Monday December 24, 2018

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not loose heart.

Merry Christmas Eve! We got up at the normal time today for breakfast, and then there was a last minute stir of finishing up the decorations and preparing the food for this evening. The dining hall and worship area have even completely transformed; Katie has done an amazing job. The mission is filled with twinkling lights and paper decorations that make this place feel like Christmas is definitely here.

After the decorations were done, I joined some of the small girls for a wonderful treat…they have beautiful lemon trees around the property here and make an amazing snack. These lemons you literally peel them like a potato and just get the yellow rind off, then you cut them into pieces and sprinkle with either salt or sugar and top with chili or spicy chutney. This may be one of my favorite treats here. It is so tasty that my mouth is watering just thinking about them! Here are few pictures of Lisa trying to get another lemon down from the top of the tree by throwing a stick at the lemons in hopes of knocking one to the ground.

We enjoyed a beautiful service of carols, Anjali even played her flute, though you could barely hear her over the drums and the guitar, I know she sounded great! This was her first time ever playing in front of people, and she did this in front of 100 plus today! Lucia was also asked to light one of the Advent Candles and she was happy to accept this heavy responsibility to play with fire. The worship space was packed. Besides those that call The Farm home, children that have moved on to careers elsewhere came back to celebrate with their family and folks from the community came to celebrate the birth of Christ at this wonderful place here in Banbasa. Immediately following the worship service, the space was transformed into a dining hall and we all sat down to a beautiful meal together. It was such a wonderful Christmas experience.

After dinner, the nursery kids headed to their room for some movies, while the older kids danced all night in the worship hall. Anjali and I tried to join the party, but the music was just too loud for me. I did take some refuge in the Strong House in front of the fire, but I really wanted to be with my family (David and Lucia had gone to bed and Jeff was in the room with them). I found Anjali near the music and she asked if we could go back to the apartment; I was happy to oblige. Anjali ended up watching a movie with Jeff and I and then she headed off to bed, ready for Christmas to come in a few short hours.

Today my prayers were answered. When we started to plan this journey and as we saw the pieces all fall together, I prayed often that we would be able to spend Christmas here. I prayed that Christmas, even on the other side of the world would be a memorable experience that would remind us that this day is more than just gifts, it is about the birth of our Savior. And today, I am witnessing first hand this prayer being answered.

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas Eve to everyone.


Sunday December 23, 2018

Proverbs 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.

Christmas is almost here and there is so much excitement and activity happening on the mission. We had a short worship service this morning followed by a video call with Gramma and Papa Hayes. It was so nice to see family today. However, despite the fact that Christmas Eve is tomorrow, today was still the Sabbath and therefore a day of rest. I spent the afternoon blogging and then sitting in front of the fireplace in the Strong House visiting with some of our new friends.

Our peaceful afternoon was very quickly interrupted with girls running into the Strong House screaming that there was a snake in their bathroom. This got Uncle Rick (and many other onlookers, including me) up and running. The funny part about this story is that the older girls have been saying for a couple weeks now that there was a snake in their toilet, but there was nothing that could be done besides dumping buckets of water into them with the hope of flushing it into the pipes. But now it was out of the toilet and hanging out in their bathroom. Between Uncle Rick and Clifton, they were quick to subdue and remove the snake from the bathroom and return it back to its home in the jungle and river, but not before a few pictures to capture the moment! I think the girls are pretty happy to have this guy out of their bathroom!

(This guy was not a dangerous snake, just a harmless water snake. I can assure you this snake was nicely returned to his home and was not harmed and probably very happy to be out of the girls bathroom.)

Now this excitement is quite hard to top, but helping the small girls (ages 12-16) decorate the outside of the hostel with lights was a close second. Now this sounds like it should be fairly easy, but we had to cut a lock and re-wire a few strands of lights in order to make this happen; it was all quite exciting. But all of the effort was definitely worth seeing the happy faces of these beautiful girls.

It was a beautiful night and I am so excited to celebrate the birth of Christ with all of these children and new friends. Merry Christmas Eve Eve from Banbasa, India.

Saturday December 22, 2018

2 Timothy 1:7 …for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.

Happy Birthday to my grandmother today! This is a very hard part of this trip, being away from family for these special events. Today my grandmother turns 90 and there was a large party to celebrate her; times like this make it difficult to be away from our family. But I did get to talk with her on the phone, which was a wonderful gift for me. She said that she had a wonderful time and commented on what a blessing it was to see so many people that she hasn’t seen in many years.

After breakfast this morning we walked over to the school to watch the amazing Christmas Pageant the kids (and Jeff and Lachlan) have been working so hard on over the last few weeks. They did a nativity play with music from their choir to compliment the dramatic performances. After the nativity was done several groups of kids got up to perform various traditional Indian dancing routines. This was such a beautiful event and was so moving to watch all these kids giving their full efforts to make this event so wonderful.

Here are pictures of the nativity play.

Here are pictures of some of the dance routines.

Here are other pictures of the morning.

This evening Anjali was asked to play her flute in one of the Christmas services, so she spent some of the evening practicing with several kids crowed around her. I think she is nervous and I am so proud of her willingness to give this a try. She has never performed in front of anyone before and she is really stepping out of her comfort zone with this. After some discussion it was decided that she will play accompaniment on Monday evening during the Christmas Eve service.

After dinner tonight, David and Jeff joined Clifton and Lachlan out in the mango orchards for a campout with all of the boys from the nursery and small boys hostels for a total of 18 boys and 3 adults. They pitched tents, played games, and laugh and talk around a giant campfire. They had a lot of fun outside while the girls and I had a sleepover, after Anjali and I watched National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (Anjali’s first time watching it and she loved it).

The boys gathering wood for their campfire!

Friday December 21, 2018

Acts 14:21-22 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Today we got to celebrate Uncle John Marshall’s birthday with cake and tea before he left to go back to the states. He is such a big part of this mission and his leaving was hard for many of the kids and staff. He brings a fun and energetic life to the mission and easy to see that he will be missed.

After saying goodbye to him, it was back to working on decorations and preparing for Christmas. Jeff and I both helped out in the dining hall by hanging various decoration, though Jeff had to duck out several times for rehearsal at the school with Lachlan. I am so excited to see this program that the kids have worked so hard on preparing.

Today was also the last day of school for our kids and I think we are all relieved. I can totally understand how teachers feel when these breaks are approaching; it was very difficult to get the kids to focus today. I think they were just ready to be done, but we were so busy helping to get things done that we just kind of let them go. We did however have them take an assessment on the IXL program and we found that all the kids are actually performing above grade level already, so the stress of making sure they are on track has diminished quite a bit. We seem to be doing okay with their schooling and now we have an opportunity to work with them on getting ahead and focusing our efforts on them learning how to be responsible for their own work and asking for help when they need it. I would love for them to have a bit more independence, autonomy, and self-motivation in regards to their schoolwork.

I was able to find a bit of time today to just sit on my patio and do a bit of quite work on my blog while enjoying a carton of coffee. I really am missing good French Press coffee.

This has been our coffee since getting to Thailand

Later in the afternoon, Cathy and Pricilla taught me how to make an amazing Chickpea Salad with tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and seasonings. This salad is so fresh and tastes absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to make it back at home!

After all of the hard work that Uncle Rick has put into getting the pumps for the water tanks fixed, they broke again today and he is not sure when he will be able to get the parts needed to fix it. The parts are in Delhi and the driver that took Uncle John there was not able to get to the shop before they closed. The mission was faced with very little water pressure out of the few spigots that worked. After dinner Jeff and I filled up a bucket of water to take back to the room so we had a small supply for teeth brushing and flushing the toilet. What is so amazing to me is that prior to this trip this situation would have been enough to make me panic and stress-out, but after dealing with this very issue in Thailand already, I have learned to just roll with it. God places many challenges in front of us each day, but allowing anxiety and fear to take control only makes matters worse. When we are able to just sit back and enjoy the ride, it is amazing how easy it is to just take each challenge one step at a time and taking comfort in knowing that God will provide for our needs. I am confident that this situation is no different.

Thursday December 20, 2018

Exodus 4:11 Then the Lord said to him, “who has made man’s mouth? What makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

After yesterday’s festivities everyone on the mission was a bit tired, though there is no rest for the weary. For the past week Uncle Rick and Uncle John have been diligently working on one of the faulty water pumps that supplies the well water to the mission. They have been fixing the problem only have it break again within 12-24 hours. It has been very frustrating for them and for us, that means either no water at all or very little water pressure at times. Today they were up early in the morning and they got the water up and running again. I think our time in Thailand was a wonderful preparation for this because during our time in there we never knew when there would be no water (they were doing work on the water main in front of our host’s house). Though it never was for more than 12 hours at a time, you just always had to be prepared for no water! And while this is a unique situation here on the mission, it is one now and you just have to roll with it; there is plenty to drink and to accommodate the necessities (teeth and face washing), but doesn’t account for full showers and you need to conserve all that you can.

Todays focus was on decorating the dining hall with the paper snowflakes that have been made over the last few days, putting up the Christmas tree, having the silhouette nativities painted, and many other decorations. The dining hall looked absolutely amazing and I was astonished how quickly things got put together to bring Christmas into the room.

We also mixed in the homeschooling for our kids and Anjali found a nice spot on the playground to do her work. The approach we are taking with the kids is so much more relaxing for everyone and to my surprise they are still getting the work done.

My kids all have a different approach to learning and we just have to figure it out in order to make this homeschooling work for all of us. We are all excited because tomorrow will be the last day of school and the first day Christmas break for our kids and the mission kids. I think we are all ready for a break from school work and that routine!

As usual, the kids ate dinner at 6 pm with the mission kids, we washed them and put them to bed before Jeff and I headed off to dinner in Uncle Rick’s room. We had a really fun night of laughing and stories, even a few bits of food flying through the room (Clifton and Lachlan were throwing orange peels at each other and I somehow got mixed up with their shenanigans and ended up with an orange peel to the forehead!) It was a really fun evening of laughing and goofing around with friends that I met only 1 month ago. Again, I am surprised at how quickly friendships can grow. The Lord’s amazing powers to make things from nothing is just mind-blowing and I am thankful every day to see His awesome works.

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 18, 2018

Amos 8:1-2 This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.

It took me a while to figure out this passage and why this might be important to me at this moment. I had to read the previous scripture passages and got a little help from Jeff and David (my 10 year old son). I came to understand that this scripture is a warning from God. We never know when He is coming again so we need to be prepared and live the life He meant for us. Amos was shown a basket of summer fruit and as I now see it, that was God’s way of showing him that He will harvest those that were “ripe”. David pointed out that maybe that was God’s way to telling us to make sure that we were the “ripe” fruit when He comes again. I am sitting up on our balcony overlooking the mission here in India and I realized that this mission is helping to ripen us into what God wants from us and it is our responsibility to take an active role in making sure that happens.

Today I was again taught a lesson in appreciation. Since being here on the mission I have been hand washing our clothes in buckets in our shower. We do have access to the industrial washer, but we have to time our wash in between the cycles and the mounds of kids clothing. Also, I have a hard time having the girls here do our laundry when they have enough to do. I had to learn how to do this because I have never done laundry this way before, but I am getting the hang of it. I do 2 washes and 2-3 rinses before wringing the clothes out and hanging them on the line to dry. A Facebook friend said it best after I posted this…”washing machines are an under-appreciated appliance” and I could not agree more. I have never been without one and I never fully appreciated the one that I had, but I am looking forward to having one again soon (okay, in 8 months).

As for Christmas preparations, I was able to get more wrapping done, as well as draw some decorations on plywood; the first is a silhouette manger scene and the second are the letters “L O V E” to be painted and added to the already hanging Hope, Joy, and Peace. The wrapping seems to take up most of the day, but my girls have helped out a bit, which was really fun to spend time with them.

My silhouette manger drawing
Uncle John’s drawing (just a bit more detailed than mine)!

One of the other things that I have really enjoyed here are the breaks for tea and a chance to catch up with everyone. It really is a time to catch up on the happenings around the mission and areas that we can help. After tea today, I did some more wrapping (it is almost done) and then spent some time in the dining hall helping with decorations for Christmas.

Today was a very nice day and a great opportunity to open myself up so God can use me in ways He needed.

Monday December 17, 2018

Matthew 5:42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

Homeschooling was much more peaceful for Jeff and I, but the kids got very little work done. I am counting this as a great teaching moment; they were left to make their own choices today about school, we gave them their assignments and kept them on track with the time, but they were responsible to do the work and ask for help when they needed it. Today, they chose to relax and just sit around doing not much of anything. Later in the afternoon, Jeff and I had a talk with them and shared that if they didn’t want to do school, we would spend the day tomorrow helping to clean up the mission (now that Clifton was back he was able to share with us what he wanted us to do). This wasn’t a threat, but rather another option for them. They can’t just sit around and do nothing, so they have to make a choice: go to school and learn or get some work done around the mission.

I think this was a productive conversation and they seemed to actually internalize some of it. We are going to try school again tomorrow, but instead of study time at 4:30 we are going to work as a family on cleaning up the part of the mission Clifton requested. This will be a project that we will work on over the next week or so and I am so excited to get the kids doing some actual work here. We believe that their work here is mostly to play and engage with the kids, which they have all done beautifully! I think for a while I might have lost sight of that.

Jeff has been working with Lachlan at the school helping with choir rehearsal for the concert on Saturday while I have been busy with decorations in the dining hall and wrapping gifts. I have been bouncing back and forth between helping on the mission and teaching the kids. Jeff and I seem to have a nice system worked out by switching the teaching role throughout the day–it keeps the kids guessing and it gives them a new person teaching them.

Choir Rehearsal

Uncle John captivating the kids with a story of some kind!

Friday December 14, 2018

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today’s homeschooling efforts were a total success. The kids were all on task and completed their assigned work and everyone was pretty much done by 2:30. This was a total win and has not happened in a very long time. David even let me teach him a new method of subtraction that he ended up finding much easier than the Common Core methods they learn in school. He was thrilled because he was subtracting 6-8 digit numbers without even needing to write them down on paper, and he was able to solve the problem in half the time. He was so excited and so was I. Lucia also completed the entire Kindergarten curriculum today, so she will be starting first grade on Monday. She just breezed through the Kindergarten curriculum, I am curious to see how she does with 1st grade and how she will handle things that are more difficult because up to now, everything has been so easy for her.

David and Lucia stayed back while Anjali went with Jeff and I to Banbasa for a few items. It was nice to have her along and I think she enjoyed being away from her brother and sister for the afternoon.

We also committed to being a sponsor for one of the children here on the mission. We are so excited to continue a relationship with this big family and to start a new one with Raymond, one of the 11 year old nursery boys here on the mission. Jeff and I are looking forward to getting to know Raymond and to support him through the coming years. It is also wonderful that this all happened while we were here so we can actually take some time to get to know Raymond a little bit before we leave. The kids are also very excited to have a new PenPal when we go back home and share with Raymond their life experiences and hopefully hear about his. I guess this means that this will probably not be our only trip here!

As part of life on the mission, we have gotten use to seeing monkeys everywhere. While they are not very nice (or so we have been told), they are still quite adorable and fun to capture pictures!

One thing that I have not missed is fighting with the my children about eating. They seem to be enjoying the food here and because we all eat as a family, they are continually urged by other kids to eat their meals. It has been great to watch our children finally just sit down and eat their meals!

Thursday December 13, 2018

Mark 5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Well this scripture today is spot on. I woke up feeling much better. I still was not at 100%, but it was a definite improvement. Not much happened during the day today, but this evening the carolers came back again. This time I got my kids out of bed so they could experience it and it just so happened that I was on a FaceTime with my mom, so I took her out with us too. She got to experience the Hindi Christmas caroling here on the mission with us and it was so much fun! David was pretty tired and only stayed for a bit, but Lucia and Anjali totally got into it and had a really good time dancing around with all of the kids.

A photo opp with some of the big girls here on the mission.

Anjali and Sheetal

Anjali holding one of the nursery kids

Kelly and a blanket monster

Dancing the night away
Lachlan, Lucia, and Rofika
Rofika and Jyotika with Lucia

Lucia with some of the small boys, Danny, Kevin, and Ram Pal!

Lucia and Kelly
A photo bomb by Ram Pal
Lisa and Kelly make a Lucia sandwich

The kids here on the mission are some of the sweetest and most loving children I have met. They have taken in my kids and accepted them as part of their family.