Well hello! I’m so excited that my day to write on the blog has come! Today is our last day in Jamkhed, as we head to Pune in the morning! Please pray for safe travels, especially for those who are not feeling well! J
First, a quick update on the day: Breakfast, and then our last church service here in India. A pastor from Ohio whose church has supported CRHP for over 40 years led the service, and we had a special time of communion. It was such a wonderful time to celebrate and remember with people from India, the U.S. (New York, Michigan, and North Carolina, to be specific), and Australia. Following church, most of the girls had the chance to experience a typical session with the adolescent girls’ program that CRHP runs. They demonstrated karate and we watched a video with them. After lunch, some had the chance to get henna (a temporary “tattoo”), while others went to town, sat in the courtyard, or napped. We were all surprised to have another rooftop goodbye party where we ate a delicious version of Indian-Chinese food. Thoroughly partied out, we all came back to the courtyard for a reflection section. The professors surprised us by telling us that we had the chance to wash each others’ feet (see John 13).
This is where my post comes in. After all of the excitement and craziness of the past few days, I will honestly admit that I thought I would have nothing to talk about. But you know, the Lord makes me giggle because He surprises me with little gifts throughout the day. This gift of foot washing was one of these surprises. Throughout the trip, I could not stop thinking about how dirty my feet were, because I have the chance to wear sandals every day. This made me reflect on Jesus’ act of washing His disciples’ feet. I know that I will never fully understand the implications of His actions, but I do know that He showed us that He was the greatest servant of all. Also, I believe that I slightly understand how dirty the disciples’ feet could have been. If I believe that my feet are dusty every day (even after cleaning them), then the disciples’ feet must have been rather dusty and dirty. Tonight, when they told us to go get towels, I immediately thought that we might be getting the chance to wash each other’s feet. When I found out that we were, I just laughed inside, because I had been thinking a lot about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. So, when I had the chance to wash my friend’s feet, I got a chance to be on my knees in the dust, just as Jesus did. I got to wash dust from another Jesus-follower’s feet. It was a GIFT and a huge taste of heaven for me. In the John passage, it says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet”. When Professor Couzens read that, the phrase “you also” stuck out to me. Just as He washed feet, we also should do the same. As He became the servant of all, we also should serve each other. Since He follows the Father, we also should follow. As He first loved us, we also should love. I am thankful for this reminder, challenge, and commission to do the same as Jesus. My response to this is, “me, too”, Jesus. Me, too. I want to be a servant, too. Teach me and lead me. Teach us and lead us.
My words will never be enough, nor will they be exactly what I want to share with everyone. But, for now, know that I am simply thankful for this big, new family of mine that is also a loving, refreshing community. I have seen so many servant-hearts caring for each other throughout the whole trip, and especially within the last two days. So, this act of foot washing was the perfect fit for our last night in Jamkhed. We have been so blessed. Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement…we couldn’t do it without you all! There are blessings overflowing here in India! We can’t wait to share them all when we return.
Just for kicks and giggles, here are some silly updates before we get on multiple planes to GR…
Ky: learned slang such as “cheeky little bugger” from Aussie friends and enjoyed watching them play cricket in the courtyard
Becca: has been the most amazing caretaker the past few days…she is definitely ready to be a nurse
Abby: has been thoroughly teased about her Iowa heritage, as there was corn on the cob at dinner tonight…and the night before
Natalie: it was a double or nothing day for Natalie, as she had two orders of pineapple and two orders of chaha (Natalie LOVES chaha…aka Indian tea)
Christina: broke the rules and ate spicy Indian chex mix from a street vendor
Nate: took two glorious showers today
Gerrit: did his part to dissolve gender roles in India by getting henna (aka: an Indian temporary tattoo) done with all the ladies
Lauren Z: she bravely took the position as the lead guitarist and did a GREAT job of leading (though she may not admit to it)
Kendra: watched “Snow White and the Huntsmen” for the first time
Kelsey: visited the bangle man, who gave her free bangles a week earlier…a new relationship blooming? Just kidding.
Jessi: was thrilled to take a shower after two long weeks without one….just kidding.
Anna, Coryn, Megan and Shelby: unknowingly showed up to church half naked. Thankfully, there was a woman there to help them with their saris.
Melanie: the pineapple man stalked her until she gave in and bought a pineapple from him
Professor Couzens: was a brilliant leader of motions during “Shine Jesus Shine” in church this morning. She was shining, too.
Professor Bossenbroek and her husband: continued to show their cuteness by showing up in matching Calvin t-shirts to the photo shoot
It has been quite the day in Jamkhed! Four students came down with flu-like symptoms. The families of these students have been notified, and the CRHP is taking top-notch care of this group. The remainder of the Calvin group had our classes cancelled and relaxed for the day. This included watching Slumdog Millionaire, catching up on rest, playing lots of games, and getting henna drawn on our arms.
Despite the dismal appearance of this situation, the response of the group as a whole has been amazing. Those who are sick have incredibly positive attitudes (now all of them are feeling much better), and those who were well pitched in to encourage and take care of the others. As the four slept and kept a low profile, the rest were busy finding ways to help. Some finished their laundry, cleaned their bathrooms, or wrote a silly song. Throughout the whole time, they stood by their side and never failed to bring food and support. Professor Couzens and Lauren DeGroot even went on a courageous quest in search for crackers!
All in all, group has surpassed all expectations. In good times and bad, I am reminded of God's incredible provision as He planned the members of this trip. Each one has been a blessing and made this trip special, and I have learned so much about Godly servanthood in this small community. God has given us a great treat of unity with uniqueness. Today when part of the group was sick we felt incomplete! I know some of you are reading this because you are supporting a loved one, so thank you for sharing them with me and the group this month. Truly, each one has blessed me personally, and I know many others on this trip. I am thankful for your support and love for them, because it has enabled them to step up and bring support and encouragement in every situation here.
Deep in the midst of the Indian terrain a solitary mountain towers over the flat land. Built upon this mountain are the well-kept ruins of what is known as Fort Daulatabad. A group of unsuspecting foreigners arose in the morning, refreshed and raring to begin the day after a blissful night of sleep on soft pillows. Unbeknownst to them, they were about to enter the psychological test of their lifetime. Stomachs filled with bread, papaya, and various unknown things, they loaded the busses and entered the chaotic roadway. Upon reaching their destination they made their way through the clamoring salesmen only to be stopped outside a looming stone wall. In order to enter the Fort a decision had to be made between 52 entrances, the trick was that only one was the true entrance. All of the others would only lead to death promoting traps such as wet or dry moats, dead ends, an endless maze, passageways with holes over top where boiling oil could be poured in, or twisting staircases which a person would emerge only to have their head chopped off. Thankfully, with the guidance of an experienced Indian man, the correct entrance was chosen and the group set off.
Their pathway led them in a zigzag direction. The purpose behind this was to prevent military invasions from using elephants to break through the walls. Elephants need a certain amount of distance in order to pick up enough speed to crash through the walls. Most of the outermost walls were 30 feet thick at the base and narrowed only to 7 feet at the top. Misleading passageways and nooks and crannies were everywhere, enticing the curious travelers into more traps. As the group advanced further into the Fort, they began to reach sections of awkward steps. These steps were built very short and slanted downward in such a way to force the climber to watch their feet rather than keep their eyes up for the attackers above. One unique distraction came in the form of the crowds of Indian people who also had entered this deceptive maze. A large group of light skinned people is not a common occurrence and there were frequent interruptions in the hike due to requests for pictures. “Photo please, one photo?” These requests were often ignored, and the people then resorted to walk-by pictures.
The way became increasingly steeper and many in the group secretly wished they had spent more time on the Stairmaster back home. But now, it was too late! And they were forced to trudge onward. The higher they climbed, the sweatier they got as the sun continued to rise and beat down upon their poor fair skin. Despite the possibility of running into hidden traps the group took time to explore a temple and managed to find a staircase which allowed a view of the courtyard and the ruined maze next door. As they climbed, the ingenuity of the constructors of this Fort continued to be revealed. These guys really meant business. Fears were faced as the group crossed a bridge spanning an algae covered moat far below and entered the black passage.
This passage was not to be scoffed at, there was no light whatsoever. Oh, and yes, these poor souls are still climbing stairs. Pitch black staircases, with only the occasional flash from a camera to light the way. Foolish are those who try to hurry, many a foot slipped with gasps and mini shrieks echoing through the darkness. No one knew who would emerge into the light at the end, or if any would at all. During a moment of silence a squeaking and fluttering was heard, and as a flash of light lit the ceiling many were horrified to discover a solid covering of bats. At this point, a bit of pushing occurred as some discovered they suffered from chiroptophobia (fear of bats), and during the scuffle a few poor people (Ryan, Anna, Megan) were given a gift from above by generous bats. Thankfully the whole group made it out of the suffocating darkness and into the light.
Excitement was high, and hearts were pumping as many cried together “To the top!” The journey up to this point had only taken them a little more than half way up the mountain. The rest of the way was in the sun, and the landscape only got better as they continued. A few of the travelers (who will remain unnamed) had food in their bags and were forced to throw it to evil monkeys with barred teeth and fire in their eyes, in order to make a distraction for a safe escape past them. A hero emerged from among us as Gerrit helped some Indian women with their children make their way past the angry monkeys still on the attack for food. Due to some less enjoyable moments, many people no longer like monkeys. With shortened breath, and sighs of relief the group pushed their tired legs to the final ascent and emerged on the top of the mountain. What a view! You could see for miles, and in the distance there were mountain ranges that half circled the plain. For about 45 minutes, the adventurers dominated the prime picture locations, and many models made their debut.
On the descent, many had trembling legs as they now had to travel back down over 700 steps. The truly adventurous wished for an iguana to anchor to the rocks and then lower themselves down, (the group learned that many invaders would tie ropes to iguanas and launch them onto the mountain where they would then cling to the rocks and people would climb the ropes in order to breach the mountain). The entire group eventually made it down the mountain arriving at various times, and all were grateful to our protective gents and a few girls who kept a watchful eye to make sure no one was left alone or behind. Many times the boys would wait at a particularly difficult or dangerous section of stairs to give a hand to those who needed it. Tired but happy were all, and of course, the very next thought on everyone’s mind was of lunch.
A delicious lunch put everyone in a food coma as they began their long roadtrip back to CRHP. A brief coffee/bathroom break was needed half way, and many enjoyed a cold beverage with lots of Chocolate. The exhausted group were very relieved to make it back safely and after a quick dinner, all headed to bed.
No one died.
Wow. So much I need to fill you all in on!!! First of all, sorry for the delay in the blog. We went on a 2 day adventure to Aurangabad, to see the Elora Caves and fortress. Both were indescribably awesome, and I will definitely do my best to do the day justice.
The day began bright and early as we packed up breakfast and ourselves and began our trip at 7:30am. We stopped about an hour later for breakfast, tea and a bathroom break. Hard boiled eggs, bread with jam, and bananas made up the menu--oh, and props to you mom for providing me with extra crunchy peanut butter--everyone owes you a big thank you since it definitely completed the breakfast experience. (And as a side note, be proud of me...I think I shared it quite nicely!)
Next stop-the silk factory! We got to see the silk looms, patterns, and some beautiful scarves being made. If I remember correctly, it takes 8 hours to make each individual scarf! Some gift shopping was done and tea was served!
We all jumped back on the buses and survived a few more hours of Indian traffic before arriving at a beautiful spot for lunch. If you have ever experienced Indian traffic, you know what I mean when I say 'survived'. The traffic here can definitely get your blood pumping!
I think everyone would agree that lunch was delicious, and an experience in itself. They first brought out a dish with sliced onions and limes. We must have been quite a sight, trying to figure out what exactly to do with them, and finally settling on squeezing the limes on the onion and munching away. Like I said...an experience. But things only got better from there, when they brought out warm flat bread and 3 different kinds of sauces with veggies to eat together. Somehow they couldn't quite keep up with our bread eating abilities. :P When it was all said and done however, everyone left feeling quite satisfied. Our only complaint? The bathroom. (no description necessary)
Finally we arrived at the Elora Caves. Very briefly, the caves are actually 3 temples carved out of the same mountain from 3 different religions. For the sake of time, I wont go into more detail...but if you have the chance, definitely look up info and photos on it!
I dont know what was more surprising to us--the gorgeous scenery we were taking in, or the locals. At times it seemed we were the attraction that everyone was coming to see! A few just stood next to our group and tried to take a secretive self picture with all the white foreigners. Others were not so shy however, and thought nothing of tapping us on the shoulder and saying something like, "Miss, one photo please? Just one photo!" The strangest was a school group of middle school boys and their teachers that just surrounded us and stared...for a really awkwardly long amount of time. A few of us wondered if this is how the rich and famous must feel. (so family and friends, if we come back with inflated egos just remember that here, we were pretty big stuff, and humble us gently!)
Through it all, we did manage to get some great photos, learn a lot, and enjoy the change of pace.
Our last stop of the night was the hotel. What a treat!! It was such a gorgeous place, and it warmly welcomed 21 tired, dirty, and hungry travelers. After a chilly dip in the pool, a much needed warm shower, and a delicious buffet dinner, we were feeling so much more refreshed.
The real treat of the night though, and best way celebrate Gerrit and Prof B's bday? Ice cream. Vanilla ice cream has never tasted so good. A few of us stayed up and chatted, and got to experience room service. Milkshakes, a banana split and lots of laughs were shared.
Overall, I would say it was just the kind of day that everyone needed. It was a joy and a blessing to get to know everyone just a little bit more deeply, and to grow with them. I want to take a moment to give a shout out to the parents and everyone else involved in helping these students be as wonderful as they are. Thank you. God has really blessed me immensely by allowing me to get to know them.
Today we spent a lot of time in the classroom hearing from village health workers as well as learning from members of the Young Farmers Club. We are all getting really excited to head out tomorrow to see the caves! Here's a quick individual update for everyone:
Becca and Kelsey loved singing backup as Gerrit taught them the song he recently wrote (for guitar).
Ky and Abby went into town to visit the local dentist! It was quite an experience observing a barefoot dentist treat a patient without wearing gloves.....!
Abby found out that extra crunchy peanut butter exists and it's pretty delicious!!!
Lauren Z rocked a rap about domestic violence and impressed the oldest of the village health workers with her performance.
Christina got the cold, fought it all day, and is feeling a bit better now! (Keep her in your prayers!) She also was treated with steam inhalation by a village health worker!
Melanie continued to discover the therapeutic qualities of washing her feet.
Lauren D and Christina held a baby goat named Shambu (born today!) In Lauren's words, "He had soft floppy ears."
Natalie is still "recovering" from dodging falling fireworks at the birthday celebration last night.
Jessi has been rocking tunic pants all day (they look awesome) and managed to drop her razor in the toilet. It's location is still TBD.
Gerrit had a sugar high and made Ky laugh so hard at dinner that she snorted soup up her nose.
Anna broke her arm.
Megan and Coryn learned a card game from an Aussie and are racing each other to finish reading the same novel.
Kendra picked up the preschool kids this morning and enjoyed playing "telephone" with them!
Through an unfortunate discovery in the trash, Nate and Ryan were reminded of some of the consequences of living with 15 young ladies for a "month."
Gerrit, Becca, Lauren D, and Ky enjoyed some hot yoga on the roof this afternoon! The sun was blazing, but the breeze was nice!
Shelby won a game in Egyptian Ratscrew against a new friend named Isaac.
Just kidding Scot. Anna didn't break her arm. Her day was pretty uneventful but great at the same time!
Professor Couzens was SO happy to get an update from her husband. We can see how much she loves and misses him!
Professor Bossenbroek and Lorin are excited to finally experience the caves tomorrow as they were violently ill last year when the group went!
We have gone on two village visits so far and had the opportunity to meet plenty of village health workers and mobile health team members. Meeting such wonderful, inspirational, hospitable, and kind people is extremely humbling and has contributed so much to the deepness and profound aspects of this trip. However, I often forget that when I meet people here, or even see them in the village for that matter, they are also meeting (and seeing) me as well! I was dramatically reminded of this fact while going through some pictures I took on our first village visit. A couple of us had the opportunity to watch a mother and grandmother bathe their little son outside in the hot sun. I managed to take pictures of the whole process, as it was pretty different from how babies in the states are bathed! As you can see below, I was surprised at what I found when reviewing my pictures. As I was looking at the beautiful baby, he was also clearly looking right back at me. It is so easy for me to forget how we as Christians are called to reflect Christ to everyone we meet. We are told that they will know we are Christians by our love. I pray that God will help me (and all of us on this trip) be a light in the darkness. I pray that those who look upon us will see that we are different, and know we are Christians by the way we love one another and by the way we love the people we meet. Even though we are only here for a brief period of time, I pray that God is using us to reflect His peace, love, and joy to everyone we come across. I desire to be a reflection of Christ in the eyes of the beautiful people of India we have the privilege of meeting.
The loving hands of a grandmother and mother as they care for their baby remind me of the lyrics of my favorite childhood songs:
I want to be your hands
I want to be your feet
I'll go where you send me
I'II go where you send me
And I'll try, yes I'll try
To touch the world
like you touched my life
And I'll find my way
To be your hands
It has been a process for me to figure out what I want to do in my life and how I can best be Christ's hands in this world. Being here at CRHP and seeing the incredible impact that the Arole family has had on this community inspires me and motivates me even more to seek the Lord's plan for my life and pray He uses my hands and feet for His glorious purposes. This photo yet again reminds me of the love we can deliver God's through our hands: love to our children, love to our parents, love to our friends, and love to the broken. May we continue loving people here for the remainder of our stay.
Thanks to all who have been following our blog! We love reading comments and knowing that people are praying for us from afar! We love you all and can't wait to see you soon!
Sorry this is a bit late, but I'll get right to it! Today was one of our more relaxed days, but we still learned a lot and were able to see some exciting things.
After a wonderful breakfast of bananas, bread, eggs, malaria pills, and chai, we split into two groups and set off to explore two villages that the CRHP works in. We got to see how they check for diabetes, track babies' weight, evaluate the nutrition of a pregnant woman, and do a clinical for the women of the village. It's so interesting to see the differences between our methods and theirs.
On our way back we stopped a few times to see the watershed, which was basically the irrigation system that the farmers built to help their crops. It looked very impressive, except that it was completely dry because they are in the middle of a three-year drought. It was sad to see the look on the farmer's face when he told us about it.
When we got back everyone was hot and ready for lunch! We ate and then played games and did laundry for a bit (yay for clean clothes!) before heading over to our class on herbology and alternative medicine. Some of the village health workers had collected leaves from around campus to demonstrate how to use what plants for certain illnesses. Very interesting. Dr. Shobha taught our next class about alternative medicine, going into detail about the different types from India, South America, Europe, and China. Some of the Indian ones were pretty crazy. The first step of one of their practices is to give a detoxifying vomiting massage, where they put oils in different places of your body to coat your insides and give you massages for a few days before giving you a solution to drink that makes you vomit. Apparently it doesn't hurt because of the oil lining your intestines and it's cleansing to your system. They do this mostly for those of us that eat a lot of processed foods that have preservatives in them to rid our bodies of all the "junk." But don't worry, that's not all alternative medicine is about! There are many more interesting practices that we learned about.
After that invigorating talk we had dinner. Many of us then went to bed, but a few tireless souls stayed up playing games, talking, or playing the guitar. It was then off to bed to sleep before another exciting day in the beautiful India!
Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers for us as we continue in this amazing learning experience!
Love to all!