April 11, 2014

Vanakam (Greetings) from Chennai!

You may recall the tall giant who sometime early January timidly approached the mic and asked you to pray for her while she was in India. That giant was me! What then seemed like a significant amount of time now draws quickly—and cruelly–to an end. Crossing the airport barricade in January, I didn’t know what to expect, all I knew was to be expectant. For my story, this kind of experience has been roughly six years in the making. A seed was planted at 20 to play a tiny role in the restorative work that God was carrying out globally. During those next six years while that seed lay germinating, I encountered the nations in Austin. Whether it was interning with a nonprofit for refugees or engaging international students via an on-campus ministry—God was steadily orchestrating his narrative over my life—though at times I didn’t always see it, and to be quite honest doubted it (oh me of little faith).

In coming here I’ve had the opportunity to work with an NGO in Chennai addressing issues of poverty and caste based discrimination. The agency’s entire operations aim to uproot the power differentials embedded in—and in many ways perpetuated by—systems of structural poverty. Under the umbrella of UT’s School of Social Work, this internship completes my MSSW degree—although I’m not quite sure I’ll want to leave.

Chennai is just a snapshot of the cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and regional medley that makes up India—a country perhaps unrivaled in its diversity. People are incredibly hospitable. It didn’t take long before I was somebody’s daughter, and when I leave I’ll be saying goodbye to several “aunties” and “uncles” who have shown me around, opened up their homes, and force fed me beriyani beyond the point of being full (had to learn to confidently decline that third and fourth helping).

Perhaps most enriching has been my experience with a community of local believers I randomly [read: providentially] met at a hostel while doing some work. Prayed to find a community of faith while here and meeting them was an undoubtedly tangible answer. I’ve heard a lot of churches back home talk about reaching the “unreached”. For them, it’s a part of daily life. Witnessing their passion…and if it’s safe to say, tears for India is unreal. They remind of Vox’s heart for social justice in the ways they strive to uproot the caste and dowry system—starting from within the church. That seed I was talking about earlier, I have a feeling they’re going to be a part of it.

I imagine a lot of what I have learned will reveal itself in the quiet days following my return. I’ve definitely missed you, friends, and am looking forward to seeing you all again this summer. Thankful for the Lone Star love that’s been sent this way. Please be praying for me as I finish up here and begin the process of finding a job. You can also be praying for the vision of that seed: trying to navigate through some unexpected insight/direction experienced while here. Lastly will ask that you pray for that church (City Rock Church and the pastor is a young guy named Ranjith) as they seek to plant 100 churches by 2020—an Acts 20:22-24 foundation.

Cheers,
Suzie

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