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Thursday, October 31, 2013

India: Photo Edition

Some photos from our visit to Pune yesterday along with a brief description of today's adventures.
Doug outside of the headquarters of the Hindustani Covenant Church
Gotta love the Dala horse next to the Indian statue!
Inside of St Andrews Covenant Church.  
In the pulpit at St. Andrews church.
The home where girls brought out of sex trafficking are brought for recovery and rehab.
Along with gaining help recovering physically and emotionally from their dark life in the sex trade, the girls are now given new skills, either baking bread (here, bread used for communion) or learning to sew.  Another motto of the HCC is soap, soup, salvation.  They provide a place to get clean, food to eat and a chance to come to know Christ,  I love the philosophy.

This morning we visited a rehabilitation clinic for people with leprosy.  Quite a wonderful work which not only heals these people from this disease but gives them a craft with which they can earn some money but more importantly, feel good about who they are once again.  The goods were beautiful.  We all enjoyed making some small purchases.
At the leprosy rehabilitation center where the people with leprosy get cured and learn to weave so that they can earn money and have pride in their skill.  Leprosy is 100% curable but the stigma associated with it is still very high.

The looms are beautiful and the products lovely.

This is the view of the weaver day after day.

They were so pleased to see us and us to see them, hard at work doing their beautiful handcraft.

The equipment is old style but quite effective.

Doug with some of the youth at the camp.

The Beautiful grounds of the youth camp.

The gorgeous landscape up in the hills.

Youth camp facilities.
Getting ready to worship at the youth camp.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Long But Good Day

--We left the hotel at 7.30 a.m. for a 2.5 hour bus ride to Pune, where the headquarters of the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) are located and many amazing ministry sites.
--20 minutes into our journey, the bus suspension broke.  Luckily, no one was injured.  We pulled over to the side of the road and waited while parts were brought in on an auto rickshaw and the bus was eventually fixed.
--2 hours beyond our expected arrival time, we finally arrived at the HCC headquarters.  Had a wonderful briefing on their amazing work in India and ate a delicious lunch of spiced rice and vegetables.
--Visited a house where girls who are rescued out of the prostitution slave trade are brought for rehab.  Heard about how this has unfolded.  Girls are taught to bake and sew as a means to pursue a new life.
--Visited an underground area where much prostitution takes place.  Met a woman who got out of the trade and now spends her time helping others try to do the same.
--Visited a transgendered person's apartment.  Met a transgendered woman who has been instrumental in getting this population recognized as human beings and fighting for their rights.
--Took a 3 hour bus ride back to Panvel, arriving at 10.30 p.m.  The dense traffic is overwhelming...where are all these people going at all hours of the day and night?
--I ended up with some allergy issues due to the dust and pollution.  Also got bit by something...fleas, mosquitos??  Not sure.  Took an allergy pill.  Now I need to sleep.
--That was my day.  How was yours?

(I am very tired tonight so this is brief without photos, just to keep you in the loop of what we've been up to.  It was an amazing day, filled with images and experiences that will take some time to fully sort out.  The church here is doing amazing things.  We need to learn from them.  One of their mottos is Pray, Provide, Participate.  Sounds pretty good to me.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Memorable Day in India

This is a day I will never forget. We took off for the tribal village where the Panvel church, in relationship to Immanuel Church is building a community center. The goals will be to provide regular medical care, job and skills training and educational opportunities that otherwise would not exist for this population.  I'm learning a lot about the different aspects of Indian society.  There are slums and there are tribal villages where those who are very poor find their dwelling.  The tribal areas do not receive support from the government and that is one reason why the church here is
seeking to bring hope through service.
We had three different things going on today.  A children's program that included games, crafts, and singing.  A meal was being cooked by the villagers to share with all.  And we were able to set up a mobile clinic where a medical Dr. and an optometrist were present.  One member of our team is a nurse and she helped the Dr. while another team member took copious notes, wrote down diagnoses and made notes about the medicines that were needed. 
 I was mainly located with the children's program and was deeply impressed by our team and the children.  The kids were shy at first but after we began singing and engaging them, it did not take them a long time to warm up!  Their joy was contagious and delightful.  They loved the crafts and worked with great care on their dolls made from toilet paper tubes!  They were so proud of the end result!  They were also particularly delighted with the game time.  They loved the chasing game that our team explained to them.  The teenage boys on the team did an outstanding job playing with the kids.  The singing was a delight.  They repeated the words very well and enjoyed the actions.  We are especially grateful to our translators.  It is very hard to not speak their language but smiles do communicate a lot!  They loved saying hello and bye bye.  
The day ended with the shared lunch.  The kids ate a lot and I think it may have the most they have had to eat in quite some time.  We also handed out hygiene bags to each woman, explaining how to use some basic tools for better health.  The kids received a gift bag as well with crayons, pencils, some coloring books, eraser and pencil sharpener.  Their joy and gratitude were simply humbly.I love this photo of this little boy, who sat nearby, taking it all in.
The day ended in a totally different way!  It just so happens that the major outdoor studio sets for Bollywood films is very close to this tribal village!  The pastor of the Panvel Church has developed a nice relationship with the owner of the studios and they can bring people by to have a look at any time!  We had a good time wandering around the gorgeous grounds and looking at the funny building sets.  It just so happened that they were filming an ad for a major holiday and we got to see a bit of what was happening.  Here I am with one of the actors!
What a day!  Loved being in the village and feeling like we had made a connection with the people living there.  The children's faces are etched in my mind.  I am so thankful for the great hard work of our team and the joy of serving together.  We're halfway through our journey!  I wonder what awaits us!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Post Card From India

Day 1: After arriving to our guest house at 3.00 a.m., we started the first full day in India in Mumbai. Here we are at the Gateway to India. Tough to see all of the people sleeping in the streets. Visited the world's largest laundry.
The heat is more intense than I imagined.

Day 2: Got to Panvel, our home for the next week. Headed out to the village where the community center is being built. Got an introduction to rural life, saw the community center, moved bricks and concrete in diabolical heat.  That night, we went to a pre-wedding celebration where the groom is covered in Turmeric to ensure a pure and clean body for his wedding day.  Guests were invited to join the fun, so we did!

Day 3: Sunday worship with the Panvel Church. Awesome welcome from the community. Each person was given a shawl and garland as a sign of welcome. Incredible singing.  Got teary when they sang How Great Thy Art in Hindi. I was introduced as Rev. Mrs. Jodi Doug, the best way I've ever been introduced! Doug preached. It was a blessed morning.
That night, we participated in the wedding celebration of the couple from the church.  Blistering hot in the robes and stoles. The reception was great with Bollywood style dancing from all ages.
Day 4: The team prepped in the morning for our visit to the Panvel slum.  We put together some gift bags and prepared some crafts for the children. We could not take photos in the slum. Conditions unthinkable. People generous and beautiful. Children awesome...responded to songs and crafts with incredible joy. Kids are kids no matter where you are, no matter what language you speak, but seeing the difficult conditions of their daily life was tough.

I am loving this experience even though it has been challenging. Surprised by how tough the heat and humidity have been for me. I wake up every day to the sound of thick traffic and horns honking. Our team is awesome. So positive, so engaging. No complaining. Many have sore throats from going in and out of heat and air con. Stomach issues minimal. I am so thankful.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To India We Go!

Months of planning, weeks of meeting with the team, preparing, learning, anticipating...and now, we leave tomorrow!  The taxi arrives at 4.15 a.m.  We gather at 5.00 a.m. at the airport to get ready for our 7.00 a.m. flight to Brussels and then onto Mumbai just after 10.00 a.m.  It is a tight connection so I am praying for a smooth transition, including the luggage!  At 10.30 p.m. local time we step into a brand new culture and what I'm sure will be a memorable time together.  Here is our team, less one more teenager.

And here is our proposed itinerary.  I say proposed because it has changed almost weekly since we began our planning!

India Mission Trip Itinerary
PMT: Panvel Mission Team

Thursday October 24
Depart 7.05 for Brussels.
Transfer to our flight to Mumbai. Depart at 10.10.
Arrive in Mumbai at 22.40
Transfer to Methodist Guest House in Mumbai

Friday October 25
Morning PMT meeting
Sightseeing tour of Mumbai
Travel to Panvel and check-in to the Peace Park Hotel Panvel

Saturday October 26
Morning PMT meeting
Travel to the Community Center and paint the Center's Interior
Lunch on site
Return to Hotel get cleaned up
Attend a pre-wedding ritual and dinner.
Evening PMT meeting

Sunday October 27
Worship with the Panvel Church
Pastor Doug preaching
Lunch
Free time
Attend a Christian Indian Wedding/ Dinner included

Monday October 28
Morning PMT Meeting
Mission Work Day (We will break into 2 teams of 10 for the day)
Leper community- Meeting people and learning about people's lives
Slum visit- A children's program for kids in the slum

Tuesday October 29
Morning PMT meeting
Mission Work Day (We will break into 2 teams of 10 for the day)
Leper community- Meeting people and learning about people's lives
Slum visit- A children's program for kids in the slum
Lunch on site
Entire team will visit a Leprosy Rehabilitation Center

Wednesday October 30
Travel to Pune to meet leaders of the Hindustani Covenant Church
Visit to Mission sites of the HCC
Return to Panvel

Thursday October 31
Rest and Relaxation Day- We will travel 1 hour to the Indian Ocean for some swimming, relaxing. We will also take some time to share our thoughts and reflections.

Friday November 1
Morning PMT meeting
Dedication of the Community Center
Mission Work Day at the Community Center
Hygiene training
Medical camp assistance and Landscaping
Return to the Hotel for R&R

Saturday November 2
Morning and Early Afternoon Free time (ie. Shopping in Panvel, perhaps a visit to an Animal Reserve, R&R, and maybe other options)
Afternoon assistance for the set up of the Panvel Church's 25th Anniversary Celebration
Evening Anniversary Celebration at a Church Banquet facility in Panvel

Sunday November 3
Worship with the Panvel Church
Pastor Jodi preaching
Farewell to our Friends of Panvel
Travel to Mumbai
Free Time in the evening
Diwali-the festival of lights in Mumbai
A quick stop at the HCC guest house to freshen up
Arrive at airport by 22.00
Flight Departs at 2.15 am (Monday Nov. 4)
Monday November 4
Arrive in Stockholm at 12.10

The church has invited us to a wedding!  We will celebrate the church's 25th anniversary with them! We will help them complete a community center that Immanuel has been helping them build. They will welcome us with hospitality that I'm sure will blow us away.  It will be a full time, rich with new experiences, meeting Indian Christians, seeing some of the amazing work they do there, and enhancing our world view.  I am mostly excited and only a little nervous as I consider the barrage on my senses that I think India will be.  These past few days have been filled with memories of other mission trips I have led or been on.  I've been pondering my years living in South America, the different cultures, food, smells and sights.  I hope we don't get too sick! All of our anticipation is about to become real.  I am full of gratitude for this opportunity.  I'm thrilled with each person who is going with us and look forward to connecting with the Covenant church in India and particularly the Panvel Congregation.  
I will try to update the blog when I can.  I have no idea what kind of time or internet access we will have.  I am grateful for your prayers as I seek to stay open to all that God wants to do in these coming days.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Accomplished Father, Proud Daughter

Through the years I've been a bit of a "bloggart" (one who brags in one's blog) regarding the accomplishments of my father.  Perhaps when we are small, many children think of their dads as the greatest man on earth, the one who could move mountains, the strongest and the bestest in whatever it is they do all day.  I was no different, but it turns out that I am not the only one who recognizes these virtues in my father.  He has been recognized as one of the premier football coaches in Orange County and indeed the entire southern section of California.  Coach Moon, as he is affectionately called, has won Coach of the Year, has led 2 different teams, from two different schools, to a championship, and played in the championship game 6 times.   His overall career winning percentage is 73%.  Over 17 seasons he went to the play-offs 14 times.  He won 72% of those games and never lost a game in the first round.
                                
But perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that he keeps in touch with countless men who were former players.  It takes a special person to maintain the kind of charisma and character it requires to keep boys from their high school years interested in keeping in touch with their high school football coach more than 35 years down the road.  I am always amazed by the number of boys who keep up with dad.  Several attended my mom's funeral.  Many call on a weekly if not daily basis.
He has been so much more than a coach to these guys...he has been friend, mentor, and even father at times for some.
The Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the governing board for High School athletics has now also decided to recognize his fine achievements.  Last summer we learned that my father is going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the CIF.  This is a great achievement for him and I could not be prouder.  I am deeply inspired that at 80 years old, my dad is still winning awards and still being recognized for the amazing legacy he has left on high school athletics in southern California.  The induction ceremony is taking place next Thursday, 24 October.  I will not be able to be present as I will be on my way to India for a mission trip.  But he will be surrounded that day...by countless former players, the guys who benefited from his great leadership and rode the waves of success with him as members of his teams.  It will be the first time that the two championship teams have gotten together so this holds a special place for my dad.  Of course, the great sadness surrounding this event is that the marvelous and faithful Mrs. Moon will not be present to celebrate this moment.  As excited as my dad felt to be honored and recognized, he was quick to say, "Mom would've loved this."
So I just have to take another opportunity to brag on my dad.  I guess I have always been his biggest cheerleader since the year he won his first championship I was the high school mascot.But then again, he's easy to cheer for. He continues to inspire me in so many different ways.  Congratulations Dad.  You deserve every honor you receive.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Seasonal Change

It is dark now when I wake up in the morning.  It has been several weeks since we've needed to draw the black out curtain in our bedroom.  The restaurants are pulling in their outdoor seating areas and the boat is out of the water.  These are all signs of the change from "summer time" to "winter time" (the manner in which Swedes refer to daylight saving time and daylight standard time).  The official time change in Europe is October 26th, while the US waits another week until Nov. 1.  No matter what you call it, winter time here in Sweden is definitely daylight losing time and it's always a bit tough to brace oneself for the ensuing darkness.
That said, we've had 5 of most remarkable months of weather in my 15 year memory of living in Sweden.  The summer was warm and sunny day after day.  We spent many days on the water, swimming and tanning, and soaking in all of the vitamin D that we could stand!  Autumn has been spectacularly beautiful, the color on the trees vibrantly displayed across the city.  We've had consistently warm temperatures and very little rain so the leaves have all stayed on longer than usual.  I have barely had to wear a sweater let alone a coat and yesterday I was able to wear capri pants, shoes without socks and don no sweater or jacket.  While I'm not a fan of climate change and the negative affects it is having on our globe, I can't deny that I'm happy for a lengthy season of gorgeous, warmer weather.
I do not look forward to having to dress in layers, putting on gloves, a hat, a scarf, and a coat every day, and managing the precarious sidewalks once they are strewn with ice and snow.  But seasonal changes are inevitable and I suppose for this I can be thankful.  Down the road winter will turn into spring again, the world will turn on its axis, Sweden will once again be flooded with daylight, and winter time will once again be changed to summer time.

Keeping the Good in the Good News

Doug and I have always enjoyed being involved in Children's ministry at our churches.  We had a long tradition of doing the skits and leading the music at Vacation Bible School events in our churches back in the US.  We have continued this tradition, in various formats, throughout our 15 years of ministry in Sweden.  Adults and children alike enjoy the music with motions, the crazy skits with a purpose, and watching their pastors act silly while seeking to encourage people to love Jesus.  
Doug and I have always felt that humor and laughter should be part of a church's identity.  There's no doubt in my mind that Jesus enjoyed a good laugh.  And he often modeled how important it was to go where the people are, seek to do things that will attract outsiders, not just appeal to insiders.
We've both been blessed with a zany sense of humor and it's been great fun through the years to put it to use through children's ministry.
This past Saturday, we enjoyed a day retreat with our church.  We gathered from 10.30-16.00 for music, skits, stunts, games, and learning.  While the kids rotated from Bible study, craft and game time, the adults watched a video from a series entitled "Ed's Story" which chronicles the moving journey of a pastor who was diagnosed with ALS.  The conversations were deep and meaningful and it was wonderful to see how the participants engaged one another.  Lunch was catered by a Pakistani family from our church, a delicious highlight to an already full day!
I suppose the highlight of the afternoon was the final skit.  We'd been weaving a story throughout these gatherings about Dusty Dan, the meanest, orneriest man the sleepy town of Dirt Clod had ever seen.  The good news was that there was a new sheriff in town, and he was a she...that is, a lady sheriff, Sheriff Molly McClean, who would surely ride in and save the town while helping Dusty Dan get a new lease on life by realizing how much Jesus and the others loved him.
We had gotten ahold of this hilarious bull-riding costume and Saturday was the day to finally use it!  When I came riding out on the bucking bull to the theme song of Bonanza, loads of laughter erupted!  I concocted a plan to leave a bucket of wet cement at the pass so Dusty Dan would get his foot stuck and we'd finally be able to catch him.  It all worked perfectly and in the end, Dusty Dan realized that Jesus loves him unconditionally and was able to turn his life around!  The sleepy town of Dirt Clod was restored to peace and happiness!
It's all a little campy and of course, a bit melodramatic, but it's also quite effective.  It's good for people to laugh.  It's good for us to act silly.  These times remind us that the gospel, while serious, is also whimsical, that Jesus intends for us to celebrate his love for us and to enjoy life.  Too much of what the church is about is dour and not very uplifting.  We speak of the love of Jesus as being good news...we need to remind ourselves to make sure it really is good for others!
I have often said, the more a community laughs together, the easier it is for us to cry together.  The Sunday service that followed the hilarity of Saturday was very moving.  A man shared his testimony about surviving a plane crash, Doug spoke of his sister's passing 2.5 years ago, the music took us to an entirely different place and I pretty much sat and cried throughout the entire last half of the service.  And it felt good and safe and wonderful.  I was so blessed to consider that on Saturday I helped our congregation to laugh a little harder and hopefully on Sunday, we also opened the door to cry a little harder when necessary as well.  
We have a great church.  I remain the most blessed of all, I think.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Awesome Autumn

Awhile back, actually like 4 months ago, I purchased a Groupon deal for a Segway.  We always thought it would be fun to try this mode of transportation and it was an opportunity to do so without paying the ridiculously high normal price.  I thought we had signed up for 2 Segways, but I'd read the deal wrong and it was only for 1.  Additionally, true to form, we waited until 2 days before the deal expired to book it so were hopeful that the weather would cooperate.  We were lucky.  It was perhaps the most gorgeous day of autumn, with the colors of the city at full peak and warmth that I have never known in a Swedish October.  We worked out the dilemma of only 1 Segway by bringing a bicycle and that was actually quite perfect as it allowed us to get some exercise while zipping around the magical island of Djurgården.

I was positively dazzled by the autumn colors.  Sometimes in our day in day out existence, we forget to enjoy the amazing landscapes Stockholm has to offer us.  We often walk Tanner on the water front but don't take advantage of our close location to Djurgården often enough.  Djurgården was the perfect place to take the Segway however because there is limited road traffic and loads of beautiful trails to explore.  

I just could not get over how beautiful the day was.  I know that I have a reputation for being a "sommar tjej", a summer girl, but truth be told, I love the autumn as well.  And having grown up in California, I never really experienced the changing of the leaves until I moved to Chicago for college.  I am still a bit thrilled and over-awed by the way in which the landscape transforms before our very eyes.  

All afternoon I had this sense that autumn is God's greatest gift...a wonderful way of easing us from the carefree frivolity of summer into the impending chill of winter.  And when you combine the dazzling colors with "Britt sommar" or Indian summer, well, the effect makes you positively giddy.  
As for the Segway itself...it was a blast.  I would like to own two of them to have at our place in the desert.  It was a fantastically fun and efficient way to get around.  Easier than I originally anticipated, it's all about leaning forward and backward to go faster or slower and side to side to turn.  Only once did I feel like I was going to wipe out which led to a small incident with almost letting the Segway get away!  Generally speaking, it was a total blast.
The deal was for an entire day which was too long. We had it for about 4 hours which was really great.  It gave us the chance to explore the island, stop at a lovely café and enjoy an afternoon refreshment and get some good exercise on the bike as well.  It's not all that easy to ride through city traffic so using it as a means of transportation in a crowded area would prove to be a challenge. But for a carefree day of exploring, it was wonderful.  Our little refreshment stop was great too...warm enough to sit outside in the lovely courtyard and enjoy a German Weiss beer...seemed appropriate for October!

I had not been out to Djurgården to explore and enjoy for a very long time.  We often ride down the canal on our boat but during the summer months when Stockholm is beautiful for many different reasons than the fashion show of fall it is currently putting forth.  It was so special to be reminded of this amazing city park, so close to where we live.  I was so grateful all day that we were out there, taking in the sunshine, warmth, and foliage.  We didn't have Tanner with us this time, which was too bad, but a Segway and Tanner do not seem like a good combination!  I will carry with me the depth of the colors of this fantastic autumn day and hope it will bring me inner light as the natural daylight continues to fade.