Just a little over a month ago I got back from India. [Apologies before you even start to read this because it may just be my longest post ever…. sorry.] I lived in Himachal Pradesh, the northern most state in India (aka the foothills of the Himalayas). It was a summer I will NEVER forget. Lots of memories made- good and bad. But overall, I absolutely loved my time there. It was a huge learning experience. Every time I go out of the country, I feel like I’m face to face with all my sin- all my selfishness, pride, self-righteousness, etc.. It’s a love/ hate relationship sometimes, but I am so thankful for how the Lord chooses to teach and mold me to look more like His Son.
Once I got back to India from Nepal, I only had 2 days there before I flew home. This was very sad for me because the decision to come home early was not made until I was in the capital of India the week before we had to fly to Nepal. So my luggage, with most of my things, were still in HP- about 6-8 hours away from where we were. So once I got back to India from Nepal, there was no time to drive all the way back to our home to get my things, and definitely not any time to see and say goodbyes to any of the people I met 😦 I am still really sad and missing them, but I am hoping to be back and see them again! (Facebook helps too.)
Leaving was definitely bittersweet, but I was ready to be home in a sense because I just wanted to get to the doctor and get better (and who likes being away from home & familiarity when they are really sick?). Thankfully, the flights were smooth back to the U.S., and one of my best friends, Calley, picked me up from the airport! I was overjoyed. She took off work that day so she could hang out with me the entire day to make sure I would stay awake and hopefully get over jet-lag ASAP. We went to my favorite places, Newks and Jerry’s Sno Cones 🙂 and also to get pedicures. My sweet friend Bree met us for our 3 hour lunch. They are 2 of my favorite people, so it was SO good to catch up and talk with them about our summers. I didn’t get to see my family until that night when I got home, but I was so glad to be home. I was SO excited about seeing my baby brother after a whole summer without him!
The best way I can think of to wrap up this trip is to answer the most frequently asked questions I have gotten since I’ve been home, but if you don’t care to know any of the answers to these questions, just skip to the bottom and read the good stuff- how awesome the Lord is. Plain and simple. None of this really matters.. it’s just to answer questions if you’re curious 🙂
How did I get to go to India? Who did I go through/ with?
-Since last summer, I have been planning on spending the summer of 2013 in Uganda, the same place & with the same people I did last Christmas. I was having some major withdrawals and really wanted to be back there. Like my trip to Uganda, I went by myself to India. I didn’t go with or through any church, organization, or group. I have some friends who have lived there for 4 years, and I have kept up with them since they’ve been there. Facebook stalking them went to an all time high last summer, and that was when I started really fervently & consistently praying for them. I’ve honestly have never really been super observant/passionate about this part of the world. I didn’t know too much about it before preparing to go. The thought of going to visit and serving along side them there in some way came last September/October- ish. I started communicating with them more about the possibility of going to India soon after that, and in late January, we talked over Skype and decided I would come for the summer!
How did a broke college kid like yourself afford it?
-By the grace of God, for real. I wrote about the financial struggle of getting there in a previous post, but sending out support letters are great. I probably won’t do that again since I’ve already done it twice, but I really do believe that is a great way for other people to partner with you in the spreading of the Gospel. Thankfully, I already had money for a plane ticket set aside since I knew I wanted to be somewhere overseas for the summer (I thought it would be to Uganda and/or Kenya at the time). The key really is to just plan ahead and save up. It’s possible. Want to go somewhere? Plan ahead! Set a realistic time frame before you go and budget well until then. (and raise support if you need/want to. The Lord has used the church to meet needs in my life in crazy ways.)
-Why not? Haha no, but really. This is one of my favorite questions. I love to travel because I just LOVE seeing/ learning new things. It’s not so much the places I go as it is the people I meet there. The world is so incredibly different and similar all at the same time, and it literally fascinates me. I love experiencing different cultures and doing things I could/ would never do in my every day life in America- whether that’s bungee jumping over the Nile River in Africa, backpacking/ climbing the Himalayas, or hanging out in the slums deep in the jungle talking with people I would otherwise never have the opportunity to meet. And obviously, the #1 reason I love to go overseas is because I want to tell people near and far about Jesus. I really really try, though I fail every single day, to live my life exactly the same in Memphis, TN as I would/do overseas. The Gospel compels me to tell others about Jesus and make disciples. I am so unworthy. So unworthy. But the Lord has chosen to use me, and for that, I am humbled and grateful- and I want to go. I want to do exactly what the Great Commission commands all followers of Jesus to do, but that is whether I am in Olive Branch or across the world.
-I am absolutely convinced that college is potentially the best time of your life. First of all, college campuses are a minefield for disciple making and rocking the whole world for Jesus. Second, there are not going to be many other times in life for me or most other people to travel completely free of responsibilities and other people relying on you. The independence you have during your college years can’t be beat by any other time in life. I am trying to spend my summers between my college years going to different countries because I know that even though I want to spend my life doing things like this, it will look much different in the future than what it looks like for me right now. Anything can happen. The Lord could completely close one door and open another that was completely off my radar, but in my opinion this is absolutely the most perfect time to do this. I am so so so beyond thankful to have had the opportunity that I did this summer, and I am expectant and available to go wherever He leads next.
Did I/ do I ever get scared when traveling/being in a foreign country?
-I don’t know why, but no, not really at all. Even in India, I never feared for my life or anything. Once I am there, I learn more about the culture and always have someone that has been there who can tell me what to do, what not to do; what to say, what not to say; where to go, where not to go; etc.. And I just have to trust the Lord. If I go overseas and am scared to go anywhere and too scared to talk to anyone, I will miss out on SO much! Obviously you have to be cautious and learn about where you are at and the people there before you go roaming around the whole country by yourself, but for real, I’m pretty confident it’s not any more dangerous than America would be in some places. When I go overseas, I just become this totally different “whatever happens, happens”, go with the flow person. I have to trust that the Lord has gone before me and will protect me, and if not, then He will get the glory from it. No matter what happens, my Father knows far better than I do. He knows what I need long before I even know I need it. So no matter what I try to prepare for, the Lord is the sovereign One.
How does this trip differ from Uganda? And which did you like more?
-This is almost an impossible question to answer. I literally could go on and on about the similarities and differences (mostly differences) in each place and experience, but honestly, I love them both. They were so different that it seems impossible to compare the two, and say which one I “liked better”. Read the 2nd to last post, “Keepin’ it Real”, to hear my heart on my trip to Uganda.. It truly is about the people I’ve encountered. But the Lord taught me SO MUCH before, during, and after each trip. He’s still teaching me so much through my time in Uganda over a year and a half ago. I would say I had more fun in Uganda because I did more touristy things like white water rafting and bungee jumping and probably enjoyed my time there more because hanging out with kids all day was comfortable and fun for me. But on the other hand, I would say that the Lord showed me what it means to live in complete abandonment and reliance on Him more so in India. I just love both places so much, and the people I have gotten to meet. It truly is the biggest blessing.
What did you learn about yourself?
-Ohhhh weeee. Hmmmm. This is a hard and embarrassing one. I learned, yet again, how selfish I am. I learned how I truly have set the comforts of life that I am used to- air conditioning, structure/ organization in life, good food- above the Lord. Really, I have set these things to be gods in my life without even realizing it. And when those are gone, man is my sin right in front of my face. And when I realize it, even more sin shows up because I get defensive and prideful and start to justify it. How silly. Many, many time this summer, the Lord has broken me and brought me literally to my knees and made me realize how much I need Him. How much I need His grace on my life. How much I need to Gospel. When things go wrong, or not the way I plan or expect, I have a tendency to doubt God and think I know what’s best for my life, not Him. How crazy of me. Not that I have mastered this now by any means, but the Lord is continuing to show me different sin in my life that I have to be repentant of- some that I didn’t realize before now.
What was the culture like?
– Oh goodness, this is a big one. One that I don’t really know how to answer.. If you read all of my blog posts you will get a bit of insight into the culture in each one. Asian culture is crazy different than ANYTHING I am used to. There’s so many different things I could say to answer this question, so I will be brief and give you just a few examples. Men don’t approach women. At all. I didn’t talk to any guys the entire time I was there, besides those I lived with. Even if a guy was interested in a woman, he would have to go through her friend. So it was hard to get used to not making eye contact with, not smiling at, not talking to any guys. If a woman did, it would give a guy the wrong impression. And if any man approached you, then it would be completely out of line. India is so populated. There are a TON of people there. All (for the most part) worshipping false gods. And the entire culture/country reflects that. This is hard to explain but let’s just take a small thing like traffic for example.. Their gods are gods of chaos. Whereas, in America there is organization because our God, THE God, is a God of structure and order. It’s okay for them to do certain things in their culture (sleep with multiple partners; smoke harmful things) because their gods did/do it. It is a very dark place.
Favorite thing you did?
– I didn’t really do too many overly exciting things while I was there, so it’s hard for me to think of one specific thing that was my favorite. But I did have a ton of things that I loved while I was there before I got sick. One of my favorite things I got to be apart of while I was there was house church with the people I lived with. We studied 1 Thessalonians while I was there, and the Lord taught me so much about community and loving other believers. I really enjoyed going to the Tibetan Temple on my 2nd full day in India. It was Buddha’s birthday, so there were TONS of people there. We got to meet a lot of girls and even got to go into a home of a few of the girls we met. My favorite day the entire time I was in India was one in which NOTHING went like we planned. I went with the 3 other college students I was working with to go to a college campus in hopes of meeting and hanging out with students there. Once we got there it was pouring down rain and no students available to talk. At all. We ended up riding busses all day, and sharing with whoever sat next to us. Over 10 people heard the Gospel this day. We were made fun of, told to get off a bus, and received awkward/confused looks. This whole day was filled with one awkward, tension-filled conversation after the other, but let me tell you, it was the most rewarding day ever. The Lord taught me SO much. SO MUCH. When I was getting off my last bus ride of the day after a discouraging conversation with 4 women, the Lord gave me the most overwhelming, satisfying peace. Not because I felt better than them, but because the Lord truly did give me confidence in the Gospel and in who He is in that moment. He reassured me through His word that no matter what people’s response is, He has commanded me to make disciples. That I am not responsible for how people respond to truth, but to give it. To go to the ends of the earth. And to share with whoever I come in contact with, simply because He is worthy of it. As silly as it sounds, as I was stepping off that bus, I felt like Jesus was right there with me.
What was a typical day like for you in India?
– My goal for each day was the same: to meet college aged- girls (maybe older) to befriend and share the Gospel with them.. and hopefully spend my summer discipling them. Even though almost every day had the same objective, each day looked totally different. Sometime I would be at a college campus, sometimes a temple, and sometimes just riding busses all day and sharing with whoever I sat next to. For the first month or so I got to work with another team of 3 college students. We lived together & went out together, so that time was the busiest time for me. We traveled to different cities in India, one 10 hours away, and did different things, but no matter where we were we were trying to meet girls and share the Gospel with anyone we could. When that team left, it was a little bit slower just because I couldn’t go out alone and the rainy season had started. There’s no way I could try to tell you what each day looked like. Each one was so different.
Did you get homesick?
-Surprisingly, not hardly at all. Definitely not the first month or so I was there. I guess I did end up missing certain things- the luxuries of America- but I don’t think I got homesick really at all. Once I got sick, I started Facetiming my mom and friends often, but I think that just made it worse. I love my family and friends, but I knew the plan was to be there for 3 months, so home was just off my radar.
How did you get sick? Are you okay now?
-Well, I ended up having a type of parasite/ worm. I know that’s totally disgusting and none of you wanted to know that, but that’s what happened. It was not fun at all. I’ve never been so sick in my life. I could have gotten it from anything. It could have been the water, but it was probably the fruit. I ate a lot of pineapple that didn’t look too appealing, so I’m thinking that was probably it. Whoops. BUT I got home, went to the doctor, and about 2 & a half weeks later I was all better! I am feeling 100% now, and I am so thankful!!
It feels almost like I wasn’t even there now.. I know that sounds totally outrageous to some, but I’m hoping those who have traveled to do ministry like this will understand it. People stop asking you about it. And when they do, for the most part it’s questions like “How was it?” Then you answer, “Good..” And then it’s over. I longed/long to talk with people in depth about India and my experience there, but the truth is that most people don’t really want to know. They ask about me getting sick and the heat and the food.. But when I start talking about the difficulty of trying to do ministry there, making disciples, and church planting, people (for the most part) shut down, and I can tell they have lost interest. The only people I’ve really talked with in depth about it all is 2 of my best girl friends from home, but besides that.. it’s just surface level conversations that honestly leave me feeling dry and discouraged. Again, this is one of those thing that I have been putting off writing about because I feel like my brain cannot adequately form words in the right order to convey what I’m feeling and what reverse culture shock & the “post India blues” is like, etc.. much less type them out without feeling like I sounds totally ridiculous. But I will still write nonetheless.
Now this is partially out of my longing for close community and largely out of my selfishness. This relates to one of the questions above, “what did you learn about yourself?” I am so selfish. SO prideful. And for absolutely nothing. Every day, but especially when I go overseas, the temptation to think that I am better than anyone & everyone else, to think that I understand the Gospel & the Great Commission more than other people, to think that I am this super awesome Christian is right in front of me, and I am SO quick to give in. Eeeeek, I am honestly wanting to hit the delete button on every single word as I’m typing this. But the truth is, that I am so stinkin’ quick to believe Satan’s lies. I even want to believe them. It’s so easy. The truth is that when I want to go overseas, it’s largely for my own selfish gain.
I am just scratching the surface here on my prideful tendencies and selfish agendas. I am brought to tears even as I’m typing this just thinking about the grace the Lord has on His children. All of them. No matter what we’ve done or will do, no matter how many times we turn away from Him, no matter how many times we take glory that is His, He still loves us. Not only does He just love me, but He wants to be close with me. He wants a relationship with me, and He pursues it every single day. I wrong Him every minute of every day, and yet a perfect and Holy God still loves ME!? Why?!
It’s so hard for me to even believe that. It’s so hard for me to lay down my pride and my independence to realize that I need a Savior. That I deserve nothing more than Hell. That I really do desire and long for something more in life because one without Him is miserable and unsatisfying. But it’s even harder for me to believe that a perfect, righteous, Holy God would want a relationship with someone like that. Someone like me. Much less just offer me a relationship with Him that requires nothing in return. My entire life, I have felt like I have to do all of these things for people to like me and that if I do anything wrong, they won’t like me anymore.. and then there’s not anything I can do but be really nice to them and impress them, trying to earn their favor again, for them to love me again.. Whatever I do will determine my standing with a person because that’s how earthly relationships are. Since I have decided to follow the Lord, I have struggled with trying to prove to Him and others that I am somehow worthy of Him. That I am worthy of salvation and a life with Christ. He has had to chip away the parts of me that feels like my salvation has anything to do with me.. that I have to do all of these things to earn His love. That I need to go all of these places and lead all of these bible studies and go to church & Sunday school every time the doors are open and be this perfect little Christian girl every where I am. But the truth is that I don’t have to be or do any of those things. He will love me the same regardless. Nothing I can do will make Him love me any more or any less. The Lord knows me. Every part of me. And loves me despite all of me. I was Hell- bound, deserving life & eternity apart from Him, and the Lord chose to save me. He chose to give me the faith to know Him. I can’t earn it. No matter what I do, I cannot and will not ever be good enough, but the good news is that I don’t have to! That’s the Good News of the Gospel, y’all! There is SO MUCH GRACE! The Lord has already given us more grace than we could ever need.
The Lord of the entire universe created me & YOU for Himself, and when man fell, we were completely separated from Him. There was no hope for any of us. But thankfully, our Father provided a way. He sent His Son, perfectly righteous and Holy, to take our sin upon Himself and experience being forsaken by His Father so we would never have to. God did this, not to save us from a hot place with fire, but so that there would be a way for us to be in right relationship with Him. Yes, He wants YOU that much. There was no other way. God’s word says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “no one seeks God” (Romans 3:11). And in Romans 6:23, God’s Word tells us that because of that, we deserve death (Romans 6:23). So where is there hope? Is there hope for us? YES! Romans 5:8 says that “God demonstrated His love to us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not when you were acting like you had your stuff together, not when you were in church reading your bible, no, Christ died for you in the midst of your sin and filth. When you were manipulating that guy, when you were at the frat house wasting your life away to alcohol and sex, while you were still a sinner, Christ died. That’s when. He knew all of your sin, and in the midst of that, He died for you. HE. DIED. FOR. YOU. All because the Father wanted to be in right relationship with you. This is not of ourselves. We couldn’t do anything to earn it. And we can’t do anything to lose it. So stop feeling guilt and shame over your past or sin; repent & follow Jesus. Through the cross and the payment He’s already paid, He has already forgiven you. So if you’re like me, stop trying to be “good enough.” You won’t ever be good enough, but the good news of the beautiful Gospel of Jesus is that we don’t have to be. There is freedom and grace in Christ. We do all of the things that God’s Word tell us to because this Gospel compels us to, not because we have to for God to love or save us.
So if you want to follow Jesus, I plead with you to turn from your sin and follow Him! There’s not any special prayer to pray, Jesus just wants you. I would love to talk to you if you have any questions about this Gospel. I know, it sounds too easy. Too good to be true that God would do this. But it is true. He has offered us life and life abundantly through His Son. We just have to take it.
I am in desperate need of the Gospel everyday. I need to be reminded of it every second. It has changed me. I am so grateful for the new things the Lord made me realize about the Gospel this summer in India. He is so abundantly gracious. If you would like to know how to pray for me one last time, please just pray for this time of reflection on my summer and that the Lord would continue to reveal His self to me through it every day. I’m still working through things that I don’t really understand, so I would be so grateful for your prayers!
ALSO- If anyone wants to help me send a package to the family I stayed with in India, please contact me! I am planning to send it in late August/ early September.
Lastly, but most importantly, PLEASE join me in prayer for India.
- Pray for the M’s who are currently there and the challenges they have to face on a daily basis: the very real risk of persecution, steep mountain trails to be hiked, and frigid temperatures. Pray that the Lord would give them grace and His strength to press on and remember that their home is not here. Not in India. Not in America. But their home is in heaven with Christ. Pray that they would be reminded of that daily and really trust that truth.
- Pray for the government and for the leaders of the country.. that the Lord (who is the sovereign one regardless) would put in place leaders who follow God. Pray for the current leaders, that they would come to know Jesus and follow hard after Him.
- Pray for Bible translation and distribution.
- Pray for more people to be sent to India to live among the people & spread the Gospel.
- Pray for the believers there. New and old. Pray that they would be strengthened and encouraged.
- Pray that Jesus would be lifted high and the millions of idols and demons enslaving this nation would be brought low.
- Pray for those who heard the Gospel this summer for the first time. That the Gospel that they heard would not be able to leave their mind. Pray that every time they enter a temple to worship one of their false gods, that they would doubt them & be curious about the truth they heard about Jesus Christ. Pray that the Lord would use this to draw them quickly to Himself and that they would turn from their sin and to Christ.
- Pray for others who do not know Jesus in India. Pray that God would, right now, soften their hearts and prepare them to hear the Good News of Jesus. Pray that they would be receptive and come to know Christ. Pray that people would come to know Jesus and follow hard after Him, reaching the people around them. Pray for churches to be planted, that they would be healthy, Gospel-centered, and reproducing.