A couple months after we got married, we went to India. (Not something we'd planned on doing right after becoming newlyweds, but we had no idea at the time that we'd be getting married so soon). We went with a group of 16 of the best of people--young & wise, older & wise, young & hilarious.
We had a whirlwind 24-hour layover in China, and then ended up in Kolkata, where worked at a church called the Grace Community Center. Spent several days teaching computer classes, English classes, and getting to fall in love with and wrangle kids in their daycare or "creche" for children (many of whom would be running wild on the streets while their parents were at work if not for the church's ministry). After a few days of that, we went to the Sundarban Islands, where it feels like you've stepped back a couple thousand years, and where some people have never seen a single person with white skin; We did street evangelism there--preaching, skits, lots of singing (even some beautiful Bengali songs we had learned), a call to faith, and prayed with them and then passed out Bibles & stickers for the mobs of kids at the end.
Having managed not to get bitten by one of the terrifying bugs found in the jungle area hostels we stayed at, and unfortunately/fortunately not having spotted a Bengal tiger, we made it back to the city. Back at the church, we started into the Vacation Bible School--mobs of excited and listening beautiful faces, lots of singing, flannel graphs, skits, crafts, and chaos. Some of the hardest work I've ever done. In between everything, we had some time for exploring Kolkata (the Victoria Memorial, Mother Teresa's house, etc) and plenty of thrilling bus rides.
It's been something hard to explain, like most out-of-country, eye-opening things. Thankfully, Peter made this video, which is a way to show people who've asked "how was it?" a little bit of what it was like. Since "it was amazing! and a lot of things!" isn't the most helpful of explanations. I always feel like, with a trip, you can either tell someone everything, or you can just say "it was good." Most people do not want to hear everything, but "it was good" doesn't exactly do it justice either. Therefore: videos and pictures. It was also the kind of trip where so many completely foreign things were happening all the time, that it's hard to actually process what's happened until later, which I don't think I have quite yet.
It was challenging, it was exhausting, eye-opening, it shocked our cynicism with the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in the people we talked to. I wanted to bring home about 25 kids, and will never forget their joy and generosity--especially Puja, who kept bringing me candy and flowers from her home in the slums. So thankful for an once-in-a-lifetime trip with such an amazing group, and for the opportunity to fellowship with the most hardworking and servant-hearted Christians in the church in Kolkata.