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.

 

20170630_095929.jpg

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.

20170630_121314

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.”

20170630_115903_001

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!

20170630_120716

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…

Screenshot_20170701-225220

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.’”

 

 

Brown Sugar Goes on a Mission!

India1“Take the risk, or lose the chance.”

So I’m sitting in the airport in Newark, New Jersey, and couldn’t think of a better time to start blogging about my mission trip.  I started a leadership internship with my church last September, not fully knowing what to expect. I learned rather quickly the vast commitment that was expected of me, and for some strange reason, in spite of the many other demands on my plate, I took this one head on.  A requirement for completion in this internship is to go on a mission trip. I was chosen to go to India. The day we learned which trip we would go on was SUCH a rough day for me, and instead of being able to fully enjoy that moment, I was in the bathroom balling my eyes out (That’s another post on another day)!

I gotta admit, I never quite knew why I was chosen to go to India. All I could come up with was the fact that the universe aligned the stars for my yoga journey. :-/ Last week, my children went on vacation with their dad. I had all of these different ideas of what I would do with my free time: who I would hang out with, what events I’d attend, what fitness classes I’d get in. What ended up happening was almost the complete opposite of that… I had some time to clear my head, relax, meditate, spend intimate time with God, and truly be restored.

Friday, I got an update from my team leader letting me know that I was $999 away from being fully funded for the trip I was scheduled to leave for in FOUR days! Ironically, I wasn’t anxious, and had no clue where it all would come from, but told God I would trust Him. That had become my mantra that week.

Each saturday night, I serve in the 3-year-old room at my church. I’ve been there every Saturday since I started this internship. Off and on, I wondered why I was chosen to serve there when I serve on a completely different team on Sunday’s but such is life! This Saturday, all of my babies were hype about announcing they were all three! Then one stated, ” Yea when I was a little kid, I used to do that.” I almost replied with, “girl you’re still a little kid!” when I realized that I was about to crush her three-year-old dream! How many times are we unconsciously reckless with our words and ultimately plant seeds of doubt, fear, and insecurity in our children? I caught myself, and giggled with them instead. The Kids Life director and I both jumped in and told them we had “threes” in our ages too. In that moment God spoke to me and said, and that’s why you were chosen to go to India. Listen ya’ll. I was ready to go COGIC ugly shout in the corner, then make an alter right there in that classroom, and go lay prostrate. I knew then that I was sent to go love on children.

Sunday morning, one of the pastors at my church, Pastor Travis, spoke about being a Dream Chaser, and doing so meant finding what you were passionate about, and go from there. It was A GOOD message, but I’m passionate about a lot of stuff! Yoga, tea, sleep, working with kids, chips, psychology, cheerleading, to name a few. Later that evening, our church hosted Kids Life XL for grades 1-5. When I tell y’all the lil babies were LIT! I think I was called (LOL) to work in the heat to prepare myself for this New Delhi heat, but when that first bead of sweat rolled down my back, I was over it… LBVS What I did notice was how my heart lit up when I saw how excited the kids were, and how my energy shifted from selfish to selfless. Even though I’ve been working with kids for 11 years, it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I really am passionate about working with children. It’s amazing how all things work together.

God revealed so much to me in span of one week, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed by it all. To add to how great He is, by Monday morning, that $999 I had left to pay on my trip, had been fully funded by friends, family, and complete strangers! Remember that ugly wall shout and prostrate alter call I told y’all about earlier? Yep. Happened in my bedroom. I cried until I couldn’t breathe. I. Was. ‘Tow. Up.  If I don’t know anything else, I know that God keeps His promises! I can’t thank you all enough for your generosity! One thing became evident this week, my journey in leadership has cultivated my purpose, and none of it is about me. It’s all about the kingdom. I’m excited about what lies ahead!

“To me, a rich and satisfying life means one full of contrast. Give me sleep ins. And soft rains. Coffee shops and conversation. But also adrenaline and adventure. And drunken bellows to the stars. I am determined to embrace this extravagant life for all that is has to offer.” -Beau Taplin