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

Sunday, October 17, 2010


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



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.


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