Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Email update to friends...


Short Version:
“Watching the river…” My Trip to Riverland –My first vision trip went very well - pray for some friends whose homes were destroyed or damaged in recent flooding.
“I remembered the stories…” –a local believer who found encouragement in the stories, in spite of his home being flooded.

Longer Version:
“Watching the river…” My Trip to Riverland…
In spite of the rain, we still went to a few villages to share stories and do some story training. Along the way we crossed several bridges over rivers. At each bridge, there were people just standing apparently watching the water. I thought, ‘this is South Asia, what else do you have to do?’ But on our way back, I realized they weren’t just watching the water. They were actually watching the water rise. That night, the river rose about 3-4 feet over the bridges. The next day, we walked nearly waist deep in water on the main road! The local people said “flooding is normal here, but it’s never been this bad in our town before.”

“I remembered the stories…”
One of the hardest things in Riverland was seeing the flooding. We ate dinner in the local Workers home one night and the next day, he had 2 feet of water in his house. I wanted to cry seeing some their situation. I asked him and his wife, “how can you be smiling?” He said, “I remembered the stories you told yesterday in the village about David and the tall man (Goliath), and about the three friends in the fire (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), and how God was with them. I am asking God to be with us now, and I know that just like He was with those men in those stories, right now He is with us too.”

To recap in short, the past week contained the following:
- meeting with national Workers who showed me their ministry in different areas
- visiting a training center (a great place for future storying workshops!)
- visiting an elementary school (where I shared two stories with the students)
- visiting a village where some of the women aren’t fully clothed and in which they have their own tribal religion.
- visiting a Buddhist village where chickens, pigs and other animals share the same house with the people
- discussing how storying could be used in some unreached groups there
- enjoying a great cultural discussion with a monk
- traveling by motorbike everywhere (in the rain too)
- traveling to a village by boat because the rising river had made travel by land impossible
- doing mini-storying training in a bamboo hut with mud floor
- people swimming to come to the training
- being escorted by policemen to different places – there was increased security in that area due to a recent kidnapping in the area
- walking in waist-deep water to visit national friends whose home was flooded
- eating rice three times a day
- making friends with large cockroaches

P& P for Riverland
- Praise Him for the contacts and relationships made in Riverland.
- Praise Him for the storying training I was able to do in two villages with new believers.
- Praise Him for safety while traveling and during the rains
- Pray for the people whose homes were damaged/destroyed by the flood
- Pray for how I may continue to pray for and serve the people of Riverland.

In Him,

~ Elizabeth
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me…” Psalm 138.8

Monday, September 10, 2007

Back to the capitol.

I travelled via bus 6 hours from Chit City back to the capitol of Riverland today. Tomorrow, I fly back to India and get ready for my next trip. It's been a whirlwind tour of Riverland and the people groups that live in the hills...we'll see how God plans to use this experience in my life!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lots of Questions

Today I travelled with ZL to Chit City, to stay the night with Emily and Erin (colleagues).

We woke up, and waited for the taxi that was supposed to come from Chit City. He was supposed to come at 10:30. We waited until 11:15, then sent someone to call and find out what the situation was. The phone in the hotel didn’t work due to the rain. Oh, and we hadn’t had electricity for maybe 48 hours. They had cut it off since there was too much water in the city. Since I didn’t really have anything that needed electricity, it really wasn’t a big deal.

The local leader came back. The news was that the taxi hadn’t come from Chit City because the road was blocked. One suggested taking a taxi from here, going a different road.

But, it turns out that the only three roads between Kha town and Chit City were not only blocked with landslides, but bridges were out – not even bicycle rickshaws could go through!! Finally, they said, “You could go by taxi up to where the bridge is out, try and walk across by foot, and then maybe find a vehicle on the other side. So, that’s what we did – not knowing what we’d find.

We did find several landslides, but they were halfway cleared so we could continue on. We also found the bridge that was halfway gone (it is about 20 feet above the river). We asked people what to do. There was a small foot bridge, made with bamboo they said we could take to cross the ravine and maybe find something on the other side. So, we did that – the bridge was pretty shaky, I wasn’t sure if we’d make it across! But we did. Then we got in a bicycle rickshaw for about 5 minutes to find some other kind of transportation to Chit City.

We did find one taxi that could take us – it would cost us 3000 taka, which is about $75.00 (which is a ton of money here….). I had already spent almost $50.00 for the first taxi. I said, “no, let’s try to find a bus.” ZL also said it was a lot of money, but was concerned about my comfort on a bus. I said, not to worry, let’s see first what’s available and then decide. We went a little further, and fortunately, there was a bus, and it was going to Chit City, and it was almost ready to leave. We were so lucky!

ZL of course felt so bad that it was a local bus, and how much I was suffering, etc, etc. I told him to relax, and that actually I was more comfortable traveling this way than in an A/C taxi. And, honestly the local bus was still 5 times more comfortable than the local busses in India – we had padding on the seats. I was impressed. I think ZL is used to foreigners from America, who generally travel like foreigners– in more comfortable ways.

Anyway, we finally arrived in Chit City and took an auto rickshaw to the bank, the bus station (to get my ticket to the capitol city) and then to the guesthouse where Emily and Erin were staying. I told ZL and his friend that I would probably leave them here. ZL was unsure about leaving me, and said he could come to the capitol city with me. I said there was no need for that and he should go back to his home. I said I was very used to traveling alone, and not to worry. He also met Emily and they spoke some of the national language, so I think he was reassured.

Anyway, they left – and I immediately said, “Emily, you got so tall!!” She said, “No, you’ve just been around Riverland people the past week and aren’t used to tall people…” It was so funny, I really felt like I had shrunk. But I hadn’t, and she hadn’t grown. Anyway, we went back and talked for a while. I shared with her the pictures I had of the workers in Kha town. She said, “I really wish I had come with you.”

I told her, “I did two mini-workshop story trainings for two Cha villages. I really wish you had been able to come with me too…” I told her how I felt like the people there were ready for the stories – and would indeed use them. I told her she should go and meet those people. I said how encouraging it was to see Cha believers, sharing and doing ministry in Cha and language. I said, in our place in Kahan, there just aren’t very many leaders who actually know Kahani and do ministry in Kahani language. They use Hindi. I said ‘It’s so great and encouraging to see these leaders – their heart to reach the Cha people and who actually see the importance of the native language, and who use it!!!”

Anyway, I did talk with ZL (while we were waiting for the taxi in the morning, as well as at dinner the night before) a little more about the future and how I might be able to fit in here. I shared how I didn’t know what God had planned, but wanted to ask some more questions so I could know how it might work in the future.

Q. From what I can tell the Mar and Muu people are the more unreached people of this area. Is that right?
A. Yes. (I know that there is more work to be done with Cha and Bam people, but in my mind, if there is less work with the Mar and Muu people, I think there is greater need there- and that is where I would feel I should go (if indeed I come back).
Q. Could I live in the Mar or Muu village?
A. Would you want to live there? Could you really survive there?
- Yes. I mean, I would live there maybe 3-4 weeks at a time, and come back to the city to get money, make phone calls, or whatever…
A- Yes, you could live there, but if you stay in a Bam Christian village, that would be safer.
--True maybe, but they are already Followers– no need there. I mean, there is need, but not the same. For the Muu or Mar groups - if I approached the whole thing with the idea of, ‘I’m doing language study and research and want to live part-time in a village to gain a better perspective of the culture and be more submersed in the language…’ – would they be so opposed to that?
A- No, you’re right – that would be okay. They would probably enjoy that.
Q. Would it work as far as the police situation?
A. Yes, if you came for a longer period of time, that would be ok. If you have a visa through our NGO, you can come and do research or consultant work for us (i.e. ministry however you want to do it), and they won’t ask any questions. It would be fine.
Q. Do you think storying/stories would work with these people?
A. Yes – definitely, I think it’s a very good way to reach them.
Q. If I came back, I would focus on learning the village language primarily- we learned through our experience in India, that we didn’t really need Hindi that much. But in India, English is a little more common than here. In your opinion, do you think I would need to study some of the national language first, like survival stuff?
A. Yes, it would just be helpful to get around with…but you are right, learning the native/village language makes a big difference and would mean a lot more to the people.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


It rained all night.

Today we were supposed to either go to a village, or, if it was raining too much, the back-up plan was for the Leaders (maybe 5-6 altogether) to come to the hotel, have a storying training for maybe 2-3 hours. I was exhausted last night to plan much, and didn’t get up early to plan anything today, but somehow I wasn’t worried about it. (picture: ricksaw transporting people through the high water)

We got up, and it was just pouring rain. We looked outside, and saw trucks lined up on the hill outside the hotel. Finally, we figured out that the town was flooded and the trucks couldn’t go through. I suggested that we go out and see. ZL was hesitant – saying, ‘you may get wet,’ I said, “yeah…so?” I didn’t say it like that exactly, but tried to communicate that it wasn’t a big deal to get wet. So we went out of the hotel.

The policeman who was stationed at the hotel (For my protection) said, “You can’t go out, where were you last night? You were supposed to report – you can’t go anywhere without us, etc, etc.” ZL explained we had dinner at a friend’s home. And how it wasn’t a big deal, etc, etc. He explained we were just going out to see the flooding and then come back – and asked if the police wanted to come with us. The police said no and went to get a higher ranking officer. That one came back and said the same things.

ZL explained what we were going to do, and said ‘if you say we can’t go, we won’t go” The policeman said, “No, we can’t tell you, you can’t go, but some police should go with you.” ZL said, “okay, if you want to come, come.” Then the policeman said, “We don’t have the people to send…” So ZL was like, “okay, then what do you want us to do?” The officer said, “You can go out, but if anything happens, it is not our responsibility.” ZL said, “okay, I will take full responsibility.” Then we left. I said, “That policeman who is stationed at the hotel for my protection – what is he doing? If he was just going to stand at the hotel all day, why doesn’t he come – if they are so concerned?” ZL agreed, and said that they just didn’t want to get wet probably… (picture ZL and me in the middle of the road/river)

Anyway, we went down the hill, and quickly were in knee deep water. Zar Lawm asked many times, ‘should we go back?”
I said, “And sit at the hotel all day long? We should go to your friend’s homes and see if they are okay.”
He said, “but it’s far…”
I said, ‘I’m fine.’
So we pressed on. We were in almost waist deep water, crossing bridges that were now the river. We saw a fence come down, people playing in the water, people fishing, homes that were completely covered in water – well the roof was showing, people gathered in shops trying to wait it out, but the water was only increasing. There were bicycle rickshaws making a lot of money since they are the only mode of transportation that could go down the street. Oh, and boats – but we didn’t see any of those…We did see a few kids in a tire tube floating around. The road had become part of the river - there was no distinction between it - the whole town was a few feet under water. And yet, in general, it seemed people were in fairly good spirits.

Finally, we reached the home of the local worker. His home had been flooded. The water had gone down when we got there, but it was actually flooded about 2 feet of water into his house. You could see the marks on his house where the water had been. They had moved the plastic flooring outside- it was hanging on a tree that functioned as a clothes line. They had put their table and chairs up, and their refrigerator. They said it was the first time the water had ever come that far. They said once, it came up before, but not inside their house. The water had gone down when we arrived, but actually while we were there (maybe 15 minutes), it rose again about 2 inches…they said it rises and lowers continually.. It was amazing to think we had just eaten dinner there the night before. (picture: a man tries to save his most valuable possession - his tv!)

After visiting them, we went to another home of a worker who had broken is leg a few months ago. They had moved in a home a little further from their own home, because their own home was made a mud, and had cracked from the water. It was still standing, but there was no telling how long it would still stand.

We then went to one of the local leaders homes. His home is built up a bit higher, and so his home was still okay. He had maybe 10 people staying with him who had either lost their homes, or whose homes were under water at the moment. We decided we would leave- since if we stayed, the local leader would feel obligated to serve us lunch. We got in a bicycle rickshaw and went back. The water was even higher than when we came, and even though we were in the bicycle rickshaw, our feet still got wet! The drivers of the bicycle rickshaws actually get off and walk the bike through the waist deep water – putting the rickshaw behind them.

We got back to the hotel, got dry clothes and then had lunch. The whole time I felt so sad for those who we had seen, whose homes were either in pretty bad shape, or even perhaps ruined from the water. I wanted to do something for them, I said I wished we could take food to them…but there wasn’t much we could do…

At the hotel, we played a game, and then ZL showed me pictures of different places. He showed me pictures of the village we were supposed to visit today. He also showed a picture of the church building that was burnt down– it was burn down by Buddhist group who doesn’t want churches/Christians there – that happened last year.

I slept maybe ½ hour. Then the local worker, and the local leader came to the hotel! They had come by walking and rickshaw- through the water. They said after we had left, the water had gotten worse – coming in his house even more than during the night, but now it had gone down a lot. They invited us for dinner, and said, ‘why did you leave so quickly today, you didn’t even eat lunch!!’ ZL explained how we thought about staying for lunch, but due to the situation, felt it was better that we didn’t. He then explained how the police were being kind-of strict and since the weather was unpredictable, we had already told the hotel we would stay for dinner, and since almost all of our clothes were already soaked, maybe we shouldn’t go to dinner. They pressed, but finally said okay.

We talked for a while, and then they left. We ate dinner, and then went to bed.

Friday, September 7, 2007

By boat, rickshaw and by motorcycle....

(Note – since we arrived in Kha, it hasn’t stopped raining…)

This morning, we ate breakfast (omelet, vegetables, chapatti) and then left via jeep to go to two villages. We waited almost ½ hour at the police station while they decided if they would come or not. They demanded that we provide a car for the, ZL said “no.” Finally, they decided to come, in spite of the fact we would not provide a car for them. Four of them came to the first village… (at the end of the day, we ended up paying them 500 taka ~ $10.00 for spending the day ‘protecting’ us)

We got there, or at least to a small town close to it. A villager met us on the road and said, “The water is too high, you can’t go their by foot – the river has come up too high.” So, we asked about a boat- and sure enough there was a boat available. We clambered in, in spite of the mud and such…the four policemen also came with us. What a sight. They had guns too. Boy did I ever feel protected (?). We road in the boat maybe 15 minutes. On the way, I saw little islands that had been formed from the water rising. I saw some homes that had been deserted because of the high water. When we finally arrived, we got out and walked on a very muddy/slippery path to the village ‘church.’ I decided to take my flip flops off since it was easier to walk in bare feet. I felt like a true national of this country! :) ZL was concerned and kept saying we should get me some shoes – I said, “No, I wouldn’t wear any shoes- bare foot was so much better – I felt much more surefooted that way…and the ground was just mud, grass- it was pretty soft.

The building we were in was a bamboo building with mud floor. They had a large bowl with another small bowl inside of it for me to use to wash my feet off. We did the formalities of greetings and such. I then started in with the storying. The group was a mix of men/women and children. It was hard to know exactly what to do. It was also hard to hear people. It was raining the whole time and sometimes it would rain extremely hard. We were inside, but the roof of the church and most houses here is sheet metal- and thus when it rains, it is very loud. Anyway, it worked out alright. As I wondered so many times in the beginning of my time in India, I also wondered, “how did I get here again?”

(picture - a local leader telling his group a story!)

I had them read the David and Goliath story first from the Book in the national language. Then I explained how this is a long story, and sometimes we don’t have a lot of time to share a story with someone. I explained how it also had some hard names in it. I explained how having too many names in a story makes it harder to understand. I told them I would now tell them the story – potentially leaving some things out, but trying to make it easier to remember. They should pay close attention to what things I may leave out. After, I told them the story, I asked them to retell it back to me. They retold it back – pretty well. I told them that if we had time, I would go around and have each one of them, individually retell the story – but since we didn’t have time, we wouldn’t do that today.

I then did the 5 questions with them. Oh yeah, people from other homes – that had become their own “islands” due to the flooding also came – they came swimming through the water – holding their clothes on their head. When they arrived, they stood for 10 minutes to dry off, shivering since there is of course, no sun these days. Then putting on their basically wet clothes, they came in and sat down. (it was boys and men who came – I didn’t see any women swim). I wish I had gotten a picture of that, but wasn’t able to. The police were also standing close by during the whole thing – which was a little strange, but all well.

After the David and Goliath story – I spoke a little bit about storying and things to include, things to maybe not include, and how stories could be more effective/natural than perhaps preaching! :) They said they liked the story, and wanted to hear another one. I gave them an assignment. I told them the reference for the Demons story and told them to craft the story themselves.

I said, “Remember:

1) you want the story to be easy to remember [short/don’t use hard names/etc],

2) you want to make sure the main point is included [i.e. jesus healed the man],

3) if possible, see if you can connect it in any way with Cha culture.

We broke into two groups. Afterwards, they shared their ‘stories.’ The first group did alright. He forgot the end of the story – but I think it was because we were running out of time, and so had to cut their preparation time a little short. The second group told some of the story, but also threw in a little preaching/summarizing of things we can learn. I praised both of them.

I also told them how they can use a story like this to learn more about the culture. They can easily ask questions like, “Do you have spirits in your culture? Are they good? Are the bad? Where do they come from? How do they get inside a person, how do they get outside a person…?
I then explained how it’s important when we tell a story, to just tell the story. It’s very important to then get the feedback or opinions of our friends/the listener. If we do all the talking, there is nothing for that person to contribute. They may feel embarrassed, or shy since you have already told them all the answers. It is also not much help for us if we tell what we know, but don’t listen to what they have to say. They may have some great insight, we didn’t think of before. We want to ask their opinions about different parts in the story. It can help us see if they really understand or not.

I told them how every time we tell a story, we can get better and better. I said even my story I told today can still be made better.

Then I did the formalities of closing – saying how happy I was to see them, thankful I was to be here etc. I said that I have been to a few places in the world, and my favorite places are villages like this one. I said I was sorry I couldn’t speak their language. I said I may not see you again in this world, but I will see you in Heaven, and I look forward to being able to speak with you directly (i.e. not through a translator) then, and look forward to worshipping God together there. It was encouraging to think I will see some of them again there.

We then went back down the muddy path, got into the boat, and went back to the ‘mainland.’ The police switched with some other police who then accompanied us to the next village. This wasn’t as far from the road as the first one. It was raining cats and dogs and even though we didn’t have far to walk, we were completely soaked by the time we got there. We met in a concrete building… We ate lunch there, and then I did the Shadrach story with them, and the 5 questions. There were maybe 5 women, 10 men, 3-4 kids. I didn’t do as much training with them, but did still mention the importance of retelling, being able to remember a story, and getting the feedback from our listeners…

About 10 minutes into the ‘program’ – the police officer came and said there was word that there was a landslide- and we should probably leave soon. We said okay, and I tried to ‘wrap things up’ – but it was still about 45 minutes before we left.

After we finally left, we weren't on the road long until we got to a landslide. It was pretty big, and would probably take 3-4 hours to clean up. We got out and walked across it. I’m kicking myself for not taking any pictures – but somehow I felt strange taking a picture of something that was somewhat of a calamity for them. Fortunately, there was a police truck on the other side, and they agreed to take us back to the hotel.

We changed clothes, and rested for maybe 1 hour. Then we got ready to go to dinner. It was still raining. ZL and I got on one motorbike. I pulled my skirt up so my legs were showing from the knees down. But since it was dark, no one would really notice. I held an umbrella and we set out. Within about 2 minutes we were pretty wet. Then, the motorcycle died – there was no more gas. We got off, in complete dark and completely pouring down rain and walked to where we thought there was some gas. The local leader and his friend were behind us (in a bicycle rickshaw) so we knew they would be coming eventually. ZL felt bad about the situation, but I told him I was completely fine. I said, “my father has said before – it’s just rain, a little water won’t hurt anything…” He laughed and I think that helped him to realize I really didn’t care about getting wet.

Anyway, we got to the place we thought there was gas, but there wasn’t. There was one bicycle rickshaw – otherwise, there was no one around. Soon the local leader and his friend came. They took the motorbike and we got in a rickshaw. We finally arrived at the home of the the Leader in the town. We asked for “loongis” – or a skirt type thing. It was nice to have something dry to put on.

We then ate dinner – I was again surrounded by men – though the TR workers wife was nearby. I am not saying this because I felt scared- but only because it’s so different from India and most South Asian cultures. I talked to ZL about it more later and tried to find out if it was just the culture here, or because I was a guest, or was it that Riverland people just eat together. He said it was more the culture of believers to eat together, and that I was a guest.

After dinner, the TR worker showed me the back room of his house – it’s their kitchen. The river had flooded up to about 2-3 inches below their kitchen. He said, “I’m a little worried that the water might come in…It almost came in once before, but the rain doesn’t seem to be stopping, so I’m not sure if it will stop this time from coming in…:”

ZL, and his friend (who had come with us from Ban town) and I got on the motorbike – three people! That was exciting. It was still raining- thought not very hard. We didn’t used the umbrella on the motorbike this time.

We got back to the hotel, and went to bed!

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Today I travelled Ban town Kha town with ZL and another Leader.

We left Ban town 1at 10am, arrived Kha 4:30 – trip not as long as expected, which was nice. We ate some amazing food in Chit city – it was expensive, but really good.

We went through 4 police check points. They all knew my name and knew I was coming. It went well. At the last place, they sent a jeep to accompany us to the hotel. They also came inside the hotel. 5 armed soldiers – with big, big guns. Yeah, I felt strange. They are doing it for my protection. I need not be afraid of them- they are on my side. But still, somehow it was a little nerve wracking…I tried not to notice. I am thinking it might be good preparation for Dry Land. We’ll see.

Anyway one of the local leaders was there, along with one of the Book Workers for the Cha people. It was really encouraging to meet both of them. They had a big beautiful thing of flowers to welcome me. Then we went to our rooms- which were basic, but very nice. I was shocked at how nice everything was. We chose non A/C rooms to save some money, but the weather here is a bit cooler than Ban town, so it’s not a problem. And it’s monsoon, so that makes it a bit cooler too.

After about ½ hour, ZL came to my room with the pastor and TR worker, and we talked about the program for the next few days – starting with that evening. ZL said, “If you are tired, we don’t have to go out…but if you want, one of the leaders can call some of the people and we can have a meeting and you can share a story if you want…”

We also talked about the plan for tomorrow – apparently, we may go by boat somewhere? It kind-of depends on the weather. We’ll see. Wherever we go, they said again there would be a group of people that I could share stories with/train. Whatever that means, we’ll find out. :)

After our discussion, I planned out a few ideas for that evening and for the next day. Within 20 minutes ZL was back and wanted to show me a video of a singing group from north India. It was interesting to watch.

We then left (by motorbike- I think there were 3-4 motorbikes?) to go to the local leader’s house. There were about 12 people there – maybe 7-8 men, the rest women. We sang (or rather they sang) a praise song in the national language. Then ZL said some stuff. Then the local leader said some stuff – most about how thankful and appreciative they were that I was there, and how they knew God was going to teach them and bless them through me... I then shared the calling of the disciples story. I chose it since it was a little shorter than the others. They did okay with the retelling. The discussion also went fairly well- they were more willing to speak up than the kids were. I encouraged the women to talk- saying I needed them to make me feel comfortable among all these men! They tried, but it was hard. Later ZL told me this kind of open discussion was new for them. He said it was good- but it wasn’t easy for them to speak out because they weren’t used to that kind of discussion.

We actually covered a lot of things within the disciples story itself.
We talked about the importance of retelling – what’s the point of discussing something you can’t remember/don’t understand?
I explained how a story needs to be:
1) accurate – from the Book(do not add anything…)
2) easy to remember
3) it’s important t check if the story connects, or doesn’t connect with the culture. Example – if this culture worships fish – it might not be good to start with this story, since all those fish die!

One person asked, “Why did Jesus call Peter, why not the rest of the crowd…” ZL gave one answer. Then I said, “If your friend asks this same question, I would give one of two responses…
1) Turn the question back on that person – why do you think he did that?”
2) Say, “Well, you know what – I’ve got more stories about Peter, do you want to hear them?”

After the “program” –(which was about 1 hour I think- ending at 8:30?), we went to another local leader’s house and ate dinner. It actually took a while, and we didn’t eat until 9:30. We didn’t get back to the hotel til about 10:30. I then discovered two very large cockroaches in my room. I wasn’t sure what to do, but finally decided they were too fast to catch and would be really gross to squash. So, I decided to just leave them and go to bed. I turned off all the lights, but at 4am, I woke up and one of my lights was on. I thought for about 5 seconds, “was someone in my room, and I didn’t know it?” But then I remembered I was in South Asia- and the more likely event was that the electricity just did something weird and somehow the light was on when previously it had been off. I don’t know for sure – it was a bit strange.

I also had a dream in which I was speaking national language of Riverland. I was using some Hindi, but kept saying, “donobad di” – which I’ve heard a lot in the prayers – it means something along the lines of ‘we thank you.’ Interesting dream.

I did find out about the ‘lake of fire’ term the girl used in the Shadrach story. ZL had not used that in his translation when he translated my English into the national langauge– he had just said a ‘big fire.’ The girl chose those words from her own mind- and Zar Lawm said that phrase is also used in the Bam language Book. It is not used to indicate Hell at all - it is used to describe a big/intense fire. I asked him if that phrase could be used to describe other things in large quantities like, ‘a lake of trees,’ or ‘a lake of wind’ – he said he never heard it used for anything else, but he wasn’t completely sure. Interesting.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"The Comfort Room"

Today, Helen and I walked to the market – today (Wednesday) is the day when many villagers come in from the village to sell their things in the town. And it is a day when there are more women shopkeepers than men, so it’s nice to shop on this day. We passed fish sellers, crab sellers, as well as so many different kinds of green plant sellers (for eating). I took a few pictures – but wish I had taken more. I bought a skirt – Helen will stitch it for me. I hope to wear it when we go to Kha town maybe. My Indian suits are alright, but hotter than their typical dress- and so far, I’ve only seen maybe 3 girls wearing suits like mine. The rest are wearing ths long skit with a t-shirt. And, my Indian suits are long sleeve, which is dreadfully hot – I thought since I was coming to a Muslim country, I should dress more Muslim. But that is not the case…short sleeve shirts are perfectly fine here. Tomorrow, I hope to wear a purple short sleeve shirt with a red printed skirt I got. I should fit right in!

The other day I gave KL and ZL some bracelet and earring sets that Chrisalyn made. Today, I gave Helen some soap, some lotion and bracelets and pins for all the girls in their house- I think there are 6 right now (3 sisters, 2 neices, and 1 cousin).

I’m still feeling fine physically. My head doesn’t hurt as much, and my stomach is fine. I’m still really tired- and I’m sleeping almost 9-10 hours each night – but otherwise, feel fine. Even the heat doesn’t seem as intense as it was when I first got here- perhaps I’m getting used to it. The yellow striped spider outside the bathroom, and the pigs outside the bathroom are still things I’d prefer not to have to interact with every time I use the CR (comfort room), but all well.

Yeah, have you ever heard of that, “the Comfort Room” – ZL asked me the other day, ‘do you need the CR?” I was like, “What?” He then said Comfort Room. I was still like, “What?” He finally said, ‘well, what do you call it, the bathroom?’ – but the bathroom is for taking bath and shower… Anyway, I’m not sure how a cement area that stinks usually and has spiders and frogs (yeah, there are two in the one here) can be called a comfort room. But it is. Funny.

Today, we went to visit to 'Mar' Village- completely Buddhist group. ZL actually hadn’t been to this village before – he has a few classmates (From 4-5 years ago?) that he knows. He was hoping they will welcome us. And sure enough, they did. It was great because he was able to kind of ‘use’ me to get into the village. He said, "I have this foreigner who wants to see the village…" and they were happy to welcome me, and then happy to see their old classmate as well.

We went to the home of one of the classmates. We stood outside, while he told about 25 kids to leave. We walked in and realized that they had been watching tv. Probably the only tv in the village. They don’t have chairs, table or any kind of furniture- but they have a tv. You can see they have their priorities in order! :) We had coke and biscuits. Then we walked around the village. It was a bit different from the other villages. There were pigs, chickens, people – all living together. They have little gates outside their homes to keep the pigs out- I think it works most of the time. But still, from the other villages there were definitely more animals roaming around – and their droppings. But the people smiled a little more here. It also just seemed like a more ‘fun/exciting’ place. The trees covered the village, and gave a good amount of shade (even though it was still raining a bit, there was no sun at all). I felt like it would be so enjoyable to live in this village – I didn’t exactly feel that way in the other villages…

I asked about clean water. They said they have a ‘deep well’ – which is where they get their water.

They invited us to see their temple (Buddhist worship place – I’m not sure the correct term – pagoda?). We went in – it was similar to Hindu temple in that there were lights on around Bhudha’s head, and there were statues of bhudha in a class cage. There was a monk in a red robe sitting to the right, on a mat. ZL's two friends knelt down and worshipped in front of the budha, and then did the same in front of the monk. Then they invited us to come and sit with the monk. We accepted. There were a few other people in the temple – some were sleeping.

We had a good discussion with the monk. I took the opportunity to learn some stuff about Budhism. I tried to demonstrate to ZL how to ask cultural questions without being confrontational. I think he was impressed with how direct I could ask questions, but still just asking out of curiosity – not confronting them in any way. The monk actually would answer in Mar language, then ZL's friend would translate into the national language, then ZL would translate into English. I so wished I could just speak the language. We could have covered so much more in that time if we didn’t have to go through two translations!!!

I asked the monk if he could tell us a story – something from Budhism, or their culture. He and ZL's friend talked for a few minutes about what to say/tell. Then he started telling a story about a 16 year old boy. One day, he was in forest, he saw a dead man and started wondering about death. He wondered how he can escape death. He realized that he needs to sacrifice all things. It is not about gaining something or earning something, but only through sacrificing everything that you can escape death (I’m not totally positive on that, may need to clarify with ZL again). [Of course, sacrificing is still ‘doing’ something on our part, and thus still earning/achieving something- right?]. The boy fasted for a long time (5 years?), and then was never seen again. (Also not sure if this is correct ending of the story…).

Apparently, he is remembered or worshipped even today. I’m not sure if that was the start of budhism, or just one of the budhas along the way. I tried to ask, but didn’t get a clear answer – I wonder if there is one.

I then asked about some of the things in the temple area.
- What is that white circular flag? - It is used as a symbol of shade. Since shade is a good thing, we want to show that we are giving Budha shade.
- Are the statues inside the glass cage all the same? – Yes, they are all budha.
- Why do you have so many? Do they represent the same thing, or different gods/budhas? – No, they represent one budha. They were given by different people who have visited the temple.
- Does the budha represent god or a person? – I actually didn’t get a clear answer on this either…but they said, “budha/god is alive, but he cannot talk. There is a story about one who was told that this budha would come but would not talk. He would be alive, but would not talk. If he was able to talk, then he would get a lot of requests for wisdom and other things – so he doesn’t talk. He predicts things.
- If he doesn’t talk, how does he predict things? - Good question – Well, it’s really just a guess, not an exact prediction. For example, if there are ashes near the statue, then that may mean someone’s house will burn down. If there is water near the statue it could mean there will be a flood.
- How do the ashes and water get near the statue – what statue do they come near – this statue in the glass cage? - No, there is one important statue somewhere in Burma – it happens there.
- Then someone tells someone else, who tells someone else, then finally you find out about it? - Yes.
- Please don’t mind my questions, I have lived in India, and have learned things about Hindus, but I don’t know anything about Budhism. It is very interesting – I appreciate you sharing all of this with me. – You should go to our bigger temple, there is someone who has more wisdom there and he can help you.

I think there were a few more questions asked and answered, but I can’t remember them all now. Anyway, I could have stayed for 2 more hours and continued to question. I told ZL later that I was honestly curious about what they believe. He said, “yeah, that was a good question – if Budha can’t speak, how does he predict things…”

I said- most religions, or at least my experience with Hinduism has been that for most things, they have some answer – and many times, it might even make some sense. They are smart people and do things and believe things for a reason or based on things they really feel are true. We have to find out what those things are first before we can counter it at all. I don’t think he realized 1) how important it is to find out their beliefs, or 2) how easy it can be to find out. I told him about how after finding out more about them, then you can choose stories to match things in their culture or help them realize what is true.

We then went to his home. I met his wife, daughter and son. I checked email, and then we all went out to dinner. We had meat again. Oh yeah, I’ve had more meat in this week than I’ve had in the past two years…I don’t think I even ate this much meat in America! Phew!

Anyway, it was an enjoyable evening – though I felt bad I couldn’t really communicate with his wife. I tried to learn a bit of their language, but didn’t get very far since she would just call her husband to come translate. All well. She gave me a handmade bag from her village – Bam tribe.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Visit to school and Village

Visit to School – “Hope of Children’s Home” – about 70 students who attend, I think maybe 30-40 live at the school as well. All the teachers are men – it was a little odd eating lunch with all men.

We did a ‘storying program’ for the kids. I told the story of Shadrach. It was a little long to start with, but the kids really liked it. I tried to get a retelling, but that didn’t go too well – I think they are like Indian kids. They want to be told what to say – and are afraid to try their own ideas. The same was true when I asked the questions like, ‘what did you like in the story’ – I’m sure they would have excelled if I had asked a simple question like, “did the 3 men burn in the fire, or not?”

I explained in the last workshop in "Kahan" in South Asia, how this second type of question can maybe give us an idea of if they understood the story, but it does not give us anything deeper. If they can retell the story, this is the understanding/comprehension check – the questions are to get a little deeper, without being too direct or controversial. Anyway, the kids did okay…but not as well as I had hoped. I’m not sure if it was the setting, the kids, me, the language barrier, the weather or what…anyway, ZL did a good job of translating.

One thing that was interesting was that when the girl was trying to retell the story she said that the King was going to throw them into the ‘lake of fire’ – I have yet to confirm this with Zar Lawm. I’m not sure if it is how he translated what I said to her, or something she herself got from the story and told back to him. Very interesting. In English I would see this as Hell, which it clearly isn’t Hell in the story – but I wonder if a “box of fire” would be similar to a “lake of fire” here? Oh, I love language and culture – I wish I could spend more time to figure it out!!!!

Anyway, after telling the story and the questions, we then acted out the story. The headmaster of the story said the kids weren’t used to drama and may not know what to do- but we went ahead and tried it. They did really well, and I think the drama really helped them understand the story better.

After Shadrach, I told the story of the demon possessed man and how Jesus healed him. This was a slightly shorter story, and they did better with the retelling – possibly also because they knew more what the retelling entailed. We then acted it out, before I asked the questions. They did great with this story, and got even more into it than the first. One half of the class were the “pigs.” :)

Afterwards, I asked the questions again, and they seemed to have a better grasp of the story, and thus able to answer the questions a little better. I then asked one last question, “Will you tell this story to someone else/who will you tell this story to?” They all said yes- and I challenged them to practice both the stories with their classmates, then in a month or 5 months, when their parents come, they can then share the stories with their parents. They all agreed!

The headmaster of the school then spoke to the children for a while. Zar Lawm translated for me. One thing that was really encouraging was, “In the past we have had other teams come to visit us. Sometimes they brought toothbrush or toothpaste, maybe some shampoo. And those things are very good. But they run out. They finished after some time. Today, we have had something very new and different brought to us. We have had something that will never run out. These stories shared by Miss Elizabeth are good for your life here and in Heaven. And it is very good that you can share them with your parents. We thank Miss Elizabeth for coming so far from America and sharing these things with us that we can have forever and will never run out.”

"Muu Village Visit"
Zar Lawm has two national Workers working in a Muu village not far from the school, so we went their to visit it. It was a steep hike down and a bit muddy, but thankfully, I did not slip.

The village was like the other one – bamboo houses, bamboo floors – about 5 feet above the ground. Something interesting is that the men can just spit right through the cracks in the floor. No need to go to the window. I saw 2-3 men find a fairly large crack and just spit right through it! I know that I should be careful if ever I needed to walk under a Muu home!! And, you can just wash your hands right over the floor- well, maybe not in the house, but on the porch area – which is also bamboo floor…the water just seeps through the bamboo. The kitchen area is similar to a Kahani kitchen in that there is like a mud cave where a fire goes- and the pot sits on top. The smoke can fill the room. But unlike the cement houses in the villages in Kahan, these bamboo houses have much better ventilation- and it’s not a smoky. Honestly, I like the bamboo style very much.

We got to the village, and I sat in a house with about 10 men, 3 kids, and a tiny white cat. I felt fine, but in all my time in South Asia, haven’t been surrounded by a group of people that was just men. The Workers wife came in a few times…I wanted so badly to go out and watch her or help her – but only knowing how to say thank-you in the language, and ‘how are you’ in another dialect of the country, that wouldn’t help me a whole lot.

ZL actually said he could only understand a few words in the Muu language. That shocked me. Only about 1 hour from town- the language is so different, even a national can’t understand the language dialect. Wow.

I watched the village life happen outside the door. An old woman without a shirt on came to the door to look in and see the foreigner. She had a child following her around. Oh, and something amazing about this village – the women and kids have huge earings and they put leaves in their ears! I saw one kid without any earings, but just the leaves. I got one picture of a woman with these bell type earings and the leaves. I wanted to take more pictures, but felt a bit shy – and it was probably better I didn't. On the way out of the village, I tried to take one woman’s picture, and she got really scared and starting running away. Later Helen said that some of the people in villages think that if their picture is taken, their spirit will be captured in the picture. I felt bad about scaring her. I asked ZL to find out how to say ‘goodbye’ to her as we walked away…and I said it, but she didn’t look up. Her son/daughter (I’m not sure if it was a boy or girl) was with her. I was able to take some pictures of her before and the mother didn’t mind that. Maybe their spirits get captured only after a certain age? I don’t know.

It is true that a smile says hello in many languages…but I don’t think it says hello in all languages. Or perhaps it’s the combination of being a foreigner and not knowing even a single word of the language…In this Muu village and the Bam village, people would stare, but when I smiled, they generally smiled back. But not everyone. Some people just continued to stare, and even seemed afraid of what might happen next now that we had made eye contact.

This is something I haven’t experienced as much in India. People stare, for sure – but if they are Kahani, I can communicate/break the ice, and before too long we are laughing or at least at ease with each other. Somehow, I didn’t feel the same warm welcoming feeling as I’ve felt in India. But I’m trying so hard to remember our first days….did the people also seem cold, and uncertain before we could communicate with them? When I went to Ganga’s village the first time, I had to go through various people’s homes…did they stare and show some uneasiness with me being there? You know what – I think they did. They weren’t sure who I was, what I was doing, or if I could speak the language or not. And in the beginning, I couldn’t speak very much. It took a while to warm up...

I wonder if it would be possible to live in one of the villages I visited so far. I don't know what's ahead, but I’m just trying to picture how life would work, how a foreigner would affect things, and how long it would take for the villages kids and people to warm up – and how long it would take to learn the language!!!

It’s a good reminder that my 2 years in India didn’t just start off easy. It took time, relationships take time. Language takes time. It’s good to remember His faithfulness during my time in India – and ask Him in advance to be faithful in the place He may call me to next.

Oh yeah, the police again talked with Zar Lawm about the program for today. He told them. They said they wouldn’t come, but to inform them when we got back. Everything went well, though we did have to cross two more police check points. At one, we had to sit, and wait for some important commander to come and ask me some questions.

At one point he said, “How many times you will stay in Bangladesh?” I tried not to insult his English, but I just couldn’t figure out what he was trying to ask…did he want to know "How many times I will come back in the future?" Or, "how many times I had come…?" Finally Zar Lawm confirmed what he was asking – it was, “How long will you stay in Bangladesh.” Anyway, he was fairly friendly as were the other police guys at the other post.

Monday, September 3, 2007

"Do you want us to gather the people?"

Discussion with KL and ZL (two local Leaders): “What do you want to do there – do you want us to gather the people?”

I replied, "I can tell a story…"

Although I don't really feel God drawing me here, I am trying to ask questions that would help me make decisions in the future should He call me here. Since I really don’t know what He wants, it’s good I’m here, it’s good I’m seeing this place and these people. KL said ESL would be popular here – though I’m not sure. English is less useful here than it is in India. In the villages I was in, in India, people had no desire, no need, to learn English.

I thought about trying to just say, “I’m just here to see the place/people, I don’t need to do anything” – and I did say that, but then I thought, ‘You know what, I may never be back here and wouldn’t it be great, if I could at least share one story with them, and do the questions- like a mini-storying training in just 20 minutes or less.’ So then I said, “I can share a story if you want…” I think they liked this idea, and thought of a few situations/villages where it should work. Of course, they will have to translate, which will make it all the more interesting…but all well- what else can I do at this point?

NGO Office visit: I visited the NGO (Non-Government Organization) these guys are with today. They have permission from the government to do just about whatever they want –including inviting foreigners in to help out.

I also had a discussion with ZL about languages and people in the area... Generally, he said the "Muu" people have their own religion and even own religious script, though they can’t read it. They are the least reached among the Hill tracks people, and the least literate. He said storying may work well among those people…

He showed me pictures of various tribes – some villages the women weren’t wearing clothing on the top half of their body. He said most are more modest now and wear clothing. The pictures were really good – like post cards almost.

Motorbike around Ban town. ZL took me around for about 5-10 minutes on his motorbike- around the town. It is small, with narrow streets between thatched houses/fences. Some houses have steel/metal doors/gates. There are some roadside shops. Bicycle rickshaws pedal through mud puddles along with pigs, dogs, people, few cows, children, old folks. The street is literally about 15 feet wide. It’s almost like you’re in a crowded city, except it’s a little town- not trucks or cars, just bicycles and motorbikes. Instead of high rises on each side of the street, there are bamboo walls…

Harvest Center Visit - raining, putting on plastic type sweat suits that are water proof. Putting on over top of Indian suit- that was interesting. Road slippery, wet, muddy. Like dirt-biking. Scenery is beautiful. Green, green, green. Trees, bushes, grass – green, green, green. Rivers, I crossed more bridges in ½ hour than I’ve ever crossed in my life.

The Harvest Center was a big building – not much to look at – but encouraging to hear about the training they do there. It would be a perfect environment to do a storying training. It is situated on the top of a hill with beautiful green fields surrounding it. They do a variety of training there.

Visit to Bam Village – bamboo thatched roofs, but also bamboo thatched floors – up on sticks maybe 3-5 feet from ground. Eating guava fresh from tree. Eating corn on the cob – absolutely the best corn on the cob I have ever had in my life – kernels are bigger than I’ve ever seen, very easy to eat, very tasy. Having chai twice, then 7-Up on the way back. Buying blanket and miniature basket that women put on their back to carry- wood, straw, grass, etc. Most the Bam people are believers. There was even a Worship building in one of the villages!

Oh, the police did call KL this morning and asked what our program was for the day. KL told him. The police said, “will you provide a van for the police to accompany you” – KL said, “We will be going by motorbike…so there is no need for us to rent a van. But if you want to come, you’re welcome to come – you’ll have to provide your own transportation.” So, they decided not to come.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Day 1 - Travelling to 'Ban' town

I arrived in Riverland, and took a bus for 6 hours from the capitol city to 'Chit' city where I met a local Leader. From there, we travelled about 3 more hours by taxi to 'Ban' town.

Police Checkpoint: Of course we had to go through some police checkpoints along the way, since foreigners aren't usually allowed in these areas. At the first one, we got out of car, I signed my name, gave my passport number visa number, date of entry, sponsoring organization on three different sheets. KL (The national worker who was with me) had taken permission previously, but still there seemed to be some hassle. Amazingly, there was actually a paper in that little hut there on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere that had my name and passport number on it that had somehow gotten there prior to us arriving there – impressive!

There were two guards, but quickly there were about 4-5 other men who came for the show. There was a large gun chained to the hut. Many busses passed by and were checked in about 5 minutes. But we waited and waited. Apparently, they (The guards) had to check with someone higher up and wait for his approval for us to continue on. We waited about 45 minutes- in the dark with mosquitoes biting.

The guards asked KL, “what kind of food does she eat? Does she eat rice/daal like we do?” Amazingly, I could actually understand that this is what they were asking- although their language is very different from Kahani/Hindi. The asked what kind of teacher I was, and where.

When I said ‘Delaware’ they were like, “what?” And tried 4-5 times to pronounce the name. Later, I learned Delaware is similar to a Muslim name, so they weren’t sure if my school in America was named after a Mmuslim or not. All in all, they were fairly nice to us. They told us we needed to go to the police station when we got to town. KL said he hadn’t done this before and wanted to know why it was necessary. They said that due to another kidnapping about 20 days earlier in another district, this was the new rule.

Police Station: We went to the police station, and the head guy said, “we need to escort you wherever you want to go.” KL wasn’t so sure about this and said maybe it wasn’t necessary. The man said, in English, “No, this is my district, and if she is in my district, then she is my responsibility, her safety is my responsibility- I will send forces with you.” He then said we needed to hire a van to take the ‘forces’ (police) with us. KL said we would be going by motorbike and we didn’t have money to pay for a van just for the police. The police said that was fine, they would take care of it then. We will see if indeed they do come.

House: The house where I am staying at the moment in Ban town, is concrete with thatched roofs, and then sheet metal on top of that. Their kitchen is are wooden slabs (you can see the ground below it). It is held up with wooden poles, and while I was in it, I felt once in a while like I might just fall right through. The water is held in a blank tank, but also in a concrete water holding thing. There is a ½ foot concrete trench around the house for water to flow through. It’s nice you can brush your teeth anywhere outside the house and at any point you have the sink to spit in (i.e. the trench). They said they boil the water for drinking- so that’s good. But still bathing and brushing teeth with this other rain water or whatever it is makes me wonder just how clean stuff is here. But then again, our tanks in "Kahan" have about 1 inch of mud on the bottom, so how clean is that? At least I can see the bottom of this concrete tank!

Three times Helen (the daughter of the family here who can speak English) has asked if I want to bath. I’ve decided in spite of the sweat, I think I’ll wait one day. However, I think it’s pretty gross to them that I haven’t bathed since I got there last night. All well, we’ll see. Maybe tonight I’ll bathe. Though once in Almora, a phone call came at night, and I missed it. Later, I called the person back, and told them I had been taking a bath. They were like “what? At this time of day?” – in other words, “are you crazy, why in the world would you ever take a bath after 7pm?” Anyway, Helen showed me I can bath inside (which is actually still outside- though surrounded with concrete wall, and some kind of roof), or outside, right next to the house. It think I’ll choose the inside option.

Mosquito net: KL asked if I had malaria medicine. I said I did in India, but it had expired and I never had needed it there. He was like, “you’ll probably be okay.” I said, “do I need it?” He said, “no, probably not…” He said we could get some in Ban town if necessary, but since I’d use a mosquito net at night it should be fine. So, my bed has a mosquito net on it…pretty nice…it’s like a see-through cave. It hinders the air from the fan a bit, but all well.

The bed is somewhat soft. I slept amazingly well…woke up at 5:30, went to the bathroom (which is like a little trek through the jungle- and there is a yellow-stripped spider outside the door ), but otherwise, it is concrete, there is water available, and it doesn’t stink too bad. I then went back to sleep and slept until about 8. I also slept for a few hours on the bus too. I don’t know why, but I feel extremely tired these days. I think it is the heat, and perhaps trying to understand a language, that has about 2 words similar to Hindi/Kahani, but otherwise is completely different. I keep telling myself, “stop straining yourself, you don’t need to understand…” – but it’s hard. I just want to learn it today, so I can communicate and understand. I got some phrases from Helen, so that’s been fun.

Breakfast: omelet and chapatti (moida flour). Their chapattis are made from a different type of flour. It’s more like a flour tortilla than a chapatti. But very good, very soft. I liked it a lot. So far, I’ve not felt sick…occasionally my head hurts, I feel like I’m a bit dehydrated…

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Few phrases... (Journal Entry)

Saturday, September 1, 07

Capitol City of Riverland
- lots of people, bicycle rickshaws, hot, sweat, Muriel’s house: a safe refuge with A/C.