Wednesday, June 26


Some friends of mine wanted to go out to eat last night, and they had a certain place they were wanting to go so i joined them. We took an auto out a little ways away and got down at a paved walking bridge which we used to cross the road. As soon as we got to the top, a wave of gentle nostalgia washed over me as the buddhist prayer flags flapped evocatively to my left and to my right. Suddenly I was remembering grand stupas and precious young monks in Kathmandu. My time in Nepal was a high point in my last year (really, in my last twenty years), so memories summoned by the prayer flags were fond. We kept walking down dirty alleys populated with increasingly Nepali- and Tibetan-featured inhabitants and suddenly we passed a monastery with bells and a huge prayer wheel. It looked different than what i was used to. Delhi had tinted and shaped their customs, and i could recognize it after only a few previous visits to their ideal places of worship. I wondered how they felt about it. I wondered if their refuge felt like home in the middle of a hostile and foreign city, or if it felt like hell was bearing in on them, infiltrating even into their most sacred places. I wondered what it must be like to be in this city coercively instead of by choice.
We sat down in a restaurant with distinctly Chinese-y music playing; far eastern curtains and other decor adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling.

I can't tell you how it felt to be an American imagining Nepal in Tibet in India.

Let me be honest with you. China is probably the last place i'd voluntarily go. I'm not curious about it, I don't love the customs, I've never been into the food.  But as far as the China that's fallen in my lap lately, I've enjoyed its company. And the closer I get to China, whether it's the Nepal-Tibet border or the Tibetan refugee camp in the middle of Delhi, the more i can see its intricate beauty. Passing the shop windows with gorgeous painted ceramic vases - the style simply astonishing for its sophisticated smallness, and the small market stalls with vendors who lacked the characteristic intense aggressiveness of Indians, was almost soothing. It was culture within culture. It was layered experience. It was rich and deep, which are words i often use to describe these Eastern cultures; they're words i feel the absence of when i am in America. I appreciate some things about the East so much when i compare them to what i know and grew up around.

God opens up your eyes and your heart when you don't expect Him to, and i like that about Him.

Ironically enough, the next morning i found myself fraternizing with a volunteer team who came here to serve from.....
just guess.

Yes, Hong Kong. 

I joined the class they have offered for the week they are staying, and so i'm spending two hours of my day speaking Mandarin. It's a tonal language, which has always scared the crap out of me. But today in the first two hours of learning, the mystery was debunked as i found out that there are only four tones in Mandarin and that they have more to do with relative pitch than perfect pitch. as long as you move in the right direction, you're speaking the right language. here are the tones:

That's cool, right? That's not just me, right? I may have been out of a classroom for far too long, but i was eating it up! I really enjoyed learning the little bit of Mandarin that we got to today, right down to the alphabet song. What a treat, to have the opportunity to learn something like this, practically gift-wrapped and right at my fingertips. I'm super thankful!
Maybe i'd like the Far East more than i thought i would.

Love from Chinatown,

Saturday, June 22

Logic, Tranquility, and Balance.

I like the way that my understanding of Love and Truth eventually answers every question i've come across so far.  I like the way that it seems Love is the father of logic. I like the way that it seems that Truth is the author of tranquility. In my understanding, we're given both a guide and a lover; both a just and tranquil master; both a means and an end. I like that.

Last week at our Chat Over Coffee event there was a couple talking to me. They are young and newly married, and are both law students. We talked about the differences in our lives - everything from wedding culture to rent prices in America vs. India. We talked about our past and current lives, and each of our three future goals. And then suddenly, they asked me what i thought of God
"Well, I think a lot of things about God!", i said, and laughed a little awkwardly. I told then that i thought God made everything, that God loves everyone, and that God sent His Son Jesus to take care of our sin so that we could be together with Him. I talked about God in marriage and God in heaven and God on earth, and i paused for a breath and they were still listening, so i went on. Finally i looked at them and asked, "What do you think of God?" 
The husband told me he had just recently begun to doubt God's existence because he's been doing so many good things, and working so hard, and praying so fervently, but still he got rejected for the job he's been applying for. He sees no results from God. 
i listened intently and thought about it, and he stopped. and he asked me, "What do you think about that?"
I was able to talk about what i think we deserve. I was able to talk about filthy rags. I was able to talk about gaining the world and losing your soul.  
I was able to talk about how the things God gives us are better than any of the things we could wish that he gave. That worldly security and wonderful things are nothing without joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment - and THOSE are the things which God promises us in unlimited supply. I told them that in my opinion, joy and satisfaction are worth so much more than anything else.
It was a beautiful opportunity.
 It was amazing that after spending an hour building trust with some new friends, they'll want to hear what you have to say about the purpose of our lives. 
It was really good for my heart to be able to say it all out loud and to materialize and find tangibly how passionately i believe it. 
And i do. 

the next morning i awoke to a cool humid world being washed with spitting, sprinkling rain and shaken by constant distant thunder.
Last week 6 out of 7 days were rainy. We just had a four day break in which we exceeded 100 degrees more than a few times, but next week rain is predicted every day.
I'm gonna go ahead and call it monsoon.
I'm loving the sweet cleansing water and the cooler temperatures, but monsoon is costing some of my friends far more than a little dry heat would demand of me. Flooding in the north and northeast parts of India is catastrophic in its scope, and even close to home the water is threatening to change lives for the worse. Continue to pray for our friends in Nandlal, particularly the family of our dear Nitin, whose houses stand perilously close to large drains which threaten at any moment during monsoon to belch forth water and sweep away all they have built for themselves.

Sometimes i wonder if it's more valuable to be thankful for little things or to be able to view situations in an informed way, from more than one perspective. Biblically, there's a call to rejoice in the mundane - continuously, and in each day the Lord has made. But i know there must be a call to global recognition and an others-focused mindset as well. If there's a balance there, i've yet to find it. It's certainly hard to both rejoice and empathize without being trite and insincere. 
Either way, i pray i never become so self-absorbed as to forget what my eyes have been opened here to see: that there are lives going on all around me, and all around the world. 

Here's to striking the balance.

::Speaking of balance, it takes a considerable amount to wear a sari really successfully, which I did for the first time at the CHEP closing evening of our summer program. I just thought i would share some photos of the triumph:

Again, to balance; and to the Master of logic and tranquility. 

Love from Delhi,
Julie... with a little more balance than she had before.

Friday, June 7


I walked into my English class in CHEP at the slum this morning and began to teach about family. I have struggled with the consistency of my students, and with only five today there weren't quite enough to effectively complete the competition i'd prepared for them. So, i stopped teaching to talk frankly with them.

"My goodness, where is everyone today?" I asked. "We need more people!"  Since all the students live in the same vicinity, they know what's going on in each others' lives. I decided to single one out. "Where is Nitin?"
--"He won't coming today ma'am."
I sighed inwardly. "REA-lly? And why not?"
--"Well, because his house is fall down." 
Suddenly, my sigh turned to panic. I prayed that his family was not hurt. Incredulous, I asked if everything was going to be alright. The kids seemed to exhibit a good deal of pity but very little concern over the situation.

Today i realized the sacrifice and focus that is needed to value an education in the type of life that these kids lead.  What is a second language in the type of life where it's commonplace for your house to fall in on your head at any moment?
Their constant struggle breaks my heart. Their unbreakable spirit is simply inspirational.

After our Bible study tonight, I found out that Heather had been invited to go to a Sikh gurudwara, or temple, with a lady she's been getting to know named Nitu. She has been inviting Nitu to church, so she wanted to give Nitu good reason to trust her and reciprocate so she decided to go and make chapatis (flatbread) with the women as a part of the 40-day observance of a deceased Sikh Guru. I participated in the same holiday three years ago in a different gurudwara and made the flatbread which was served in a meal to the homeless later on that day. Heather told me i was welcome to come, and i took her up on it because i remember being very intrigued by the followers of the religion before. Today was somewhat different since we were going to meet a specific friend - we went not as tourists, but as the invited. It was evident that the ladies working together to make the chapati were very close - they come every night for forty days to make food to serve together. India has made them family just like India does.
Nitu seems to be a very devoted Sikh, as she is at the gurudwara every night and brings her son. One thing i found interesting was the way Nitu responded when I asked whether Sikhism had any similarities with Hinduism - she was offended and denied any relation between the two. I find this interesting because of the fact that Sikhism was born out of Hinduism according to all I've heard and studied, and also because of the way that Nitu related Sikhism to Christianity very freely while we were there. There are more disparities i feel strongly around Sikhs, too; one of them is how the congregation seems to value peace and sacredness so highly while they are born and bred antagonistic fighters from the warrior caste. One of the five sacred items which they must keep with them at all times is a dagger to exemplify this very fact.
It's hard for me not to like them when they serve one transcendent Being - do all in the name of the One Unknown God, and value beauty in relationship and character. They place great stress on ethics, morality, and values. They feed the poor. To me, they feel like the evolutionary step in the journey of a Hindu to find the peace in Truth.
When I am with them, i always have a very imminent sense of "almost".
it breaks my heart and gives me hope at the same time.
pray, pray for peace to the warriors,
and tranquility to them who battle endlessly with poverty.

Love from Delhi,
peace be with them, and peace be with you.

Monday, June 3

Slow Day Off

Today has been a beautiful day off. I got up and talked to Andrew since we haven't had much of a chance to communicate lately, and I started my Kilimanjaro workouts (oh yeah, i'm confirmed as climbing mount kilimanjaro in September, by the way), and i got caught up on so much rest that i've been needing. I stayed inside all day today to try and beat the heat, although i think i've now realized that you don't really beat the heat in Delhi - IT beats YOU into a bloody submissive pulp. At least i now know my place in the Indian feudal system where heat is king.

It was so good to have the GBC team here. As i mentioned, the busyness with them and service opportunities were wonderful, and it was amazing to have some family among them!
During a recent car ride, I heard a friend of mine say he was proud of his country. I can appreciate this sentiment, but I have never been able to identify with that kind of emotion as connected to a country which is at best a politically enclosed entity. I don't and can't love everything about America, nor do i or can i love everything about India. I find pockets of beauty and comfort in both places. That being said, though, Helena and Becca were such a sweet taste of home in my life. The team left late last night after eight solid days of nonstop ministry. They are brave ones, and they are resilient - none of them even really got sick. They were such a fresh change of pace.
sweet kids at the Civil Linds medical camp

I have fewer things to write about these days, i think because fewer things in Delhi excite or surprise me. It's just a sign of being very at home here - a phenomenon which i'm very thankful for. Of course it's sad to feel right at home when suddenly your plane ticket has been purchased and you have three months left before more major life changes. It's a strange place, this in-between, but i'm trying to live all of my time out here before i try to shift mentally. (Engagement makes that next to impossible) :)

I want to keep you updated, though, as life is going on here regardless of whether i tell you about it or not!

For the next three months, I am the assistant coordinator of Babel, the new Language Institute of PMI. I'm working with a friend of ours here named Nirvan to make a self-sustaining language center which will house qualified teachers of a host of different languages and will eventually help to fund some of PMI's ministry. It's an exciting start, and tomorrow is the first day of our 3-month trial run. It will be great to see how we can build relationships through this institute and how it blossoms - if it's given time and patience, i believe it will really take off.

Exam results are back, and it seems all of our sophomores and all of our juniors in CHEP have passed! We are so proud of them - and I want to thank specifically those of you who have prayed for their studies and well-being. We love them so much.

We have a singles retreat coming up at church this month as well! I'm excited to travel to Sattal and enjoy getting to know some of my friends here better. And not only that, i think i will finally get my first chance to ride on a train! It's a fair distance from here and we should be going by sleeper train, which i'm more excited about than i think i should be ;)

It's so nice to have days like this just to stay in and be here. I have been learning recently about intentionality in prayer, and i enjoyed using my down time to cultivate that. Prayer is one of the most valuable things i've learned to return to in India. I know it must seem a strange thing for me to say, but i have really struggled with prayer as a discipline and as a legitimate practice, so it's beautiful to be talking to God again.
I'm thankful for his sustenance and his closeness even through my faithlessness and my struggles to be like Him. I'm so glad He knows my heart even when I'm tired or when i fail or when i act selfishly.
I'm thankful for the pockets of beauty he does place in my life for me to find - the reminders of His presence and His unending love.

I pray you find the evidences of Him around you today, too.
Love from Delhi,
Julie, relaxed.