Releasing Stories

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So.

It’s been exactly one month since my Husband and I boarded a plane to go to India. I’m shocked that I’ve not been chomping at the opportunity to update you all, to tell each and every story, to pour out all the good. bad, and ridiculous that happened there.

In actuality, I’ve felt very guarded and extremely protective of these stories, because they are all completely about people. These are real people being effected by the light of Christ and the darkness of this world. I’m like a new mom- dangerously and ferociously protective of the dignity and integrity.

Over the next several weeks, Jonathan and I will be posting video entries on this blog. We just think it’s helpful to you and to us to process some of the stories out loud and should have a much better flow than typing it all up. The videos will be equipped with LOTS of pictures and we pray that you’ll think of ways to join God’s future efforts to heal both bodies and souls in India.

In the meantime, here are a couple of prayer requests:

1. We are definitely going back to India. We’re always seeking God’s wisdom on how this should be done (with or without kids, raise funds or only use our own funds, short-term or long term, etc). Please continue to pray for His guidance.

2. There were a few people who just left a HUGE impact on Jonathan and me. Pastor Sunil, Rupali, Askhay and Solami, Pastor Sachin, Pastor J. Deep, Dr. Priti, Mrs. Urunkar, and Nilesh, Monish and Sunita in particularly STOLE OUR HEARTS. We love them, and we cannot forget their beauty and strength in the Lord. Please pray for God’s Spirit to continually flow through them!

3. Chris and McKenzie Nielsen are still in India with 3 other of our loved ones. Pray for safety and guidance for them.

Thanks for reading and I PROMISE we’ll have more for you (yay for pictures!) the next time we update this week! Blessings.

My Deepest Desires

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I was talking with one of my favorite gals about my most pressing and chronic struggle. CHANGING MYSELF. (uhk. The mere words makes me want to frisbee my computer across the room a little… Just a little).🙂

Basically, my entire life I’ve had a hard time fitting in. During my 19 years of living in NY, I struggled with connecting to other girls, and I moved a lot (4 high schools to be exact). Self expression was such a huge part of NY culture that helped identify which crowd you fit with the most. Apparently that didn’t work for me- I ended up being the kids who bounced from table to table in the cafeteria, morphing my lingo, my body language, my preferences to conform to my audience of “friends”.

Yes, you can chuckle. You're Welcome. ;)

Yes, you can chuckle. You’re Welcome.😉

My deepest desire at that time was to belong.

By college in Georgia, I was completely over that- and not in a good way. I decided at that point to verbally assault (and physically if I felt like it) any and every person that had the potential to reject and/or hurt me. I was certainly my own person, and I was determined to control my every interaction and never give into the pressure to be like anyone else. I wanted people to like me FOR that, and to respect me for the bluntness, the “realness” and want to be around that energy. What I found instead was isolation and self-destruction. Only a handful of ladies helped me through that time (they saw through the facade and the defenses. They endured they share of wounds at my hands and still where there for me. For that I am so grateful to them).

My loves, only missing one (LF). #CollegeFriends

My loves, only missing one (LF). #CollegeFriends

My deepest desire at that time was to be loved conditionally.

 

When we move here to Columbus, Ohio 6 years ago, I was still reeling from those experiences and the damage I had done to my own identity and the ways others viewed me. I came here raw, ready for a change (in location, culture, and theology), ready to learn who I really was. So I got really open and honest- “Tissue Paper Transparency” is what I declared it.

And I was right. I allowed people to know a lot about my past (probably too much), to hear my opinions, my truths, and my voice a lot, but if they ever got too close or pushed back too hard, or rejected me, or judged me, I’d tear. It didn’t take much to rip me into pieces.

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I learned a lot about my cultural barriers. My race and where I was born shaped my worldview and many people here just couldn’t understand that diversity. My New York accent was its own little barrier, as people found me too blunt, too direct, to “urban”. I had only been a true follower of Christ for a couple of years and found myself in a church with a LOT of hymns and a LOT of slow, guitary music.

Relationships were super different here too. Everyone’s SO NICE and SO CORDIAL- I had a hard time finding someone who was REAL with their struggles.

I have nothing against cordiality and guitars. All I’m saying is that I was in complete culture shock. My deepest desire at that time was authenticity.

And now, I am at a place where I juggle my needs of belonging, of being loved unconditionally, and authenticity all at once. I want my identity, my personality, my character, my speech, my likes and dislikes, my worldview, all to be shaped by God my Creator. 

As I have understood lately, this will not always be appealing to everyone- just because I ask the Lord to help me be authentically HIS doesn’t mean other followers of Christ, even, will understand me and “get it”. I will, at times, come off as:

1. over-sharing. And yet some will say they don’t know me at all.

2. too direct. And yet, others will feel I let a lot of things slide.

3. not sacred enough (particularly of Facebook.) And yet, the MAJORITY of my friends are not devoted to Christ and they relate to me and I have their ear. And they love the authenticity that God has placed in me that some other Christians they know are afraid to reveal.

4. boring/common. And still, others will find me fun and engaging.

5. humble. And yet, others will see me as a know-it-all.

I guess what I’m saying is, I know that not everyone will get me, my motives, or why I choose the words and actions that I do. But I want to confess that am intentionally being me as God has made me. And there are times when I DO feel that conviction, where the Spirit in me says, “Shouldn’t write that… You might want to pray before that conversation… Hold your tongue.” I am working everyday to obey. Lord, help me to obey You!

What I won’t be is tamed be man. I’ve been through too much to rework the very person that God has already remade! When I began walking with Him, He changed me so much, I am not even recognizable to the people in my past!!! Glory to God! He has already made me a new creation. Why would I look to man to improve upon God’s workmanship?

My deepest desire now is to reclaim God’s gifts of individualism and uniqueness, and to be a part of this HUGE community of people, where diversity is an asset and not a point of contention.  

Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 11.18.02 AM Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 11.08.21 AM Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 11.16.38 AM Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 11.07.52 AM Screen shot 2013-08-29 at 11.07.39 AMI love being crazy, happy me!

What do you desire???

Why India?

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Yesterday was a fun-filled, adventurous, and very long day.

We attended the FIA‘s Annual Indian Festival here in Columbus, Ohio. We, along with several of our friends from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, and Gujarat stayed all day for the food, the music and dancing, a DYNAMIC Fashion show put on by my friend Neena-ji (her shop here), and so much more. The best part about the day is that we had the opportunity to partner with CIC, distributing tracks, Holy Bibles, and other materials about Jesus in all the major Indian languages!

I had on my best salwar kameez with my hair tied back, and my hands neatly pressed together, chanting “Hello!… Namaskar!… Vanakum…” over and over to scores of people, hoping know one would notice that Americans were manning the Columbus INDIAN Church table…

They noticed.

And before long, Indians and the curious Americans in attendance alike were asking me the same the question I’ve heard since 2009.

Why India?

This question always proves to be the most cringe-worthy for me. I can’t deny the reactionary, impulsive reply that my soul flesh desires to give: “Well WHY NOT India??” However, I’ve never actually given that response, because I also know that this is a completely fair, innocuous, and most times, loving question that isn’t an accusation or a rejection, but an opportunity to share God’s dream of reconciliation through Jon and me. (Can you tell I’m encouraging myself right now?)

Also, the answer is not so simple. The enigma of leaving our newly purchased home at the beginning of a school year all in the Name of Christ Jesus eludes my besties and family members who are not Jesus followers and Christians alike! So please bear with me as I try to pour out our heart for this great nation and for its people!

Reason #1: God called, but it went to voicemail. The first time we considered missions, we got pretty heartbroken. First off, we wanted to participate in traveling for God (missions) because we believed in reuniting people with Yahweh, The One whom we find to be Compassionate, Loving and cares for the plight of the oppressed. We also believed that a part of fulfilling God’s plan in the world was to bring peace between people groups. We felt God’s calling to a place that would force us to be cross-cultural; working with, worshipping with, and serving people who didn’t look, act, smell, eat, sing, or worship like us. Uzbekistan was on our radar to be exact. When we consulted a local missionary to receive advice, we were told something that sent God’s call straight to voicemail:

“You should consider some place like North Africa since you’re African-Americans. Not Uzbekistan. You’ll be mistreated there. What about Sudan?”

It was like a dagger– once again we are restricted in how and where we could be used based on our own race. The consultants intentions were SO PURE though! They LOVED us and didn’t want us to be hurt- and I’m so thankful for their warning. But it halted our plans for about 6 months. And then…

Reason #2: God called again. Thank you Jesus. In 2009, Our beautiful friends asked if we were interested in donating funds to building a water well in India. We prayed about it and agreed and then the confusion set it. “Why on Earth would the biggest democracy in the world need Americans to help build wells for water?!” We began to do some research and with God’s help our eyes began to open for the plight of the 1 billion people living in India- specifically for the poor, marginalized, and abused. And our hearts began to break.

Reason #3: Because. Why not India?

Let’s face it. We could have gone to Sudan. There are a plethora of countries where the people are racially like us and need our help, including my mother’s very own Haiti. And life may or may not have been easier for us had we gone there. I think the biggest most paramount thing to remember when it comes to the Thomas family going to India or not is that had we stayed in the States or pursued another country for comfort sake, we would have been in complete disobedience again of what we felt God was instructing. Instead, we follow the steps of Thomas, the Disciple of Jesus, who once doubted Christ’s very presence, only later to proclaim His Name all over India and even to martyrdom. (Ok, NOT trying to follow Thomas’s steps that far, but hey! We have counted the cost.)

To find some more light-hearted reasons why we love India check out our page here. Start now to think about where (really, WHO) God might be calling you to. Is there a certain people group of who’s music/food/language/culture you just love and it seems strange to others? Or maybe all of your co-workers or neighbors are from a small corner of the world and you have no idea how you’ve found yourself in community with them. Even more likely, you might be from the suburbs and hear a voice telling you to be more compassionate in your own city, across ethnic divide, seeking justice for the oppressed.

Listen to that voice. Because it is the most exhilarating, most fulfilling, most worthwhile move you could make!

 THREE MORE WEEKS!

Bibles in all languages

Bibles in Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Malayalam, and English🙂

Jon eating Chaat Yum

Jon eating Chaat. Yum!😉

Me and Nimmy

Me and Nirmala (Nimmy). Love her!

Neena's Fashion show

Neena’s Fashion show. Around 2,000 people there! So proud!🙂

Pastor King taking a break with Roman

Pastor King taking a break with Roman.🙂

Rosie and Her Henna Aunty

Rosie getting Henna roses.

Rosie Girl's Hand

Rosie Girl’s Hand

The men doing their thing

The Pastor, Jones, and Jon doing their thing.Maxie! Maxie!and of course thisAnd of course, this. 

 

 

A Little Update

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Hello Family and Friends!

I am SO sorry that we’ve been a little absent (okay a LOT absent) from our blog and Facebook page! Summer happened. Really, life happened. But we don’t want you to think that keep you up to date with all that we’re involved with isn’t deeply important to us.

I’m super excited to be sitting and typing this to you because today’s a BIG DAY! You may have already figured this out, but this is Kayla Rose’s and Jon Maxwell’s first day back to school– or as one mom called it on Facebook, Mother’s Day.

This means a few things for me practically:

1.  I will have the SAME AMOUNT of time of my hands (God-willing), but I will have greater choosing on how to use it.

2. I will be constantly tempted to waste this time (by catching up on random, incredible, exciting yet mind-numbing television shows, scheduling frivolous lunch dates et cetera, when there’s a LOT of important things I want to should be doing…).

3. August/September always feels like a the New Year to me- it’s a great opportunity to start over, pick up good habits, drop the poor ones, and set new goals for the school year. With that being said, Jon and I have some pretty EXCITING and CREATIVE IDEAS that, if it be God’s will, could help us support ourselves financially when we begin our frequent short term ministry in India (or looooong term ministry…. I’m praying for the latter). As these plans develop, which more likely than not will be AFTER our trip in September, we’ll need your help in spreading the word. I cannot wait to share more- but for now, we’re prying for direction and clarity, and definitely for courage!

Ok so on to updating:

Now, more than ever, I (Delaine) have had the burden to pray for any and everything. My friend Esther (who hails from the great South Indian state of Tamil Nadu) invited me to her home so that we together could uphold countries, families, situations– ANYTHING in prayer. This time, which happens each Friday from 10-5p, has been the best consistent experience in my personal missions journey; I have seen the Lord draw me nearer to Him and trust and have confidence in His word, while receiving cultural immersion that I could never read in a book. Esther ( and her gorgeous baby girl) have taught us to sing and say Tamil songs and words, and have been so welcoming and loving to us.

She  takes care of my kids, and has been the answer to a huge prayer. She feels like a sister. [And now I’m getting teary.]

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There are several Indian families in our neighborhood that have invited us to dinner, who have been praying for God’s ministry through us in India, and who have just plain been there for us. When I see our children climb into the lap of my sister or brother in Christ who happens to be of another race or ethnicity, or when Kayla says to me, “Thanni, amma? Nandri,” (Water, mom  thank you) it reminds me that our cross-cultural ministry has begun right here at home, and that we’re called to live it before promoting it.

Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 10.59.00 AM Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 10.58.18 AM Screen shot 2013-08-21 at 10.58.30 AMThe kids with Ana, Rachel Aunty, and Jones Uncle. 

 

Another joy to my heart has been to see Jonathan’s friendships thriving. This so-called introvert is suddenly a social butterfly! I get so proud of the work God’s doing in him whenever he’s asked to give an impromptu prayer at the local Indian Church we attend, or when I catch him on the phone making plans to serve at CIC.

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He’s also been  encouraging us as a family to study the Bible. I know it may sound fundamental and basic, but he’s right. We’ve got to strengthen our Biblical/Scriptural memory and speak it with accuracy and confidence.

We’re looking forward to Skyping soon with our friends/teammates Chris and McKenzie, who have already landed in India and have been there for a MONTH! I keep having this dream of me being at their feet (they’re on my couch, me on the floor) and they’re teaching me Hindi and what to do when I enter into a shop for sweets.🙂

Soon, we will all be together, over there. I’m so excited, I’m even looking forward to the 22 hour flights!

 

ps- THANK YOU everyone who has contributed with prayers, accountability, and money!!!!!! We’ve only got 10% left to raise and 2 weeks to raise it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll be updating more about that later, we just want to say thank you! If you’d like to receive our fundraising letter via email or Facebook, HOLLA’ AT US! We want to send it and give as many people the opportunity to join this journey as we can.

Later ya’ll.

A Send-off

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Yesterday, the Columbus Indian Church celebrated 3 years of  ministry here in the US in addition to Pastor King’s birthday!

Every time we attend we attend CIC, there’s an inexplicable calm and joy that Jon and I (as well as our 3 kids) have. Cultural barriers, language barriers, ethnic barriers are simply not barriers at all. I’m preoccupied there with the same issues I have at my own church home:

Is my attire appropriate?

Did Jon eat yet?

Does anyone need to go potty?

Did anyone feed the baby?

Where is the baby, anyway??

And to my delight, Jon hasn’t eaten yet because he’s fellowshipping with his friends, but pastor’s making him a plate. One of the ladies with school age children already took my kids to the potty. And the baby’s somewhere in another room, on the lap of the guest preacher- both eating cake and hugging one another.

Just like home.

So when Jon and I were called up during the service so that Columbus India Church could pray for our trip/ministry, we felt no reservations, no hesitation. They were sending us with all of their hearts and love, with all of their support, and most importantly, with prayer. They laid hands on us and prayed in Tamil, asking God to protect and guide us, and thanking Him for His plan to use us in India.

They prayed for the people in India that we would encounter. They prayed that the Spirit of the Living God would go before us.

As they prayed, I felt all the things that make me anxious about this trip become less significant and I need more of that in my life right now. I cannot wait to continue spending time with our old and new friends at CIC!

Columbus Indian Church 7/7/13

 

Also- My saree didn’t fall off so that’s definitely a WIN!🙂

Interview with Pastor EzhilArasan King

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I’m fascinated with stories of immigrants here in this country. Maybe it stems from growing up with Jordanian, Japanese, Mexican, and Indian 1st generation Americans all in my neighborhood. Maybe it’s because my own mother has a story of migrating to this country for a better life, and without that story I would not be here today.

Here’s an interview that I conducted with a local (Columbus, Ohio) pastor from South India. He’s become a great friend to Jon and me, we’ve gotten to know him and his family over prayer nights and biryani. We so hope to go to India with him someday soon!

Enjoy reading about this pastor’s journey from idol worshipping ancestors to Christ ministry in Dublin, Ohio.

Delaine: Pastor King, what is your background?

Pastor King: My name is EzhilArasan, born on June 27th 1955, in a Christian family. My forefathers were Hindus – idol worshippers. They did not know the true and living God. My grandfather became a Christian, when he came in contact with Christian missionaries. My grandfather adopted the name of Yesuadian (means “Servant of Jesus”), when he accepted Christ.

Delaine: Were your parents Christians?

Pastor King: Although my grandparents became Christians, my parents were Christians only for namesake, not by action or way of life. I was the 2nd of 7 boys born to my parents (my father was a farmer and mother was a village school teacher), who struggled to make ends meet and provide for the big family. We were very nominal Christians, and it can be attributed to the fact that we lived in poverty. Mere day to day sustenance was a challenge and hence my parents did not emphasize going to church or prayer or bible reading – they did not show me the Christian way of life. They just struggled to put food on the table every day.

Delaine: So what was your experience growing up? How did your family get by?

Pastor King: I studied in Margoschis High School. While in school, I missed classes several days, because my parents forced me to work due to the constant shortage of money and also as I was the most well-built of the older sons and was capable of hard, manual labor. Some of the work I had done during my school days included collecting straw/hay for the animals, picking out the cow dung and cleaning up the farm, cutting firewood, carpentry work etc. No work was too menial for me, since it provided some money that I could hand over to my parents to help out the big family. However, due to this hardship, I missed out on the company of good friends and often was the laughing stock of the children at school. I was lonely most of the time, and this loneliness is what drove me to seek out Jesus.

Delaine: When did you become a believer?

Pastor King: On April 24th, 1976, when I was in my 11th grade, during a VBS class, I accepted Christ as my Savior, my all-in-all, my closest companion and friend. During that time, the Bible verse that became very personal and dear to me was Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!””. Because of my loneliness, I resolved in my heart to be a blessing to those around me by spreading the love and gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Delaine: Did you always know you would be a pastor?

Yes, after high school, I went to Chennai and joined Maranatha Bible College to get an undergraduate degree in Theology. I worked my way part-time through college. The work involved cleaning kitchen, restroom, ironing clothes, writing down notes for classmates etc. During those days, God provided an answered prayer in my wonderful classmate and friend named Jeyaseelan, who was my spiritual partner, who prayed and studied together with me. We also did gospel work together such as house evangelism and giving out tracts. After my graduation, I went to Mysore, Karnataka, as a missionary, to do field work. This was through the organization “Operation Mobilization”. I stayed there for 3.5 years, until 1985.

I also got married in 1985 to my wonderful wife, Dominica, who has been a faithful helper and friend, by my side for the past 27 years, in the city of Madurai. Soon after marriage, I enrolled for MA in History in Madurai Kamarajar University, and completed the course in 1989. In 1987, I was also appointed as the Regional Director of “Prayer Life Seminar India” in Madurai. This led me to several places such as Sri Lanka, Andaman, Pondicherry, Chennai etc., where I gave seminars to Pastors, Women groups, students, Bible schools, lay persons – different groups of people, on how to develop our personal prayer life. This was the key of “Prayer Life Seminar”. I also acted in the role of a Counselor and provided counseling to new believers and students about ministry decisions.

Delaine: How did you have the confidence to be so cross-cultural and travel all over South India?

Pastor King: During this time,  I was embarking on a new journey – both on a personal front (marriage) and professional front (new job),  and I prayed fervently to God for direction and the verse Joshua 1:9 became my life verse, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Delaine: At what point did you plant you own church?

Pastor King: In 2000, I established a church named, Prayer Life Church, which started out as a thatched roof on the top of my house. Around 2003-2004, I built a home and a sturdy church on top of the house, on a separate plot of land, and currently the church is being run by Pastor Anthony. We started out as 6 people in the church and now have close to 70 people attending the church regularly!

Delaine: How did you come to America and what has been your experience?

Pastor King: One of my 6 brothers, named Vallarasan, filed for a green card for my family, and that’s how the Lord brought me to this country in 2008. We lived in Washington DC, along with my brother, for a year, before moving to Columbus, OH in 2009.

During the 1 year in Washington DC, I saw the needs of the Indian people in the US. They were in an alien country, away from their home country of India, and they needed to know the love of Jesus Christ and know that their real citizenship is in heaven, not in India or America.

At the same time, I also saw the emptiness in the lives of many American men and women, who seemed to have all the riches this world has to offer, but seemed to be empty inside. Despite their affluence, I sensed the same loneliness in them, which I had known during my school days, back in India.

Delaine: So what does your ministry look like currently?

Pastor King: In 2010, I established the Columbus Tamil Church. We have an evening service every Sunday, as well as services during special occasions such as Christmas, New Year, Good Friday, Easter, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving etc. We also have monthly house fellowship in Dayton and Columbus. On the 1st day of every month, we also have a teleconference prayer to pray specifically for the nation of America. On a personal basis, my wife and I do house visitations regularly, and I do prison ministry, as the opportunity is available.

I want to make my life available to God, since He is the one who gave me this very life. I am passionate about Christian service and spreading the joy, love and gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and will always do my very best to be worthy of the calling that God has placed on my life.