February 20, 2010
Dear family and friends,
So much has happened since I was last able to sit and write you a letter. It all really started with my recent trip to India. On January 20th, Bekah, the Hupe family and I flew to Chennai which is in the south of India right on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. We were there to attend the Asia Regional Retreat that is held once every 3 years. It was so interesting to be able to meet and spend time with all of the Word Made Flesh Asia Field Staff. We were there with the Nepali and Indian staff members. There are two WMF fields in India: one in Kolkata and the other in Chennai. One of my favorite parts was being able to meet the Chennai staff, the Samuels family because they are the very first WMF field and have been staff for the last 18 years!
Bekah and I helped out two fabulous ladies with childcare so that the parents were able to really focus on the retreat and having fellowship. It was really a lot of fun being with the kids. I felt so blessed to be there in beautiful Chennai with them.
We were actually in two different locations during our time in Chennai. After the Regional Retreat, we went with the other Field Directors to a separate meeting for them. There we spent time wandering around the interesting little shops, playing on the beach and taking tons of pictures that I am can’t wait to share with you.
After all of the meetings were concluded, we headed north to Kolkata for a few days. I am still in the process of emotionally recovering from my time there. While I wouldn’t have traded the experienced for anything, it was hard for me being there, and if you would like a more detailed and physical description of the city I will direct you to my blog: www.meredithlayne.org
The first day was partially spent at the Thai Embassy applying for our re-entry visas and then after that we headed to Sari Bari and met with the fantastically beautiful women who work there. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Sari Bari you should go to www.saribari.org and look at their amazing creations. Basically, Sari Bari is a place where women wanting to get out of the red light district are able to seek shelter, learn a skill and put that skill to work and make a living for themselves and for their families.
Old and used saris are purchased and these women clean them, reshape them and sew them back together to craft brightly colored quilts, blankets and various bags. The process is the same as God goes through with us sinners: we are purchased, washed, broken and reshaped into something beautiful and useful. The women are welcomed with open arms and hearts and experience firsthand the healing and redemptive love of Christ.
On Friday our last day in India, we were able to go the Home for the Dying and see where Mother Teresa lived and worked. We were hoping to volunteer but we weren’t able to because they had too many volunteers, which is an awesome problem to have. We went to the Mother House and saw Mother Teresa’s tomb which is a lot like the lady herself: beautifully simple and surrounded by the word of God. That night we spent in community with the WMF staff. Keep them in your prayers along with the rest of the Asia staff as they serve and try their best to do Kingdom work.
Spending that time in India made me so excited to come back to Thailand. It really felt like coming home. I loved India but my heart is definitely in Thailand. Many of you know that as an intern my specific job is to care for women who come to live with us who are in need. Since returning from India that aspect of my job has begun. I am not able to give details at this time, but I can tell you that two of the most amazing women have moved in with us. Their stories are horrific; many of the details seem too much to believe. My responsibilities are to oversee their primary care and making sure their basic needs are met.
We have been getting to know them over the past two weeks and I have made two awesome friends that I will carry in my heart forever. Their names are Joanna and Marianna* and they are amazing. Their beauty and grace is something to behold. Everyday we grow closer and our bond is growing stronger giving them what I hope is love and stability that has been so missing in their lives. Joanna is a new believer and her enthusiasm for Christ is so wonderful, her dark eyes sparkle when she talks about God’s love for her and how he has changed her life completely. She has been attending a local Burmese church herein the city and it has been a great family of community for her. Last night she took Bekah and Marianna and I with her to a home Bible study.
Living in the south I thought I knew what hospitality was, but at this home Bible study I really experienced genuine hospitality. Here I was in this tiny room, maybe 20x5 feet with about forty people sitting and leaning in windows and the doorway to hear the word that was given and to fellowship. After the message was given we all ate together. The food was the most delicious Nepali food, everyone eating family style in bowl after bowl of food and plate after plate of fruit. Bekah and I were welcomed so warmly and embraced by everyone. People there were explaining the message that was given in Nepali so we could understand, introducing us to their families, asking about our lives and giving us more and more (and more!) food. It was beautiful. We had our Father in common and so we all were equal. It was community.
Compared to me, these people have so little and yet they give to us without reservation because the same has been done for them. As I reflect back, I wonder what this would have looked like in America. Would we go so far out of our comfort zone to welcome two Nepali girls into our church? Would we sit with them and translate the sermon, would we without question offer up our bed for them to sleep in, given them all of our food or would we they get lost in the busy shuffle of the production and show of Sunday worship? Would the language barrier be too great, so we don’t leave our group of Sunday friends to welcome Jesus in the form of two foreigners? I want to believe it would be no different, but I know that I haven’t been the one to step out, even when there is no language or cultural walls. I still don’t step out of my comfort and welcome them. Thankfully God is changing me and teaching me through Burmese churches to do so.
The Servant Team arrived here this past week. They are now in the process of becoming familiar with their surroundings and everything. I am excited to get to know the more and share awesome experiences with them the next few months.
Financially, I have a total of $3800 raised. I need a total of $7,000 to cover the expenses of this trip, and have it raised before the first of June. All that I have left to raise is $3200! That’s really not so bad. That looks like 32 people donating $100, or 64 people donating $50 or 160 donating $20. With tax returns coming in soon hopefully you all are able to share with me what God has blessed you with so that I am able to do the work he has called me to in Thailand. You can donate directly to WMF at www.wordmadeflesh.org or to me directly by clicking on the donate button at my blog (www.meredithlayne.org). Thank you for your continued support and prayers, they mean so much to me! I love and miss you, and look forward to seeing you soon!
In His Love, by His Grace,
*Names changed for their safety & protection