Brown Sugar Purges

“All emotions, even those that are suppressed and unexpressed, have physical effects. Unexpressed emotions tend to stay in the body like small ticking time bombs — they are like illnesses in incubation.” -Marilyn Van Derbur

After the wide emotional terrain the team and I covered yesterday, we met last night to debrief. We saw despair, darkness, trepidation. But we also saw hope, joy, and love. Several of us attempted to talk through those emotions, but although the words escaped our mouths, the emotional baggage held on tight. It wound around many of us like an anaconda preparing to feast on our remains. We couldn’t fight it. The emotional weight was so heavy that I couldn’t even blog, I believe we all slipped into a deep sleep that night.

Saturday morning, I wasn’t feeling so well. I was moving slowly and had an extremely light breakfast: a boiled egg, a spoonful of yogurt, three sips of coffee. I filled my water bottle with two cold bottles of water and dashed off for the bus. We were all beyond excited because today was the day we would see the Taj Mahal! Once we loaded the bus, I curled up in a corner with my back facing the window and opened my laptop. I sat there unsure of where to start with yesterday’s blog, so I paused and grabbed my phone. I started the devotional The Esther Challenge at the beginning of this mission trip. Today’s devotional talked about how Mordecai refused to bow to Haman and remained loyal and faithful to God regardless of the grave consequences. It went on to talk about how King Ahasuerus had forgotten how Mordecai was the one who helped spare his life from the men who were plotting to kill him.

I was so tickled after reading this devotion because what God was clearly telling me was to remain faithful to what He sent me to do, and part of that obedience was to not forget all of those who had helped me attend this mission trip fully funded and were reading my blogs daily.

So, I unloaded on my laptop. The commute to the Taj Mahal was 3.5 hours. I blogged for the first two. Ever so often, I’d lift my head to see our surroundings. When the village we were riding through caught my attention.20170701_152701

I’d seen these huts before in my history books, but in my mind they only existed centuries ago. Not today just 10.5 hours away. There were families out hanging laundry on a line, and children playing. My heart stung a bit, but I smiled and waved to the little boy standing on the side of the road. He was amazed at the big bus barreling by.

Once I finished my blog, I got up to go sit with a few others to jump in on whatever they were talking about. I needed adult conversations. This group of professional women had such insight on various topics. It was great to discuss college with one of our Axis students, careers, what our communities lacked, and ways to bring what was lacking to the communities since we can’t take the community to the resource.

The bus came to a sudden jerk (remember the traffic, right?) and I could tell we were close. The city of Arga looked a lot like Delhi. When we reached the entrance of the Taj Mahal, we all grabbed bottle water as we exited the bus. We were told that we would be surrounded by beggars, but not to make eye contact, and not to purchase anything.

We were given shoe covers for the Taj Mahal because you must either remove your shoes or cover them as a sign of respect, and our tickets for entry. Well, at that moment, the heat hit me with a quick right, left, uppercut combination and I bent over and placed my hands on my knees. Emilio asked if I was ok, and I told him I just needed a minute. We walked to catch a small shuttle to drive us closer to the entrance, and as soon as I sat down, I laid my head on the seat in front of me. I felt bad ya’ll. Stomach cramps, nausea, and I had sweat literally pouring from my body. Katie poured water on the back of my neck to help me cool off, and it seemed to help. We got off the bus, and I told Deirdre I was about to puke, and as if on cue, right there at the entrance of the Taj Mahal… Brown Sugar begins this violent projectile vomiting… Again, and again, and again.

I puked my way to the sidewalk, being mindful of the cow manure along the way, and squatted there for a sec. I was ready to crawl up and die in my embarrassment and that unnecessarily aggressive Indian heat when this eclipse happened, and the sun was blocked! I looked up to see Rohim standing over me with his cane and his best concerned father’s expression. He was holding a bottle of Indian lime soda, and told me to sip it. I didn’t want to, but at this rate I was willing to try anything. I sipped the lime soda and the stomach cramps immediately subsided! What tha??? So a few minutes later, I stood up and told the group, “Let’s mob.” They were all like, Are you sure??? We traveled 14 hours just to get to India, and 3.5 just to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We. Were. Going.

Once inside, we met our tour guide who was AH-MAY-ZING! I sat down to hear the rich history of the mausoleum and the love story behind it.  In 1631, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632. Shah Jahan’s grief after the death of Mumtaz Mahal illustrate the love story held as the inspiration for Taj Mahal. It was hot. I felt like crap. But this story was one that simply captivated me.

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Here we were about to head through this temple to arrive at the Taj Mahal. It was 46,239 degrees, and apparently a quarter of the Indian population decided to visit the Taj today. The inside of the first temple was beautifully constructed.

I was thankful for this protection from the sun, but the humidity was another story. As soon as we exited this temple, I was taken aback by the beauty of the Taj Mahal. The massive ivory white marble mausoleum sat snuggly amid a beautifully manicured garden.

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The Taj Mahal (Crown of the Palace) was being cleaned for the first time ever! As you can see in the above photograph that the other three pillars are much brighter than the one with the scaffolds. The workers used clay to clean the marble. The tour guide told me to come stand near him, give him my phone, and hold my hand up. When I realized he was talking to me, I remembered he wasn’t there for the pukefest, but I went anyway. I was pleasantly pleased with the result, Mane! HAHAHA

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A few others snapped pics while I sat along the edge of the garden and took in my surroundings. How did I become so fortune to be here at this very moment? It was time to move along. I had a couple of people to tell me to wait. Anita told me she would sit on a bench with me and we could catch up to the group later. I told them I would rest when we got closer. But when I saw a monkey ran across my path, I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating or not so I decided to rest then. While resting, I saw Rafiki was real…

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I glanced up, and knew I had to go see what I came for, so we put on our shoe covers, avoided Indians wanting to rudely take pictures with the “Americanos” and ascended the stairs of the Taj Mahal.

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Once we made it on the first level, the way the brightness and heat radiated off this building felt like the end of the road for me. It was blinding! Photos were prohibited inside, but our tour guide showed us where the guest house and tombs were, and which stones embedded in the walls illuminated with light. Just then traffic police apparently came through blowing their whistles and telling us to keep it moving. We maneuvered our way through until we reached the back of the mausoleum. As we exited the doors, I felt like we were on display. Indians are most attracted to white women with blond hair, and the darkest black people. It felt like paparazzi out there and we just wanted to hear the history and enjoy the architecture and design of this amazing structure.

We stopped for a restroom break, then headed to the exit. We waited there for our tour guide to catch a shuttle for us to take us outside where our bus was. Once on the bus, I changed out of my soaked Mane shirt into a dry fit long-sleeved shirt and curled up in Anna’s shawl. I fell asleep instantly. I woke up to Ananya giving us all pumpkin candy. i believe she said once the pumpkin has grown some, they put sugar cane in it and allow it to grow more. It becomes sweetened that way. I immediately drifted back to sleep again.

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When I woke up, we were at the hotel. I went through the security checkpoint, shuffled to my room, dragged myself into the shower, and collapsed in bed.

I can’t help but wonder what caused me to get sick this day. Some said I was overheated, or dehydrated, or it was simply the food. But sometimes, our bodies reject bad energy and the wrong emotions. I had not recovered from the emotional ailments from the day before, but in order to do the work I was destined to do here, I had to cleanse myself. I wasn’t sent to India just because it was a Damascus Road requirement, I was sent there for reasons that were being revealed in a manner that was similar to the peeling of an onion. This whole revelation reminded me of the promise of the Lord’s presence in Exodus 23:30, “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” If He gives it all to me at once, it’ll be too much and I wouldn’t be able to give my purpose the attention it deserves.

I couldn’t physically handle the it all yesterday – physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally. Now that I’ve purged myself of how to see these people and their lives through my personal eyes, I’m excited about being awakened to the fact that I should look at them through the eyes of the cross.

“Tenacity is setting a goal so BIG that you can’t possibly achieve it… then growing into the person who CAN!”

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Brown Sugar Found Hope…

“Sometimes you just need an adventure to cleanse the bitter taste of life from your soul.” Brace yourself for this long post though….

Yesterday, we traveled to the slums to see the children! Traffic in India is nothing like you’ve ever seen before. We sat in it for TWO hours.

 

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Remember how I told y’all that lines don’t mean a thing, and they drive in the space? Here ya go! We drove through the city of Delhi, and words cannot describe the level of poverty I saw today.

The streets were severely flooded, homeless people were cooking on the sidewalks, the streets were littered with piles and piles and piles of trash, and we literally saw a dude run across the street with a monkey! Now you know that’s too much for us Memphis folk’! Seeing the resilience of the people here was absolutely enlightening. A lot of us found ourselves asking, “How do they live like this?” People walk through trash like it’s not even there. One man on a motorbike attempted to ride through what appeared to be at least 2-3 feet of water, and his bike stalled. He just hopped off into the knee deep flood waters, and proceeded to push his bike uphill. Again, how do they live this way?

After two long eventful hours of Delhi traffic, we finally reached the slums. We apprehensively climbed off the bus to head into the third largest slum area in Delhi that is populated with over two million people. Let that sink in. Looking at what was before us would’ve made many people say, “Nah… I’m good fam,” but we were there to bring hope to children. When you say yes to God, you will have say no to yourself.

Treading the terrains of the slums on the way to the school was scary, mysterious, and intimidating. We were clean tourists, and stuck out like sore thumbs. In the states, when we see people from India, they are generally docile and non-confrontational. Here, the men travel in packs. Their overall demeanor kinda reminds me of the Capulet Boys in the ’96 version of Romeo & Juliet. With each turn we made that led us deeper and deeper into the slums, I felt my countenance shift. I felt… lost. Not geographically, because I was surrounded by my team and the leaders of the school, but in my spirit, I felt lost. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it. It was as if we were being swallowed. The sky became darker. The homes of the residents were two and three levels high. There were woman hanging clothes on lines overhead. There were men doing construction work on small rooms, children were playing (we were headed to a school, but there were still several children who were not in school), horns were blaring, and motorbikes were whizzing through the alleys of the slums. All I knew was to move as I was told, quickly.

On the way into the slums, I didn’t see much. I walked with my head down to see where I was stepping. Before we entered the slum village, we overheard our leaders discuss how they would strategically place themselves around the sixteen of us, who would lead, who would bring up the back of the group, who would walk within the group. We were told to stay together, and walk fast. The only time I lifted my eyes was to check to be sure Samina was still close behind. There’s something symbolic about casting your eyes downward along your journey, but God revealed so much to us in this moment.

Psalm 121:1 says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?” God will shift your vision when you least expect it. We didn’t know where we were headed, and had no clue where the school was when suddenly we were being covered with petals of Marigolds falling from the sky. We all stopped suddenly and looked up to see children throwing petals from the top of the school and holding signs that read, “We love you!” and “One Child Matters gives up hope to grow!” That was when we noticed we were in the front of the school.

 

The entrance was lined with the most adorable children dressed in school uniforms and waiting to greet us with bright smiles and a rose. I can’t lie… Ya girl was in tears.

You’ve always heard that the eyes are the gates to the soul. I’ve seen so many children, and adults for that matter, in the states with beautiful smiles, but the saddest eyes. That wasn’t what I experienced here. These children radiated joy! Their eyes were filled with hope, and I instantly became overwhelmed. We were led into a room that had chairs lining the back wall for us. The children entered the room, each coming to adorn us with a perfumed scented lei that they had made out of crepe paper.

The little boy who brought mine couldn’t have been older than eight. He was too adorable! He kinda reminded me of my own son. He was very disciplined, but looked a little mischievous. Ya’ll know I have a heart for hard-headed kids! LOL Then the director explained that every teacher in the building attended the One Child Matters facility as a child. The children entered again and brought us the most beautiful beaded bracelets.

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UGH! Here I go tearing up again… My little boy came looking for me, but someone had already given me a bracelet.

The younger children sang a welcome song to us. It was so sweet and cute. The Americanized momma in me was happy to see all of these little girls wearing ponytails and hair bows. I stood there with my arms folded talking about “uh huh… that’s cute.”

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Next the tweens came in and did a dance for us! Those lil babies WERKED! The song they danced to translated into English as For One Night Only in Jesus’ Name. A few of us got up to dance with the girls and they loved it! I particularly enjoyed the pop ya collar and bankhead bounce parts… You had to have seen it to know that’s what it was… For real!

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Then we headed up to the separate rooms to do the lesson and crafts. They brought all 110 children in the school into the entryway so Anna could do the lesson. Pastor Roger had to translate for them, but what was so apparent to us was how attentive they all were. They were leaning in and their heads all went from Anna to Pastor Roger during the lesson. A great reflection of how we should be for the word of God, hungry!

While Anna went through the lesson, I was able to step out onto the balcony area, and take in where we had come from. Not a single child in that center looked like what they had been through to get there. These pictures show just outside of the center where we entered.

When we got to our room, we made Salvation Bead bracelets with the older children. The black bead represented sin, the red bead represented the blood Jesus shed, the white bead represented how we are washed clean when we accept Christ, the yellow bead represented the picture of heaven, and the green bead represented our physical and spiritual growth as Christians. We had fun doing that, and then we took pictures with them. I was tickled because we needed someone to translate the entire time, but the second I asked those tweens if they knew what a selfie was, EVERYBODY struck a pose! LOLOLOLOLOLOL That’s one word that crosses all language barriers I suppose.

 

We spent a little more time with the children, then it was time to leave. None of us wanted to leave. I know that we each left with a little more confidence than we came with. I didn’t walk with my head down this time. I noticed that this village was indeed a village. You could get food, clothing, a shave, everything! These people were surviving with so little. The maze on the way out became congested with motorbikes. So much so that our group got separated. Deidre told us how a few men tried to encircle them, and Pastor Roger shook his finger, said no, and the men went on their way. I thought about just how favored we were because we were in the presence of God’s favored. #message

We came out of the village and had a short walk to principal’s house. It wasn’t far. For about 5 minutes, we walked the life of the people here, and it was the picture of hell. It was so chaotic. Horns blaring, cows were strolling the streets alongside us. The smells were so pungent that I gagged a couple of times. The streets were crowded with people, cars, motorbikes, and litter. I couldn’t take it! The pollution was so thick I could barely breathe.

Just when I thought I was about to break, we made it to her home. We walked through this iron gate and turned into this narrow walkway. It was lined with the most beautiful backsplash, and as I ascended the stairs I could feel this spirit of peace just wash over me. It was like the noise seemed to melt away with each step. That’s symbolic of our walk with Christ. We went upstairs to hear her testimony, which was absolutely amazing, and had lunch (SO. GOOD.) She gave us this ice cream that had actual red velvet cake in it… babi!

After lunch, she escorted us to the roof of her home and we could overlook the slums. My heart broke for these people. You could see children playing, dancing, and flying kites on the roofs of each home. I was blown away by how these children found love, hope, and joy in the midst of one of the most impoverished areas I’ve ever seen. It was such a humbling moment that many of us stopped taking pictures and just looked into a life we could never even imagine. As if nature reflected our mood, a light rain started to fall from the sky. We were told to get inside quickly. We prayed for the family, said our goodbyes, and headed to load the bus. I was so emotionally drained that I dozed off on the bus.

When I woke up, we arrived at the mall. We had to walk through a security check, and stood in the middle of a 4 level mall. This is what we were used to. I came all this way just to end up inside H&M LOL. It was a hard pill to swallow to go from such a poor area (the picture on the left shows the size of one home on the top level) to a place where people were spending hundreds of dollars so quickly.

We were still so sensitive. Katie must have felt our energy because she told us to be sure to guard your hearts. Anna came behind her and said to always see the helpers and the hope in these situations.

Tiffany, Jessica, and I walked to MAC so I could get more Plumful lipstick. As soon as we entered the store, we were immediately surrounded. Literally. Three workers and a security guard not-so-discreetly encircled us. I asked Jessica and Tiffany aloud, “Are we being profiled?” Tiffany and Jessica both said “Yes.” Racism varies from continent to continent, but fact is evident; it does exist. I paid for my lipstick, and we walked out. We met with the rest of the group, and headed back to the hotel for dinner.

Memphis hasn’t seen poverty like this. We have our bad areas, but what resonated with me is the fact that the mindset of the people is so different here. They don’t operate as if someone owes them anything. They make the most out of what they have. This trip opened my eyes to a lot. I never realized how selfish I was and how little my problems truly were. I have so much to be grateful for, but I’ve taken it for granted because I’ve allowed it to become an expectation rather than a gift. I  couldn’t blog last night y’all. I was too tired. I have a responsibility though. “Responsibility is learning how to budget your time and talents. It’s knowing when to work an when to play. It’s knowing that work is good and should be done to the glory of God. It’s knowing that play is also good, and is to be used for refreshment and renewal, not escapism or idleness. There’s value in accepting challenges, taking risks, and doing hard things. Push yourself, and allow others to push you, too. Sometimes, the easy road is the right road, but sometimes it’s just easy. Know the difference.”

I’m not truly living unless my success helps others succeed. My success has to give others hope…

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Ezekiel 37 (NIV)

The Valley of Dry Bones

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commandedme, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”