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If you follow us on Facebook, you know that Chris came home from India and entered truck driving school. He planned on supporting us by getting a driving job so that Stacey could stay home, home school the girls and work nearly full time raising support. If you have been watching the updates on Facebook, you may be a little lost. Let's just say NOTHING has gone according to OUR plan!
Chris did successfully complete the training and obtained his CDL with several endorsements as well. However, as he got hired on with different companies, they each found various reasons for things to not work out. The first company required him to wear hearing aids and have an extra pair. When they were reminded of the federal hearing waiver that waived this requirement they decided they weren't ready for a deaf driver. His job with the second company seemed to be going well until the trainer dropped Chris off at a hotel in South Carolina and never returned! We began to question if this was what God wanted for Chris and our family.
After being hired by a third company, the doctor told Chris that he was disqualified because of a heart condition. This turned out not to be true (thankfully), but he still was without a job! Now feeling more like God must have other plans, a fourth opportunity presented itself. A deaf owner/operator that was a lease driver for a different company agreed to take Chris on as a team driver. We prayed and felt a bit like Gideon when Chris said that if this didn't work out, he would then finally realize he was meant to stay home. Not long after orientation with the fourth company, the driver informed Chris as they were on the road that he planned to use Chris' log hours as his own and manipulated the books so they could drive as much as physically (but not legally) possible. Chris told him that he refused to lie and cheat the system and if he did this, then he wouldn't drive for him. The drive continued driving on Chris's hours. Chris reported this to the safety department and found a ride home. The company assured him that they would send a new trainer...but they did not.
Although he felt sure in his heart that God had better plans for him than as an OTR driver away from our family, it still felt discouraging. We are thankful that during all of this, Stacey got a teaching job with an understanding and flexible boss. She understands that our goal is to raise funds so that we can be on the field again by the summer of 2016 and she will be flexible in allowing Stacey time to do this. But still, Chris needed encouragement. While visiting family on Labor Day he got the encouragement and confirmation he needed from an unlikely person- his grandfather. His grandfather was a truck driver for over thirty years. He told Chris that to make it in the trucking industry you need to be willing to lie and cheat. He confessed that, although he wasn't proud, he had done this in order to keep jobs and be successful. He quite simply told Chris, "I think you are meant for ministry more than truck driving."
So now here we are on stateside. We have been home together as a family since June 1st but only really now getting settled into what God wants for our family. Chris is homeschooling the two older girls. The youngest is going to school in the district where Stacey is teaching- the complete opposite of our original plan. Chris has now started to work on video editing and projects that were begun in India and he continues to meet with "Paul" via Skype for Bible study, encouragement and accountability for each other. Soon he will be starting a Bible study with some Deaf men he met through truck driving that live in the area. And we are working together to meet with various individuals and churches in effort to raise the support we need to get back to the field full time.
Please pray for our family as we continue to adjust and live according to God's plan for us each day. We are learning more and more that trusting the Lord with and for our future is a DAILY surrender. We would prefer to be on the field NOW, but for now He has us here. Pray that we will be effective for His kingdom while on stateside and that we will find joy in the new daily routines of balancing family life and support raising.
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The school year at MDIS in Delhi ended a little more abruptly than I would have liked. Electricity in Delhi has always been crazy. In our first flat we had SEVERAL electrical fires. Even in our second flat which was much newer had a few electrical fires and both Chris and I had been seriously jolted by the voltage on more than one occasion. Over the course of our time in Delhi we became quite accustomed to power outages that would last for several minutes to hours at a time. Once spring arrived the outages became daily. We also had experienced our share of small appliances and adaptors burning up. In the classroom I always taught with a plan B and even plan C in mind since internet and electricity both could not be counted on. As summer drew near my class of first graders became use to the lights going out, the internet being down, and the room heating up without AC. So during the second to last week of class when the electricity had gone out frequently, business continued as usual. That is, until some staff members ran through the halls informing us of the "fire"! Smoke quickly filled the hallways and classrooms as all the children exited to the tennis courts. Everyone made it safely out of the building although a handful of the middle/high school students had to be rescued from the terrace via a bamboo ladder. Staff members combatted the 2nd floor fire and successfully put it out long before the fire truck arrived. The electrical box on the 2nd floor had basically burst into flames and sounded like fire crackers had been released. We waited on the tennis court in the hot summer sun for almost three hours as parents came to collect their children. School was canceled for the the rest of the week. The next week was a short week and left little time for the fun end of year activities we had planned, but praise God everyone was safe!
Even more scary, though, is what happened last week. One of the school buses that transports MDIS students (mostly MKs from around the world) was attacked! The bus driver was seriously injured but the staff on board were able to fight the attacker off so that no children were harmed. Obviously MDIS staff are awesome people that would do anything for the students! They love the Lord and serve Him in whatever role He has placed them. We still don't know if the attack was random or if it was targeted. Persecution and violence against Christians has dramatically increased with the new government. Please pr@y for the safety of the staff and students of MDIS and for all believers in India. Our two year term came to an end and we returned to the States in June. But our hearts remain with those we left behind in many ways. Please also pr@y for us as we transition to American life again. We are forever changed by all that we saw, experienced and lived while in Delhi. We look forward to returning to the field where our Father has called us.
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When the earthquake first happened in Nepal, all we knew was that Delhi was experiencing a small tremor. Lillianna's water spilt. Our front door shook like someone was trying to break in. Neighbor's began to exit the buildings. Later we learned of the devastation in Nepal and our hearts sank. Chris quickly remembered the Deaf couple from Nepal that came to our home just a couple of months back. He shared the Gospel with them and our Tibetan friend that introduced us and brought them to our home. I fixed a meal for us all. They left knowing the Truth but not ready to believe. They returned to Nepal.
Chris has been in contact with our friend to find out how this couple is since the earthquake. They have not responded. No one has been able to make contact with them since the first earthquake and then yesterday Delhi shook again. We were at school and students took the "duck and cover" positions. Everything was fine...but Nepal had been hit hard once again. We still have no word from this Deaf Nepali couple. Please be in prayer for them. If they have survived pray that they will receive any help that they may need and for their continued safety. Pray that we will find out what has happened to them. And pray that they will remember the Truth they heard in our home that evening...and believe!
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Everyday of the week we head to school. It has become a familiar and comfortable scene. All around the school are various mosques and famous tombs. They are quite a sight and tourists come from everywhere to see them and M'slims pilgrimage daily to visit them. Just down the road is a train station. Hundreds of people from across India and the Middle East can be seen walking past our school from the train station everyday as they travel to these landmarks. The neighborhood is a mix of high class flats and bungalows and poor and homeless travelers and families living in the streets, near the river, and all around the railroad station. Outside our school gate is a neighborhood chai wala and a couple of local ice cream carts. Come through our gates and our Chr'st'an English speaking school seems like it's hidden worlds away. But unfortunately it isn't hidden and times are changing.
Guards sitting at gates is an extremely familiar site in India. Armed guards are also familiar and everywhere. The guard at school was not armed- until recently. Now we have an armed guard and extra police surveillance. the police here are probably more equivalent to what we think of as military soldiers in the West. They now accompany our guard near the gate. Our gate had slats you could see through. This week for the first time it was enclosed, now providing more privacy and protection.
Now we have just been informed that the church where our oldest daughter attends the city wide youth group is under 24 hour police surveillance. Is this a good thing or cause for alarm? We are not sure. Nothing seems to have changed in either neighborhood but the political climate in India has seen some significant changes for sure!
I have witnessed increasing discrimination between the castes based on perceived political stances including physical abuse of the poor (bike rickshaw driver) by those with more power (traffic police), as an example. The man was beaten with a stick as we stood just feet away!
Please keep us and all of India in your pr@yers! Pr@y for our continued protection in these every changing times!
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We are here to reach the Deaf. But we live in a neighborhood that is hearing. Our neighborhood consists of a few expatriate families but mostly Indians that are Hindu or Sikh. We also live near many refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and maybe other places as well- predominately Muslim. Chris and Alyssa have gotten to know one of our Iranian neighbors well and his story of escape after his father was kidnapped by the radical group in his country. He and his brothers came to India while his mother remains in Iran in hopes that her husband will be released. We pass by so many people everyday that probably have similar stories. We need to pray for them too. I pray that we never get so focused on our "people group" that we lose sight of those others around us that also need to know the love of the Father.
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Our doors are always open to the Deaf. This sometimes begins to feel like we have a continuous revolving door, but that's a good thing. However, for one couple that has recently started coming to learn about the Son, we have had to change that "policy". Amish and his wife, Ritu, come from completely different backgrounds. Their families do not approve of their marriage and they especially don't approve that they are seeking the Truth. Ritu's family is searching for Amish in order to hurt him and take Ritu back. Therefore, they request to meet with us in secret, with no other Deaf present. They also travel to our place separately arriving at different times and then stay for several hours. Persecution in this part of the world is very real and is taken into serious consideration each time someone is seeking the Truth. Amish and Ritu have weighed the costs and have said they choose the Son. Please keep them in your pr@yers as learn and grow and take next steps towards this exciting decision.
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Christmas Sunday was also the birthday of the Sikh guru. All day on our busy market road there were parades, loud music, free food, and more. All for a guru or religious leader that is no longer alive. However, inside our apartment we celebrated the birth of Christ. Six deaf people came to hear the Christmas story. For most, it was the very first time they had heard this. They were very engaged and wanted to learn more. We invited them to come back on Christmas Day. Many seeds were planted.
On Christmas morning they each canceled. One woman's mother had passed away and the others were called into work. So we planned on just a quiet Christmas Day spent at home with just our family.
Then the doorbell rang. We had two surprise visitors. They joined us for lunch. Then two more deaf people arrived-also unexpected. And by dinner time there were six Deaf people here- none of whom had come on Sunday! So Chris again shared the Christmas Story and went further into the Gospel of John, teaching about Jesus, while I cooked enough Christmas dinner for everyone.
So we are rejoicing that the Good News has now been told to 12 deaf people this Christmas, 10 of whom had never heard it before. It was a beautiful picture of God's love as Deaf Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and Christians all gathered in our living room to learn the Story of that first Christmas and God's greatest gift!
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As you may know, I have been searching and praying for a language helper. Women in India are usually very busy taking care of their homes and families, cooking all day, etc. They don't have the time or freedom to help me learn language. The Deaf women I have asked have all felt they were not qualified to help me. I try to explain that I just need someone who can willingly and patiently converse with me in sign. They do not need any credentials other than be a native user of the Indian Sign Language. Still, no luck...so I moved on.
Then I received a call from a friend. She had met a deaf girl that needed help knowing how to care for her baby. I met them at a coffee shop. The deaf girl (Donni) had recently moved from a small village to Delhi to be married. Now she has a new baby and no family to help her or teach her how to care for it. She didn't understand the simplest things such as cradle cap, newborn rash on its cheeks, or why it cried so much. Each time she noticed one of these things, she took the baby to the ER. No interpreters for the Deaf in hospitals here, so each time after the baby was seen, she was sent home with no answers to her questions.
I was able to assure her that her baby was normal. My girls all experienced these same things. Last night my friend and I went to her home for a couple of hours. We saw the baby cry and fuss. As I held the baby I could tell she was a little gassy. I taught her a few things to do with the baby to relieve the tummy from gas. I also taught her how to burp the baby. She was amazed! And finally the baby slept peacefully so we could talk. During those two hours I used and learned quite a bit of Indian Sign Language. She said she would be willing to help me learn ISL. And I, of course, would love to have more opportunities to cuddle that sweet baby of hers! So it may not be official language study, but it is definitely an answer to prayer that we were able to connect.
When I got home I read Titus 2 and then prayed that God would use me in this young lady's life.
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What do badminton, pizza, and a haircut have to do with Deaf ministry here in India? Everything! As you may know, we had been primarily focused on reaching the university students. Now that program has left Delhi and so we asked the Lord to lead us to new groups of Deaf to minister to. We have since met Ravi, a deaf athlete that represents India on the DeafOlympic badminton team. He has shown some interest in learning more about the Word and he has introduced us to many other Deaf that are also interested. When in a market near where the university program used to be, we discovered a pizza shop and a coke stand where 3 Deaf men work. Chris has visited them repeatedly and continues to plant seeds (while having a Coke and a smile)! In the same market we met another Deaf man from Tibet. He works in a beauty salon for women only. So now Stacey has a new place to get her hair done! He has been to our house and we have been able to share the Word with him as well although he is currently a committed Buddist. We pr@y that his heart will be open to hear the truth and the HS will begin to speak to him.
Our Father has brought so many new deaf to us! It is definitely an answer to pr@yer. We recently met two new Deaf people at Starbucks near our house. They are interested in meeting with us again. Another deaf couple had been learning the Word from our friend Charles, but now that he has moved back to his home country, they asked if Chris could continue to teach them. We run into deaf at the mall or at cricket games or on busy market streets. Each time it truly is divine serendipity- nothing that we planned ourselves. Thank you for your pr@yers. Our Father hears them and is at work doing what we could not do ourselves!
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The Joy of Signing is the title of an old sign language dictionary type book. But today it expresses the experience we had as we got to work with a little girl. The little girl, Hani, is 8 years old, but looks to only be about 3 or 4 by her size. She was born prematurely, very malnourished, and HIV positive. She is one of the 7 HIV positive orphan girls cared for by Sarah and her husband. Sarah told me about Hani at church. She doesn't speak. They are not sure how much she can hear. There may be other problems as well.
I am a certified elementary teacher and also of both the deaf and the blind. Back in Texas I worked with children and their parents similar to Hani on a regular basis. I was excited to use my experience in this way. I wanted God to use me. But I was a little unsure. Hani was already 8 years old. She had no language or form of communication. Research tells us that if there is not language or form of communication learned by about age 6, then it is too late.
Still, I went with my bag of toys and knew that God had led me to this place for His purpose. When we arrived at the home my two youngest daughters played with the other girls in the home while I spent time with Hani. I spoke and signed with her as we played. Then I introduced the sign for "more" as we continues to play. As the interaction continued, she got it! She began to sign "more" appropriately. Sarah then gave the girls snacks, so I introduced the signs for "eat" and "drink". Sarah offered Hani a snack and Hani looked straight at her and signed "eat more". Sarah's eyes teared up as we continued. By the end of the visit Hani could sign "eat", "more", "drink", and "finished". She showed understanding of the signs "no", "sleep", and "potty". I talked with Sarah about using signs as a part of Hani's everyday routines. She showed us she can do it so now we need to make it part of her routine.
It gave me such joy to see the smiles on Hani and Sarah's faces as Hani signed for the first time. I look forward to meeting with them weekly.
Later, back in my home I talked with my girls about the experience. Abigail hadn't realized that all of the girls she played with today were orphans. Lily hadn't realized that they all have an aweful virus-HIV. We prayed for Hani and the other girls. Will you pray for them too?
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.