Welcome Home

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Stepping off the plane, you are never the same as when you got on.  Mentally, physically, spiritually, or aesthetically. Twenty five days in India.  46 hours straight in airports and airplanes.  Dirty drawstring khaki’s, dirtier flip flops on clay stained feet, and a once white LoveManifest hoodie covered with something that spilled in my carry on… looked like giant coffee stains, but to the onlooker, the possibilities were endless.   The icing was the dirty band-aide on my finger.

Before heading home to California we stopped off in New York to see family.  We landed at 8am, and were met by my brother in law who lives in Brooklyn.

“Just drop me at Brooklyn Tabernacle.”

Brooklyn-Tabernacle2

It had been 25 days.  Twenty five poured out days. More than sleep, more than food, more than a shower, I needed my Savior, and I needed to worship Him with others who needed Him too.

Just leave me at Jesus’ feet.  I’ll see you all later.

They dropped me on the curb and I walked into BT for the first time in my life.  Tore up from the floor up, I stood among others waiting to get in.  So many in their Sunday best… hats and gloves… suits… something I hadn’t seen in a long time.  It was beautiful, and I… wasn’t.

Doors opened and I stepped inside, burst into tears and sat in the front row staring at the scripture behind the empty choir seats.  “God is Love”.

Having no idea where I’d come from, a man with a name tag approached me.  “Boy are you glad to be here!  I saw you come in.  Welcome home.”  I just cried and said, “I’m just so happy to be here.”  He told me that if anybody asked me to move, to tell them to come talk to him.  He was in charge of security.

Odd, I thought, but okay!

So many people came over and said hello. It wasn’t a passing perfunctory “hello”, either.  They lingered… waiting for my response. It wasn’t like “hello, welcome to our church because clearly you are new”, it was more of a “good morning old friend, I’m so happy to see you. You’ve obviously been on a long journey.” They did more than greet me. They loved me.

The place was packed out and there I was, sitting fairly oblivious to the fact that I was alone in the front row.  The row behind me was empty too.  Then they came with the velvet ropes, and roped off all the seats in those two front rows. All but mine.

Brooklyn-Tab-FrontAlone in the front row of Brooklyn Tabernacle.  Dirty.  Stained.  Tear streaked.  Exhausted.  Spent.  Home.

Just before 9:00 the side doors by the stage opened and out they came… all the deacon’s and deaconesses in their beautiful gray suits, taking their seats next to me, and behind me.    Dozens.

Ooooh. I get it now.

I started to laugh.  The deacon next to me said, “you stay right there.  Don’t you move.”

I didn’t.  Except when the choir came out and I jumped to my feet and danced.  Danced with the deacon’s.  Danced with the church.  Danced with the Spirit.   Danced for my Lord.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:35

 

Valerie Kumra – April, 2012

Life After Facebook

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The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands

Proverbs 14:1

So what happened, you ask? Or maybe you didn’t ask, but are curious why one would leave Facebook. No, I really didn’t spend a lot of time ON Facebook. But Facebook spent a lot of time rent free in my life. In my head (I wonder if so and so responded to…), in my conversations (did you see what I/he/she posted last week about…), and in what ultimately took me out… my time of worship.

Two weeks ago I went to see and hear Francis Chan at Bayside Church in Roseville, CA. Pretty sure I was about to hear a powerful, life changing message, my first reaction is to “check in”. Oh boy, second row. Post that. Look, he’s on the cover of the program, snap a photo of that. OH MY GOSH LINCOLN BREWSTER IS HERE LEADING WORSHIP HURRY HURRY PHOTO PHOTO! Oh that’s a good one! Post it. Description: “Lincoln Brewster is leading worship tonight!”

Now that was it… that was what did it. I’m standing, singing praises to my God, while snapping a photo of Lincoln Brewster when it hit me. Am I singing praises to my God? Or am I really bowing down in worship to my god. Not the god Lincoln, but the god Facebook. See, the photo wasn’t even about Lincoln. It came down to this…. would I even snap the photo if it weren’t for Facebook? For my prideful desires to show where I was, and with whom? I was crushed. Right there, in that moment, I was devastated in my spirit. My eyes were opened. Please forgive me, Father. I now know what I do.

Later that night I was reading my Bible. I came across a passage that spoke to me, and grabbed my iPad, ready to post it. Horrified that I had just laid this device on top of my Bible, I hucked it across the hotel room.

Monday morning, I was blessed with the opportunity to join in a breakfast with Frances Chan. Sitting at a table with eight others front and center, I was overwhelmed as he chose to share (which he rarely does), an emotional, honest, and important story of how the success of Crazy Love affected him. To my left I was distracted by two women, iPad’s out, snapping photos as he spoke. Tears in his eyes, he is relaying, I kid you not, how he has no privacy. How the immense acclaim and equally vast criticism drove emotions to fluctuate moment to moment between pride and suicide. <snap snap giggle tag upload>

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

All I could do was pray in that moment. “Please God, don’t let me be that girl. Save me.”

Then I heard it. Two words. “Get off”.

I’d heard those words before, but chose to ignore them. This time was different. He showed me what I had become, and I just kept thinking, God help me if I ever pull out my phone during worship again. Ever. God help me. God help me.

So I exited Facebook. Deleted my account to avoid temptation, and dedicated my days to rebuilding my home. A home that I hadn’t so much “neglected”, as just hadn’t been fully present. Actually, as I reread that sentence, let’s call it what it is. Neglect.

Have you ever been having a conversation, and struggled not to say, “wait, let me write that down, that is SO status worthy”. Well I have, and it was usually something my beautiful husband has said. In fact, I’ve had that thought more than once. Then, during the conversation, I’d try not to forget whatever line was said, and miss the rest. How incredibly rude. I have just placed 386 people, some of whom I don’t even know, in front of my husband, who I love, and is right in front of me.

I’d like to tell you though, that there is hope. I didn’t know the stronghold that was upon me until it was broken. I really didn’t. But now, I am free, and I am blown out of the water at the joy that is present in my home. Even as I type this, there is a fire in the fireplace that hasn’t been used for years. My family room is clean, and inviting. My dining table is clear, and ready for another enriching conversation. I sometimes wonder if my neighbors can hear us laughing across the vacant lot. There is music. We are playing catch on the front lawn. My husband and I have coffee alone together EVERY morning. Every single morning. Dinner is a family affair. Mt. Saint Laundry exists no longer. We go to the movies and take old fashioned photo booth photos that are only shared on the refrigerator I’ve had dates with my husband, and one on one with my kids. My son and I take a dance class together, and my daughter and I dance in the kitchen as I’m teaching her how to cook. I listen to my oldest son when he talks, and have noticed he’s smiling a whole lot more. Conversations are personal and confidential.

I’ve closed the wide open window into my private life. The one my family never asked for me to open, and have since relayed their relief at it’s being shut. I sense a new security in my home, a new intimacy with God and with my family, and the unspeakable joy Christ promises. Over and over it is confirmed: Ministry begins at home.

Bold Humility?

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I just spent the weekend seeing and hearing Francis Chan on three separate days in succession. It left me with a LOT to think about. I could sit here and quote him all day long… I mean, he’s one of my favorite authors, and it was even while reading the introduction to his book “Forgotten God” that the final confirmation for the name “LoveManifest” was given.

Almost everything he said was, to use a Facebookism, “status worthy”. But he talked about something in particular that I have been carrying with me, praying about, and really expecting God will drill home into my heart, and actions. Because it had to do with Jesus… and every desire in my being is to be like Him.

Jesus was bold. Jesus was courageous. Yet, everything about Jesus was humble.

Even His act of turning over the tables of the money changers (Matthew 21:12-13) was a humble act. It was out of His love for God and God’s people.

Francis half jokingly stated that today, “any yahoo with a book, or a YouTube video is instantly qualified to be a speaker” (I probably shouldn’t put quotes there, as I did insert the word “yahoo”, but it was along the same lines).

But here’s the kicker.

See, when Jesus spoke, he didn’t speak with motives of getting a reaction (or not getting a reaction). He didn’t speak to see how many “likes” he would get from his message, or not speak to see who might react by lack of words, either.

He spoke only what the Father told Him to speak, and He spoke only when the Father told Him to speak. No more. No less.

That, my friends, knocks my socks off. It realigns everything for me. It’s the difference between courageously speaking His Word with humility, and selfishly speaking His Word with arrogance. One breathes life, and one turns others away, and leaves nothing more than bitterness behind.

Once again, I am on my face, in awe of a Father who really shouldn’t want anything to do with me, but does.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

– James 1:26-27

Dance Like David Danced

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“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.”

– 2 Samuel 6:14-15

In our lifetime, we have many teachers, and some of them come in the most interesting, and unlikely disguises.

A couple of years ago I met Gerardo Sanchez at his studio in Santa Rosa, CA. Though meeting briefly only once, he didn’t hesitate when I asked him to come and volunteer to teach some Bollywood dances at our fundraiser to bring clean water to India. Gerardo is one of those people I felt I knew, even before shaking hands with him for the first time. You know the type… the one who makes you cock your head, narrow your eyes, and wrack your brain because you can’t seem to place them, but know you’ve met before? These are the people that are instant friends; neighbors; brothers; sisters.

His part of the event was incredibly successful, and most of our 500 attendees told me later, he was the highlight, and if I decided to do “Bollywood H2O” again, I should definitely bring him back. So, you see, he’s a naturally popular guy. But there’s something more than charisma that makes people want to be around him, and I’ve narrowed it down to Agape Love. His actions are based on Love, and you know it the minute you meet him. He’s got passion that is visible, and it’s evident in the life he leads. Passion for children, and to get them off the couch, and moving. Passion for his family, and being a participatory husband and father. Passion for people, and doing his part in helping them achieve a better, healthy life. Passion for his community, and playing whatever role he can to improve it with the talents God has placed in him.

Passion to contribute.

If I mention his name, people immediately smile, and say something nice. Not just about his class, or dance/martial arts abilities, but about his character. So that’s Gerardo. He’s all goodness, and through witnessing his lovely family in action, I can testify he is a great example of one who produces good fruit.

A few months ago I decided to try out his UJAM class. If you don’t know UJAM, picture Zumba, but with more hip hop, bollywood, and latin dance moves. If you don’t know Zumba, imagine whatever cardio program you do know, and put it on steroids. Then add modern choreography. Intimidating already, isn’t it.

I’ll be first to tell you, I am a pathetic dancer. It’s never been my thing. My mother and sister’s all “got it”, and apparently, they received my share as well. After many years of Kenpo Karate, and 4+ torturous years experience with a very rigid violin teacher, I tend to focus a great deal on form. Form. Form. Form. It’s all about form. So, I’ve always been the one saying “no no no” when someone tries to pull me onto the dance floor. “I’m terrible. You don’t want me out there, really, it’s bad, I don’t dance. I’ll just embarrass us both”, as I back away. “Bad form. Bad form.”

So, I’m still wondering how it happened, especially since the music is so far outside of my usual playlist, but I started this class with Gerardo, and just kept my eyes on him, the teacher, trying my best to follow along. I tripped over my own feet, and he’d smile or laugh from the stage, ultimately make some crazy animal sound, and instantly I would feel a little bit better, and encouraged to keep moving. I studied his perfectly executed moves from the floor, and tried not to look in the mirror so I could secretly imagine that I looked like that too. Then maybe he would bust a move too early or with the opposite leg, or decide to add a spin where I wasn’t used to spinning, and I’d stand there not knowing what to do. Yet I saw many others didn’t miss a beat. They had already learned the moves, and weren’t relying on him for the basics anymore. He’d laugh, and we’d all laugh, and just keep moving. Then, regardless of anyone’s ability or experience, he would do the unthinkable. He’d call us onstage. For me, (after the initial mortification) this built a certain level of confidence, as well as community with the others in the room. Dancing face to face, smile to smile. Every so often Gerardo would just leave the stage… maybe to adjust the sound, teach from the floor, or leave the room altogether.

But the dancing continued.

I realize I’ve learned, and confirmed a lot about leadership, and discipleship from Gerardo, and it was all wrapped up in a funky little UJAM bow. The last place I would look. So here are the top ten.

Teachers are Valuable.

Without teachers, we flounder, we give it our best guess, or worst of all, tell ourselves “we can’t” or “we shouldn’t”. But a good teacher will remind us that we can, we should, and show us how. They will call you up on stage, and sometimes leave you there while they disappear. At their best moment’s, the music is heard, the people are dancing, and the stage is empty.

Teacher’s are Fallible.

No matter how amazing they are, and how well they know the dance, they will at times misstep. Trust solely in them, and you’ll make the exact same mistakes. When uncertain, we can always go back to the basic’s we’ve been taught.

Recovery Matters

How we choose to recover from our mistakes is an important trait. Do we laugh it off? Admit it and move on? Do we get angry with ourselves? Quit? Put ourselves down? Or worse, do we shift the blame to those dancing alongside us?

Don’t Compare

Spending my time looking at those around me, comparing my dance to theirs, my steps get messed up as I start to try to imitate their steps. Suddenly my dance isn’t recognizable as mine anymore. It’s just a jacked up version of theirs.

Be Joyful

Don’t take myself, or other’s view of me so seriously. David’s joy didn’t come from dancing; David’s dancing was in response to the joy of the Lord! By focusing too much on the dance’s form, and what I think it should look like to others… I lose the joy.

Trust

If all I do is watch myself dance in the mirror, wondering how I look (to myself or others), then my focus is on me, with a critical eye. I’ve taken my eyes off The Prize. But when I close my eyes in trust, knowing the basics, and move in the direction of the music, there is freedom.

Some People Just Have More Groove

Just because somebody else is dancing differently than I doesn’t mean they’re not dancing well, or that they’re dancing better. Maybe they’re more experienced. Maybe their beat is different, and maybe their tune takes them in another direction. Maybe it is a little bit slower, or maybe it’s a little bit faster, with some fancy moves. Maybe it paused so that they (or I) can rest for a minute, in His Presence, until they (or I) can hear the music again. Their dance is not wrong, better, or worse. It is perfectly, uniquely theirs. So is mine.

Being Critical of Another Dancer is Toxic, and Contagious.

In order to dance together, it is imperative that I follow to the beat given me, and allow (and encourage) others to do the same. Just as gossip spreads like gangrene, so does negativity. It sometimes takes just one discouraging, or ugly word to get someone to turn away, and stop dancing.

Talents and Gifts Vary

People are beginners, advanced students, and all in between. There are people who seem to already know all the moves, and those who don’t, but we can still dance together in harmony. The same dance for the Glory of the same King.

Remember the Basics

When you don’t know what to do, remember the basic steps you’ve been taught. Be still, pray, wait, listen until you can hear the music again… feel the rhythm, and move your feet. If your teacher’s have been good one’s, they’ve always pointed you to the Great Leader anyway.

To sum it up:

Good leader’s encourage individual walks; to teach, you must often leave the stage; learning is continuous; people are fallible; Jesus is perfect; missteps are inevitable; everybody has their own abilities; discouragement kills; anyone can dance; music is good; and God is not signed to a record label.

🙂

Now get out there, and when the joy of the Lord come’s upon your heart, dance like David danced.

Stories

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I remember sitting across the table from my friend Michelle, telling her about my friend Lyle (Mercy29.org), who was in negotiations with an Indian mine owner who enslaved hundreds of people, many of them young children, all of whom worked sun up to sun down and were fed one meal a day. They had horrors placed upon them that most human minds won’t willingly go. I won’t take you there. Lyle was negotiating the release of one of these children. Her name is Anitha. I was distraught, and near panic trying to figure out a way to help him get all of these people freed. I was angry. I was beyond angry, actually. I hated the mine owner. I hated him, and I wished him… gone.

There are two things I remember specifically that Michelle said as I was telling her the situation, because they were so powerful. First she laid her head atop her arms resting on the table, and said, “Oh, I just want to pray right now”, and shortly after, “I wish I could just sit across from him and hear his story”.

What?

She went somewhere I go first, too… prayer. But then she went where I had not dared go. She went, with compassion, to the perpetrator; and with one question… she humanized him.

What was it that took place in his life that allowed him to think enslaving human beings was okay?

What. was. his. story.

In the wake of yet another devastating school shooting, I see that although more than three years have passed since that conversation at my table, the question has not left me. I cannot listen to these tragedies on the news and not ask, “what is his story?”.

On Friday, I started to wonder if I was losing it. Grieving over the loss of all of these sweet little children, and teachers, but also for this young man who lost his way. Whose story I do not know. Whose story I may never know. I go back and forth with God… surely there is a line that can be crossed… but He says no. His love knows no bounds. It just doesn’t. Nobody is beyond His reach.

A phrase goes through my head, “There is only one love that loves unconditionally – the love of the divine”. I won’t claim to understand it, and I won’t try to explain it away. I will only pray to have more of it. In me. Through me.

The story of Anitha, Lyle, and the mine owner has an incredible ongoing ending, and if you’re interested in hearing what’s happened, watch this video, and meet my sweet friend, Lyle, as he talks about one of his daughters, Anitha.

Read about Anitha’s rescue here

You Came Back for Me

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There are many times that stand out during the last few years as “life altering”, or “heart breaking”, or even “you knew God was right there”… . I know I’ve talked before about my inability to produce words worthy of their subject. So often times, they remain unwritten.

Today, I’m going to tackle one of these stories, because I don’t want it to fade away unheard.

April 2012 we took a group of high schoolers with us to India so they could dedicate a well they had spent all year fundraising to build. We were also performing medical camps, and for this reason, were being given a tour of the hospital in Trichy, India. Our last stop was the Leprosy Ward. My husband, children, and I were probably the only American’s in our group having ever seen anyone with leprosy, and I can probably safely say, these three teens remain the only ones from their high school. These kids were awesome, yet cautious. At least, when it came to adults. They were completely immersed when it was with children. Adults on the other hand… hey, I’m not judging. They used to scare me too.

I was bringing up the rear of the line, and Avery, who was the only girl of the three, was ahead of me several feet. I could barely see as she encountered a woman… the last bed by the exit door. The woman was weeping. She was reaching out her arms, and I watched as Avery leaned in, the woman’s arms wrapping around her, pulling her close. It wasn’t long before I saw Avery make a hurried exit, the woman still sitting there saying something we didn’t understand… tears streaming down her face when someone said, “she wants prayer”. It was a fairly smooth transition as I moved in, and placed my hands on her, closed my eyes, my head next to hers, and her hands instantly gripping mine. We prayed together. I in English… she in Tamil, but together. Then I wrapped my arms around her and told her how much I loved her. She’s been with me every day ever since. The rest of the day I stayed close to Avery, neither of us saying much. Just being nearby, hoping maybe she could feel that I understood. That I had been there once, too.

That was April, 2012. November 2012, same hospital, there we were, the Board of Directors for LoveManifest. Same tour, same ending, again with the Leprosy Unit. I never, EVER thought she’d still be there. Yet there she was. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited to see someone. My long lost friend. My dear one. I rushed to her and sat on her bed and we just hugged. We hugged and hugged and hugged for the longest time. She was not weeping. She was positively BEAMING. Her smile couldn’t have been bigger! Together with an interpreter, I asked her if she recognized me, and she did. I asked her if she knew how much I thought about her, and she laughed. I asked her name and she said “Theresa” (pronounced Teressa). Then she turned to face me… her face maybe one inch away from mine, and said, “you came back for me”.

It isn’t often I get to see someone twice. In fact, aside from the kids at the orphanages, this was the first time. It is so different when it’s a relationship, isn’t it? There’s a familiarity and comfortability to laugh and to love all over people that doesn’t always happen the first time you meet.

There are many moments that have had enormous impacts on me, but these are two that stand out on top. My first time in India I was in such emotional upheaval, I could hardly move. Like Avery. I didn’t even know how to function in that place. I remember watching my friend Mike as he prayed for people, and wondering “how does he do that?!” and he witnessed my heart break. I’ll bet he can tell you the moment too, because those are things you don’t forget. We got into the car and I lost it. Uncontrollably. He held my hand, and he prayed for me. Then we drove on in silence. Me and my teacher.

In April, not only was I able to comfort someone I may not have been able to comfort years earlier, out of fear, or raw emotion, but I also witnessed the breaking of a young girls heart for the widow. The leper. Yet out of that heartbreak, she (Avery) wasn’t able to stay for long. But she was forever changed in that moment, and I pray one day she will be back, and maybe she will bring someone with her. Maybe she, witnessing their heart break, will swoop in to comfort the one left waiting for prayer, and then slide in quietly next to her friend to let her know she understands. She’s been there too.

And on it goes.

God Fueled

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Every trip to India, something different is revealed to me. Maybe something I didn’t know about myself. Maybe something I didn’t know about God. Emotions vary, strength comes where it didn’t before. It’s never something I can anticipate, or for which I can prepare. I have to just go, and trust that He’ll take it from there.

I remember the first time I traveled to South Africa. It was 1998, and I was terrified. I didn’t want to leave the house, and would have been perfectly content eating cheese and crackers on the deck for 10 days. I was forced to walk through the townships and to see… see things I’d never seen before. Poverty on a grand scale. The remaining injustice’s in the aftermath of apartheid. No water. No electricity. So many of the same things I see in India now. Only I was relatively unaffected. The only thing I remember being a shock to me was that I was considered to be in an inter-racial relationship (something that had never crossed my mind), and only four years prior, that would have been illegal. I couldn’t see past myself.

Why?

Your guess is as good as mine.

My lack of emotion was displayed in my lack of action in South Africa. I didn’t do anything because I just wasn’t feelin’ it. I was unaffected, and therefore, ineffective I lived that way for a long time. Emotion = action. No emotion must mean it wasn’t important enough to do something about. I’m not proud of that. I had a whole lot more fear than faith back then.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Thank you GOD! Because I can’t live in a constant state of devastation and be useful. I was a mess, I mean, a MESS my first two trips in India. My heart was broken into pieces I never thought I could gather together, and I slipped scarily close to the edge of a depression that would have required professional help had it gone much further. The reverse had happened, but the result was the same. I was SO affected, fueled by emotion, that I was again, ineffective. Yet now, almost four years in, He has given me the ability to hold it together every once in awhile. To be able to speak without hyperventilating. To work with an urgency that can only be described as God fueled.

Now, according to my friend Mike of Wells for Life, this changes from trip to trip, and you could find me once again at Christmastime, sitting outside the mall, tears running down my face, physically unable to enter. Coming home, waving my arms and shouting “Christmas is canceled! Christmas is canceled!”

But today, I am resting in His grace. Believing in His promises. Amazed by His love for all people, and how He moves us to act on behalf of His children. Regardless of how we feel.

One child. My child. Your child.

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One child. Your child. My child.

When our children hurt, we hurt more. It’s how God designed us, I think. To care for our children’s welfare over our own. We would take on their hurts in an instant to spare them any pain, particularly emotional pain.

What would it feel like to have someone tell your child that he or she was contaminated. Unclean. Less than human. A dog. What would that feel like to you as a mother. A father. Would you break down doors to get to the person who said such a thing to the one you love more than anyone on the planet?

What if this message came from millions of people? How many doors could you break down in a day before collapsing in a heap of defeat, hands bloodied from futile attempts at justice? Ten? Twenty? A hundred? How long before you give up? Would you ever?

The term “untouchable” is used in the USA as a sort of elite status, mainly for sports stars. Not so here in rural India. It is a term used for millions of people falling below the lowest status of the caste system. One step below “extremely backwards people”. It is a term for those born to clean your toilets. Born to scrape, to suffer, to be permanently oppressed.

The caste system has been outlawed for years in India, yet it is alive and well in the interior villages. Take one of these dear ones out of this situation and place him anywhere else, and you would have no idea. But they would know. They’ve been told all their life that they are less than human. Not allowed in the homes of the upper caste’s because they contaminate everything they touch, everywhere they go… These beautiful people, men, women, and children alike…

I don’t even know where I’m going with this, other than to speak it out loud.

You, my dear children, are made in the image of a Mighty God. A God who knit you together in your mother’s womb. A God who loves you, and has plans for you, not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future (Jer 29:11). He has a purpose specific to you, made before you were ever born. The same God who made me, my children… He made you too. We will not stop until you hear the truth. You are more than you’ve been told you are. You are princes and princesses. Children of the King. Come, claim your inheritance. Come. Let all the little children come.

No Relief

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No Relief

Caitlin said something on our first day here that has haunted me for two days and this morning swims relentlessly around my brain.

“there’s no relief here”.

She reflected in a stunned fashion how everywhere else you have patches of poverty, bad neighborhoods, good neighborhoods, maybe a park, but there are always areas of relief. Where you can breathe. Where there is no trash. Where there is some sort of evidence of hope.

These parts of India are not like that. There is no relief. It is shack after shack after shack. The poor, the naked, the widow, all congregating and existing as what appears to the outsider as “hopeless”. Even those who have managed to start up a small business selling soda are attempting to sell to people with no money. We step cautiously around piles if feces on the streets with flowers laid on top. It’s a dengue fever breading ground.

We spoke with Father Dhana about this over breakfast. Glenn asked him if there was a way out for them, and Dhana’s answer was short and powerful and not unlike our own in the US. Their hope is in the children. Educate the children and this horrendous cycle will break.

I immediately think about the size of that task. 1.3 billion people are in India. 70% of those live in the outlying villages.

70% of ONE POINT THREE BILLION

It’s 3:50am and too early for math. My numbers might be slightly off, but you get the picture. Millions and millions and millions of people.

So my thoughts go to water. Some minds would go to building schools, but we see a lot of schools. They don’t always have water, or sanitation at these schools, but they do exist here, and the government pays for them. My mind goes to water because many children spend their days collecting water rather than going to school. That’s their life, and if that’s their life, then their hope just took a nose dive.

I’ve talked with children who receive a bore well and have asked “what’s the best part of having this well in your village?”. The number one answer has always been, without fail, “now I can go to school” or second, “I have more time to study”.

Today we will dedicate two wells in two separate villages. Home to over 1,000 people. Clean water for a healthy start, and a new way of life. One that frees them up to get an education. Not only that, but we get to talk about the love of Jesus. Our one true hope, and what compels us to be here in the first place… and that is just plain exciting!

I suddenly remember a song we sang together this morning.

“My hope is in You Lord. All the day long. I won’t be shaken by drought or storm. The peace that passes understanding is my song and I sing, my hope is in You Lord. I will wait on You. You are my refuge.”

If you have wanted to make a difference. I mean, real significant life altering destiny changing difference, and God is speaking to you to bring water. Do it. It’s easy, and it’s the start of everything.

Jesus Take the Wheel

by

Well, that was fun. Amidst hurricane Sandy’s cancellation of over 7,000 flights out of the US, ours remained, as we’re set to flight over the North Pole into Dubai. The flight (all 15.5 hours) was uneventful and full of laughter and anticipation for what’s about to come. The long long layover in Dubai proved to be a time of rest for Glenn (on the floor behind a row of chairs) and a last opportunity for Starbucks.

When we arrived in Chennai, we happily collected our luggage and proceeded to the JetAirways gate, and I watched with great pleasure as the rest of the LoveManifest team experienced walking out the doors and into India for the first time.

Then we were met by the threats of Cyclone Nilam. Not sure what “Nilam” means, but it must be along the lines of “poor attempt to stop an unstoppable God” because flight after flight was cancelled, but ours remained all systems go, without regard for what appeared to be the hesitancy of the flight crew.

As we sat in the airport, the winds bent the trees outside the window as the rain was blown sideways. We went upstairs for really no reason other than to escape the cockroach infestation downstairs, and Mimi prayed, and I hear her say “Lord, shut up the wind and the rain”.

When we walked back downstairs to board, just ten minutes later, it was completely calm. No wind. No rain.

The flight on this prop plane was one of the most intense flights I’ve ever been on, although any turbulence is very unsettling to me, but the look on the face of the flight attendant was not very reassuring. There was a man next to Caitlin who would vacillate between crying out and praying. She would calm him saying “it’s going to be okay. It’s only 10 more minutes”.

Glenn slept quietly in his seat. An empty seat beside him.

Or was it?

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” -Mark 4:35-41 NIV

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