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"I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." - Sarah Williams

Friday, December 31, 2010

The Breath of Life (Food for thought…)

During the past few weeks I have been praying that God would show me what being righteous means. The armor of God includes the breastplate of righteousness, but what does this look like? I know that there is a lot of change that needs to happen in my life so that I can wear God's armor every day. I've been praying that God would show me what this means, and that he would help me understand how to hear his voice more clearly so that I can follow his will in my life. The other night, as I was falling asleep, I had a surprising idea form in my mind. I say surprising because one minute I was thinking about family, friends, and teaching and the next moment I was deep in thought about the breath of life. I can only assume that this was God speaking to me, because there was no other connection to my mind's thought process. This being said, I will share my thoughts.

I am alive at this moment because of many components: my heart is pumping my life blood through my veins, my brain is sending millions of electric impulses through my body, my immune system is alive and kickin', my digestive tract keeps me nourished, and my lungs continue to supply my body with oxygen. The element that struck me the other night was breathing. I live because I breathe. We are all created with God's breath. The only reason that we live is because God allows us to breathe. When we were born, he gave us our first breath of air, and our lives here on earth will end when he gives us our last. Every breath we breathe is a gift from God- every breath.

There is something special about the story of Adam's creation: "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Gen 1:7). It wasn't just air, but it was the breath of life! Life-giving air, straight from God himself! Adam would not live were it not for God's gift of his own living breath. We have this same life within us! We came into his world and breathed our first breath by God's grace- he bestowed life upon us through his breath of life. Every breath we've breathed since our first has been a gift of God.

This puts a new perspective on the words I use. Every word I speak is using the gift that God gave me. I want to be able to use that breath as a blessing always- never a curse. After all, it is God's very life-giving breath that I am using! He gave me his very life, so that I could live… how can I turn around and use it to degrade anyone? It is no easy task: this will be a life-long struggle, and will take a long time to submit to God's will and character. But every breath that I use is from God- how can I use that breath for my own pride, or to sin with, or harm others?

I believe that God's gift of life has been renewed and increased through Christ's sacrifice. Looking at John we can see God's grace through his gift of Christ:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it….. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-5, 14).

Words are spoken, and sometimes written. They are only understood through spoken language, though. God is his Word- he is truth, grace, peace, life, righteous, just, and much, much more. He is the word, and he came into the world! And the Word came with power!!! The breath of God has given us organic life, but more importantly it has given us spiritual life. It gave us Christ, and with that the offer of redemption and reconciliation to the Father- to truth, grace, peace, and REAL life!

Another attribute of God's gift of life was given to us after Christ's resurrection. Soon after he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to his disciples: "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the father has sent me, I am sending you.' And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:21-22). Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them. There is power in the breath of God! The very breath we breathe! Take a deep breath. It's a gift from God. The words we speak have power in them. When we use our words to encourage others there is power behind it! Likewise, when we use our words to defile someone there is power behind it.

I've been thinking differently about the words I use (whether in someone's presence or their absence). My thoughts are in need of constant evaluation and submission to Christ, because they are the root of my words. I have been given a gift, and I need to continually pray to have God's will so that I may follow it and breathe his power of truth: not defile it. I can only guess as to why this came to mind that night- I've been praying that God would help me to know how to be righteous. Righteousness does not come from my own actions, but from obedience to him and walking in his will. This revelation was God's grace in helping me know him more, and has helped me be able to grow in our relationship. Righteousness does not come from myself- I could never be righteous in God's eyes. It is by his grace that he makes us righteous. I have a lot of work that needs Christ's healing and re-forming in my life! I can only pray that God helps me to submit my thoughts and my words every day to his will, and that he will help me be more obedient and faithful to him.

I need to pray that God will help me use every breath to glorify him. God, help me feel and know your will and spirit in every word I say, and every breath I take. Let every moment of my life be a part of your will; every breath I breathe be a part of your will. Help me learn to submit every breath and thought to your will. Thank you for this gift of life, and for sharing your very breath with me. Please help me become a channel for you, and help me learn to use your gift to love others and not for my own gain. –Sydney Lin

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve


We're praying that you have a wonderful and joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year!!
Wow! We had a fantastic Christmas celebration last night! :)


Our Nativity


Christmas Stars



Sydney and I wore the saris that Serina gave me so many years ago.

Sydney and I in our Sari's

All day long the girls and boys were busy getting everything ready for the evening meal; an important man sponsored the meal for everyone. While we waited for him to arrive we took a bunch of pictures of the lights and practiced singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" just in case we were called up on to sing (we weren't, but it never hurts to be prepared!). Before the guest of honor arrived we all got a sparkler or two and enjoyed lighting off some fire works! It was a lot of fun!

Fireworks and Christmas lights!

Once the guests arrived we had a cake cutting, of course. Cake is a big deal here, everyone loves it and we all eat – you guessed it! With our hands. I don't even know what happened, but someone whipped frosting on Rajivee's face – resulting in a full fledged frosting fight! I was an easy and desirable target, as were Sydney and Pappa. We had a lot of fun and took some photos :-)

Frosting Faces!

After cleaning up we enjoyed our meal which was followed by ice cream, the perfect way to finish up the spicy dishes! It was very nice because Anju, one of the senior girls, made sure to include us with the other girls as we ate. We laughed a lot and had a good time.

Next we played with more fireworks. Apu's favorite thing to do was to shout "T-ow!!" right after every explosion. Some of the fireworks were really big and literally shot off right above our heads! When we had run out of ammo we all sat on the floor in the main room and every child received a gift from Pappa and Mummy. Even Sydney and I! I didn't expect to receive anything because they had already given us a gift. I received a beautifully embroidered orange/brown/fall colored churidar (the outfits we wear). Sydney's is yellow made with beautiful fabric and lots of detail of pearls and sequence around the neckline.

Arun sharing a sparkler with baby Abi

Then we handed out the Christmas cards which Sydney had made.

 Everyone was happy and enjoyed the night. We were all up past midnight. It was a fun and beautiful time!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rain Rain Go A-WAY!

Rain, rain, go away come again another day, little children want to play, rain rain go away. I'm sure you know the children's song with these words

Our kids in play school and Lower Kindergarten (LKG) sing this song often. At the end they all yell in unison "rain rain go A-WAY!" I am beginning to understand their sentiments. A while back we had a HUGE rain storm. Even the down pours I experienced in Florida or in Costa Rica dwindled in comparison. I have never experienced so much water falling from the sky at once ever before in my life! And just that day we had taught our LKG students the story of Noah's Ark. I think I understand how terrifying 40 days and 40 nights of enough rain fall to flood the entire earth must have been a little better now.

Most every house is raised a few feet above the ground here, it allows all the rain to have someplace to go. Our house, the main house which is upstairs, has a few holes which allow rain water to get into the under workings of the house. If too much water ends up entering through the holes, there's a good chance that a portion of the house would collapse. Pappa Joseph and Mommy Aneena were out taking care of some business in the town somewhat far from home, so they missed all of the excitement.

It was night time, dark. There was SO much water! All the boys were running back and forth with sand bags furiously trying to block the water from going under the house, meanwhile the front walk and patio area was quickly flooding. There were large caldrons placed under the gutters to catch the water falling from the roof. These caldrons were being emptied fire-brigade-style with a line of boys (and a few brave girls, Sydney and myself included). We dumped the water down the trains in the large outdoor kitchen where our food is prepared, we dumped the water over the edge of the fence, down to the "down stairs" portion of Aswasa Bhavan. If there was some place else where we could put the water, that's where we put it. There was so much water! I actually think I have been dryer while swimming than I was standing outside under the down pour. At least when you're swimming your head gets a little dry when it's out of the water. We were all absolutely drenched. The storm lasted for a solid 45 minutes, it took about a 5 minute break, and began again! Finally it let up and we all had a chance to rest (and to dump remaining buckets full of water on each other's heads). Like any hard worker, we were rewarded for our efforts. We all received dried dates and a few sweets. School was closed for the next two days because of all the damages done to the roads and the flooding. Our little creek that runs though the campus rose so high that it had almost covered the bridge!

In the morning the news papers were filled with reports of damages and loses. Several people died in the flooding, one woman was shocked through her television set when lightning struck, and died. She was related to a friend of ours here. 3 million chickens died in the rain! That's a lot of chickens! Cows washed away, houses, and roads. That afternoon we all went out to repair our road. We swept the debris off, collected stones and filled the holes, and then overlaid the stones with cement. I can't imagine how long that job would have taken if there weren't 50 people working on it together. We actually finished in less than an hour! We had two storms like this. After that we haven't had very much rain. Things are all back in order here now.

All of this happened over thanksgiving. That day we were thankful for many things.

Thanksgiving here was spent like any other day, except we actually didn't have school because things were still in disarray because of the rains. It was Moses' 15th birthday, so we celebrated that evening with a special meal and music. It wasn't the same as being home with family and loved ones, but it was a good time with our family here in India at Aswasa Bhavan.

After thanksgiving the church began their customary time of 3 days of fasting and prayer. This happens leading up to the last Sunday of the month. It was a wonderful time in the Lord. Sydney and I were able to participate in the prayer meetings and worship with the church, seeking God publicly and communally during the lunch hours and having extra time to pray at dinner.

Now we're already a week and more into December! My how time flies! Teaching has leveled out, we have a more predictable schedule most days and even when things change we're usually ready and able to accommodate to the changes fairly quickly.

Right now the whole family is preparing for our Christmas program. It will be held on the 17th and the 19th of December. They are putting on an entire nativity act including 4 shepherds, 3 magi, several angles, Mary and Joseph, and all the other cast members you can imagine. All with the members of one family! There will be a popular singing quartet coming to sing and in between their songs the kids from Aswasa Bhavan will be singing. Sydney and I are also joining them for two songs, one of which is in Malayalam! We've been practicing a lot. Also, Pappa Joseph asked that Sydney and I do some ballet dancing…. So we have both been dancing our brains out over the last few weeks. Not only is trying to choreograph something difficult when we don't have all the right tools (like shoes), but also I've been giving Sydney a crash course on basic ballet! She's doing remarkably well considering she's never danced before, has no mirror, shoes or barre to practice at. Her positions are great and her movements are smooth. Now we are only a week away from the big day! Everything is ready, all the small details are coming together, and everyone, community members, Aswasa Bhavan folks and teachers from the school, are all very excited to see this strange foreign "French dance" that I've talked about. My nerves are up there, that's for sure. But also, if they've never even seen ballet before, they won't have any idea when I mess up, right? Haha. Yes. I choose to believe this. Prayers!

Our time here has been a huge blessing. Sydney and I are both very grateful for all that God has done for us and we are glad to be here serving the family in the best way we can. We have seen God answer many prayers as He continues to reveal Himself to us. The more time we spend here the more excited I am about the ministry that is taking place. Since Mommy Aneena went into the hospital right after we arrived, things had still been a little off kilter from their normal way of functioning. Now that she is healing nicely, we are able to see more and more the details of the ministry here. Mommy Aneena is on the Orphanage Board of India and helps to establish other orphanages all over India. As we've been here for more time we have also been able to hear stories from the children who have been welcomed into the Aswasa Bhavan family. Some of their stories are heart breaking, others are devastating. It's incredible how much a child can endure, and how much they can change when a little love is involved. Please keep them all in your prayers.

As for Sydney and I, we are well. Language study is still a struggle daily. Pray that we are able to finally and firmly establish a regular tutor. We've tried many things but nothing is working consistently. It makes all things difficult! Also I have had a cold off and on for the past two weeks and a cough that's annoyingly persistent but day by day it seems to be improving. Remember us in your prayers as we remember all of you! Ask that God will continue to use us as lights here, that we may encourage our brothers and sisters, and that we may witness to our fellow teachers.


 

Peace, Joy and Rainbows,

Katrina Elyse


 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Long time no write!

Hello everyone! I hope you are all well and rejoicing in the Lord!

Sydney and I are doing well here. Aside from the internet connections being very unreliable, there's not much to complain about. Language study is still a challenge for us every day and we can always use your prayers.

We have been bless to be able to participate in a verity of activities during the past few weeks. These include celebrating the Birthday of Kerala, attending a wedding engagement party, and visiting the houses of some church members.

Teaching has been good. There were a few rough spots, but lately we have seen improvements. We are getting to know the kids more and more. We've recently been given more responsibilities around the house which is a huge blessing! And we are building stronger relationships with Pappa Joseph and Mommy Aneena.

I will write more later, but for now, here are a few photos from our last few weeks.

Katrina, Sydney, Yedru Celebrating Kerala's birthday!





Katrina and some of the girls from Aswasa Bhavan and the school




This is the elephant that was in our front yard. And all the teachers are standing next to it. It's pretty easy to spot Sydney and I :-)


These are a few of the girls who live at Aswasa Bhavan




Sydney and I with several of the girls from Aswasa Bhavan




The kids wait eagerly (and expectantly!) for a snack after an outing to the beach. Look at those eyes! They're all fixed on the treat that is just beyond arm's reach.


That's all for today. I will write soon!

Peace and blessings to you all!

Katrina Elyse

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Si-Sen Che-chie!

"Si-Sen Che-chie!" My name, according to the two year old boy here. The custom is to add "che-chie" to the end of the name of any older sister that you have, and so all of the kids here call me "Sydney Che-chie" because I am the oldest. Apu, the youngest of the Aswasa Bhavan kids, has finally warmed up to our presence and has begun to squeal when he sees me and calls me by my name: "Si-sen Che-Chie!" He's adorable sometimes. It's very encouraging to hear him, because he is learning little bits of English (that we've taught him). For instance, when he wants us to play he says, "Si-sen Che-chie, COME!" and sometimes he'll start to sing "Good morning to you, Good morning to you, mumblemumblemumble PLACES, mumblemumblemumble, GOOD MORNING TO YOU!" Always makes me smile. Oh I love kids! Watching Apu is such a blessing. When we pray and worship Apu is always bouncing around and clapping his loudest, and has recently begun singing the songs as loud as he can with his eyes shut tight. The faith of little kids is always astounding! Much like the little boy in PA that I love so much- one day he told his mom, "Mom I want to see a fox." She told him that only God could make that happen. His reaction? "God, I would like to see a fox please." He is three years old. Awesome.

We've been seeing encouraging results from teaching with the few kids who live here at Aswasa Bhavan- every here and there we will see the kids from our classes teaching the rest of their Aswasa Bhavan siblings the English songs and phrases they've learned. Teaching is fun, and tough! The parents of the school children are all very happy that we are here, and tell us that their kids come home and sing the English songs that we teach them. They want us to stick around for..ever. :) I am very blessed to be here during this time in my life, and have full confidence that this is exactly where God wants me right now. He is always faithful.

The kids here are so smart! One of the boys here (about 12 or 13 years old) learned the alphabet in sign language after watching us go through it twice. And he remembers it! He spells out whole sentences to us when he sees us. A cute little boy (7 years old) is learning conversational English, and is very good at it. He pronounces his T's very strongly, and corrects you when you say a word wrong: I read aloud "the" with the pronunciation as 'thee' and he said, "No- 'thuh'." I thanked him for his generous help, and re-read the sentence with the correct pronunciation. Another day Katrina Elyse asked this little boy when his birthday was. He smiled, and then realized that he couldn't remember the appropriate response. He looked away and started flipping through his brain's file cabinet of responses, whispering: " 'Hello, How are you?' 'I am fine.' 'How old are you?' 'I am seven years old.' 'When is your birthday?'... ^Insert look of confusion^…. 'I am fine'." When Katrina Elyse asked him if it was in October he laughed at her and said, "No! It's in March!" The process of elimination in his mind was pretty funny, and with Katrina's help he finally reached his answer.

One of the more trying aspects of living at Aswasa Bhavan is learning to live as children again. Because we are under the care of the Matthews (like the rest of the children at Aswasa Bhavan) we must ask permission to leave the premises, and must not go alone. We haven't been able to leave the campus very much, because everyone has their daily routine pretty packed with chores and studying (so no chaperone is available most of the time). One day Katrina Elyse and I decided that we would go on a walk to the end of the path out back to see what was on the other side of the hill. This walk was within eyeshot of Aswasa Bhavan, and led to the rural side of our place. We started our trek, when some of the Aswasa Bhavan boys passed us and asked us where we were going. We told them, and they looked shocked and asked if we had asked Pappa for permission. We kind of looked at each other as we said, "no…" We were unaware that we weren't allowed to go outside of the perimeter without permission at this time. So we went into the house and asked Pappa. He said that we could go only if one of the older girls or boys came with us (kind of defeating our plan to get a few minutes of time to talk together alone). I understood that they are completely in charge of our safety, and will do their best to protect us against any situation (like snakes on the path). At first, nobody wanted to take us and we gave up. Finally, two kids felt bad about it and told us that they would take us on a walk- we told them that we wanted to go past Rayju's place to the top of the hill. This is where it gets good.

As we are passing Rayju's place, the kids start walking up to his front door, looking shy and embarrassed. Katrina Elyse and I stop. Confusion arises. Then I realize that when we asked them to go past Rayju's place, they understood it as "let's go visit Rayju." So this is awkward. This is an awesome family, with servant hearts, and I love to see them at various events throughout the week. They were apparently watching a movie on TV together, but when they heard us at the front door they stopped everything and hustled out to put chairs out for us to sit on. They made us tea, and we all stared at each other. You see, we only know a few Malayalam phrases, and Rayju only knows a few English phrases. So we couldn't really talk. One of the kids did some translating for us, but it was just plain awkward and unexpected. This lasted maybe 10 or 15 minutes, during which I tried to think of questions to relay to Rayju through our translating friend. I'm just glad Rayju was smiling the whole time- I think he thought it was weird that we wanted to visit him and his family, and then just sit there and stare at them with ridiculous grins plastered on our confused faces. Somehow we made it clear that we wanted to see what was on the other side of the hill, and Rayju and his two kids took us all to see it.

It was a flat piece of ground, cleared out for a building that never got built. Exciting. Okay, it actually was pretty beautiful with the sun setting, and the forest around us. I thought it would be a fun place to play big group games. Katrina Elyse agreed and then tagged me, and I tagged her back. We were just joking with each other, but when I tagged one of the kids they felt like they had to play. Soon, all seven of us were playing tag (including Rayju himself). And… it was fun. Rayju thought it was pretty funny, and then he left and brought back some Kricket equipment. This is when I learned how to play Kricket. Strange game, but I like it. All this to say: obedience may not seem like fun all the time, but it is rewarding. If I had wanted to be a little rebel child, I could have walked to the top of the hill by myself. Chances are I wouldn't have had a wonderfully awkward tea-time with Rayju and his family, nor gotten to play tag, and I definitely wouldn't have learned to play Kricket all by myself out there. Heck, knowing my luck I probably would have been attacked by some giant man-eating spider on the path or something. But I recognized the wisdom of Pappa and Mummie and gladly submitted to the position of a child. And look at what fun I had in doing so! By the way: Apparently you don't hold a Kricket bat up in the air like a baseball bat. This will evoke laughter from those around you. It's held low to the ground like a golf club. You know, just in case anyone wants to pick up the sport.

Things we do to keep ourselves entertained on days when we feel a little stir-crazy: Sing songs in opera voices, sing songs in different languages (that we make up), try to make legit animal noises, play cards, laugh at our silly mistakes, walk back and forth around the campus aimlessly, play a painful game of throw-this-ball-as-hard-as-you-can-at-each-other's-body with the boys, play tag games that involve some serious Malayalam rhymes with the girls (while being completely lost all the while), invent and solve large long-division math problems, and (my favorite) eating nutella with bananas… using our fingers because we don't have any utensils.

So, yes: life here in India is good! I love this place, these people, this family. Beautiful faces in a beautiful environment, and God is working all the time. I am so blessed to be a part of this. Don't be fooled, though: there are still some scary things in India. Giant cockroaches (as in the size of my middle finger- no lie), bats the length of my entire arm (it's okay, they only eat fruit… I tell myself), swarms of flying ants that flock to lighted areas (this is like Moses-time plagues), and those jumping wolf spiders the size of my entire hand- yes, my giant hand. It's almost like living in a constant state of camping.

Tomorrow is Kerala's birthday (54 or 55 years old… I know, I should know this stuff). We will have a holiday, filled with celebrations of singing, dancing, and plays given by the little kids. Katrina Elyse and I have special Keralite Sari's to wear (yay!) and will begin learning a Keralite dance during the coming month. We are excited to see the celebration of Kerala's birthday. If it's anything like the children's birthdays, we will be eating cake and singing happy birthday at 6:30am. I am hoping that we can play Kricket as a celebration activity. Fingers crossed.

All of our work here means nothing without the work of God. We pray every day that we can hear God more clearly, and be filled with him more fully, so that we may live lives for him more completely. As always, keep us in your prayers! This past week I had some sickness issues: three days of a migraine, stomach problems, and a small fever. Today it was much better- the fever and headache are gone, but the stomach pains/nausea are still coming and going throughout the day. I would appreciate prayer for my health. Blessings, and much love.

Sydney Lin

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pee-my-pants-excited.

I have been reading a lot of Scripture lately. I read through Luke this week, and couldn't help crying at the end of the book. Jesus lived with us here on earth, as a human. He ate what we ate, slept as we slept, talked with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and died with us. I am struck by the relationship he had with his twelve disciples- they spent so much time together! People gave up their lives to be in relationship with this man, long before they knew he was God's son. There was so much trust and love between these thirteen men. Jesus gave them so much of his life throughout their time together. One day everything went terribly wrong, and Jesus allowed himself to be given to those who had praised him just a week earlier. I can't imagine being one of the twelve, helplessly watching my best friend be humiliated, ripped apart, and left hanging on a cross while the weight of his body dragged the nails through his flesh.

I can't imagine this happening to Katrina Elyse, and this is the closest I have come to a best friend as the twelve (thirteen, really) were to each other. She is my soul sister. Thank God for Katrina Elyse! The other night when we were falling asleep, I made up a game: let's see how close we can come to sounding like real wild animals. I started with a jaguar, and couldn't get close. Soon enough, both Katrina Elyse and I were laughing ourselves to tears trying to make jaguar sounds (trust me, we didn't come close). The night before, she watched and participated in my game of "let's put this flashlight on my leg and see all the veins glow in the dark." It was a blast. Another night I decided to sing "He's got the whole world in his hands" in as many languages as I could think of, and Katrina Elyse was kind enough to join in. I think our favorite was German and Hindi. We are such silly gooses. But the thing is this: we trust each other with everything. I can make a total fool of myself with Katrina Elyse, and know that she'll just laugh with me and love me the same. I can tell her my deepest fears, my worst sins, the quirky things that I love in life, and I trust that she will love me the same. I trust her with my very life.

This is how I imagine the thirteen men being with each other. I wonder if they ever had competitions at night to see who could sound more like a Jaguar. My guess is that Peter would have gone all out for these games, and I'm sure they would have laughed a lot. I think they trusted each other in this deep way- they trusted each other with their lives. I can't imagine the sorrow they must have felt- the hopelessness and complete broken heartedness of their situation when their best friend was completely unjustly murdered.

BUT the best part is yet to come! You get to the end of Luke, and Jesus is risen! At first, they haven't seen his body and I am sure they are just baffled as to what might have happened to it. Two of his followers were walking to Emmaus on the day of his resurrection and discussing the news that Mary, Joana, and Martha had told them earlier that day, when he appeared to them: "As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him." Can you imagine the excitement in Jesus' belly?! Just knowing that they couldn't recognize him, but that he was finally able to talk to his best friends again- after the most horrible of experiences (being separated from his father). He's back and NOW things are different! He can look at his best friends and know that they now have the hope to know his father the way that he does. Can you imagine how excited he must have been?! He says "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"—haha, like he doesn't know! I can just feel his excitement in anticipation of the moment that they recognize him! They looked downcast, and said, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened here in these days?" Now get this: Jesus responds with, "What things?" HA!! Oh man, I just get so excited thinking about it! Can you imagine it!? Jesus knows what's happened, and he's looking for the response of his best friends. I imagine that he was SUPER excited for the moment when they recognize him. They tell him what happened, and about the women's story of the angels at Jesus' tomb. Jesus then tells them that they are slow of heart, and explains everything from Moses through the prophets and scriptures concerning himself and why he had to suffer (all the while referring to himself as "the Christ" in order to keep his disguise).

After walking for a long time, it started to get dark and so they asked him to stay with them that evening, and they broke bread that night. Here's another big moment! Before he was arrested Jesus ate his last supper with his best friends- and he knew that it would be his last: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Guess what?! Here he is, sitting down with his friends, breaking bread with them! The Kingdom of God is here!!! He has suffered, and paid the ultimate price so that we can know his father, and now Jesus is sitting with his best friends just waiting for them to recognize him. Can you imagine the joy in his heart! His last meal with them was tainted with a sadness- he knew what was to come after. The anticipation for the next supper together must have been awesome! "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?'" Oh my gosh! Can you imagine their faces! Their excitement!? Jesus' excitement at finally being able to be with his best friends again, and knowing that they can know his father?! I imagined that he smiled as they recognized him, and then winked and disappeared. I bet he was just so full of excitement when he disappeared, as well as God. I can just imagine all of the heavens full of excitement and anticipation at the revelation of his resurrection and the coming of the Kingdom of God!

It keeps going! Later on, the two men went back to the disciples and told them that he had risen! As they were all talking about this, Jesus appeared amidst them and said, "Peace be with you." It's probably a good way to enter a room, seeing as how most people will be scared out of their pants at the sudden sight of your living body. He showed them his wounds, and then told them that he was hungry. He finally got to break bread with his best friends, and was able to "open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Can you imagine the relief?! The excitement and joy!? I can- I was so flippity-jippin excited when I read this. I cried, and asked Katrina Elyse to finish reading it out loud because I couldn't make my voice work without cracking. It is just so beautiful: He finally fulfilled the will of God. He went through hell for all of us whom he loves as his father does- just so that we may be best friends with them as he is with his father and the twelve. We have that opportunity to be best friends with him now, because of what he did for us. "He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things, I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.' When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken u pinto heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God."

What an amazing God we have! I encourage you to read Luke and put yourselves in the story- be the disciples, imagine their emotions, their love for each other and Christ. Imagine his love and joy for us. He is awesome, and deserves all the highest praise that we have.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A is for Abi’s B is for Birthday C is for Celebration

Hi everyone!


Things are going well here. Yes there are still a lot of challenges, but for the most part I can't complain. As I mentioned to a friend, my biggest worry is swallowing a fishbone at dinner (or lunch, or maybe even breakfast). It's still hot and humid, but the mornings are cooler. Haha so cool everyone wears hats and sweaters. :-p


Teaching is going well. It's challenging as we are still trying to figure out how things work and how to communicate well with our fellow teachers. Every day we make mistakes and there are always lots of misunderstandings, which is hard. But as time goes on, I hope it will get better. We're going through the ABC's in our play school class and with the lower kindergarteners. So far it's been going well, but our teaching content is limited mostly to "repeat after me" or "lets sing a song!" Other than that their English comprehension is pretty low. The older kids in 1st and 2nd grade are very sharp, they catch on to everything we present to them and it's always a joy to work with them :-) I'm so thankful for my 2nd graders!


Yesterday we celebrated the first birthday of the youngest member of our home, Steven, we call him Abi or Abishy for short. We celebrated with a big cake, which is something special here because everyone cooks with gas stoves and not many people have ovens. Haha, the catch was, we cut the cake at 6:30 AM. My initial response is "who does that??" Haha, who wants to eat a frosting covered cake at 6:30??? Let alone decorate the house with balloons at that hour? Haha, but that's how we do it here! It was nice, despite the fact that the event took place so early in the morning. Later in the evening we had a prayer meeting to celebrate his birth as well. Everyone was so happy for the little guy!


The day before yesterday Sydney and I ventured into Kottayam, the big city nearby. We bought a few pieces of fabric to make some more clothes. At one point Pappa Joseph went into another store, leaving Sydney and I in the car to watch all the passersby. It was a very busy street, many people walking in all directions, many cars driving in all directions. It was complete over stimulation! So much motion and color and smells and new sights. At one point a man on a little motor bike drove right into the middle of the street, stopped for a second and looked around. He was dressed in a red and white striped shirt. Where's a camera when you need one!? I finally found Waldo! He's been here in Kottayam all along!


On Sunday we were invited to a prayer meeting by Lovis, one of the girls who sings in the choir. I didn't really know what to expect, but when Tuesday night rolled around, I found out! We all (about 40 of us) walked down the street to a small cement house. The whole place was empty, there was no furniture except for the kitchen table which was pushed under the stairs and 4 chairs which were reserved for Pappa, Pastor Matthew (our church's pastor) and two of the elderly women from the church. The entire house was packed! Every inch of space on the floor was taken up by someone. We all sat together and prayed. Some read scripture, some sang songs. Of course there was a lot of clapping (what would a prayer meeting be without clapping??) I understood very little of what was said, but everyone was praying loudly. I remembered other prayer meetings or bible studies I've been to in the States. They are nothing like this meeting. Usually it's a small group of people gathered around a table or sitting on the couches in the family room. There's and opening prayer, some discussion and some prayer at the end. This was nearly two hours of praying, singing and scripture reading. I'm excited to learn more Malayalam and understand what's being said. :-) I am almost shamed by my brothers and sisters here, yet likewise, encouraged. Their desire for God and faith that He will provide for their needs is very different than what I've typically experienced. It is a good thing. I'm glad we went and I look forward to next week's meeting.


Lastly, I will leave you with a few photos from the wedding Sydney described in her last post.



Sydney and I





This picture is of Sydney and I with some of the younger girls. Lekshmi and Krishna are the twins on the left. Chinnu is the girl in red in the front. Sunduri is behind her, and Beena is to the right. Sreeja is in the back with Sydney and I.






Eating with our hands!






Notice how, in both pictures, Sydney and I are the only ones smiling... We must have missed the memo!

Above we are standing with Thomas and Cuña-Mol, some of our friends who help us learn Malayalam.




Ok, that's all for now!



Peace and Blessings,



Katrina Elyse

Monday, October 11, 2010

Yep, it’s definitely a moo-moo.

Wow! So the two weeks we've been here have been quite interesting. We've still had some troubles with getting adjusted, but things are looking up :)

We've enjoyed a full belly for the two weeks that we have lived here at Aswasa Bhavan, though we're not sure our bellies have enjoyed the constant state of stretch. Our host father told us that our stomachs must always be full. They make it easy for us. Breakfast: some form of rice-like soft meal (called puda) mixed with… you guessed it: Curry! Sometimes we get a banana and sugar instead, which is always delightful. This is filling, after a cup of tea and likewise followed by a cup of tea. Later in the day we eat a nice big meal for lunch with rice or chipate's (resembling tortillas, only way better) mixed with various types of… you guessed it: Curry! The meal is ended with another pile of rice and curry, and oftentimes we are given the gift of a plantain, straight from the peel. It's a new sort of experience: raw plantain. MMMMmmmm carbs! This is a full meal, after which we fight the urge to take a nap (while we watch everyone else plop down for a quick snooze). Ah, but there's more! We finish lunch around 2:30, and at 4:00 the bell rings: Tea time! We have learned to make our own tea, which consists of 3 parts milk, one part water, three tablespoons of sugar, and a tablespoon and a half of tea leaf powder. It's mostly like drinking hot tea-flavored milk, and we are experts at drinking it now. After teatime, we take a bath (you know- the bucket business… by the way, I'm getting much better at bucket bathing). Our next meal isn't until 9:00 usually, and it is a BIG one- full of rice, chipate's, and… you guessed it: Curry! We sure do get our share of curries around here. They're all delicious and spicy, and I'm pretty sure we'll never have to worry about going hungry around here. During many of our meals we have taken a luscious bite of food, swallowed, and experienced a sense of heat envelop our bodies. When I say a sense of heat, I mean it feels like a fire-brick oven has found a new home inside of our mouths, tongues, cheeks, throats, and stomachs. We're not so worried about the bacteria and bugs we are most likely digesting, because the spices in the food will knock 'em dead. Keralite food is MMMMMMM so good, and brings so many new emotions to the menu as well. We'll be making lots of this when we return to the States. :) By the way, our tea count as of today is 43 cups each. Again, I repeat: 43 cups of tea in 13 days. Each. Just letting yall know.

I've learned that as an American, I value a good schedule. Yes, I may be one of those people who (in the States) is pretty comfortable with schedule surprises, but here in Kerala I'm not sure that schedules mean much. It's been fun trying to figure out what is going on, and Katrina Elyse and I have had plenty of laughs about our situation. Every night when we go to sleep we just laugh ourselves to tears talking about how confused we are, and how nobody understands us and vice versa. It's a great time! For instance, instead of starting school the first Friday we arrived, we were pushed back until the next Thursday. Wednesday morning, we went to breakfast and were told to go to school. We were not prepared to teach, but we ran down and were introduced to all of the teachers and kids- luckily we were excused from teaching that day. We got our schedule for school (very comforting to have in our hands) and were prepared the next day to teach some kids! Thursday morning, we walked into school and were immediately sent to separate classrooms for grades that weren't on the schedule for that day. We kind of looked at each other with looks that communicated extreme panic, and then quickly convinced them that we were teaching together in one class at a time. Whew- catastrophe averted. Friday morning, we went to school prepared to teach the older kids, and were taken to the youngest kindergarten class. No preparation, again. We laughed and tried to wing it. I hope the teachers thought we were super smart, but I feel like we just looked super silly. We decided that on Monday we would give them the schedule that the principal gave us, so that there wouldn't be any more confusion and lack of proper preparation. Monday rolls around, and as we're eating breakfast our host father (the school's chairperson) told us that we should be ready to go to the wedding at 9:00am. Wedding? Okay. We'll roll with that. He told us we could just run down and tell the principal that we weren't going to teach that day. So we did. We got dressed lightning-quick and were ready to go in a special Indian outfit for the wedding! I guess the school schedule will get figured out another day. :)

Ah, the wedding! Katrina Elyse and I were lucky to be invited to a family member's wedding, and we were lucky that we had 30 minutes to prepare ourselves. We arrived with the bus of kids, and were greeted by some friends and sat down at the table with our group of kids. There was lots of singing (it was… not… very good. Don't worry- the girls at the orphanage thought so too, so I can say that and not feel bad about it), and lots of preaching, and pictures taken in our direction, and video taken in our direction. Halfway through the service, our friend came and told us to come to the front with him. We were pretty nervous. He handed us each a bouquet of flowers, and we were introduced to the crowd as the Americans who came to the wedding to bless the couple. A quick application of smiles, and we were walking up the stairs onto the stage, presenting the bride and groom with their bouquets, followed by an impromptu photo shoot with the happy couple. Also, nobody smiled the entire time- not the bride, groom, or either one's family members. Katrina Elyse and I weren't sure what to do, because when pictures were being taken we were smiling idiots. Hopefully they'll just chalk it up to the fact that we're foreigners or something. Weddings and smiles together? Man, whoever thought of that combo must have been a weirdo. Thankfully, we were still accepted and had a great time with our friends. It was another good day in Kerala!

On Friday, our host father was presented with an award from India: best social worker of the year! It was an exciting event. We were sitting outside at a venue with a couple hundred people, sticking out like sore thumbs. I'm getting used to stares, but there was one fellow who just must have been overwrought with astonishment at the sight of two blue-eyed white girls. Sitting in the row across the aisle from me, he had leaned himself forward to face us and stare- throughout the entire two hour program. He did get up from his seat one time… he grabbed two newspapers (being handed out to the crowd for the special occasion) --one for himself, and one for me. It was pretty awkward and the girls in our group laughed at us. Soon after, we noticed that the media kept taking pictures in our direction. One man finally gave up on being "inconspicuous" and walked right up to our row and took a picture of us. Katrina Elyse kept her cool and gave him a smile. I think I resembled a bug-eyed donkey: surprise and confusion were written all over my open-mouthed face. Thankfully, the next day's newspaper printed one of the "inconspicuous" shots. It's like trying to find Barney in a herd of zebras: we were pretty easy to spot. Good times.

Church has been a new experience, and I've been learning to pray, worship, and postureize (Yes, I just made up a word. Deal.) myself in new ways. It's a loud experience: microphones are used to amplify voices that are already screaming in an echoing room about 30 yards long and 15 wide. It's an exciting atmosphere. As Katrina Elyse said: You can smell the worship. It gets a little warm. But I've been learning a lot about God and how people worship him. His truth is found everywhere in the world, and it's always amazing to know him more and more. We pray in the morning and in the evenings, and this has been a blessing as well (it's hard for me to wake up at 5am, but I'm learning a lot about discipline). God has a plan for us here at Aswasa Bhavan, and it's been a roller coaster ride so far. We're both so excited to be following him here, and getting to know the kids and culture as well. We don't do a whole lot of things right, but we're learning. Learning when to eat at the right time, when to bathe at the right time, what to wear at the right time, when to pray at the right time, when to stand and sit at the right time… it's all new and challenging, but we're doing our best! The Grace of God is what we are relying on! I've been complimented on several articles of clothing (both Indian and American), but the one that surprised me most was my brand new, neon pink moo-moo. You heard it folks, I am joyfully wearing a moo-moo, and sporting it well if I do say so myself. Here, many of the women wear them after their evening bath- it's a "nightie." I asked for one, and I received one. I wore it, and it was a smash hit. "Super!" was the response from most of the kids. I felt pretty cool in my moo-moo. India has so many surprised for me. It's an exciting ride!

Prayers are always appreciated- much love.

Sydney Lin

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pictures!

 

One Week Down!

Wow! We've been here for a whole week already!

Things are going very well. Mommy Aneena is out of the hospital and recuperating. She's still in a lot of pain, but she is getting better every day.

I haven't been able to write much this week for several reasons. A) the internet is very spotty, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. B) the power is also spotty, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. C) our daily schedule has been very random and it's hard to plan any down time/time to write when so much is happening at a moment's notice. D) lovely kiddies! :-) We've been spending a lot of time with all the children here, learning their names, getting our hair braided, playing cards, and a host of other fun things! Once our schedule settles in a little more I hope to be writing much more regularly.

Where to start?? I've divided our week into a few simple sections. These sections only capture a drop of our experiences which could soak a large woolly mammoth from head to tail. So here goes!

Church on Sunday

Sunday was our first Indian church experience. There was a lot of clapping and sitting (Indian style on mats made from reeds) and standing and clapping and singing and clapping, Oh yeah, and did I mention the clapping? :-) Other than that, it was a good experience. I'm excited to eventually understand the sermons, or at least part of what they say. We even sang a few songs in English, just for Sydney and I. I was pretty impressed by that. It made me happy that they intentionally went out of their way to try to include us even if it was only by singing a few verses of a song. Part way through the service Pappa Joseph invited us up individually to speak to the congregation (he translated), and to tell them some of our vision for coming to India. Basically, he wanted us to address everyone and let them know what we're about and why we're here. He called on Sydney first. Often she is asked to do things first, or correction is directed to her (and not to me). We are still figuring this out. Our best guess at this point is that she is Chechi (she's the oldest). Anyway, Sydney spoke to the group and it was good. As she was speaking I could hear my pulse as I stood up trying to come up with something to say on the spot like that. I was nervous to speak to everyone, but I was also ready. God has been faithful. It was kind of surreal actually. After so much anticipation – I'm finally here. I'm finally at this place where God has been calling me for the past 6 years. So I stood up and looked at the congregation. Men on the left, women on the right. Younger kids in the front, older people behind them, the oldest seated in a single row of chairs near the back wall. I looked around at the many faces of people whom I hardly know or haven't met yet. These are the faces of the people of God. These are the faces of my brothers and sisters. These are the faces of people I will soon know and love. What a moment that was. I took a deep breath and spoke. "6 years ago, God gave me a special vision. That vision was for India, in particular, for Kerala…" And then we continued to praise the Lord. We took the Lords Supper and we were dismissed.

The kids all split up into their Sunday school groups. Today was a day of competitions. They competed in scripture memorization and preaching among other things. Then we all shared lunch together seated on mats on the floor. It was good. Haha, my ankles were sore from sitting Indian style for so long. I'll get used to it eventually.

Story about Appu

Ok, so there's one little boy here, the youngest (3 years old), named Appu. All the other kids talked to Sydney and I since we got here. They weren't very shy at all. But Appu, no. He wouldn't say a word to us! He'd stare at us, but he wouldn't say anything. On Thursday night he FINALLY talked to me! He wouldn't say my name or call me Chechi (elder sister) but he calls me Auntie. H spoke to me so indignantly  and only in Malayalam as if to say "come on auntie! WHY don't you understand what I'm telling you??" it was adorable! It took him a while to work up the courage but he finally climbed up into my lap and started hitting me, saying "Auntie! blablablabalI-don't-speak-malayalam-so-I-don't-know-what-he-saidblablabal!!" Haha, so I asked one of the older boys here who speaks English well, Moses, what he said. Appu was telling me to give him candy! "Auntie! Give me some candy!!" is what he was saying. Hahaha, oh children. This is going to be fun.

"It's So Cold" Here!

It's in the upper 70's-90's with humidity levels ranging from 90-100% every day. So I still think it's pretty hot here. So one day it was probably in the low 80's MAYBE upper 70's and the humidity was on the lower range. After morning prayer on a day when I felt particularly hot with my head covering on one of the senior girls here commented "it's going to be hot today." Remember, Indian English is heavily British English. She does not pronounces "hot" "h-ah-t" as I may have, but more like "h-oh-t." Then Moses comes out and asks if Sydney and I have warmer shawls to wear. If not, he would get us something warmer. ?. Ok, I'm confused. One girl says it's going to be h-oh-t, and Moses is worried about us being cold. Then I looked outside at all the kids doing their duties for the day – and they're all in wool hats and sweaters! Later I found out that the senior girl had actually said "cold" but with her accent I completely misunderstood. So here they all are, running around the place with sweaters on! And literally, Sydney and I were standing on the porch, sweating. I don't get it. I can't see how they actually felt cold, but they all said it was cold. Haha, I wonder how I'll feel when I return home and have another Pennsylvania winter.

Teaching

So we've been teaching for two days now. So far, so good! In the morning we have a bunch of little rug-rats who are all between 2 and 3 years old. We will have then every day. These last few days were spent just trying to gauge where our students are with regards to their English comprehension levels. Sydney and I are each teaching 9 classes a week. They gave us a schedule on Wednesday. So far, every day the other teachers have changed the schedule on us. This has been difficult. Today we came prepared to teach second graders, and they give us to the Lower Kindergarten group (LKG, there is also an Upper Kindergarten group, UKG). Then when we were supposed to teach first grade, it was both the first and second graders. Both worked out fine in the end, but it's kind of stressful to be prepared for one thing and be thrown another. Similar things happened yesterday. But overall, I'm glad with where we are. It's going to be tough, but it will be good!

How You can Pray

Pray that we have wisdom while we're teaching. Pray for creativity and understanding. Pray for continued good health and for good rest. Mostly we need to be kept at the foot of the cross daily. Daily committing ourselves to the Lord and daily relinquishing our frustrations and fears to Him. Pray that Sydney and I are receptive and obedient to the voice of the Lord.


 

Thanks for reading, and I will be posting more soon!

P.S. I have added a "contact us" page which includes a snail mail address, as several of you were asking about this.


 

Smiling children, and clapping hands, and peace,

Katrina Elyse

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It’s Sweaty Here.

We are here! In India. Our arrival to Kochi airport introduced us to the warm, humid rainforest of Kerala. It's sweaty here. We were met by Brother Joseph (Papa) and one of the children of Aswasa Bhavan (the oldest girl- my age). They were very excited to meet us, and helped us put our bags into the car at 4:00am. We were told that we looked Indian (wearing our Indian garb), except for our hair. If we had dark hair we would look very Indian. Katrina Elyse sticks out like a sore thumb from the neck up, and it was interesting to walk past loads of people in the airport with all eyes on us. Our very kind driver assisted us by barreling through the streets alllll the way home. It was an adventure, to say the least. It was kind of like a Disney Land ride- we drove on the left side of the road; we swerved to the right side; we careened back to the left side so as not to hit an oncoming car; we slipped past many bikes and motorcycles; we honked at and swung around many human beings out for a leisurely 4:00am stroll… It was exciting. Also, my rear end got a nice workout from keeping my body firmly planted in my seatbelt-less seat. Those three hours were spent talking, watching the towns fly by, and holding our breath on numerous occasions whilst praying that we would not kill someone/ourselves. :D Welcome to India!

The smell is very distinctly rainforest. I remember this smell from Panama, only here it is much stronger. There are so many beautiful green plants! Banana trees, Palm trees, Mango trees, Sweet Lime trees, Casava Yucca (tapioca) trees, Aloe Vera plants, and a zillion others that I don't know the names for. We were greeted at Aswasa Bhavan by all of the children who stood around us and clapped with huge grins on their faces. It was exciting to see all the beautiful faces (finally)! We were shown to our room, which is quaint. As we unpacked everything, we realized that not only were we drenched in sweat but so was most of our belongings. The humidity here makes everything damp. Our toiletry bottles were all slippery, the paper was limp, and even our walls were damp. That'll take some getting used to. We ate breakfast (a spicy lentil and rice mix) during which my nose ran. After a nap from 9:30am to 3:30pm, our new friends were stunned that we could sleep so long and not have lunch! We bathed before reentering the household. When I say "bathed," I mean we tried to figure out how to get the (cold) water from the bucket onto our bodies, soap ourselves, and then repeat the process until we were clean, all the while trying to keep the water within our bathing perimeter so as not to drench everything else in our bathroom. Did we succeed? Well, we were clean in the end, but our bathroom was soggy as well. How we got our hair washed is beyond me. This practice happens twice a day, so I feel confident that we will master the art soon enough.

We took tea (numerous times throughout the day) and met a handful of the smaller children. This was probably the best part of the day. We were surrounded by beautiful smiles, and had conversations in Broken English as well as tried to learn some new Malayalam words. The kids were so excited to be able to practice their English, but maybe more excited to be able to teach us Malayalam. They showed us their school books, laughed when we tried to speak Malayalam, and were very happy to be with us (as we were happy to be with them). It was so cute to watch them try to touch Katrina's hair when she let it down. They were barely touching it, so she wouldn't feel them, but they wanted to so badly! One of the adults saw them and quickly told them to stop. They were reluctant to do so (as they kept staring at her hair with that look- "I just want to feel it one more time!") but they stopped. Katrina said it was similar to the situation where the three year old boy I babysit saw a cat- He REALLY wanted to pet it, but he was really scared to approach it… but he really wanted to pet it. Such a predicament! We were exhausted by 7:00 and hadn't even eaten dinner! We joined the girl's prayer time, and then were fed a delicious (and spicy) meal. We have been trying to learn how to eat with our fingers, which is funny for our friends who think we are like babies. Bonus: I got them laughing when my nose started running and I kept sniffling. They were cracking up at that and kept saying (in Malayalam) "she's crying! She's crying!" Funny? Sure. Embarrassing? You betcha. :)

We went to bed, and only talked for about ten minutes beforehand (can you believe it!). Since we had to wake up at 5:00 the next morning, we were hoping that we wouldn't be zombies. Luckily, I woke up rip roarin' ready to go!... at 3:00am. Since Katrina Elyse was awake too, we just talked more and laughed a TON about our situation and how funny everything was. Mostly that we were so incredibly awake at that ungodly hour. It's 11:00am now, and we have successfully been awake for eight whole hours. I'm looking forward to seeing how we will manage to stay awake for another 10 hours.

As I'm writing this, I'm hearing car horns, roosters crow, birds singing, crows cawing, hammers banging, cows moo, dogs barking, bugs chirping, girls talking, and some other strange and unidentifiable noises. It's great! Everything is so beautiful here (especially the people)! We haven't been allowed to participate in chores, and all of the kids are off at school currently. So today we've had a lot of time to ourselves. We aren't sure what our role should be during this intermittent period, but we are looking forward to (and anxious about) starting school on Friday. We are going to be the best non-certified, blue eyed, American, non-Malayalam speaking white girl teachers they have ever seen! With God's help, we can do anything. We are so excited to be here, and to be listening for God's direction. Prayers are always appreciated, and needed in our relationship as brothers and sisters across the globe. Sister Anina ("Mommy") is having surgery today- a hysterectomy; prayers would be much appreciated.

Thank you all for your prayers and support, and praise God for our safe travels and the opportunity to become a part of the Body of Christ in India! God is always good. Much love,

Sydney Lin

By the way, I saw bats last night. These are no ordinary bats. They're like franken-zilla-nuclear-experiment-gone-wrong GIANTS. They were like the size of my arm from armpit to wrist (in case you don't know this, I have arms akin to a spider monkey's- they're miles long). They were as big as the huge crows in PA. I was so excited (or was it thunderstruck?) at the sight that I was speechless- I could only thump Katrina Elyse's arm over and over again while pointing up in the sky. It's exciting to be here!

Question: Can a surge protector get fried? Answer: Yes. Yes, it can.

We’re Finally Here!

Hello friends and family! I'm writing this from the last leg of our last flight. We are due to arrive in Kochin in 30 minutes!

We had two safe flights and an adventurous connection in between. Due to a last minute gate change (from 37 to 17) we ended up RUNNING from one side of the airport to the other with no time at all before our flight left without us! When we finally made our way to gate 17, to our horror, the entrance was closed off! Thanks to a kind airport employee, we were able to rush through the security check for gate 15 and book it down to 17. We made our flight by the skin of our teeth, or perhaps by our breathlessly whispered prayers. Sydney and I were the last two people to board. Thankfully we made it!

Traveling internationally is kind of a strange and disorienting experience. It seems like for the last 20 hours it's been night time. On the first plane there was some day light, but Sydney and I were seated in the middle row and the shades were drawn for most of the flight. It's a confusing thing to be in the dark for so long. I bet the jet-lag will be difficult to adjust to. I'm shutting this down for now as we were just instructed to prepare for landing… :-D


 

29 September 2010 – Wednesday (Kerala)

Our first 24 hours at our new home

Hello all! Sydney and I have now spent a full 24 hours here at Aswasa Bhavan, our new home. There were difficulties with the internet access, and I will be posting this as soon as I can.

Wow, what can I say? After a wonderful introduction to Joseph (known as Pa-pa to all the kids), our host, we had an exciting drive from the airport to Aswasa Bhavan. This place is truly gorgeous. When we pulled around the last bend there were many small smiling faces beaming with joy at our arrival. We entered the main house and there we met Aneena (or Mommy as all the children call her). The boys kindly carried our luggage into the house and we were offered our first cup of Chai (Black tea with milk and sugar). After a few minutes of chatting and a phone call to our parents, we were taken to our room a short distance from the main house.

Our room is much bigger than I had imagined. We walked in and found a spacious room with a double bed and a small desk. There was also a stair case leading to an upper level which contained two twin beds and a locker, which looks like a filing cabinet, another small desk and a mirror on the wall. There was a small green T.V. set under the window. Down stairs we have a closet and a bathroom. What a pleasant surprise – we have a western toilet! We weren't really sure what to expect, but we were ready for whatever was to come our way. After showing us around the room, we were instructed to bathe and rest, and then to go and find Vava-Chechi (the elder sister who came to pick us up at the airport with Joseph) when we were ready for breakfast… or was it dinner? Maybe it was lunch? It was 8am in Kerala, which translates to about 10:30pm EST. I was so confused.

We had just barely finished getting things settled in when Vava-Chechi came and called for us. She said it was time for breakfast, so we went back to the main house. We had some sort of brown rice flour and coconut cake/log thing and a green pea … sauce (for lack of a better word). It was spicy or "chilly" as our sisters here call it. At first we were given forks. An Austrailan had visited Aswasa Bhavan in the past and ate only with spoon and fork, so they expected that of us. We wanted to learn to eat with our hands. Haha! So Vava-Chechi demonstrated for us, after much confusion when we tried to explain our child-like request. Once we learned, we ate a lot! After finishing one thing we were given something else! This will take much practice. We were told we are like little babies when we eat. Haha, I'll take that as a complement. After this we returned back to our room.

When we left on our journey, Sydney and I discussed just staying awake our whole first day to help us adjust to the jet-lag. Yeah, that didn't happen. Haha! Even now I laugh when I think about it. I cannot, ever, remember a time in my life when I have been SO tired. Ever! Which is pretty crazy for me. If you know me, you know I have spells of lacking sleep. So I laid down upstairs on one of the twin beds below the fan and fell asleep. It was so hot and humid! And it was only 8:30 in the morning.
Sydney woke up first, and we both had no idea what time it was. Such a weird feeling. We finally figured it was about 3 in the afternoon. We both bathed. Oh yes, I forgot to describe our bath. It's a bucket. And a cup with a handle. Right next to the toilet in the small bathroom. This is another new thing for which we must learn the art.

We decided we wanted to get out of the room and meet people. So we headed back to what Sydney and I have named the Red Porch (which is outside the main house) and sat on the casara (bench). Then all the children came! What a delightful and confusing experience! They all started saying hello and asking "how are you? I am fine." We were again offered Chai and given a snack called Micha. We were still so full from breakfast that we could not accept their offer for lunch which confused them. One young man taught us our first "magic" Malayalam phrase, Pearenda, it means "what's your name?" :-D excited about our new found key to opening conversation with the children, Sydney looked at one of the little girls and parroted the phrase we had just learned. ! It worked! The little girl smiled a huge beautiful smile and made the foreign sounds which compose her name. And so the snow ball began to fall. All of the girls and boys wanted to teach us their names. Thankfully I had brought along a small notebook Serina gave to me. I wrote down their names and tried to write down all the new words we were learning. This lasted for what felt like a few hours, maybe it was? Even though I had just slept for 6ish hours, I was still SOOO tired. Sydney and I decided it would be best if we could just have dinner and go back to our room and sleep. So we asked Vava-Chechi and she prepared another delicious meal.

Right before the meal one of the older girls invited us to join them for evening prayers. It was a great experience, I can't wait until I've been here long enough to actually understand what happened! Haha. In India all women must cover their heads when praying and reading from scripture. So we began, all the girls were sitting Indian style on the floor in two rows. They put their scarves over their heads and began singing and clapping loudly. The only word I understood was Yesu. It was a strange kind of beautiful. Like I said, I can't wait to understand and participate. Then they read Numbers chapter 5 and Psalm 138. Then we bowed our heads and knelt and prayed. After this everyone got up and went their way. We had our dinner, which was much more food than breakfast, and made our way back to sleep. I'm such an American. I cannot believe how many times I asked different people "what are we doing tomorrow?" All I really wanted to know was what time we were expected to be up and around. The verdict? "we get up at 5 every day" oh boy! The sun doesn't even rise until 5:45. They have morning prayer at 5:30, then they do their duties (chores). We were to join them for prayer. And we retired to our room. What a long but good day! I expected to sleep and sleep, I was so tired I didn't think my legs would carry me to the bed. After figuring out how to set an alarm we went to sleep. At around 3am both Sydney and I were wide awake, ready to go! Thankfully they do get up so early here. If they began their day at 8, we would have to wait a whole 5 hours before anyone would be around. So we talked and laughed a lot about all of our experiences and the things we learned and the things we didn't understand. And about how we were totally awake right then. We reviewed all our new words and the children's names. We read from Acts and spent some time praying. We bathed and got dressed, and still we had a little time! Finally 5:30 rolled around and we headed up to the main house for morning prayer. This time we read from Proverbs.

After this we just sat on the red porch and read and talked to various people. We had some coffee and a delicious breakfast. We were told yesterday that today we would go to school and see how that works. But today we were told it is another day for rest. So we've been trying to fill our time with any activity that does not include napping…. I'm not sure how successful we will be :-)

Finally brothers and sisters, I'd like to ask for prayer for Mommy Aneena. She has been in the hospital since yesterday morning, shortly after Sydney and I arrived. She is having a surgery and will be there for the next few days. Everyone is a bit anxious for her and she is always in thought and prayer. Please pray for us as we are learning everything, how to eat, speak, bathe and dress.

Peace, hope and tropical humidity,

Katrina Elyse

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We're off!

We are headed off to the airport! I'll post something as soon as I can when we get settled in. Don't expect to hear anything until Tuesday evening (or will it be morning?).

Peace and excitement out our ears!

Katrina and Sydney

Saturday, September 25, 2010

On Your Mark, Get set… Go!

Today is our last day at home. There has been so much going on and so much to think and pray about.

Sydney and I spent some time together last night. We went down to the lake and just talked and prayed about the coming days. We talked about what might be coming in the future and saying goodbye to everyone, to our homes, to the things that are comfortable and familiar. Sydney and I are ready to go. We are ready to be stretched and shaped and to work hard and love hard.

We realized something last night, we have been terribly blessed to be here. Don't get me wrong, we know we are blessed. We have always had enough, and even when things get a little tight, we have always been able to make it through. We are very grateful for that.

The other day a friend came over to pray with us (and to bake cookies). During our time of prayer my mom prayed that Sydney and I may "Live dangerously" after Christ. Not just that we'd be safe and healthy, but that we will live on the edge, seeking and pushing to the extreme. It's kind of crazy to hear your mom ask for you to be in danger… well, not in danger, but that she is ok and trusting that God will guide and protect us in His name where ever we go, whatever we end up doing. We have lived here in the US all our lives living relatively comfortably and seeking as best we can while still having all the comforts of home nestled around us. Now, as we head out, Sydney and I are ready to let these things go. We want this to be a step closer to giving up all to follow Christ. We are appreciative of all we have had, we truly are. But now is the time. Now is the time to take a deep breath and jump in!

Living with a sense of urgency may not be something everyone feels. I feel this urgency so strongly. Every time I say goodbye to someone, I want to know that things are ok between us, that my conscious is clear and that peace exists. You never know what tomorrow may bring. I think there is a lot of joy in that. I know it's not always possible, but whenever it is, I try to live at peace with everyone, so long as it depends on me (Rom 12:18). Yet at the same time, there has been a lot of rest during these days in which I feel such a strong urgency. It is good.

Sydney and Dad are watching the movie 300. I haven't seen much of it, all I know is it's about Spartans fighting a battle. It reminded me of the words spoken over Sydney and I at Lords Valley several weeks back. We are to enter this vocation with a firm shoulder and strong commitment to our Master, fully embracing the truth found in the Armor of God. This is my prayer for us.

Ephesians 6:10-20:

 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

 19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.


 

Well, I'm off to spend some time with my parents before we make sure all the final odds and ends are safely tucked into our carry-ons. Then it's off to a last good night's sleep in our beds. We'll go to Church in the morning and then Sydney and I leave in the afternoon! The flight leaves at 11pm and we arrive early in the morning on Tuesday (according to the time in India), which is 7:30pm on Monday, EST. I may post something before I leave head to the airport, but we'll have to see what the day brings. If not, I'll write as soon as I can so that you all know we made it to Kerela safe and sound!

Peace and smiles full of excitement,

Katrina Elyse


 


 

 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE VISA IS HERE!!!

The visa has finally arrived!!! Everything is here and in place, we are just waiting for Sunday to come :-)

I will be writing a longer post soon, perhaps tonight, perhaps tomorrow. It will be soon!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Visa News!

Praise God! After many fervent prayers and many unanswered phone calls we have received word that Sydney's Visa has finally been processed and is in the mail! We should be holding it in our hands by Thursday!!

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us. Please continue to left up our journey, our family at home as we eagerly anticipte our departure this Sunday and our family in India.


Peace,
Katrina Elyse

Monday, September 20, 2010

***Change in Plans***

Hey everyone,

As I hope you all know, Sydney and I was scheduled to leave the US today at about 11pm. As you also know we have been eagerly waiting for Sydney's visa to arrive. Her visa is still being processed but we have good hope that we will get it by the end of the week. So as of now, we will both be waiting in the States until Sunday.

We know that God is faithful. We know that God has called us to serve in India. We know that we don't understand these delays but we are looking forward to using our time as wisely as we can to further prepare for this trip. Our spirits are at peace and we are praying that God make himself manifest in our lives and in the lives of our brothers and sisters at Aswasa Bhavan (http://www.aswasabhavan.org/home.htm).

Peace and perserverance,

Katrina Elyse

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Packing!!

We leave one week from today!

It feels like all our time from yesterday forward is completely planed and accounted for. There are no spare moments for anything! Sydney's pretty close to finished packing, I'm getting there. I did some significant catching up last night. Here are a few pictures of the process. If any of you have had to move or pack for a longish amount of time, than you know that things need to go EVERYWHERE before they can be neatly placed in their bag/box/container.  Here's some of our room sprawled on my bed.


More things on the floor.
 

The day quickly approaches! We are still waiting for Sydney's visa. Please pray for our stamina, it feels like there's a lot to do in a short amount of time. Pray for our attitudes to always reflect the peace and patience of Christ, but that we may also act with appropriate boldness.

This week was my last week working at the Korean church that I've been a part of since the beginning of the year. Though at times it's difficult, it has been a blessing to work there. I have learned a lot.

My emotions are very confused right now. It's a mix of excitement that I'm leaving, yet also fear that I'm heading into the unknown. I'm happy to go out on this adventure, but sad to leave people behind. I trust that God will watch out for them just as I trust he will watch out for Sydney and I. I'm nervous because I know I'll make a lot of mistakes, but I'm looking forward to learning so so much.

A lyric from church on Sunday reminds me that I don't need to worry. To God I can fully say, "All of you is more than enough for all of me, for every thirst and every need. You satisfy me with your love and all I have in you is more than enough." Sydney was singing a simple children's church song last night which I think will become a prayer I pray often. "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning, keep me burning 'til the break of day...Give me joy/love/peace in my heart keep me singing/resting/serving, keep me burning/singing/resting/serving 'til the break of day."

Such simple truths shall keep us strong. God is our provider, we need not worry or lose heart.

More to come soon!

~Katrina Elyse

Friday, September 10, 2010

9 days...

Wow!

Only 9 days left until Sydney and I head out! It's crazy!
We have a good solid list to help us make sure we get everything done that needs to be done which becomes progressively more detailed as time goes on, haha, what can I say, I'm still me!

Sydney gets back from Texas tomorrow, yay! I've missed her, but I know she has had a good time being with her family before we leave.

My last day at the diner is tomorrow. I'm working a double, and during the break I get to see Sydney! So it should be a good day.
I talked to several people at work recently about this blog - I hope some of you are reading this!! :-)

As far as further updates... we're still waiting on Sydney's visa to get through. There's still a week and a half, so we do have time, but that knowledge still doesn't make it any more comfortable!

I've started saying my final goodbyes. It's bitter sweet yet at the same time it's exciting. This is real, this is happening, God is faithful, and we're on our way! Good times, good times.

That's all for now folks!
Peace out,
Katrina Elyse

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Update

So I haven't updated in a while. I have been so swamped with work lately! The last two weeks have been INSANE.  I don't have too much time right now, but I hope to have more soon.
Sydney and I are leaving on September 20th!!! That's less than two weeks away!!!
Preparations are going well, but all your prayers are still desperately needed.
Please pray for courage to take next steps, good time management, and a deep growing commitment to the Lord as Sydney and I seek to bring Him glory through every breath of this journey.
We've gotten our plane tickets, and I have my visa :-) We are still waiting for Sydney's though, so prayers for that would be greatly appreciated.


God is good and His love endures for ever!

Peace,
Katrina Elyse

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unexpected Angels


It has been a very busy time these last few weeks! I have successfully complied my various and colorful To-Do lists and have been steadily checking off the items.

Note: This post is traveling in reverse order.

News from Sunday:

Sydney and I spoke with our host family in India early Sunday morning : ) It was a good conversation and many questions were answered. They are very excited for Sydney and I to arrive and look forward to meeting us in person with great eagerness and much joy, as do we. Currently our scheduled departure date is the 20th of September! Our main responsibilities will include teaching kids from 4-8 years old and helping with what needs to be done around the house. Brother Matthew will supply a phone for Sydney and I that is capable of receiving international calls. We weren't expecting that! What a blessing!

A Story from Saturday:

I have been working at the diner for several weeks now. Saturday night was a night filled with those cranky customers who, for some reason or another, feel fussy over the slightest thing and don't really greet you with a smile in return.

It was the end of the night and a table of about 10 women were leaving. In the midst of the commotion, a couple walked in. I was totally not prepared to be seating anyone, I'd never done that before, but the hostess was busy closing out checks, so I went over and sat the couple in a booth. We chatted a bit, and I didn't feel like they were too excited by the service that evening. The woman asked me a question which I should have rightly known the answer to – which dishes are vegetarian? Haha, me, a vegetarian had no answered prepared. I decided I would learn the answer to this question. So I left, still feeling a slight negativity towards the establishment, perhaps also toward my service. I wanted to help lighten the mood so we struck up a conversation. It was a good talk, the best I had had all night. We found that there were a lot of commonalities in our lives and chatted about living in the area. I told them that I had just graduated from Eastern University with a degree in Anthropology and Missions and I was on my way to India. I found out they go to a church near Eastern. By the end of the night, I had giving them the link to this blog (Hope you're reading this guys, and I do remember your names, I just didn't want to share them with the world!) and we exchanged many encouraging words. As frequently happens at the diner, sometimes the customers prefer to hand a tip to the server instead of leaving it on the table. So when the woman walked over to me I thought this was what was happening, or perhaps she needed something else. She did hand me a tip – and when she walked away my eyes filled with tears. It was a very large tip, she said it was for my work in India. It doubled what I had made the entire night. The Lord does provide. And I was very moved by their kindness. Just that night, before going to work, I asked that the Lord would show me His provision. I was not expecting it to be like this – but I think that's one of the beautiful things about God. You never know how He will display His glory, but every time it's perfect.

Thanksgiving Friday:

Last Friday my friends and family and I celebrated what has become a Bechthold-Misiak-friendsofkatandserinawhoaremorelikefamilyanway Family tradition known as Thanksgiving in August. Thanksgiving in August started several years ago when Ken started studying in Texas. He wasn't home for thanksgiving in November, so we had it early so that all the college students could be home for it. This time, though, it was a little different. Not only was Ken going to be away from home in November, Sydney, my dad and I will also not be here. It will be a strange day indeed. I was very blessed to have my friend Jackie drive me all the way up to my house  just to spend a short 24 hours with my family and friends before heading back down to Philly. It was a great time. I got to talk with DJ and share in her exciting news and new adventures. I was able to spend the night talking to Serina. We enjoyed delicious food at the Misiak's and played cards in the afternoon, Spoons and Missionary Manners. Then the Morgan's invited Jackie and I over to their house for an hour or so, we had a great time of discussion and prayer. Then Jackie and I returned to the Misiak's in order to spend one last hour with Ken before head back to Texas. I am so thankful for all these beautiful people who are in my life. I always leave feeling loved and cared for. It's funny how, sometimes, it's the people whom you least expect that make the biggest difference in your life. So many angels from unexpected places. You know who you are, and thank you.

It has been a long tumultuous summer, so many seasons wrapped up in one. I'm glad for the events and people who have been in my life. Sure, I've made mistakes and I carry my fair share of regret, but there is always forgiveness. But life's too short to spend holding on to that stuff. Make up with those who you know you've hurt and forgive those who you don't think deserve it. You won't regret it.

Ok, That's enough preaching for today. Check back soon!


 

Peace, Hope and Love,

Katrina Elyse