Monday, October 1, 2007

Isaiah 60:18-22

My prayer for Dry Land.

No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day, no will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more, the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.

Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.

The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Driving through a dry river bed

Here are a few more thoughts from our trip to the village outside of Hat city...

So after about 45 minutes on a fairly decent road (blacktop), we stopped at one clinic. I’m not sure about the name of the town. We learned some more about TB and their Dry Land staff who run the clinic. It was interesting. Then we went, off the road to a village. We passed through several other villages along the way.

Let’s see – how to describe the road, the scenery, the village. The road was rocky, dusty, I wasn’t even sure which was the road and which was the desert at some points. We drove through a dry river bed part of the way. But that road is actually on a map. Troy said there are only maybe 3 paved roads in the whole country. The one between Hat city and another country - because the people from the other country built it. There is another road apparently from Hat city down to the south and then back up to the capitol city. But it’s not very safe. The rest of the roads in the country are like this – rocky, not paved. Tom said actually sometimes the dirt roads are better than the paved roads because the paved roads will have so many potholes it takes longer to go through them than the dry river bed! He called the road we were on the highway. :)

The scenery- rolling hills of dirt, sand, very little grass…hills (mini-mountain) after hill after hill. Guys in turbans herding their sheep. Boys using sticks to guide their donkeys, on whose backs were bushels of what looked like grass. Women in black and blue material getting water, or going between the houses. We honestly didn’t see too many women out and about. Little kids with blond hair, red hair, and black hair. Camels, donkeys, sheep, dogs. The village – mud houses – literally. Mud roofs, mud floors, mud walls. We arrived, were greeted by some kids, we used the bathroom which was literally a hole in the ground. It was even more of a hole in the gruond than the ones in India. There were two small mounds of mud on either side of the hole – for you to stand on, but no indication of which way to face. Except that some people didn’t have very good aim, and so you could kind-of tell which way people probably faced. But you could see straight down. It was maybe 10 feet below where the waste went.

We put some of our stuff down, kept our passports with us, and hiked up the hill on the opposite side of the village. We took some pictures and climbed around on the rocks. I ended up taking off my shoes because they were slippery and bare feet was better. Of course we have about 10 layers of clothing on, head coverings and all that, all blowing around in the wind – not practical rock climbing! But we had fun. It wasn’t too dangerous! :) Meridith (another girl here) and I found some little caves.

After playing around, we went back – the men went to another house (?), and we went inside. We hadn’t eaten anything all day because it is Ramazan. So, around 6:30, we were allowed to break the fast with some dates and bread. Then about 8:00, they brought out some rice and meat. It was good – not as spicy as Indian food, but still tasty. After dinner, they asked us to dance. One of the girls played the drum, and I got up and did some Indian dancing. They laughed and laughed, but said I was good.

Then one of the girls got up and danced like what I would call a crazy woman! But apparently that’s how they do it here. I said, “okay, okay, let me try again” – so I got up and said, “I’m dancing like you, okay? – then I flung my arms around and hopped up and down, doing my best to imitate her. They all seemed really impressed and laughed a lot. I got Meridith and Jenny to get up and dance with me. I think they had a good time too.

We tried to take a few pictures of us – but weren’t allowed to take any pictures of them, because their husband/father hadn’t given them permission. Meridith and I had asked if we could take pictures, the man of the house gave us a stern, “NO.” The men here don’t want their wives pictures being taken/don’t want anyone else to see their wives. In that home, the man had two wives. They, along with one of the wives’ sisters and another woman all hung out with us. It was so strange thinking of these two women – one older (about 30), one younger (about 23?) both being married to the same man. They each had 3-4 kids.

Psalm 107: Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal! Repeat these words in praise to the Lord all you whom he has saved. He has rescued you from your enemies, and has brought you back from foreign countries, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in the trackless desert (the Ku people) and could not find their way to a city to live in. hey were hungry and thirsty and had given up all hope. Then in their trouble they called to the Lord, and he saved them from their distress. He led them by a straight road, to a city where they could live. They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things he did for them. He satisfies those who are thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.…The Lord made rivers dry up completely and stopped springs from flowing. He made rich soil become a salty wasteland because of the wickedness of those who lived there. He changed deserts into pools of water and dry land into flowing springs. He let hungry people settle there, and they built a city to live in. They sowed the fields and planted grapevines and reaped an abundant harvest. He blessed his people, and they had many children; he kept their herds of cattle from decreasing.… May those who are wise think about these things; may they consider the Lord’s constant love.

Psalm 108- the whole thing is good, but especially vs. 1:“My heart is confident in you, O God. No wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!”

Psalm 106-v. 2- Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise Him enough?…our ancestors in Egypt were not impressed by the Lord’s miraculous deeds…They soon forgot his many acts of kindness to them…v. 24 – The people refusted to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe in his promise to care for them. Instead they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord. Therefore, he solomly swore that he would kill them in the wilderness, that he would scatter their descendants, exiling them to distand lands.v. 43-45- again and again he rescued them, but they chose to rebel against him, and they were finally destroyed by their sin. Even so he pitied them in their distress and listened to their cries. He remembered his covernant with them and relented because of his unfailing love.Vs 47 – Save us O Lord, our God. Gather us back from among the nations so that we can rejoice and praise you. Praise the Lord, the God of Israel who lives from everlasting to everlasting! Let all the people say “Amen!”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I saw Abraham and Isaac!!

How to describe this place? A place so desolate, so mountainous, so sandy, so isolated.

I felt like I had gone back into history. I could have sworn I saw Abraham, Isaac and all their herds of sheep, and camels too. I saw the tent in which Sara laughed with God promised she would have a son. That night I saw more stars than I’ve ever seen in my life – realizing even more the amazing promise God made to Abraham. A little while down the road, I passed Joseph leading his pregnant wife on a donkey, mountains of rocky sand in the background. And the amazing thing about it was that at the end of the day, they weren’t going to get out of their costume and call it a good day’s work. They were going to walk in their mud home or tent, just as they were, perhaps watch their daughter carry water on her head from the nearby spring, they would rest, and prepare to do it all again the next day, because that is their life.

When we started driving out of 'Hat' city, I don’t know what came over me, but an amazing feeling of, “this is a place like no other.” I felt like that flying into the capitol city. But I felt like that even more driving to the villages we visited. The farther away we got, the more I felt like this place is like something I’ve only seen in movies or read about – but the pictures and words hardly captured the real thing. I could picture Arabian horses galloping across the rocky dunes. More than movies or books, I could really grasp a feel for what it must have been like in the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I wanted to bad to walk up to a tent and just say, “So, Abraham, so where is this in the chronology- have you had Isaac yet? Did the three visitors come yet?” It was like I had traveled back in history- but not in a Disney World time machine where you knew it was almost real, but not really. This was for real, real. And to be in such a place like you’ve never been in before…it just takes a while for it to settle in, if that’s ever a possibility.

As Tom shared about Chan town, and as we passed Ku villages, I felt my heart almost leaving me and going to those places and people. I came very close to asking Tom about the possibility of going to Chan somehow on this trip – even delaying my trip to M town, or canceling the Shen part of the trip. I don’t know why, or how, but I just feel like that’s a potential place where He may want me. Tom shared about the other single guys who had lived there and some of their experiences. He shared about the difficulties, and the challenges.

He shared how because of the climate and location – sometimes a plane that was supposed to come pick you up might not be able to land. He was on the airstrip once waiting for the plane, heard it come and circle for about 45 minutes, and then fly away. There were too many clouds to land. He would have to wait til next week to leave. However, Tom said there is a cell phone tower out there now, they have electricity and water. Chan is the place that wants a native English speaker to come and teach them, a place where there would be potential for relationships. It’s a place I’m trying to figure out if I should try and visit even during this time here.

The team in Hat city mentioned that there would need to be a couple out there for a single woman to go – and I think that is why I’m not pressing it right now. Everything else is set up and in place, but since there isn’t a couple there, and since I have the next phase of my trip planned out already – it’s almost like getting my hopes up for something that 1) isn’t quite ready for a single girl, and 2) is still a year away! I think I’ll wait (I have to!!), and really pray about that opportunity and for Him to bring others to Chan.

Then there are the Ku people – a nomadic group of people, also really intrigue me. We passed several Ku villages – they live in goat/sheep skin tents that are set up in a place, where they settle for period of time (I’m not sure how long), then they pack up and move on to the next place. I asked Tom about any work among them, he said there wasn’t any. He said because they move around, no one has really been able to stay with them, connect with them. I asked if anyone had ever tried living with them. He said some foreigners had talked about, but no one had ever done it. He said the government tried to set up schools or like stations for them, but that was hard to maintain because the Ku people don’t make their decisions based on a schedule necessary. The leaders of the village might decide one night to move and the next day, they’ll go. So, a program or schedule of stations/schools just doesn’t fit their lifestyle. Tom said because of that, they are mostly illiterate.

Monday, September 17, 2007

City Tour!

Today was a great day. We went out on a tour around the city. Three others who I will be visiting in other cities were there too. It was great to hang out with some people that I could potentially be partnering with in the future. I was able to ask them more questions about clothing, and about the places where they worked.

We saw the city from a hill, a bazaar, a flower garden, old buildings, a mining museum, the whole city from a mountain, a bird bazaar….

It was all exciting and I’m really thankful we got to see it all.

But the best part of the day was the discussion with Dr. B. I can’t saw how encouraging it was to hear about the place where he is and the opportunities there – that seem to fit perfectly with my interest, desires, gifts. I almost don’t want to talk about it too much because it sounds almost too good to be true.

Let me try to state things as he stated them to me… He basically was telling me of the things/work opportunities they have where they are.

He said, "There is one girl who takes some trips to the villages. She does some ESL stuff, and other stuff out there. She loves it, but for security reasons can’t live out there for more than 4-5 days at a time. There is a place called “Chan” where we have a center with national staff doing English classes, medical stuff, agricultural stuff (?). We really want to get more people out there. It is a remote area, like a village, not a lot of amenities. It takes about 14-20 hours to drive there or about a 30 minute flight.

In the past, when we’ve done medical stuff there, there has been a great response to the women there. The women have been able to connect with local women really well – there is great opportunities for relationships there. They are also always asking for a foreigner to come teach them English. We have thought about moving there, but with young kids, it just draws too much attention. It’s a better place for a single, or maybe a married couple. We do take trips out there maybe once a month to check on things. We have thought about closing the center, and bringing the locals back out several times due to no expats to work there and keep it in check. But we keep thinking and praying that more will come – and it looks like that might be happening. There is a couple thinking about working there. If they came, then it would be okay for a single woman to also be there. But we wouldn’t want to send you out there all by yourself! It’s not definite about the other couple, but just the idea makes us want to keep the center open and see if He is indeed sending more people.

It is actually the center point for the ‘IMA’ people. That is the people group we are focusing on, but for various reasons have had to stay in the bigger 'Hat' city. They are a very under-reached group – there is only one known believer right now. There may be others, but only one is really known of – and he might be the first of his group. Their language is still the national language. There might be little dialect differences, but not enough to make it its own language.

What I heard from what he said was an people/place/job that includes:
- good for relationship building
- ESL potential, actually already set up for that
- Village work
- Unreached people group

Does it seem like that has my name on it or what?

Another thing that I had almost forgotten about when I was talking with NGO folks was my driving passion, the drive that took me to India.

That is unreached peoples – and the least reached, etc.

I still have that burden and passion. Hearing about how the assignment connects with my gifts was really encouraging, but I think the trigger was hearing about how there is maybe one believer among that group of people. It was almost like God was saying, “Did you forget that the reason you want to be in the villages, the reason you want to do ESL, the reason you want to build relationships is to reach those who are least-reached? Your first passion is those least-reached groups. ESL, being in the village is just the gifts you have to reach them.”

I thought about the NGO's focus on ESL- and how I felt a little disappointed when they said, “If you want to do village stuff, you can’t do ESL…” – they have some great goals and ideas, and I think I would be an asset to their vision and strategy. However, I’m wondering if He is trying to show me that there are others who are and who can do that work. Like India, I wanted to go where no one else was…and He guided me there. I think perhaps he still wants me where no one else is.

And yet, the thought came into my mind as Brent was talking, “okay – so go get married and come back.” Haha!

You know what – somehow the conflict of being in an area where there would be no chance for a marriage partner doesn’t seem nearly as unsettling as the idea of being in a place where I’m not really supposed to be. Does that make sense? Last night, I was a bit troubled about finding something that could combine ESL/villages. Tonight, I feel at peace about that completely, realizing that there are indeed options to combine those things. The issue of being single going into it, and most likely being single coming out of it – somehow doesn’t scare me as much. Or doesn’t concern me as much as being in another place where I might have more opportunity for marriage, but not really following the passion He has given me…

Some verses I read tonight: Isaiah 5:7, 13, 15-16, 26
5: v 13 So I will send my people into exile far away because they do not know me. The great and honored among them will starve, and the common people will die of thirst.
5 \v 26 He will send a signal to the nations far away. He will whistle to those at the ends of the earth, and they will come racing toward Jerusalem.

Of course, I’m not committing to anything yet. I’m not saying anything yet, except that I’m encouraged.

Psalm 20.
\v 1 In times of trouble, may the Lord respond to your cry. (the cry of ‘I just want to do what You want me to do!). May the God of Israel keep you safe from all harm.
\v 2 May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
\v 3 May he remember all your gifts (teaching, village, relationships)
and look favorably on your burnt offerings. (sacrificing being in places where I might met someone who could be my husband!)
\v 4 May he grant your heart's desire (to bring glory to God)
and fulfill all your plans. (to bring glory to God by serving somewhere with my husband)
\v 5 May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory, flying banners to honor our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers. (for the unreached peoples, and for a husband!)

Anyway…I’m looking forward to the trip to the western and nothern parts of this country, and back to America! Even just driving down the streets today, I had the thought, “I can’t wait til what is next! And even being in the states recruiting for One-Story, and developing lesson plans – I can’t wait for that – it’s going to be great!”

“Let your unfailing love surround me, Lord. For my hope is in you alone.” ~Psalm 33:22

Sunday, September 16, 2007

ESL in Villages?

Today (Sunday, 16 Sept), I met with someone at an NGO (non-governmental organization) office. That was a great visit. I was very encouraged talking with her and the NGO's policies, goals, visions, programs, etc. She even gave me their orientation book (it’s really big!) to the country. I think it will be a great resource in just getting an overall view of things, and great for Mommy and Daddy too!

She said that that particulair NGO is one of the oldest NGO’s in the country, and they only work in this country. Their focus is community development – relationships through projects/work. She said since they have permission from the government, they really do what they are here to do. If your job is teaching, you teach. If it’s agricultural work, you do agricultural work.

After we talked for a while, I asked, “what would the next step be, if I wanted to come back with this NGO…” She said I would come through a sending agency, and I would inform them (the sooner the better). I would need a physical, references, and a psych evaluation (That could be done by anyone who is a certified counselor – not necessarily a real expensive test). There is a $4100/year fee for the operating grant. That pays for my rent and for a night guard, also the orientation course, and administration fees for the NGO.

She said there is a ‘Language and Orientation’ course offered twice a year (October and April). It’s 5 ½ months of language learning. The classes are either in the morning or afternoon, and you spend the rest of the time practicing. There is also a 5 day orientation course – orientation to the country, etc. She said if you come for 2+ years, you get the whole course. I asked her about the relationship between my company and the NGO. How does it work, who am I responsible to for what…? She said my company would succound me to the NGO. The NGO is then responsible for me, for housing, security, etc. I am responsible to the NGO for team meetings, but any end-of-the-year reports that my company might require, I’m still responsible to them to do that.

I asked if One-Story asked me to do something along side of teaching ESL for example, would that be possible – she said yes. I then went and talked with another girl– who spent 7 years in a neighboring country doing ESL/EFL, and has been here for 2 years also doing some ESL stuff. She said this NGO typically focuses on teaching a higher level English. And you have to test into a higher level to take the course. They will teach lower levels if it works with strategic planning/community development. They aren’t focused as much on the poor/illiterate – she said if they were that poor or illiterate, then English probably isn’t their first need/priority anyway.

She said one thing they are thinking about doing is changing their strategy…they are thinking about setting up some teacher training courses. They’ve done teacher training in the past, but the methods and strategies haven’t lasted. The teachers are too ingrained to teach a certain way, and with one course, you can’t really change that. She said they are thinking maybe a 4-6 year program where they would have teacher training centers set up. The teachers would come, they would learn more about teaching, and would be taught, but would also then teach too – The NGO would oversee their lesson plans, etc. They would focus on building the teaching skills of the Dry Land workers, not just their English speaking skills.

She said the NGO's goals are to have something that is sustainable – something that can run itself, something where Dry Land people can do it themselves. They are ‘capacity building at the human resource level.’ She said millions of dollars have been spent on the infrastructure – i.e. new roads, schools, electricity, etc. That is great, but what will happen in a few years when the road breaks and there are no engineers to fix it? There needs to be a development in human resources as well as the infrastructure.

She said in one city, an international reconstruction team came in, and built a children’s hospital, state of the art, but it’s sitting empty. They said, “We’ll build it for you, but won’t staff it.” Well, now it’s just sitting there empty because there are not human resources to fill it. This NGO's focus is building up that human resource to match the the development of the country.

I asked about the need/desire for ESL. She said it’s an overwhelming need. She said that the capitol city Kabul University is actually switching from having it’s medical classes in the local language to having them only in English. They are thinking about doing the same thing with the engineering classes. She said Dry Land people do two things – English and Computers. They do that because they know those two things are the key to getting ahead.

I asked about village work – the basic conclusion from that discussion was if you want to do village work, you probably aren’t going to do ESL. They have too many other needs to be focused on English language learning. She talked about some villages she visited on an survey trip – there was one village where the women didn’t even speak the national language. They still hold very fast to their mother tongue. When she said that I thought, “I should go there right now and do storying – it’s the perfect place!”

She also talked about a village that you have to talk 6 days in to get there. I also thought that would be a great place to go! I asked what would the possibility be if I came and said I wanted to work in such and such village – would there still be the requirement to spent 5 ½ months learning the national language, or would the NGO potentially suggest that I just learn the village language. She said they hadn’t had that situation before, but she was very familiar with that debate because she dealt with it in her previous country. She said they eventually decided for new teams they didn’t need to learn the national language, but they could just focus on their village language. She said it would probably depend on the nature of the work, what I was doing, exactly where I would be, etc.

During the conversation I realized that I have interest in two areas that are a bit conflicting. I like and enjoy ESL teaching. I also really love being out in villages. However here, and also in India – there are many villagers that just aren't concerned with learning English. And it wouldn’t be very natural to set up an English tutoring program in the middle of a village! Of course, both of these interests stem from, or coincide with relationship with the local people.

As she was talking, I felt conflicted about the village vs. ESL thing. Part of me has thought, ‘I can just come and do ESL…somehow and still do village stuff…’ – but I’m not so sure that’s the case. And even the storying stuff, I wonder if it’s best to do that in the national langauge – which would be the language I would learn if I lived in a city and did ESL, or if it should be a village language…but then do I want to do storying, and if so, how much involved do I want to get?

What would I want an end goal to be - of the storying side of my interest? Then again, how long would I want to stay here? I feel like I have more questions now than before – which is good. However, I feel like I’m looking for the answer to the main question, “What exactly do you want to do?” – I’m not sure how many other people can help me figure that out. I’m trying to combine what I think I want to do, with the options available, and with the needs that need to be met. It seems like things are fitting, but not 100% - that is if I want to combine everything and have the ideal assignment. I know better than to ask for that- but now I’m puzzled about the village vs. ESL situation.

Is there a way to do both? Then again, I haven’t visited the cities in the west or the north yet. Perhaps something there will jump out more clearly to me. I’m looking forward to visiting some of the villages in those places too. I’m also looking forward to seeing the English learning center in M town. I think all that will help me to see more if I really want to do more village stuff than the ESL stuff, or vice versa.

Another thing to consider, besides just my interests/gifts, are the people I would be working with. I think that’s important. The one worker had mentioned that as one of the things they specifically looked for when they came here – who would the team be/were people like-minded enough to work with on a project. If I had to go strictly based on that, I’d almost say I’ll go with Dr. B and his family and the team there. They by far have been the most welcoming and friendly. Then again Missy has been helpful and said there is a large expat community there. And Joe is a very experienced teacher and I could learn a lot from him, I’m sure. You know he was held hostage for 6 months at one point? Before he was married! It was just a gang group trying to get money. They eventually let him go, but he said (or I’ve heard the story through others) that that was the best language learning time he’s ever had!

Anyway, I’m very encouraged by the the NGO visit. It was neat to hear about possibilities for coming back and serving- and how they would give me a reason to be here, and a position (ESL teacher), but also allow me to do storying or whatever else on the side. In a way, that seems like a perfect fit, and part of me says, “why are you so confused, it’s great, you should take it!”

I guess as I’m learning more, I’m just asking more questions and thinking even more. Something else Travis had mentioned once was, “sometimes being willing to stay in one place for a while may give you more reason to get out to another place…” In other words, if it’s not natural for me to be out in villages right now, maybe it’s better to get my feet wet doing the ESL thing with storying on the side while learning the trade language, learning about the culture, etc. Even if I had to switch languages later, knowing the national language isn’t a bad thing!

The other BIG thing is that I’m not saying 100% that I think He wants me even in this country! I’m not sure about that, and won’t be for a while – at least I don’t think so!! I’m glad that my mind is free enough to consider it, so that I can ask these questions and get information while I’m here – but glad it’s not free enough to just jump into something or commit to something just yet!!!

One thing that is very different from this trip as opposed to the Riverland trip is that so far, my time has been mostly spent with expats and not with Dry Land people. One Worker asked me about my impressions of Dry Land so far, and I mentioned a few things, but also said I hadn’t really spent time with any Dry Land people besides the two girls who live above Beth. I know that this time right now is about networking and figuring things out, and not necessarily visiting Dry Land people. I am hoping that my visits to the two other cities will give me a bit more interaction with the culture and people.

I am trying to finish the book, “The Bookseller of Kabul” book. One part in the forward says, “…A bookseller is unusual in country where three quarters of the population can neither read nor write…” Later it again made a reference to the illiterate population. Immediately, I thought – they need oral Stories! I thought for a few minutes about the literacy thing, and thought, “true, it’s good to teach them to read and write, but what about giving them the Truth – isn’t that more important? I agree basic needs – clean water, etc are perhaps just as important as the truth because if you die due to unclean water, then you won’t get the Truth either.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Literacy work?

This morning Beth and I went shopping. We went to a “mall” type place – and it was hard to figure out what country I was in. It was very modern – not as nice as Thailand mall, or even American mall, but still very clean, and 3-4 stories tall. We first tried to the ATM machine. It actually gave us the option of having money in dollars or Dry Land money! I am still really amazing how much dollars are used here. In one store, the man didn’t have change in his currency, so he offered me a $5.00 bill in return. Anyway, we tried various amounts with my LFCU card, but nothing worked. We then tried the “fast cash” option with the WSFS card, and that worked – twice! And it worked for asking for Dry Land money too. That was great!

Then we went to a few stores that all sold similar things – carpets, bags, jewelry, blue glass stuff, antique looking things. We saw a plane made from bullets – that was interesting. It was $15.00, otherwise I might have gotten it. We got a few things, including a map from a kid on the street. He was selling Dry Land maps, and I really wanted one, so I got one. I let him follow us around for a while, and he slowly came down in the price, then I got it. It’s perhaps not the most up-to-date map, but still gives a good idea of where I am and where I’m going to, and what’s in-between.

In one store, some foreigners came in with what seemed to be a personal body guard. He wasn’t from Dry Land, but wasn’t American either. They were speaking sometimes in Dari, but most of the time in another language. Anyway, the guard had at least two guns visible. They could have been UN type people or other humanitarian aid folks- there are a lot of them here.

After shopping, we went back home. Then we went to another Workers home. I stayed there maybe 4 hours. Another couple was there (and their two daughters). They all had a lot of questions about One-Story and how it works, etc. mainly because he’s been asked to recommend an assignment location for a one-story team here. And he said, “We keep hearing about this storying stuff, but aren’t sure how it all works- and you’re the first person we’ve actually met whose done it!” I tried to fill them in as best I could. The wife and I then talked for most the rest of the afternoon. Her oldest children came home from school (the two oldest are taking a few classes at the international school this year). It was neat talking with her 17 year old daughter some – who really grew up 14 years of her life in a neighboring country. Vicki shared with me their passion for H people and even about some trips they made to villages between here and another city. It was interesting to hear her talk about the traveling by land. She encouraged me to consider working in that area. She asked if I was interested in literacy work. I said, “well, I’m not NOT interested in it…” We talked about it for a while, and talked about the potential additional schooling I might need to have to do it. That didn’t appeal to me. But then Vicki said it might not be necessary if the background on the language has already been compiled, etc…It was interesting hearing her stories.

They were in a neighboring country for 14 years and working on a Book for H people. They also did some stories a few years ago when the idea of storying reached them. They didn’t do it exactly the one-story way, but still did it. I was encouraged by that. They said they were planning to stay in the neighboring country their whole lives, but didn’t get another renewal on their visa this last time, so they had to leave. The government basically told them, “you’ve been here long enough.” So they and their 5 kids had to leave. Vicki said it was really hard for them. They’ve now been here in the capitol for 3 years. They’re still trying to keep up their H work from here – and there are many H people in Dry Land. Actually most of the H workers in their previous country were from Dry Land – refugees from Dry Land. She said two of the families have moved back to Dry Land so that’s been neat to reconnect with them in this country.

Their role in the capitol is to provide support for new teams/individuals – like me! She said their company wanted there to be someone in country to provide supervision and support for folks working here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Psalm 125:1-2

So I was thinking about the mountains today, and how they surround this city. I was thinking about how cool this place is and yet how hard it must be to live here. I thought about the people in this town – the shopkeepers we’ve interacted with, the daughters of the family upstairs. I thought about the kidnappings that have happened in the past here. I just kept thinking about that, and then read this verse today Psalm 125:1-2…

“Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
they will not be defeated but will endure forever.
Just as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds and protects his people, both now and forever.”

I was really encouraged and just felt like He put that verse there just for me, just to again say, “you are where I want you, you are doing the right thing, you are in the right place – and because you are trusting in me, you are as secure as all those mountains you see around you…and just as those mountains surround you, so I am surrounding you and protecting you…”

Anyway, that was really amazing to read that.

Beth and I went to the “used” clothing part of the bazaar and I bought a neutral colored suit – it’s worn and tattered, but will fit in a little better. Then she took me to meet Jen at, a coffee shop on the other side of town. The coffee shop is really nice – you could almost imagine you weren’t really in Dry Land at all! It's at places like these, in third world countries, that I can never really figure out how I’m supposed to feel! Like Starbucks in Thailand, or even Pizza Hut in India. With 80’s music playing in the background. People at this coffee shop had their laptops out, were checking email. Jen and I went outside and say on a bamboo type platform. I had a strawberry smoothie – it was very good, and it came in a glass jar.

We had a good conversation – amazing that we’ve only exchanged a few emails, and have never met, but were able to talk about a lot of things. I’m realizing that my life will probably be filled with these kind of friendships – ones that you make quickly, and never know when you’ll meet again. Jen is really stressed out right now with school and tried not to let it show, but she’s dealing with some stress stuff right now I can tell. She said, “whatever problems you have normally, they are intensified here. They are intensified in India, but even more here.”

She also said that as a single woman it’s been hard, but not too difficult to be here. She has enjoyed the expat (foreigners) community here. I explained my situation in Kahan was with one other foreigner. She said, “I’m really impressed that you were able to do that…”

I explained we had other expats at training, etc and that was really helpful. She said, “You do have to get out of here every once in a while – some people can stay, but I need to leave maybe every 4-5 months. You just get run down, and you don’t even realize it. And this year there is more security stuff than last year. Last year we went hiking and took trips, but we haven’t done that this year.” She said it’s hard since everyone has their own level of security and restrictions. There are people at both extremes.

I said I was trying to be extra cautious, but not to the point where I was living in constant fear. She said that was a really good way to go about life here. I told her about my interaction with the Dry Land man and how I misjudged him at first. She said, “it’s really good not to trust some of the men, but it’s also really good and important to trust others – because they really can help you and care for you.”

We went to the international school and she showed me her classroom and where she lives. It’s nice. I saw pictures of all her kids – they are almost all Dry Land kids. I was under the impression that they were expat kids for some reason. The international school is a US AID program to help restore education to the country, and I think the plan is for it to be run by Dry Land people themselves eventually.

Then Jennifer took me back to Beth’s side of town – to some other Worker's home where they were having weekly fellowship. It was encouraging to worship together with them. And they do stories! So that was fun. I felt like I was back in Kahan, sort-of. Oh yeah, the houses here all have a sitting/living room – but no western type furniture. There are large pillows lined up on the floor along the walls. You sit on those, and then there are other pillows that you lean back on. How relaxing! I want a room like that in my house!! It’s really comfortable!

After dinner, Randy and I talked a bit about how I got to Dry Land, and how they got to Dry Land. Turns out they know Travis. Anyway, they were first in M town, then in a neighboring country, and now in the capitol city. To make a somewhat long story short, they were trying to figure out what people group to work with, and originally started out based on statistics of the least reached groups in the world. That narrowed it down to maybe 200 places…then somehow they got focused on Dry Land, and surrounding places. They were thinking about two groups. The husband said he had a dream. He saw two Dry Land men that he felt like he recognized. Then off to the left he saw another man from the H people group in Dry Land, and he walked toward him, and that man said, “when are you coming?” And Randy embraced him. Then he woke up. He said it was clear to him that the two men were the two groups they had been thinking about, and the third man was the man from the H people group. He said he went to his wife, and started telling her his dream. She started crying. She had just read Acts 16 where Paul has the vision… “That night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia in northern Greece, pleading with him, “Come over here and help us.” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.”

Anyway, it was interesting hearing their stories. He said they consider three questions when they investigate groups/places to work…1) what role would they have, 2) what team would look like, and 3) ---I can’t remember the third thing!!! Ahhh!

We ate Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, wheat thins, sprite and some amazing kind of whitish, honeydew type melon for dinner. Then I looked at the shop that the wife has. She works with H ladies, and has them make things that are A looking, but something that a westerner would buy. She had napkins, table clothes, bags, bookmarks, etc, etc. It was kind-of expensive, so I just bought a few bookmarks, but it was beautiful stuff. And really neat that she knows the women who make it all. Her husband said she has probably sold $35,000 worth of stuff in the past few years! She doesn’t keep the money, of course, but gives it back to those who have made it. After that, her husband took us home.

I was able to take a few photos outside the car window today – I’m so glad I was able to do that. And from inside Beth’s house, if I hold the camera up in the living room, it can reach over the outside wall around her house and can get the street. So I did get a few pictures of the town…nothing spectacular, but at least some of the dust!

I’m still feeling good. I’m trying to drink more water – since I keep having this headache that I think I’ve determined means I’m dehydrated, or at least not drinking as much as I should. I had the same type of feeling in Riverland. It’s not like any other headache I’ve ever had, and isn’t very bad…it seems it helps to drink water. So I’m doing that. Beth has two cats, so I’ve been sneezing and blowing my nose more than I’d like to be doing – but all well. That could be contributing some to the headache. I’ve tried not to touch my eyes, so, so far they haven’t been itchy or been a problem. And I’ve stayed as far away from the cats as I can.

Oh, the weird thing – they drive on the RIGHT side of the road, like America. So strange. But their cars have steering wheels on both sides of the car – so it’s really confusing!

Also, Beth said she met someone today who said they used the ATM on the other side of town several times and it worked – so we will try that tomorrow.

They have electricity for about 3 hours every night. That’s it. Beth said at one time they had it for 24 hours/day for about 2 weeks straight. Then at other times, it was every third night for maybe 3-4 hours.

Jen asked me if had any impressions overall about the city/place yet, I said, “dry, quiet, dusty, open, calm, peaceful…” – that’s about as far as I got. Honestly, it is really peaceful here and calm. It’s almost quieter than Kahan! Of course today is Friday –their “Sunday” where everything is closed. But, still, it’s pretty quiet around here.

Well, this is completing 8 pages and I’ve only been here a little more than 24 hours. And yet, I still feel like I’m not writing everything I could!!! I just want to take it all in, and keep it here so that later when I’ve lost all the initial impressions I can look back and remember!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Mountains. Brown, giant mountains. A town in the middle of a huge circle of mountains. That’s where we landed. Honestly, there are mountains on all sides. There was turbulence in landing, and I know it’s because of the mountains. It was similar to landing in Jackson Hole, WY – The mountains completely surround the town. Part of me thinks there is no way to get out of this town besides flying! From the plane, I knew that this was going to be a place like no other.

The first Dry Land person I met was a man in line for the Immigration counter in India. He turned around and said something to me in his language. I said, “what?” He then asked (in English) if I was going to Dry Land, and if it was my first time. I was skeptical at first, because I’m used to Indians being nosy for no reason, and with everything going on with increased security there right now, I thought in my head, “he’s probably a terrorist already trying to get information from me to kidnap me later!” He turned around and we went through immigration. I then starting thinking how wrong it was for me to a) treat him almost as I would treat and strange Indian man- almost rudely, and b) to assume he was a a terrorist. Can you imagine how hard that is for him and probably every other person from Dry Land and other places like it? Most, probably 90% of them are good, decent people. They aren’t terrorists – in face, they themselves are afraid of terrorists.

Anyway, later, when we got on the shuttle bus to go to the plane, he was on the same one and was sitting down. I got on and was standing. He offered his seat to me, and also to another lady. Wow. No Indian has EVER done that for me.

When we got off the plane, he said, “Welcome to Dry Land!”

Later after I had gone out of the airport and through three gates, I still couldn’t find Beth - the one who was picking me up. I wasn’t sure if I should keep walking or not. I just walked to the side, put my stuff down and waited for about 5 minutes. The same man was standing with his friend and I could tell he wanted to come over and ask if I was okay, but wasn’t sure how appropriate it would be, etc. Honestly, I could read his mind.

Eventually he did come over. He said if he needed them to take me somewhere, he could help me. And you know what – although I wouldn’t have gone with him in a million years, I am 100% sure it would have been completely safe. He was just a really nice man and wanted to help – there was no way possible he would try and do anything. There have been times with Indians I’ve wondered about their motives, but not with this guy. He was too cautious before approaching me.

Anyway, I was really impressed with his kindness and thankful that I had that for a first interaction with an Dry Lander! After reading the news and even watching a ‘hostage survival’ cd that was given to me, I wasn’t expecting to have any pleasant exchanges with these people. Turns out I need to remember that these are just people – most are living in fear themselves.

The plane to Dry Land was half- empty. I had three seats to myself. It was nice, but makes you wonder.

I felt very safe, but felt like God was reassuring me with Dry Land people. And so far, no bombs have gone off and I’m still safe! :)

Beth met me with a driver. He took my bag and we went to the van. Then we ventured onto the streets of the capitol city. I had noticed the dust on the runway as the plane was landing. I noticed it even more as we drove along. The road was paved for the most part. The town felt very open – I think because there were no buildings taller than 2 stories. All of the homes are brown and have walls around them. It’s almost like a cantonment or something. We came to Beth’s part of town – those roads are not paved- they are rocky, dusty. It looks like pictures you’ve seen in the news, it looks like the pictures painted in the books I’ve read, it looks like some movies that I’ve seen. And what that looks like, I’m not sure I can describe it. Girls and women with head coverings, in full coverings, and everything around them, completely brown. There is less traffic here than anywhere else I’ve been- even Kahan. Besides the mountains around the town, everything is flat.

We got to Beth’s home – she lives on the first floor (i..e the ground floor) of a home – the landlord and their 5(?) kids live on top. We talked for a while. Turns out there are no ATM’s here. I asked how they get money, and she said, ‘we bring it in, and we can exchange it here – and actually, a lot of things you can pay for in US dollars.’ I have about $60 USD with me, and about 2000 rupees. I told her I had emailed another Worker about that just yesterday, but hadn’t heard back – it was an assumption that I made that shouldn’t have made. She apologized and said that someone should have told me. She said the easiest thing would probably be for her to just lend me all the money I would need for my trip and then I can write her a check and send it to her bank, or her mom, in America. It’s so nice of her. She said, ‘there are ATM’s, but I’ve never seen one open or working.’ Interesting.

We talked about schedule and trying to meet up with folks, and such. We talked about getting a SIM card for me phone. Beth said she is fasting this month (only having juices…), so I was welcome to whatever food was in the house and we could go shopping for food- but she wouldn’t be eating with me. I had also thought about fasting during Ramazan, but had decided not to, mainly because I would be traveling so much, and because I didn’t feel spiritually ready – not that I felt I had to be ready, but just because I wanted to do it more at a time when I could do it right. That’s probably the enemy just discouraging me. I will do it another time – even after I go home, I’ll fast for periods of time. But not this month.

Then we went to their ‘bazar’ and to find a SIM card. There were some bigger buildings – but still I felt like the town is so open and spacious. It’s less noisy than other cities – I think people honked their horns, but it wasn’t overwhelming like in Delhi. I asked about taking a picture – and Beth said, “you can, but that would draw attention to yourself as a foreign woman…” I finished her sentence, “and I probably don’t want to do that." She said, “no.” She said if you have a camera on your phone and make it look like you’re getting ready to call someone and kind-of discretely take a picture, that’s okay. But unfortunately, I don’t have a camera on my phone. So, I’m not sure how many pictures I’ll be able to get. That’s kind-of sad.

We walked from her home around the corner – again on dusty rocky streets. There were maybe 10 older Dry Land men on the corner all in turbans – would have been an awesome picture…I’m not sure what they were doing – I didn’t look at them for more than a second. Oh, it’s kite flying season here – so we saw a lot of kites flying too. But these are kites made from two sticks and a plastic bag, or something like that. And I’m not sure that there is a constant enough wind to really fly them – but somehow, the kids (especially boys) tug and pull them to keep them in the air. We went to get a SIM card – the storekeeper knew some English. He was impressed with Beth’s language. I have been impressed with it too- she’s learned a lot in a year and a half. I told her it sounded good – from what I could tell!!

There are concrete ditches about 2 feet deep on the sides of the main road – with dirty water in them – I guess it’s similar to the roadside in India (it’s like the community trash can), but at least here it’s in a gully kind of thing. Beth said it’s called, a “jewey.” I said, “leaving off the ‘j’ and just calling it ‘ewey’ would fit better.” :)

We saw HUGE watermelons. I’ve never seen watermelons so big in my whole life.

We walked through the ‘used clothing’ market. At first, it seemed silly, but Beth said most of her clothes are used. I may go back and get a suit there tomorrow if I can find one that is more natural/plain colors. Mine are okay, but a little bright for here. We’ll see.

We went into a shop to get some cheese, crackers- and COOKIES! Like a donut shop in the states, there were rows and shelves of homemade cookies. I was skeptical about the taste, but they looked good, so I told Beth I wanted to get some. She said that would be a new experience for her since she hadn’t gotten any ever before. We asked the man and he got a fairly big box out and asked which ones we wanted. It was just like ordering donuts! There were even some with icing on them – but only dribbled on them – not all over. But there were no sprinkles… :) I got a bunch of different kinds. It turned out to be a kilo of cookies – about 2 pounds. And it was less than $1.25 for all of them.

We walked back down the dusty, rocky street. We got bread (For 10cents) from the local bread-maker. It’s about 2 feet long, 1 inch thick, and maybe 6-7 inches wide, puffy naan type bread. You kind-of pull it to break it, it’s kind-of like pizza crust – a little crispy on the outside, but nice and soft and almost chewy on the inside.

I then called Mommy. Unfortunately, I think it costs a lot to call because I had 300 units of Dry Land money in my phone and we talked for 4 minutes and then it was finished. Hmm. Beth said a 500 card usually gets her about 10 minutes. 500 is $10.00 – so that’s about $1.00/minute. Not cheap. It was frustrating to get cut off and not be able to call back- but it was good to touch base, and give Mommy my number. I’m not sure how easy it will be for her to call- but at least they have a way to connect.

Then Beth and I hung out with the two youngest daughters of the family upstairs. Their names are Parween (maybe 11 years old?) and Nishgan (maybe 7). That was fun. Nishgan was shy at first, but warmed up some. I had my first language lesson with them!! And found out that Parween knows some Hindi from watching Hindi bollywood movies. So, we communicated in Hindi – I used Hindi to learn some of her language! It was crazy. When Beth talked with them I couldn’t understand anything as they were speaking in Dry Land language. When I talked with them, Beth couldn’t understand anything because we were speaking in Hindi. And the two languages are very different. There are a few words that overlap between Hindi and Dry Land language, but not enough to be able to understand one of the languages if you are fluent in the other. Their older sister (18 years old) and she actually does translation from Dry Land langauge to Hindi, so we could communicate too! It was great!

The girls made all kinds of positive comments about how pretty I was, how I looked like an Dry Land girl, etc, etc. In this way, they are similar to the Indian culture. I thought about how I had misjudged that first Dry Land man I met, thinking he was a terrorist. I thought about these girls. They are Dry Land girls – they will always be Dry Land girls. They will also be misjudged if they venture outside of this place. But then I guess the chances of that happening are pretty slim. It was good to hang out with them and remember that just like Americans, just like Indians, just like Riverland people- they are people too!! I’m glad I’m cautious, but realizing I have to be careful not to place that wrong assumption on every Dry Land person I met. Even walking down the street, it took me a while before I relaxed a little. I felt like at any minute someone might come and kidnap me! I wasn’t afraid, or fearful, but just felt like that might happen. But after a while, I was like, ‘why do I feel like that – do these people look like monsters?’ No, they don’t. They are in the same market as you, they are selling goods, they are walking on the same street, they are people just like you – what are you afraid of?

I started to relax and realized that the ideas I had in my mind were from what I’ve heard and read – not from personal experience. I remembered something from the hostage survival video I watched before getting on the plane. The speaker said, “The chance of getting kidnapped is VERY slim, the chance of getting killed or even hurt is even less…but it is real and that’s why we are doing this…but you need to remember that even though it’s real, and does happen- the chances and percentages are very low and it’s very unlikely…” – of course then he went on to talk about hostage situations and other things that could make you really scared.

I don’t feel like I’m in danger. Even Beth said she feels safer here than she ever did in her previous country in Africa. There are no bars on the windows here. We had bars on our windows in India. I don’t think that was for fashion! :)

Anyway, most of the time we were walking around I kept thinking to myself, “this place is different from anywhere else I’ve ever been.” And I haven’t been to that many places, but somehow I feel like this is very different. Is that a good thing, a bad thing? Neither. It’s just an observation that this is very different. I’m not entirely sure what that means yet.