Tuesday December 25, 2018

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

I am beyond amazed that I am celebrating the birth of Christ with my husband and children in a rural village in northern India with the Himalayan foothills hovering over us. Being here on the mission during this Christmas season has been a wonderful gift. This little sanctuary, just off the main road leading into Banbasa is a testament to the love and grace of our Lord and I can’t imagine being anywhere else to celebrate Christmas during this journey.

The morning began very slowly, as every was tired. But once awake the thrill of pleasant opening quickly gave our kids a burst of energy. It was wonderful to watch our kids open their few gifts and have all three of them comment that they are all very happy to be here. While we are missing family back home, we have since been adopted into this large and loving family here in Banbasa, India. I don’t think my kids even missed breakfast this morning.

Christmas morning with our kids!
Anjali opening her “stocking” (or a pair of pants) hung outside for Santa.
Lucia loved her new Barbie clothes
David just couldn’t believe he got Pokémon cards!

We headed over to the Strong House around 9:00 for some Chai, but Pricilla surprised us with some coffee, real French Press espresso, and it was the best Christmas gift! I have been really missing some good coffee and I was able to have 2 really good cups of coffee. As we were all gathered around the nice warm fire, we were able to give Uncle Rick, Clifton and Pricilla, and Lachlan some small gifts we found, as well as track down Raymond to give him a new soccer ball (we are Raymond’s new sponsors) and it was so nice to be able to give him a small gift as we start a new relationship with him. We took a few pictures to capture the moment and other kids wanted to get in on the photo opportunity with Uncle Jeff!

Our family just grew by one!

Raymond with his new soccer ball. He was thrilled and it was wonderful to be able to bring him
some extra joy today!

As I glance around this room I am awed at God’s loving spirit and how he is able to transform every person to encompass a different aspect of Himself. We are all beautiful children of God and today is a reminder of how much God loves each one of us. He gave His son, Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, as a sacrifice for my sins and for the sins of all. He sent our Savior here to live a life filled with hardship and tragedy to show me how to live me life. He was sent here to teach me all the ways I am able to have a relationship with God. The birth of Jesus Christ opened the door for every person on earth to experience the love of God and we have the opportunity to see God in each one of our brothers and sisters. This is absolutely the case here. I look around at the faces of the beautiful children and see a life of hardship and loss, but they are surrounded by a loving family who encourages them to see God every step of the way. These children have taught me so much and I am so grateful for every way God works through them.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal with a lot of the same people that were here for the Christmas Eve worship, as well as a gift and treat bag for everyone. The excited faces of the children were unforgettable.

Jeff and I with Raymond

Once those that do not all the mission “home” went their own ways to spend the day with their families, everything here just calmed. Kids were playing on the playground or just around the common areas with their new toys and gifts. We learned that almost everyone was heading into the jungle for a couple hours or picking berries and playing by the river. After a 15 minute walk and a quick crossing of the ankle deep river, we ended up on a small island walking through the jungle and finally arriving at a sandy beach. It was beautiful. The boys had brought along a speaker, so we had music playing in the background while we enjoyed snacks, skipping rocks, and just relaxing and spending time as a family.

Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends. We hope that your day was filled with as much joy as ours.

Monday December 24, 2018

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not loose heart.

Merry Christmas Eve! We got up at the normal time today for breakfast, and then there was a last minute stir of finishing up the decorations and preparing the food for this evening. The dining hall and worship area have even completely transformed; Katie has done an amazing job. The mission is filled with twinkling lights and paper decorations that make this place feel like Christmas is definitely here.

After the decorations were done, I joined some of the small girls for a wonderful treat…they have beautiful lemon trees around the property here and make an amazing snack. These lemons you literally peel them like a potato and just get the yellow rind off, then you cut them into pieces and sprinkle with either salt or sugar and top with chili or spicy chutney. This may be one of my favorite treats here. It is so tasty that my mouth is watering just thinking about them! Here are few pictures of Lisa trying to get another lemon down from the top of the tree by throwing a stick at the lemons in hopes of knocking one to the ground.

We enjoyed a beautiful service of carols, Anjali even played her flute, though you could barely hear her over the drums and the guitar, I know she sounded great! This was her first time ever playing in front of people, and she did this in front of 100 plus today! Lucia was also asked to light one of the Advent Candles and she was happy to accept this heavy responsibility to play with fire. The worship space was packed. Besides those that call The Farm home, children that have moved on to careers elsewhere came back to celebrate with their family and folks from the community came to celebrate the birth of Christ at this wonderful place here in Banbasa. Immediately following the worship service, the space was transformed into a dining hall and we all sat down to a beautiful meal together. It was such a wonderful Christmas experience.

After dinner, the nursery kids headed to their room for some movies, while the older kids danced all night in the worship hall. Anjali and I tried to join the party, but the music was just too loud for me. I did take some refuge in the Strong House in front of the fire, but I really wanted to be with my family (David and Lucia had gone to bed and Jeff was in the room with them). I found Anjali near the music and she asked if we could go back to the apartment; I was happy to oblige. Anjali ended up watching a movie with Jeff and I and then she headed off to bed, ready for Christmas to come in a few short hours.

Today my prayers were answered. When we started to plan this journey and as we saw the pieces all fall together, I prayed often that we would be able to spend Christmas here. I prayed that Christmas, even on the other side of the world would be a memorable experience that would remind us that this day is more than just gifts, it is about the birth of our Savior. And today, I am witnessing first hand this prayer being answered.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas Eve to everyone.

Sunday December 16, 2018

Isaiah 9:3 You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.

Another day of rest today: breakfast, worship, lunch, and play. It is so quiet around the mission on Sundays; the kids watch movies in their hostels or take naps and the adults just visit, nap, and relax. It is such a nice day and I am so happy that I am learning how to celebrate the Sabbath. I still struggle with this because I find myself feeling lazy and tying to do something and I have to fight the urge so I can allow myself the opportunity to just relax and rest.

It was so fun to watch the children play on the playground, running around playing tag and just being kids. No electronics or phones to get in the way, just engaging with friends and playing the way children are meant to play.

After dinner tonight, our children were able to hand out a special treat sent from my mom, mini candy canes! The kids were so excited and so grateful for the treat. I was able to capture pictures of each table holding their candy canes and the smiles say it all–they were very happy to get this treat! Thank you mom for sending these–the kids all wanted me to make sure to tell you “THANK YOU!”

The smiles on their faces just brighten my day.

Anjali, David, and Lucia also seemed to enjoy sharing these candy canes with all of their new friends. This scripture says it all, when we share with others, we all find more joy in our lives and tonight was no different. Our kids experienced first-hand that when you “divide your plunder” everyone finds more joy.

Friday December 14, 2018

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today’s homeschooling efforts were a total success. The kids were all on task and completed their assigned work and everyone was pretty much done by 2:30. This was a total win and has not happened in a very long time. David even let me teach him a new method of subtraction that he ended up finding much easier than the Common Core methods they learn in school. He was thrilled because he was subtracting 6-8 digit numbers without even needing to write them down on paper, and he was able to solve the problem in half the time. He was so excited and so was I. Lucia also completed the entire Kindergarten curriculum today, so she will be starting first grade on Monday. She just breezed through the Kindergarten curriculum, I am curious to see how she does with 1st grade and how she will handle things that are more difficult because up to now, everything has been so easy for her.

David and Lucia stayed back while Anjali went with Jeff and I to Banbasa for a few items. It was nice to have her along and I think she enjoyed being away from her brother and sister for the afternoon.

We also committed to being a sponsor for one of the children here on the mission. We are so excited to continue a relationship with this big family and to start a new one with Raymond, one of the 11 year old nursery boys here on the mission. Jeff and I are looking forward to getting to know Raymond and to support him through the coming years. It is also wonderful that this all happened while we were here so we can actually take some time to get to know Raymond a little bit before we leave. The kids are also very excited to have a new PenPal when we go back home and share with Raymond their life experiences and hopefully hear about his. I guess this means that this will probably not be our only trip here!

As part of life on the mission, we have gotten use to seeing monkeys everywhere. While they are not very nice (or so we have been told), they are still quite adorable and fun to capture pictures!

One thing that I have not missed is fighting with the my children about eating. They seem to be enjoying the food here and because we all eat as a family, they are continually urged by other kids to eat their meals. It has been great to watch our children finally just sit down and eat their meals!

Thursday December 13, 2018

Mark 5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Well this scripture today is spot on. I woke up feeling much better. I still was not at 100%, but it was a definite improvement. Not much happened during the day today, but this evening the carolers came back again. This time I got my kids out of bed so they could experience it and it just so happened that I was on a FaceTime with my mom, so I took her out with us too. She got to experience the Hindi Christmas caroling here on the mission with us and it was so much fun! David was pretty tired and only stayed for a bit, but Lucia and Anjali totally got into it and had a really good time dancing around with all of the kids.

A photo opp with some of the big girls here on the mission.

Anjali and Sheetal

Anjali holding one of the nursery kids

Kelly and a blanket monster

Dancing the night away
Lachlan, Lucia, and Rofika
Rofika and Jyotika with Lucia

Lucia with some of the small boys, Danny, Kevin, and Ram Pal!

Lucia and Kelly
A photo bomb by Ram Pal
Lisa and Kelly make a Lucia sandwich

The kids here on the mission are some of the sweetest and most loving children I have met. They have taken in my kids and accepted them as part of their family.

Wednesday December 12, 2018

Numbers 23:19 God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

We had a very nice day today, though it was a bit colder than it has been. Rocky has been a lot to handle–he barks all day long. Jeff has been trying to walk him during the day, but he really just never stops and it is very trying to hear him bark nonstop. The kids had school today while Jeff hung up Christmas lights with Lachlan and Uncle John. They have a lot more to do, but what they got done looks great! I was teaching the kids all day today, which made for a long day. I really love teaching Lucia because she is engaged and desires to learn. But to be honest, David is pretty hit or miss, some times he is fun to teach and other time he fights us on everything. Unfortunately, more often than not, Anjali does not want us to teach her, so it is usually a battle with her. We did, however, get a bit of recognition from her today that she is behind and that she is very overwhelmed with how to get caught back up with everything. She is fully capable of not only getting caught up, but actually being ahead of schedule with her academics, she just needs to apply herself, which she is not currently doing. I really believe that she is looking at the forest and not seeing the trees, meaning she is seeing the big picture of how much she has to do and not able to see that if she takes each lesson one at a time, she would be done before she knows it. Hopefully she will learn this soon–we are trying to show her and tell her, but we don’t know anything and she knows everything. Ughhhh, pre-teens! As with everything, it will pass soon enough and we will be on to another challenge.

I just had to include this picture of Lucia waiting for breakfast to start. She has the perfect expression on her face and pretty much shows how the kids are feeling about getting up at 6:45 every day!

A really crappy thing happened though, I ended up catching whatever Anjali had yesterday. Shortly after our afternoon tea time I started to get real cold, so I headed up to our room and climbed into our bed to sleep. I proceeded to get colder and colder, so I was in there for the night, except for dinner. I don’t know if I have ever been so cold, and it wasn’t even that cold outside. I was definitely ill.

As Jeff and I were walking over to dinner we heard singing and music happening from over by Uncle Rick’s room where we eat dinner. When we got closer we found some carolers singing Hindi Christmas music. The kids were singing along and dancing. It was so neat to experience, I just wish I wasn’t feeling so crummy.

I shared some videos are my Instagram page @sarassimplelife if you want to experience a bit of this for yourself.

Tuesday December 11, 2018

Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out

Usually at 6:45 am when we get the kids out of bed for breakfast at 7:00 we hear the complaints of “I’m tired”, “I don’t feel good”, etc. and today was no different. We recently have taken a different approach to the morning, if the kids don’t want breakfast that is fine, so we wake them up and if they don’t come down for breakfast it’s their loss. But I have to be honest, I was quite irritated and upset that Anjali did just that; she stayed in bed during breakfast because she “didn’t feel well”. I know that I may sound mean and heartless, but I really thought her complaints this morning had to do with her just being tired or not wanting to get out of bed. I checked on her throughout the morning and she was either asleep or laying in bed curled up under the covers. By lunch time, I felt absolutely awful. I didn’t believe her this morning and was actually upset that she was “acting this way”, but when she didn’t show up for lunch and was still in bed when I checked on her I realized that she really was ill.

This whole situation reminds me of the story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and my kids do this a lot, especially in the morning when they are needing to get out of bed. As a result when they say the “don’t feel good” it is hard to know whether or not they are being honest or just trying to get out of getting up. But this time, she was honest and she was sick. She ended up sleeping all day so I made her some ramen noodle soup for dinner and then she was back to sleep. I always feel terrible when this happens (this isn’t the first time) and I just wish that I could believe them when they said they didn’t feel well, but if I did they would never get out of bed for school or breakfast or do any chores. I pray that I can find some happy middle ground with this situation some day.

Otherwise, today was not very eventful. David and Lucia completed school, Jeff took Rocky on several walks, and we ended up picking up some garbage around the mission. I have also been helping in the office by sending thank you emails to people who donated to the Christmas campaign, a fundraiser that will financially support the mission’s goal of providing a memorable Christmas celebration to the children who call this place home, as well as for those who grew up on the mission and come back to celebrate the holidays. It was a huge blessing to learn that the campaign was successful and they were able to raise the money needed. This was a huge relief for the staff, knowing that their greater community of supporters were able to band together so those who call GSAM “home” will be able to have a great Christmas. God always provides and today was just further proof of that.

I don’t have any pictures from today. I need to work on taking more photos. We are just enjoying the moments so much that we are forgetting to take pictures to capture them. Oh, well. Here is a picture of our Christmas tree that now has a few gifts under it for our family!