Saturday January 26, 2019

Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”

Vacation started today. Everyone slept in until 9:00 am, which I think we all enjoyed. We quickly got dressed and headed downstairs for the flag raising ceremony for Republic Day and then off to breakfast. The kids got to enjoy the pancakes and waffles they have been craving and missing. We walked around the hotel, I took a nap, Jeff worked out, and then I sat in the steam room for about 20 minutes hoping it would help my cough (it didn’t, but it still felt nice). We ended up having a late lunch in hopes that we could just do a light snack for dinner and the hotel was nice enough to give us a really late check-out so we only ended up sitting in the lobby for about an hour before our car arrived to take us to the airport.

The kids were so excited to be headed for Singapore, but not so thrilled that it was another overnight flight. Though we were holding onto a small surprise, we were flying Singapore airlines on an double decker airplane and we had seats upstairs–they were thrilled. We got to the airport with no problem, got checked-in and found out that I had to meet with a customs agent before going through security. This seemed to really concern the children, though I am not sure why. Everything worked out just fine and we continued on our way.

As we were walking through the Duty Free shops to the gate, we came across a luggage store where he was able to find a bag for all of our electronics that will not make him want to cry. Since we left the states he has been using my old college shoulder bag. This was a good bag, but it was not designed for heavy loads and it was constantly digging into his shoulder. His new bag is a backpack and much more conducive to traveling. The guys at the luggage shop also seemed pretty thrilled to get a new bag, since we left behind his old one after swapping everything into the new one.

I grabbed a quick muffin and drink for everyone and we boarded the double decker plane bound for Singapore. While at the luggage store we grabbed eye masks for all 3 kids and that may have been one of our best investments! All three kids slept for most of the flight, despite the cabin lights being on for most of it!

Goodbye India…Our new Banbasa family has changed us forever. You will forever hold a piece of my heart and I will be back as often as possible. To all at The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, we miss you already and thank you for welcoming us into your family. We will see you soon, but until then know that we connected forever.


Friday January 25, 2019

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

Even though goodbyes are becoming part of our life now, they don’t get any easier. We got up early and showered (actually I took a bucket shower because there was no water pressure), got the kids up and ready, finished the last bit of packing, and headed downstairs for our last breakfast on the mission. Clifton led a wonderful prayer and all these goodbyes brought tears to my eyes and overwhelmed my heart with a mixture of joy and sadness. Anjali was able to hand out her friendship bracelets we made last night and we all were bombarded with hugs and friendship bracelets from everyone.

The mission kids had school today and I am so grateful they did because I don’t know how we would have ever gotten out of there. They all leave for school at 7:45, right when our car pulled up. We did the final goodbye hugs and the older kids headed off to school. The little ones were still there because they don’t start until 9:00, so I was finally able to capture Ruhani’s infectious laugh on video. Check it out on my Instagram page @sarassimplelife. As we drove away from our home over the last 2 months, we were comforted by letters and cards made by the kids. It was such a wonderful gift from them and we read some during our drive.

After a group prayer we piled in the car before the tears could begin and we were off of our 375 km/12 hour trip to Delhi. This drive was similar to every other drive we have done in India, complete with crazy driving and weird traffic situations. At one point, as we neared the suburbs of Delhi we encountered some construction in which we went from 3 designated lanes (which actually means 5-6 lanes of cars) down to one designated lane (which meant 2-3 lanes of cars). This experience was so crazy. I have never felt so trapped while in a car as I did then. I don’t think we were even able to open the car doors to get out, not that we would, but there were cars and motorbikes everywhere!

But we finally made it to our hotel near the airport. We checked in and dropped our luggage off in the room before heading to dinner. The food here was good, but everything we ate reminded us of our Banbasa home we just left. Nothing tasted nearly as good,probably because we were really missing the company.j

I was really not feeling well at all, the air quality here in Delhi was worse than in Banbasa and I was extremely grateful that Aunty Rosie was kind enough to give me a couple masks to wear; they helped a ton. Pretty much after dinner I headed to bed. We had a long day ahead of us, since our flight was not until 9:45 pm tomorrow night. But I will say that we made the right decision to drive to Delhi today rather than tomorrow on Republic Day. The hotel was crazy busy and so were the roads, tomorrow would be so much worse.

Thursday January 24, 2019

Romans 15:1 We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Packing, packing, and more packing along with some last minute laundry and a few final projects that got finished up. I have been attached to Priscilla any time she gets near the kitchen because I am desperate to extract any cooking knowledge out of her! Clifton and his DTour clients got in last night, so we got a small bit of time with them before we all go our separate ways tomorrow.

These final goodbyes are so difficult and even though we’ve done this already several times, it doesn’t seem to get any easier, but it is almost more difficult. I think we are able to connect with people faster because we know we only have a short period of time and I am just heartbroken that we have to say goodbye tomorrow after breakfast. This week Jeff and I have been getting up in the morning to help with breakfast and our kids each took one day this week to also help (I couldn’t do Tuesday and Wednesday because I was not up for it-my asthma and cough is getting worse by the day and I am struggling just to walk up the stairs. I have never experienced this much difficulty breathing with just a cold.)

Jeff and I were able to help Clifton out with his DTour meeting this morning. After hearing all about the plans for their next 8 days on motorbikes into the Himalayas both Jeff and I have an urge to take up riding so we can join another one of his tours. This won’t happen right away because we will need to have a fair amount of experience on a motorcycle before we could do something like this, but I am totally game and think this could be an adventure of a lifetime! If you already ride and are up for a challenging but thrilling ride into the mountains of northern India, check out the DTour website.

I was able to sneak away with a few cookies for a Uncle Malcom and Aunty Sonia. It was so nice to see them again and they promised to come by this evening to say goodbye to all of us because they would not likely see us in the morning before we left.

For tonight’s dinner I didn’t leave Priscilla’s side and also got to try my hand at chutney making again, this time I didn’t over blend it and it turned out amazing. Priscilla was kind enough to make my favorite dinner here, vegetable subji with chipati and chutney!

Just before we started eating, Sonia and Malcom came over and we got all our kids to say our goodbye to these wonderful people. Sonia’s hugs are the best and I am going to miss them. It is just one more reason to come back again soon.

This whoever week we have been receiving multiple cards and friendship bracelets from the kids here and Anjali really wanted to make some for her new friends. She was still up making these bracelets when we got back from dinner and was going to be up all night finishing these if she didn’t get some help. So she and I watched 50 First Dates and made more friendship bracelets than I care to know. We finished the last one about 5 minutes before the movie ended. Thankfully there would be plenty of time to rest and nap during the long car ride to Delhi tomorrow morning.

I did our last bit of packing and took Priscilla, Cathy, and Nancy some items that didn’t make the cut and headed off to bed.

Wednesday January 23, 2019

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

The mission kids were off school again today, actually they were off yesterday too, because of the rain up north in the mountains. For whatever the reason, Banbasa is part of the same district as Champawat which is way up in the hills. I can understand that schools would close up there when it rains because there would be no way for the kids to get to and from school with possible landslides and dangerous roads, but why the schools here are closed I have no idea, though the kids here are not complaining.

Anjali got up this morning to help with breakfast and she did great. It is amazing what a little extra sleep will do for a girl!

Today the girls and I made some chocolate chip cookies (several weeks ago Priscilla was able to track down some chocolate chips in Khatima). My kids were super excited and I was surprised that the cookies turned out pretty awesome given the fact that we were missing brown sugar and the white sugar we have here is not the same refined sugar we get back home but rather sugar crystals. However, Aunty Rosie had purchased a hand mixer which made creaming the butter for the cookies a much easier task. The cookies were a hit at 4:00 tea time and we finished just in time for the power to get turned off for the afternoon.

Lucia has been gone just about every afternoon and evening having dinner and playing with Ellie, Eugene and Filly’s daughter. Ellie is 17 and she and Lucia have become quite the pair. According to Filly, Ellie makes Lucia dinner and they sit and eat and talk and laugh together.

We’ve had another good day with Anjali so I am feeling a little more hopeful that getting her more sleep was at least a part of the solution.

On a totally different subject, Cathy was so sweet and bought Lucia an early birthday gift…this beautiful dress. Lucia loved it and didn’t want to take it off. Thank you Cathy!

Tuesday January 22, 2019

Acts 4:30-31 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

I don’t really know what to say, other than I just can’t believe we are leaving in just a few days and I can feel a piece of my heart breaking. I am so torn because my body is looking forward to the change in air quality, my heart doesn’t want to leave and I am pretty confident that part of it will always remain here in Banbasa, India.

Today I was able to help the girls in the kitchen make chipatis. While I didn’t get the chance to roll them, I did make the batter and prepare the dough into balls to be rolled out and then cooked. I have decided that when we get a house, Jeff is going to be making me an outdoor fire pit to cook our chipati and our subji. Of course I will likely be calling back to India for some help and I am pretty sure it will never taste as good as it does here.

Shortly after chipati making I meet with Nancy who gave me a quick lesson in how to wear my Saree. She first showed me how to put it on and then I made an effort at replicating it. For my first attempt I did pretty well. Nancy asked if she could do a small photo shoot, so we headed out by the old fallen tree and I let her take some pictures. It was so funny, as I walked through the mission I had just about every child asking me where I was going and telling me how nice a I looked in a Saree. I loved having it on so much that I went into town with Rochelle after tea time to pick out another one and drop it off at the tailor. Rochelle was such a trooper. She wasn’t feeling great but still trekked into town with and enjoyed a quick treat of gol gapas. I am happy to say that I found a beautiful Saree, this one is much more simple but still very pretty. We dropped it at the tailor for him to put the fall in it and I will be able to pick it up tomorrow.

We had a fun surprise from family back home, a package! Uncle Jesse, Aunt Tessa, and Annecy thank you so much for the wonderful gifts. We all love them and it brought us so much joy to get a box filled with goodies from our family back home in the states. We all got matching bracelets, as did my whole extended family got the same ones! So even though we are away from each other we all still all connected together. Lucia was also super excited for the stuffy keychain. She has been collecting keychains during this journey and has quite a collection so far and was stoked to add one more!

I watched Priscilla make our dinner tonight and I diligently took notes so I can attempt to replicate some of this amazing food. My new little notebook is going to be a priceless resource.

Monday January 21, 2019

Exodus 15:26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Our kids were off school today for the MLK holiday, so we took advantage of a free day to explore and head to the Nepal border. We thought it would be a fairly easy walk, but it ended up being almost 5 miles one way. The kids did great and though we didn’t cross the border (mainly because it was going to cost $120 just for the day) we still had a fantastic time. We decided to take a horse-drawn carriage home, which was crowded but definitely a new experience. Part of the trip there and back is crossing over a large dam and walking alongside the river. It was really nice to be just the five of us, but I was also acutely aware of how much I was going to miss my wonderful new family on the mission and I just can’t believe that we are leaving this place in a week.

Unfortunately my lungs and sinuses are not doing so well and are looking forward to some cleaner air. I was happy that my body help out long enough for this excursion. I would’ve been so sad to miss it.

On our way back through Banbasa, we stopped to pick up my Saree and suits. Thankfully all was ready and we had finally had money to pay for it! We were also able to stop at my new favorite street vendor for “tiki” and “gol gapas”. Tiki is a crispy potato pancake topped with garbanzo beans, fresh onions, sweet red sauce and sour green sauce, a dollop of yogurt and finally some crunchy gol gapa. This is such a yummy treat and very easily lunch. After eating the tiki, I introduced Jeff to gol gapas. It is basically a hollow fried flour ball that they smash a hole in it to fill with a few garbanzo beans and then the sweet and sour sauces. You put the whole thing in your mouth and it is a liquid explosion of flavor in your mouth. It is messy but absolutely amazing and I could sit here all day and eat them!

We got back to the mission in time to for dinner. The kids got washed up and we headed over to the Strong House for our group meal. I actually made the chutney tonight (with the help of Nancy), though I guess she wasn’t watching me close enough because I over blended the chutney and it came out more like a sauce then chutney. It still tasted good, just the wrong texture; beginner mistake I guess! The food here is so flavorful that I am really concerned that all other food is going to taste so bland.

We also came home to find that Priscilla and Sarah had brought out a 5,000 piece puzzle and set it up in the Strong House for everyone. So we all took some time to work on this before and after dinner.

Sunday January 20, 2019

Colossians 1:10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.

We started our morning helping The girls make breakfast. After breakfast and dishes, I was exhausted. I am starting to feel the effects of living in India for the last 2 months. My lungs are constantly burning and I am finding it difficult to take a deep breath. I have started needing my inhaler much more frequently and am also finding it more and more difficult to sleep at night because I am waking up coughing. Unfortunately, there is not much I can do.

Right after church we went over to Sonia and Malcolm’s where we enjoyed some coffee and cakes, along with some wonderful conversation; I really enjoyed our time with them. It was the first time since being here that we were able to have this one on one time with them and I do wish we had done this sooner. I would have loved to get to know Sonia and Malcolm better.

We had to say goodbye to some other volunteers today, Rosie and Frank. It was so wonderful to get to meet them and spend some time getting to know them.

After lunch, Sareena (one of the big girls) was kind enough to do some Henna (or Mehndi) on my hands. I sat in a chair, soaking in the sunshine while Sareena gently ticked my hands with the ink. Jeff joined me while helping another big girl with some homework. This process was so relaxing that by the time she got to my second hand I kept dozing off in my chair only to be awoken to Sereena laughing at me! What a spectacular afternoon, it was absolutely peaceful with all of the mission kids in quiet time and our kids watching a movie in our apartment. And then it all ended at 3 pm when the kids were done with quiet time and the whole mission sparked to life again with the sounds of laughter and squealing children.

As usual, our kids ate dinner with the mission kids and then we all met back at the room by 6:30 to get them showered and in bed so we could head to dinner at 7 pm. I will say that this quite an undertaking and the time pressure is difficult (we are always late to dinner), but I love these dinners in the strong house. We spend about 2 hours eating dinner, laughing, joking, drinking Chai, and just getting to be adults. I kind of sat back tonight and took in the whole thing, plus I am not feeling all that great. I am really going to miss these dinners, actually, I am going to miss the entire mission here. I feel so torn because my body is really feeling effects of the severe air quality here, but my heart is aching at the realization that we are leaving in just a few short days. The people here have etched a permanent mark on my heart and I haven’t even left yet, but am already wanting to return.

I can’t even begin to describe the constant love expressed here and while I have tried my very best to give all that I could, but I kept feeling that I am getting more than I am giving. I pray that I was able to show the wonderful children and staff here how much I appreciated them and that I had grown to love them just like family–they are my Banbasa family and they will always hold a piece of my heart.

Saturday January 19, 2019

Isaiah 44:8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

Today, just before lunch the mission had some visitors who where on their way to Delhi from Nepal and decided to stop to say hello. They had lunch in the Strong House and as I stopped in there after lunch I learned that they were visitors from the US and we talked a bit about their work in and around India and Nepal, as well as our mission and COG. I also learned that they too were on a hunt for cash from the ATMs and were headed into Khatima. This morning Jeff took a 3 hour walk to the surrounding towns of Banbasa in search of money with no success–there is no money anywhere. Since we are leaving on Friday morning, I didn’t want to chance not being able to get cash since we needed to pay for our taxi back to Delhi, so I took them up on their offer to join the, and I am so glad I did because I was able to get out enough money to cover the clothing items from the tailor, as well as our driver, and a few other items we needed for our last week here.

This evening we were surprised to learn that a last minute jungle dinner was in store for us. Eugene headed out at 3:30 pm to prepare our meal on the riverbed over the fire, but we didn’t leave until at 6:45 pm in the bed of a trailer being pulled by a tractor. It was so much fun. We took the bumpy ride through the neighboring village and just to the riverbed where Eugene and Uncle John were preparing our meal. We got and found a nice fire blazing and chairs situated around it. This ended up being a fun little party with some new friends/visitors. As usual dinner was amazing, though this time we were eating under the beautiful stars with the rambling river in the background. It was such a peaceful and fun meal filled with great conversation, stories, and laughter.

My pictures of our dinner didn’t really turn out, but I did capture of a picture of these two little ones having fun with me by balancing some toilet paper on our heads!

Friday January 18, 2019

Isaiah 40:1 Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.

Today, we had another bad day with Anjali. Her emotional state is like a light switch, she is either in a really good mood or a really bad one; there is no in between and I just can’t figure out why. I have really started to pray and ask for help/guidance from God. Jeff is grasping at straws and he reached the end of his line today. I am not even sure what specifically set her off, but it had something to do with her doing her schoolwork in bed, which we have consistently made it clear that was not okay. She completely lost it and Jeff finally decided that either she and him were going back to Madison or we all were. Either way, we needed to get her some extra help because she was refusing help from us. While she finally expressed some of her feelings in a note to Jeff and I, we are still right back where we started–fighting with her about every other day about something. Right as Jeff was about to purchase tickets (he had the payment screen up on the computer and his credit card out ready to go), God intervened.

I happened to pull up the symptoms of sleep deprivation in teens. Since we started this trip, and even before we left, Anjali had been fighting us on going to bed by 8 pm and has been lobbying to stay up later and later. As I read through the symptoms, every one of them seemed to fit: loss of appetite, angry, aggressive, moody, inability to focus, difficulty falling/staying asleep, sad/depressed, isolated/loneliness, difficulty waking up, etc. By this time Anjali had calmed down enough to beg Jeff not to purchase the tickets because she really didn’t want to go back, but rather she wanted to continue with the trip. Honestly, Jeff didn’t seem to care that she wanted to stay, he was done trying to do this on our own and he had made up his mind that we were going back to the States to get some help. As I read these symptoms out loud, we all just looked at each other and I think at that moment, Jeff was willing to stick it out for a little bit longer, as long as Anjali was willing to work with us on getting more sleep. Up to this point, we have been lucky to get her about 8-9 hours of sleep when she is needing more like 10-11 hours every day. Anjali was willing to try this out and she agreed that we were in charge of making this happen. Jeff agreed that we could try this out to see the outcome and how committed Anjali was to seeing if this was the solution we were seeking all along.

This meant that from now on, Jeff and I would be putting the kids to bed before we leave for dinner and then we would be home be 8:15 at the latest so that we could sit in the room with Anjali and make sure that she was asleep by 9 pm. If she was asleep by 9 pm, she would then be sure to get at least 10 hours of sleep. This weekend would be a good indication of whether this was really the solution. Anjali was made very aware by Jeff that he was willing to give this a try, but that he was also very ready to pack up and go home should either this not work and/or she wasn’t putting in the necessary effort. This whole morning was exhausting and we also missed out of coffee with Sonia and Malcolm, but thankfully they were very understanding when I showed up about an hour late and explained that we were dealing with some family issues. We rescheduled for Sunday after church.

Today, I walked into town with Cathy and Truy today to pick up my Saree and suits, and Jeff’s new tailored shirt. Unfortunately my Saree was not ready, and though my suits and Jeff’s shirt were ready I was not able to pick them up because there was no money in any of the ATM’s in Banbasa. I tried 5 different banks and ATM’s to no avail–Banbasa is absolutely devoid of any money. We are down to our last couple hundred Rupees (which isn’t much), so I picked up a few necessary items we needed and headed home.

We were told that they usually reload the ATM’s after 6 pm, so just after sending the kids to dinner, Jeff and I walked into town to see if we could get any, but still the ATM’s are completely empty. We aren’t too worried because we still have a week before we leave, but it is a little disconcerting that we have money that we can’t access.

On our walk into town we were both lamenting at how much we are going to miss the mission and how difficult it is going to be to leave, just as it has been at the last 2 places, but there is a distinct difference with this place. The wonderful people on this mission have welcomed us with open arms and we very much feel connected and forever a part of this family. I am afraid that there will always be a piece of my heart here in Banbasa long after we leave.

We got home right as the kids were finishing their dinner, so we started the process of showers for the kids before our dinner at 7 pm at the Strong House. As we were waiting for David to finish his shower, Anjali gave me a beautiful tattoo with her new pens she got for Christmas.

I am amazed at the simple things that we find ourselves missing from home. Tonight, after dinner Lucia was commenting on how much she missed a bath. So after I washed her up, she asked if she could climb into the washing bucket to take a bath. I didn’t think she would fit, but she sure did prove me wrong–I even brushed her teeth while she was taking a bath! I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures because she looked completely uncomfortable, but boy was she happy in her make-shift bathtub.

After dinner tonight, Jeff and I made it back to the apartment by 8:15 pm and I sat with Anjali giving her back scratches and laying with her until she was asleep by 8:45 pm. I sure do hope this works. I really don’t feel that we are meant to go home just yet. I feel like He has so much more in store for our family, but then again, maybe this is part of our plan. There is really not much I can do at this point, but walk this path and see where it leads.

As I laid in bed I started reading a new book I found online called The Love Dare: For Parents. This book was written to be a challenge to be a more compassionate parent to our children. I guess I want to make sure that I am doing part by making sure I am showing my children how much I love them every day.

Thursday January 17, 2019

Matthew 5:43-46 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

I made some progress today and completed two of the 3 cabinets I have been working on over the last couple of days. It is so nice to see the work paying off in some kind of organization, plus kids have been coming to me for these supplies (Katie is still on vacation) and I can actually find what they need quickly.

Our plan to leave on Jan 26 and fly from Pantnagar to Delhi was disrupted when we learned today that our flight was cancelled and we needed to hire a car to drive us to Delhi. After a quick discussion with Uncle Rick, we decided to leave on Friday instead of Saturday. Saturday, Jan 26 is actually Republic Day here, which is a major holiday and probably the reason our flight was cancelled. If we leave on Saturday we may find it difficult to get to Delhi in time for our 9:45 pm flight, so we quickly booked a hotel for Friday night near the airport and hired a car to leave right after breakfast on Friday morning January 25. I am so sad to leave here, even just a day sooner than we planned. This place has brought me so much joy and I have loved being part of this beautiful family that it is going to make it very difficult to leave.

Jeff did a great job contacting Air India to coordinate and get the refund processing for our cancelled flights.

We also spent some time this evening dealing with the insurance company regarding our immunizations. After a call to UW Hospitals to find out that the insurance company has still denied the claims, I spent another 2 hours on the phone tonight to only find out that I had to call back tomorrow to get this resolved. They have still denied 4 out of the 6 claims for the kids’ travel shots, all for the same reasons, they were considering the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine investigatory. This is so frustrating. I spoke with a supervisor back on December 28 who looked at all the claims and confirmed with the medical review team that all 6 claims would be covered at 100% and payment out to the provider in 2 weeks. Of course when I called BCBS I found out that the supervisor had made notes stating just this, but because this had to be resolved and fixed by a supervisor and all of the supervisors were in a meeting, I had to call back again tomorrow. I was informed that David and Anjali’s first claim was paid out and the check should be to the provider shortly, but there was a problem with the processing of Lucia’s claim. This was something the rep could fix, so that claim will also be paid out in full. But we are still waiting on the 3 claims from June 5, 2018 for all 3 kids. I will be so happy when this is all completed and paid out in full.