Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Celebrations

We've had a lot of fun over the past week with many Christmas celebrations and get togethers.

Highlights include:


  • Morgan family get together- I had a blast with the kiddos, even though preschool isn't my thing. We did arts and crafts and games and it was just fun!

  • Mince family get together. Good fellowship- but it was hard as it was the first christmas without Uncle Steve. Also, many family could not make it do to weather and illness. I had fun running the teen auction. They raised over 50 bucks for charity! I ended up with a Kate Spade purse in the adult auction!

  • Spica immediate family. We had a great time sharing gifts. Isabelle received many wonderful things. Two favorites are a Miss Patty Cake DVD and a cash register that scans food and teaches numbers, colors, and food groups. My hubby and all the other men surprised us girls with a night in Chicago to go shopping at the outlet mall and a night away from all kids!!! What awesome husbands we have! Mom and Dad also are taking all of us to Great Wolf Lodge sometime this winter.

  • Pentwater. We had a blast. Lots of game playing. Andrea and Jason were up there. Grandma Lillie stayed for a couple days. Great christmas eve service at church (which I have a cool story about for a later post). We had a great time opening presents and enjoying lots of great food! Izzy loves her soft and cozy jammies and remote control bumble bee. I got new bath towels!!!!! And Paul bought me a cookware set. I never got pots and pans when we were married, so I was using hand me downs that were not very functional. I also got a new coffee maker to replace my broken one. I enjoyed giving my mom a calendar of Izzy pictures. Dad will be smelling good with three bottles of cologne!

All in all Christmas was a huge success. Lots of family time. A good balance of family times. We also focused on the true meaning of Christmas which is so hard to do! Hope all of your celebrations were joyful and meaningful as well!



My friend Debbie tagged me to do a picture game:




Here are the rules:
1. Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.
2. Pick the 4th picture in that folder.
3. Explain the picture.
4. Tag 4 people to do the same




My picture is:



Its a blurry one- I rarely go through and delete photos! Paul took this at the top of our stairs looking down into the living room. I think it was supposed to show the mass chaos of toys that Izzy had created. Not really sure. Funny though!

I tag these people to do the same!

-Becky

-Sarah V.

-Jason

-Nikki

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

We wish everyone a blessed and merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

China

My post about China will be somewhat brief as to protect myself, the "M" people we were visiting, and the organization we encountered. So, this post may come across a little touristy- so if you want the "real" scoop of what we did, you'll have to ask me in person or maybe in an email. You never know who may be watching!

We had the wonderful chance of visiting friends of ours in Kunming, China after our time in Bangladesh. There was a direct flight which was an experience in itself. I promise to never complain about "western" rules and regulations when it comes to on board luggage and security. Let's just say 4 or 5 carry on's were normal.


Kunming is a city with 6 million people. It is very modern- yet far behind the times. They have an open sewer which is affectionately named the "P.C." aka the Poop Canal. This 'water' is also used to water all of the park and floral areas. Open urination is common for children, so you can imagine between the two culprits some of the interesting smells you encounter. But then you pass by a little street vendor selling roasted sweet potatoes or a noodle shop and it smells good. How I wish pictures would do things like smell and sounds justice!

The PC

We stayed in a fabulous hotel. They are trying to encourage more western visitors so they have done some remodeling. We had down comforters and one of those rain shower heads. Breakfast, while there were "oil with a side of eggs" eggs, was pretty typical chinese including fried chicken feet. For $20 bucks a night and free breakfast- we couldn't refuse. And no, I did not partake in the fried chicken feet.


Walking is the primary means of transportation. There are also public buses and taxis. Bikes and scooters are also popular, but for most of the population, these are out of their price range. It was such an extreme country. We would be walking under a newly constructed massive raised highway with skyscrappers in the distance as we passed old construction, bundles of wire, open fire cooking, and goat slaughtering. There are no or very little zoning rules. Most people who own a shop of some kind also live there. It is a cramped city.


The Wet Market

Dinner :) They were roasting the feet with a blow torch- very funny
It is on the same latitude as Mexico City- but because of its high elevation it is called "land of the eternal spring". Though, it was cold when were there- in the 40's and maybe low 50's. Brrrrr- especially after 90 degree Bangladesh.

Warming up with my first Mocha in nearly 2 weeks at a western coffee shop

On our visit we visited and learned about different facets of an organization that helps people. They love on people in different ways and help them however they can- as long as they have permission from certain authorities to do so. This organization is so large it spans leoprasy prevention, treatment, and education; HIV/Aids awareness; a physical rehab center; a dental offshoot; a medical clinic (which was shut down the week before we arrived); work with CSW (commercial sex workers); agricultural development and education; and more! Basically within the Yunnan providence, they find needs of people in different areas from the villages that border Tibet, to the mountain Lusi people, to the jungles of Banna. They then communicate how they can help and then wait for permission to go and help. Its a dance of wills!


We were so blessed by all of the "M" people we met. From the 100+ foreigners to the 150+ Chinese nationals who have dedicated their passions to this organization.

We enjoyed an excursion about 3 hours into the mountains to visit the main agricultural center where we learned about slope farming and no till farming. This organization teaches farmers how to build their farms on the slopes of the mountains all while using no large/motorized tools or machines or even large farm animals like cattle. It is all done by hand- so that way the poorest of the poor can do it! They also had different animals there they were taking care of to teach local farmers how to properly care for different livestock. And warm, fresh goats milk tastes like sour string cheese if you were wondering!


Hello Goat!
The MountainsSlope farming- the layers are the fields
A mountain village


I learned so much about China and wish I could just spill it all. It is a land of extremes. Extreme cities. Extreme countryside. Extreme wealth. Extreme poverty. Extreme traditionalism. Extreme culture.
New office building in Kunming

Old buildings and the electrical nightmare


You cannot sum China into one sentence- or even a paragraph. Each area, each providence, even different cities have different cultures, customs, languages, foods and needs. It is a huge country with extreme darkness. There is light. There is hope. There is a future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Picture Tour

For my last post on Bangladesh, I thought I would just do a quick picture tour of some of the things around the children's home and inside it.
A classroom (60 kids-1 teacher)
Rice Paddies just outside the wall

Funny sign once you've experienced the "roads" here

Fruit Stand in Shavar



Our nice room at the children's home. They have a floor on one of the buildings that has guest rooms and an apartment area for the founder/manager David.


Kitchen in the girls dorm. She is peeling potatoes. They have tried "western" peelers, but can't get the hang of them.

View from top of girls dorm (5 floors up) School is on the right. City of Shavar in the distance.

Chapel


Boys play area looking towards the school


Dorm room- packed wall to wall with bunks. Each child gets a cubby to hold all of their personal possessions.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trip Report #5- Sponsor Children

While the children's home is supported through private donations from different people and organizations, the children in the home are sponsored through Hope for Children of World Vision. This takes a huge load off of David's shoulders and a church in the area that used to do it all. ABout 80% of the 366 children are sponsored.


We have two sponsor children.


Robin is 12 years old. He is very very shy. I totally scared him the first day when I went crying to him giving him a big hug- poor kid. He warmed up to us eventually. Paul enjoyed playing badmitton and frisbee with him. He is 12 years old (or there abouts, sometimes these kids come in and they don't know their birthday, so the staff just has to guess!)




Moni (short for Disamoni) is 5 years old and a little angel. She has very short hair like most of the young ones. They shave the children's heads for two reasons: One to help prevent lice outbreaks that new kids might bring in, and Two, thick long hair is considered the most beautiful and prized, so the cultural tradition is to shave the heads of young girls (when they are like 3 or 4) to help the hair grow in nice and thick! Moni spoke very little english. But she followed me around a lot and just held my hand. She danced for me too. It was funny, the girls knew I loved taking pictures of Moni, and so whenever they wanted their picture taken, they would snatch moni and pose with her! Here is Moni with the monkey that Izzy picked out for her.




We were able to bring both of our children gifts and just love on them the best we could. It was a special time for them and for us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Generosity

A brief break from my trip reports....


I am a storyteller at my church for K-3. It is a blast. I love serving in an area where I am using God's gifts and leave so energized! Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of being in your zone of ministry.


Anyways, our church uses a curriculum that focuses on Biblical virtues. We study a new one each month. This month we have been studying Generosity. Well, one week as part of my story I pretended I was packing up all of my old stuff into boxes to make room for all of the new stuff I would be getting for christmas. I didn't want to give anything away, even though I didn't need it or use it anymore. Well, one of the things in my box of stuff was an old stuffed animal from my childhood. Later on in the lesson I realize I need to be generous becuase giving something away can make someone's day and that God calls us to be generous and willing to share!


Well, this past week I come into my classroom I'll admit a little bummed to be there. I was tired. It was cold and snowy. Really the only thing getting my rear through the door was knowing I was going to be presenting the gospel message- and I didn't want Satan to win the battle of my attitude!


Well, what would God bring into my evening but a beautiful girl and a purple gift bag. This little second grader came up to me with a present I thought for Christmas- but it was even better! I open it up to find this:

It was her "pokey little puppy" she got in Florida a few years back. She wanted me to have it. I got chills and nearly cried. This little second grader was getting it in ways I never expected. She had learned to be generous with her things. This little puppy is going to be sitting around my home near my curriculum. Whenever I feel frustrated that the kids were wild and not paying any attention, or I just can't seem to get motivated to learn my lines- I will look at this little puppy and remember that they are getting it! God's message is getting through!

Trip Report #4 Backroads Tour















We were blessed enough on our trip to take little "excursions". We visited a pharmecuetical plant owned by the richest man/family in Bangladesh- and they are Christians! The Chowdry family is on the Warren Buffet scale of influence and wealth in Bangladesh. To have such powerful, wonderful christian business men in such a dark country is a huge blessing. The plant was very interesting to see. But by no means the most fun thing we did on our trip- I was ready to go back and play with the kids!


The Children's home is just one facet to the entire ministry of HELP Bangladesh. They also have a medical clinic for the children and villagers to use. A doctor's visit costs about $1- but that is an entire day's wage. Just outside the walls is a sewing center and store called the Dorcas shop. They train older children in the home and people in the community to sew and tailor. You can get a custom made, custom fit shalwar kamiz for about $10. In silk! This service provides a way for children in the home who won't go onto college or higher learning to have a skill to support themselves in the future. They do something similar on campus with a MechTech center where they teach boys wood carving and metal shop and small engine repair skills.


Yet another facet to this organization is the micro credit program. For those who are unfamiliar with micro credit what it basically does is give people (usually women) a small, interest free, short term loan that they can use to supplement or start a business to make a living. A typical example would be that a wife/mother is needing to provide income for her family. She applies for a $50 loan with a business plan. It may be to purchase chicken, goats, stock for a store, or craft materials. She then must pay back this loan within 1-3 years before she can apply for another loan to further invest in her business. This program is highly successful in many 3rd world countries. It shows what can be done if just a little is invested. It is also highly structured and accountable. Women in this particular program join an accountability group before they receive their loan. They help encourage each other, hold each other accountable, etc. We were able to visit a meeting of these women. They were so joyful compared to others I had encountered. They had purpose! They were doing something meaningful and helpful with their lives and helping to contribute to the livelihood of their husbands and children. We then toured some of their businesses like a dairy farm of a couple cows, rice husking, little convinience store, goat farm, a pig, a few thousand chickens and the biggest cow I have ever seen. One of the things I enjoyed most about this excursion was seeing how real bengali's live. The children's home is such an oasis- its not reality. This tour is reality- albeit a good one when you look at the grand scheme of things. I pray that many of the girls from the children's home will take advantage of this project and become successful leaders in it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stickers and Shoes- Trip Report #3


I never thought two simple things would bring such joy to children as stickers and shoes.


I found boxes of 200 motivational teaching stickers at the dollar store and bought like 8 boxes to take over for the teachers to use. Well, one day the kids were getting kind of bored and we were all just sitting around looking at each other, so I brought out a box to the girls side of the play area. Boy were they a hit! Suddenly they began sticking them all over their faces! They couldn't get enough of these stickers. I was out of the roll within 10 minutes or so. So I grabbed more boxes and just kept handing them out. I think the pictures explain their joy enough.






I noticed one afternoon that our sponsor daughter Moni had terrible shoes. All of the kids wear flip flops of some kind. Hers were being held together with some sort of wire- it looked dangerous. My heart ached for those poor little feet so we bought her some new sandals at the Dorcas shop when we got her dress ordered. It was after that moment that I saw Moni truly smile and engage us- even though we couldn't speak to one another. She was so proud of those shoes. But, not nearly as excited as Ripa was. The next day, I saw her friend Ripa had on her sandals that were missing basically one side of the thong if that makes sense. The plastic was breaking off. So, the three of us marched over to the Dorcas shop and for about $1 we replaced her shoes as well. Her smile tells the story.


New Shoes

Ripa and her shoes

Moni, Me, and Ripa


These stories represent many moments where the simplest things brought such immense joy and pleasure. They just wanted someone to love on them. Someone to be silly with them. Someone to take care of them in a deeper way. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to be there for them. Their joy in simple things of life taught me too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trip Report #2


Let's see here, where to begin today's dumping of information and processing of memories.


The afternoon we arrived the children put on a wonderful program for us. It was filled with music and dancing. They put so much effort and heart into it. One of the things I learned while in Bangladesh is the variety of worship that one can have for the Lord. They are much more free in their worship than I think I ever will feel comfortable doing- which is sad! They love, I mean LOVE to dance. And each movement means something. They use dance for everything. I also loved hearing them sing in their native tongue. I couldn't understand it- but they sang so joyfully. One of the things that moved me most was to see the older boys 15-17 years of age clapping so enthusastically with the singing. You would be hard pressed to find boys of that age here in the states worship as freely and ethusiastically as these boys did. They also weren't afraid to look silly and did the motions right along with everyone else. It was refreshing. One of the most powerful moments of worship was their prayer time. First, whenever a child in the home has a birthday- they stand up and of course get sung to. But then, they all stop and pray for that child's sponsor or future sponsor. I thought that was so generous and selfless and gracious. Secondly, these children often participate in corporate prayer- something I rarely see in the States, and usually don't like doing myself. While one person led prayer from the pulpit, all of the children began speaking their own prayers to themselves. It was hundreds of voices all speaking to God at once! Seriously getting chills just thinking about it. I imagine that is just a snippet of what God hears- to hear all of our prayers at once. It was such a cool moment.




One of the reasons for traveling at the time we did was to attend Shamoyli and Liton's wedding. Both had been children in the home. She now works as the medical clinic's parmacist and he works at a local garmet plant I believe. Anyways, Shamoyli was Paul's Grandparent's sponsor child. So we travelled on their behalf to attend the wedding. It was a cool experience. The evening before they have a large pre-ceremony that is nicknamed "yellow party" or something like that. The bridge dresses in red and yellow and the groom in yellow. Everyone takes turns painting the bride and groom with this yellow paste of crushed spices. Yellow is considered beauiful or something like that. Then after you painted a portion of their face and arm, you fed them something to eat off of the toothpick in front of you. Couldn't understand most of this celebration as it was all in Bangla, but you get the idea.





The children then broke out into dancing and singing as the celebration drew to a close.



The actually wedding was long and boring- but it was also in Bangla. Similar to a western wedding in some ways, and in other ways not. They exhanged rings and these garland necklace things. Instead of kissing they do a unity candle of sorts. PDA is not really welcomed in the culture, even between married couples! The bride and groom rarely smiled the whole day- I think they were just shy though. The wedding feast was rice, dahl, and curry chicken (staples of the country) and rice pudding for dessert (also a staple, from English tradition).




Speaking of English tradition- we had tea time twice a day. Bangladesh was governed by England up until the 1970's I believe, so they have kept a lot of the English customs. I for one loved tea time and the little tea biscuits. What a great tradition!

The children at the home captured my heart. I will never forget them. So many faces, so many names I cannot recall. Each one has a story. I wish I knew enough Bangla to hear each one.
Victor is the youngest occupant at the moment- and he has quite the little story for being so young. His mother abandoned him on the side of the road at 6 days old. Another lady walked by and rescued him. She cared for him as her own son as much as she could, until just a couple months ago when she could no longer afford him- so she brought him to David. Victor has melted the hearts of everyone- how could he not with those eyes huh? I believe he is now 4 or 5 years old. What potential this boy now has. He has a great home, a great school, and is hearing the gospel every day. I think Victor could become a great man of God and serve his dark country one day- don't you?



One of my favorite memories of the week was taking 5 of the girls to the Dorcas Dress Shop (more on that later) to have them fitted and measured for custom new Shalwar Kamiz's purchased for them by their sponsors. It was so sweet to see them pick out their own fabric and get measured for them. Moni didn't get hers until the last day- so I couldn't get a picture- but it was her first Shalwar Kamiz as she only had little dresses before. She picked out 'lal' aka red becuase it is her favorite color. For only $10 or so, they get a custom new outfit in about a day and a half. I enjoyed mine as well- it was a gift from David. Shalwar Kamiz's are super comfoy. They are an elastic waist pant with basically a super long T-shirt/dress over it and then a shawl thing you can where multiple ways. They always have the prettiest patterns and colors too!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Trip Report #1

#1 because I'm not sure how many typing sessions this could take :)



Our trip began on November 18th from Grand Rapids Airport. Paul and I along with his parents, and his Aunt Beth and her two sisters departed for our long 24+ hour journey East.

We connected in Chicago and London and then finally arriving in Dhaka at 2:00 am on November 20th Dhaka time. Dhaka was 11 hours ahead. All of our connections went smoothly and we received all of our luggage which was a huge miracle!!! The only problems with the flights were the children. I have a lot of sympathy and patience for traveling moms and their babies since I've been there as well- but there was times I thought I was going to lose it!



On Chicago-London flight which was almost 8 hours I think We sat next to a mom and her two kids- a 1.5 year old girl and 4 year old boy. She didn't bring any snacks for the boy or any toys! He didn't like watching cartoons. It was a long 8 hours for that kid, and me! I was able to entertain him with connect four on our ipod. He liked seeing the balls drop fast. I was glad I was able to help her out- but I wasn't able to get any rest that flight!



On our London-Dhaka flight, there were many many children who all took their turns chiming in their complaints. It wasn't terrible, but made it hard to rest. The best part about that flight was the flight attendant we had by us. We flew british air- so most were from the UK and had that lovely accent. Apparently, this flight is one they fight over NOT HAVING. The Bengali's are not known to being very curteous, understanding, or clean people. They trash a plane, do not obey flight commands, and just make life very difficult for everyone. One lady in particular was an older woman who was dressed in a bright teal sari that had very sparkly silver sequins everywhere. She had brought on like 4 or 5 carry ons and so that had stored a couple up front where there was more room. Well every so often she would get up and go to her bags and come back- despite numerous warnings of seatbelt signs, dinner being served, no room in aisle ways and so on. She was causing a lot of irritation. Well, our flight attendant who was at his wits end with the entire flight leaned over to me and stated, "Well she's dressed up like a bloody Christmas Tree!" Seriously almost peed my pants from laughing so hard. And you know what? Its true! She did look like one of those guady christmas trees you see in the store! It looked something like this- just a lot more sequins and more sparkly! They are pretty though!



Enough of the traveling.



We arrived in Dhaka in the middle of the night, so we spent a few hours in David's (the founder and runner of the children's home) apartment downtown Dhaka. We left about 6:30 am for the children's home in Savar, about an hour drive away. What a drive it was! Words will never be able to fully describe traffic in Dhaka, or anywhere in Bangladesh for that matter. First you have multiple speeds of transportation all trying to share the same narrow strip of "road". Walking/Standing pedestrians, rickshaws, cars, huge busses, and army/construction type vehicles. Road lines are non existent or just "suggestions". Roads are narrow- sometimes the width of like a bicycle path, and three or four lanes of traffic would all try to get through. Then you have the honking. Horns are used all the time as a way of communicating their positions. When they pass or just to let busses know they are there, they will honk. If someone gets in an accident and they did not honk, they are at fault- so always error on the side of extra honking. Also, if you cause an accident or the crowd watching thinks you did, you can be taken out of your car and beaten. Yikes! It is a free for all dance of "right of space". Never before have I seen my life flash before me so many times in a day!



We arrived at the children's home tired,weary, but excited for the memories to be made. All 366 children lined the drive and walkways for our arrival as we walked into the compound. It was an emotional experience to see all of these young happy faces so happy to see us. It was humbling. I was able to find our sponsor son Robin out the crowd. I think I scared him to death as I ran to him and gave him a big hug and was crying. He probably thought- or still thinks- I'm a nut job! We were also happy to find that there were three people visiting from Australia. Diane, Brian, and Helen would soon become kindred spirits. It was as if we had known them all of our lives. I will treasure our time with these lovely people as we shared this experience together.

Our days at the children's home were varied. We didn't Do anything. We didn't build a building or teach a class all 5 days. We just embraced the children. We played in the play yard. I learned to dance some Bengali dances and speak some Bangla. We played basketball and frisbee. I taught them ring around the rosey, and they practiced their English. They just loved and fed off of the individual attention. We served the girls dinner one night (we ate separately for our safety of our stomachs- our food was cooked separately and such). I taught a chapel service. I taught a couple songs in English. I read books to the "slow learners" class, and yes it is called that, labeled that much to my dismay.

Typical days at the children's home:
6:30 am- devotions in each dorm, their praises drowned out the Muslim call to prayer
7:30 am- assembly (stretching) and breakfast
9:00- school
6:00 pm- Night chapel
7:00 pm- dinner
8:00- homework

Our days were more varied because of the wedding event that took place between two former children of the children's home and because they were starting final exams. (Their school year is Jan-Nov, and exams are end of November to get them in before the Mulsim festival of Eid.).

I'm pooped. I'll try to write more later. To be continued.....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

An explanation

A quick explanation for this morning's random post:

I signed up to review books for Thomas Nelson Publishers. They send me a free book and I just have to write a 200 word review and post it on my blog and one retailer's website (like amazon). I'm trying to get in the habit of reading again. I used to love to read, and well, its hard to make time for it sometimes. I love the library- but I'm not one to turn down free books that I can keep.

Anyways, of the choices I had a month or so ago, this one interested me the most- simply because its not a book I would ever buy or probably even check out of the library.

I'm signed up for some sort of spy thriller for next time- maybe it will be a little more interesting!

Oh, and I'm working on getting my thoughts together from the trip- I'm still just trying to figure out what time zone I'm in.

A Review

A Review of Through the Storm by Lynne Spears and Lorilee Craker for Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I must say I chose to read this book purely out of curiosity. Lynne Spears is the famous mother of the infamous Britney- a girl about my age who I have seen unravel before the public eye. I watched in shock as I saw a seemingly normal girl take a downward turn. I felt for her, and quite honestly felt the need to rush in and rescue her. So, when I saw that the mother of this very public figure had written a book with a Christian publishing company- well let’s just say curiosity got the better of me.
The best way to describe this book is a dinner table confession. I felt as though I was sharing a lovely southern meal with Lynne and she just starts sharing her life. The writing was not complex, nor well organized. It was like reading a one way conversation- somewhat scattered and simple. Most that is shared in this book are not new to most who even glance at the TV news occasionally. However, they come from the perspective of a loving, albeit in her own words, na├»ve mother whose daughter happened chanced on success so fast that there was no infrastructure to support it. It is easy to criticize and declare I would have done things differently than her, but I can’t. I have not been in the world that she and her family were thrust into nearly overnight.
Through the Storm is an honest conversation of a mother telling the world the truth about how her life unraveled. It’s not shocking or surprising. It does make you feel for her and think about other believing families who are against the forces at be in Hollywood. We are taught not to ‘judge a book by its cover’ when relating to people. Through the Storm shows the reader judging this family cannot be done on appearances alone, just as other families throughout the world, there are other forces that run deep. I appreciate Lynne’s openness and honesty in her reflections in this book. I wish there had been more emphasis throughout the book on her spiritual journey. I can honestly say that after reading this book, I will be less quick to judge and more quick to pray for families in her situation.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Processing

I've home about 26 hours. We had a great, safe trip. While I'm not quite ready to list some of the highlights, I thought I would post a portion of a letter that I wrote someone on staff at my church. It is all part of the processing that happens after a trip like this, and I feel that this at least skims the surface.


...My husband and his family have long been the supporters of a christian children's home (school/orphanage) near Dhaka, Bangladesh. The past couple of weeks I had the opportunity of traveling with him and his parents to visit this home, the 366 children, the 50+ staff, and our two sponsored children. It was an adventure! In preparation for my trip I was asked this question a lot, "What are you going to do over there?" A VBS program, street evangelism, build a house, etc? This was not going to be one of those kind of trips and I had a hard time wording what we were going to do.

Well, on our second to last day at this oasis in the middle of a dark land where less than 2% of the population is Christian, I was hit in the head with a 2x4. This trip was not about doing it was about being. And the four E's vision of D.V. perfectly explained our reasoning for going. (edit: the four E vision is Embrace, Expect, Experience, Express. All are part in showing/teaching God loves them)

How? One example came from my sponsor daughter- 5 year old Moni. We have been her sponsor for a little over a year and I was just thrilled to meet her. But what was I going to do with her? There was a huge problem- a language barrier. Moni spoke literally maybe 10 words in English (they teach it at the school, but she is so young she is still in the playgroup). I spoke about 3 words in Bangla- "beautiful", "thank you", and "I love you". How was I going to do anything with Moni or any of the younger ones if I couldn't even speak with them? When we first arrived, Moni was very shy. I had a hard time even her letting me hug her. She didn't make much eye contact. As I played with the other girls, she often stood at a distance watching. But then it hit me. I can do anything to really show Moni how I love her or how God loves her. What was need was for me to just be. This trip was about being with the children. A state of being not of doing. That is when I also remembered the four E's. I could show God's love for Moni by embracing her. I showed God's love to all the children that I couldn't communicate that God loved them by simply hugging them, holding their hand, letting them sit in my lap, playing simple games, and just being with them. These kids are literal orphans or orphans by circumstance where their parent/family cannot afford them anymore. I had the opportunity for 5 days to be a temporary parent for them. By the end of our time there, Moni was smiling more. She would run our from the dorm to meet me in the play yard. And when we had to say goodbye- she wouldn't let go. I didn't do anything. I didn't build her anything. I was just being with her. I was embracing her. I truly believe Moni has a better understanding of God's love.

As I reflect now on the experience we had in Bangladesh, I realize a better way to answer the question of "what did you do?" is "I didn't do anything except be." I can also see how using the other three E's in Ada's vision were used in our time there. But not necessarily transferring from me to the children- but the children teaching ME! These children are prayer warriors. Every night they have chapel and every morning they have devotions. During each time, the take a lengthy time to pray. They pray for anything and everything. One thing that touched me was during the Sunday service the children who were having birthdays that week stood up. Then, they prayed for each of the birthday child's sponsor. They actively participated in communal prayers. I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying, but I could hear 366 voices all whispering to God. It was beautiful. They showed me that I can expect to trust God. I also felt as though I experienced God through every service and every testimony. God does some extreme things in this part of the world to show people that he is God and that He does love them. The stories of miracles gave me chills.

The Bengali people have a rich and deep culture. Dance and music are a part of everyday life and every worship. These children taught me something about expressing their love for God. Their expression came out of a deep love, a deep desire to serve him and thank him for everything He has done.

This children's home is a literal beacon on a hill. While the area around them floods every year during the monsoon- they are just high enough to be protected. They are ministering to the local community by offering healthcare, a micro credit program, vocational training, and even allowing the village children to come to their school. They are a light in a dark place. At 6 am every morning I would hear the muslim call to prayer, a somber tune and a reminder of the challenges these children face. But then at about 6:05 I suddenly hear joyous voices as the boys started their worship and devotions two floors below where I was sleeping. It would quickly drown out the muslim call.

I didn't do much on this trip. I taught a couple chapels and a couple songs. I didn't build anything. I didn't have a program or agenda to get through. I was out on the streets preaching God's name. But I embraced children to show them God's love when I couldn't speak to them. I tried to show children they could expect to trust God to meet their needs by simply being with them and buying the occasional sandal for those who needed them at just that moment. I wanted children to experience God's love by learning new songs and by simply being with them. They taught me that expressing their love for God was far deeper than mine ever could be.

What did I do in Bangladesh? It wasn't a matter of doing, it was a matter of being.

Me and my Bengali daughter Moni