Thursday, May 24, 2012

India, Part III: The Confirmations

On May 6, 2011 I wrote something I think I've shared here before: 
Tonight I have looked at adoption agencies, thought about how to expand our two bedroom apartment and added agency fees. Right now it seems impossible. But I have discovered the secret that with the one, true God, ALL things are possible. Granted, sometimes there is waiting involved. 
I remember writing that. At that time most adoption agencies were closing or temporarily shutting their programs. Adoptions were at a crawl. The age requirement was 30. We didn't have enough bedrooms. Thinking we'd someday adopt seemed so far in the far distant future. 

Little did I know that one year and one day later I would be sitting on a train heading out of Kolkata, India while my husband and parents worked back in America to move us into a three bedroom, two bath apartment. We would be well into the paperwork process of adopting. Little did I know agencies would have reopened their doors and a new, streamlined process would be in place in India. As I reflected on everything on the train, it seemed to me the God of the impossible was showing up. 

Sitting on the train the attendants brought us tea and biscuits and one of a wide variety of newspapers. I got The Hindustan Times. My front page article was about Hillary Clinton arriving in Kolkata just after we had. Our host called me on our team cell phone laughing that my good friend Hillary had followed us to India. Shampa laughs all the time. She has joy like no one I've ever met.

I read the Hillary article. But just below it was an article of much greater significance to me. On the front page of my paper (the paper I happened to get) was the article you saw come through in our twitter feed two weeks ago.

Look how minimal the Air India issues are in comparison to this GOOD NEWS! :)

These words were a miracle in black and white. An absolute turnaround from one year ago!! After I read it about eight times, I showed it to everyone I could and put the paper inside my purse right beside my passport. With God, all things are possible...and I plan to frame the tangible miracle to forever remind me (Matthew 19:26).

Because of all of the obstacles I was having with logistics, three times I thought to myself, "What in the world am I doing here? Take me home!" One was flying in to India after watching a sad movie missing Levi and Jason. The second was when our only credit card was cancelled with the bank saying there was nothing they could do. The third was the Saturday back in Kolkata when a thousand pounds of spiritual oppression and a looming flight cancellation hung over me. But that newspaper and eating, sleeping, breathing India trumped all of the hard moments. Really, apart from those few moments, I loved India. Maybe it was because I've heard God whisper India to me for three years. For whatever reason, my heart meshed with this place in a different way than it ever did with Zambia, Haiti or even Azerbaijan, where we lived for a year. Not to undermine those great countries, this was just different. This was our daughter's country.

I thought about her often. I heard horrible stories of girls being cursed, being offered as slaves to the temple priests, being left on the streets to fend for themselves, being dedicated to idols sealed with the mother's blood. I saw little girls sleeping on streets and I had one pull at my pocket for food. Truthfully, my God-given dream for ONE seemed SO, SO small. There are so many. I know adopting each one out is not the ultimate answer to this massive issue. But as I was convinced that God was calling us to bring home a girl from here, I comforted myself several times thinking our daughter was surely in an orphanage being fed and kept safe. I prayed for that to be the case.

I also prayed for an opportunity to hear Shampa's perspective on the matter. The last morning at breakfast I got my chance and she listened. You never know how a national will feel about a foreigner coming to take a child from their culture. I really wanted her honesty so when I finished, I asked. She simply said, "I absolutely understand why God would lead you to take a little girl from this place. This is such a hard, hard place for girls." And that was encouragement enough.  

We flew out of Kolkata at night and I took this picture. I feel like this trip stretched my faith enough to believe that all the money and documents will come. God moves mountains. I have The Hindustan Times to prove it! And the next time we see this city will be to pick up our daughter. I left India feeling very confirmed in that and deeply moved to pray for God to protect her and move mightily for so, so many other boys and girls. Many of them go through more than our minds can bear to conjure. 

May God send His presence and His angels to place hedges of protection around them. May He draw more people of India to experience His love. May He call His people to rise up and say, No more!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

India, Part II: The Overview Continued

On the train ride we experienced the first of MANY cups of masala tea during our India stay {also known as chai}.  We arrived, well caffeinated and slightly stir crazy, to the piping hot town of Bokaro. Bokaro Steel City is one of the most industrialized zones in India and home to the largest steel plant in Asia. But we never saw anything that would have clued us in to those facts. Instead, we were overwhelmed by the intense spiritual climate and focused the first day on the power of worship (but more on that later). We also were focused on finding clothes that covered us appropriately. After an extended, hot, hot time at the market with our hosts bartering for shirts and a little beggar girl staying right by our side, we came back to our hotel and tried on our next day's outfits. We all found picked from the bag of eight the one we thought looked most like us and held our breath that we had some sort of pants to match. The next day we received beautiful, threaded garlands of flowers from the children after a song of, "Welcome to zhe fam-i-lee...we are so glad you've come to share your love wiz us."

And sharing our love came easily. All kids are cute, but each of my girls came alive loving these adorable, sixty-some kids. 

We had planned fun games with a mix of educational lessons. As the heat rose in May, schools throughout the region were coming to a close for summer break. This little school stayed open for us for one more week so we could be welcomed to zhe fam-i-lee. We planned four days of lessons some with educational material but mostly things for fun to help them celebrate their first week of summer. 

Day one was crazy eyes day. We asked before arriving if Indian children were silly. The word they preferred to use was the little British term naughty. And yes, they were hysterically, charmingly naughty.
Day two was crazy hair day. We talked about how deeply they are cared for by God that even the hairs on their heads are numbered. Then, we had a crazy hair contest. And Caroline totally won! The kids got candy and hidden pictures. We got chai and more time with the kids. It was a great day!

Day three was crazy feet day. We played relay games, drew with chalk and sang lots of action songs. Despite the language barrier, we found some songs in common and each taught the other some new ones. The kids were headed home by 9:30 as usual to beat the intense, over 107 degree heat.

Day four was crazy hands day. This was our last day with the kids and things had been going a little unruly for the day. We painted nails and played soccer, but games weren't going as planned and the teacher in me was overwhelmed at the disorder. A teacher asked us in the mayhem to play a water game before we left. We had been afraid of wasting their valuable water but agreed after seeing her disappointment. The game started simple with water bottles wetting kids when the music stopped. But one of my girls took a risky step and poured water on the female teacher, Monika. Obviously knowing something about retaliation even if she'd never been in a water fight, Monika grabbed a cup and poured it back on Devri. I'll type this slowly so as not to lose any of the sacredness...  Everyone was laughing and screaming and having an absolute blast in a first ever (for them) water fight. The drivers, the gardener, the cooks, the office administrator's wife and especially the children. Some were laughing so hard they even peed themselves. ;) We'll let you guess who that might have been.

Once, the tiny cook even snuck up behind me with a pitcher full of water and poured it down my back. I screamed and tore out after her. This fight was magical and as one teacher said, "Something we'll never forget for the rest of our lives."

We returned to the hotel disgustingly dirty and packed for our train departure back to Kolkata.

Once back, we enjoyed time with more kids in the surrounding villages playing games, teaching and performing skits. And we spent a little time at the Kolkata mall after a rough Saturday when we felt totally spiritually attacked and found out our airline pilots were going on strike. Gelato and shopping were sweet reprieves. 

Our final two days looked a lot like sightseeing, prayer walking and packing. We did very little shopping to the girls dismay. :) We visited Mother Teresa's home, an orphanage, played an incredibly funny game of hotel sardines and daily journaled and debriefed our day.

Tuesday, departure day, we found out our flights home were cancelled...and we watched as God provided tickets in our price range that got us home within hours of our original flights. 

Tonight...I'm rushing to finish and head to bed but there is so much more to share. I'm working to get all of my pictures up online...and tomorrow will share my most exciting post, India, Part III: The Confirmations. :) God did good, good things in my heart despite the roller coaster of logistical nightmares. 

I look forward to sharing tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

India, Part 1: The Overview

Late Saturday night (early Saturday morning here) we were welcomed to India at a crowded airport with no pick-up drivers in sight. We'd been through many bumps already on the journey and should have expected the many more to come.  We had almost missed our flight across the Atlantic and had to run through Newark's airport to make the flight. And the layover in Mumbai had had it's own set of security personnel involving antics. But now, we were safe in Kolkata with no one but fifty strange taxi drivers to welcome us. 

Our hosts were waiting at the International terminal and somehow we had been sent to the domestic. Soon the phone rang and our hosts arrived to whisk us through crowded streets to an upscale hotel in a nicer part of town. Shampa, our sweet hostess, came the next morning and poured out wisdom and charmed us with her not-so-thickly accented English. We had two stops that day to different villages to visit children before our Monday morning train departure for Bokaro where we'd be teaching. The houses we visited that day were small and packed with children. We listened to their Bengali songs, told an impromptu moral story and took in everything about this new culture. There were dirt roads and thatched houses, people bathing in not-so-clean water and cows running across the roads. 

We learned that Kolkata has a population of about 15 million people including the surrounding suburbs. And during weekdays, some 60 million people pack the city to work. People were everywhere. In beautiful saris, on bikes and rickshaws and motorcycles. Crammed on buses. Sitting, walking, sleeping and congregating on the roads. And we all noted on our first day that the women and children of India are incredibly beautiful!

Early Monday morning we were up with the sun and the sun rises early in India! Around 4:30 a.m. we were packing bags and ready for our drivers who arrived at 5 to take us to the train station for our 6 hour ride west to Bokaro (Bo-kar-o). Getting to the station took us through packed roads and streets lined with sleeping people.  Once we were settled into an air conditioned coach car feeling quite spoiled, we departed for first-time-ever train rides (for many of us). We were excited and we had no idea what incredible children were waiting!!

To Come

We made it through a week and a half of separation on two continents, the move to an exciting new place, thirty plus hours of travel back home and our first home study. It's taking a while to process all the changes and challenges but finally today all of the travel and trials are making some sense in my brain.

Tomorrow I'll start sharing highlights from the land forever interwoven with my heart! Looking forward to sharing! Also, check out thoughts from my girls here.