Friday, July 24, 2009

Eclipses and the Dying.

Pray for us! We leave on one of those crazy overnight trains to Nepal tomorrow afternoon. It'll take about 13 hours to reach the border where we will then have to take a bus for a good 6 hours. We're going to be as safe as possible, but the trains sound a little scary. They'll steal everything you have while you're sleeping, so one of us will be awake and watching at all times. We are so excited to get out of this crazy city, as much as we love (and don't love) it here. We are going to either work in an orphanage or with the people of a small village while we are there. Mostly, it will be a chance for us to calm down and think and pray and digest. I don't know if you've noticed, but I sure have... I feel my blogs are getting less clear. As I see and experience more and more it gets more difficult to write and explain. I hope to sort out everything before I get back so that I will be able to effectively share with you all everything I have learned, seen, experienced.

We saw a solar eclipse Wednesday morning! Who knew we were going to be so lucky :) I guess it happens in India every 3 years, but apparently this will be the biggest for about 100 years or so. It was truly amazing. I feel so blessed too even though it was kind of cloudy here (like always, due to monsoons and smog), because the clouds provided a makeshift filter so that I was able to take photos! I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.

I had an opportunity to go to Kalighat on Wednesday afternoon. It's the first home Mother Teresa started I believe, the home of the destitute and dying. It was so intense... I saw a tiny woman bent into the shape of a box who constantly babbled things no one could understand. I saw women drag themselves across the floor to get to the bathroom. I saw women who had lost their minds. I saw young women, and wondered why they were dying. I saw women with wounds and sores. I washed their beds and helped them walk and massaged them and fed them. I know Grant did the same things on the men side. It was a beautiful, heartbreaking experience.

There is another transportation strike going on. It seems they will protest or have strikes about anything here, which can be a little scary and inconvenient. Mostly it hinders our daily transportation to work. Grant was stuck on a bus for 3 hours on Tuesday due to a huge rally, and because we don't have cell phones or anything here, I had no idea where he was. I'm a little nervous about how we'll get to the train station tomorrow if this strike is still going, but I know God can handle it.

Today has been hard. I started thinking about leaving, and I just don't know how I am supposed to leave these children and never see them, feed them, hold them again. How can I leave them here to do the same thing everyday, hardly progressing and seeing new faces every couple of weeks to go on and live my life like before? Impossible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In Kolkata.

You see ravens flying over the city and perched on every surface, and you can hear their loud, loud caws.

You hear the call to pray ever few hours. A strong, somewhat eerie voice chanting words in another language from several points in the city.

You smell millions of different smells as you walk down the streets, many of them vomit worthy... garbage, urine, feces, rancid meat, blood, more garbage, and several others I don't know the source of.

You see men bathing on the side of the road.

You see men going to the bathroom on the side of the road.

You see children holding each other on a piece of cardboard sleeping on the side of the road.

You struggle to not get hit by a taxi, bus, rickshaw, bicycle, other people.

You see disturbing things like chopped off animal tails and dead rats on the ground.

Monsoons cause muddy floods full of leeches.

You have some sort of stomach ache daily.

You have to ignore about every third person or they will try to cheat you out of money.

You can find chai every few feet.

You sweat until it's dripping from your face, coating your arms, or soaking through your clothes.

You hear people crying.

You hear people laughing.

You see children playing and dancing.

The clouds move very quickly.

Your heart swells.

Your heart breaks.

I've never felt such an oddly peaceful combination of like and dislike.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Moving Mountains.

Hello! So, so much has happened the past few days, but I'm going to try my hardest not to overload you. First, our original plan for our last week here was to go to Darjeeling to work in an orphanage. However, they are not allowing tourists in anymore because of angry, possibly violent strikes going on. Peace talks on that won't even start until mid-August, so that won't work. Instead... we're going to Nepal! We will spend time in small villages there so that we can digest everything we have done and seen and I'm so excited!! I can't wait for the change of setting either, for it to be cool and calm.

At work on Saturday, they had a birthday party for all of the July birthdays and it was so wonderful! There was so much joy and excitement. The children that they usually keep separated were allowed to be together, and all of the girls wore sparkly pink dresses. After breakfast, instead of exercising the children, we sat them all on the other side of the room with the older, not so severely handicapped children. The birthday girls' faces were painted and they got pink flower crowns for their heads. The rest of us got white dots on our foreheads and birthday hats. Then the music was turned on and we celebrated! The children that could move jumped and ran and danced their hearts out, and the children that couldn't were lifted into our arms and spun and bounced around. We were laughing and dripping in sweat and it was just beautiful. That's the only way I can describe it. And they each got a candy! Quite the treat for them. I worked with the other girl without eyes, Rahki, and she is so sweet :) She can't speak, but she could clap perfectly on beat to the music. She loves music; I sing to her all the time.

Yesterday, I got to go to Grant's home where he works with him. Usually, only men are allowed, but on Sundays, ten other volunteers can go to wash the street children. As we walked up, children ran into our arms screaming "Auntie, auntie!" It was an interesting experience... I had fun, but I was also deeply discouraged :( The thing is, I just wanted to love these children and play with them and wash them and feed them, but they were raised in a way that made that very difficult. While we were playing with them, they just tried to steal everything we had on us. They pulled a girl's earrings from her ears and yanked hair clips and ties from all of the female volunteers' hair. One girl wanted me to pick her up and spin her like I was doing to the other children, but as I started to spin her, I felt her fingers slowly pulling at my hair tie. I had to set her right down and tell her it's not ok. Another girl actually yanked it from my hair and ran while I was cuddling another child in my lap and I had to chase her down. I'm just so sad about the whole situation. They have been so robbed of their childhood that they couldn't enjoy being spun around or juggled for. They just waited for Grant to drop a ball while juggling so they could snatch it and run. I know it isn't their fault; it is how they were raised, but it makes me so incredibly sad to think about it. India has a bigger problem than I realized before I came. I thought I was ready to describe it, but now I feel that it won't come out right. Let's just say that there is intense poverty, but there is also a spirit of trickery and greed that plagues the streets of Kolkata, deep in the hearts and traditions of many, many, many of the people here. It's impossible to describe.

On that note... Some things we've been discussing in our group meetings recently are the power of prayer, faith, miracles, and all sorts of things like that. We read specifically the part in Matthew where Jesus drives a demon out of a boy when the disciples couldn't. When they ask why, Jesus says something along the lines of "you have such little faith... if you had even faith the size of a mustard seed you could move mountains!" What does that say about Jesus' followers that we aren't seeing more mountains moving? Is our faith really so small? Why do I get so caught up in the work that I don't take the time to lay my hand on the head of each of those children and pray with all my heart that Jesus would heal them? So many questions like that have been coming up for me. It seems that India is a place of joy and misery, wisdom and ignorance, answers and a lot more questions.

Anyway, sorry if that didn't make sense. That's what I get for waiting to share so much information. As always, my heart is with all of you just as it is with everyone here. I miss you, my family and friends, so much everyday. Can't wait to see your smiling faces and feel your arms wrapped around me.




Another world is possible.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Protests and strike in Kolkata

Hello everyone
So I'm currently stuck at our hotel today because of a series of violent protests and a twelve hour bandh (strike) that is going on today that has pretty much brought the entire city to a halt. Fortunately, the strike has calmed things down a lot, though I think there is still a little protesting going on. It is nothing like yesterday, and I'm glad that none of us were caught up in any of the violence. From what I gathered from the newspaper, the state of West Bengal is currently dominated by the Marxist Communist party of India (the CPM), which is considered to be corrupt and ineffective by many people, including all of the protesters yesterday, supported by a party called the Trinamul Congress. It sounds like some of the Congress leaders were attacked the other day, and the lack of aid by the state police. This caused a series of protests and fights throughout the state, escalated by the death of a farmer who got in the way of a battle with the police. In Kolkata yesterday there was protesting all over the city, road blocks on all the busy intersections (which was why Morgan and I were stuck in traffic for so long on our way back from the leprosy center), and at least twelve state buses were burned. Thankfully, none of us have seen any violence, and we are all safe. The rest of our group are out working at their homes since they are much closer by, Morgan's home being the closest and safest. I, however, couldn't go anywhere since all of the buses are stopped, and Crossing the Howrah bridge is probably a bit dangerous since that was where one of the buses were burned yesterday.
I'll probably just hang out here, maybe get a veggie and egg burger from the Blue Sky Cafe (the best veggie burgers I've ever had), or maybe I'll borrow Morgan's camera and check out the Victorian Memorial park that everyone keeps telling us about. Anyway, everyone should keep praying for peace and love in India. Also keep praying for our group that we will all be healthy and free of distractions. I know Rachel has a fever today, and Morgan still has her infection that makes it very hard for her to concentrate. Thanks everyone for your support.

Meeting the lepers.

I forgot to tell you all yesterday that we experienced our first monsoon. It wasn't so bad :) Sure, it hit while we were walking back from working so we got so wet it looked like we had jumped into a pool fully clothed and now there are some dead rats in the street from the places that flooded, but at least it knocked the temperature down a few degrees.

Grant and I went to meet the lepers this morning at a center called Gandhiji Prem Nivas. We were the only two in our group able to go. It was amazing! We visited the places where they work making blankets, saris, bandages, towels, diapers, and other things on looms for the houses where we work, and I believe several other similar houses in different places. While other places now use machines for weaving, Mother Teresa used the hand worked looms so that lepers could have jobs. They showed us the workshop where they make prosthetic limbs for people who have lost theirs to the disease. The showed us the gardens where the work, and the housing they've been provided with, and the place where there children are taken care of and taught. The children sang us songs :) They employ about 400 recovered lepers there. Then they took us through the rooms of the leprosy patients who are too sick to work. A couple times between rooms I had to wipe away tears and take deep breaths before entering the next room. Many were missing limbs, had deformed hands, and bulging, discolored eyes among other afflictions. We could see into one man's head through the gaping hole at the bridge of his nose. I was overcome. The thing that made this place so beautiful is that these people have more reason to be mean and angry than anyone I've ever met (they are believed to be cursed by their communities and even their families, so that they are thrown out of their homes and no one will talk to them, feed them, hire them, even when they are recovered) yet they are the sweetest, happiest, most genuine people I have met in India so far. They were so excited to see us, all either stopped their work or sat up in their beds to lift their hands in a love filled "namaste." The lepers and the handicapped, these are easy to love. My challenge isn't where I expected it to be. My struggle is going to be learning to love the men and women who try to cheat us out of our money, the men and women who are rude and bossy, the men who stare at us girls like we're objects they can't wait to get their hands all over, and other various types of people here. Pray that I can find love for them too, because God loves them just as much as everyone else.

And now, for your reading pleasure... Grant is here to tell you more about where he works!!

Hey everyone

So like Morgan told you, I've been working at Nabo Jiban, a home for mentally challenged men and boys. I picked this home mainly because I thought it would be the best choice for my own spiritual and personal growth, and also because I heard that this home needed a LOT of help. What I do on a daily basis is make the long journey across the Howrah bridge, taking two busses, and a short walk to the home where the brothers live. As soon as I get there I usually do laundry (by feet), or help clean the walls and floors, after the chores are done, we play with our boys. The first day was nice. I walked into the room and crouched down next to one boy who I later learned is named Raju, and took his hands in mine. Raju is blind, and needs help getting around. He automatically pulled himself up, and he pulled me outside and straight to their playground swingset for me to push him. He does this almost every day, and loves it.

I'm not sure what any of the boys problems are specifically. Some are barely functional, and can't walk, talk, or see. Others are almost normal, but can't live out with the rest of the world. The brothers of Nabo Jiban take care of them, feed them, and love them. I'v tried to learn the boys names as best as I can. There is Rameesh, who laughs all of the time, and loves to run and be chased; there is Sonu, who is usually sad, but loves so much to be held in someones arms; and there is Kalu, who they warned me when I got there to not let him get his arms around me. He is very strong and doesn't let go easily.
Morgan told you all about the street children who come to be washed and fed on sunday mornings. All I can say is that I really can't wait til next Sunday. It was so much fun! The children all shouted out, "Uncle! Uncle!" and lifted their hands to be picked up. I've never been great with kids, but they all laughed and kept coming.

I'm learning a lot about myself on this trip, and even more about humanity and Christ's teachings. My hope is that I will come back with a different heart, better than I was before, and will be dedicated to doing what God wants of me all the time.

Alright, well, I'm a much slower writer than Morgan (and not as fluent), and we're past our hour (way past it (says Morgan) but if loving Grant means loving his slow writing I'm all for it), so I've gotta go. Bye!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rough Times.

Hey everyone!

It's been a few days, but I haven't been up to writing. Basically I got a stomach infection which was then starting to cause other infections, one of which was a blood infection. So lots of stomach pain and time in bed and the bathroom, but I'm getting better, thanks to the help of a French naturopathic doctor staying at this hostel. He's such a sweet guy :) His name is Frankie and when I asked if I could pay him for the time he spent treating me and the medicine he gave me, he said that if I got better it would make him happy and that is payment enough. He left last night, along with other friends we've made here. One girl, a sweetheart named Dominique, joined us in our group meeting and prayer and told us that she could feel a real love in and from our group. We were so happy! This is exactly what we were hoping God would achieve through us.

We are all still suffering from bed bugs, some more than others. A few of us, myself included are getting heat rashes on different parts of our bodies. Grant had to leave Nabo Jiban early today because he felt nauseous, and others have been throwing up and getting infections as well. We're being as careful as we can, but it is so easy to get sick here in India!

I missed a day yesterday but I was back working in the houses today, and I was so glad. I love those kids! I've already told you about Lota and Bobeta. Today I was exercising Lota (much more effectively than the first time) and playing with her. She loves mirrors and being picked up and carried, so I decided to do both. Her happiness was amazing! I would dip her to let her see herself in the mirror and then lift her back up. She was writhing around in my arms, throwing her head back in screams of laughter, and flailing her arms around until she'd successfully pulled all of my hair out of my ponytail. I fed an adorable boy named Lakhan. He also has cerebral palsy, and is a spastic quadripilegic. He hates being fed because his tongue doesn't work; you have to shove the food to the back of his throat. I wonder what these children see. Like I feel that God is talking to them or something, because for no reason whatsoever during his feeding, he started rapidly stomping his feet open down and opened his mouth wide with an excited smile. There is an adorable baby named Amrit that I haven't worked with yet, but I'm already in love with him. There is another named Angelo, who has an enlarged head and several scars on his stomach. They found him abandoned on the street at one month old and took him in the hospital. They performed several extensive surgeries to drain fluid in his head, but didn't expect him to last a month. He is now two. A boy named Johnny has to stand for at least ten minutes each morning in his gaiters. He's always crying from pain at the end of it. A cute girl named Deepa doesn't have eyes and is as stubborn as can be. I cried today when I found out that none of these children will live past the age of eighteen.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


So I'll try to cram a ton of information in really fast... ready?

First, specific prayer request. Almost the whole group is dealing with a pretty horrible case of... bed bugs! (yeah, they're real) And the huge red bites all over our lower legs are super painful/itchy/ugly/distracting. So pray that the bed bugs won't bite! Also, I'm hearing that there have been terrorist attacks in Darjeeling, which is where we were hoping to go for a little bit to help in an orphanage. They aren't letting tourists in. Any information for me on that?

Next, we've worked for two days now in our specific houses, and it has been nothing short of amazing. Grant loved working with the handicapped boys so much yesterday that he came back to the hostel with a mission... finding balls to juggle for the boys. I'll try to make him get on here to write you all a blog more specific about everything he does, but I know that it's very emotionally and physically exhausting! He told me about a handicapped boy that is fairly big that kept trying to put his arms around him, but other workers said not to let him because he would squeeze very hard and not let go. Today he got to go out and wash a bunch of street children with soap and water. He loved it :) He said they were all jumping on him and wanting him to swing them around. He had a blast.

Where I am, each volunteers helps with one child a day for the most part. I worked with a 12 year old girl yesterday named Lota. She has cerebral palsy. Her legs are bent backwards and she can't straighten them, and she cannot communicate. She does not look 12 in any way. Maybe 4 with slightly longer limbs. I fed her, which was difficult since she didn't like opening her mouth at all, I exercised her, which was really just trying to get her to hold herself up a tiny bit with her arms while I supported the rest of her body and massaged her muscles, changed her diaper, and then more feeding. The girl I worked with today was named Bobeta, and 8 year old who also has cerebral palsy. She was easier to work with in some ways, and harder in others. She didn't want to open her mouth plus her tongue inhibited her swallowing. It was the same with both of these girls, when they smiled or laughed my heart swelled up. I almost started crying today watching Bobeta smile in her sleep as I tickled her arms. I'm excited to work with the rest of the children, some cannot walk, some have no eyes, and some have the minds of babies, and I just love, love, love them!

Anyway, this hotel man is stingy about his internet, so I'm out of time. There is so much more I wanted to share! Better save some stories for when we come home though :) Love you so much!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Finding our places.

Hey everyone!! So much has happened since the last post. We arrived safely in Kolkata yesterday morning. The Salvation Army hostel no longer exists, but God blessed us so much with leading us to the best (and cheapest) place around!! We love it here :) It's called the Hotel Maria... not your typical hotel unless you're into cement boxes with nothing but a couple metal beds and a community hole in the ground for a bathroom. It's wonderful though; the simplicity is just what we wanted. We've been meeting lots of awesome volunteers here since that's what pretty much everyone staying here is doing.

Today has been crazy! We went out into the city this morning. It's so different... People are going to the bathroom and bathing and sleeping in the streets. There are piles of trash and stray animals everywhere. The cars don't even drive in lanes or anything, they just kind of drive all over the place, honking their horns all the time to let people know they are there. You never dry off here. It's so hot, even though it's been overcast, that you are always sweating. Finding breakfast was interesting. I had a street samosa, aloo paratha (flat bread filled with seasoned potato), and chai tea for a total of 11 rupis, which is the equivalent of a little over 20 cents. Awesome, right?! I had a really horrible pain in my stomach for a while, but we prayed over it and it felt completely better in a few short minutes! Which was wonderful because I really, really didn't want to miss going to orientation.

We had orientation at the Mother house this afternoon and we got placed in our houses! Grant will be working in a house called Nabo Jiban. It is a house for handicapped men and boys. He will be feeding them and washing them and trying to help them learn how to do things for themselves. After praying about it for a while, I felt led to work in Shishu Bhavan, which is a home for mentally and physically handicapped children. I will be washing, feeding, teaching, exercising, and loving on these kids, and I'm so excited! Others in our group will be working at the home for the destitute and dying and the home for challenged women. Can't wait to tell you about our first day.

Grant and I are both reading a book called Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne that I highly recommend. One of our favorite parts that we really wanted to share is... Shane says that people shouldn't be asking why God allows all the bad things like hunger and poverty and war to happen unless they want God to ask them that question right back. Pretty heavy thing to think about, right? It's so true, and it's something that I haven't really realized until now. So many of us stand by wondering why bad things happen, or feeling bad or sad that bad things are happening when really we should be taking some action to end them. I'm as guilty of it as everyone else. Hopefully this experience will change that part of me.

Anyway, we have to get up at 4:30 in the morning Indian time to go pray and have breakfast with the other volunteers before our shifts in the houses, so I need to go to bed, but we love you all so much! Seriously, thanks for all the support. Goodnight.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Broadcasting from India!!

Grant and I are in India! Mumbai to be exact, and we've been traveling for something like 45 hours... We fly out for Kolkata in about an hour where we will proceed to get our room in the Salvation Army place and then meet with some of the Sisters to be placed in our volunteer positions at Mother Teresa's homes! We met a really sweet girl who has worked in the homes several times at the airport, so she was able to answer a lot of questions for us. The spicy food has already been taking a toll on our tummies. Nothing has been stolen! So overall everything is going so well. That's all there is time for right now, this free computer and internet is slow and faulty and the keyboard is super sticky and annoying, the others need to use the computer, and I am operating on very little sleep. We send our love... from India!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finding God in India.

Hello! So I'm lucky enough to be able to write again before we leave... tomorrow! It's so crazy that it's here. There are no more errands to run, no more plans to make, no more things to pack, no more money to raise. It's just here. In less than 24 hours. I'm speechless. It was such a wonderful feeling, we met up with the group again tonight and we packed our duffel bags full of the things we are giving away. These are the biggest bags I've ever seen in my whole life!! Mine weighs .2 pounds under the 40 pound limit :) I'm just so happy that a mere 8 people can bring enough toys for two or three hundred kids and enough clothes and medical supplies for another couple hundred people!

It's so amazing to me too that most of my fears have pretty much fallen away. Seriously! Every time I pray it's like God takes away another fear so that the vision of my purpose there becomes more and more clear.

And so I come to the point of this blog. Today I read a verse, and it tied so many other things together that I've been thinking about, and I really, really felt like I wanted to share it. 1 Peter 2:2-3. "As newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." This made me think of something I've been reading in this awesome book called Captivating. It's all about the heart of a woman and how this reveals things about God's heart. The book says (and I know this is true because I've felt this very thing) that one of the greatest, deepest desires of a woman's heart is to be pursued. Pursued like she is the most wonderful, beautiful, precious thing on earth. I'm positive that this deep desire of my heart and every woman's heart is that of God's as well. He wants to be pursued by us, sought after by us, fought for by us, like He is everything we will ever want or need. And guess what... He is everything we'll ever need. So why on earth have I been pursuing Him so weakly?! Truly, if the path to Life and the path to death were sitting there on either side of you, wouldn't you run down the path towards Life with every single bit of strength in your being? Wouldn't you give everything you possibly could to reach the end of that path and throw yourself into the safety of God's arms? I think I forget about Him too much. Instead of treating Him as my pure milk, my life force, I treat Him like something that I can just get around to later.

So here's to pursuing my God like I've never pursued Him before, like He deserves to be pursued. Here's to seeking Him with all that I am while I am in India, and filling myself with His beauty and love until it spills out from me. Here's to building such a new, wonderful, beautiful relationship with my Father that I will never want to turn my face away again. I love you Jesus.

Love, Morgan

Friday, July 3, 2009

On the brink.

Hello Everyone!

This is the first post on our new India blog! Right now we are in Oregon with Grant's family. We met the rest of our group minus one person for the first time last night and it was wonderful! It felt like we'd all known each other for a really long time already. I'm so excited to travel with these people, Grace, Rachel, Brian, Elyse, Laney, and Vanessa (haven't met her yet, but can't wait). We were able to sort through last details and then pray a lot together. Here's the schedule as I know it right now.

We leave on our first plane Monday night at about ten. We have a layover in New York, and then we fly to Bombay. Another layover there and then to Kolkata! When we arrive we will head to the Missions of Charity. The people of this organization were largely inspired by and follow the example of Mother Teresa. They have several help houses set up to aid the sick and dying. We will meet with a woman there who will place us each in the house that she believes will fit us best. We will work there for one shift a day for three weeks! We will all stay together in a hostile, and will spend afternoons and evenings together going out into the community to meet and help the beautiful people of India. After our three weeks there, we will travel to Darjeeling to spend a few days in an orphanage, and then rest for a couple days so that we don't go into complete shock when we come back. We are so excited to be taking a ton of stuff with us to give away! Seriously... we each have a duffel bag so large that we could have brought a couple friends with us. We're filling them with little wooden cars, beanie babies and stuffed animals, and lots of clothes.

Our focus while we are there is really love and simplicity. More specifically, to let God love the people there through us, because our love is so weak compared to His. Jesus was so good at showing His love for people while He was on earth simply by spending time with them and helping them. We want to live like that. We want all of the unimportant, complicated, and distracting stuff to be stripped away so that we are simply focused on God and His love. I'll be completely honest... I have a lot of fears... about safety, about being inadequate, about leaving people I love, but I have been able to find peace knowing that Grant and I are doing what God wants us to do, and that He has prepared the way and has everything totally and completely in control. What an amazing guy, I love God :)

And I love all of you! So much. Thanks for all of the support and prayer and everything! So many people have donated money, things, time, and it means the world to Grant and I. Keep the prayers coming please :) And we'll try to keep the information coming.

As soon as Brian gets the internet working again. He killed it.