April 28, 2013

A Dwelling Place

Where do I belong?

This is a question that has been creeping up in me over the past few weeks.

a view of Kalimpong

I left the states eight months ago as someone other than who I am now. Time changes you. Foreign culture changes you. Life changes you. 

If I am not the person who left the states, when I return will I still belong there? Of course my family (and bestest friends) will accept me and love me, but what about everyone else. And will I ever really belong in in passport country once I have spent so much time away? Do I even want to belong there anymore?

Since October when I arrived in hilly Kalimpong I have been trying to figure out where I belong here and make a place for myself. My place has been my cozy room, "Miss Sarah" to Manju and Jeewan Loy. It has also been "sathi/friend" "didi/older-sister" or "bhieny/younger-sister" to many people here. 

a wall in my cozy room
One thing that I look back and want to change is that I wish I could have plunged in more deeply to the culture here. There are more foreigners in this little city than I can count on all my fingers and toes. I have met pretty much all of them, and they are great people, but they are who I have spent the most time with. It has been wonderful to learn about what missionary family-life looks like, but I would like to have learned more first hand about the culture also. Now don't get me wrong. I have learned quite a lot, probably more than I realize. 

 What I would love to have is a feeling of belonging within the culture. There are two prongs that come against this desire. First: cultural/language learning would have had to the focus of my time here. Second: cultures like the Indian/Nepali culture are deeply reticent to allow anyone from outside to ever become "part of the group." If it is even possible to become "part of the group," to belong here, if would have to take years or even decades of dedication and self-sacrifice. I have been here long enough to realize that I don't belong, but not long enough to think about ever belonging. 

This is such a hard thing. Over the past few months I grown a love for these people-of-the-hills as I have lived on top of their hills. Their hills are beautiful. They are beautiful. Their faces draw me into wanting to know what is behind the brown eyes that are nestled midst the soft brown skin of their round expression.
It is a tough thing to know that I will never belong. 

Sister at a Distance

But then I remember that this earth (and its people) are not our true home. We are made for a heavenly kingdom and not any earthly one. 

Some ladies and I were talking about this issue of belonging and our concept of "home" after living in a foreign country. One of the ladies shared this verse: 

"Lord, you have been my dwelling place (home) throughout all transitions." Psalm 90:1 
this world is not our home

I am discovering the richness in not "belonging" in any particular culture. 

It is so beautifully true. The Lord is our home and his Spirit is our dwelling place, no matter how many transitions our life takes us through. 

I am not fully American, nor am I fully something else. 

No matter how much color I am smeared with I am still white.

I hope that I am becoming something more like what Sherwood Lingerfelter calls in his book "Ministering Cross-Culturally," a 150-percent person, someone who is 75-percent their passport culture (which means becoming less than 100-percent) and also becomes 75-percent their ministry target culture (which he acknowledges that you can never become 100-percent). He calls this the "incarnational model for personal relationships," and reminds us that as Jesus became incarnate, fully man to reach men, and that is how we should approach cross-cultural ministry (24). 

There is a beautiful stretching when this happens. You become less of what you were and maybe more of what God intended you to be. This is Kingdom culture. 

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." Ephesians 2:19-22

I will never be their beautiful brown but I want my hands to touch them like Jesus.

April 27, 2013

The Beginning of Something New

A few moths ago I didn't think it would have been possible. This month has been such a good reminder that nothing is impossible.

Last Saturday I rode down the mountain in the rain, sitting with my mother next to me in the taxi. I was dropping her at the airport after she spent four weeks with me here in India. It was a dreary day with threats of thunderstorms and landslides but by God's grace they ended up only being empty threats. This ride began Mom's 24+ hours of travel home, and began my last two and a half months in India.

When I came home in 2011 from two months in Delhi working at Asha House, Mom told me "next time I am coming too." I knew that she is a woman of her word, but I also knew that God often changes our plans, so I tried not to hope too much. When I heard in February that she wasn't going to be able to come, I was disappointed but not crushed. After just a few weeks (and a dark lonely time for me) things changed.

She originally thought she couldn't come because the family needed her too much at home. It is true that they do need her, but half of them are Boy Scouts and more than half of them are adults, so with their scouting skills and life experience combined they decided to make it work. Mom made the decision to come, got her passport, visa, plane ticket, and came in less than two months.

Some of Mom's time here was spent sight-seeing (it is nice to have had an excuse to go visit places I haven't seen yet and places I wanted to see again):
Sweet Ladies we met on the Train to Jaipur

Amber Fort- Jaipur
Mom's first monkey sighting- Jaipur

Juntar Muntar - Jaipur - ancient sundial -those Moghals were pretty brilliant

Fresh lime soda and Aloo Papadi Chat at the City Palace Cafe
This guy serenaded us over lunch - now that was an awesome mustache , but I am not sure what kind of instrument

Took a short trip to Tea Town- Darjeeling
Happy Valley Tea Estate
We got to see where they sort and process the tea. There was a green floral delicious smell that permeated the whole building.
View of Darjeeling from Happy Valley T.E.
Breakfast at Keventer's. Sausage and bacon, more meat than I have seen in months.
A stop at cozy Glenary's before we went home. Tea, quiche, tarts, and a rainy day.  
Darjeeling clock tower and a break in the clouds.
Cactus Nursery in Kalimpong - who knew there are so many species 
We dashed up to Delo Hill (the highest point in Kalimpong) on the ONLY clear day to try and catch a glimpse of  Kunchenjunga. We caught just a sliver before it hit behind the clouds again. Anyways it was a beautiful day. 
Walking Trail on Delo Hill 
Dr. Graham's Homes Church build in 1920. We wandered through Dr. Graham's Homes property on the way back from Delo. 
Dr. Graham's Homes - Boarding school founded in 1900 by Scottish missionaries for abandoned children   

Some of her time here was spent meeting my wonderful friends and encouraging them (she had seasoned homeschooling advice for me as well as the other homeschooling moms):
We spent six days at Asha House. Mom got out of the taxi when we first arrived knowing at least half of everyone's names from pictures. 
Mom with my Asha girlies- what a beautiful thing
 Making hats with friends on Jeewan Loy's Birthday

Silly Friends and Bhim Uncle
Surrounded by friends, love, and yummy treats.
Our friends from Germany treated us to barbecue chicken. They made their barbecue from a metal box and a grate... brilliant.  

Some of her time was spent doctoring me and being substitute teacher (I was quite sick for more than a week with bronchitis or something like it):
Sorry didn't take any picture of me sick in bed. This one will have to do. 
Beef Thukpa- just what the doctor ordered
Mom read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" to the kids. Once I was better we has a "Mr. Tumnus" Tea Party including Queen Cakes.

What a pretty spread. Jeewan enjoyed the tea party, but didn't quite get the idea of using manners. Manju loved it and kept saying that this was "the best day ever."
Most of her time was spent encouraging me like only a mother can. Just a hug from the woman who knows you best can work wonders for a weary soul.

Our time together seemed like the beginning of a new era in our relationship. Mom who always knows what to do and always has a ready plan was now in new territory, a place where I had more experience and understanding than she did. Though she is a 'planner' Mom is also flexible, so this new dynamic did not set her at ill ease. Instead she thrived off of the adventure of this new country and fresh season in our relationship. Sometimes you just know when your life has hit a turning point. I think this past month was that for both Mom and me.

I am excited to see what new things the Lord has in store for us: for me as I spend another few months here, and then transition back to the states, and for Mom as she goes home and learns to integrate the things she learned here into her life at home. As I make my transition back to the states it is going to be invaluable to have someone back "home" who has gotten a glimpse of my life here.