Saturday, March 15, 2014


I have been home from India for almost two weeks now, but I've yet to be able to put the trip into any words deeper than "incredible" and "amazing".  My heart and my mind were wrecked over those eleven days; I imagine it will be a while before I truly comprehend the magnitude of what I experienced.

For now, photos are what I have.  When my words fail, these photos speak for themselves.  I'll tell you a few stories along the way and introduce you to some of the most beautiful children I've ever met.  I hope you'll enjoy this small glimpse into a place that has completely stolen my heart.

2.20.14 -- Our team at the airport

2.20.14 -- Sunrise somewhere between Raleigh and Dallas

We flew for a really, really long time before finally arriving in Hyderabad late Friday night (Feb. 21st). We slept in a "nap room" at the airport that night and took a one hour in-country flight to Visakhapatnam (Vizag) the next morning (Feb. 22nd).

2.22.14 -- Our view during lunch in Vizag, a port city on the southeast coast of India.

The Bay of Bengal

From Vizag, we had a six hour train ride to Kesinga. The train was probably my least favorite experience while in India, but it was well worth it to arrive here...

New Life -- school, orphanage, church

We spent four days at New Life with Pastor Siani, his wife Suphala, and sixty of the most precious children I've ever met.  I love kids, so I knew spending time at the orphanage would be a highlight for me, but I did not expect their faces and their stories to seep so deeply into my heart.

2.23.14 -- Exploring Kesinga

2.23.14 -- Sunset in Kesinga

Our team in Kesinga's market

This is Amir (green), Santos (red), and Rahul (purple).  They are such smart, kind-hearted boys and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. This picture was taken shortly after Amir and Santos had taught me a word game and they were so proud of themselves!

2.23.14 -- Playing games with sidewalk chalk

2.24.14 -- The best manicure I've ever had.

This is Millie.  She is such a beautiful girl, inside and out.  She taught me so much about serving others, worship, and joy.  Her singing and dancing gave me a glimpse into what Heaven must be like.

2.24.14 -- Girl time

While we were at New Life, we took a bumpy bus ride into Sindhibahali, a remote village outside of Kesinga.  The village has about 700 people in it, but only a handful of families are Christian.  Through the Lord's provision, we were able give this village a clean water well, which allowed us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many of the Hindu families.  A few people even made the decision to turn from Hinduism and declare Jesus as their Savior! Praise God that one more village in India has been reached for His glory!

The church in Sindhibahali, in partnership with New Life in Kesinga

2.24.14 -- Christians in Sindhibahali greeting us with song for the water well dedication

2.24.14 -- Pumping the well in Sindhibahali


"Jesus said, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again." -John 4:13-14

After the well dedication, the village broke out into one big dance party -- a celebration of what God had done! A few minutes into the dancing, I noticed a shy boy with tender eyes standing close by, watching me dance with some of the girls.  I invited him over and he captured my heart in those first few minutes.  Our team visited the village a total of three times and he was by my side every time.

His name is Jaheed.

2.24.14 -- Dancing with Jaheed after the well dedication

The day after the well dedication, our team took a prayer walk through Sindhibahali.  By the time we stopped at the last house, a crowd of mostly Hindu village people had gathered around us and Pastor Siani (sitting, pink shirt) began preaching.  A few minutes into it, one of the village children came and sat in his lap.  If this is not a figurative picture of Jesus, I don't know what is...

2.25.14 -- Pastor Siani sharing the Gospel in Sindhibahali

After the prayer walk, it was time to leave the village for the final time.  Watching Jaheed turn around and wave to the bus, as he walked towards his poverty-stricken home, was one of the most heart-wrenching things I experienced that week.

2.25.14 -- Saying goodbye to Jaheed

Our team left Kesinga and New Life late Wednesday night, and it was not easy! Around 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning, we boarded another train back to Vizag, on our way to Hyderabad.  Once in Hyderabad Thursday night, we visited another orphanage (Raja's) and the guys on the team began prepping for a concert they would be putting on Saturday night. 

2.28.14 -- Children at Raja's orphanage in Hyderabad dancing to India's national anthem

Hyderabad at night -- taken from the roof of Raja's orphanage

2.28.14 -- Prayers at Raja's

The last couple days of the trip are a bit of a blur for me.  I got sick with a fever, chills, and stomach issues late Friday night.  Miraculously (seriously, y'all), the Lord took it all away for about seven hours on Saturday, which was just enough time to worship with thousands of people at the concert in Hyderabad.  The fever stayed at bay after the concert, but the stomach problems came back in full force and never fully resolved until a week after I returned back home.  It was not how I envisioned my last days in India to go, but it did make coming home that much sweeter.

3.2.14 -- The up-side of our flight out of LaGuardia being delayed: seeing NYC at night from an airplane window.

3.2.14 -- Home

However, that first week back home was stressful, to say the least; I now have a full understanding of the term "re-entry stress'.  The first thing I wrote in my journal after waking up in my house Monday morning was, "America is overwhelming".  I'm still working on reconciling all that I learned and experienced in India with how we live here in the States, and figuring out what that means as I move forward in different areas of my life.

This is what I do know: I miss India.  I miss the kids, I miss their joy.  I miss the simplicity of it all.  If it weren't for the whole traveling-across-the-world thing, I'd go back tomorrow.  In the meantime, I have lots of photos and even more memories to hold me over.  Because, if there's one other thing I know for sure, it's this:

I will be back.


Sherry said...

Oh, Joye! What an amazing experience! And for once, I am truly "jealous" of someone else's life experience. I truly felt for you, and my heart broke when you had to leave that precious Jaheed. I don't know how you did it although I know you were glad to get home to your sweet boys! I am sorry that the devil tried to steal some of your joy with sickness at the end, but it definitely looks like he failed! Hugs, friend, and welcome back! :-)

Jen said...

What an amazing experience! I had goosebumps reading your blog! Just so incredibly awesome. I can't believe you got sick! :( That stinks! But how wonderful that you were still able to celebrate and enjoy those last few hours of the trip! Thanks for sharing!

Sloan Smith said...

Thank you for this! My team just returned from New Life 2 days ago, and like you I am wrecked and trying to process it all. Praise the Lord for the great things he is doing in India, and for the chance to see America with new eyes.

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