Looking Back – Ankor Wat and Elephants

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Airport Floors and Midnight Muffins

It feels so strange to be back in Kona. Almost like coming home, but not quite. When I left for outreach I swore I’d never in a million years come to this island ever again. Now I have to- part of it is home to me.

Sitting at the Banyan Tree Cafe, sipping coffee and people watching. Counting the hydroflasks and Birkenstocks- the ywamer uniform (yes, I am proudly one of them. It seems we all showed up unaware of the cliches we were subconsciously fulfilling). Gasping at the sight of the sea, more gorgeous now than ever before. Soaking in every breeze. Listening to the constant prayer rising up from all around.

With the dawn of a fresh quarter, herds of new students are all around. I so desperately want to pick their brains, see what’s going on behind the scenes…


Flash forward. Graduation was so much more emotional than any of us expected. Goodbyes to the ones who have become family; the thunder signaling a new season. Again I think of this new crew of YWAMers flooding the campus, a feeling kin to that of thinking of my coming nephew one day being held to my mother’s chest. There’s so much he’s yet to know, so many tears he’s yet to cry there. He may think he knows how much he adores that place of safety, but he doesn’t yet…

I watch their faces. So full of expectation for the coming six months. They may think they know what they’ve gotten into, how they’ll be changed. They don’t, not really. Not yet.

Throughout all the tears and farewells, joy ran thick. We did it. And now we’re on to something even better, even more challenging. For one, it’s fighting against sex trafficking. For another, it’s studying to become a film-maker (and what an amazing one she will be). For me, it’s returning to the city my parents came to as missionaries to continue the work they started, to carry on their vision along with them.

Flash forward again. Sitting on the airport floor, adjusting to what is now a 23 hour jet lag. Listening to Blink-182 in my favorite hoodie I’ve waited three months to return to. Waiting to board my red-eye. One flight down, two to go. Let’s do this.

I’m still processing DTS. All I learned, felt, thought, experienced, witnessed. But I know that I grew, and that I’m grateful. That this new season will be one of extreme joy and thanksgiving. That when I get off that third flight, the man I love and haven’t seen in six long months will be there waiting for me. That I can’t wait to see what the Lord has next in store for all of us.

Until next time

XOXO

 

 

From Delhi to Nepal

White sheets
As we travel on
Life she is a wanderer
Confused in her slumber
Dreams of hope
Terrors of evening scopes
Tell me, where will we go
When all is finally lost?

Let the rain fall
Pour over these bones
Take me home
To where I belong
Safe in his arms.

Dusty toes
As dusk settles in
Joy she is a ghost
Changing shapes as of Heaven
She sings to our souls
We are golden, immortal
Journeying through all
This earth we’re meant to know enjoy.

So let the rain fall
Soak life into these bones
Where You lead, I’ll follow
Though I feel I drown
I will grow.

Let the rain fall
Pour over these bones
Take me home
While I feel I drown
I will grow.

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Where Muffled Voices Fade

The weeks escape me. I hear it’s the seventh, so let’s go with that, shall we?

As this week was for the most part more of the same, this post will contain an obscene amount of photos, and not many words, I’m expecting, but we’ll see what happens.

Thursday morning we set out believing a prayer walk was in store, and instead found ourselves at a fort. I guess our hosts thought we needed a break, or exercise, judging by the size of the place.

Half of me wishes I had brought my camera with me (these are all iPhone pictures), but the other half is grateful I was free to climb and explore and see, beyond the viewfinder. Everything was magnificent, from balancing on the divider of an auto as we race down, then up the mountain to the trees sparkling like diamonds in the afternoon sunlight. Heights allowing hawks to fly below our eyes wide with wonder. The mountains calling my name, whispering His wondrous love. Tales of an age gone by. Temples still burning with incense to a god who will never hear them. Through it all, beauty like I’ve never imagined, and fragrant freedom.

The joy of adventures with souls I hold dear. Voices joined in illegal worship to the God who Sees. Citizens stop and stare, listen a while, never interrupting.  Soaking in the glory of His creation… And this is but a taste of earth, and earth but a shadow of heaven…

Finally, pictures from the slums. Throughout our past times there, I’ve abstained from bringing my camera. I didn’t want to give any room for the people there to think I care about them only for their stories, for their media values. However, on this our supposed last day (we’ll now be there tomorrow for church, as well), from the moment they spotted my camera the poses and “sister, my picture’s” began.

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This little guy’s legs were burned worse than anything I’ve ever seen a few weeks ago by a kitchen fire. The entire time we were there, he stayed on Rosie’s lap. When another child tried to come between them, he made his point clear by a quick smack, then nestled in to her even closer.

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I’ve fallen in love with each of these children, but is that any surprise? We leave tomorrow, and again I’m left wishing there were no language barrier between us. As these children are some of the leading Christian influences here, I worry not over what the world will do to them, but marvel over what they’ll do to the world.

Until next time

XOXO

Slum Chai and International Smiles

Wiping faces, trimming nails, cutting hair. Get pulled into a group of young mothers. Giggle about language barriers, hair colors, and upcoming weddings. Hold their babies. Comb my fingers through the lice infested hair.
Child comes up with typical Indian meal: sweet boiled grain of some sort, similar to quinoa. Mother, smiling, tells me to try some. Fully aware that travelers often get terribly sick from just this, that I was sick from less than this, I said a quick prayer and took a bite. Some experiences are worth it, but more than that showing them that I don’t see myself as being above them, especially in a culture of castes, is worth getting so sick I’d maybe have to be sent home, as we were debating the first time around. To refuse would be to convey that I am higher than them and their way of life, especially given the lack of translation. It would say their food is dirty, that while I will sit and chat with them and play with their kids, I will not go that extra mile of intimacy and break bread with them. I couldn’t do it; I simply could not.
Smiling through the almost immediate nausea and heartburn, I sat with a woman whose young son (between four and six years old) we had prayed for a few days before. His legs were burned by a cooking fire about a week prior to our arrival, and he could no longer walk. As her kids ran back and forth, we laughed instead of talked, playing with her kids as they came by. Two of the four are in the picture with me. Through it all, the little family had such joy. I ran into her on the bus today, and was once again shocked by her immaculate beauty. However, beyond the mirth, beyond the elegance, there’s more pain in her eyes than many of the other women I met there. She’s one I dream of taking out to coffee and just chatting with, with no language barrier to this time curb our conversation. Perhaps on the nearing Other Side.
About a half hour before we left, one of the couples I was sitting with invited me into their home for chai. Again, to refuse would be more damaging to them and to our witness here than any bacteria would be to me. I can treat bacteria, but the wound of offense takes much longer to overcome. Having watched it boil, though, I knew this one was safe (and delicious).
Upon stepping into their home, the first thing I noticed was the purple and gold scarf hanging as tapestry. Catching my breath, I whispered to the wife that it was beautiful. Seeing as how she couldn’t understand my words, I hope the smile conveyed it.
These two families, both believers, were some of the most fascinating to me. While I hunger to know the full stories of the first (why did I never see her husband? Was she married? What was her daily life like?), the second was the only couple I’ve seen here who appeared genuinely in love. Teasing and laughing with each other and their children, it was clear they truly enjoy each other’s company.
I hope to return soon, to continue to love on these people and experience more of their way of life. Despite the poverty, there is such exquisite glory. Each time we’ve visited this slum our cameras have stayed home. On our final day or two with them, I hope to capture each rubble covered rose lying hidden there.
Humans like these families, like the children of this little Indian tent-town are why I’m here. Their smiles, their laughter, their joy. All they ask of us is prayer and a hand to hold. Gladly, my darling.
Until next time
XOXO
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Photo Credit to Chris Park (IG: @chrispark01) 

On Cafe con Leche and Emotions.

I’ve officially reached that point in outreach everyone talks about where stuff has happened and we’ve witnessed things I don’t feel comfortable sharing with any of the outside world just yet… I think part of me thought this was a myth, this outreach climax, but here we are. And I find I’m most content in this state.
This state of sleep without rest, because my rest comes in the day, face buried in Bible, teammates voices lifted in worship around me. The love I have for these incredible humans is beyond what I can express. I only wish the beloved could be here. But until he and I can experience this sort of thing together, I’ll savor this continued honeymoon with Jesus.
We’ve arrived in Dharamshala, a beautiful mountain town. However, because it is a beautiful mountain town, my wifi and data usage has been massively restricted, which is why I’m a week late with this (sorry fam). Last week was a week of goodbyes to souls reminding me of how large and terrifying the world sometimes is, as well as how communal and lovely, and the power of redemption.
While I’ve been able to write about them before, today I’m too overwhelmed to process it all onto this digital paper. Each day, each thought, would require a post of its own. Of these boys’ lives before. Of who they are now. Of the secrets their eyes allude to. Of their joys, their hopes, their dreams, their talents, their possible futures. Hopefully within the coming weeks I’ll be able to get two or three of the stories down, but we’ll see. I’m still debating which of the stories I even have the right to share… My life was so privileged. I’ve always known this, always felt this, and seen the truth of it before. But today it’s hitting me freshly again as I re-read the lives of these boys I so deeply adore and will likely never see again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Sip the tea from an adventure-worn straw in a Hydroflask tattooed with their handwriting and imaginings, scarred with the remnants of paint battles.
Hop on another plane. Contemplate for how many years airports have felt like home. Exhale the tears into a secondhand Bible, my sanctuary held together by tape. Allow my heart to break into His, realizing He knows so much more than I, His heart is hurting beyond what I can imagine, and that through it all, He is gloriously faithful, that He has a plan for each boy.
Land in Dharamshala. Settle into an apartment cozier and homier than I remembered being possible. Use the last of the data to call the beloved. Break. Soak in his voice, his encouragement, his words reminding me of the Truths so easily forgotten in exhaustion. Regroup. Step back inside from the balcony where snow-topped peaks and fields of green are all that’s visible. Realize yet again that this is the life I’ve always craved and dreamed of, and through the disease, the sleep-deprived delirium, the insecurities of making art out of it all, the agonies of seeing all we can’t change, and backlashes of the enemy for all we do work to change, I could not be more content or fulfilled. Because through it all, He is faithful to remind me of His exquisite love and beauty.
With all the gentle tears and bittersweet farewells of Week Four, Week Five was equally filled with unadulterated joy. As eyes turned to waterfalls, I took my turn at sharing pieces of what makes my heart ache, face buried into the shoulder of friends close as family, sisters who inspire me to be everything I can be, to chase after everything I dream of becoming. Hold the same sisters as their turns came along. Legs folded on crimson rugs, chai in hand, we lift our voices in holy adoration of the One who brought us here, allowing the worship to drift like sunlight out the windows.
Soaking in their laughter, we played with village children on the side of the mountain as the fog rose below us and we marveled at the exquisite art of our Maker’s hands, and how somehow He still deems us as more beautiful even than this. As a friend of five minutes who reminds me of myself at ten years old slides her hand in mine, I watch as the Hindi praise unfolds to the God of Abraham in a little house church. Two days later we’re back at the same church, and I’m sharing bits of my testimony, eyes on the same girl. Precious Abigail. Who will she become? Will I come back one day and find her grown, with Kingdom passions of her own?
After driving further up the mountain, to a tourist town known as Mcleodganj, we visited our first Indian temple. Beauty filled with dark emptiness. We strolled up and down the marketplace, marveling at the skill so rampantly alive in this nation. Naturally I couldn’t resist picking up a nose ring and anklet, because India. As twilight began whispering hello, we slipped into a friend’s home for some of the best coffee I’ve had in months and some brownies. Needless to say, it was a good day. Since then we’ve been working on some stuff for the community center we’re teaming up with here, exploring the city, and going on various prayer walks. As I’ve been falling in love with the country, I’ve been falling deeper and deeper for my team. Our leaders are relentlessly faithful, working so much harder than any of us see. The five I get to call my teammates are all so encouraging and insanely talented, gifted with such unique skill sets. There are several instances proving that I literally would have died without them, especially during our time in Kolkata. In them I’ve found an extended family, and I’m dreading the day we have to say goodbye. So I just won’t think about that yet.
This is the gist of the past two weeks, majorly condensed. Thank you guys all so much for supporting me through everything; I can’t tell you what it means to me to read your sweet messages and prayers forwarded by my parents. When I was sick, had it not been for your prayers I very well might have gone home. You carried me through it, and I’m extremely grateful. Also, I tasted the closest thing to a cafe con leche that I’ve had in five months (Indian milk coffee), and I honestly cried a bit. It was pathetic, but so beautiful. God is good.
Until next time.
XOXO

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A Week of Eleventh Hours

As I write this post, I’m sipping instant Korean coffee out of a Chinese bowl, writing in a Walmart notebook from Kona with a German pen, sitting on the floor of a hotel in Kolkata.

Besides the first week of outreach, this week was the most full of my entire DTS. 

“Helping” (dancing with and trying to be as cool as) the boys practicing the choreography they performed at two churches to raise awareness for Life Connection, the ministry we’ve been working with. 

Getting horribly sick just before getting on what would become a thirty five hour train ride from Nagaland to Kolkata, and then better just in time. 

Kat’s ankle breaking to the point that movement was impossible while we crossed the tracks, just as a train was coming. With the whistle growing louder, closer, all the guys rushed to carry her across the three sets of rails. As she sat on the bench, waiting for the train and recovering from the shock of escaping tragedy by inches, Rosie prayed for her ankle. Overnight it went from break to sprain. 

Waking up on the train to the outer rumbles of a 6.7 megaton earthquake around 4 AM. 

After this, the ride consisted of sleep, hanging out the door to breathe in the scenery, and making friends with a five year old Bengali boy peeking out from behind momma’s skirts just long enough to laugh at the yellow haired girl. Watching Bollywood videos and listening to worship on an old Nokia with Sunil (I’ll post his story later in the week, hopefully. Suffice it to say never have I seen such joy in one from his circumstances). An hour into this, I asked if he was sad. Quick nod, then the headphone is slipped back in before a word can escape my mouth. What could I have said anyways? We both knew why he was sad, and that I could say nothing to fix it or relate. How can I relate? This week was his holiday, his one week with three guaranteed meals a day, a bed at night, and a roof over his head. Although LC will be there from 8 AM to 4 PM everyday, providing food, education, a shower, community, and love, come 4 o’clock and he must return to the train station. There’s only so much one family can do for so many street boys…

So what could I say? What could I do, besides lay a hand on his shoulder and simply be there?

Hours later, we arrive. With the delay of the quake, the journey took four hours longer than expected. The morning after we arrive, Steffi, Kat, Caleb, and I all wake up horribly sick. Because of dehydration, Steffi and Caleb both blacked out. Neither Steffi nor I could keep any food or liquid down, and we all had fevers. This continued for well over twenty four hours. While Kat and Caleb began to show signs of improvement, as the days continued Steffi and I grew gradually worse.

Last night, after concluding with my leaders and parents that if the doctor’s antibiotics didn’t help, or at least stay down, Steffi would be flown to her family in Germany, and I to mine in Denmark. After having this same determined bug twice, we desperately needed IVs and for our bodies to accept some sort of sustenance. 

And so we prayed. We prayed to the God who had already in these past two weeks resurrected a girl from an early death, healed a broken bone, healed impure skin, and fixed a projector so it will play only the Jesus Film. We worshipped Him, praising Him for all He’s done and will do. Rosie was the first to begin praying for me, before the time of intercession had been discussed. In case you havent noticed, God has gifted her with healing prayers, and a compassionate heart of gold. As she prayed tirelessly for me for a good ten to fifteen minutes, I felt as though something heavy, warm and comforting had been placed over me. It was so heavy I couldn’t move beneath it, but I felt no pain. I could barely open my eyes at this point, and even lifting my arm was impossible. But finally, after crying in the bathroom because of the unbearable, unending agony, because everything here is so unfamiliar, because four months without my beloved is excruciating, I had peace. I felt the presence of my Father, and I was comforted. Even just typing this, the tears of that overwhelming sense of His divine love return to my eyes. 

From 7-11PM we continued. When I woke up this morning, save a runny nose from the pollution, I was 100% better.

Today Jon (our leader) got us a kettle, and Chris brought instant coffee. He was right: Koreans make the best instant coffee. I was able to eat my first full meal (noodles with vegetables). I’m able to walk around the room without becoming lightheaded. 

As a safety precaution, I couldn’t go do ministry with the rest of th team today, but tomorrow I’ll be released from quarantine. 

And as I write this, the afore mentioned beloved is getting settled into his new Miami home and job at Calvary Miami Beach. When I return, he will be there waiting for me, and the long distance will be over.  I still can’t quite fathom what it will be like to not say goodbye anymore. After six straight months without his embrace, or his smile whenever I look beside me, my love will be waiting for me when I return. Six months of waking up, waking him up, at midnight just to hear each other’s voices because we don’t know when next we’ll have a chance. Six months of craving my hand in his. Six months of emails and texts the size of books, of crying on the phone because I can’t cry on his shoulder. Of reading the Bible together, praying the connection doesn’t cut out. And this was just this stretch. Long distance is not for the faint of heart, but it will soon be over. 

Seventy three days until I’m in his arms again. 

Sixty eight days to complete the Lords will in India and Nepal. Then the adventure of ministry in the city Jesus has permanently called me to begins.  

And through it all, the Lord is faithful. 

Until next time, ohana. 

Xoxo

        

  

Amidst the Rubble

“X marks the spot”Come in, come home

A quiet whisper

Behind the storm.
Dusty blue

A polluted sky

Always half open

To souls passing by

Always shut tight

To strangers in the night.
Cold, solid

Inviting while

Still guard standing.
From up above 

Supper’s aroma wafts down 

Overtaking for the evening

The putrid waste below.
Gentle onions 

Caress your tongue

As the gate

Like an embrace 

Pulls you in to see

Her wells of empathy. 

Happy New Years! 

It’s the end of week two. With the new year, tomorrow begins week three of outreach. Currently, I am bedridden with the seemingly mandatory stomach bug (food poisoning?) we’ve all been suffering from. 

Outside the window above my head, fireworks pop like gunshots. Just out the door, the kids and team sing in Bengalu a song which sounds of thanks for the past year, hope for the new. My ever amazing outreach leader, Steffi, has me wrapped in her extra blankets in an attempt to fight off the fever, making her side of the bed even more hard. 

Three minutes till midnight. We rush upstairs to the roof to witness the fireworks, and set off a few of our own. Fireworks which in Miami would never be legal to buy, yet here are passed around like candy. Greetings from motorcyclists on the road below. Hugs and handshakes all around. Normally back home, New Years would be spent with friends that are closer than family, playing manhunt and burning Christmas trees. This year we watched the sky go ablaze, with lanterns outnumbering the stars above us. 

So, fever raging, bones aching and all, there’s no place I would rather be. 

Until next time. 

Xoxo