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.

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.

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

Prayer for the Deaf and Disabled Children of India

When I began this blog, I hadn’t yet been to India. These posts were mostly prayers. This post is a return to that. Please, pray with me today:

Father,

You know the deaf and disabled children in India. You know them each by name. You know everything about them – every hurt, every joy, every dream. You know their needs. So, we come to You today, and we ask you to meet their needs through Your presence, through Your people, through us.

Feed them and clothe them. Grant them clean water and good health. Let them see themselves the way You see them. Bring people into their lives who love them and will care for them, who will be Your hands and Your feet, Your hugs and Your kisses, Your provision and Your tenderness. Give them hope. Give them joy in your presence.

And give us prayers for them. Give us the wisdom and the resources to help them. Fill us with Your Spirit and give us the boldness to do hard and seemingly crazy things to lead them to You and to the life You desire for them.

We thank You that You are with them now. That you are breathing in our prayers. That Your glory is unstoppable and Your love is already at work changing the world. Make us like You.

You are love and You are holy.

Your will be done, Dad.

Amen

Ariel

So… What’s Next?

I hadn’t even landed yet. I was still hovering somewhere over the ocean on my way back to America when the woman next to me on the plane asked me. I had just finished telling her about the work I’d done in India. So, of course, the very next question she asked me was, “So, what’s next?”

She wasn’t the last. Almost everyone I’ve talked to since has asked me that, and my reply so far has been very straightforward and very short-term: “I’m getting better.”

Now, just about 4 months after that plane trip home, I’ve finally by God’s grace attained that goal. Finally, I’ve gotten better. About three weeks ago, the fog of months of illness and a bonus concussion began to clear. First, I could read more than a couple verses during my Bible time; I could make dinner; I could unpack my bags. Then, I could read a couple pages; I could polish all of the wood in the living and dining room; I could reorganize my bedroom. Now, I begin to feel myself rising to my feet in life again – a little shaky, a little confused, a little weak – but very happy to be on my way to feeling and acting up to par. Finally, I’m feeling more like someone with a chronic cold than someone with a relentless disease.

Finally, I can I do a bit better in answering that question, “What’s next?”

Here it is, the first draft of a game plan:

I’m writing a book. I’m writing about what I saw and what I did and what it’s like out there. There’s so so much more to my trip than I’ve been able to tell you in these posts. There’s so much more than I can tell you in brief, sans serif anecdotes.

I want to be able to tell you the whole story, take you along with me down the dusty South Indian streets to the orphaned, disabled children, introduce you to them and show you the beautiful, inspiring, and yet desperately needy people they are. I want to take you up ten thousand feet into the green mountains of the north and show you the dark-eyed shepherds in their tents, let you hear the prayers ring out through the valley, haunting and deep. I want you to meet the deaf clothing merchant. I want you to celebrate Eid. I want you to come with me as I’m taken into an military camp in hostile territory. I want you to know what its like to eat with your hands and be lost in a world of hundreds of languages, to come to know and understand orphaned, disabled children and deaf Indians and Muslims. I want you to know the ways we need to teach them and I want you to know the ways we need to learn from them. I want to tell you a really captivating story, and then I want you to help decide how it will end.

That’s my main goal right now, and along with that come related goals. I’m planning on coming to visit those of you who supported me and telling you in person what God is doing and what God has done. I’m planning on writing more on this blog.

I’m going to do my best to be blogging at least weekly and posting on Twitter at least daily. Please do follow me, if you aren’t already, both on this blog and on Twitter. I’ll be posting stories, prayers, prayer requests, updates, and pictures, and I’ll be responding to your comments (Yes! I enabled commenting again now that I’m in a location where it’s safe to do so.) So, please follow me and comment – ask questions about my trip, give me prayer requests, give me suggestions for my posts, tell me what the Lord has laid on your heart, or just pop in to say hi and tell me what you thought of the post.

I want to thank you again and again for your prayers throughout my trip and during my recovery. I cherish them and thank God for all of your faithful support.

Grace and peace,
Ariel

Thank You

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“Welcome back, ma’am,” he said, in a classic Virginia accent, as he handed me my passport. He was just the guy at customs, but he sounded so much like home that I wanted to give him a hug.

The past six months had been amazing: developing and teaching a sign language teaching program in south India for a home of 120 + disabled children and then creating reference resources with Katie so that future volunteers and adoptive parents could communicate with the children too; teaching sign language to Telugu worship music at a worship training center; meeting deaf children and adults in north India; creating a website for a deaf school as well as websites for some believers working there; teaching sign language to a shepherd family in the mountains who have a disabled baby girl.

It was incredible, and I never could have done any of this without your faithful prayers and support. I’ve been overwhelmingly blessed by all of you – friends, family, and those of you who have become dear to me through the journey we’ve shared together because you’ve so faithfully followed my blog. Even coming into the airport, when I took my passport from the man with the accent that sounded like home, and ran through the sliding doors into the cheers and arms of my family and dear friends, I was overwhelmed by the love of God lavished on me through the faithfulness and tender care of His Body.

I’m so looking forward to reconnecting with many of you in person – to thank you and tell you about all that God has done. Even though this is the end of this part of my journey, I hope you’ll continue with me as I journey on. I hope you’ll continue to pray with me for the needy in India. I hope you’ll continue to reach out with me, even from across the sea, to these people that need the gift of communication, education, and, above all, salvation through the only One who can save. I hope you’ll follow my blog, as I continue to tell you stories of the great things God has done and is doing in India (things I’ve either been too busy or too sick to let you know, yet) and as I tell you stories of those who are helpless and need to experience the love of God through us – through our efforts, though our talents, and through our prayers. I hope you’ll continue to pray for me as I begin writing a book about all this, so that more believers can know this need and join with us in ministering to this country, to these people groups, to these children, to the unsaved, uneducated deaf of India.

Sincerely,
Ariel

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When I Grow Up

I’ll finish my story about the mountains and what I found in the smoking tent and the work the Lord provided for me to partake in here. But not just yet. There’s something I feel a burden to talk about first. It’s a little bit about dreams and a little bit about the world changing and a little bit about growing up.

It also involves a little backstory: I changed my mind like most kids do about what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I was seven I wanted to be a spy. At around age eight I wanted to be an electrical engineer… who wrote poetry. (Yeah, I’ve basically never been conventional.) Then I wanted to be a singer. I think, at one point, I wanted to be a dancer… and a computer programer. And when I was fifteen I really wanted to be a children’s book author and I wrote a children’s chapter book with one chapter missing in the middle haha. After that I just wanted to have ten children, home grown tomatoes, and a cow. But I find that as time goes on I haven’t really narrowed down my ambitions and settled into one thing, at least not exactly.

I want to be a hundred things at once – a teacher, a nurse, a nutritionist, a linguist, a foster mom…. the list goes on. I guess I’ve taken Gandhi’s advice too seriously. I want to be the change I want to see in the world, and there is just so much in the world I want to change. I want to be a teacher because I want everyone to have the gift of learning and knowledge. I want to be a nurse because I want every one to be healed and a nutritionist because I want everyone to be well. I want to be a linguist because I want to communicate to everyone in every language that they are loved and to give them hope. I want to be a foster mom because I want every lonely child to have a loving home. Again, the list goes on. For every lack and hurt and heartbreak I see, I want to do something that will change it. I want the world to be healed and loved and whole and know God.

But no one could do all of that, even in a thousand lifetimes. No one could accomplish all of that.

Still, I look out on my ever expanding view of the world, and I see need. I see deaf children who need sign language. I see disabled children who need sign language. I see children who need education, children who need love. I see so many languages the Word needs to be translated into. I see so many hopeless people who need to be saved. I see people sick because of ignorance, and I hear of people dying because of lies. And I can’t help but beg God to train up and raise up His people to be the change He wants to see in this world, by being like Him. I can’t help but beg Him to accomplish through others what I have to admit I could never accomplish no matter how much I gave up and no matter how hard I tried. I beg Him to stir in people’s hearts a desire to learn sign languages, to learn how to teach, to learn how to heal, to learn how to feed and clothe and love. I beg Him to bring people who will be family and home to the homeless and helpless children of this world. And I beg you to pray with me.

I’ve realized that in a world that is constantly shifting, uncertain in its future, and insurmountable if alone, that there is only one choice for me. If I could become anything or anyone… I would be a woman who prays.

Because while we are limited, the God whom we pray to is limitless, and His desire to see this world healed and whole and saved is greater than ours could ever be, and His ability to bring about those things unstoppable. Our burden is not to do every conceivable thing, but to do the things He has made for us to do and to pray for others to do likewise and for His will to be fulfilled on earth.

Please, pray with me.

Indian Spiced Pretzel

The birds sing outside the narrow window in the Indian orchard trees. We strain the cloves and whole cardamom out of our chai. And we dip our flatbread into our mugs so it tastes like India-spiced pretzel.

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