10 years ago I had the privilege to serve and train with Youth With a Mission in Tyler, Texas. I was going through their five month Discipleship Training School, and after completing the 3 month lecture phase our class of 110 were asked to pray for a week about several outreach options where we would be put into different teams to serve for 6-8 weeks.
The options: China, Venezuela, Mexico, Bangladesh, India, US, (there may have been others but I can’t recall them now). I immediately wanted to write down INDIA and circle, underline and highlight it but I thought I would spend the next week as asked, to pray and ask the Lord where He may have me go. This was an awkward thing for me then … what did “hearing from God” sound like? What should I be listening for, and how was I supposed to know that it was God and not me?
Needless to say I prayed, and prayed, and sat still and waited to hear …. It was NOT an audible voice although my heart had changed .. I was open to going to Venezuela. I am fluent in Spanish and thought maybe I would be much better used if I went BUT I REALLY felt like India was on my heart for a reason.
The next week I turned in my paper with only 2 things written down: 1. Venezuela 2. India
Five days later after our staff had received our requests, and prayed through them they announced the teams. My name was called out when announcing the Venezuela team. BUMMED is not even close to what I felt but still trusting that another opportunity would come up in the future to go to India. What I have not mentioned about the Venezuela outreach is that it was a team that would be backpacking in the jungles of Venezuela, sharing Christ with tribes, sleeping in hammocks, showering and drinking from the same river, and the other portion would be spent staying at a local church and encouraging local pastors and churches. For those that don’t know me this was a HUGE STRETCH.
We started to train every morning at 2am (it may have been 5am but it felt WAY earlier) for our backpacking adventure… The excitement wasn’t growing.
January of 2001 was the month we arrived in Venezuela. It was hot, humid and the people were warm, loving and welcoming. All 9 of us lived in ONE room with ONE bathroom for the first 3 weeks and then we made our way to the mountains. At first glance I thought “there is NO WAY I am ever going to carry my 30 pound bag up that mountain” and lucky for me donkeys came to my rescue!
We started to hike, and hike, and hike with our faithful donkeys by our side carrying our heavy bags and after what it seemed like hours we arrived to the tribe we were visiting. They greeted us with this yummy warm,corn, fermented drink… and that’s when I knew I had ARRIVED! The next couple days we had the incredible experience of sharing the gospel with the surrounding villagers, and helping in whatever we could. We showered in the river, filtered our water in the river, fished with machetes,dug holes to bury our #2 needs, dodged poop being flung at us by monkeys (you know all that normal jungle stuff).
We were in the jungle for a much shorter time period than we thought, which was fine by all of us. Venezuela was the second missions trip I had ever been on, and the first 6 week trip in another country… it taught me to rely on the Lord for strength, and trust in His leading and faithfulness. It was the start of opening the eyes of my heart to the world around me, and the end of an “ordinary life”. For that Venezuela I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I had the amazing opportunity to visit different children homes, and orphanages around the world this month. My first visit was to the Harvest Missions orphanage in New Delhi, India. They provide a loving home for 14 children that are being raised by employed care takers as if they were their own. Most of these children were found in a leprosy colony with no parent or guardian able to provide a shelter or food for them, and now are being raised with a hope for a better future and love surrounding them.
Our team had the opportunity to sing, play and help them make bookmarks. They were so proud to have an item with their name on it and made sure to show it off. The simple things in life that bring such joy ….
Breathtaking is the best word to describe the Taj Mahal. I love the story behind this beautiful wonder of the world and seeing it for the second time made me fall in love with it all over again. The story behind it is mentioned below for your enjoyment.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan erected the Taj Mahal in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahanmet Mumtaz Mahal at the age of fourteen and fell in love at first sight. She was a Muslim Persian princess and Shah Jahan was the son of the Mughal Emperor, Jehangir. Five years later, in 1612, they got married.
Mumtaz Mahal, an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan, died in 1631 while giving birth to their 14th child. It is believed that during her last moments, Mumtaz Mahal obtained a promise from Shah Jahan declaring that he would build the world’s most beautiful monument in her memory.
Shah Jahan did indeed build a magnificent monument as a tribute to his wife, which we today know as the “Taj Mahal”. Shah Jahan, himself also, lies entombed in this mausoleum along with his wife.
The construction of Taj Mahal started in 1631 and it took approximately 22 years to build with the help of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. It was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After spending approximately 32 million rupees (approx US $68000), the Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653.
I have to say that this was one of my favorite layovers. I have never had a desire to go to London, but my 24 hours there was enough time to visit the “top ten things to see”. Here is a glimpse of the beautiful day we had (LUCKY ME!).
India will always be one of my favorite places on earth. I was blessed to go back this year for my second visit, and the only way I could describe my experience this time was that it felt like I was visiting cherished friends. I tend to get asked “What is it that you love about India so much?” … Although I can not answer that question in just a few words, I can say that the main reason is the people. Their warmth, sincerity, and beauty is something that I will never forget.