A Life Snippet – Constant Tension

As with any job, our work has its ongoing tensions.  One of these is material possessions.  General ministry principles encourage cross-cultural workers not to live too far above or too far below those to whom you are ministering.  The unique challenge we face is that we do not work with one social status but serve and encourage those living in many different levels.  Some of the families we work with still pile their family of five on one motorbike.  Others have two cars.  So when I went to buy a mountain bike the other day, I had to consider how others would react, not out of guilt but out of respect. “Should we get a bookshelf?” becomes a question not only of budget but of maintaining approachability for those who live off a much lower income than most of us can imagine.  Years ago in Nepal, I used to deal with teams who were struggling with the quality of their $3 steak… and later that afternoon take a bunch of bananas to my friends who were struggling to keep their babies nourished.  This is not a new tension for us to live with, but an ongoing area which we have to hold up to God in prayer.

-Ross

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“…something to be grasped…”

One night nearly two years ago, I rocked my one-year-old nephew to sleep and cried.  I looked around his beautiful room, feeling the smooth motion of the glider where I sat, taking in the bars of the crib, the changing table, the adorable wall hangings, and letting the fluffy carpet work its way between my toes.  And I thought to myself: my babies will never have this.

Though newly married and not looking to have kids anytime too soon, I knew then I had chosen a life that would lead to a totally different child-rearing experience.  And I grieved over this.  

But the Lord spoke to me soon after that sad night.  He spoke this phrase from Philippians 2:6 – that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…” This shook me. “Something to be grasped” does not say anything about good or bad, rightness or wrongness.  Just not worth grasping.  Jesus was equal with God.  Was this good? Yes! Right? Yes!  Yet He knew it was not worth holding onto, and he let it go.

So since that time I have been doing this.  Finding new things I am “missing” that really are not worth grasping at all.  The adorable comfy-cozy baby room was the first of these.  There have been many more.  Several popped up their heads during my pregnancy.  “Just wait,” both my mother and sister foretold, “you’ll be sleeping on the couch before long! We all do!”  I laughed it off, saying surely I would be able to manage to sleep in my bed through the whole 9 months, but inwardly pouting, “I don’t have a couch!!!”  But the Lord was quick to remind me.  Couches?  Lovely.  But not worth grasping.

Same goes for bathtubs, Target, and dishwashers. Also clothes dryers and reliable electricity.  But it holds true for much deeper desires as well.  Like nearness to family.  Being able to walk through pregnancy and loss together with loved ones.  Attending funerals of friends.  Watching nieces and nephews grow up in person.  Giving our baby grandmothers, aunties, uncles, and cousins “in the flesh”, not just on Skype.

On a regular basis, I review this lesson from Jesus.  I have to.  And do you know what I find?  Those things that are not “something to be grasped”…   really are not something to be grasped!  My adorable baby is lacking nothing! He takes his bath in a plastic tub and splashes on our concrete floors to his heart’s content. His travel bed is as homey to him as any traditional crib.  Where carpet is lacking, we always have a few extra thin mattresses to lay out. Adorable wall hangings can be found anywhere, and anyway, do I really care? No… I have yet to hang a kids decoration.  I admit, a rocking chair would be nice, but I’ve managed to nurse my infant in a variety of places and it works just fine. 

Best of all, I’ve discovered that the hardest things to give up are the things Jesus keeps giving back. Did you know it’s possible to have a growing relationship with your family through video calls?  Thank God for the internet!  I feel as close to my three-year-old nephew through Skype as I ever could in person.  He loves us – we love him!  And even some of the smaller “luxuries” I’ve laid down come back to me occasionally – like a bathtub during our stay in Germany.

So here is my thanks to Jesus, who set the example in a way I know I could never perfectly follow.  He willingly laid down everything he could in order to bring us to the Father.  When I lay down a few things here and there, I am mirroring him in the smallest way, if I do it with thankfulness.

Thank you, Jesus. For you I will lay down whatever you show me is not “something to be grasped.”

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Milestone

Tonight was a milestone.

I got in our car (right side) and drove to worship practice (left side of the road, shifting with my left hand.)

Afterwards, I drove myself home.

I have been set free! 

Important note: the above parentheses refer to the slightest of challenges. The real fear factors were all around me: bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, Altos and BMW’s (seriously!) – all of whom might do ANYTHING at ANYTIME!  Literally.  

India is a place where a roundabout has five possible directions: left, straight, right, U-turn, or heaven. (I guess maybe it’s six directions…)

Seriously, folks. I am now all grown up. I drove in India.

-Mindy

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Hostel for College Going Blind Students

Hostel for College Going Blind Students

While we were in Delhi last month, we passed this sign everyday. And I realized: by letting our blog go into disuse (because of being overwhelmed with culture, being pregnant and other various excuses) we were robbing our friends and family of key insights into living over seas. (And a bunch of funny stuff we get to see every day!) From now on this blog will be used to hopefully re-open that window of insight (and humor) into some of our experiences. I am guessing many posts will have to do with having a white baby in a country predominantly populated by non- white people. Hope you enjoy.

This sign, by the way, is meant to convey that this is a dorm for blind college students… not for students who are “going blind.” We laughed every time we passed it.

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Humbling Mumbling

It has been interesting to see how our language learning comes so differently.  Mindy is methodically building her vocabulary and grammar, speaking clear complete sentences… even if they do come out as “Your baby’s name is ‘I don’t know’” or “In childhood, there was a gap between me and my teeth.”

Mine has formed up more as what the locals would call Kichidee.  This is basically the stew you get when you take whatever you happen to have in the pantry and throw it all in one pot.  I can usually make myself understood with a mix of Hindi, Nepali, and English…. And I if I am lacking the right word I end up just mumbling that portion of the sentence.

Needless to say this has been quite humbling for both of us as we mumble like babies and create wonderful sentences that make no sense in any language.  Fortunately we are developing a group of friend that understand where we are and are sometimes helpful as we try to move forward.

Mindy has one short story: “During a visit to a nearby village, our conversation lagged after about an hour.  In a newly acquired second language, there aren’t that many comfortable topics at hand.  Inwardly reaching for something to say, I noticed that next to their house about a dozen water buffalo were resting.  I thought it might be interesting to live so close to a herd of buffalo, and thought I’d mention it.  So, very clearly (and loudly, I might add) I said to our new friends: “Your neighbors are animals!” Right away, Ross’s eyes widened and the others began laughing.  Ross looked meaningfully toward the driveway, and there I saw two neighbors (of the human sort) sitting and chatting… well within earshot.  We laughed until we cried, all of us.”

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Cultural Quibbles

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It is strange to be in a land where many oddities are familiar after spending ten years in Nepal.  Blaring horns and pounding drums in the middle of the night celebrating a wedding or a guru.  Waking up to the whirring of the water pump, accompanied by the hacking of neighbors as they perform their morning toothbrushing and tongue-scraping routine.  The sweeping.  The cumbersome metal latches being worked open.  These have all become familiar to me.

There are also many things that feel foreign to me as we put down roots in India.  A new language.  A different government to deal with.  New cities, leaders, co-workers, etc… And making all these adjustments with a wife instead of alone.

Then there are some things that just make you stop and go “huh?”  These can happen in any culture, but they seem to happen more frequently when you’re crossing cultures.  These are what I will be calling cultural “quibbles”.  Not really culture “shock” or “squabble”.  Just the sort of thing that throws off your groove…

Aligning a wheel

My cycle was riding a little rough, so I joined a friend in going to the repair shop down the street.  Next thing I know, I am sitting in the shop with a son handing both of my tires to his blind father to align the wheels.  It was amazing to see this done so proficiently by touch and the sound of scraping metal.  My cycle is riding great now.

Ironic?

We live in the Punjab, where there is a high concentration of Sikhs.  A core part of Sikh beliefs includes a Samson-like vow: the men never cut their hair or their beards.  Instead, they wrap their hair up in a turban, and roll the beard tightly under their chins.  (The polite way to address a Sikh man in Hindi is sardarji, which basically means “sir in a turban.”)  One day as I was walking through our village, I was approached by two young, well-dressed Sikh men.  They were passing out promotional fliers.  I took one.  Imagine my surprise when I found out what they were advertising for.

A hair-styling academy!

More to follow…

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Music

We have added a Music page and also a playlist link to the right side menu. Enjoy

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