entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

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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.

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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!

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Kagaz & kalam

Rachel and I returned to Kriti on Saturday to help out with kids day (This is the same GMO in which we took the kids to the zoo last month)!

First of all, it was great to see some of the same children whom we met at the zoo. “Madame Maria!” They would say, and then proceed to list off all of the rest of the names they learned that day.

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Rachel and I were put in a room with the younger children (ages 6-10 ish) for drawing time. 30 plus kids trying to color on the floor of a small space was certainly an exhilarating experience 🙂 The kids were instructed to try to use english with us as they interacted with us and I found I was able to use some of my Hindi to help them as well.

We passed out paper (kagaz), and paper, and more paper! I tried to get the kids to tell me what colored pencil they wanted:

  • red- lal
  • orange- narngi
  • yellow- pila
  • green- hara
  • blue- nila
  • purple- baigani

As they began to finish a picture, they would come up and show me their drawings. “Tell me what you drew,” I would ask and point to different images on their paper. Popular items included flag, balloon, flower, house…

Upon asking one girl to show me how to write her name she proceeded to label all of the items on her paper. Then some other students began to practice their English alphabet! Yay for learning 🙂

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I wished I would have learned a few more phrases or words in relation to drawing so that I could better communicate with them. But again, I was in awe of how interactive the kids were even if we could not understand each other. They were so proud of their artwork and eager to pass it along to us.

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As we wrapped up the day, I found out that this was the last kids day of the semester. Most schools have “final exams” this week and then have some time off before the next year starts. Therefore, I really was probably not going to see these kids ever again. Wow. I guess you hope that you make your mark within a short two hours of drawing. I know I will never forget them!

Rachel and I left that afternoon covered in sweat and pencil shavings 😉

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