Saturday, February 15, 2014

A few random pics.

 Our feet in the Indian Ocean.
 The river and rice patties that stretch out beyond the compound.
 Waiting for the bride to come out for her "turmeric bath", Gaye holud, purification ceremony.
 Some visiting at the hospital.
Jamming with the worship team :)
 Fuzzy picture but adorable brown eyes!!
 Only a few blossoms to enjoy in the dry season.
 Dried fish. Yuck. A local delicacy :)
 Well tended gardens in the compound.

 This was actually in Dhaka. A funny story I haven't had a chance to share yet!!
 Holly in front of her house :)
 I sit at my desk in my room in the morning and open the curtains to this...
 More of the rice fields. 
 The rice patties go on forever. Families live out in the middle of them and farm them their whole life.
 Dorothy getting me wrapped in my first sari!! Getting ready to attend church and the wedding!
 Wedding guests who were happy to pose for a picture :)
 Pastoral prayer over the bride and groom.
 Me and my new friend, Ani.
Me and Holly in our sari's :)

The Hills of Chittagong.

Leaving the compound in a land cruiser, we drove into the very loud and disorienting traffic of Bengali roads, passed through a couple of villages, to reach the edge of the Bengali Hill territory. The tribes live in these areas, but you need special permission to enter. So instead, we took a drive along the edge, to gaze at the magnificence and beauty… The dry season changes everything to dust, so it would look drastically different in the lush green abundance of the wet season, but we were awed all the same. It's beauty is not at all captured in these photos, but we had a blast. :)

We were laughing so loud at one point, at Jon's expense who took a terrible wipeout trying to take our picture, that we drew a crowd of nearby villagers who were waiting on the side of the road for a bus. In Bangladesh, the people mourn loudly and laugh quietly. These people may have never seen white people before, and may never see one again. We absolutely came across as completely insane. I think we must have needed some comic relief because we thought the whole thing was hysterical. 

Me and Holy :) My brilliant, kind, beautiful, strong but gentle cousin. Love being here with you, Hol :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The cultural noises of Dhaka.

After leaving the Moncton airport at 4:15pm on Thursday Feb 6th, my uncle Trent and I arrived in Dhaka, Bangladesh at 5:50 am (Bangla time) on Saturday, Feb 8th. With the 10 hr time difference, we travelled ~27hrs, but covered ~37 hrs of time... essentially skipping one night and going right into the next day.

Saturday the 8th, my cousin Holly (my Uncle Trent's daughter) and her husband Jon, met us at the airport and took us through the downtown streets of Dhaka to our guest house, leased by the missions organization AOB (Association of Baptists).

The traffic of the downtown streets was most definitely as insanely chaotic as I remember Lynn describing the streets of India. The onslaught of smells and sounds and vibrant use of colors, with large billboards and signs everywhere, was enough to create the sensation of being in a whirlwind or on a really fast roller coaster. It was exhilarating and wonderful, with the added sense of anxiety that our lives were in terrible danger as the Guri (van) made its way through the busy streets and intersections of town with no apparent caution or adherence to structural guidelines. :)

We rested for a little while at the guest house, ate an Bangladeshi lunch, and eventually hit the streets. (We only have a couple of days here before we continue travelling south, eventually arriving at the Mulumghat Hospital and mission compound.)

The streets of Dhaka, are in some ways, like any other city. But in other ways, the eccentricity of the culture, the loud noises with ongoing (obnoxiously loud) honking and shouting on into the night, the ethereal broadcast of the Muslim prayer call ringing out over the city five times a day, (though no one on the street seems to stop and notice...), the dust and dirt hanging in the air, (a by-product of Bangladesh's dry season), cultural architecture set in the context of poverty, filth, and... a pretty bad smell, etc... certainly provide for an initially unique experience.

I had the privilege of owning a few outfits appropriate to the culture, ones that Lynn had brought me back from India in 2010??, and had changed in Istanbul in order to arrive "ready" in Dhaka :). It is quite an experience being a white woman in this very different, male dominated culture. Even with my scarf, I feel exposed to the leering and jeering of local males. The streets are male dominated, with many of the local woman typically staying indoors. The men hang around the streets, literally FILL the streets, and who knows what on earth they are doing?!?!? :) They are bold with their looks and I sometimes, already, have had to force myself to stay calm and hold my head up. In their culture, it is less likely for a woman to look another man in the eye, for example, in passing on the street, but as a white woman, there is an automatic "rise in status", that seems to allow my independence to some degree, but also leaves me feeling vulnerable to the "power" that these men project... (Hmmmm... Too much info for a blog?!?!?!?)

As we've already spent hours maneuvering in and around the local streets, I have marveled at Jon's bravery and skill. It requires a particular set of strengths to adequately secure a driver for either a rickshaw or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), and Jon seems to THRIVE in the bargaining and negotiating with these opportunistic locals. :) The drivers automatically see white people as an opportunity for exploitation and are quite determined to take advantage. Jon, however, is EQUALLY or MORE SO determined not to allow for such advantage to be taken :) which in turn secures his respect and allows him to offer generosity by keeping the upper hand... It is amazing to watch him move so naturally through situations that would have me flustered in an instant.

During these times, though, or when we are walking, we are often met with persistent beggars who  follow and try and take hold of our arms... One woman followed me for quite some time with a baby in her arms (which I guess is sometimes a "ploy") and it near broke my heart. Other groups of children, dirty and no shoes, quickly move in and around you, trying to gain advantage, block your way, force you to stop and give them something... Even though they are children, it is like sport. It's hard to tell where the real need is, because everyone is so opportunistic and competitive with each other... A group of young boys followed us for a while, but it was more like a gang culture than one of shared need?? They poked at Holly and I inappropriately and laughed, jeered, and even hung on to the backs of our rickshaws as we pulled away...

This being only the beginning of my experience thus far, on this amazing trip to Bangladesh, leaves me fascinated and hopeful for all I will gain and experience in the days ahead. I am excited to arrive in the southern part of the country, experience the hill tribal country, and see the more rural culture up close and personal. (This noisy city is already wearing on me!) I so value being alongside my cousin, being a support to her in her work here, and I cherish the moments we've already had of sharing together.

In the days/weeks ahead, I plan to immerse myself in one of the most fascinating cultures I have always wanted to get to know... the culture lived in and experienced by Muslim women. It stimulates my passion and engages my intellect as one of the most complex of cultures/circumstances in which to live, to know God, to honor both God and men, and to find freedom... It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

As I sit here, in my room in the guest house in Dhaka, writing at this desk that looks out over a veranda with artistic screening and growing vines (albeit dry!), I am confident that my memories of this place will be predominately "heard" and not felt, as the noises continue to rise from the streets with overwhelming fortitude... WOW, it's LOUD!!!!! :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Redeeming the soul.

The Lord redeems the soul of his servants. Psalm 34:22a 

One of the most influential books I read in my grief journey since Lynn's death was Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised. It was one of the first books I read, and perhaps the only one I was able to read from start to finish. It contributed to my setting the course of this journey of grief towards a deep and profound brokenness that is somehow also wholeness. It taught me about how pain and suffering grows the soul… leading hopefully to a soul redeemed.

I have often wondered why I blog? Why did I choose to make public this very private journey? At times, it was not always a pure and healthy motivation. There were days that it contributed to a sense of togetherness, shielding me form the harsh reality of journeying alone. There were times it contributed to a sense of purpose in moments of profound identity crisis. But ultimately, it seemed as though God had a plan to use my life as a testament to his nature, to his goodness, to his loving kindness, and to his grace… I had always been impacted by the cry of His heart in Is 43:10, For you are my witnesses!! The people whom I have chosen to know me! to believe me! and to understand that I am HE!!! Could my life be marked with such a testimony? To bring forth a revelation of who God truly is in an age of confusion, over-stimulation, false testimonies and false truths?? Even if another person never knows it, I have concluded that it is worth it to offer up my life in this way. How could I ever attain to such a call?

I had committed early on in this journey, coinciding with the title of this blog, to allow the Holy Spirit to be the ultimate guide through my grief, leading me in the Way Everlasting. The responsibility of my co-operation toward this goal lies ultimately in my willingness and obedience to listen and keep in step with His Spirit. There is no manual. No how-to guide. Just His Word and His Spirit, that always agree. 

These last few weeks, I have been greatly challenged in the call to keep up with His Spirit. He had led me softly and tenderly, but now there is a rush of supernatural strength to move faster and further beyond what I can humanly bear. God is so gracious and good, but also mighty. he calls us to the end of ourselves and then beyond where we can give him glory by standing in the impossible with our eyes fixed on Him… 

Yesterday, I sang. I've sung a couple of times on the praise team at my church in the last month, but yesterday, with my brother Robbie's help, I stood on the platform and sang a solo/duet for the first time since Lynn's death. I absolutely loved singing, (and surprising my mom, which was priceless!!), but the inner working of it was so emotionally and spiritually intense. Today, as often happens after a "first", I am completely wiped out. 

How incredibly hard it is to say "Yes!" to a God who would lead me into sorrow and brokenness, invite me to embrace pain, and urge me to grow my soul. He is passionate about my soul growing, because he knows our human capacity is to be filled with the fullness of Himself.  I tremble at His Word and work in my life, but I also embrace it. 

My commitment to my husband was until death do us part. But my commitment to the Lord has no end. His faithfulness to me has no limit. And He leads me on... Surely goodness and mercy will follow me [pursue me] all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6 

Pray for me, fellow believers in Christ. God is redeeming my soul from the pit and into His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. It is a process that comes at such a high cost, and yet we are met with immeasurable gain. 

If God can redeem my soul, He can redeem yours too. Through brokenness. In the context of a grace disguised. You can believe God. 

And if you believe God, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I hope this is an encouragement to you, today.