Safe and sound I have returned to the states and I sit here overwhelmed with everything. I wish my typing fingers could keep up with the memories, thoughts, and emotions in my head and my heart, but they can't. There is only one way to describe how my time in India was and that is "unexplainably wonderful". There were three songs during the trip that I could not stop singing over and over.
"I Saw What I Saw" -Sara Groves
I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it
Something on the road cut me to the bone
Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
(What I am made of)
And what I know of love
"Your Great Name" -Natalie Grant
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of your great name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of your great name
Every fear; has NO place; at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he HAS to leave; at the sound of your great name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up;
That ALL the world will praise your great name!
"Your Name" -Craig & Dean
Your name is a strong and mighty tower
Your name is a shelter like no other
Your name let the nations sing it louder
'Cause NOTHING has the power to save
But Your name
Jesus, in Your name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord, give us strength to live for You and glorify Your name
The girls also sang ALOT together to worship in a dark place and it was SO powerful!
Wow. Those songs have fuller meaning to me now that I have sang them in another country while I was serving the Lord. Our team dealt with a lot of spiritual warfare and all I could sing in my head as we were working with these kids and loving them like Jesus loved was "The enemy; he HAS to leave; at the sound of Your great name".
I guess to start, I'll start with one story from the beginning that has effected my life forever. We all piled onto our first of MANY planes in Washington D.C. and took off the ground to Delhi at 10pm. Everything was going smooth and I was becoming anxious to get my luggage from the baggage claim because right inside the front pocket of my backpacking pack was my facewash and moisturizer. We had just been on two long airplane rides. The first one from Washington to London was 9 hours and then our connecting flight from London Heathrow to New Delhi was about 7 hours. All the I could think about was splashing fresh cold water on my face and washing it after feeling all stuffed up in those planes.
So, I kept on waiting. And waiting. Then I began to walk around and around and around the baggage claim conveyor belt because "I knew it was somewhere or someone must have taken mine accidentally thinking it was theirs".
It was nowhere in sight. The last little red luggage case came shooting down the conveyor belt from the plane and then that horrible sound of the bell went off to let us know "Yes, Ashley, we have no more luggage left on this plane and yours is somewhere M.I.A. (missing in action)". In this moment I did not know how to respond, so I just began to pray. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away and for some reason in this moment, the Lord has something to teach me by taking away. Our team leader and I headed over to the corner to report and claim lost luggage and I was still in denial that my luggage was not in my hands.
It was a slow process over the next EIGHT days of waiting for my luggage, but the Lord taught me a lot about my relationship with Him. During this time, He led me to John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do NOT give as the world gives. Do NOT let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
Before leaving for India, I had celebrated my birthday and received gifts for both Christmas and my birthday. I believe that the Lord saw my heart and that I was holding onto all the material things that I had received. I was loving the things of this world so much that I was beginning to find my joy in them, and not in the joy that Christ is in my life. I could hear Him asking me "Ashley, I see that you are 'joyful' when you have everything and your life is in order, BUT when I strip you of everything do you still have that joy because it is found in me? Or is that 'joy' gone because it was worldly and found in what you have?" This was a hard question to physically be faced with and it was even more of a challenge to live out that joy each of those eight days as I did not have my luggage.
The day before I found out that British Airways had found my luggage, I had completely surrendered my luggage to the Lord and said "God, you give and you take away, and if you take this away for good and I never see it again, I will still have joy because I have my joy in you alone." That next day, my team leader Ron informed me that my luggage was found and it was on its way to Bihar! Wow. It is at that moment that you give up everything that the Lord gives you everything. Sometimes, that is something physical like your luggage that you get back, but other times it is only something that you can feel in your heart, like peace, like joy, like love.
Going back to John 14:27, God taught me that even when we pray, He does not give to us as the world gives to us. We have no reason to fear and no reason to be troubled because we have everything in Him because He already has overcome.
The last verse the I read on the third plane to Bihar after not being able to get my luggage in Delhi, I went to Job (I could NEVER compare myself to Job's circumstance, but I felt like I could relate to him in that moment). In Job 1:20-22, Job has just found out that his everything he owned was destroyed, and that all of his sons and daughters were killed. "...Then Job fell tot he ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: may the name of the LORD be praised. In ALL of this, Job did NOT sin by charging God with wrongdoing! God used Job to teach me to praise Him even when I cannot see what His plan is or what He is trying to teach me. We serve a sweet, sweet Father. Thank you Lord for giving my luggage back to me, but most importantly, for teaching me through ways that are much higher than my mind could ever comprehend.