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

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.

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?

Deaf KFC in India! Check it out!

Praise God! What an awesome thing to do in a country where so many are deaf:) Read this post by a fellow blogger about her experience at this unique fast food restaurant:)

Click the link below:

Good Citizen in India- Kentucky Fried Chicken

<3Ariel

An Update from the India Girl

Hello friends,

Well, I haven’t been updating as much as I planned. I manage to do a bit with Twitter, (Since my concussion, I’ve found I’m better at communicating in less than 140 characters;) but I’ve failed to be faithful with writing on this blog. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

My youngest brother has several heart conditions that need to be resolved. In a little over a week, he’ll be going into a series of heart surgeries. The pre-op tests, surgeries, and recovery could take anywhere from two weeks to a month. Please pray for him and for my family as we walk through this valley.

We sold our house! Hurrah! So we’re also moving. Packing, packing, packing. Fun, fun, fun.

I relapsed recently. Seems I got rid of the parasites but not their eggs. They hatched. Gross. I’m also experiencing all the joys of traumatic brain injury. (Remember that lovely concussion I got from fainting on the kitchen floor?) Makes forming sentences confussing… among other things.

I’m working on my book, as well as I can with all of this business and brain injury. Mostly, I’m collecting my notes from my notebooks, blog posts, emails etc, putting them in chronological order and deciding what is relevant to put in the book and what isn’t. I’ll give you some insider info, though: There are some VERY exciting things that happened, and they’re going in the book for sure. 🙂

As crazy as all of this is, God is so good and so faithful. He has given be dear friends who have been such a support, and He has given me your prayers. I cannot express how valuable your prayers, encouragement, and even your page views on my blog have been to me. You are a gift. Thank you.

Ariel

Saffron

“This is the field where the saffron is growing,” sister said, pointing to a bright and rich green field stretched out beside the rode on which we drove.

“When is the harvest season?” the younger sister said. There were woods beyond the field and beyond the woods were mountains epically high though distant.

“Later, in the fall,” said Uncle.

We turned toward the fields and down a rocky dirt road. A girl in the grasses walked to a man hunched over in his chore of tending. Further, young women in dupattas washed clothes in a little stream. The stared at us and whispered to each other and laughed. We entered into the woods we had seen before, woods with fences and houses and people and buckeri* walking slowly along the road. At a crossroads beside a makeshift fence of corrugated steel, a man with a light cream, finely crocheted prayer hat asked us “Where are you going?”

Uncle told him and the man raised his brown and slightly wrinkled finger to a path. We followed it, and arrived. The gate of the property was blue like the mountain streams – bright, icy blue. It rose up high and had curls of mountain-stream painted metal decorating the top. The metal curls of the front porch were much the same – the front porch on the lower story as well as the higher one – and the Jethani* stood on the front step, with a baby on her hip, to welcome us.

We slipped off our shoes and went up on the steps and greeted her, “Peace be unto you.” “And peace be unto you.” * And they ushered us into the parlor room – a room with wood-framed, vertically rectangular windows, cascading red curtains, Indian patterned red floor rug, and small red cushions placed evenly around the borders.

We sat on the floor with our legs crossed. The Jethani slipped out while her husband greeted us, then slipped back in with a tray of roti and saffron tea.

This roti – a flatbread made on the stove – was sweet and flaky and garnished with candied lime. It was delicious, but nothing in comparison to the tea. Tasting this tea was like tasting an Indian sun: Warm and spiced and sweet. It was Kahva, an Indian word for eleven referring to the eleven ingredients that make up the tea – water, sugar, loose green tea leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, fennel, almonds, cashews, and saffron. It tasted like India – like the mountains and fields, like the heat of the day and the cool of the night. And as I tasted it, in wonder, for the first time, I knew why Saffron was literally worth more than its weight in gold.

*buckeri: sheep and/or goats

*Jethani: Eldest brother’s wife

*Peace be unto you: a typical Urdu greeting. Dialog in italics was originally spoken in another language.

“Why India?” 60,000,000 Reasons (and a few more;)

60,000,000When I was back at the States going to college I was often asked this questions: Why India?

Of all the places in the world where the deaf need education, empathy, and hope – why this country over the others? For me personally, the first and foremost answer is leading. God has led me here. So I have followed Him. But there is another answer too. Why India over other countries? I have at least 60 million answers.

60,000,000: That’s the estimate of how many deaf there are in India.

60,000,000: The population of California state and New York state combined.

60,000,000: Roughly the population of the entire country of Italy or England or France.

60,000,000 people: Children, mothers, fathers, orphans, grandparents… humans.

Numerous factors have contributed to this high number: Genetics, injury, diseases untreated or mistreated, misguided home-remedies gone awry…. In this country, more so than others, these deafness causing diseases and misguided remedies are all too common, and they are main contributors to these unusually high numbers.

But the problem doesn’t end here. No, it only begins. Too many in India can’t afford hearing aids. Too many think their children can’t learn any language at all. Some think their children are stupid, demon possessed, or cursed. Those parents who don’t (and I have now had the privilege to meet these parents and speak to them) have an extremely hard time finding help for their children – someone to teach them language, someone to educate them, someone to teach them a trade.

“If you would stay here and help our children, so many would be so grateful,” an Indian father of a deaf girl told me as we sat with Aunty and Uncle under a Loquat tree. His daughter attended the one deaf school in the state, but due to the their lack of resources was saddened at his daughter’s lack of education, though his daughter is more fortunate than most.

“Most deaf children are kept secluded in their homes,” an Indian Audiologist from the near-by “Rehabilitation Center” informed me. “The lucky ones are allowed to roam around the streets during the day.”

Those who can get into deaf schools are very blessed, but the education there is very minimal. Some schools encourage signing and even teach it, the ones which discourage it, though, are often disliked by the parents who feel that this puts their child at a disadvantage. Since signing is more natural to the deaf, many agree that it is an easier and more useful language for them to learn. Once they have that as their established “mother tongue,” other languages are usually quite easy to learn. But when the “mother tongue” is stifled or not used by teachers, this often makes learning difficult for the children. (There is much hot debate on the Oral vs. Sign methods, and I don’t desire to choose a “side,” as it were, here and now – only to convey to you what others have conveyed to me.)

Beyond academic education, trade training is very important for the deaf (how else will they be trained to carry out a job?) but often too expensive for these minimally funded schools to offer. One deaf school, for example, began with different avenues of trade training but had to cut back due to a lack of resources. Because of a lack of support, the schools and the children in them suffer.

But the children who have the opportunities, the children who are supported, the children who have the finances: They succeed. I’ve seen it for myself. One deaf man I’ve met functions quite normally in society: He is an entrepreneur, running his own clothing shop with his deaf brother. He connects with people on Facebook with his smart phone. He traveled alone across town last week and showed us around a local park. He is an example of how integrated the deaf here can be if they are only given the opportunity to succeed.

This is why we need to pray, this is why we need to brainstorm, this is why we need to support each other, and this is why we need to take action. Because there is hope for these people if only we will be their hope.

x

A Sign Language Curriculum for the Deaf and Disabled: Developing it from Scratch

Before I say anything else, I have to say that I put this together by the grace of God and with much prayer. That statement covers every aspect of the process. Now for particulars;

(If you couldn’t care less about how I did it, but re interested in seeing it, just click here)

First, I spent time with kids and nannies. I saw what went on, what needs needed to be communicated, what their environment was in terms of objects and actions. I took lots of notes.

I played with the kids, helped meet basic needs (changed diapers, gave them water) tried to teach them signs as I went and tried to teach them a bunch of signs at once. I did some trying and some failing. I had some sweet successes. I took lots of notes.

I ran into lots of problems with the physical and mental handicaps of the children. I thought through new ways of teaching, new things to teach, and looked at the situation from different angles. I talked to staff and friends and family asking for wisdom. And I took more notes.

All of that added up to these conclusions:

Home signs (signs the kids already used to communicate) should be kept.

All signs needed to be simplified (the physical and neurological disabilities make even very simple handshapes – like the universal “ok” sign, for instance – impossible) and have a one-handed option for the kids who could only use one hand.

Since home-signs and simplified and one-handed signs would be used, they would all need to be cataloged for future reference.

Since teaching these children sign was akin to teaching infants sign because of their physical and mental states, the signs need to be taught throughout the day when the need would naturally be communicated. (For example, the sign for water being taught when the child is drinking water)

Because of their disabilities, each child’s capacity to learn, retain, and use this sin language is very limited (though what can be learned will be SO useful!)

Due to his fact, the most important signs needed to be learned first.

After that, the children can branch out, learning signs relevant to them as much as their abilities allow.

So, I developed this curriculum which catalogs the tailored signs, teaches the staff how to teach the kids in stages according to the kids’ capabilities, and provides further resources for learning along with an opportunity to comment and ask me questions even when I am back home.

I am so grateful to the Lord for the opportunity to put this together, an I would greatly appreciate your prayers for the staff and the children as they learn through it. I pray that The Lord will make up for the inadequacies of this endeavor and make His glory shine in it.

If you’d like to check it out, go to raisinghandssigns.wordpress.com

Complications (Prayer Request)

This kind of thing – going to India or following the Lord in any aspect of life – just doesn’t happen without complications. The passport place was unsatisfied with my birth certificate. They want another one. I’m sending for it, but they took a long time to inform me and it could take a long time to get the new certificate and then the passport. I need your prayers: Prayers of thanks that God is sovereign in this and so there is no need to worry in any way, and prayers of request that the process would be hurried along if it is His will. And absolutely that His will would be accomplished in every aspect of this getting me to India.

I pray for you, dear reader. I pray that the Lord is growing you, and that maybe this blog will have some part in your growth. I also thank Him for you in my prayers. I thank Him for the gift you are to me in following along with me in this journey.

In His grace,
Ariel