash everywhere. So off that street we stepped into a beautiful restaurant, totally westernized and modern, the contrast was unsettling. We had a great lunch and then left to walk to a nice restaurant that sold chocolates. On the way we saw several small monkeys on ropes that looked like they would attack you if given the chance so we all stayed far away. When we went to get back into cabs to go back to our the place we were staying which is called BMS there was a small boy who came up to us to ask for money or food. We knew this would happen a lot and we prepared for it but I don't think it matters how much you prepare yourself, it is always hard and it always breaks your heart. I was the first to slide into our cab and slid all the way to the opposite side. It was myself, Amanda, and Eva at the other door. Eva's window was open and as we sat in the cab waiting for what seemed like hours but was probably only seconds that little boy stood at Eva's window with his hand resting on the window saying "please Auntie" and then motioning that he was hungry. The moment was overwhelming and it would be the first of many. I felt so helpless, I knew we could give him money but so often kids are used by their parents to beg for money and then the parents use the money to buy drugs and alcohol, not food. So we knew we couldn't give him money.

We returned back to the BMS and got to rest for a bit before we returned back to church for their evening young adult service. It was an amazing service, I think we were all touched.

At the end of the day as I was processing the days events it was evident to me how much grace God had granted me that day. First He allowed me to be picked up that morning versus walking, the women who walked to church that morning had a much different experience that than I did. Second, by God's grace I got into that taxi first so I was not the one how had to sit face to face with that little boy who hung onto our cabs' window. And lastly God completely shielded my eyes from something almost every other women saw and I think God knew it would have been too much for me. As we were standing waiting for our cabs, when the little boy was begging a couple feet away there was a very small baby, probably only 3 months or so the other ladies said just laying on the street. Many of them cried later when recalling that image, it was the low for the day for many of our group and I somehow completely did not see it. One of the hardest things for me to still come to terms with are the children and babies that we saw on the streets.