entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

Archive for the tag “travel”

A Bowl of Compassion

Read about my return to A Bowl of Compassion!

Taking the Call

Slowly the train came to a halting stop in the gray fog of the early morning. With a yawn, I heaved my pack on my back and joined the cue of people waiting to disembark at Gaya Junction, but before my feet reached the platform I was pulled into Murari-ji’s bear-hug embrace. “Maria-ji!” He proclaimed with enthusiasm beyond the early hour.

The next 48 hours continued in the same manner – with shouts of joy and loving embraces of return – and each and every day of the week I remained in Bodh Gaya was filled with love in every sense.

Being back in Bodh Gaya, being back at A Bowl of Compassion (BOC), was like returning to a home. As I wrote before I left, BOC was a huge part of my initial study abroad experience and what nudged me to move in the direction of mission and…

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re-entering the land of the gods

Originally published on Taking the Call. 

Three years ago, at about this time exactly, I was beginning a study abroad journey to India. I was a Junior in college seeking to study Indian dance, expand my knowledge of religious customs, and be challenged by the world.

I returned home, five months later, changed in many ways. Not only did I come home with an expanded religious perspective and culinary palate, but my view of mission and justice had also been challenged.

For the first time I really questioned what I believed and why, what others believed and why, and why justice looks different in every context. There are so many moments, so many stories from that experience that ultimately shaped me into who I am as a Global Mission Fellow today. Therefore, from the moment I stepped out of the country in 2013, India has continued to be in my heart and mind in various ways. I have always felt like I would be back someday…and now I am!

India’s close proximity China ultimately made returning to India much more feasible, yet it didn’t feel right to return until this fall when a door opened.


Cooking and serving lunch at Bowl of Compassion, May 2013

One of my many powerful experiences in 2013 included a trip to Bodh Gaya, where I volunteered at Bowl of Compassion, a local primary school and soup kitchen. You can read about my experience here, which began a long and beautiful relationship in many ways. I was inspired by the founder, Murari, and his sense of compassion and vision in the light of educational injustice in Bodh Gaya. This compelled me to share my experience and connect the children at Bowl of Compassion to First Presbyterian Church in Sioux Falls, SD (where I was working at the time). That year at VBS we raised almost $2000 to help build a new tile floor and an art building for the school. But even better, the kids were able to learn about each other and their differing cultures. For the past 3 years, First Presbyterian has been able to continually support Bowl of Compassion with various offerings, so when Bowl of Compassion reached out to me to return to Bodh Gaya, I immediately contacted Kathie Douma, director of children’s ministries, to pray about this opportunity together.

Education in India is very much like China in some ways. The kids are taught very logically and formally with little room for imagination, creativity, or even critical thinking. Bodh Gaya is particularly stuck in this traditional system being in one of the poorest, illiterate, and corrupt states of India.

As children’s ministry lay people, Kathie and I are being asked to train the teachers some more creative ways to teach the kids in order to allow for imagination, creative thinking, and activity! We don’t know exactly how this will go – but we have a bag of tricks that is bound to help. 🙂

And thus, next week, I will re enter the land of the gods. I will spend almost an entire month in the country! After volunteering at Bowl of Compassion, I will do some traveling, first heading to Varanasi and New Delhi, then heading south to Hyderabad (where I studied), west to Mumbai/Pune, and finally, north to Amritsar. It will be a journey of old and new places, old and new connections, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Most of all, I hope the Lord will continue to shape me. I pray that he may allow for continued processing of my experience three years ago and provide the space for new insights, challenges, and growth.

Going to India in 2013 was a part of my call story to becoming a Global Mission Fellow! Please help me share my story by voting for my #IAmCalled Video! Click HERE!



The travels begin! Tonight I am catching a train to Rajasthan (NW India) with a whole load of fun on my agenda. I wanted to let you know that I will not have internet access so don’t worry when you see that my blog is silent for 9 days. There will be lots to read upon my return 🙂

Here is the preliminary information to wet your mind:

This is Harper Ganick, my travel partner for the week! Harper is from Nashville, TN and has been in India for the entire year. Actually this is her second time in India! She enjoys trekking and sleeping 🙂


We are beginning our journey with a long train ride up to the city of Udaipur. Udaipur is sometimes called the “Venice of the East” due to its whimsical environment. It is also known as the City of Lakes. The city was formally known as Mewar and was founded in 1559 by Maharaja Udai Singh II. There are splendid palaces to take in, craft bazaars, and even artistic/cookery classes to take part in. Due to the beautiful environment, Udiapur is a prime spot for movie shootings…such as the James Bond film, Octopussy. Udaipur is also mentioned in Kipling’s The Jungle Book as the birthplace of Bagheera, the panther!

After a few days, we will head further north to Jaipur. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan is is part of the “Golden Triangle” of India (Jaipur – Agra – New Delhi). As one source puts it, “It is a bustling capital city and a business centre with all the trappings of a modern metropolis but yet flavoured strongly with an age-old charm that never fails to surprise a traveller.” The old parts of the city are dressed in pink with a backdrop of ancient forts. royal buildings and palaces that this city offers. Other than these captivating attractions, Like Udaipur, Jaipur displays exquisite handicrafts and spectacular jewelry. All this makes a picturesque view that enthralls visitors, therefore it is a very popular tourist destination in India. It is here in Jaipur that Harper and I will be celebrating the Elephant festival (Mar 26) and Holi, the festival of colors (Mar 27).

After that we will climb further north to Agra, making our way into the state of Uttar Pradesh. Of course, our main purpose is to experience the Taj Mahal! (No, the Taj is NOT in New Delhi for those of you who think it is 🙂 However, Agra was actually the original capital of Hindustan  before it was moved to Kolkata and then Delhi.) Other than that we plan on visiting Agra Fort and exploring around the city for 24hrs before taking the long 28 hour train ride back to Hyderabad.

We will be back on Saturday March 30th, just in time to celebrate Easter!

Yes, I will be missing a week of classes, but I promise that I have not skipped any other class this semester! Harper and I are excited to set off an explore!

Later gators!


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