Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bangladesh Recap #2. Sunday.

This is post #2 in a recap of our trip to Bangladesh. You can scroll down below to see the first post and the format of future posts regarding the trip.

This day was split between spending time at the orphanage compound and visiting other ministry sites that are under the same umbrella of the orphanage. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the other ministries in the area and getting a better idea of the big picture of things. 

One of the places we visited was a sewing school for women. The textile industry is booming in the country - so a working knowledge of how to sew is an important skill set to have. Unfortunately there are a large number of individuals who do not have that knowledge. Therefore, there is a ministry that offers FREE lessons on sewing. Every day women will come to the building where they can learn basic sewing patterns and techniques. They go through a four month long program that will see them graduate and capable of securing a job. 

We were able to walk in on one of the classes and see what was happening. I really enjoyed seeing this because it was a great picture of meeting people where they are, and providing a need they have. Through the offering of free lessons, they almost always fill the place out and continually have people coming wishing to learn the trade. Through the program relationships are formed and Christ's love is poured out. 

We also had the opportunity to visit the headquarters for the team in country. We sat down in the head office and got to hear about; the visions, the struggles, the challenges, the ministries. Our time concluded with the leader sharing a phrase that seemed to pop up every day throughout the trip: God's faithfulness. In my journal I wrote down this direct quote, "We have to depend on God daily, but He has always been faithful. Each month we do not know if we will be allowed to keep going, but God is faithful. God provides." 

Following our time visiting the different sites we returned to the orphanage in time for their afternoon game time. Of course, I enjoyed yet another game of cricket. This time I seemed to know a little bit more about what was happening. During my first game on Saturday, after two swings of the bat I had gotten out. This time, I made it to five or six swings before I did something illegal. Though, I wouldn't have gotten there had it not been for the grace of the kids...

On my very first swing I accidentally hit the wickets, which is an automatic out (didn't know that rule until after I did it). After trying to plead my ignorance of the rules the kids started shouting "second chance, second chance." I had messed up. I did something I wasn't supposed to do. Yet, they were giving me a second chance and acted as if I hadn't messed up. They let me have a redo and continue batting. 

I doubt the kids had any inclination of the theological reminder they were giving me. But it was a very refreshing moment to be reminded of the second chance Christ has given us. 

'Twas a good day. 

Bangladesh Recap #1 Thursday-Saturday

Our team has safely returned from an incredible trip to Bangladesh. I truly am struggling to find the words to describe our experience. I believe it was; incredible, life-changing, humbling, eye-opening, refreshing, purposeful, tiring, and so much more. It is impossible to put our entire trip into one post, so my plan is to blog daily over the next week with posts about the trip. My plan is to post each day with a recap of what happened exactly a week ago. Seeing as how our trip was longer than one week, I will combine a few days here to get caught up. Then I will blog later today about what happened last Sunday. Tomorrow, I will blog about what happened last Monday, etc. One final word, I did not take many pictures throughout the trip. We had three students who are incredible photographers, so I relied on them for pictures. I will post a few, but there are more (and better quality) pictures coming. 

It took us just under 35 hours of travel to get door-to-door. Without a doubt it was a lot of travel, yet our team met the challenge with ease. I was amazed at how much we enjoyed the travel. The train ride, planes, car rides, were all part of an adventure taking us to a destination full of purpose. Driving in Bangladesh is quite the experience. They have some rules, and driving lanes, but those are mere guidelines and not followed all the time. If it is easier to pass a slower moving vehicle by going off the road, the drivers will do so without hesitation. The only rule I seemed to pick up on is; he who honks loudest and longest has priority in passing. Loud. Hectic. Crazy. We arrived safely without even a hint of a problem. 

The second we stepped out of the airport we were met with intense heat. In the days/weeks prior to leaving Germany was hovering around the lower 40's temperature wise (and that's being generous). I don't think we ever experienced a day where it was less than 90. It was hot, but it felt good. 

I was also struck by the massive amount of people. There are over 2,000 people per square mile in the country. Everywhere you looked, there were insane amounts of people. In buses, in cars, walking, on the side of the road...everywhere. This was something I never got used to - there are simply SO many people in the country. 

One of my favorite moments of the first few days of the trip came when we first entered the compound of the orphanage. It was close to ten at night, so it was pretty dark. Yet, as soon as our vans pulled in, the kids poured out of their rooms and came sprinting toward the entrance. Two of our students had lived on the compound for many years, as their parents were in charge of the orphanage. Prior to leaving one of these students mentioned to me she felt as though she, "grew up with 65 siblings." Seeing the joy on her face, and the kids' faces when she was reunited with all of her siblings, was a priceless moment. 

Prior to leaving I sent out an email to a close group of friends asking for prayer over a few specific items. One of the phrases I used in my email was, "that our team would be a light in the darkness." On Saturday we had the opportunity to go on a prayer walk through a local village that was inhabited by a lot of hindus. It is a spiritually dark place. We witnessed men and women bathing to rid themselves of evil, saw a man praying to a statue, and heard women banging their pots/pans with the hope of driving out evil spirits. As we were walking you could see and sense a feeling of darkness and hopelessness. It was a difficult experience to walk through - yet at the same time I was full of joy and excitement. As we were walking the roads I was reminded of the phrase "light in the darkness" and with each step I began to smile knowing that there were people all over the world praying for my every step. With each step I took, and every person I passed, I knew there were people covering those steps in prayer. When I wrote my email I wasn't fully aware of how that prayer request would manifest itself - yet I knew without a doubt my steps were covered in prayer. 

Another fascinating aspect of Saturday was when I played cricket with the kids. Each day the kids are given an hour in which they can play sports - the younger kids (who I spent most of my time with) generally played cricket. I'll write more about cricket later in the week, but this game was a lot of fun. My team won. I'm not really sure how, or why, but I know we won. I don't know that I contributed at all to our team's success, but I still enjoyed playing. I had to rely on the kids to point where I should stand, and then decipher our game of charades in order to know what to do in case the ball came to me. The very first game I played, my team chose me to bowl first. My first bowl resembled a baseball pitch more than a cricket bowl - which drew some bizarre looks. But, I actually hit one of the wickets which generated a lot of screams of enthusiasm and some high-fives.   

Cards during an airport layover. 

A man praying at a hindu temple. 

A video from driving. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Packed and ready to go...

Tomorrow we take off for our trip to Bangladesh. The plethora of emotions I have is almost beyond words.

In some ways I feel overwhelmed (trying to pack/organize things), inadequate (leading 13 students halfway across the world) nervous (lots of travel and a foreign culture).

Yet at the same time there is so much JOY (spending this time with the students and serving at the orphanage!) PEACE (God is in control. He knows our every step. Every connection. Every path) EXCITEMENT (I can't wait to see the way God works in our hearts).

I feel as though I got a foretaste of the trip today: We have been running a clothes drive with the hope of bringing clothes down to the kids at the orphanage. As I left my office yesterday we had somewhere between 7-10 bags. Overnight we had over 25 MORE bags dropped off! This is what I saw when I got to school...

I felt so blessed and completely overwhelmed by the amount of clothes! It was tremendous to see our community pour out and give so much. I spent most of the day sorting the clothes and figuring out what we could and could not take. By the end of the day we were packed and ready to go... 

Each student will take one of these bags as their carry on and we will leave everything inside for the children at the orphanage. 

We are ready to go! Thank you for your prayers as we begin this journey. I feel like there will be a lot of amazing things to report upon our return. I have that amazing feeling in my heart that God is going to be doing some incredible things. 

I am not anticipating having any internet access while away, so I will not respond to any emails until Saturday March 30 at the earliest. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nine blessings of a sister

Today is a day where I like to write about my sister. It is an important day for her, and for our entire family. Though I have not been with her on March 19 for quite a few years, it has become an enjoyable tradition of mine to write to her on my blog on this day. Feel free to look back through the past few years at previous posts from March 19 (2012 2011 2010 2009)
This year I thought I would do things a bit different - Whitney is constantly surprising me with her creativity and imagination, so I wanted to do something a little different than normal writing.

With that in mind, I wanted to write down nine (one for each year since 2004) of the blessings I have as a result of Whitney being my sister:
9. Confidence.
This one continually impresses and inspires me. She is confident and comfortable in who she is. She is not afraid to be herself. I wrote this in my book dedication and I fully believe it... being around her, and seeing her confidence, makes me a more confident person in who I am. I love her for that.

8. Spontaneity.
You never know what you are going to get with Whitney. Never. The smallest thing will trigger her mind and she is gone in a different direction. You don't know how you got there, why you got there, but, there you are. Never a dull moment. Never. She is awesome.

7. Laughter.
Nobody can make me laugh harder with the ease that she does. Even our serious conversations are sprinkled with laughter. She makes me laugh, and puts a smile on my face.

6. Stories.
If you have never heard a classic Whitney are missing out. Sometimes you don't know why the story was shared, when the story ends, or (my personal favorite) what the point of the story was. But that's all part of it. It is one of those things that you cannot fully describe, you can only experience it.

5. Dancing.
Across the board our family has zero dancing skills. We are all terrible. But that doesn't stop Whitney. When I see her dance, as goofy as she may be, and as weird as it may look - it is an outward expression of the joy she has inside of her.

4. No strangers.
Whitney will always be able to find something in common with everyone. Maybe you vacationed to the same country, maybe you are wearing the same color shirt, maybe your names both start with W. There are an infinite amount of possibilities, and Whitney will find at least one of them. She has never met a stranger. I am envious of the ease with which she can connect with others. It often seems effortless, and is such a joy to watch.

3. Genuineness
I may be painting a picture of Whitney that portrays her as some crazy individual who is always moving and always being distracted by random things. But that is certainly not the case. She is extremely genuine. When she asks, "How was your day?" She genuinely wants to know. She sincerely cares about how things are going. She doesn't ask to be polite, she asks because she cares.

2. Encouragement.
Maybe it is because she is my sister, but some of the most meaningful words that have ever been written to me have come from her. Some of her notes are placed in my Bible and some are posted on a board in my office. She speaks words of truth and encouragement that touch my heart.

1. She keeps going.
There have been bumps and bruises over the past nine years, but nothing has deterred her. She keeps going. She perseveres. No challenge is insurmountable. No obstacle is too difficult. Certainly headaches, pains, and bruises will line the path, yet Whitney keeps going. It is nothing less than inspiring.

Whitney, you are an amazing person and I am so blessed to call you my sister. For these nine things listed, and many more, I love you. Have a great day today. Make sure to make some people laugh, dish out some hugs, and try to hold mom's hand. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A few pictures

Just wanted to share a few pictures from the basketball season to go along with my post from a few weeks back. 

And seeing as how a new Pope was recently selected, I figured it would be timely to put up a few pictures from when the senior class went to Rome last fall. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Two weeks

Two weeks from now our team will be on a plane headed to Bangladesh for a week of service and ministry. For all those involved there is a growing sense of excitement and anticipation as the day draws near. I wanted to take the opportunity to throw out some information for you now, as I probably will not blog about the trip again until after we have returned.

Who is going?
There will be thirteen students and two leaders. Among the students there are 10 seniors and 3 juniors. Within our group there are only two or three students who I have not coached in either soccer or basketball, so I feel as though I already have a good foundation of friendship with a lot of the students. Since I have interacted a lot with the students in other capacities, I am really excited to work with them again, and get to see them within this context.

What will we be doing?
We are going to partner with an orphanage in Chittagong. There is no set daily routine, but we will help around the compound however we can. We will be teaching English in the school, and some of our students who are artistic will have the opportunity to teach art. We are also going to visit some local ministries that are up and running and offer our assistance where we can. Essentially we are hoping to visit the orphanage and be a helping hand. Whether it is a physical project of cleaning up the grounds, helping plant flowers, teaching English, or changing diapers and feeding the toddlers, we will be there to help however we can.

What is my role?
Of course there are a lot of logistical things that need to be taken care of prior to leaving, and while we are on the ground. But the role I really want to take on is that of an encourager. I strongly desire to place the students in the place where they can get the most out of this trip - and I think one of the things they will need is encouragement. At one of our last meetings we sat and talked about the aspects of the trip we are concerned about and worried about, the overwhelming majority of the students mentioned they were nervous about growing tired which could result in bad attitudes and frustration with one another, and the kids we are interacting with. After hearing that, it became evident that the students are going to need a kind word, a good joke, encouragement, a smile to help them to keep going. It is my goal and my desire to come alongside the students providing encouragement.

Am I excited?
Absolutely. It is going to be an amazing adventure. We have been planning and praying over this trip for many months now. There are some students who have been praying for over a year for an opportunity like this. I continually get the sense that God is going to do big things during our time together. I don't know exactly what it will be, or what it will look like, but I am confident it will be there - and that is very exciting.

 Two weeks from today we will be on our way.