Salvation is Near

There is only one source of our salvation. In our culture, we run to all sorts of things to save us – better diets, better educations, better ideologies, better mindsets, better cars. We look to prescription medicine and television and sweets to drown out the feelings of our own inadequacy and shield us from our own pains. But there is only one Savior. And only through Him can we find comfort, joy, and peace.
When we live according to this truth, everything changes. We live lives of grace, and we can be brave because we know that a God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself to save us is directing every part of our lives. This is the truth that makes us fearless. If he is the defence of our life, whom shall we fear? Of whom shall we be afraid? I lived in a world of machine guns and barbed wire and in that place, I have known abundant peace. Like the hymn says, “My life is hid in Christ on high. In Christ my saviour and my God.” That kind of truth can embolden us to stand against anything – tyranny, suffering, persecution, despair.
We are held in the everlasting arms. The same arms that created the world, go to battle for us, comfort us, and carry us. If we can remember this truth when we wake up in the morning, when we’re walking, when we’re working, when we’re struggling, when we’re falling asleep, then we can endure anything.
If we forget this truth, everything crumbles – our joy, our relationships, our ministry, our society. You can read as many blog posts, Medium posts, or self-help books as you want – and you may well learn a great deal from them to live a better life – but nothing you can ever learn will compare to this one, vital truth. God has sacrificed Himself for you and saved you. Your salvation is near.
If you have accepted His salvation, that doesn’t mean your life will be easy. If you’re really truly living in the light of His salvation, if anything, your life will be more difficult. But you won’t be going through it alone. When I was wasted away to skin and bones, barely able to get out of bed because I had followed God to India, I was filled with so much peace. Because my salvation was near. The greatest suffering we can experience isn’t illness, pain, rejection, or even death. The greatest suffering we can experience is absence from the presence of God. His presence is peace and joy, comfort and strength, love and grace.
Look no further. Salvation is near.
Grace and peace, beloved.
Ashlie Ariel

When You Are in Despair

Despair surrounds our souls sometimes. We don’t like to say things like that usually because it sounds melodramatic. We try to be positive people. When people ask us how we are, we will say we’re fine, even if our soul is — in fact — in despair.

Western culture especially has become increasingly uncomfortable with suffering and has swept even mourning under the rug. There was a time when, after someone died, people wore black to show they were in mourning. Now, we don’t usually do that except at the funeral itself. Sometimes we don’t even wear it at the funeral.

A few weeks ago, my grandfather died. We had been caring for him for two months, watching him day by day slip away, and it was a relief to know his pain was over and he was in a place far better then the place where the rest of us are left behind. At the end, his suffering was intense, but now his suffering is over. Now, we are the ones who live with the empty space he’s left — the hole in our lives and in our hearts. But when people ask how we’re doing, of course we say we’re fine. In a world of positivity, mourning somehow feels uncouth.

It’s tempting to try to compartmentalize — if you can. We feel compelled to find a way to push past it. We ask in our own way, like David did, “Why are you in despair, o my soul?” Some of us can’t push past it. Not alone. When I was sixteen, a good friend of mine committed suicide. There will never be a day when I don’t wish that she had told me that she was in despair. Despair is too heavy a burden to carry by yourself. If you are in despair, please tell someone. Death isn’t the only way out. There is something coming, something you can’t see yet.

When we are walking through the shadow of death, when we are walking through despair, it can sometimes feel like there is nothing else beyond it. When we have been brought so low, it is hard to remember to look up. We have to remind ourselves, we have to remind our souls like David did to hope in God for we will again praise Him for the help of his presence.

There is no balm and no cure for despair like the presence of God. When we are in despair we will sometimes feel like God is a far way off. David said “I will say to God my Rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go in mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’” When we have lost someone or something or some part of ourselves, when people and circumstances are against us, it can feel like God is distant, like He has forgotten. When we are deep in our despair we can forget that we are in a spiritual warzone, and the greatest weapon the enemy can weild is the same weapon the serpent used in the garden: The lie that God is not good and that he doesn’t care about us the way He says He does.

It’s a trap. In those moments where the lie feels true, we have to remember like David did. We have to remember Who He is and what He has done. We have to remember that a time will come when we will rejoice again. It can be terrifying sometimes to hope. Because we have been wounded too deeply and have fallen too hard too many times, hope seems like a leap of faith that could turn out to be a leap to your death. But hope is not a safety net that is broken, hope is the life raft that will keep you from drowning and carry you to the shore.

“Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls. All Your breakers and waves have rolled over me.” Those words washed over me when I was in India — when my body had wasted away to nothing, when I was sweltering in a bed of fire ants, when I was writhing in seizures, when hunger felt like it had eaten me whole.

When I was about three years old my cousin David who was a teenager would take me to the beach and bring me out into the ocean. We would go head to head with the waves. Alone, those waves would have completely swept me away, but as he carried me the waves would crash against me, splash across my face, even frighten me, but as long as he carried me, they couldn’t really harm me. I would ask if we could turn back, but he would tell me just to wait, that there was something better beyond the waves. We would move into water that was deeper, pass through waves that were higher, and though I felt terrified at times, he was so peaceful. And I trusted him more than I feared the waves. When we had passed through them, he would put me on his shoulders. Behind us the waves crashed down toward the shore, but around us and before us was beautiful, tranquil ocean — stretching out infinitely as far as our eyes could see.

When you are in the waves, dear one, remember — there are beautiful oceans beyond them, and you are held in everlasting arms.

Grace and peace, beloved.

Ashlie Ariel

 

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?

And why have you become disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him

For the help of His presence.

O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan

And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;

All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;

And His song will be with me in the night,

A prayer to the God of my life.

New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ps 42:5–8). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

The Plunge

I plunged into darkness. Far above my head, light starred down through the surface of the water. As ever, I wondered if I’d return to it. As ever, I loved the water and feared the drowning.

I was never underwater in the months I lived in India, but I often felt I was: in deep over my head, plunged into darkness, swimming toward the light.

I plunged into India in a summer of record breaking heat, into a dusty marble veranda and the combination of a broken silence and communication I could not understand. Our God became like us to love us, and I find that as much as He is always making me like Him, He’s also making me like the ones He’s called me to love: I was over my head in the darkness of silence, wordlessly wandering, grasping for meaning. I experienced a glimpse of the deep waters they were under – lost to the significance of lips babbling, tongues tumbling unintelligible sound. So, by grace, I carved out meaning for them and for myself.

I plunged into Gallaudet in a summer of heat advisories, into a modern building with tall windows and the combination of a broken silence and communication I do not understand. Into a sphere devoid of language, I swim in gestures. I experience a glimpse of what it must be like to have someone take you by the hand and show you how to dance out language with your fingers and what it is to often understand little to none of it. I’m here learning, by grace, how to carve out a language for them and for myself.

I was never underwater in the weeks I lived in the Capital, but I often felt I was: in deep over my head, plunged into darkness, swimming toward the light.

Taking the plunge.

5 Things We Should Do While We’re Waiting

I’ve done a lot of waiting, especially in the past two years. I have a feeling many of you have too. And in that waiting I have often wondered what my part is in moving forward, what I should be doing while I’m waiting, and even if I am prolonging my own waiting or failing to grow in it as I should. As I’ve been studying through Acts (yes, there will likely be a lot about the book of Acts forthcoming), I found this beautiful model for what we should be doing while we’re waiting for God to move.

In the first chapter of Acts, the story goes like this: After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Promise – the gift of the Holy Spirit. The moment Jesus is gone, they return to the Upper Room and they pray. While they continue to wait, Peter brings a situation to their attention – the fact that they are now eleven rather than twelve because of Judas’ betrayal and death (v. 15-19), and the Scripture (20) directs them to replace him. So, they step forward in obedience and select two men who meet the qualifications, pray that God would reveal His choice (24-25), and appoint the one the Lord chooses.

In this story, there are clearly five key things we can do, should do, while we are waiting:

1. Pray constantly and in community

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:14)

Verse 14 says that they prayed not once, not daily, but constantly. While they were waiting, they were in constant communion with their sovereign Father. Verse 14 also says that they were not alone. They were together – men and women, family members in blood and in the Blood – praying to the God who made them family, to the God who was sovereign over their waiting. While you’re waiting, pray constantly and in community.

2. Recognize your situation

Peter Recognizes their situation. He looks around and sees where they’ve come and where they need to go. He recognizes the needs. This is an important step. If we don’t clarify where we are, we can miss how we need to submit to God where we are. We can also miss where He’s leading us which is often revealed by where He’s led us thus far. While you’re waiting, clarify where you are.

3. & 4. Know Scripture and Obey Scripture – Prayerfully and Promptly

I list these two together because they go hand in hand. Peter knew Scripture and because he knew Scripture and considered it, he knew what God was calling him to do while he was waiting. There are a lot of things in life that will not be clear, but there are a multitude of things that have been made clear by the Word. Start with that. Then, for the pieces and aspects that aren’t clearly laid out through Scriptural command and principle, pray. The Author of the Word is always near and always has the answers we need. Don’t know what to do? Don’t know how to apply those principles of Scripture to your situation? Ask Him. Then – this is very simple but very important – DO IT. Once you know what God’s choice is for you, don’t hesitate. While you’re waiting, consider Scripture and – prayerfully and promptly – proceed accordingly. 

5. Wait for It….

At first, I didn’t even notice this one. I had originally titled this “4 Things We Should Do While We’re Waiting” even though I had a nagging feeling that there was a fifth thing. (Maybe I’m not the only one who neglects to notice this at times?) Then, suddenly, it leaped out in front of me, and I realized this is, in some ways, the most important thing – or at least the most important perspective. This is the one that keeps us going, that gives us hope. We find the command for this given by Jesus before He left and the fulfillment of its truth after they have done these five things.

Jesus said “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4) 

He told them to wait for what the Father had promised them. While you’re waiting, wait for the promise that is coming. It may sound a bit redundant to wait while you’re waiting, but it isn’t. This waiting is about anticipation and focus. We look forward to the promise. We look forward to the promise that He is at work for our good and for His glory. We look forward to the promise that He is shaping us into His likeness. We look forward to the promise of eternity with the One we love. And it’s this this kind of waiting for the promise that keeps us hopeful, keeps us focused, keeps us going when we feel like we just can’t anymore.

At the beginning of chapter two we read that after they prayed constantly and in community, clarified where they were, considered Scripture and – prayerfully and promptly – proceeded accordingly, they waited for the promise that was coming… and it came.

So, wherever you are in your journey, whatever burdens you’re carrying, whatever trials lie ahead, look forward to His promises.

It’s coming.

Wait for it.

Why I am Weary and Why I am Still Rejoicing

Two years ago, I was in India. Two years ago, at this moment, I was beginning to feel cool because the sun had put on its long, purple nightgown and had laid down to rest. I was watching the lizard scuttle out of the bucket I used to bathe. I was watching my hair dry in the heat of evening and the whir of the ceiling fan. I was putting on my long, cotton nightgown, like the sun, and slipping into the cot I shared with a nest of fire ants. I was falling asleep praying for the wisdom to teach deaf and disabled orphans sign language. I was learning a weary kind of strength.

Today, at this moment, I have finished breakfast late. I have fluffed white pillows on a bed without fire ants and washed in a bathroom without lizards. I make a list of this ministries I need to contact, the jobs I need to apply for, and pray for the wisdom to continue to help deaf and disabled orphans in India. I am still learning a weary kind of strength.

Because, in the two years in between I have known much suffering and much comfort;  I have come to the end of myself over and over again; I have known intense illness and intense injury, and the empty, gut-wrench of mourning again and again – as well as the companionship and fellowship that takes you by the hand and walks with you through those valleys; I have seen the vows of beautiful new marriages and the sweet cries of newborns and the first blooms of spring; and I have looked up from the depths of brokenness and seen glory.

And I am a witness that glory is heavy and that the path He lays before us is often fraught with pain, suffering, and deep sadness. And I am a witness that when we do not run from our valleys, but enter into them by God’s grace and walk through them, we learn a love and peace, a joy and comfort, we meet ourselves and God and others in a deeper, truer way, a way we never could have without these God permitted trials, without the valley of the shadow of death.

I will be honest with you: I am weary. I am aching. I am filled with both eagerness and trepidation at my rootlessness. And, above all, I am tired of bracing for impact. But I rejoice in the reality that God is fierce and mighty, abounding in compassion and mercy. I rejoice that He is leading, that He is planting me in Himself and binding me together with people who are rooting themselves in Him too, people who help me grow as I help them grow. I rejoice that He is coming, that He will not rest till every knee has bowed and every tongue confessed. I rejoice that the Spirit of God is moving and at work as much in the bliss of wedding vows as He is in the death of His saints. I rejoice in You, Yehovah Elohim, for You are all we have.

Ministry Profile: Breaking the Cycle

I love this blog. I love it’s heart for the Lord and for people. This post touched me even more than the others, of course, because it’s about India:)
Please do read it, and pray with me for A. Konduru.

Father, please break the cycle in A. Konduru. Break the bonds of hopelessness, of fear, cultural lies, and spiritual oppression. Equip Your workers there with the strength, wisdom, love, compassion, and endurance they need to see this through and change lives for Your glory. Send workers into Your vineyard, Father. Remind us to keep our brothers and sisters there in prayer as if we were serving and suffering with them, and remind us to keep this next generations in our prayers so they may be saved by You, know You, and live for You. We thank You that You are sovereign, that You are relentless to draw people to Yourself for Your glory, that You are faithful to equip Your people and bring them through every trial, that You are full of compassion and mercy, and that You are mighty to make Yourself known through all the earth.
In the name of Jesus and all that You are,
Amen

Ariel

Click here to see the post:

Ministry Profile: Breaking the Cycle.

via Ministry Profile: Breaking the Cycle.

The Speech

This past Sunday, the Lord allowed me to go back to the church in Tennessee which was my main supporter for my trip to India. I spoke for ten minutes before both sermons to let the body know what their funds and prayers accomplished. This is the manuscript speech I used.

When I met Sarah, the woman who runs Sarah’s Covenant Home in India, I thought I had come to teach a handful of deaf orphans a few basic signs so that they could communicate with their care takers. We were in her kitchen and she was pouring curry into a dish when she said, “So, because of various disabilities, at least 60 of the kids could use your help; I think you should teach all 120.”

Jim Eliot once said that “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” and in that moment I was officially and totally unquallified.

Then, on the first day at the Covenant Home, in the flood of foreign languages, customs, and realities, I found Hope. She was about twelve years old, with mental disabilities, poor motorskills, one shrivelled arm, and total deafness, and her name was Hope. I am still learning all that she has to teach me, but in the days that followed she was a God-given, guiding star. Hope taught me that we must learn from those we teach, that we must always give long hugs, and that joy is more palpable, more glorifying in our suffering than it ever could be in our comfort. Hope showed me over the passing days that my plans to teach the sign language that I knew were not only impracticle but impossible. I learned that if Hope could do it, any of the children at the home could do it, and so I created a sign language for Hope.

I wrote lists of the objects that surrounded the children – fans, rice, coconut oil, lizards, the activities that made up their days – eating, bathing, taking medicines. I simplified signs I knew, created ones for concepts that didn’t exist in ASL that mimicked the use of the items or motions as closely as possible, and encorporated cultural gestures like the ones for bathe, drink, and come. I began teaching it myself to some of the children. Hope would smile and laugh and copy the signs I’d show her as if it was a funny game. I realized that to teach them all, I’d need help and they’d need to be taught the way that I’d seen my mother teach my siblings a handful of signs as babies before they learned to speak. So, I created a website, and began writing instructions for the teaching method and documenting the signs.

It was at this time that Sarah, the woman who ran the orphanage, said I should teach a class to the teachers and nurses, and oversee them teaching the nannies who would then teach the children, and it was at this time that the giardia, heat boils, and fire ant toxins started to catch up with me. So, after the first few days of teaching in the evenings, overseeing all morning, and preparing for the teachings in the afternoon, I could only physically handle the evening teaching. So, I spent most of those days preparing for the lessons in my fire ant infested bed. I would be too weak most of the day to even get up and get food for myself, yet each evening when it was time for me to braid my hair, get dressed, and cross town, the Lord gave me the strength, and the strength would last all through the two hour evening lesson in the boiling heat and until I arrived at home. Not only did he give me the strength to go there, but he gave me – the girl with a strong fear of public speaking – the ability to lead a class of about 25 women and 1 man, all of whom were older than me, first with the challenge of speaking through a translator and then with the challenge of speaking without one. Those I taught were eager to learn and so receptive. After only a week and a half of lessons, children were signing. I had come and taught all that they needed on a daily basis, and I felt my work there coming to a close.

I had felt a deep connection with the school of worship Sarah’s husband ran which Katie and I had visited on our way that orphanage. And as my work at the orphanage came to a close, I prayed that the Lord would send me there, so I could learn and translate local worship music into sign language; so the kids could praise the Lord with their hands. Soon after, Sarah called me into her office and asked me if I would come do that. We left in a whirlwind, and I arrived in a new town with new energy, thrilled to be free of fire ants. But I soon fell sick with more illness, of even more intensity and found myself spending all my days in bed often too weak to move and slipping in and out of troubled sleep. The time I spent awake, I spent praying and listening to worship music and an audio Bible. Finally, a few days before I was supposed to head North, my parents and a friend Skyped me. They were worried by how ill and emaciated I was, and they prayed over me and sang worship music.

That night I had a horribly real dream of a demon attacking me and grabbing me by the ankles. I tried to pull away in every way I could until I realized that it wasn’t just a dream. I shouted “Father God, save me; You’re the only one Who can.” I woke up and then felt the grip slowly release from my ankles. I would find out later that there is one particular demon in India that targets women. It starts at the ankles and moves up to the chest and tries to suffocate it’s victims. The Lord delivered me from that and at the same time delivered me from the illness that had been eating away at me. In the next few days I, with some help from Katie and one of Sarah’s daughters, translated a few songs from Telugu to English to Sign Language, taught them, and visually documented countless signs, made them into posters, revamped the website I had created into a reference and teaching tool for future volunteers and adoptive parents, and taught a lesson for a music theory class:) God allowed me to do in a few days what I hoped to do over the course of a month, and then He sent me North.

I was very excited to go North. A woman who had also volunteered at the orphanage had given me a verse one day that she said the Lord had urged her to give me.

It was Psalm 41:1-3 –

How blessed is he who considers the helpless;
The Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.
The Lord will protect him and keep him alive,
And he shall be called blessed upon the earth;
And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
The Lord will sustain him upon his sickbed;
In his illness, You restore him to health

That verse was so sweet to me. The Lord had led me to help the helpless, these children in India, and His promise to me was heal me from my sickness and protect my life. He had fulfilled the first part of that promise by healing me in the south, and as I travelled to dangerous north India by the volitile border of Pakistan, I was eager and excited to see how He would keep me alive.

I had hoped and planned on working at a deaf school in the north while I stayed with some family friends who had been doing work in India for 20 years. Again, God’s plans were bigger than that. The deaf school didn’t understand why some young, angrezie girl wanted to spend time with deaf children, but they did want a website and me creating one for them became my opportunity to spend some time with the children. I also, with the generous help of my aunt, tracked down a small class that teaches deaf children to speak, a center that “helped” those with certain “disabilities,” and a deaf clothing merchant who had gone to the local deaf school as a child and, through him, a family with a deaf daughter he introduced us to. I learned that the cultural response to deafness, though kinder in the north than in the south, was still rough. I will always remember the words of one of the social workers I met, “Very few deaf children are sent to school,” she said “Most are kept in a corner in their homes; the lucky ones are allowed to roam the streets.”

In addition to giving me so much to write about to raise awareness, the Lord fulfilled his promise to protect my life time and time again. Not only was I unharmed by soldiers who could have arrested or killed me for my faith, but I was welcomed with my host family into the officers tent of a military base and served chai and a sweat treat; once, when the military should have stopped us in our tracks and sent us back, they not only let us pass, but one of the soldiers gave me his phone number! And one night, when our tent was surrounded by men with large guns, and I huddled with my host sisters in the middle of the tent to avoid the groping hands of the soldiers, I was filled with peace. The words kept repeating in my mind, “My life is hid in Christ on high, in Christ my savior and my God.” My host uncle spoke to them, and eventually they left us only with a warning to clear out soon and tell them as soon as we left.

I participated in the local fasting, which, as insightful, as culturally connecting, and as spiritually deepening as that was, it threw me into a dramatic detox, and I began experiencing seizure-like physically induced panic attacks that would leave me reeling and shaking on the floor. I was just a few weeks away from the end of my nearly six month stay in India, and I asked my parents over Skype to please get me home. I had done all I came to do and more and I just wanted to go home. But the plane tickets couldn’t be changed without ridiculous expense, and I’m so glad. On the last day I spent in India, I taught some basic sign language to a shepherd family with a downs syndrome daughter who couldn’t speak.

I want to thank you all so much, for your support and your prayers. They truly carried me. None of these things could have happened without you. Without your help, that little shepherd girl in the mountains of northern India would not be able to communicate and that deaf school would not have a website to raise funds. Thank you for helping 120 orphans communicate and for providing resources for the countless disabled orphans to come. Thank you for opening the door for them to communicate their thoughts and needs and for others to share with them the Gospel. Thank you for allowing me to know these deaf and disabled children in India so that I can write a book to raise awareness for their needs. Please pray for me as I write to raise awareness for them and try to find away to get the funds, employment, and housing neccessary to go to Boston to take a class that will help me write and publish that book. And, above all, please continue to partner with me in prayer, in raising awareness, and – if the Lord is leading you – in serving the deaf and disabled of India and leading them to salvation in Jesus Christ.

Thank you.

Why an Elevator Made Me Want to Watch a Movie and 2 Words That Explain a Lot

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What made me want to see the movie was the elevators. In the trailer for Million Dollar Arm, one of the Indian brothers finds out that if you put your hand out, the elevator doors will open up. So, he does it again and again with a look of both confusion and wonderment on his face. I wanted to see the movie then because I got it. I understood both why he would have that reaction and what it is like to be in a place that feels like another planet because the rules and the customs and the whole way that place operates are so different from anything you’ve experienced before. I connect with confusion and wonderment.

Justin got off a little early from work the other day, so he took me into town. We grabbed some soup and Pad Thai, and then he saw that Million Dollar Arm was playing in the theatre and, since we’d been talking about going to it for awhile, he brought me to see it:) From the opening credits I was captivated. This film brought back so much of India – the streets, the smells, the flavors, the illness, the traffic, the colours, but most of all the values and the clash of cultures when Americans find themselves in India and when Indians find themselves in America.

This was all especially interesting in the light of two new words I learned from Katie recently. For those of you who are new to my blog, Katie is the awesometastic girl I travelled to India with. We were roomies for almost three months while we worked at the same ministry in South India – a home for deaf, blind, and disabled orphans. She is one of my best friends and one of the strongest, kindest, and bravest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Above all, she has a remarkable walk with God and such a fiercely tender heart for people. I cherish her. Anyway, she called me up on the phone a bit ago and told me about these two words she learned, in a cross-cultural communications class or something, that wonderfully capture two things we observed and experienced very acutely during our time in India: enculturation and ethnocentricism.

Enculturation is when a person enters a culture fully – open to learning from it, seeing and acknowledging its views and perspectives, being sensitive to it, letting it influence and even change them.

Ethnocentricism is the opposite. Ethnocentricism is when a person is so centered around their own culture and its customs, values, view points etc that that person views the culture it has entered only through the lens of the culture that person came from. This person is often not only unwilling to be sensitive to it and let it influence them but even tries to impose that person’s cultural customs, values, view points etc on the culture they are now in.

Katie and I saw real illustrations of this throughout our time in India, and I saw them again in the movie Million Dollar Arm. The Americans who go to India in the movie are ethnocentric. They barge into India expecting and demanding things to run there like they would in America. At one point, one of the leads says that he doesn’t want things to run Indian smoothly; he wants it to run American smoothly. I think that’s ethnocentricism in a nutshell. A whole culture runs on a different time schedule and one man comes in and expects an entire country to change to what he’s used to.

Don’t get me wrong – not every culture clash is rooted in ethnocentricism. When the two Indian brothers stare at the pizza delivery man at the door wondering why he is holding two boxes and asking for money in a language they don’t know, that’s not ethnocentricism. Neither is sticking your hand in the elevator door several times in amazement that it magically opens up. That’s just the confusion and exploration that comes with entering a new society, a different world. It’s also a phase in enculturation – that fully entering into a culture and letting it influence and change you. We must learn about and explore a place before we can follow its customs and let it alter the way we think and feel and do.

The Indian brothers are enculturated into America as one of them learns to appreciate pizza and both of them learn English and learn to cook mexican food with the woman who lives next door. Katie and I were enculturated when we wore Indian clothes, spoke bits of Telugu, wobbled our heads, ate with our hands. I was enculturated when a rug salesman looked at me as I sat there on the floor, wrapped in a red and gold head covering and a Salwar Kamis, my right leg tucked under me and my arms casually wrapped around my left knee that came up to my chest, when he said with a considerable amount of bewilderment, “You look like a Kashmiri girl.”

And that enculturation made all the difference for us. See, ethnocentricism is closed-off. It creates distance. It’s a kind of cultural self-centeredness. Meanwhile enculturation is a kind of self-sacrifice – laying down your own customs and your own viewpoints in an attempt to love someone else. It creates closeness because it’s open – not open to everything, mind you. True love doesn’t assume the sins of another culture, but it also doesn’t label a difference as a sin. It distinguishes between the two. Healthy enculturation is learning to love in a new context and from a new perspective. And whether we’re doing deaf missions in India, meeting someone from another culture, reading the news, or watching Million Dollar Arm, isn’t that what we need?

Writing Again

I started writing again. After yet another bought of mayhem (My grandfather was sent to the hospital for a heart attack, and my brother went back to the hospital with residual heart problems from his surgery) things have settled down tentatively, and I’ve taken a moment to start working on my book again. There’s so much to say and a million ways to say it. I need wisdom.

I need money too. With summer suddenly here I need a summer job – one that can provide enough money for me to continue pursuing my degree but at the same time won’t prevent me from working on writing my book. I’ve weighed my options and I’m going to try to work some housecleaning jobs and start a tea buisness.

I’m calling it Chai Shai. It’s a phrase I picked up in India – it means, roughly, tea and what goes with it. I’m going to make chais like I learned to make in India and I’m going to sell them. A large, fixed percentage of the profits will go to ministries – like Sarah’s Covenant Home. Supporting ministries is what I like to do most with my money anyway so making it part of company policy just seemed to make the most sense:) I’ve bought a web domain and I’m working now on a website. I scoured my room for pocket change and it looks like just enough for the domain and tea ingredients/tea bags/ packaging. Please pray that the Lord will bless it and that it will bring in the money I need to support these ministries that are so heavy on my heart and pay for my schooling and a plane ticket to see the church that supported me the most while I was in India.

Please also continue to keep the children at Sarah’s Covenant Homes in your prayers, and all the deaf and disabled of India. Pray for their salvation, their provision, their education, their hope. Pray that God will glorify Himself through their lives, and that He will send laborers into that harvest.

You want to see what I’m working on for my book? It’s rough, but I’ll show you a little, and you can tell me what you think:

On a bathroom floor in South India, I came to the end of myself. I just laid there and sobbed. After three weeks in Andhara Pradesh my resources felt tapped. My months and years of preparation seemed to amount to little more than enough Hindi to help us order rice and enough sign language to get me into trouble. I thought I had come to Sarah’s Covenant Home to teach a few deaf children a few signs.

I had no idea.

That’s the beginning of a rough draft… It’ll probably change a hundred times before it’s printed. But that’s a little sneak peak. 😉

What are you up to? What’s your dream right now? What are you writing about? What’s your most recent crazy scheme? 🙂

India follows me

India follows me.

I went to a friend’s graduation party last night. I’m finally well enough to go to a party without sneaking in a nap somewhere in the middle of the evening or forcing myself to smile and nod while my stomach or head are torturing me, and I’m wearing enough concealer under my eyes to give off the illusion that I’m not completely exhausted from being sick for the past eleven months. (Wow. I just realized it was that long as I typed it – that’s counting since I got sick in South India. Wow… I have been sick for a long time.) I actually had people telling me how good I looked (granted, people who have up to this point seen me looking disoriented, emacitated, and napping, but I’m hoping it also had something to do with the new khakis I got for my birthday;) And what’s more, wherever I turned someone was asking me – and telling other people that they should ask me – about India.

The friend who was graduating – a guy who’s like a cousin to me – had an Indian great uncle there and his grandfather, who could not be there, was also Indian. There was naan at this party and channa masala and samosas, and I was mixing Hindi in with my English, talking to two fluent Hindi speakers. It made my night when the Indian Uncle looked over at his sister-in-law and said that he loved the way I said “Kia?” (A word that can mean “What?” or “Come again?”)

I got to speak to and grow to know two women who teach English as a Second language, and we swapped stories of cultures and culture clashes and connecting with people, as well as teaching methods.

I got to talk about Hindi movies and sign languages and the book I’m writing and future plans for helping the deaf and disabled of India. India was following me, and I was loving it.

But it hasn’t just been at this grad party that India has been following me. It followed me to Boston for my brother’s heart surgery when I got a chance to pray with a Muslim woman for her baby in the I.C.U., wrapping the scarf I wore around my neck over my head and turning my palms upward, connecting with her in prayer in a way I never could have done before India. It followed me when a Hindi woman was staying at the same inn and I got to speak with her even briefly – see her sad face light up a little to know that someone else had been to India who loves it and misses it like she does. It followed me when an Indian nurse at the hospital needed to learn some signs to communicate with her deaf granddaughter here in the States who is learning ASL and I was able to give her online resources to check out.

And I find there are little things I can do to keep India following me – to help me continue to connect with those people who I have come to love so dearly who are now so far from home and also to help me tell others about what God did and is doing in my life and in India. It’s things like always having a scarf around my neck (or at least having it in my purse) as a sign of modesty to those who notice it and as a way to pray with my head covered for those who connect with that. It’s wearing one of my Indian anklets throughout the summer – a reminder for me to pray for India, a way to still feel connected to India, and gateway because whenever compliments my anklet, I get to tell them my story.

I know I have the privilege of having some people who follow my blog who have been to India but are not there now or who have experienced being away from India at one time or another. Tell me, please, I’d love to know: How does India follow you?

Peace be unto you,
Ariel