After lunch we took a walk into the village. We passed multiple temples. There are over 330 million Gods. This idea is so complex and foreign to me. A religion seemingly based on superstition, perpetuated by more superstition and self fulfillment. I am sure there is much more to it than that, but that is my first impression and somewhat uneducated observation.
We walked to the river’s edge where the villagers bathe and a temple stands guard, accepting sacrifices. Glancing towards the river we were greeted with a most unexpected sight. I small group of water buffalo proceeding to the steps, where they exited the river, walked through town and into someone’s house.
We headed back to CEM and along the way we purchased some fresh coconut water. And then were promptly followed by some very curious kids!
We spent time in the morning with the residents of the Agape Old Age Home. The residents are being added to the NoChild sponsorship lists. We are all privy to the fact that children all over the world are being thrown out, neglected, abused and just let to end for themselves, but rarely do we hear about what happens to the elderly around the world. For the same reasons that the kids are left or brought to CEM, so are the elderly. I did not expect that it would be so hard for me to hear about their stories. The worn and wrinkled faces depicted a much harsher reality than most people can empathize with. One cannot even begin to guess their ages. Most are far younger than you would think. And just like the children, they long to be seen, heard and loved.
I am guessing its frowned upon to have favorites, but this one? My favorite!!!!
My morning began at 3:30 am.. They were not kidding about the adjustment to the time zone, or lack thereof. I looked at is as an opportunity and stole way to the rooftop and stared at the stars. All of them unfamiliar. A quarter moon shining just bright enough to see the silhouettes of palm trees and buildings in the distance. I sat there listening to the village come to life. First the birds, the roosters then a muslim call to prayer, followed by the bells o the hindu shrine. Each sound unique and distinct, some haunting and some comforting. And then the sweet sound of the children rising for the day.
Our daily agenda began with calisthenics that harkened to old movies I have seen where the staunch Brits do deep knee bends and plan their day around Tiger hunts a top elephants. Yet no Brits and no elephants, and thankfully, no tigers! Post exercise I was coerced into tasting the coffee-something I really dislike, however, this was not just any coffee. It was chai coffee with water buffalo milk and sugar. And it was delicious!!! I was quickly addicted and greedy for every last drop I could gulp down.
Sunday is market day-their equivalent of the farmers market. It was a plethora of scents and sights. Sometimes it might be better to not know what it looks like before it’s cooked.We headed to Sunday services where shortly into the service the children started dropping like flies. One by one they sunk down into their seats, slid down to the floor or flopped their bodies on top of my lap and fell asleep. It was fantastic! The Americans were then asked to come forward at the end of service to pray over anyone who might want it. It was a wonderful opportunity to pray directly for people and their needs.
Sleeping babes. (photo credit: Stephanie Crane)
Daily onion chopping.
On our way to market.
All you can eat shrimp?
My first full day ater market was filled with the children and all wanting a “photo”. I have what seems to be a mountain of images of the kids that I cannot fit into this post but will do so on my next entry.
Deciding to travel to India was an act of obedience. When God told me that India was where I was to go to next He did not have to twist my arm, as I could only imagine it was a photographers dream land. But what I was not clear about, and maybe by the time I get through the day-to-day processing I will understand, is the why. Why did God want me to be in India? There were other options. In fact I had friends all going on various trips at the same time-each inviting me into their journey, but God said India. So I obey, with no agenda-except hoping for some great photos. So I am inviting you along on my visual and written journey through India and hopefully by the end we will all know the why.
The travel to India is not quick, about 30 hours all together. Of course I started it out by blindly putting my more than 4 ounces of cough syrup in my carry-on. Well done! This was a pleasant catalyst for delays at each checkpoint all the way through 4 flights-including a small pair of tiny scissors that was in my toiletries, not detecting until Mumbai. And just for the record-there were multiple times I actually needed them.
In any case, we arrived safely and were adorned with garlands of flowers and shuttled to CEM to gt started. The air was warm, filled with various scents and held a haze, like a veil hiding secrets and superstitions. Upon arrival at CEM we were overwhelmingly welcomed greeted with a child-lined pathway, singing sings if welcome and faces beaming with joy and expectation. I could not help but feel embarrassed and out-of-place and completely undeserving. What were their expectations? What were they hoping to get from me and how will I disappoint them? Because I am bound to disappoint. Maybe they were just happy someone showed up, if even for a short time, to see them. Because that is what we all want in our core; to be seen, heard, known, loved. So, I guess we start at that commonplace.
On my way!
The welcoming committee!
When I was a young girl, at the age of 7, God placed in my heart 4 clear desires and one clear message for me. He created a space in my heart that longed to be an artist, to be on Broadway, to travel the world to help people, and to live in France. And He told me that I was destined for something big. Something bigger than where I was, which at the age of 7 wasn’t a far stretch. But I believed it.
Then the ebbs and flows of life came through, as they always do, eroding my shoreline that lacked a proper seawall. The experiences and words of others somehow became louder than the desires of my heart. “You should probably just study art history in college”, ” You are f*@!ing up the whole scene!”, fear, fear, fear. Then complacency settles into the space in your heart, like an unwanted guest squeezing the desires out of the space that was once so sacred.
After years of turning the complacency to regret and then regrets into resentments and resentments into self loathing and BAM! somehow you let the enemy win. You end up with two choices; wallow or fight. And you choose to fight. And some days it feels like what you can only imagine that they felt at the Battle of the Bulge; one step forward, two-no make that three, steps back. And then some days it’s all quiet on the western front and you are filled with a cup full of hope. a re-charge to your ammunition supplies. And what can seem like forever, eventually you start making progress and then one day you are walking in the glorious light of God’s love. Because you started to replace the words of the enemy with the words of God. You are worthy. You are loved. You are enough. Basking in the warmth and the space where your desires once lived is swept clean and renewed and slowly you let those desires back into the space to open up, like a budding flower returning in spring.
But don’t be naive into thinking that the war is won. Because the enemy will continue to push on and the harder you press into God the harder satan will press into you. But you have your secret weapon, your Father, the King of Kings, fighting this battle with you and for you. You see, God isn’t really interested in letting go of what is His. He is a jealous God and you are His. And He will fight for you and with you. You are His. He calls you child. He calls you beloved. He calls you worthy. But He also calls you something special. A name that is designed just for you and for all those special qualities and desires He put in you while He knit you in your mother’s womb. And if you ask Him, He will reveal that name to you.
When I asked God what He calls me I heard nothing. I can only imagine what my face looked like while I was trying with all my might to keep my thoughts at bay and to listen-like I was listening for the sound of a worm crawling-so intently, yet the outside noises kept invading until I gave up. The old thoughts came bubbling back up, “you are not worthy enough to hear from God” “Do you really think you are special enough for that?” I turned to sulking and then to just forgetting about it. Until He told me. I was sitting there amongst all my co-workers, getting ready to begin praise and worship as a family at our annual retreat and I heard Him. Like an audible voice. I turned to the person next to me and said, “Did you say something to me?” with a blank stare on his face, “No.” I figured surely it was my imagination or I just caught words from someone else’s conversation. Then I heard it again. So I turned to the other side of me and asked, “Did you say something?” This time I got a look o surprise and another, “No.” So I asked, feeling like Samuel as a child, “God is that you?” And again He spoke my identity. And immediately I asked but what does that mean, and immediately He filled me with the so many things it meant and I suddenly felt complete in that moment. He calls me “Creator.” Creator of life, of art, of experiences, of characters, of dramas, of connections. Creator.
Now I danced about in that for a few months before I got comfortable in it. because that is what we do, we get comfortable where we are until suddenly it doesn’t feel so magical or awesome and we start to forget. Or we start to hear others identities and they suddenly sound way cooler than ours, “Warrior” “Healer of Hearts” “Leader of Men” and we fall prey to the tar-pit of comparison. It just sucks you in and throws you back into the vicious cycle of self loathing. And we begin again. But this time I have the name that God calls me and I cling to that. And when I marinate on the word Creator I think of our all mighty Creator and all that He has created. From the tiniest of molecules to farthest reaches of the universe, He created them. And He created me and calls me Creator. You see, we are created in the image of God and He gave me a portion of Himself. His Creator self. How can I not be humbled and honored and in awe of His love?
If you are interested in understanding more about your personal identity in Christ, this video can help you walk through it. If you need more, message me in the comments and I can give you more.