India 2012

If this is tl:dnr and you just want to know how to help send me back to India, click here. Then come back and read the post to learn about what we have done and hope to continue!

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Dear Friends,

It’s been a little over six months since the Cross Point Community Church mission team to India returned from Kolkata. The experience continues to impact our group as we love and support one another and reach out to the Nashville community through service. We also try to find ways to assist our brothers and sisters in India with their amazing work.

This passage may seem odd for such a letter, but these are the words I have been meditating on for the past few weeks:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NIV)

This message from God through the prophet Habakkuk encourages us with the truth that no matter what we see or experience, our God is able to bring us through: He gives us strength, gifts, and talents to do what He has called us to do. And I find these words to be appropriate when I think of the ministry that Cross Point Community Church has been called to in India.

For every two steps forward, we have experienced setbacks. Just as SEED (the Save, Entrust, Equip, Disciple Society) built the school in the Khalpur slum, the local authorities came in and bulldozed the slum, forcing SEED and the residents to rebuild their huts made of bamboo and covered with plastic pinned down with blocks, tires, or other trash. Just weeks ago, the local authorities threatened to bulldoze the slum again, but SEED managed to convince the police to give the residents a hearing in court. The outcome is still far from certain, and hearings often only go positively when officials are bribed (something SEED rightly refuses to do).

The physical conditions of the people’s lives are just one obstacle; the other big one is financial. Parents enroll their students in school only to pull them back out to send them to work either at home or in some other context of menial labor — more about that later in this letter.

First, I want tell you about some of my experiences and the work that was and continues to be done in India on behalf of God’s kingdom. Our first days in Kolkata were spent acclimating to a time zone literally half a world from Nashville (11½ hours). We spent time with our local ministry partners, SEED at their new office space. We met the teachers and administrators of their different programs as well as the pastor of the Cross Point India campus and his family. We learned more about Indian culture, customs, and history through visits to Mother’s House and the Home for the Dying (Mother Teresa), the Victoria Memorial, and Kalighat temple.

When I think back on my experience at the temple, words cannot fully express what it felt like, what it smelled like. If the color “black” had weight, texture, and smell — Kalighat is it. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, the goddess of destruction. In many paintings, she is shown with her tongue hanging out. To a Western view, we see this expression as showing anger … almost literally frothing at the mouth. We learned that this depiction of Kali’s mood is actually showing grief. In those paintings, she is grieving the loss of her husband, Shiva, who sacrificed himself to her murderous whims. And grief is what I felt at Kalighat. The darkness in such a place is oppressive and pervasive. It felt as though there is no way light could get through.

Yet, next door to the temple is Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying. In a world where the poor sick, elderly, and dying normally would lie on the street, she built a place for people to come and have dignity in their final days, a place where they are clean, safe, and loved. Just as Habakkuk said, no matter what happens, we still have hope in a God who is our strength. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 that He is the source of all comfort — we give because He first gave to us. We shook hands, hugged, and smiled to these people. It is amazing how something as simple as a touch on the hand can restore the life and humanity to a person. Bringing light and God’s love is what SEED is on mission to do in Kolkata, and it is why Cross Point has partnered with them.

Our start in India was a bit slow, but once we got moving, we did not stop! Sunday, we visited the Cross Point India campus in the village of Ghoraghata. Our group taught Sunday School to about 30 kids and led worship, and Pastor Pete gave the message that morning on lessons from the parable of the prodigal son. We also toured the village, spent time playing with the kids, and met the families who call Cross Point India their church home. One young mother told us that she loved to make jewelry to sell but that she didn’t have the money for the raw materials. Her husband, as is typical for the village, is gone during the week working as a laborer elsewhere. I have included a photo of her daughter (the little girl in the orange skirt with a 1,000-watt smile), who is a student in the school SEED runs through Cross Point India. Since our visit, the church has started a women’s Bible study class and crafting group; they make flowers and jewelry to sell.

On Valentine’s Day, we took Jesus’ love to the slum of Khalpur. One hundred or so families live in this area, making houses out of bamboo and/or plastic and holding them together with rope and tires. Trash is dumped in the middle to be sorted through — the residents look for anything that could be recycled or resold. Around the slum, there were a number of illegal stills making and selling alcohol that were recently shut down by the police.

The needs in this slum are great, and the workers have been few. Organizations like Compassion and World Vision will not work in Khalpur because no local church sponsor exists there. (Only one family in Khalpur is Christian!)  So SEED has gone where others will not, and in the middle of trash, roaming animals, and chaos, SEED has built a non-formal school and feeding center. Every day, dozens of children gather to learn about Jesus, to learn how to read and write, and to receive a hot meal. Over the months that SEED has been working in Khalpur, the children have seen their height and weight measurements rise toward their national averages for their age. A medical missions team from Operation: Blessing also visited the slum to give physicals to 155 people, to check vision, and to assist in arranging for four children who needed it to receive more specialized and advanced treatment. As they are able, SEED sends children to boarding or day schools. With the rupees our group left as a gift, SEED was able to fund tuition and supplies for 4 girls who were in danger of becoming child brides or being sent to work as domestic help or worse.

As I mentioned earlier, parents in Khalpur often pull their children out of school to go to work. Having been to the school in the slum, I know that it is just one dot of hope, love, and acceptance in the midst of a society that looks down on them and does just about everything to keep them in their “place.”  The SEED personnel say that their ministry in Khalpur and other such places is akin to fireflies winking in the night — shining a tiny point of Light into a world of darkness. One example of a firefly moment touched me deeply — developing a bond with a very special little girl: Tuktuki. She is 6 years old and is the middle daughter of three girls. Until recently, Tuktuki and her elder sister, Sujata, attended an English-language day school, but their mother pulled them out to take care of their 1-year-old sister. When I met Tuktuki in February, she pulled on my arm to have me sit on the floor. For an hour, we played the Bengali version of “Eenie Meanie Minie Moe” (Tuktuki had no interest at all in learning the English version!). She would giggle uncontrollably, jump up, and hug me. She thought that my sunglasses were silly and refused to wear them at first when we were playing. Tuktuki loves to sing and dance; she was a very big help in getting the chairs and stage set up for the community show in Khalpur. And whenever it was time for another group to be in the school room, she would yell “Auntie!!” through a hole in the bamboo wall to get my attention. To say she is precious to me would be an understatement!

As of today, Tuktuki and Sujata are taking turns at the non-formal school in the slum so that they can take care of their baby sister and the house while their mother works as a maid. This latest development is a big answer to prayer, but their situation, I am sorry to say, is typical. In this slum, parents go to work leaving small children unattended. Older children take advantage — manipulate and abuse — the smaller ones. Often the only adults in the slum during daylight hours are either passed out from alcohol or drugs or are the SEED teachers.

So you can see how much our mission in India — a mission about sharing God’s love with people that the world says are not worthy — is needed. They need to know who Jesus is, that they are loved, and that they have a purpose. Through telling the parable of the prodigal son, we taught them about kindness and grace, and we are looking forward to bringing different stories and activities to share next year.

Cross Point will be returning to India in February 2012, and it is my privilege to invite you to be a part of our team through prayer support, financial support, or both!

  • I need and desire your prayer support. Prayer will keep us connected with the Father and will allow us to be successful as we follow His leading on the ground in India.
  • As you can imagine, a trip like this is expensive, and financial support from a number of people makes it possible for the team members to go serve. In order to go on this mission trip, each team member must raise $2,500, the bulk of the money being due by mid-October so that airline tickets may be purchased. If you would like to sponsor me financially, I would be very grateful. I must turn in $2,000 by October 16, and the remainder is due by mid-January.

To be part of this mission through your financial support, you may send a check to
Cross Point Community Church
         4301 Charlotte Ave
         Nashville, TN 37209

Please make your check payable to Cross Point Community Church. All contributions are tax deductible if made payable to Cross Point and sent with Mission Trip Tax Donation Form. In the memo field of your check, please write Jonnelle Rein – India so that it will be credited appropriately.

You may also donate online:  http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/giving/ and select “Make a one-time donation.”  On the next page, select the Nashville campus and “Other” as the fund. In the memo field, enter “Jonnelle Rein – India 2012.” If you choose this method, you complete the donation form at the same time and please let me know (email: Jonnelle.Rein -at- gmail.com or call 615-482-5321 [cell]) the date and reference number so that I may notify the bookkeeper to track the donation.

Thank you so much for prayerfully considering if this is something you’d like to participate in. May God bless you for your time and support.
Sincerely,
Jonnelle Rein

Namaskar!

That is “hello” in Bengali.  This week – I am starting my language lessons in earnest.  My goal in the 3 or so months before I leave is to understand and know the alphabet, know how to count, and know some helpful words and phrases.  If I’m looking at the romanized transliteration (like you see in the subject) I can do pretty well.  The alphabet is a definite challenge because it is sooooooooooo different.  I mean… I learned Russian and picked up the alphabet pretty quickly.  But this… God give me grace and wit to learn it!

We had a team meeting this week to go over the packing list and some useful information about customs, where we would be staying, and other cultural tips.  We plan to meet at Bombay Palace in a couple of weeks for lunch and an opportunity to get to know each other a bit better before the trip in a social setting.

Several of us have been watching this video series.

Matt and Bethany asked me to send out emails with some of the things that I’ve been learning about India.  So, I will be starting a series called Missions Monday.  Here is yesterday’s email:

Here are some online resources for learning basic Bengali words and phrases.  They aren’t showing you the Bengali script but if you want to learn to say hello (namakar) or water (jal) and the like, these are good places to go:

Learn Bengali words (this video is kind of annoying but there are more links to other Bengali language videos on the side.  The same user has a counting video which is a flashback to 1970’s Sesame Street)
Virtual Bangladesh – Learn Survival Bengali
Talking Bees – Learn Bengali (their promotional youtube clips nicely gathered in one place)

And your trivia note:
Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan, formed when the British partitioned India into secular/Hindu and Muslim countries in 1947.  The Indian state of Bengal was divided into Hindu and Muslim parts – West and East Bengal respectively.

In 1971, the Indian government supported a revolution in East Bengal/Pakistan to become its own country.  Pakistan didn’t recognize Bangladesh as a country until 1974, 3 years after the war.

Of course, I could go on and on about that 1971 war and its geopolitical impact… because that kind of stuff fascinates me.  I do have a major in that after all.  I remember Stacy, she was a year ahead of me, did her major paper in International Relations on India/Pakistan, their nuclear ambitions and the fight over Kashmir.  How the US got involved because Nixon believed it would be another way to stop the Soviet spread across Southeast Asia.  Or the 1947 partition of India and how we still feel its impact today on a global scale.

I still need and want your prayers and financial support.  Visit http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/giving/ and select “Make a one-time donation.”  If you choose this method, please let me know the date so I may notify the bookkeeper to track the donation.

The Letter

Dear Friends,

I am writing to tell you about a place, a people, and a purpose that have been on my heart for months now.  Let me tell you about a particular part of the Grand Story that God is writing … and about how you might join in the telling.  The story takes us across the ocean and several time zones to India.

You probably know that India has a huge population—around 1 billion people.  Kolkata teems with over 11 million people.  How do you share the life-saving, freeing truth of Jesus Christ with so many?  One group, one church, cannot do all the work itself.  But one team could potentially “change the world” for 300 people in one neighborhood.

God has called me and my church to that mission.  In February 2011, Cross Point Community Church (CPCC) will make its first mission trip to Kolkata, India, and I will be serving as one of 11 team members.  We will work in the Khalpur Slum alongside a local organization called the S.E.E.D. Project.  Cross Point has been supporting this ministry for the last year, giving financial assistance to purchase a generator, to hire an additional staff member, to build a school, and to buy clothes for the neighborhood children.  (You can see photos of some of the Khalpur families here at my Flickr page:  http://tinyurl.com/cpcc-india and read more about this journey at my blog: https://habhak.wordpress.com.)

While in country, we will lead a Vacation Bible School for the children of Khalpur, will help with community cleanup, and will lead events such as a talent show and canteen sale.  We will also visit local churches and will worship with fellow believers (in English and Bengali!).

I’m excited about the opportunities and experiences that lie ahead.  One of the reasons I am strongly committed to CPCC is that we take to heart Jesus’ call: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  God has called His people to help, love, and serve locally, regionally, and globally.  It has been my privilege to serve in Nashville with CPCC for God’s glory … and soon in India!

It is also my privilege to invite you to be part of our team through prayer support, financial support, or both!

• I need and desire your prayer support.  Prayer will keep us connected with the Father and will allow us to be successful as we follow His leading on the ground in India.

• As you can imagine, a trip like this is expensive, and financial support from a number of people makes it possible for the team members to go serve.  In order to go on this mission trip, each team member must raise $2,500 by January 15, 2011.  If you would like to sponsor me financially, I would be very grateful.

To be part of this mission through your financial support, you may send a check to Cross Point Community Church, 4301 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37209, by January 15, 2011.  Please make your check payable to Cross Point Community Church.  I will be happy mail you a copy of this letter along with stamped/addressed envelope to you if needed.  All contributions are tax deductible if made payable to Cross Point.  In the memo field of your check, please write Jonnelle Rein – India so that it will be credited appropriately.

You may also donate online:  http://www.crosspoint.tv/nashville/giving/ and select “Make a one-time donation.”  If you choose this method, please let me know (email me – jonneller at yahoo dot com) the date so I may notify the bookkeeper to track the donation.

Thank you so much for prayerfully considering if this is something you’d like to participate in.  May God bless you for your time and support.

Sincerely,

Jonnelle

India

In January 2009 – there abouts, anyway.  Might have been December 2008.  Pastor Pete and Ryan announced from the pulpit that Cross Point was going to start missions in India.  Without any further details, I went to Ryan after the service and said “I’m going.”

Pastor Pete went as a blogger with Compassion International.  Cross Point began to partner with the S.E.E.D Project which is working in one of the slums.  With funding from Cross Point, they built a school.  Then the government tore down the school.  They rebuilt the school and added a generator to keep the space cool so the kids stopped passing out in the heat.

I am going with Cross Point on its first organized mission trip to Kolkata in 2011.  I have that great missions fundraising letter which I’ll post but there wasn’t enough room on that single page to give you the full breadth of my heart for India and the people.

By all accounts, India is a land of tremendous potential and contrasts.  Cities like Mumbai and New Delhi house great wealth (perhaps not by Western standards but certainly by Indian standards) yet the rural areas, which are still quite populated, people eek out a subsistence living with little access to clean water and education.

The movie “Born into Brothels” wrecked me.  It is still one of the movies that when I think about, I get very emotional.  Kids growing up in a environment where the cycle of abuse, prostitution, and violence continues generation after generation.  Sometimes, even with a way out, people return to what they know and find comfortable.

The big question is – why am I going?  Is it because it’s exotic?  I mean… the missions to the Dominican and Honduras never appealed to me.  To the Western mind, India is filled with mystic – a land of spiritual connections… ‘the other.’

I am going, first because I was called.  Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, Ends of the earth and all.  When it was announced 18 months ago – I knew.  I’ve not waivered (but for a little while when the trip was actually presented and I had to apply).

I am going because I want to share God’s love and mercy with people and support the local church in its mission.

There is a guy I ride the bus with from Ethiopia.  He is also a Christian.  When I mentioned to him that I was going on this mission trip, he immediately launched into a 5 minute rant on imperialism.  I tried to explain to him that we were going to support and serve the local church – not to bring Western ideas of politics or culture… but that of the love of Christ.  It’s in Christ that we find freedom and lasting change.  Nope.  Only if I were going with a secular organization to do social justice work would he approve.  I started to argue about their points of view and how they are different but in the moment, it was not a battle to fight.

And because what is small to us, means the world to someone else.  I recently received a note from Compassion on behalf of Prachi.  Last year, I gave some extra money for a family gift.  They bought the family a bike.  It cost $55USD.  In a part of the country where the average family makes $30-40USD a month – that is a nearly impossible sum to save.  What cost  me so little, changed Prachi’s life.  She now can ride her bike to school instead of walking for nearly a half hour.  She has a basket to put her book bag in.  Because it is easier for her to get there, she is more likely to attend.  Learning to read and write will change most of her future prospects and expand her opportunities.

I am asking now that you be in prayer for me and the team over the next several months.  My next post will include how, if you are so lead, that you can support this mission trip financially.