Chapter 1 – The Back Story

It’s been forever since I’ve written anything on this blog. Like, over two years. There are reasons for that. Oh which maybe I’ll get around to explaining at some point. But for now, how about a repost from 2017?

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Would you believe I’m 87% into completing my first draft of “11.” That’s the name of the book… I think. I’m not really sure yet.

Two weeks left and I meet my goal of 65K words, aka a book, in 4 months! Then I’ll begin the editing process.

Tonight, I wanted to go back and share with you my first chapter.

Enjoy!

kolkata-84

Chapter 1 – The Back Story

It’s actually India’s fault.

My Great Grandma Gigi converted from Catholicism to some combination of Hinduism, meets Yogi stuff, meets her own blend of Christianity. I’m pretty sure there’s an Ashram with her name on it somewhere near Calcutta. She used to travel to India, and got a lot of mileage out of a photo of her and Mother Teresa together. So the story goes, Mother T. was always trying to get Gigi back to her Catholic roots.

Growing up white, suburban, Christian, I never wanted to go to India. I used to think Jesus didn’t live in India because 330 million other gods lived there. I never wanted to be a missionary (we’ll get to this word later) either. But I decided in 2008 after graduating college to pray a stupid prayer.

“Lord, break me.”

Told ya it was stupid.

What does it even mean to be broken?

Have you ever had the feeling you’re created for more…but don’t know what the more is? That there is calling on your life, but not sure what the call is? That you’re passionate about this or that, but not sure how to start?

Yeah. Me too.

I just spent five years (victory lap of 4 year school) of college getting a Health Promotion degree. What the hell is Health Promotion anyways? So you know what I did with that degree? Nothing really. Work in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado doing family programming for a YMCA. Good job. A fun job. Just not “The” job.

It was there the Lord began speaking to me about India.

Nope. Not gonna do it. Don’t want to do it. That’s the thing isn’t. Usually the places in our lives we experience the most internal resistance, are the things we’re most meant to do.

So eventually I caved. “Whatever. Fine! I’ll go.” Maybe I should have told Jesus I never wanted to go to Fiji growing up. That’s dumb though. Wouldn’t have ever worked. He’s God. Surely He’s heard of reverse psychology.

In 2008, I went to India for two weeks.

Quite simply, India is a paradox to me.

Natural beauty, vibrant colors abounding everywhere; contrasted with filth, pollution, corruption, and poverty. Plus caste system, that yes, it still alive and well. I went with an organization that works amongst and alongside the Dalits (the untouchables).

I came across a huge billboard directly overhead a gypsy slum reading, “Luxury Villas for the Accomplished.” I could not help but wonder what it meant to be accomplished and where these accomplished people were so they could come and pick up their fellow human beings.

India 2008 – Journal Entry Day 3

“Woke up at 5:30 a.m.

Out on the streets with my doctor roommate buddy by 6.

I met poverty today.

Saw a dead: donkey, dog, bird, and rats; plus an emaciated horse this morning. Human excrement riddled the streets. Stepped in some. Nothing says you are an animal like having to poop in public while people walk by.

The next part of the day started our first medical camp. We arrived at the school to a shower of flower petals. Some kids had only a hole filled shirt on. An immediate feeling of not being worthy of such a gift was on my mind. I felt…um…very white, and very privileged. There was nothing I did to deserve their honor.

Our team consisted of one doctor, two nurse practitioners, four nurses, one nutritionist, and one person with an honorary degree of sorts in the inner workings of the hospital setting. That would be me.

I was indeed anxious and nervous of what my role might be as the only non-medically trained person of our group. Turns out all that training the Lord gave me through Drugs 101, via childhood cancer, turned out useful when they decided to make me the team pharmacist.”

Sidenote: Did I mention I had cancer when I was 11?

Oh yeah. Sorry. That happened. Acute Myeloid Leukemia to be exact. Twice. She was a real doozy. 18 months of chemo and radiation the first time, followed by 6 months of remission, followed by a relapse.

Oh no… please don’t pity me!

Having cancer when you’re young was like having an extended birthday party. Every week you got a present from someone. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to have videos games pre-cancer. Now I have both a Sega Genesis and Playstation. Booya! Bring it on Mega Bomberman!

The way I looked at it, I didn’t have to do my homework, I got tons of attention from girls at school, and there were pretty nurses giving shooting morphine directly into my veins. Aside from barfing my guts out, and spending nearly a year of my life at different time as an inpatient in a cancer ward, it wasn’t thaaaat bad.

I like to tell people I learned faith the first time, and patience the second time – although I still totally suck at patience.

I’m 13 at this point. My first question to the doc after being re-diagnosed was…

“So does this mean I get another Make A Wish trip!?”

“No. Sorry. You only get one Make A Wish.”

“What’s the point of getting cancer twice if you can’t get another Make A Wish? It’s someone else’s turn in the family to get cancer if we’re going on another family vacation. That’s bushleague.

AML round two involved more of the same.

More radiation. More chemo. More hospital time. More missing school. And some on and off years of picking up weird illnesses along the way. But, I got this time I got a new cord blood stem cell transplant. My blood type even changed from type A- to A+. I’m sure there’s some prophetic word to be had in all that negative to a positive jazz. But I digress.

We’ll get back to the cancer stuff later. Back to India.

“I think God has a sense of humor. I knew most all of the drugs our medical team were prescribing. I actually felt comfortable reaching for the antacids, antibiotics, antihistamines, and other drugs beginning with the word ‘ant.’

I felt helpless though handing out Tylenols and multivitamins – wondering how in the world this was going to help ease the pain of the injuries and disease we encountered.”

India 2008 – Journal Entry Day 14

“I don’t know that it is possible to go on such a trip and not be changed or transformed in some way. I do know that one trip will not be a quick fix for learning to love or act in the world the way we are called to. I do know that the Indian people worked on my heart. I do know that Christianity should be a verb and not a noun. Nouns are static and unmoving. Verbs are active and changing.

I am learning that faith and deed cannot be separated from how you live. So if your job finds you in an office serving your co-workers, or in India handing out drugs that have far too many syllables in the name, Jesus is and will be ready for you to love and be loved.

The Indian people had an impact on me through the way they viewed faith.

From the teacher I met that was forced to run and hide in the woods for his life, while upper caste members burned down their Dalit school; to watching a girl sing “God is so Good”  – even though she was living in 6’ by 10’ cement pipe behind an abandoned factory.

Faith was something real in India. There was no plan A, or B, or C. It was all plan A. Jesus. No back up. No savings accounts. Simply Jesus.

I learned aspects of love, compassion, and mercy I did not know before. I learned through that true religion in India is embracing the Dalits who have remained untouchable for centuries. I learned that Jesus actually does live in India, and is very much alive and well in the eyes of Indian children.

And I learned I need the poor – more than the poor needs me.”

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