india {day 2}

to catch you up, here are some past posts about why we went to india, and here is day 1.  warning: day 2 was our longest, busiest day, so beware for lots of pictures!

after a great night’s sleep, we woke up early to head back down to the ganga.

it was so fun to experience india in a new way – in the early morning, as the sun was coming up, as the city was waking up.  we decided to take bicycle rickshaws down to the river instead of a taxi.

it was mellow and quiet.  easier to take in than the craziness of the city at full speed – slowly!

as pretty as this looks… can you tell how smoggy it is?!

some of these pics are really for my dad (he’s a boat guy), i just loved all the weathered wood and faded colors!

and then you look in the water.

ohmyword it was nasty dirty!  and this is their holy water!

 the amount of trash that was in there was shocking.

early morning the locals come out to bathe (much fewer now since its winter for them also, but in the summer this place is packed!).

the women’s saris added so much color to an otherwise dingy environment.

we took the stairs up from the ganga to walk back to the street, passing cows on the stairs, of course.

the amount of fresh produce we saw was amazing, yet when we asked one of our guides about it (because we were never served fresh veggies in any restaurants) he said that they were so filled with pesticides that he believed they caused cancer.  huh!

we took auto rickshaws back – a totally different experience than the bikes!  it was crazy – almost like riding in a bumper car super fast, weaving in and out of people, bikes and cars (only not actually bumping into anyone – but coming oh so very close!).

after breakfast we headed out to visit our first training center.  empart, the organization we went to india with, is focused on church planting and they do this through training centers where they train 25 men at a time for a year, preparing them to become pastors and church planters.  this day was what we came there for: to see what God was doing through empart and to encourage the men to keep pressing on in the great commission!

as we pulled up to the training center, across from it was this (above).  this was a site we saw ALL OVER.  ok, prepare yourselves… its cow dung!  some industrious person realized that if you take a pile of dung in your hands, pack it in tight, and dry it in the sun, it can be used as fuel and as building material.  crazy, but smart.  but still not a job i’d like!

when we got out of the car we could hear loud praise music, drums and clapping.  the men were lined up in the courtyard, each of them holding marigold leis for us – we felt so honored!  they had prepared this great welcome for us!  this was one of the first powerful moments i felt in the training centers, where i felt the uniting power of God in a faraway place.

after more time of worship and brief introductions, tim, our pastor and friend was asked to teach, then a few others from our group followed him.  thankfully, we had a translator!

the training center was a small room with peeling paint (really pretty actually), 3 rows of narrow tables and benches, packed in with guys.  their space was small and tight but never once did someone seem irritated by the lack of elbow room – how spoiled we americans are!

one thing that was awesome was whenever a speaker from our team mentioned a verse reference, before the translator can even translate it, the students were already turning to the passage.  we made a little secret game out of it to see if we could be faster than them – it didn’t happen much!  their bibles were clearly loved and well used, they knew them well.

a couple other fun things we noticed: they did a lot of call and response – when someone would say “hallelujah!” everyone would shout “hallelujah!”, the same with “praise the Lord!” and “thank you Jesus!”.  also, they pray very differently than we do.  when we do corporate prayer, we either just listen and pray along silently with one person leading, or we take turns.  the indian people all pray at the same time.  all of them.  together.  it was so fun to listen to, but so hard to pray along with!

here’s a look at their daily schedule, 6 days a week.  it is intense!

after the teaching time, we had a little down time with the guys – here sean was showing some of them pics of our kids.  they thought it was funny that we call silas “monkey”!

this is the pastor of the training center and his sweet family.  what a sacrifice they all have made for the sake of spreading the gospel!

one of the things the indian people do well is hospitality.  we were always offered water everywhere we went, then welcomed into homes and offered chai and some sort of snack.  a place to sit was always made available for each of us.  one thing that struck me was that even when we were packed in tight the hosts never apologized for their space, but were happy to have guests and to serve us.  it made me think of all the times that i apologized for not having enough couch space, or having a messy floor, or …  it made me realize its not about me!  when you are a host it is about your guests and not where you feel your failures are.

here’s our whole group, just before we headed off for the afternoon.

after learning about the sewing centers that empart runs, i reeeeally wanted to visit one.  and thankfully, tim really pushed for us to see one and they made it possible to go!  so we took a long drive outside of the city, past village after village on our way to the sewing center.

then we started passing these fields of bricks.

we saw very few wheel barrows while in india, but plenty of clever ways to move things from point a to point b.  this guy rigged his bike to move tons of bricks – he was teetering here on the very edge of the road!

these 2 were making the bricks, which was really cool to see!

then we walked down a small brick and dirt pathway, past a few mud huts with thatch roofs to an opening in the middle of a small village, where the sewing center was set.  i was anticipating a building with tables and chairs and basically something so different from what i saw.  smack dab in the center of this village, on top of grain sacks, was a group of 10 women and one teacher – this was the training center.

and it was perfect.

it wasn’t my western vision of what it would look like, it was what made sense for them.  these centers are very strategic opportunities for empart.

these women are given an opportunity to learn a trade for free that they would never have otherwise.  they are given the chance to provide for themselves and their families.

 and they are also told the gospel while they are learning a new skill set.  as the teacher is teaching the women tailoring skills, pattern making and embroidery, the gospel story is being weaved throughout their days and many of the women come to christ through it, and can then take it back to their families and communities.

empart is welcomed into these communities because of the good they are doing for them, in providing a help in the training.

after 6 months of training, each of these women are given a hand-crank sewing machine to start their new businesses with.

this is a way that we can support them – by buying a sewing machine for a graduate of the sew & sow centers – how awesome is that?!  to spend $75 to help a woman and her family rise out of poverty is so doable, right?

the women were very sweet to let me join in to try the hand crank machine!

it was a little tricky pushing with one hand and cranking with the other, but pretty much the same as an electric machine otherwise – fun!

the ladies also sang a couple worship songs for us.

then there was this baby girl… oh she was so cute!

this put real meaning behind “it takes a village to raise a child” – literally, the whole village was helping the mother (a sewing student) to raise this child while she was learning.

can you see why i was so taken by her?!  just precious.

travis got in on some baby loving – i’m guessing he was missing his own 4 babies back home!

just past the sewing center was the church.

it was a small brick building that 25 people worshipped in every sunday.

the people of teh village were so sweet and welcoming!

as we headed back to our cars, the whole village…

walked us out!  it was so fun to have a sweet farewell!

then we hit the dirt road again to go visit another pastor and his family… of 12!

another strategic way empart works is through children’s homes, not just orphanages, but actual homes that children can live in, with families.  orphanages are great and needed, but children are raised with no real sense of a mother and father.  through empart’s children’s homes, children are brought into a pastor’s home and family and are raised with a healthy view of what it is to have a mother and father.  not only is this beneficial for the children but also for the pastor.  the villages that may have not welcomed the gospel into their community will usually open wide their arms for someone willing to take in the orphans – indian people are very family centered and love to see their people cared for.

the home we visited had 10 children, 8 of them little boys, ages 4 to 12, that the pastor and his wife took in.  these kids were all so sweet and sang us a couple songs for us, then served us (you guessed it!) chai.  behind them you can see 5 bunk beds, all lined up in a row.

we left their home as the sun was setting and i crashed hard.  the day was so emotional and overwhelming – pushing me to think in ways that i never have before, challenging me to be someone different.  i was so exhausted that i slept on sean’s shoulder for the long ride back to the hotel, then skipped dinner and went straight to bed.  i was wiped, way too tired to process the day!

india {day 1}

over the last few days a number of people have asked me how our trip was.  and i pause.  i struggle to even answer.  and my answers have been somewhat incoherent. see, the problem is, i can’t put the trip to india in a box that fits the 2 minutes the person is probably expecting from me.  i need to come up with a really quick summary, then leave room for questions, which i can totally answer.  its being given the blank slate of answering  how my 15,000 minutes in india was that is really stumping.  and i realize that my response of “it was awesome” just doesn’t do it justice.

so i’ve decided that in order to help me continue to process all that happened while we were in northern india, i’m just going to take it day by day of our time there.  logically, i’ll start with day 1 ;)  but really, day 1 lasted for about 2 days with the long flight and time difference, so bear with me!

i was packed for a couple weeks before we left.  for myself and sean.  the day before we left, sean casually mentioned to a friend that he should probably pack his bag soon.  to that i laughed!  he should know me better, letting him pack himself last minute!  i knew he was swamped with work and so much of what we needed for the trip needed to be thought through and organized, and some of it bought.  the day we left our kids to drive to lax to fly out early the next morning, i had left plenty of breathing room, to homeschool, to bond with the kids, to get a few last minute things done.  then i read the email.

my girl friend recommended i look at my kids’ hair for lice, because we had just had a playdate with her kids, and they now had it.  yes, start itching your heads now.  i am.  we are no strangers to lice as we, yes WE, had lice over christmas.  super fun.  so instead of our planned last day, sean and i spent a few hours in the bathroom with our kids, picking nits out of the girls’ hair and treating them, and cutting off silas’ hair.  doing 4 extra loads of laundry.  then turning the supplies over to my mom to finish off the job while we were gone (insert guilt here).  i guess i did get to spend some pretty intentional time with my kids that day, it just didn’t look like i expected it to.

but we were off, it was literally out of our control.  we drove to l.a. and started bonding with our team on the drive.  i had very little thought about the dynamics about our team before we left, but we were blessed with an amazing group (10 of us) that all traveled really well together and i can now call them all friends.

 we flew out of l.a. to dubai, about a 16 hour flight.  the pic above was taken in dubai.  we had a quick layover there, then another plane to delhi, about 3 hours or so.

 it felt like we hardly slept at all on the way there, but this pic says otherwise ;)  why sean’s arms are inside his shirt and not in a sweatshirt is beyond me.  but after awhile delirium sets in and you really don’t do much logical thinking!

we got into delhi at 10pm, their time, which was great.  we were exhausted and bedtime sounded great.   it would’ve been really hard to adjust getting there midday and not being able to sleep.  to taxi trip to the hotel in the dark was crazy!  traffic laws in india are very different than the u.s.  sean and i had been to bali, indonesia about 9 years ago, so we were prepped a little bit.  basically there doesn’t at first appear to be much organization to the chaos, but after a week or so we were starting to figure some of it out.  traffic lanes are merely suggestions.  going the correct way down the street is optional.  walking your cart and oxen down the middle of the street, along with buses, cars, bikes, rickshaws…. is totally normal.  there aren’t bike lanes.  the horn honking is actually encouraged and constant.  i think we figured out that if you are a bigger car wanting to pass another car, bike, cow,etc, you just honk when you’re behind them and they’ll slightly move to the side for you to squeeze past them.

this sign totally made us laugh because the question shouldn’t have been “do you have your helmet strapped” but “do you have a helmet on?”  oh, and motorcycles are not just for 2 people.  you can fit 5 or so.  and women only ride side saddle.  without holding on.  with a baby in their arms.  they rock.

it was crazy, but super fun, too.  i was so thankful we were driven everywhere we went.  not only for the sake of knowing the “rules” of the road, but also because i never saw any street signs!  i would never find where we were going.  apparently google maps doesn’t have any street signs for the area either!

along with the nutty traffic we went through late at night, we also saw a wedding processional (in the middle of the street, of course), complete with a groom on a horse (both dressed super fancy), a drum band, a couple rows of people carrying electrified lamps of some sort, with someone pushing a generator in the back.  it was awesome!  the clothing and details were incredible, even though we just saw them in passing.

by the time we got to the hotel my mind was racing, trying to process all we had just seen and take it all in.  when we got to our hotel room i thought i’d never fall asleep with the loud front desk down the hall and the constant horns outside, but i fell asleep immediately.

side note:  i totally struggled with our accommodations each night.  for the most part, where we stayed was nice, some really nice, some a little below par (for example, seemingly dirty sheets, no top sheets, stinky blankets).  but then i would feel totally guilty, i needed to find contentment with having a bed to sleep on and a roof over our head

we woke up the next morning, met with our group for breakfast and a meeting, and talked through our book we were all reading together, real-life discipleship. if the trip didn’t challenge me enough, this book sure did (has… i’m still reading it).

we had about 30 minutes to walk around outside before we went back to the airport for another flight.  the pic above was our “wake up” to india:  a man selling his freshly cooked meals at a stand on the side of the street, chai and eggs – pretty standard, and just out of the picture to the left is a “public restroom”, a tile walled stall open to the street (no door), with a hole in the corner.

 the size of the loads these people would take was unbelievable, whether it be on a cart, on a bike, on their heads.  see the blurry woman in turquoise above riding side-saddle?


 lots of pictures were hard to get since i took a bunch from the car as we drove past things, but one sight we saw quite a bit were these chicken coops.  basically, this is where you buy your fresh chicken.  right behind the man with the bike is a man with a chopping block, preparing your chosen chicken for you to take home.

on our way to the airport we were stopped in traffic and a little boy, maybe 8 years old, was playing his drum in the middle of the street next to our car with a little girl, maybe 4, doing backbends and gymnastic-type things then asking for money.  i couldn’t help but put silas and gracie in that situation in my mind, since they are about the same ages.  they couldn’t even cross the street by themselves, let alone stand in the middle of traffic, let alone fend and provide for themselves.

our next flight took us to varanasi, most well known as a holy city and the home of the ganges river, or as its called in india, the river ganga.  we dropped our bags off at our hotel and quickly got to the river as the sun was setting to see the nightly festivities.

 indian nightlife is booming!  i was shocked at how busy the streets and shops are with people so late in the evening.

 it was really hard to peer into the shops as we walked by and try to take any pictures and not get lost from the group – i was looking down most of the time, watching my step – remember cows walk the streets, too, and leave remembrances behind!

 the colors and lights and sounds of the festivities were so fun!  so much effort and details were put into everything.  but along with that came a lot of vendors and begging and disfigured bodies and children fending for themselves.

these offerings were lit and floated out on the river.

 we decided to take a boat out on the river to see things from another perspective…

along with all the other tourists.


 not far up the river from the ceremony site is the cremation site.  apparently, these fires are continually burning.  in Hinduism its desirable to be cremated as close to the river as possible, even to die as close to the river as possible as the river is considered to be holy water.  which was shocking to me as it was horribly polluted, but that again was just another thing i struggled to wrap my mind around.

 already, looking back, i am able to see more beauty than i was able to see while i was there, especially the first couple days.  it was a lot to take in and super overwhelming.

but still, i’d say it was awesome ;)

after the river, we went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before visiting our first training center the next morning.

{part 2 coming soon!}