02 September 2007

India Mission Trip Recap (posted after Feb trip)

First, I have to apologize for such a belated post-India letter and blog.

The experience was one of the most amazing of my life..I should have constructed this letter immediately upon our return from the side of the planet, but turns out that that return..when night felt like day, when day felt like night, was when all of my world felt upside-down and when I literally couldn't stay awake but yet with all that was going on in my life, I could not sleep either.

Long story, short..I was back from India a few weeks before I have actually felt like "I'm back". The good news is, Jared is back..the bad news is, it's the beginning of March and all of you are going to give this letter the cursory once-over as you rush back to the conference room to catch the rest of the Arizona vs. Purdue game, and then back to refresh your browser to update your tourney challenge scores. Well, jerkos..come back and read this next Monday..

So, in the midst of being in one of the toughest seasons of my life, I got this not-so-subtle-nudge from God to go serve on a mission trip. Bring out the A-game in my faith. I wasn't so sure. He said I want you to go on the India trip. I tried to bargain for Egypt or something exotic like Brazil. He said, "No. India." All right, fine. I'm going. Great idea God. I'll just leave this job..oh wait, I don't have one. I'll just leave this funded start-up..oh wait, it's not funded. I'll just take the time away from my daughters, my girlfriend, my brothers (we don't even need to go into that) my Mom..yeah, great idea God. India? Why, because I'm friends with an Indian? Is it too late to re-think that Arthur friendship??

Ok, so fast-forward to just before leaving and I haven't raised even close to enough money for the trip. I am dead broke, I have no job and Wishy.com is not funded..I don't need to go to India! Not to mention, I am in the worst emotional, physical and spiritual place in my life..why would I go and be the resident cancer on a mission team?

The night we left my Dad and Mary prayed for me over the phone..much like they did before I left for Iraq. It was at that time that I knew I would be ok, and this was going to be good. The power of prayer people. So real. So powerful.

I started to view the mission part of this mission trip in a perspective that made sense to me; as I was embarking on a military mission. It was time to serve this mission first, team second and put self last. It's just the way these things have to go in my mind. Nothing sucks when you put yourself last. Something I learned in hell week, combat survival training, SERE, boot camp and 179 days in Iraq. Nothing sucks.

So, fast-forward to 2/3 through our first flight (let me just thank our "travel agent" for such awesome arrangements; fly east through Munich, Dehli and Patna, instead of LAX to Dehli direct. Boy that rules! On the way back can we connect in Chicago in a snowstorm, too??). Anyways, so Heidi gets deathly ill on the flight to Munich and at first, Arthur was going to try to run her to the hospital, or stay with her in Munich and we were all going to go on. That's the point at which military red flags went up, and we decided that Arthur, being our leader, should go with the group and I offered to stay with Heidi. I've traveled a ton and still sprechen eine kleine bichen Deutsche, so...it made sense.

Knowing that Verizon was not that global (CDMA?) network, I grabbed Grant's phone at the last minute as we were rushed off the back of the plane upon landing. I got Heidi's Mom's phone number, tried unsuccessfully to get a charger (thinking ahead like Inspector Gadget)..and we were unceremoniously rushed into the ambulance and taken to a hospital in a small town in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night (about 30 clicks from Munich).

A few hours and two IV bags later, we were stuck in a German hospital in the middle of the night..the wrong direction from Munich. We had the most amazingly wonderful people helping us in the hospital, and my German, while rusty, was definitely useful. The nurse helped us find a hotel and drove us there when her shift was over. Amazing (we're returning the favor when she and her family came visit the US this summer).

At this time we realize that Heidi had lost her pouch with all of her money and credit cards, and neither of us had any luggage.

So..we didn't make it out of Munich the next day, and after having the Lufthansa agents check Dehli flights from Rome, Zurich, Fankfurt, Paris and London we were starting to wonder if we would ever get out of Munich and to India. We did get on a flight the following day and arrived in Dehli with no tickets to Patna (final destination..they were with Arthur), no luggage, no phone (it died), no patience and we were all-to-white to get a fair shake in Dehli.

If that doesn't make sense, just think; white/US = money & naïve. We got screwed and harassed over and over by security and Indian Air. We finally had to pay out-of-pocket for business class (imagine that; coach was sold out when we got to the counter. weird) to Patna. I was pissed, exhausted, sweating through the drawers I had been wearing for God-knows-how-many-days..and oh yeah, still no phone, money or energy.

Now, I must highlight the upside of the Germany excursion too. While there was nothing more we wanted than to be with our group and on our mission, God totally blessed the time for both of us. I couldn't sleep and so was left with some serious quiet time to pray..and pray I did. Again, I was in a total hole in life, and I couldn't see or feel God in my life. See Psalms 13 and 116. That's where I was. It was much needed prayer time and I read through I and II Samuel (David's life). I got to meet the US Women's ski-jump team at breakfast one morning in the hotel and had a pretty cool chat with their coach. It was at that time that I realized that my job (being in Germany with Heidi) wasn't that tough..he had to baby-sit 8 freaking women! I only had to take care of one! ? Heidi and I basically got to know each other's life-stories too. It was awesome. Talked relationships, life, the military (she's now engaged to freaking stud F-18 pilot! Yay Heidi!). It was cool.

Anyways, so headed to Patna, Bihar..we were headed into the city with one of the highest kidnapping/ransom rates in the world, a place where nothing moves without bribe, as two white Americans with no idea whether or not anyone would be there to pick us up. Again, awesome.

Seriously, by small miracle, Arthur and the great Panaraj were there to pick us up, having just learned 15 minutes before we landed that we were due in. It was awesome to finally be united with our group.

Man, one of the most beautiful impressions I have from the whole experience was the next morning when everyone was coming into the dining area for breakfast, and in spite of the rustic conditions, jet lag, fatigue and drama, each and everyone of the team members was glowing..just radiant with love and joy..totally the Holy Spirit. I knew right then that really cool things were happening.

So, a little background about where we were. It is called the graveyard of missions. It's predominantly Hindu and Muslim..and pretty militantly so. Christianity isn't exactly welcome.

- There are 90 million people (roughly 1/3 the US population) in a State the size of Iowa
- The literacy rate ranges from 10% rurally to 40% urban.
- The per capita income is $37. Thirty-seven freaking dollars!
- There are 14 murders per day.
- 1 kidnapping every 4 hours
- 3 rapes per day
- Thousands of victims of dowry murders, and countless hundreds of thousands victims of dowry torturing

The place is sick and absolutely hopeless. I honestly can say that Bihar, and other places we traveled in India (on the way to Agra) make Fallujah, Ba'Quba and Baghdad look like Southern California. It is that level of absolute squalor and hopelessness there.

Well, hopeless to all but those that have heard the Gospel of Christ. This is what will forever impact my life. The absolute joy and peace and certainty of love that these Christians had there. And people, they didn't enjoy life in Southern California and the freedom of worship and assembly that we take for granted. This JOY, this literal TRUTH was in the hearts in the face of total evil. In the face of the beatings that they had taken for their faith. In the face of being ostracized from their families..the very family structure that represents all foundation in rural India.

Oh my God, my friends..I can't even find the text to explain the real and truthful joy in our friends hearts. It was just so humbling. And faith confirming. Beautiful, monumental, seismic in its' awesomeness, rawness and disarming power. In the absence of so much, they have found everything they need. In the midst of all of the corruption of man, they have found the path to seeing the beauty in your fellow man and woman.

And wow..the Old Testament level of miracles being worked there. It's just so freaking powerful.

One man was his village mute. Nobody had ever heard him speak a word in his life. He was untouchable. Literally the village idiot..until he was saved by Christ, now he will be leading..and speaking to..his Church in his village. Now if that isn't the power to share about our mighty God, I don't know what is! He spoke to tell us this story a short few months after the first time anyone had ever heard him speak.

Another man was a cold-blooded assassin (no really..killed people for money) until he heard about the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. He learned what forgiveness truly was. And for that, he was summarily rejected by his family and his father 'kept' his wife and children because he refused to renounce his faith. As time passed, his father came to see the joy in the face of his once-murdering-son, and has come along with the rest of the family to accept Christ. Simply incredible.

The stories could go on and on..

Funniest thing..or maybe I should say coolest thing..to me was that they were BLOWN AWAY that we painted their classroom. Jeremy, (my cousin) and I have painted probably 7 or 8 rooms between or 3 condos since I've live in LA..it's just something I'm used to and take seriously. When I've got that brush, I want to do a good job. So did Heidi, Brooke, Mona, Grant and Mandy. And the Indian's were floored by that. That us "big, important, rich, powerful" Americans would travel across the world and do such lowly work. And have fun doing it!?! We could pay someone much lower in class than the students themselves to paint the classroom, but we would do it ourselves?!? They say that they learned through that that no work is too low of work, when done with a serving heart and for God's glory.

India was the 30th country that I've been to, so I've long since known and understood the blessings we enjoy here in the US. But this experience was something entirely different, it was a conviction about the amount and extent of joy that I need to keep in my heart, throughout my life. Throughout all circumstances. I simply am far too blessed in this life. Beyond any rationale explanation, for me to ever, ever again lose joy in my life. I have it all. The coinciding of this conviction, peace and rebuilding of joy in my life was no coincidence..it was completely designed to come along as the lifeline in my heart. I am certain of that. I am certain I had to have this time with other believers, going through absolutely crazy trials and attacks. It was the real war-type-of-fire that I needed for my soul. You just never know how alive you are until you've been a) In love and b) in war. Having been through and enthralled in both, I can tell you..we were ALIVE on this trip. Wow..

While we were gone, my car was broken into, and $1,000-plus damage done and even more goods stolen. Mona had hundreds of dollars worth of possessions stolen from her suitcase. Heidi's sickness is totally unexplainable. Our luggage, tickets, phone, money, harassment and feeling of helplessness and exploitations in Dehli..and then of course, the nightmare 48 hours of travel back to Los Angeles just to finish us off. It was freaking crazy. We had been up for 60 hours (minus the crappy, pain-filled, blood-clot-inducing, quasi-sleep on the plane). I got 7 hours of sleep combined in the 2 days BEFORE the 60 hour excursion. I seriously am still tired.

And every single bit of it was worth it. It was incredible and a total honor.

I will for the rest of my life be contributing in financial and professional ways to the BORN (Bihar Outreach Network) Church and their Evangelical mission. It is just so amazing and so awesome.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to go on this journey. And as is always true in the beautiful dichotomy of service..I definitely received far more than I could ever have given. Those of you that helped in prayer..it was completely needed. Those of you that helped financially..it was also completely needed, and I am grateful and humbled. Thank you.

And to Arthur..rock on bro. You did a great job! Don't talk to me for another 3 years. :)

And to Saitan-Singh, Panny, Mona, Brooke, Suzie-Simosa, Mandy, and Heidi..I love each of your hearts greatly. Thank you for being a part of rebuilding my heart while I was gone. I cannot wait to serve with you all again.

And Brooke and Taylor..thanks for missing me so much. Love you :)


The J-Dam

my photos :)