Sunday, July 3, 2016

Reflections in Mumbai... From Amsterdam :)

Such has been the norm for Internet luck this trip... Just as I'm ready to publish a post, I lose the connection :) We just arrived in Amaterdam for a short layover and are scheduled on time for Minneapolis @ 12:30 CST! 

Here is the reflection from approximately 9 hours ago:

As we sit here in the Mumbai airport, it's a surreal feeling reflecting back on the past few weeks. It's been both a fast trip, feeling like our arrival was only yesterday, and a long trip in looking back on everything we've done, everyone we've met, and all the places we've been. It's utterly exhausting, and wonderful, all at the same time. 

This morning we went to visit the Aga Khan Palace, where Ghandi was held from 1942-44 following his famous speech kicking off the "Quit India" movement in August of '42. It was a great way to end the trip, a humble monument for a humble leader. 

We also visited some gardens on the way back to UBS, but didn't stay long as the rain chased us away. After final packing and showering, we were invited to the home of Prem and Rachel Bagh, Mennonite faculty at UBS. It was wonderful sharing stories and hearing about both of their family's history in the growing Mennonite church in India. One example of many relationships we left wishing we had more time to invest in! However, they have some plans for Kate at Bethel College next year, so staying connected will be no problem :) 

After a long and rainy drive to the airport, check-in, immigration, and some waiting, we are now ready to board our flight to Amsterdam. Like I said at the beginning, this time for reflection has been welcome, and the reflection has only just begun. 

To start though, Madeline Troyer shared with me this reflection from our interaction yesterday with the Australians at the Mukti Mission. I think it's the perfect way to leave this blog as we prepare to board. 

So grateful. 

When we went to mukti mission there was a really awesome God connection that I was able to make. Just this past half a year I have changed what I have been wanting to study in college from physical therapy to sustainability with an agriculture focus. As I have been learning more about myself I realized I could enjoy studying and working as a physical therapist but I love learning about nature and sustainability more. 

When I tell most people this the first question I get is, "what is that and what can you do with that major?" My answer is always "...well, it is coming up with new ways to do agriculture in a way that is green and can be sustained. And when I have looked up jobs that you can get out of it nothing really comes up but what I would like to do is go over to other countries and help them with their crop production. I have no idea if this is a thing or what it would be like for a job but that is what I would like to do." After I say that, people either think that that sounds really interesting or they say that it sounds interesting but I can tell they are really just wishing me really good luck and think physical therapy would have much more job security and be more practical. 

Since I have decided that this is what I am feeling called to do with my life there have been some people who have really encouraged me and even given me ideas of what I could do out of college along the same lines of what I would like to do. 

Going to Mukti mission was something that was not planned in our trip but something we just decided to do. While we were driving there in my head I prayed a quick prayer that God would show us why we were going there and that we wouldn't just have a wasted day. Then at lunch there was a group of Australians who were doing a short term mission there. When I asked the one guy what he was doing he said that he works with agriculture and is here helping them with their agriculture program at the mission. After asking more questions we learned that he worked on a small all organic, work with the land, farm but that he has done many missions to third world countries to help them learn how to farm with the land and increase their production. You could tell he knew his subject well and was full of ideas. When I told him that he was doing exactly what I am feeling like I should do with my life he said that there is a great need for that kind of thing. Meeting him was really the perfect affirmation that I needed. He affirmed that this actually is a need and something that I can do. 

It is cool to see the connections God will put in your path once you become open to what he wants and you are willing to diverge from plans you may already have. 

- Madeline Troyer 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Mukti Mission and Celebrating with the UBS Community

After departing in the morning yesterday (Friday) from UBS, we did indeed run into traffic problems due to the annual Varkari pilgrimage. Because the main section of highway was closed, we had to drive an additional 30 km out of our way to get to Mukti - but we made it! 

The Mukti Mission sits 60 km outside of Pune, on 100 acres of land that were gifted to the mission in the 19th century, mostly because it was deemed as barren. Their vision is as "A Christ-centered home where destitute women and children irrespective of their background are accepted, cared for, transformed, and empowered to be Salt and Light in the society."

Our new friend and gracious host at UBS, Usha, joined us on our visit to the Mission today.  Through conversations over the past few days at UBS, she has shared with us her personal story of growing up with her sisters at Mukti. We were blessed to have her introduce us to various people who are serving, many of whom grew up with her at the Mission.  We visited with some of the women and young girls living there, listened to them sing and watched them work. From farming to cooking and administration, not to mention running a hospital (public), two schools (one in the regional language and one English Medium school), care for persons with special needs and a school for the blind, a nursing home for the elderly and a nursery for orphans and single mothers with small children, there's a lot of work to be done! The kitchen alone has a team that works to cook for and feed the almost 1000 women and children 3 meals a day, 7 days a week (we were told more than 50 KGs of wheat flour per day for chipatis alone!).

We shared a delicious lunch with volunteers serving at Mukti. One of these was an especially cool connection for Madeline, who is interested in Environmental Sustainability with an Agriculture focus - a gentleman from Austrailia happened to be there volunteering for a few weeks. His life work is bringing all of God's creation: energy, water, land and plants, climate, animals and humanity into harmony to provide for low cost natural, organic and efficient production. I could talk for awhile about his story and work alone, but for the group and Madeline especially, this was a neat example of the ways being intentional about our time and changing our perspective can make way for God to bring about incredible people into our lives. 

The most impactful learning for the day however was about the unsung matriarch of the Mukti Mission. Before today, none of us in the group had ever heard of Pandita Ramabai, or the legacy she has left behind. Not only did she found this mission in the 19th century, but was the first to translate the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew into Hindi, the language which she was a strong advocate for making the national Indian language. Standing 4-foot nothing, Ramabai sounds like a force to have even reckoned with; a progressive in her day, she was a strong advocate for women's rights and provided shelter, food, and water for more than 2000 women and children during the famine early in the 20th century. The list seriously goes on and on with her, we will link the mission's website here on the blog and post more information somewhere to come.

This evening we were also given the opportunity to celebrate with the community at UBS for their annual "Freshers" Welcome! This is the time when they welcome all the first-year and certificate program participants on campus. It was a beautiful celebration of the various cultures represented from around India and a few from abroad. The team enjoyed the music and drama presentations as well as the tea and refreshments afterwards! This was the perfect end to our time here at UBS.

The whole story of how we even found out about Mukti in time to make space in our trip is surely an example of how this team has been open and perceptive to some of the ways God is working here in India. Celebrating with the community at UBS, and the presence of relationships and stories from Menno-Clinic in our discussion this evening are further examples of this. 

This morning is our last morning in Pune - we are planning to visit the Aga Khan Palace and a few other places before heading to the airport Mumbai. Aga Khan is where Ghandi was held under house arrest and will be a great way end our time in India. 

What an incredible Journey. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Heading to Mukti

After a culmination of various conversations over the past few days, we decided late yesterday to change our plans drive the 60 km from here to visit the Mukti Mission today. Many of the staff and faculty at UBS have strong connections to the Mission and it seems like all signs are pointing to us trying to get out there. 

So, here we go :)

Kelsey and I are very proud of the girls for enthusiastically getting behind the schedule change and being flexible with our plans for today. We found out this morning that there is a large group on a religious pilgrimage called Varkari on the road between here and there - so we are hoping the way isn't blocked, but we are departing soon and will try! 

Looking forward to our day and to what God has in store for the team, we look forward to sharing the stories when we get back. 

For any interested, here is the Wikipedia link to the information on Varkari: 

Learning about all the various Ministries at UBS

An update from UBS in Pune! The girls got together this evening and wrote this entry - we learned so much! Also, we will be adding photos to these past few days' worth of posts when we have a bit more consistent connection. 

Our day started out with us leading the morning assembly for the Kline Memorial School that is associated with the Union Biblical Seminary. We led the children in an interactive activity where we made a human rain storm by leading through making sounds with their hands and feet. Our concluding point of this activity was that the sound effects from one person are not enough to make a rainstorm.  

We also used the verse 1 Timothy 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, behavior, love, faith and purity." We wanted to encourage them to be good examples and make a positive change in the world. 

After the assembly, we took a tour around the school and visited classes of all ages. We were both impressed and surprised by how well behaved and disciplined the children were. The atmosphere for every classroom was very welcoming and open, the school really seems to work like a well oiled machine. It was also interesting to learn that while the school was started about 10 years ago as a response to the need for a good local school for the children of faculty and students at UBS - it has now grown to 1240 students, over 90% of whom are from outside the UBS community. It has thus become another outreach for the seminary. 

Then, after another filling meal at the guest house, we talked to Rev. Dr. Shekhar Singh who gave us a grand overview of the history of the seminary. We then met up with Justin, another administrator, who gave us an extensive tour of the various ministries and missions around the campus that UBS is leading. These ministries consisted of a children's ministry, spouse's training, a community development program, and a music center. 

In addition to training leaders, the children's ministry leads bible school programs and other educational activities such as assemblies for the Kline Memorial School. The spouse's training program provided an opportunity for the wives of male students on campus to also receive training as their husbands enter into ministry. The community development program provides a daycare service for working parents and is currently focusing on expanding a tailoring class. Members of the community can come to receive affordable training in sewing to then turn into a source of income to support their families. They are also looking to expand the program so as to include a clinic and bakery training. 

All of the ministry training programs do a very good job at meeting people where they are in their lives by accommodating many different situations because of student's varying stages of life. This allows many professionals who couldn't otherwise attend seminary receive ministry training. We then sat down to tea with our guide and he told us about his story and his calling to ministry from God. Its was a good reminder to all of us to follow God's calling as we are looking into careers for the future. We then explored more of the campus before deciding our plans for tomorrow

As we have been going through our days here we have been hearing many different people tell us about the work that Mukti Mission is doing in the city. John made a connection with the librarian who invited us to supper and suggested we go visit this ministry tomorrow. We are all very exited about this opportunity. At supper, Usha, our host at the UBS guest house, informed us that she grew up there as an orphan and her time there had a significant impact on her faith journey. 

We ended our day with our brave leader John saving us from a large cockroach that had made its home in our bathroom. Hopefully all is well now. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

First day in Pune

Our first day in Pune has been full of wonderful surprises! After breakfast, we took care of some necessary documentation  and then headed down to the Kline Memorial School - which is the 1200 student K-10 primary school UBS also runs. 

We were surprised to find ourselves honorary guests at an all-school ceremony celebrating the school's newly elected Prefects, House Captains, and Head Boy and Girl. It was a wonderful celebration of leadership amongst the school and was a good opportunity to learn more about what they do. We will spend the next two mornings working there. 

After lunch, we were off to help with some tasks around the library - this included preparing some completed theses for archiving and reshelving books. 

This evening we able to join the community worship service, which happens each Wednesday night. There was singing, scripture, and a message given. The sermon, given from the letter to the 7th church in Rev. 3, was quite fitting for our group. In a short summary, the speaker encouraged everyone to open the door and let Jesus in, because with Jesus we are given a new perspective that helps us to more fully engage in the work God is doing around us. This has been my prayer for our group, that this trip gives us new eyes to see, experience, and join in the work that God is doing, everyday, in the world around us. 

This evening as we reflect on the day and look ahead to our plans for Saturday, Kate Cherveny offered the following reflection - A wonderful way to end this entry...

Life is too short. And more specifically, this trip is too short. 

As a first time traveler abroad, I inevitably get the feeling of missing home and being out of place here. But as we finally begin to feel the sense of settling in, we have to pick up and move on. Leaving Chiluvuru yesterday was especially hard, because we were just starting to form relationships with some of the village people. Coming to UBS was a bit unsettling for most of us since none of us knew what this place would be like or what we'd be doing here (and we still sort of don't know all the details). 

But since life is short and this trip is short, we must make the most of the time we have in each place. Four days in Chiluvuru flew by way too fast, and before we know it, the next three days here in Pune at UBS will be over and we will be heading home. So as we spent today meeting students and staff at the K-10 school, helping shelve books in the seminary's library, and attending the on-campus worship service, I kept reminding myself to make the most of the time we have left in India. Three days to strengthen these bonds that have been formed between all the members of the Youth Venture team, three days to learn and serve at UBS, three days to just soak up as much of India as possible. 

I hope we all can make these last three days count. And more than anything, my prayer for the six of us is that we can figure out how to channel this experience into our daily lives when we go back home. I pray that we let it reshape our perspectives and views of the ever-changing world around us. 

- Kate Cherveny

Amen, Kate.