Wednesday December 19, 2018

John 6:6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

This scripture passage is a testament to when Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand and just before this scripture Jesus asked Philip where they could buy enough food to feed the people that followed him. I love this passage because it speaks to how Jesus knows all of us; He knows the answer to all of our questions, concerns, fears, joys, etc. Jesus is faced with a following of about five thousand people who are needing to be fed and all he has are 5 loaves of barley bread and 2 fish, not nearly enough to feed five thousand people, and yet He does. He knows that will be enough (they even have 12 baskets of leftovers). When Jesus asked Philip this question He was testing his faith and I want to believe that in this situation, I will have faith. Faith that God has the ability to provide for my needs and the needs of my family. That He is able to make something out of nothing and to spread His grace to anyone who is open to receive it.

Today was no different. I am so grateful to have been here on the mission today. There was so much joy here that there is no denying that God was hard at work here on this mission. A group of gentlemen from a local power company came by with a car load of clothing for these wonderful kids. It was a lot of fun to see so many happy faces as they were able to get new clothes…Christmas came a bit early!

Danny showing off his new, old-school, Arsenal jacket!

The kids had a lot of fun (and so did the adults), as they were able to go through these mounds of clothes. And the joy and excitement in the air was accompanied with some wonderful news we heard just before these gentlemen arrived. Fun was had by all, and I had no idea that this was just the beginning.

Now I will share with you the good news we heard shortly before the clothes arrived. A bit of mission history, about 14 years ago there was a split on the board of directors and there has been a legal court case in litigation since that time (the India court system is not known for its efficiency)! However, today, one of the opposing families actually joined together with the current board and the court case ended. It was truly a gift of peace for the mission and there was a huge celebration this evening. We started with music, dancing, and fireworks as the legal team arrived at the mission and that was followed up with a DJ in front of the worship space with more dancing and music well into the night. This was truly evident of God’s mighty power in this world and His ability to make anything possible, whether it is feeding the thousands or joining previous foes together and resolving a long fight; anything is possible with God. What a fun and joyous night it was.

Praise God for all His great and wonderful acts of love!

Tuesday December 4, 2018

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher,
    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What do people gain from all the toil
    at which they toil under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down,
    and hurries to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south,
    and goes around to the north;
round and round goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
    there they continue to flow.
All things are wearisome;
    more than one can express;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
It has already been,
    in the ages before us.
The people of long ago are not remembered,
    nor will there be any remembrance
of people yet to come
    by those who come after them.

I have to be honest, I had to read a bit of history to gain some perspective and understanding of this scripture passage. I found out that King Solomon wrote this scripture verse as a reminder that when we pursue things outside of God, meaning the worldly possessions that bombard us everyday, the satisfaction and joy will not last; we can have everything and yet if we do not love the Lord first, we have nothing. A life without the Lord is no life at all.

I don’t know if I truly ever had a relationship with God until having Anjali. I knew of God, but I didn’t really love Him and though I had been taught all about His work and the work of Jesus, for whatever reason it just did not settle with me. As I look back on my early years as an adult I can see how lost I actually was, drifting through life with no real purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of ambitions and goals, and I achieved most of them with hard work and dedication, but I never felt fulfilled–I always needed more of something but I did not know what. I guess I was not able to explain a higher being, or maybe I was frightened by the idea that someone else had influence in my life and that my destiny was not always up to me. I did not understand it, so I was afraid of it.

After having my first child I began to see the church as a community that could be a support system to my family, as well as a great way to teach humility and morality to my children. Again, my draw to the church was not a relationship with God, but rather the ways the church could benefit me. If this was God’s way of bringing me closer to him, I will never know and that’s okay. This path has lead me to where I am now and I am so grateful.

This year we are living with only what we can carry on our back, leaving behind all of our possessions and serving those in need around the world. This plan was put into our hearts by God, I am sure of that, and He has taken us on a journey that I could never have planned myself; He opened doors I did not even know existed. I continue to see how, at His hands, we are experiencing God’s love in people that live on the other side of the world. We are living our lives with God at the center, which is a complete change from 15 years ago, and I have never felt more alive, even with so little. I not only feel a stronger connection to God, but also a much deeper connection to the world as a whole. The world is so much smaller than I had previously believed and I feel like I am starting to see the world as one big family. We may live in different ways and in different parts of the world, but we all face the same challenges in our life (blessings, hardships, sin, grace, joy, grief, etc). This journey has taught me that we all are more similar than we appear and that we really are just one big family with God as our father.

Today I went to Bareilly with Katie and Anish to do the Christmas shopping for the boys on the mission. We hired a driver for the 2-3 hour commute and of course we had to stop for tea half way there (I had my tea in a cup made from a mud–for as behind India is with trash collection they are quite advanced with the ‘green’ movement–a totally biodegradable cup).

Once we got to Bareilly I realized how small Banbasa actually was; it has felt so big and so busy, but I guess I had no comparison. Bareilly is nothing like Banbasa. It is loud, busy, and filled with people. I am not sure that the pictures can capture the number of people there, but its the best I can do!

Driving through the city to the car park
Walking through the streets of Bareilly looking for the right shop
A view from outside the toy shop

This was such a great experience, one that I was not prepared for but thoroughly enjoyed (well sort of). It was great that I was able to help Katie and Anish with the shopping and to get some done for our family. But as I was getting ready this morning I switched out my purse for my backpack (much more practical) and I forgot to put my migraine medication in it. A simple oversight that made the day quite interesting. With all of the noise and pollution, I found myself fighting off a migraine for most of the day. It left me feeling nauseous, which is not very pleasant around people that I don’t know in a city where I am completely out of place. I did my best to hide how horrible I was feeling but it finally got the best of me. As we were leaving the sports store where we purchased a ton of items for the older boys on the mission, I could not hold back any longer and the nausea won. I turned to Katie to ask her where I could go because I was going to get sick. She very casually turned to me and pointed to the ground and said, “they are already staring at you, just give them something to stare at!” I could not help but laugh inside as I got sick on the streets of Bareilly with people staring at me. There was nothing I could do. I am in a place with no garbage cans, no public bathrooms nearby, and definitely no bathrooms in the shops…It was a horrible feeling, but Katie’s statement was so true and funny that it made the whole situation much more bearable. These wonderful people I was with took great care of me. It just so happened that we were right next a pharmacy and Anish ran in to get me some anti-nausea tablets and some water, which was just what I needed. As usual, after getting sick, my migraine seems to subside enough and thankfully we were pretty much done shopping anyway. We ended up going for dinner at a shopping mall. I was able to eat a little bit before we drove home. We got home at 11:00 at night and after unloading all of the gifts I got into PJs and finally felt well enough to eat some of the food I brought home. It was definitely an eventful day and even with feeling as awful as I did, I had a really good time and am so glad I went.

Wednesday November 28, 2018

Jeremiah 29:11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

I sure wish I had read this passage this morning, but then again, if I had, it might not be as powerful now. I will get to this later.

Our day started at 12:45 am when we had to wake up the children to get ready for the ridiculous flight at 3:30 am to India. The kids did surprisingly well given the circumstances and after only a few small tantrums, we were out the door, on time, for the 15 minutes walk to the airport. We said goodbye to Thailand and headed for India. We arrived in Delhi, after a sleepy flight, at 6:30 am India time and waited 6 hours before our next flight, but the layover was a perfect opportunity to grab some breakfast, get our phones situated with the new SIM cards, and have plenty of time to go back through security and get to our gate.

Security in Delhi was quite interesting. There is no actual system in place to orderly get folks through security (or maybe the no organization was the organization–but either way, looking back this seems to be the way here). As you walked up to the baggage scanner people started to put their luggage through, but not in a single file line like back in the States, but rather from different lines and everyone pushing their stuff through. What’s even crazier is that once you dealt with the no-line baggage scanner situation, you then had to face the no-line security check! But we made it through and headed for our gate to board our next flight to Pantnagar. The kids were thrilled to find out that our next flight was on a propeller plane. Here are a few pictures from our day so far.

Delhi Airport Customs—I didn’t even notice the hands until Jeff showed me the pictures later.
Our propeller plane from Delhi to Pantnagar

Clifton arranged for a car to pick us up at the airport for the hour drive to The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission (aka: GSAM or The Farm) and our driver was there patiently waiting for us. We climbed into his car and began the hour drive. Now this is my previous reference about how I should have read the scripture passage in the morning rather than the evening. In hindsight the airport was a good indication of life here in India, managed chaos! We got in the car, Jeff in the front passenger seat and the kids and I in the back (I sat in the middle with David to my left and the girls to my right sharing a seatbelt). This drive was way more than I expected. If you would like to watch a short video of our drive, check out my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/sarassimplelife/

I have never been on a road with so many people driving and driving so crazy, but we made it safely to The Good Shepherd Agricultural thanks to our drivers impeccable skills. I may have been a bit scared at times, but he knew what he was doing and he was very good at it.

We were greeted with a warm welcoming crew of staff and children. Our kids instantly found friends and were off running and playing while we got an abbreviated tour of the grounds and our room, followed by tea time and then dinner. We are completely exhausted and we crashed really early.

Thursday November 1, 2018

Genesis 28:15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Homeschooling was a challenge again today with both Anjali and David at different times during the day fighting the work assigned to them. This is so frustrating because they are not given too much work, they just are not doing it. The amount of the work we giving then can be completed in about 4 hours, but these assignments are taking them about 6 hours because they are dawdling. They are staring out the window and front door or at the TV, they are changing their avatars on the IXL program (a computer program helping us to teach the common core standards), or they are just staring at the screen. It is so frustrating because when they just work they complete a lesson in about 5-7 minutes, but these lessons are taking them about 25-30 minutes to complete a lesson that they totally understand. We are still just doing review work, we are not even introducing new information. I could understand if they took longer to complete these lessons if the material was new, but this is all review and they are just not giving it the time and energy it needs. This is very difficult to show them that they can complete the assignments we give them when they consistently are coming up short.

Teaching the kids at the school went very well and all three of our kids were engaged and being helpful. Anjali and David are leading a song and they really seem to be enjoying the kids. This afternoon we didn’t teach at the primary school, but just went back to the house to work on school work for our kids. I am trying so hard to be patient with my children, but the constant fighting over school and fighting amongst the girls is exhausting. Our girls have lost all sense of kindness and respect towards each other which, as you could imagine, is causing more fights and bickering that I care to admit.

I take solace in knowing that these behaviors are not related to this trip and that we would have experienced these same things abroad or at home. Homework has always been a struggle with the kids, unless it was exciting. Scripture like today also gives me comfort because I know that the Lord will always be with us and He will help us on this journey. He called us to it and He will lead us through it. I firmly believe this and He has shown this to be true from the very beginning of this journey. Whenever there was a challenge or problem, He came through with the answer or solution. I know the solution and the answers or coming, and if not, He has His reasons.

Wednesday October 31, 2018

Proverbs 3:24 If you sit down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

We finished the pumpkins for the kids and we did the best we could to dress up for Halloween. David was to be a zombie soccer player (though we worried that his costume would be too much for the little kids), Lucia was a fairy princess, Anjali a mummy, Jeff was Coach Jim Harbaugh, and I was a witch. Now we didn’t have much to work with here in Thailand where they don’t celebrate Halloween, but we managed to find some fairy wings for Lucia, a mask for David, and some glasses to finish off Jeff’s costume. We were all really excited about spending the day teaching the kids about Halloween.

The kids woke up and we attempted school work, but this week has been a bit trying. It seems to either be Anjali or David who throws a fit; Lucia is tackling her school work like a champ. I am not sure what is at the root of these fits, but I think it has something to do with the difficulty of wrapping their head around this as school and not “homework”. They are not getting their work done with huge fights and it taking about twice as long as it needs to be. To add some more fuel to the fire, we had a fight amongst the girls this morning during our first class with the 3-4 year olds; they decided to fight over who handed out the candy pumpkins to the kids. Jeff took the girls out and they continued to fight with each other. David and I taught the next 2 classes by ourselves and Lucia joined us for the last class. Anjali however was really struggling with her emotions and had a difficult time gathering herself together, though she did manage to collect her wits to have lunch. Our time with the older kids was a bit better and we watched an episode of the Addams Family.

Today was a very trying day for both Jeff and I emotionally. I am touched that this scripture came up today because after we put the kids to bed, both Jeff and I just sat in bed a bit overwhelmed. This whole thing was just a bit much for one day. But reading this passage reminds me that tomorrow is a new day and that we are doing this journey to fulfill a purpose that is beyond us, and that He will continue to guide and care for us. I said a prayer before falling asleep, praying for some patience and help to handle teaching my children during this year. Fighting with them on their schoolwork every day is exhausting and I am hoping that we can get over this hump and move forward with their education. I prayed for a restful and rejuvenating sleep so that I would wake up fresh in the morning, ready to face any tantrum or fight my children threw at me, and I tried to remember that God does not give us anything that we cannot handle because He is always with us and will forever guide us on the path we walk.

Here are a few pictures of our day at the two different schools.

Monday October 29, 2018

Daniel 6:23 Then the king was exceedingly glad and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

Today we were back to the routine, with a slight change. We are now doing homeschooling in the morning from 7:30 – 9:00 am for our kids and then getting a bit in during our lunch break and an hour or so after we get home from teaching.

We are also looking forward to celebrating Halloween at the schools on Wednesday and sharing this fun holiday with these wonderful kids. It should be a lot of fun. Jeff had a wonderful idea to make pumpkins out of paper that we could staple candy to, so the kids could go trick or treating. When we realized that there were 135 kids at the preschool we teach we were already 40-50 pumpkins in and it was too late to change our minds. These were going to be a lot of work, but they were going to be so cute. The kids even helped us out, though a bit reluctantly. As awesome as these were going to be, I will admit that I was a bit overwhelmed at the quantity of pumpkins we were going to have to make in such a short period of time; these all needed to be done by Tuesday night. We needed to trace the pumpkins, color and decorate them, cut them out and then staple candy to each of them. We were able to finish a fair amount tonight, leaving us with only 40 to do tomorrow.

I again have my husband to thank for pulling me back to ground as my anxiety and stress started to take over my joy in making these pumpkins for the kids. He gently reminded me that we will finish them and that these are going to make the kids so happy, which makes all this work worth it. This quality in him makes me a better person and I am so grateful that God brought us together through a persistent friend! This scripture passage is just what I needed to read today, as I could feel my stress melting away when Jeff reminded me that we will complete this project as a family and that all the work is worth it to bring Halloween to these wonderful kids here in Thailand.

We have some really fun plans for the kids on Wednesday for Halloween, including Trick or Treating, Halloween songs, showing them decorated houses, and bringing in a Jack-O-Lantern! Today was quite tiring, but it will be all worth it.

As for the homeschooling aspect of the day, the kids all agreed that they really liked the schedule for spreading the work out over the day, and Jeff and I agreed. It was a lot less stressful for us to not have to be doing so much work so late into the evening. This process is really about trial and error and thankfully we are also showing our children the importance and benefit of flexibility.

Friday October 12, 2018

Matthew 10:8 “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

Today we woke up to find that David was having difficulty walking because he now has hives on the bottoms of his feet and on his hands. His feet and hands are incredibly swollen, so we headed straight for the clinic again this morning. Jeff took Lucia to school with him and Anjali stayed home because she seems to have been affected by the same stomach problem that Jeff and Lucia has yesterday, and to add on to everything, so do I. I almost wanted to laugh, but there was no time for that.

I took David to the doctor, only to be told that he was having an allergic reaction to something and that we needed to figure out what it was. Neither Jeff or I are convinced that this is an allergic reaction, but we figured we would rule out a food allergy. David ate nothing today except a Nutella sandwich and Annie’s Mac and Cheese (our wonderful friends at church sent a box of goodies and who knew this would come in so handy!) We read up on food allergy hives that they only last for up to 6-8 hours after the food is consumed, so if he ate nothing but food that we knew he wasn’t allergic to and if he still had hives in the morning, we would know that they were not caused by food.

On the plus side, Jeff and Lucia seem to be doing better. So after taking David to the clinic and getting he and Anjali set up with some homework for the day, I headed off to the temple to teach the second half of the day. Teaching today was fairly uneventful, but still the same—a few monks seem interested in learning the language, but others are falling asleep and don’t seem to care. I have resolved to teaching those that want to learn and if some want to sleep during the lesson, so be it. The ones that actually want to learn are doing well and seem to enjoy the lessons.

On our way home from the temple, Jeff, Lucia, and I stopped off at the pharmacy and picked up some ice packs for David’s feet and hands, as well as some more of the oil we’ve been using to help with the hives and Aloe Vera gel to help sooth some of the tenderness. At this point I want to do anything I can to help ease some of his discomfort. Once I got every set, Jeff insisted that I go and lay down to rest, since I was no affected (though not as severe as Jeff) by the same stomach problem he and Lucia had (and Anjali currently has). This is just getting overwhelming.

The only pictures I have from today are the ones that our friend Katie sent of Anjali’s hamster, Gumdrop. So here you go…