Oh where do I begin? India was truly the most difficult and wonderful trip I have ever done. It could very well be because it is the longest trip, at 7 weeks or because India is a country like none other.
Do not get me wrong, I would not trade those weeks for anything in the world. I underwent a sharpening that I have never experienced before. I was in India as a summer intern for a home of women and children rescued from sex trafficking.
Here's how this will go down: I am breaking up my 7 weeks into three posts to give the space that this jam packed India trip deserves.
To start I want to paint the picture of my experience. I was the only intern that summer, meaning my traveling to and from India was done alone and many of my off days were alone as well. In one sense I really didn't mind this, being an introvert as I am. But in a foreign city with over 4.5 million people (yeah I said CITY not country), no working phone, no way to use public transportation (because knowing the language is necessary) and knowing a limited number of people that are insanely busy and were rarely around.
I don't say any of this with bitterness, rather wanting to communicating the reality of what foreign missions can look like. I had an incredible intern director that prepared me for the chaos that is India as much as she could. For which I am so grateful, because while I had difficulty, I never wavered on the sense that this is where God had called me to be.
Vulnerability Alert: I needed to ground myself most days that I would again go home and see my friends and family. So, I crossed off each day in my calendar, I read letters my family had written to me, and savor a small gift from my best friend in these colorful medicine containers whether a note, candy, or a symbol for that day. Let me tell you, I cherished these things. Not more than Jesus, I need Him most. Still, pieces of home to look forward to kept me going.
My purpose there was clear as I spent Monday through Friday at the home for girls. From my first day they embraced me and made me feel welcomed as their own "Dede" or sister in Bengali. I melt at the memories of their excitement to braid my hair, snuggle up for a movie night, and the littles ones sweet embraces.
Something to note about Indian culture is that they are a community culture and not in a casual way. They take care of their people so well. Every room I walked into, someone would respond by offering me a seat, coffee or tea, and then proceed to intently watch me to make sure I was content. The people of India take care of you so much that they can even be aggressive about it. Word to the wise, say yes as much as possible because rejecting that tea is like rejecting the person.
In the times that I wasn't teaching english to the young girls (ages 3-6), teaching art, or teaching guitar to the old girls (ages 15-17) I was just with them. This simple act of being present was their greatest desire of me.
I will be honest my first couple weeks there I wasn't sure I was doing anything of value or effectiveness. I had come all this way to only sit with them as they chatter in a language I can't understand. Somewhere around week 3 I began to realize that I am here temporarily and I don't want to waste any second. My time in this home has an expiration date, the best gift is being fully present where I am, now.
I couldn't be the answer to all the needs of that home. I definitely could not promise to meet any of these needs, but I could be fully there.
At a youth conference our girls had a mehendi (like Henna but the actual proper name) booth. I was so down. I got both sides of my hands done in this beautiful design. Which, mind you, took my friend about 5 minutes to complete. They were pros and loved that I wanted their mehendi.
In the two-ish weeks that followed until the mehendi wore off. Girls in the home would come up grab my hand and say "oooh, Dede it's so pretty, very nice!" I would agree and compliment the artist.
The mehendi was so much more than beautiful stains on my arms, it was a symbol of connection and unity to the girls and their culture. I was honored to wear this symbol and be where I was.
In the 24 years of my life so far I have not traveled all the places yet but I have traveled. My parents, when I was growing up decided to put more money towards family vacation than things. This was a great gift to me and my two older sisters because it has given us a bank of family memories from Disneyland parks to New York streets to the Hawaiian islands.
This all resulted in my deep love and appreciation for traveling. I made a goal last year to travel to a new place each year. Last year the new passport stamp was from Panama.
Between my picky personality and traveling so much I have a pretty good idea what I need when I travel. Here is the TOP 5 LIST of my Travel Must Haves in order:
There you have it, all my must have travel items.
I hope where ever you travel today, you have fun, are safe, and get to eat chocolate.
What are you travel MUST HAVES?
Panama was as colorful and exciting as the graffiti wall backdrop to our teams drama at a local Panamanian Middle School. This mission trip is not your typical mission experience.
Moments like this are why I continue to go back and whole heartedly believe every person should experience a missions trip.
Last week I had a couple conversations about missions trip, are they more good or more harmful? What's the real point? Why so much money?
I am be far not the person with all the answers, but from my mission experience and what God has taught me about missions, it is absolutely necessary. We are called to love people and there should be no exception or price limits to that.
If you are wondering if you should go, my response is, "yes you should!" Pray about the how, where, and when. Then listen for the answers.
Summer of 2012 I went on my first overseas missions trip.
You may have guessed already...but yes, this was a Global Passion missions trips. My now boss, Steve Edwards, was my trip leader and this is how we first met.
We flew to Managua, Nicaragua for a week of sweaty, chaotic, and beautiful ministry. My first impression was a heavy one, as in emotionally heavy. I sat in the back of bus (because you know that's what cool kids do) as we bumped along the dirt streets in the night to our church dorms. I was memorized by the makeshift houses of tarp ceiling squeezed in one right next to the other. Poverty covered the streets in a way I never had seen before. My friend Brooke noticed, what I am sure was the saddened and awestruck expression on my face that I could not shake.
It had only been about 30 minutes into this trip and I felt the weight of the needs in the world that up into this point in my life I had no context for.
In the week that followed my team and I hosted a children's VBS camp, school assemblies, church services, and one morning partnered with a bible college for a time of prayer. Among all the sweet and exhaustive moments that I still hold in my heart 7 years later, one of my favorites was connecting with a young girls after the Sunday church service.
Alert Upsetting Content: I am of Mexican heritage, but do NOT speak a lick of the language. I know, you and my grandma can get together and talk about my failure to honor my ancestors.
So because I do not speak Spanish I didn't have many ways of socially interacting with the people in Managua. Basically said "hola" to anyone and everyone I saw:
Girl: waves at me
Girl: *turns to friends laughs and points at me
Yeah, I know it could use some work.
However, this young girls and I connected by playing a game. I mustered up all the Spanish I knew, uno, dos, tres. We played this counting game for maybe 20 minutes straight. Over and over again we did this and she did not tire of this simple, silly game. I was the last person on our bus that day because I could not leave her. As I ran to join my team I realized in that moment, it was happening to me. The experience of my heart complete melting to someone I barely knew but see clearly how Jesus loves her as much as He loves me. We are not so different despite what our culture, language, and up bringing differences would say.
This terribly fuzzy picture is the sweet girl and I playing our game. I love this picture to draw on this memory, but also to see the younger version of myself who was so present and joyful in this moment and on this trip.
I am not sure entirely, but I think it was this particular moment that God was planting a seed for missions. A seed, that I had no awareness of but see taking root today.
I love missions because I love how God weaves all people everywhere together in His Kingdom.
My name is Marissa Deraya; Global Worker with Project Rescue serving women and children of Spain.
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