Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Holi ! (?)

You dont experience days like today where I come from. "Holi" is a Hindu/Buddhist festival that is celebrated once a year in a very unique way...I would describe it like this: A Nation-wide WATER FIGHT!!! Men, Women, and Children of all ages are out on their rooftops launching water balloons at each other. I woke up to Justin yelling "We need to get some amo!!" and then I heard the door slam, and 10 minutes later my soaking wet husband came back in with hands full of water balloons and plastic bags (a cheaper and easier alternative to filling up those pesky balloons). Still a bit sleepy-eyed I do as I'm told and fill up as many balloons as i can and then it's up to the rooftop where we climb our way up the stairs (secretly) and then launch water balloons (and plastic bags of course) towards the others who had been out since who knows when, soaked with dye and water. I have never seen so much color and chaos at one time. Holi, also known as the Festival of Colour also permits people to throw handfuls and bags full of coloured dye at one another ruining any clothes and dyeing your skin for days. You can imagine upon running out of balloons we were faced with the reality of the rest of the day. Either stay stuck in the house or venture out into the chaos that is Katmandu and be targets for all the rooftop launchers. We chose to stay in. After soaking the kids (and adults) with our American water fighting skills (ok, i handed Justin the balloons and he threw them...) we decided to catch up on some much needed movie watching and reading. Enjoy the pictures (not taken by me). If you are interested in Holi, i suggest you Google it...i don't think many of the people celebrating here really even know why...just an excuse to soak your neighbor and all the Badeshi's(foreigners)...

Have a great (dry) day..Happy Holi!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

To our faithful FINANCIAL buddies...

Over the past few years the Lord has overwhelmed us with generous people who have caught vision for what we are doing and have been involved with it every step of the way. I wish there was more we could do or say that could express how thankful we are for you.Perhaps out of abundance or perhaps sacrificially you have given to us. Either way you have been an integral part of what the Lord is doing in many people’s lives all over the world. As we move home and start a new chapter there are a few realities that we need to address.

The first is that we will not be considered “full time missionaries” through Youth With A Mission. The work we are doing with our business and the schooling we are pursuing is to further ourselves so that we may be more effective “on the field” but we understand that if we have the opportunity to work and aren’t involved in direct ministry as our vocation then we can no longer receive support through YWAM. I know that many of you support us not because of YWAM but because you have caught onto the vision that we feel the Lord has given us. We are so blessed by that. Unfortunately (and fortunately) we can no longer receive your money, BUT there are many many organizations that are doing AMAZING things for the Kingdom that you can give your money to…(more to come on that!).

The second reality is that WE STILL NEED YOU. There are a few ways that you can still help financially and prayerfully over the next few months. If you have ever moved to a new city or better yet, internationally you understand that there are many costs to incur. We are essentially starting from scratch. We have already been blessed with a car (Praise the Lord!) but are still very much so in a bind. Our support has been wonderful and we have been able to go to many countries and live a healthy life in Australia…however we were unable to put much aside for occasions like this. With our one time cost shooting through the roof in the next few months there are few ways you can help if you choose to do so.

(1). You may continue to give your monthly support through May/June. Our goal is to be on our feet with jobs and an apartment and settled in from visiting family and starting classes by May/June. YWAM Tyler will still be accepting support for us through September but then we will be cut off from receiving tax-deductible donations. If you are currently donating to us through direct debit through YWAM Tyler-- please contact their office [] and notify them of when you want to stop your donation. If you do not notify them, your donations will be processed through September 13, 2010, which is when we are officially considered out of YWAM.

(2). We would be more than appreciative for a one-time donation. As stated above you may still do this through YWAM Tyler until September. If you are interested in our costs as we transition home we have made up a budget and would be more than willing to share that with you personally through email.

Please communicate with us if you have any questions about this next step. We will be trying as much as possible to meet with many of you when we arrive home to not only touch base with you, but to also act as a time of debriefing for ourselves. If you would also communicate with us what you are planning to do financially over the next few months... That would be very helpful! Understand as well that if you choose to pull your support and give your money elsewhere…PLEASE DO. There are so many organizations and people out there who are doing amazing AMAZING things for the Lords Kingdom. We can get you in contact with many of them (and I, of course will be blogging about some organizations you can give to).

Thank you. And just remember that we are all missionaries. If you are a Christian then no matter whether you live at home or abroad, you are called to be a missionary. Thank you for your support and please contact us with any questions!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quick Info/Update

I am sure many of you who have be so graciously supporting us while in YWAM are wondering how and when to begin pulling out your financial support. We are currently in communication with YWAM Tyler about how to begin this process...we will have the info to you by the end of the week and a more complete explanation of our needs ahead as we make the transition from YWAM life to home life so please bare with us while we gather information.

Until then we thank you for your continued prayers and support while we meet with local missionaries, network with other Fair Trade businesses, and get some much needed R&R over the next week before coming home!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Read me!!

**I know this is a bit long but please please read me!! A lot of information about the next stage in our life**

As many of you know, over the last few months we have been looking towards a new season; one brought on by a vision of seeing God’s Kingdom come to places like Dinajpur, Bangladesh where men and women are enslaved in brick kilns forced to labor 18 hours a day, or in Kathmandu, Nepal where young girls are forced to sell their bodies in order to pay off phony debts, or in the foothills of Uttar Pradesh, India where whole families are entrapped by debt bondage to wealthy and oppressive land owners. We have seen with our eyes, but it’s our hearts that break for them, that yearn for a day when they will be truly free.

The realities and complexities of an issue like human trafficking and slavery run wide and deep. There is no one solution, no five-point plan to put an end to slavery, and every victim, every family has specific needs and underlying problems that need very specific attention. But we can’t stop the bleeding by putting band-aid after band-aid on. Poverty, slavery, hunger, lack of clean water and healthcare, these issues don’t come about within a vacuum. There is an oppressive, unjust system (that we ourselves participate in) fed by ideologies of materialism and security, entitlement and even religion that provide the framework for such injustices to take root. This is where we feel God leading us, straight into the heart of it, where major reconstructive surgery needs to take place before the bleeding can finally stop.

So what does that actually look like? For us it means developing and refining our God-given knowledge and skills in areas that will prepare us to make lasting changes for those who are on the margins, those enslaved by an unjust system (or empire). We believe going back to university is an essential next step and will open up many opportunities to participate in the anti-slavery movement happening right now within the States. I (Justin) hope to finish my B.A. in International Studies/Development while Kelly is planning to get her RN in hopes that she can work with victims of slavery, specifically in the areas of aftercare and social development. And on top of all this, Made By People (MBP), our Fair Trade organic apparel company is starting to take shape. Basically, MBP seeks to (1) create sustainable livelihoods for struggling men and women across the world by connecting them with the global marketplace (we sell the things they make here in the States), (2) to use the business as a vehicle for spreading awareness about human trafficking and slavery, specifically in the context of personal consumption: how we are intricately connected to those who produce our everyday products from clothing to chocolate and how our choice to become 'ethical consumers' greatly affects those who make the things we buy.

For the next few weeks we will remain in Nepal meeting with fellow missionaries and businessmen who have made it their lifes work to see these very issues that are on our hearts, come to an end. We will be learning from their experiences and listening to their stories (with a little mix of fun and relaxation too!). We are so excited for this next step and feel as if the Lord has been revealing to us new ways that He is working in the world and creative opportunities to get involved. THANK YOU for reading out updates and blogs. In the next few weeks we will be posting more about how we still need YOU and how this is just the beginning of an exciting and a bit scary journey the Lord has us on.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

it is crowded

As I think back on our time in Bangladesh I am reminded of some of my first thoughts. The first thing that crossed my mind when stepping foot into the most densely populated country in the world was, “it is crowded”. You think this would be an obvious assumption but it really takes you off guard. This isn’t like driving down I-5 during rush hour traffic crowded, I mean you cant even walk let alone move while trying to get anywhere at anytime crowded. I remember on a specific occasion when Justin and I were going to buy train tickets 12 km away. It took us 1 ½-2 hours in a CNG (a motorcycle with a cage on the back…maybe one of the sketchiest, scariest experiences of my life). In a country so small with a population so big many problems occur. Trash, congestion, air pollution, noise, you name it and it’s a problem. The strong feed off the weak in a truly appalling way. I remember a story the Pastor we were working with in the village told Justin. A rich man approached a villager a few years ago with stories of work in America. This is in very high demand in Bangladesh, leaving for the West to work and send back money is the biggest craze. The rich man told the villager that if he could pay upwards $5-7,000 US dollars then he could get him a working visa and a plane ticket. The villager spent not only his entire life savings but he was also loaned life savings from his entire family and ½ the village. Everything this man and everyone he knew had went into getting this money for the one shot to move to America and work. Getting a job at Taco Bell would pay well over any job in Bangladesh by at least 5X.

The villager finally got all of the money together and the rich man came back to pick it up. With promises to be back in the next few months the rich man left with the money. The villager waited. And waited. And waited. 5 years later he is still waiting with no sign of the rich man or his money. When trying to reach this man all phone numbers and office buildings he could once be reached at have been cut off. Out of sight with an entire villages life savings. This is real life in Bangladesh.

Her name is Laina

The little girl on the left is Laina. She is 9 years old and she too comes from a very strong Hindu family. In fact, during the 15 day Christian “boot” camp we were running her father decided that he was not thrilled his daughter was attending. He decided to get the village involved and they held a 48 hour Hindu festival right in the middle of the camp. Not like we could hear the music from a distance and it was a little creepy, I mean smack dab in the middle of the campground where we ate and played…literally music blaring all through the night so this village could worship the goddess of wisdom. All put together by Laina’s father. Not only was he upset that she was attending, he also is a raging alcoholic (along with her grandmother), and chose to come down to the camp at night completely trashed where the children slept and would walk around screaming and yelling out for her. We would sometimes have a time of sharing where the kids could talk about prayer requests and things that are going on in the camp, and on more than a few occasions Laina would get up in front of the 100 other youth and share that her father and grandmother were drunks and asked if we could please pray for them. I know she loved the camp but what I think she loved even more was being away from home for 2 weeks. Not having to deal with drunken family members. Not having to be yelled at. She could be a kid. She could laugh and sing and learn dances. Laina raised her hand on one of the last nights saying that she had made a first time commitment to follow Jesus that week. I know as I sit and listen to the rain thinking about this precious girl that I get to go home to a safe place where I am loved and appreciated. Where no matter what religion I choose or don’t choose to practice, I am respected. I can’t say that Laina has that same freedom. This little girl stole my heart.

I will never forget...

This is Chetan. He’s the kind of guy who you meet and he just clings right to you. He doesn’t have many friends. At first glance he seems like a normal kid. You watch him worship the Lord and you would think that his parents must be very spiritual people. When he worships he sings [yells] at the top of his lungs and he prays with a passion that many people (including myself), could learn from. But there is a story behind that smile that was unfolded to me over the past few weeks that is hard to forget. Chetan comes from a very conservative Hindu family. He is the youngest of 3 boys and about 2 years ago he came home from school to find his mom had packed up and left. His parents had been divorced for a few years and his father was living on the other side of town with not much contact. Chetan was forced out onto the streets until a friend of his from a strong Christian family took him in. He lived with them until he was able to find his father and stepmother. In the process of living with this family Chetan went to church and experienced great movements by the Holy Spirit. In this time he became a Christian… the story goes that he finally found his father and stepmother and moved in with them. He was eager to tell them about Jesus and the new things he had been learning while attending church. His family was not happy and upon hearing these things demanded that he stop attending church with his friend and her family. Chetan refused. That’s when his step-mom started beating and torturing him. At this point a usually talkative and thorough young boy starts to try and change the subject only saying “please pray for my family to know Jesus”. No bitterness. No anger. Only a broken heart for his lost family who for years beat and tortured their 14 yr old son for the faith that he refuses to give up on. He moved out last year to live with that Christian friend and her family. If you watch him worship you would never know his brutal past, or what he went through to get to where he is today, but if you look in his eyes you can see the hurt and the scars from what it has cost him to love and follow Christ. I think he experiences a deep and very real intimacy with Jesus. I will never forget Chetan.