In India, Anything is Possible

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“In India, anything is possible.” This is what I was told every time we tried to convince an auto rickshaw to carry six of us instead of four. This is what I was told when I thought I wouldn’t be able to push my way through the crowd to get off the train before it sped on to it’s next stop. This is what I was told when I told my host I didn’t think I could eat any more food. This is what I came to believe through the life of a boyish dreamer with a smile large enough for three faces and a heart even larger.

He became a lot more than a translator for us. At the end of six weeks of spending almost every day with our team, Shekhar was simply a part of it. If all of us on the team were siblings, than he was the favorite cousin.

I’ve heard it said a million times before, bravery is not about being fearless. It’s about overcoming fear. That little nugget of truth has become so cliché we can hardly believe it. But then it’s a nice thing to hold on to when you’re shaking with fear and feel like hiding. It’s comforting when you feel like your composed face and steady breathing are filthy lies. No, no you can tell yourself. I am brave. I just don’t feel it. No one needs to know that. But if you just happen to be a privileged individual that does know the fear just beneath someone’s facade, then there is very little more inspiring than watching their petrified bravery in action. If you are given the honor of knowing all about the fear that someone is overcoming, than you might just be inspired to be brave yourself.

Shekhar became so much more than a translator for us, but at first he didn’t even want to be that. We found out a few weeks into our time in India that his pastor had given him an ultimatum “Help these foreigners, or don’t come back to church.” I guess it was some measure of conceit that made me assume he would want to spend his day translating our confusing accents and catering to our whims. When I think about it now it only makes sense that this social twenty-three year old would have other things he wanted to be doing with his time. But his pastor made it a requirement not a suggestion and we ignorantly thanked him for joining us.

It wasn’t that he was miserable spending time with us though. Being the good natured, and fun loving person that he is probably why he initial disliked the idea of being stuck with us for the summer so much. But it’s also probably what made him quickly start to enjoy himself in our company. Shekhar was a dancer and loved music. Teaching us dance steps and songs in Hindi or Nepali built quick friendships as did sharing cups of chai or plates of food. “You are foody people, I am foody person.” I remember him saying one time in a market place, indicating that this was grounds for real frienship.

Because I didn’t know until later that Shekhar had not originally wanted to come along with us and because friendship with him developed so quickly, I didn’t notice when the shift happened and he was working with us from his own will. It was not a mystery though that even after this transition did take place, he was still sometimes less excited about being seen with us than usual.

On the same day that he told us he had been more or less forced to help us, we were winding our way through a crowded market place. Around every other corner someone would call out our wave to Shekhar familiarly.

“Do we embarrass you?” I teased him picking up on the fact that he wasn’t excited to see any of these people that seemed to know him so well. “I thought we were your friends!”

“You are my friends!” he assured us his mannerisms becoming exaggerated. “But here, everyone know me.”

It wasn’t just that people knew him in this area that made him feel awkward with us, but what people knew about him. For years Shekhar had been a part of a gang that more or less had control of this area. Vendors payed the gang for their stand in the market and the gang served as the lawmakers and protectors as well. Shekhar was well known as that. Not as the church boy leading foreigners around and talking about Jesus.

As I said, gradually Shekhar became much more than a translator. He started joining us for prayer times and worship times. He started sharing with people his own story of how he had come to know Christ and he became more and more a part of the team. In six weeks we saw him gain boldness and genuine excitement in doing things for God. He would always panic slightly before doing something new, but then almost always he would do it. The first time we asked him if he wanted to share the gospel with someone he said no. The second time, he said yes. By our last week in India Shekhar had found such a passion and love for telling people about Jesus that he was asking us about the discipleship training school we were doing and how much it would cost for him to go through it. He said that he thought he wanted to be a missionary.

For the last few weeks, a few days out of the week, we were hosting what we called a mini DTS. This meant we were doing teachings on some of the different topics we had explored during our lectures in Australia. People from many different churches had come every day to be apart of it. On the last day of the mini DTS (our second to last day in India) we planned to host an open air at the train station. We had been teaching a lot of things about sharing your faith, and we wanted to give everyone who had been coming an opportunity to put it into action what they had been learning.

One church was going to do a couple of performances and music to attract a crowd. We gave a young man who dreamed of being a preacher the opportunity to share the gospel. And we told Shekhar we would love him to share a little bit about what Jesus had done in his life. Apparently this was the hardest thing we could have asked him to do.

Every day for almost a whole week, he would bring up why he couldn’t speak at the open air. Every time we would tell him he didn’t have to but that it was up to him and we really wanted him to. Every day he would say that we had picked the worse possible place to have the open air. And every time we would say we were sorry with out offering to change the location. Their were many places that he was well known, but he said that at the train station everyone would know him and everyone would think it was funny that he was sharing his testimony. It was obvious that he could not stop thinking about it and that he could not stop worrying about it.

“You don’t have to do it.” I remember telling him for something like the tenth time that day. “If you don’t think you’re ready, it’s okay. Just pray about it.”

“No!” he responded passionately. “I can’t pray about it!”

“Why?”

“Because I know if I pray about it, I know what God will say that I have to do it!”

But on the day of the open air, Shekhar arrived, as usual, before anyone else. All week we had been praying for him and giving him all of the encouragement we could. When the actually day arrived the only thing left to offer him was cheesy thumbs up and encouragements like, “you got this.” or “you’ll do fine.” and he gave little response to any of them. He was resolved about what he was going to do and had become more quiet and internal than usual.

We went to the train station in waves, taking different means of transportation to get all of the people, instruments, and sound equipment into the city center. In typical India fashion it took us a long time to get everything set up and ready to go. We sang a couple songs and then one of the churches youth groups performed a couple dances. Shekhar’s youth group. But I wasn’t surprised to see him get into the performance. He had his church friends with him and being a dancer was something everyone already knew about him. A street performance wasn’t an uncomfortable thing for him. But he came up next by himself for something other than entertainment.

Any one who didn’t know might think that he was totally comfortable standing before a big crowd that had formed a semi-circle outside the station. Anyone who hadn’t heard his objections and listened to his excuses all week might have thought he felt confident and sure of himself. I couldn’t understand the exact words he said, but even for me, I was tempted to believe he wasn’t nervous.

He finished and the next person came up. I wondered if Shekhar had recognized anyone in the crowd, if any of his friends had been here to see him and if they were laughing at him. And then, because anything is possible in India, I saw something that will never stop inspiring me.

The other speaker had finished and the musicians had started back up. They were playing fun and celebratory songs and Shekhar was dancing again in the middle of the circle. Only now nothing was choreographed and different people kept jumping into what was now a ring of people. Shekhar reached into the crowd and pulled out a friend of his. Another dancer and once fellow gang member. Shekhar got him into the middle of the circle and the two started dancing together. It wasn’t amazing that Shekhar was dancing or even that his friend had joined him. It was the act of going back out in full view after doing all that he had said he would do. It was that he not only did not try to hide or duck away from being seen by his friend, but actually reached out to an engaged a person he was embarrassed to be seen by.

I have to admit, I had underestimated my Indian friend. I knew that despite all of his anxiety and hesitation to share his story in public, that he would end up doing it. I had seen in him a desire to grow that was too strong to let the opportunity pass him by. But I had not expected the boldness. I had not expected the abandonment. I had not expected the strength so adequately push fear behind bravery.

To be honest, I had expected Shekhar to lay low that day. To not say much and not draw attention to himself. To make his testimony brief and then pass off the microphone. But maybe that’s why anything is possible in India. Because maybe it’s not a culture to erect all kinds of limitations. Yes, the auto rickshaw is supposed to carry four. But that doesn’t mean it can’t not take six. Yes, there is a densely packed pile of people between you and the train exit, but you just have to shove. Yes, doing things outside of your comfort zone is nerve racking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and go all in when you do it.

Shekhar said it over and over again that “anything is possible in India.” And after a little while I started to believe him. But after what I saw him do at the train station and after reflecting back on all the things I saw him do over the six weeks that I knew him, his life tells me something else I’m starting to believe…anything is possible. Knowing him, it’s not hard to believe that somewhere amongst the crowds and smells and sounds that overwhelm India, there is an x-gang member that will become a full time missionary to the nations. It’s not hard to believe that from a past of being unloved and uncared for  would come a boy that loves and cares for people openhearted. It’s not hard to believe that God can so change a life as to make it have no need for limitations.

Shekhar’s story is one of many that I collected while traveling to Australia, Asia and Africa and America in 2014. He has given me the awesome privilege to share this story and include it in the book of short stories that I am hoping to release before the end of this year. If you liked this story and would like to read more, sign up here for my mailing list and get another story for free plus the first chance to get the book! http://eepurl.com/_J8Nz

Amor,

-Sarah

Sarah Watt

“Sarah is an introspective extrovert that daily battles the struggle between wanting to be interacting and talking with people and wanting to stare out windows and at ceiling fans contemplating the meaning of life. She wears a lot of hats that she picked up mostly from the ministry, education, and writing departments. She blogs about all of those things at littlewritinghood.wordpress.com

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Let’s Interview: Nancilea Foster

Let's Interview: Nancilea Foster

Hey everyone! Jess here. Today I’ll be interviewing Nancilea Foster, former Olympic diver and competitor in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Nancilea was gracious enough to agree to an interview and share some of her insights on overcoming the obstacles of fear and self-condemnation in our lives and relationship with God.

 1. You began your career very early, in gymnastics. Is that common among divers?
Yes, it is very common. Most divers have some background in gymnastics.

2. When did you know you wanted to become a diver?
I was five when I first started. My mom had heard about it, and so we gave it a try. I enjoyed it, and so we continued.

3. What did you love most about diving?
I loved that it was always challenging, and that challenge made me very aware of my need for the Lord—I didn’t really have any option but to draw near to Him because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I also love the opportunities it opened to me.

4. Throughout your career, who was your biggest inspiration?
Probably my teammate, Laura Wilkinson. I always looked up to her when I was younger, and when we became peers, I still greatly admired her drive and her love for the sport and for the Lord.

5. What was your most driving force while training for the 2008 Olympics?
I think I would have to say the confidence that I was where the Lord wanted me, and that pursuing excellence in diving was His will for me for that season.

6. Describe your time in Beijing. Did it live up to your expectations?
I had a great experience in Beijing. Opening Ceremonies was one of my favorite memories. It was an incredible honor to march with those also representing the USA. Having my family there to support me and cheer me on as I competed was also really meaningful.

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7. When did you first come to know Christ and His purpose for your life?
I first came to Christ at age five. I am still discovering His purpose for me, as I think it changes very much with each season of life that you’re in.

8. In what ways has your relationship with the Lord affected your diving career, and vice versa?
My relationship with the Lord greatly affected every aspect of my diving career. As I mentioned earlier, diving made me very aware of my need for the Lord, especially as I struggled with fear towards the end of my career.

9. Has your career given you much of an opportunity to talk to others about God?
Yes. I have had a number of opportunities to share with others because of making the Olympic Team, and I am thankful for each one of those opportunities.

10. Throughout your life, what has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
One of the first things that comes to mind is fear of man. There is little that can be more crippling or paralyzing that worrying what others will think of you.

11. How did your diving accident at age 14 affect your relationship with the Lord?
At the time it happened, the Lord gave me so much grace in helping me to trust Him instead of getting angry at Him. My accident was the start of a very hard season for me, where many challenging things happened in my life. But, the Lord drew me very close to Himself during that hard time, and I think it served as a catalyst in my relationship with Him, allowing me trust Him and know Him more intimately than I would have otherwise.

12. What advice would you give to someone who is having difficulty overcoming fear?
It is not wrong to experience the feeling of fear. Continually condemning yourself for being afraid will not help you feel differently, or overcome it. Talk to the Lord in detail about what is causing you fear—journaling is a good way to do this. If “fear of man”—fearing you will ultimately look bad— is at the root of it, repent and ask the Lord to change your heart. Remind yourself His glory is all that our lives are for—not our own. The thing that brings me the most comfort when I am feeling afraid is to remind myself, especially through Scriptures, that God is sovereign and in control of all things—He knows the end from the beginning; nothing can thwart His purposes. (One of my favorites is Is. 46:8-11). And if the fear is still there, remember He often equips us to move or act in spite of the fear we are feeling.

13. Any other pearls of wisdom you’d like to offer our readers?
I guess I’ll add as I mentioned earlier, journaling has been a powerful spiritual discipline for me. When I look back at my journals, I can remember, and see how the Lord has changed me, and how the Lord has moved. When I was younger, I read similar advice from Elizabeth Elliot, and it has proved to be a great help to me.

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Overcoming the Fear

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Though the coffee shop was a bit brighter as the sun began to shine through the windows, there definitely were areas of darkness still in the café.  The bulbs which worked simply were not enough to reach these corners of shadow away from the window’s light. The most central area of the coffee shop was the counter which seemed the most dimly lit. The lady at the counter was trying to appear busy as a man beside her stood on a ladder replacing the bulbs in an attempt to bring back the light.

Slowly looking up at my good friend Mark I admitted to him, “I am afraid though.”

“Of course you are” he smiled as though he had expected this response and understood exactly why I was afraid.

“I just don’t understand.”

With a growing look of sympathy over his face he tried to explain. “It is very natural to fear what you don’t understand.”

I couldn’t really help but roll my eyes at him “I know, but after your explanation I thought I wouldn’t be afraid anymore.”

Mark had a way of being extremely agreeable and nodded his head as he listened. “Quite the opposite actually,” He responded. “Understanding one thing only causes you to realize how much of something else you don’t understand causing us to fear something else completely.”

Mark was stirring up more questions in me than he was answering “But I thought knowledge was the end of fear.” I protested.

Mark was hardly in a rush as he sipped his coffee, increasing my impatience for an answer. He finally returned his cup to the table and my attention was completely fixated on his response. “That is not entirely true,” he said as he pointed his finger up to make his point. “In a very similar way that courage can exist in the face of fear, fear can also exist in the face of understanding.”

This was definitely not the answer I wanted because it resolved nothing in my mind but I wasn’t about to give up. “Ok” I remarked feeling more confident in what I was about to say. “If the Bible says God didn’t give us a spirit of fear then how can what you are telling me be true?”

He raised an eye brow and knew I was taking to heart what I was saying. “You are correct; God did not give us a spirit of fear,” He paused to collect his thoughts. “And that is the whole irony of the thing.”

I couldn’t let him stop like this without explaining himself so I gave him an impatient look that wasn’t hard to keep on my face in a hope that he would continue. Thankfully after another long sip of coffee he did.

“Yes, fear is removed from the parts of our lives where understanding is present. However, the book of Proverbs tells us that understanding begins with the fear of the Lord.” I was still processing what Mark had said when he smirked and raised his cup in my direction. “I hope you can now appreciate the irony that is fear.”

This was confusing to say the least. After failing to figure it out on my own, hoping to clarify I asked, “So if the fear of God lives in me then I’ll understand everything that I will need to?”

Mark couldn’t hold back his pleasure in clarifying this for me and smiled with a nod. “Not only that, but the fear of God will cast out the fear of all else. Simply put, in order to fear nothing one must fear God to gain His understanding and grow in our Faith in Him.”

I understood now the role fear played in God’s plan but I had to think about it a bit more. I looked away from the table and Mark to see the lights over the counter shining brightly. The door to the café closed as the man with his ladder left having completed what he had come to bring.

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Family Mission- Fear of Family

 

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Family is the hardest mission field.  Why is that so?  Because family are the people that you are the most real with, the people that know all your dumb jokes, silly habits (and where you got them), how you react over different stuff, and most of all, your flaws.  They knew you before Christ came in and shifted all your rubbish out the door, before He removed you from shame and into His glorious freedom.

They’re the people that still see your faults, and even if they don’t purposely try to, they can put you back into a world of guilt by reminding you of all  that hasn’t changed or the things you did (OR) didn’t do while in the flesh.

Family is a hard mission field, and sometimes it feels impossible.

It’s hard to feel hope that their even listening, or that they’re even seeing a difference your life.  When we feel like just trying to look over their corrupted state, we sometimes forget to reach for the most important factor in it all.  Prayer.  Prayer is calling on the one who makes the final move, revealing to them how lost and broken they are.

In my personal life, my unsaved family are some of the most sarcastic, self-righteous, word-cutting, hateful/bitter people that I know.  They have amazing skill of being able to talk to strangers, have debates with people that might know twice as much as them and still win.  They all know how to use words well, and tend to just chop you into fish bait for fun. Or they were upset at something, they take it out on you because you happened to be the first person that came along.

I’ve been a Christian for nearly seven years and I still have a hard time trying to turn the other cheek, responding with love, and giving gentle reproofs when they do something obviously wrong or cruel.

The family mission field is hard, but it’s the first mission field.  If you look through the new testament, just in the book of Acts, you will find many accounts of people coming to know the LORD.  There’s only a few times that a single person comes to know the LORD by him/her self.  A whole household usually came to know Christ at once, showing us many times that families were supposed to come together, showing the unity of Christ.

Do not fear because our families are hard to witness to for Christ, and we feel like  giving up. It’s hard to see  them wallowing in sin, that you feel like crying and screaming asking how can they not see God’s goodness in their lives.  In the end it’s God’s move, it’s His plan.  We are put in their lives to show His love and kindness, to live a lifestyle that shows His attributes and work in our lives.  And to pray. pray, pray for them. Read Genesis 44:34 and see what God would speak to your heart about winning our family for our Father.

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Understanding Broken

 

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As I sit on my bed in Uganda listening to a church down the road blast the words “how wonderful is Your name oh Lord” I’m broken again.  Broken because compared to what I have, they have so little. Broken Because when I go out to the village to hold the hands of orphans and show them the love of Jesus, they end up showing me more love than I could have ever asked for.  I’m broken because I don’t understand. I don’t understand how people can be so grateful to get 40 cents (as a tip for braiding my hair) that they bow and kiss my hand! I don’t understand how God can allow me to come to a place I LOVE SOOOO MUCH just to have me leave 12 days later.  But as I sat and thought and came back to this post, I started to understand!  They don’t know what it’s like to have so much stuff that you don’t even know what to do with it… They are thankful for what they have!  Those 40 cents can pay for a meal & now I understand.  The orphans can give me this love because they understand God’s love for them through His redemption in their lives.  And I remember why God has me come here … I’m here to grow, love, and be a voice back in the U.S.  Even though at the moment I’m dreading leaving, I can’t wait till the day I return – changed.

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Be looking out for my next post either later this month or early next month … Lots of pictures and stories from my trip! I hope you all have a great Sunday! Be encouraged and be a light!

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