The Journey

8 Jul

Hello my dear friends and family!

Praise the Lord… I have finally made it to an internet cafe!!! I am so excited to share with you some of what is happening here in Dharmapuri, India, but first I will tell you about how we got here.

On July 1st, our team, well the part of our team that was able to get their visas on time, boarded the plane in Kona, Hawaii headed for our first stop in Honolulu. In Honolulu, my friend Dawn and I, looking to get some snacks for the flight, severely underestimated the efficiency of Japanese Airlines in getting the hundreds of people crammed in the waiting room onto the plane headed for Narita, Japan. We returned to our gate after no more than 10 minutes to find that the people had seemed to have evaporated. The gate was empty, leaving only a few frazzled-looking flight attendants and our faithful leader, Jessica, waiting for us. A bit embarrassed we boarded the plane and found our seats. I was sitting next to Tiffany, one of the girls on our team. She is such a sweetheart and it was great to finally be able to get to know her a bit better.

After the 8-hour flight, which went by quite easily, we were in Japan! Since we had such a long layover our team decided to leave the airport to venture into the city for a bit. We applied for a day visa, got through customs and immigration, exchanged some of our U.S. dollars for yen, and took the train into the city of Narita. After the quick ride we decided to start walking to go check out a nearby Buddhist temple. Along the way we saw lots of beautiful Japanese people, a really interesting cemetery, and some fascinating outdoor shops. When we got to the temple after about a 15-minute walk we all dispersed to look around. The place was massive, dotted with ponds, bridges, shrines, and statues. I went with a few other girls to check out the service they were holding in the main part of the building. We removed our shoes, bowed, and stepped in. I was instantly overwhelmed by the thickness of the air in the room. The place was heavy and it felt dark. We kneeled and watched as the worshippers bowed to idols, throwing various things in the fire and participating in rituals I didn’t understand. They chanted and hummed and rang bells. It was so somber. It felt like a funeral. My heart broke for my God, the one true living God. This idolatry must feel like such a brutal betrayal of His unconditional love for us. I prayed the blood of Jesus over the place and the people in it and spoke out in tongues. I sang songs of praise to the Lord and tears of sadness welled in my eyes for the ones who don’t know Him. Soon it was time to leave and we headed back to the train station. We prayed a prayer of cleansing to ensure that nothing demonic could come with us as we continued on our journey, and though I am so thankful for my own salvation, I left a piece of my heart in Japan. I will continue to pray for that beautiful nation to come alive in the freedom of His love. I will return to Japan again someday.

Some photos from Japan:

Once we arrived again at the airport we were off to Singapore. I sat next to a sweet young Japanese couple and prayed that their marriage would be sealed by their faith in Jesus Christ. Lack of sleep caught the better of me, and I drifted off into peaceful rest for majority of the nearly 7 hour flight. We arrived in Singapore at 12:00AM Saturday morning. Since it was the middle of the night we decided not to leave the airport, which was fine with us. The 8-hour layover gave us ample time to explore the airport, which is by far the coolest airport I have ever seen! It has a pool, a butterfly exhibit, a sunflower garden, ponds, slides, movie theaters, video game lounges, hotels, and amazing shopping. We wandered around, enjoying the amenities, and Kelsey, Kailyn, and I even took a much-needed shower.

Some photos from Singapore:

All was going smoothly… until we went to board our 9:00AM flight. We showed up at the gate early, just as instructed. Unfortunately we had received some bad information and our luggage and tickets were not at the gate. We rushed to the counter to get checked in and were given the terrible news. Since we had failed to check in before the appropriate time our luggage was going to miss the plane and be stuck in Singapore. My heart sank. All of my camera equipment, my laptop, and my clothes were in that bag. My genetic instincts (inherited from my mother) took over. I stepped up to the counter, and asked the woman what she could do. In her broken English she said, “We try. No promises.” I sensed my frustration level rising and I could feel my blood boiling. Then the Lord, in His great patience and mercy revealed an important truth to my heart. He said, “Erika, it offends me that you don’t trust me to handle this.” What a simple statement. What a radical revelation.

So I took a deep breath, grabbed my boarding pass and headed to our gate. I spoke to the lady behind the counter and asked her to do whatever she could to help me. Then I sat down and left it in God’s hands, praying and singing songs of praise to Him. I resigned to not speak about the issue again until we were in India. Our team boarded the plane, our hearts full of hope in the protection of the Lord. We looked around. We were the only white people on board. The flight attendants wore saris and the TV screens played comedic Bollywood movies. It had begun. Our 3-hour flight from Singapore to Chennai passed by quickly. We stepped off the plane and were instantly bombarded by the heat and humidity. Looking around I immediately fell in love with the people. Their faces were beautiful, filled with stories I couldn’t wait to hear. We made it through immigration and proceeded towards the baggage carousel. To my heart’s greatest delight we found every piece of luggage for our entire team waiting for us there. Praise the Lord! Everyone loaded up like pack mules and pushed through the crowd towards the street where our ministry contact and van were waiting for us. Lines of people waved at us. We were quite the spectacle, our light skin shining in the sun.

We met Pastor Daniel, who greeted us with traditional necklaces and Diet Coke, along with his warm smile and exuberant personality. I chuckled inside as he bobbed his head waved his hands and repeated, “No problem. No problem.” We packed into the van and proceeded down the road, in the most dangerous ride I have ever been on. There seem to be absolutely no traffic laws and everyone just swerves into any open space they find. Pedestrians, rickshaws, motorcycles, mopeds, cars, vans and enormous trucks all share the same road, moving full speed ahead in a chaotic frenzy. It was quite the adrenaline rush.

We arrived safely (thank God) at the train station and again loaded all of our gear onto our bodies. When we stepped into the station, the crowd of people was overwhelming. Never in my life have I seen more people, more faces, more luggage, and animals in one place. The sounds and the smells rushed my senses. Our guide moved towards our train quickly, easily navigating through the crowd. A small flicker of panic lit up my heart. I moved as fast as I could, keeping my eyes locked on the back of Pastor Daniel’s head. Thankfully we all made it to the train safely and sat in our very crammed seats. The train felt hot and damp. My shoulders were pressed against the shoulders next to me and my mouth was dry with thirst. As the train began moving towards our destination in Dharmapuri, vendors began pushing through the aisles selling everything from toys to drinks to homemade foods. Beggars also started their usual rounds. Children with severe deformities shoved their crippled hands in my face and women with sad eyes clung to my arms. My heart throbbed. The conflict waging in my soul made me uneasy. I looked out the window, praying to the Lord, asking for wisdom beyond my years.

A few hours into our 5-hour train ride the need to pee became urgent. I was forced to venture into the “toilet” After a few minutes of struggling to open the door, it finally swung free, revealing the dirtiest bathroom I have ever seen. The smell of rotten waste nearly knocked me over. I was definitely not in Hawaii anymore. The toilet was nothing more than a hole in the floor of the train. I held my breath and did my business, struggling not to fall as the train shook back and forth. Oddly I felt as though this was my official initiation into missionary work. “I was a real servant of Jesus now,” I laughed.

When we finally came to our stop, we were informed that our entire team had a two minute rolling stop to get off the train, along with all of our luggage. We stepped into full gear, tossing bags out the door of the train. Miraculously we made it. Again we crammed into a van for the final leg of our trip. After a 20-minute drive we had finally arrived. We were home. Home is now Dharmapuri, India and will be for the next  three months. I am so excited to be here. I can’t wait to see how the Lord moves through our team. Thank you so much for all of your prayers! They got us here safely and I know they will carry us through.

All my love,

Erika

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13 Responses to “The Journey”

  1. anildubey July 9, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    “…This idolatry must feel like such a brutal betrayal of His unconditional love for us” How could you say that ? I do not understand the logic. Idolatry is brutal betrayal of his unconditional love ?????????????????? Only a brainwashed mind like that of yours can think like that.

    “… We prayed a prayer of cleansing to ensure that nothing demonic could come with us as we continued on our journey, and though I am so thankful for my own salvation, I left a piece of my heart in Japan.” — What a NONSENSE.

    • Deborah July 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

      To your first responder:
      For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His ONLY Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.
      God bless you with Truth.
      You will know The Truth and The Truth will set you free.

      • anildubey July 12, 2010 at 11:28 am #

        If idolatry (which is nothing else but praying to God – with slightly different customs/rituals)is a brutal betrayal of God’s love (?????!!!!!) then what is so call story of on ONLY Son. All living beings are children of God. Christ being the only son is a big BULLSHIT. If you do go and do not believe in your version, you would still be OK. ALL WILL PERISH IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER THEY BELEIVE IN YOUR THEORY OR NOT. NO ONE IS ENTITLED TO EVERLASTING LIFE. Stop the false propagana. I will God blesses your with the intelligence to comprehand the truth. ONCE YOU KNOW THE TRUTH, you will feel better (no one can every be free from the shackles of death..IT IS THE BIGGEST TRUTH OF AL..)

  2. mysinglemomlife July 9, 2010 at 7:42 am #

    Erika,

    I am blessed beyond measure to have found your blog. I’m captivated by this new journey the Lord has you on. I, too, have a missionaries heart and will be heading to Rwanda in October for my second short term trip; my first was to Ethiopia in February. The wonder that is within you is fascinating and I look forward to seeing India through your eyes and heart.

    As for the comment above, it is the most delightful brainwashing, isn’t it? :o) I will gladly be brainwashed by the blood of Jesus every single day for the rest of my life!

    1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God!

    Thank you for sharing and I will be checking back often.

    Hugs and blessings abounding while you journey to the least of these.

    Nikki

    • erikaearl July 17, 2010 at 4:07 am #

      Nikki,
      I am so glad this blog has blessed your heart! I am also so excited to hear that you, too, will be heading into the fields to harvest! I hope to hear some of your stories as well. I will be praying for God to prepare Rwanda for your arrival and that you will find great success while you are there. I would love to see both Rwanda and Ethiopia some day.
      Let me know if there is anything specific I can be praying for you for.
      In Him,
      Erika

  3. Deborah July 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Oh Sweet Erika,
    Praise God you made it safe and sound. What a journey!!!
    Your pictures you sent your mom conveyed exactly what you wrote about the people’s beauty.
    I had tears when I read about your experience in Japan and the Temple with idol worship and your heart’s cry for their salvation. God heard your prayers and is moving on their behalf!
    I laughed out loud when you shared how your mom’s genes kicked in and you took control and the airport. Hilarious!
    God is Good and God is Faithful. May He keep His eye on you and may you have every word you need to plant many eternal seeds in India and beyond!
    Love, Deborah

  4. Laura July 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    Ahh Erika! I love catching up on your blog! So glad you are doing so well. Isn’t God just so, so good! I just can’t get over it. I am continuing to pray for you and the team. I am still anticipating the day that I can get on a plane and head to India. Only 4 more day! Love you sweet friend!

  5. jterrill July 11, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your story…I feel a connection with you and your team, as our church partners with the Central India Christian Mission, I feel as though your journey is picking up where their’s left off. God Speed!

    • erikaearl July 17, 2010 at 4:04 am #

      Wow, that is incredible to hear. It’s such a small world and God really knows how to put the pieces together so beautifully!

  6. methodus July 13, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    It’s so wonderful to read what God is accomplishing through you. I am honestly overjoyed and I can’t quite put it into words. As it relates to some of the more negative comments that this post of yours has received, that can only be expected and I know that I don’t even need to tell you this but you shouldn’t take it to heart. The gospel is offensive and we should not be ashamed of it. After all it is the righteousness of God revealed against the unrighteousness of the world. I pray that the Lord will continue to use you for his glory.

    • erikaearl July 17, 2010 at 4:01 am #

      Thank you so much for your encouragement. I pray that the Lord will bless you as you have blessed me!

  7. PeACEMAKER July 14, 2010 at 6:11 am #

    Erika, Finally you are in India through all the hurdles. But you have arrived with eyes wide shut. In your age, you have to experience what is happening around you without prejudices. Otherwise you will return empty handed from whereever your pilgrimage takes you.
    I do not understand what you write about idol worship. Is the cross, jesus on cruce and mary with jesus not idols?

    • erikaearl July 17, 2010 at 3:56 am #

      Peacemaker,
      Yes, sadly some Christians accidentally misplace their worship and idolize saints and the cross. The religion itself, however, condemns idolatry of any kind. To be honest with you I don’t think idolatry is limited to religious relics. I believe an idol is anything you place above the one true God including: relationships, jobs, money, alcohol, addictions, sex, etc. Thank you for your questions. Keep them coming.
      Erika

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