It was 5:35am when the wheels of the Boeing 787-9 British Airways aircraft met the grounds of Chennai, India. I had been awaiting this adventure since October of 2016 and here I was over a year later finally achieving the dream of studying abroad in India. The first few days went by rather fast. It was total immersion into the Indian culture: the food, the heat, the clothing, etc. However, by the third day, everything caught up to me and I got sick in the middle of the night. I could not participate in the next day’s event and was left alone to get well in our hostel. After about 24 hours, I was better.
It was such a honeymoon phase to finally be in India. Everything amazed me and I wanted to try everything. However, the honeymoon phase “phased” out when we went on our first long excursion. We took a train for 7 hours, then a bus for 3 hours, and then walked for another hour to reach an NGO (Non-Government Organization) that worked with scheduled tribes in India. We would be visiting a few of them for a few days. When they showed us where we would be staying, I was okay with it at first, but eventually, as the days went on, my patience was running thin. We slept on paper thin mats on cold concrete floor. The bathroom was nearly always flooded from the bucket showers, and there was a giant spider in it. When we returned from the trip, however, I felt so much stronger having made it through that experience.
We continued to learn more about the culture and eventually started our field placements. Slowly, but surely, I began to find the things that conflicted me the most about the culture. People here eat with their hands (or just their right hand to be exact). There is never any toilet paper, so you must remember to carry your own. I won’t even talk about the traffic (just YouTube “Traffic in India”). And then, of course, the food itself. I just wanted to enjoy it, but it was always too hot and spicy for me. Fortunately, another student from my home university came with me and we were able to vent and eventually embrace these cultural differences.
About a month in, I got sick again. This time, I was fighting a fever for four days and could barely even walk to the bathroom because my head was spinning so bad. By this time, the other student had already started her field placement, so I was again left alone where I was bored and sick in our hostel. In the moments of lying there sick, I had two thoughts on my mind: Do I have some form of malaria that my pills aren’t effective in fighting off and therefore I’m going to die here? And: God, why did you bring me here? Yes, I thought I was going to die (but don’t worry, it honestly wasn’t that bad, I was just a wimp).
I began to question what my purpose was in this foreign land if all I was going to do was just lay in bed half the time. Why did God bring me to a culture so much more diverse than my own? Living in India has become the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. At one point, I even looked up plane tickets to come home.
That was when the conviction came. God said to me, you are not going home, you need to stay the course. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head because, it was then, that I finally understood. God wanted me to be here to go through all this “suffering” and chaos for His glory. I then proceeded to pick up my faith again, believing that God would either heal me miraculously from this sickness, or walk through it with me. I decided to no longer allow this experience to negatively impact my experience in India.
I am happy to say that I am still in India, a week after being sick for the second time, and still recovering. 🙂
Friends, have you ever felt like things were just so wrong and out of control that surely, they can’t be from God? That is how this experience has felt at times. But it’s in the moments where I realize that, even in my minute suffering, God is with me and desiring that I lean on Him more. This is how God uses pivotal circumstances in our lives to grow our faith. Check out Pastor Aaron’s message this week to hear more examples, Biblical context, and a message of encouragement about going through life’s difficult circumstances: http://www.painesvilleag.com/painesville-ag-messages/?enmse=1&enmse_sid=21
Don’t give up when the going gets tough, friends, stay the course! I know that God is going to use the pivotal circumstances I have in India to grow my faith and force me to rely on His strength instead of my own.
Make it a great week!