Home Sweet Home

Well we started this blog in the car so I thought it was only appropriate to write again from the car. We have survived the grueling 16-hour flight. We're back on the road heading up to Wisconsin. I think we're all happy to be home, and impressed with how civilized and quiet the freeways are...even in Chicago. :)

Travel Day

Nov. 2

Today began early as we left our hotel at 6 a.m. to travel to the airport. Our flight from Bodogra didn't leave until 1:00p.m. but we had about a 4 hour drive ahead of us. Luckily, we didn't have any mishaps with driving and arrived at the airport in plenty of time. It was a short flight to Kolkata, but it was very clear outside, and some of us had a very good view of Mt. Everest and were able to get some decent pictures of this majestic mountain that rises above the clouds.

Being back in Kolkata is a bit of a shock to our systems. It's very loud here. The horns go nonstop, and there are people everywhere. We went for a short walk this afternoon, and between the crowds of people and aggressive drivers, it takes quite a bit of skill to manuever through the city.

We're all pretty tired tonight. Please pray for us tomorrow as we head out on our very long travel back to the U.S. We will have over 17 hours of fly time logged in by the time we land in Chicago. Thank you for your faithful prayers this week. God was definitely at work here, and we are blessed to have been a part of that.

Last Day at the Project

Nov. 1

Today was our last day at the project. We had a great day full of fun! In the morning, we had the wonderful opportunity to have a "Fun Day," where only our sponsor children came to the project, and we were able to play with them as a group and one by one for several hours. By lunch time, even the shyest of our kids were holding our hands and going for piggy back rides. We played badminton, soccer, cricket, and basketball. We went on the playground and tickled the kids as they slid down the slides, pushed them high on the swings, and twirled them fast on the merry-go-round. We blew up balloons for them, blowed bubbles, and colored pretty pictures for each other. It was an incredible time of bonding which we will always treasure.

In the afternoon, all the project assembled, and it was more time of playing with all the children, and of course, serving of the evening meal. After the children finished their meal, the project did an ending ceremony for us that involved Hindi and Boro dances and singing. It was incredibly beautiful! At the end, the staff blessed each of us with a traditional Indian garment, which we instantly put on and then together with the staff and children, we danced, and we danced, and we danced! We didn't want to say goodbye, but eventually, with many a tear falling, we hugged our sponsor and project children, Compassion staff, and Covenant Family pastors goodbye. The pastors kept telling us how our visit encouraged and uplifted them, but we feel like they encouraged and uplifted us as well! These people have so much passion for not only the project, but for God. You can hear the passion when they speak, and when they pray. We are inspired to live our lives with that same kind of passion.

With Full Hearts

Oct 31

Our hearts are full! It's hard to find the words to describe to you all the emotions and feelings from this trip. We have been blessed to be here and see exactly how this project is helping not only the physical poverty, but also the spiritual poverty of this community. All around us we see evidence of Satan's lies. Every morning since we've been here, I have heard drums outside my window early in the morning. Samata, one of the compassion staff from Kolkata that joined us in the project, told me those are the puja drums. As I mentioned in an earlier post, puja is one of the bigest festivals in India celebrating a goddess and her children. Fake gods surround us as even Some of the homes we visit are filled with Hindu posters.

And yet, next to that, you can see Jesus' light shining through as well. The people of India are so kind and gracious! And they are curious as to why we have come. It opens the door to tell them about how we have come to help the Compassion project and also about Jesus. They listen intently, and then they watch. The staff at our hotel are very curious about us. They are constantly watching us, and we are trying to show them Christ's love through our actions. Every night after dinner, we have a team meeting in one of the meeting rooms of the hotel. We always begin the meeting singing worship songs. For the last two nights the hotel staff, mostly our waitstaff who gets our meals together, will stop their work and come over to us and listen and watch us sing. Last night, we encouraged them to join us, and while they wouldn't sit in our circle, they did stand very close and followed along in our song books. God is at work here in India! The hearts of these people are being drawn to God, and we are doing our best to love on them as Jesus would!

And we try to love on the Compassion staff at the project as well. They all work very hard to improve their community and to care, feed, and instruct these beautiful children. What they are doing is so important by not only relieving a part of their physical poverty, but also in relieving the spiritual poverty. They are a staff that love God, and it is evident in all that they do. They are unselfish and such caring people. We are blessed to not only know them, but also to work alongside them for a short time.

Today, our work project at the project was to help build the foundation of a new building that will become a kitchen/eating room closer to the classrooms. It was grueling work as we had to mix the cement and carry the cent bowl by bowl over to the building and pour into the mold. It was a warm day, but I think most of us had fun. I was thinking today about how appropriate it was that we were building a foundation. In a lot of ways, that is what Compassion does with these children. They build a foundation in the children by teaching them about Jesus and giving them a way to improve their life both spiritually and physically. At home we can help build that foundation with our prayers.

Our hearts are indeed full and our cheeks hurt from smiling so much. The people of India, both the children and staff at the project, but also the locals in the towns we visit have captivated our hearts. We love them so much.

Labor of Love

Oct. 30

What an incredible day of service we had with Compassion and our partner church, Covenant Family. We started the morning with a prayer walk through the villave surrounding the church. Along with our team of 18, the Compassion staff and the pastors of Covenant Family joined us in the walk. There was probably about 35 people who went on the prayer walk.

It was a peaceful time of silence as we walked around the village inwardly praying for the people of India and most specifically for the people who resided in the homes we walked past. These are the people who live the closest to the Compassion project site and church so we prayed for their safety, for their health, and most importantly that they would com eto understand the need for the saving love of Jesus Christ.

When we returned, we had the opportunity to do some work service for the project. Some of us helpeed prepare the evening meal for the children.

Every day, the project prepares meals for 350 children. As you can imagine, that is a lot of food to prepare on a daily basis. For many of the, this may be the only meal for the day. What a joy it is after preparing the meal to see the children's smiling faces as they come up with their plates to be served.

In addition to providing meals, Compassion also offers awareness programs and parent meetings to discuss and provide trainingn on proper hygiene, character development, or counseling on how to be a good parent. What Compasion does on a day-to-day basis for these children is truly a loabor of love, and we are blessed to be a part of it!

For those of us not preparing food, we painted! Some painted the walls of the classrooms. They were white before we started, and now they are a cheery yellow with a red stripe at the bottom. And some of us painted a scripture on the wall of the playground in both English and Bengali.

Luckily, the words were already written on the wall in Bengali, so we just needed to trace over it with paint. The site of some Americans painting a wall certainly attracted some attention, and it was uplifiting to hear the locals laugh as we struggled through the Bengali, knowing which stray marks were actually part of the word and which marks were actually part of the word and which that were simply stray marks. SOme locals were even kind enough to help us determine the difference. And apparently some of us couldn't keep the paint on the wall. Chris asked Pro to write the word Jesus in Bengali on his shirt.

In the afternoon, we were able to visit some of our sponsor children in their homes. As we've mentioned before, this is a very emotional time for us, and sometimes even for the parents of the sponsor child. Mahy of us have ssen a parent or a grandparent sob as they tell us how much they appreciate our commitment to helping their child. For many of these families, the primary provider is a day laborer, working outside in some sort of craft. During the monsoon months of July-September, they often cannot work, meaning that the family literally has no money for food. Having their child attend the project, assures that he or she will receive at least one hearty meal a day. for the parent who is struggling so hard to provide for his or her family, that knowledge that their chidl will still eat during the times of no work, relieves their spirit and fills them with gratitude and joy.

The project does so much more than food. The biggest benefit to the child is that they learn how to love Jesus. The child is given sound Biblical teaching, and often the child commits his or her life to Christ even though their family may practice another religion. The child comes home and tells the family about Jesus and through their witness and through their improvement and the kind help the Compassion staff gives them, they also will commit their lives to Jesus. Compassion's mission is to care for the child's physical and spirtual needs, but that doesn't stay in the project. What they do goes home with the child and impact the family as well. Through the child, Compassion brings families to God.

I want so badly to add pictures to show you the activities, but we are having difficulties doing that right now. For now, words will have to do, and I will try to load pictures as soon as I can. Blessings to you at home!

Picture Perfect

(This is a delayed post due to technical issues last night! )--so sorry.

 

It is very early Tuesday morning and this guest blogger is most excited to tell you about the team's day. It was beyond picture perfect moments filled with excitement and God's goodness.

Today the team headed for the project site and spent the morning with the children. They were hard at their studies when we arrived and soon we moved on to serving them lunch. Another group took individual photos of the children as a gift for them and their family.  The remaining time was spent playing with the kids and enjoying the joy in their faces.

This afternoon started our home visits to our Compassion Sponsor Children. As we shared through prayer and our team meeting tonight, it was a most unexplainable moment for many of us.  Each of us spent time learning about our child's family, meeting the neighbors, sharing our family photos and crying at the sheer sight of the  precious child God had placed before us. The time in the child's home was surreal and put into perspective what impact Compassion and their vision has on their children, our children.  It was so amazing to see how our children have taught their parents and neighbors about Christ. There are no words that articulate the feeling in your heart when  20-30 people greet you and seek to know you because of your connection and impact you have made on a child that lives almost 8,000 miles away. We had no desire in the least to leave our sponsor children's homes and felt as though we could have stayed all day. For myself, I was most honored when the grandfather asked for one thing and that was for me to pray over them. It is one of the most humbling moments of your life. God's presences was as heavy as the Wisconsin snow. It was simply unreal.

After our home visits we were honored when asked to travel to 2 of Covenant Family Church's plant churches. One church  attended was at the base of the Himalayan Mountains and set in the middle of a tea garden. The garden was huge and harvested daily by workers who use scissors to cut off the tea leaves for preparation.  We were greeted and asked to dance with the women. The spirit of these people is contagious and one would be a fool not to embrace it. We worshiped together and several team members gave their testimonies.Graciously they donated their offering to Pastor Brian. Brian preached a short message about having an open heart to God and gave a gospel presentation. Pastor Rajib did an alter call and seven came forward and gave their lives to Christ. As a team we laid hands on them and prayed for their new journey as they too prayed. It seemed as though our words all made perfect sense.

It was hard to leave the people of the church and the fellowship was heart warming.  They are very invested in their church and Pastor James is a humble man.  We had to leave early to avoid any elephant stampedes. It was a most perfect way to end our day in the community, praising God.

Lastly, on behalf of the team, I would like to thank all of you for your prayers. It is crazy to think that it is day six already. There is not a day that goes by that we are not grateful for the continued prayers from you all back home. Dhonyobad--KJ and the team.

 

Sunday Church Service

Oct. 28

Today we got to spend the day with our partner church Covenant Family located in Samuktala. What an incredible experience of two cultures joining together worshiping one God. We were greeted at the foot of the driveway by drums and a lovely progression of dance and song as we walked to the church. We joined them for the church service where worship was sung both in Bengali and in English. It was incredible to hear both languages singing at the same time, united in our love for the one true God. Pastor Rajib preached the sermon on Luke 5 in English and it was translated into Bengali. We also had the opportunity to watch the children in Sunday School sing and dance worship songs. Afterwards, we had a few hours to visit with our brothers and sisters and to play with the children. We brought some stamps and bubbles along and the children flocked around us, popping the bubbles, laughing, and asking to take pictures with us. A highlight for many of us was that we were able to see some of our sponsor children!  What a joy to visit these precious people! Tomorrow, we will start our home visits to our sponsor children. We are excited and blessed to visit with them in their homes.

Later, we also were able to take part in the graduation ceremony of a group of 12 youths who completed a discipleship class. To see these 12 young men and women so passionate for Christ as they sang worship songs, prayed in their native language, and gave their testimonies, uplifted our spirits and encouraged us. Pastor Jordan gave a short sermon encouraging the youth  to continue in their Christian walk. He gave them a bobber to remind them that they have been "caught" by God, and now they also need to be fishers of men. To end the ceremony, our team and the members of Covenant Family prayed over these youth at the same time all in our native languages. It was powerful and moving!

Tonight after dinner, we heard some loud music outside our hotel. Outside, there was a giant parade of floats, lights, drums, and dancers through the streets. The parade was for the puja, a Hindu festival celebrating the goddess Durga. After the parade, they will travel to the river and submerge the statue of the goddess into the river. It was fascinating to see the crowds of people lining the streets, as this is a popular Indian festival (one in which people recieve holidays from school and work for), but it was also sad to see the people celebrating a dead image. It gives you a sense for how lost these people are. Pray for the people of India this week as they worship these gods and goddesses that do not exist. Pray that the people of India come to know the one true God, Jehovah.

Playing Chicken

Oct. 27

What a day! After safely arriving in Bagdogra and receiving all our luggage (yay!), all 18 of us piled into 6 cars to make a 4-hour trek through mountains and small towns to settle into our hotel for the week, which is just 30 minutes from the project site. Traveling by car in India is quite the exciting venture. When driving, it seems as though the motto is get there any way you can. Then add the numerous pedestrians and cattle walking on the sides of the roads and bikes weaving in and out of traffic, and you have quite the treacherous drive. The cars and buses use every available space (on both sides of the roads) to move around slower vehicles, never decreasing their speed. Often times, it's like playing a game of chicken when passing, and there have been many times when we audibly gasped out loud, believing that this time we would hit the car or the bike or the cow (who walk down the middle of the roads without caring!). Indian driving is aggressive at best. 

But the drive was absolutely beautiful! We went through a windy mountain road surrounded by a gorgeous rain forest and sparkling rivers. Image

Not only was the scenery beautiful, but we also got to see some wildlife along the way. We were able to stop and get a photo op with this charming family as well. 

Image

There were a total of about 20 monkeys lined up along the road. They let us get quite close to take their picture; however, they did let us know with a friendly hiss if we got too close. When unobservant, the monkeys even tried to steal our cameras out of our hands. It was certainly an amazing experience! 

It gets pitch dark here by 5:30 p.m., so about half of our drive was done in the dark. With careful eyes though we were still able to spot wildlife in the distance. Some people in our group even spotted two large elephants! We tried to turn the cars around so all of us could see them, but unfortunately they had retreated deep in the forest by the time we did so. 

The windy roads then turned into bumpy roads, as in multiple large potholes in a row type of bumpy. It was absolutely necessary to hang on to something to keep your balance, and hopefully not hit your neighbor or the window. Some of us weren't so lucky and still got punched a few times by flaring arms or unfortunately smooshed against the window. Three of our cars also got separated from the rest of the group, took a wrong turn, and ended up taking the scenic route (through more bumpy roads) to our hotel. But we all made it and are now settled in. Tomorrow, we will have breakfast with the pastor (and his family) of our partner church here in India and then attend the church service. This week we begin our work with the church and at the Compassion project.

Eyes Wide Open

Oct. 27
Good afternoon!  We left Kolkata this morning to travel to the project site. Before we left, some members of the team were able to observe the aftermath of a slaughtered cow in an alley by our hotel. It is the end of Ramadan, and the streets were crowded with Muslims for this religious festival. Later, we took a plane to Bagdogra, and some of us were able to see Mt. Everest from the windows of the plane. We are now going to begin our journey to the project site. We will be traveling by car to the site, and we have been warned that it will be quite the ride. It was once described as a roller coaster. Oh our stomachs! We are excited to be on our way. All our travels thus far has been free from mishap, and we expect this one will be too!

We Have Arrived

Oct. 26

We have finally arrived to our first stop in India--Kolkata.  We arrived late last night, and have finally been able to connect to the Internet to update the blog. Yesterday was a very long two days of travel for us, and I think we are all relieved to have a day not on the plane. Our first flight from Chicago to Delhi was 14 hours long! That's a long time to be cooped up in a plane, even as large of a plane that we had, but "that's just the way we like it!" After a 5 hour layover in Delhi, we were back in the air to Kolkata. This flight was only 2 hours long. We were definitely tired from the travel, but we are excited to be here. We're excited for our upcoming ministry work with Compassion and our partner church, Covenant Family.

Today, we spent the day in Kolkata. First we went to the East India office of Compassion International. It was very encouraging touring the office and listening to all the wonderful people who work there. It was amazing to hear how Compassion runs their ministry within East India. We were able to hear about how the East India office started, how they are flourishing, and their future plans to start new projects not only within India, but also in Bhutan and Nepal. We were also able to see how they organize and send our letters to our sponsor children. It was incredibly fascinating and encouraging!

After viewing the Compassion office, we went on a driving tour of Kolkata, which is quite the experience in a large bus! The streets are overcrowded with very aggressive drivers, and the horns never stop. It's definitely a new experience. Words cannot describe the amount of people and cars that are out on the streets.

We will be eating dinner soon, but we finally found some computers with Internet access, so we are all crowded around a few computers, happy to be writing emails home. (Check your inboxes family) :)

Tomorrow, we will be traveling again. We will be traveling by plane and bus to Siliguri, close to where our partner church and the Compassion project is. Please also pray that God will behin to work in not only our own hearts, but also of those we will be ministering to. And finally, pray that we all remain healthy and are free from illness while on this trip. Thank you faithful prayer warrior!

 

We're on Our Way

Well, after months of planning, we are officially on our way to India. We gathered at the church at 6 am, and we are now loaded up in 2 large vans driving down to Chicago to catch our flight to India. (Isn't technology amazing! I'm blogging on the road)p It's a dreary morning, quite foggy and a bit cold and wet, but we're not dreary in our souls. We are all very much excited to be leaving. The vans are buzzing with chatter and laughter. The camaraderie of this team is definitely evident. It's going to be a great trip. Please be praying for traveling mercies today. We have a couple of long flights today. Also, pray that all our luggage arrives. And most importantly pray that God begins to work in our hearts and on those we will be ministering to. Next stop India. :)

Welcome to the Compassion India 2012 Team

Thanks for visiting!  This blog will contain additional information about the Woodlands India trip in October 2012.  You will also be able to follow us as we travel (provided we have any Internet access).

As we get ready to head to India, we would like to share some prayer requests with you.  If you can pray for us in the following ways while we are in India we would really appreciate it:

  • Safety in travel and health for team members

  • For deepened relationships with our brothers and sisters in India

  • For cultural understanding and sensitivity

  • For team unity

  • For effective ministry and servant hearts


Our 2012 Compassion India Team Members are:

  • Brian Berg

  • Shannon Brandt

  • Daryl Clapham

  • Dave Dumke

  • Aimee Freston

  • Doug Galuk

  • Cindy Groshek

  • Sherry Harvey

  • Jordan Huffman

  • Kelly Jung

  • Clay Koerten

  • Kari Leonard

  • Mike & Jolene McClellan

  • Audrey Shilka

  • Karen Stats

  • Chris Yhanke & Bridget Lohr


[caption id="attachment_5" align="aligncenter" width="553"] Above are the 18 members of our India Team[/caption]

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