Since I didn't get a chance to get on the internet much while I was in India, I thought I'd give you guys some highlights from the trip.
Here's a map of all the places we went while we were in India the past couple weeks!
Being at Happy Home for the first week was definitely the highlight for the entire team. Each of us fell in love with the kids and wished we could've stayed the whole time in Shimoga. Here are some more pictures of our time at Happy Home:
The cuteness continues...here are some more of the faces at Happy Home:
I know we all learned so much from our time at Happy Home. From the children we learned about serving with a smile and finding joy in the little things. Irene, Roshan and Reema taught us about complete surrender to God and what hospitality really looks like. I was challenged by their faith in God and the hope they have in Him alone. As I said before, it was hard to leave this place that had become our home, but as Irene later told me on the phone, I always have a permanent home in India at Happy Home:)
After leaving Shimoga, we took an hour train ride to Bangalore where we stayed the night in a nice hotel before we left for Ongole. This is where I posted the blog for our team....here are a couple pictures:
After one night in Bangalore, we headed back to the train station for a 12 hour ride to Ongole. I really liked all the train rides! It's kind of relaxing to be on the sleeper trains: time to read, rest, listen to music, talk with the team, play games...the time went by fast! Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what the trains are like...
We arrived in Ongole at 2:30am...our new friends from Beulah Ministries picked us up and we took two vans to our hotel, "Taste Residency," where we would spend the next three days. At the hotel we enjoyed awesome food (although it always took forever...it was worth it to have amazing nan bread!!!), air conditioned rooms, worship every morning with the team, and we even got our picture in the local newspaper! We were missing Happy Home, but were having fun bonding as a team and experiencing a new part of India. For the three days we were in Ongole, we got to spend a couple hours each day with the orphanage/school. We listened to songs the kids performed, watched some awesome skits, and even performed a little ourselves with songs and skits that the kids loved:) The kids were adorable and so much fun to play with! I wish we could've spent more than a couple hours each day, but we had a full schedule in Ongole and had to get on with other things for the day!
After a couple hours break for lunch, we were back in the vans. Our afternoons were spent at the college (I was a little confused because they called it college, but the students were all 16-17, so it was more of a high school I think). It was pretty much the same set up as the younger kids...some of the students performed for us, then we would sing songs and perform skits for them. We also shared testimonies, with the help of a translator and shared what God was teaching us. I think they appreciated us coming, but it's hard on such a quick visit to know if we made any kind of impact. Here is the room where all the students crammed into as we shared our songs and stories...
Again, I wish we could have stayed longer and gotten a chance to hang out with the students more, but we were on a schedule. We left the college, filed into our two vans and drove to a village about a half hour away. While we were in Ongole, we visited two different villages. This was a really new experience for me, because we visited local pastors who took us around to different homes and we talked with and prayed for non-believers, sick or injured individuals, demon-possessed people and people who had given up on God. This was a hard time for me as I came face to face with poverty, spiritual warfare, and the power of God. I will never forget one woman that we prayed for. Roshan told us she was demon-possessed. I'm not sure if she actually was, or if it was just something Roshan said...but I definitely felt the presence of the devil at her home. As we circled this woman to pray, I was overwhelmed with anxiety as utter chaos exploded around us. A tree nearby was filled with birds that were going crazy and making loud noises, cows tied up close by were mooing and trying to break free, babies were crying non-stop in the woman's hut, and kids were playing loudly up the street. I just kept praying for peace and for God's spirit to fill this place. I wasn't scared for our safety, I wasn't even afraid of the demonic powers because I know our God is victorious...I was just not at peace in that place. As we left her property, we reflected on the presence of evil that was so obvious at that woman's home. I have never experienced anything so oppressive before, and I didn't know what to think...I just wanted to leave.
The drive back to our hotel away from the villages we visited, was a great time of reflection and prayer. I came away from both villages so thankful for what God has done in my life. We met a man who was so frustrated with his circumstances and had given up on God. This man had a wife and three healthy children, and yet he was so focused on his financial situation and the injury in his leg, that he blamed God for his troubles. It made me frustrated that this man had lost faith just because he had gone through trials. But then I was also convicted, because so many times I get caught up in the trials I'm going through that I don't continue to thank God for all the ways he's blessed me. Rather than focusing on disappointments and frustrations that happen in our lives, we are made to glorify God in all that we do and praise Him for saving us. This man was a great reminder to thank God in all situations!
We also met so many people that couldn't read, and it made me realize what a privilege it is that I am able to read the Bible whenever I want! There are so many in the world that are uneducated and unable to learn about the greatness of our God. I take for granted the education I have, and I was reminded of the privilege I have to read the word of God anytime I want!
Here are some pictures from our adventures in the villages...
Our last day in Ongole we spent a couple hours at the beach and it was so great to have some time to relax and just hang out with the team. The water was so warm and the wind was blowing...what a great way to end our time in Ongole!!
We left Ongole a little apprehensive about the next 27 hours that we would spend on a train! Surprisingly the time went by fairly quickly...probably because I slept for 12 hours when we first got on the train, and then slept another 5 or 6 hours off and on the rest of the trip.
We arrived in Agra, got a couple hours of sleep, then headed up to the top floor of our hotel for a good breakfast to start our day being tourists:) We would only be in Agra one day...so this would be it...the day we would spend at the Taj Mahal! We were all amazed at the size and beauty of the Taj...it was everything we expected and more! While it definitely wasn't the highlight of the trip, it was pretty amazing to see one of the seven built wonders of the world...and we all enjoyed taking fun pictures. Here are some of my pics from our day at the Taj Mahal...
After leaving Agra, we took another train to Delhi where we would spend a day to do some shopping. From Delhi we took 2 1/2 hour flight to Bangalore, and then we were saying good-bye to Roshan and flying back to America. The trip seemed to fly by...I would have LOVED to stay longer, but we packed a lot into the 2 1/2 weeks and I loved every minute of it! Through our time at Happy Home, our long hours of traveling, and the time I spent with the team, I saw God moving and learned so much about His heart for the world. I was challenged to be content in all circumstances. I'm also learning to see God in the mundane, everyday situations. I don't have to be on a mission trip to know that God is at work all around the world. I think this perspective has helped me to transition back to my life in America. My time in India has taught me that I need to be surrendered to God with my entire life. God speaks to us in ordinary ways, and we need to be expecting Him around every corner. As I get ready to go back to work tomorrow, I'm excited to see God at work, because He is! Miracles happen everyday, and my prayer is that I will see them. That I won't be so consumed with my own problems that I'll miss the work God is doing.
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Is. 55:8
I continue to see this verse in new ways as I learn more about God's greatness. He is so huge...we are so small, and God's ways are so much higher than we'll ever know! He is at work in India...at Happy Home, at the orphanages in Ongole...and He is at work in America...in Portland, at Solid Rock. I'm just excited to see God's plan unfold in His faithful servants all around the world!
Thank you again for your prayers for this trip! I've been so blessed by this second trip to India, and I am privileged to have the opportunity to share my experiences with you!