Friday, March 30, 2007

Hodge-podge up-date of sorts

As I lie awake in bed at 2:00am as though it were 6:00am I figured it would be the best use of my time to catch everyone up on the happenings in our lives lately...

First of - many of you have asked if my friends, the lice Wallas, still remain. The answer is yes, they are still taking up residence on my white, dandruff ridden scalp. Upon discovery of these nasty things there were so many eggs, weekly maintenance seems to be a requirement in order for their population to be kept at bay. I think I have come to grips with the fact that during my time here, it's inevitable that they will continue and multiply (also it's probably because I often forget to take showers and I give them too long a period of time to hatch, lay eggs, etc.)... Jake thinks I'm just not taking hard-care action against them because I like him combing through and playing with my hair every few days. I think I may be beginning to agree with him. And no, I haven't yet stopped kissing kids.

I have this all over my left palm and wrist. At first we thought it was a fungus, now we just know I perspire strangely. What to do?

As many of you know, a hope of Jake and mine is to someday have a farm where we (and whomever is living with us) can live primarily off of what we plant, grow and harvest. These two trees seem like a great start... Tree 1, meet Tree 2, your future neighbor.

Speaking of trees... There is a fairly new obsession around here and I'm riding it's wave with the patients at my side. This delightful long, deep red berry is one of the most tasty treats to be found this side of the equator. It's so deliciously delightful that often you can find kids and adults alike hiding and climbing, trying to grasp the deepest, most luscious red berries. I wish I could share the name of this berry/tree with you, but as of right now - I have no clue...

Over the past weeks both Erin and I have begun implementing an exercise program for the guys here, primarily our TB patients. 6:00am breathing and stretching, 9:30am walk, 5:00pm weight lifting and 6:00pm cardio exercises... it's been a most delightful change in daily routines and disciplines.

Yesterday for the first time I went and spent time with the Sisters of the Destitute. So often women are brought to the Ashram because they are found laying in their own feces, face down on the side of the road. Although they are destitute, I don't believe that the Ashram is the best place for a woman to recover and find rest. I'm not quite sure I have figured it all out yet, but I think women need a different kind of healing than men. Since the Ashram primarily cares for men, we have made it a practice to take our women to The Sisters of the Destitute. Upon arrival we were greeted with stern but loving smiles and hugs from the sisters as well as silly and passionate greetings from the women who live there. Joyti is one whom lived with us approx. two weeks before moving there. Since I have last seen her, the 8 inch wound on her back (from laying for long on her back through wet nights in deplorable conditions) has healed almost completely, her smile comes independent without prompting and she's now speaking. We believe, due to her physical condition upon arrival that she was most likely beaten and raped numerous times and as a result now lives within the depths of spiritual pain and confusion. My prayer is that she will, in time, feel the touch of the Sisters and her community members as the touch of Jesus. For within His touch is where I believe she will be found.

Have I yet introduced you to Tony? Brought here at the plea of government hospital nurses, Tony, abandoned, burned, broken and HIV positive, was brought to the Ashram just over two months ago for continued treatment and care after an extended period of time in the hospital. Now walking independently he is speaking more often, mimicking sounds of nature and sounds from man, enchanted with birds and fan, he now is living full-time at Kids House where he has begun school and presents to be thriving through the never-ending circle of energy produced by the kids whom live there. Beautiful.

Wait - I remember now that you do know Tony, Pramod's closest friend during his time here. Which brings me to another most beautiful series of events here, patients walking out of the Ashram on their own two feet. After a healed broken leg Pramod left to go back to work (and hopefully not the streets) and Kundanlal and his son Vijay have begun their journey back to Punjab. Kundanlal and his son showed up outside of the meeting circle on a chilly Sunday morning just over two months ago. With four days of traveling on their back, and a rejection from a government hospital to receive care, Kundanlal third degree burns covering his chest, neck, hands, face and arms were bound to his shirts and jacket with puss and blood. Miraculously, he has been healed. People say they have never seen anything like it, skin which was charred is now pink and healthy, reviving itself once again. This past week they went home.

Did I ever mention that on our few days holiday last month we went paddle boating. 30 mins. paddling down a man-made, over-sized ease trough through the middle of Delhi - all for .50 cents. I know, I agree - how could we not have gone?

Life is quite a dichotomy isn't it. Creation that is. The creation of life's quirks and sick jokes such as lice and dyshidrotic. Creation of berries which inspire child-like tree climbing, hiding and hoarding. The creation of renewed hope and communities that exist solely to inspire and nurture it. And creation through life and in healing.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Does anyone know of any good organizations and/or people to visit and/or learn from in Thailand? If so - Please let us know! Thanks!

Friday, March 23, 2007

From me (Jessica) to each of you:

Thank you.

My Birthday was the most beautifully designed birthday, thanks to each of you...

Beginning my day by going around from bed to bed, waking up all the sleeping guys by tickling their feet and watching their stunned faces peek out of the blankets to catch the culprit.

A day full with most wonderfully filled songs of birthday wishes, random flowers picked from the garden given to put in my hair, a bag full of coconut and cashew cookies from my hub, FLOODING e-mails with greetings and love, prayers and laughter...

With our most handsome flower gardener, Anil, in the backdrop, this is just one of the many delightful flowers which found it's way behind my ear on the day we celebrated my birth... The guys know the weakness I have for flowers, for each morning I make someone choose (or honestly, sometimes I choose myself) from our fields of flowers one most pretty flower to wear that day - until it dies or the bugs start coming out of the leaves and biting the tips of my ears ruthlessly.

The two days preceding my birthday were a different story... with hail storms for only 20 mins. each afternoon, 1/4 inch balls of ice cooled off our 70+ degree afternoons and lended itself to a couple quick and dirty iceball fights.

This morning though when Jake and I awoke and made our way to the office we found that our chrysalis (which Suraj found a few days before) had hatched and become a most beautiful butterfly.

I have been in the very center of delight, not only just for my birthday - but each and every day. Thank you for making this year of my life possible and helping me grow, love, delight, and laugh throughout it all. I am honored to know and be a part of your lives. Thank you.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I can't sleep tonight. Too many things running around in my mind and heart. Besides laying in bed and letting them wander around a bit more, I thought you may enjoy getting to know a couple of our Beloved here...

Precious Moona. Guided with my one arm, his swollen feet follow me as I tow him around, encouraging him to walk more than sit, engage more than remain silent. With unknown mental disabilities Moona is God's Most Beloved. He laughs when encouraged, sometimes... I seem to be able to most consistently receive a right side slanted smile when I make him dance with me or tickle his armpits... Recently I have been encouraging him to draw and color with colored pencils on a blank sketchpad... He giggles as he paints lines of various colors weaving through one another, over and below each other. Most often though I find Moona caring for Salim, a blind, deaf, mute beautiful adolescent. A quite illogical choice for a mentally disabled youth to care for a blind, deaf, and mute adolescent - but it works, because I believe it is the choice of God. I see the beauty of God in His eyes.

Our beautiful, naked, laughing, Beloved child of God. Found aprox. 3 years ago on the door-step of a local hospital, Suraj laid with his dying mother at his side. Discovered by and cared for by SA, Suraj's mother died the day she was found. Since then Suraj has grown up and lived within the choatic, lucious, ever-changing Ashram Kids House. Paralyzed from the hips down as a result of Spinal TB, Suraj has taken up residence within a deep place in our hearts. Over the last month he has been sequestered to live at the main Ashram campus, where his pressure sore can be better tracked and accountability for him to remain on his belly can be given. Motivated by attention and love (and the occasional computer game), Suraj's strong will, dominating and "hamish" personality have been a life-giving thread for both Jake and I.

Mahinder Singh is one heck of a crazy man. With engaging and silly eyes he often sits at Old Man's House. Speaking senseless talk and wistling to get others attention, I think Mahinder talks the language of God - silly talk, child-like talk, talk that only makes sense to those who want to listen. I must admit, I'm not the best at this, for often times I end of laughing and tickleing rather than sitting and listening. Yet he continues to wistle for my attention, takes my hand when I am within reach and strokes my face like a father would to his child.

I don't know much about Ramesh. I'm not even quite sure when he came here or where he's from. This is in part because he doesn't really speak outside of occassional silent soft words parting from his lips when he is alone. How you see him here is often how he is positioned and curled up on the outside skirt of the Meeting Circle. It has only been lately that we have developed an unintended expectation-filled realtionship. With the hope of him choosing to walk someday and the knowledge of him being able to do so, each time I pass his compacted frame I uncover his body from the hot wool blanket, take ahold of his ankles and stretch them outward then downward, as if he would be sitting in a chair for evening supper. At first this was a mild struggle, for his life on the streets I'm sure was filled with shame and abandonment. Curled up on the side of the street, hopeful that he wouldn't get in the way of others who had already cast him aside. His legs tight and his gaze fixed on no one, he sat, curled up like a fightened child waiting for his most feared to become reality. He still sits curled up, yet his willingness to stretch his legs is noticeable. There have even been times when Ihave approached him and his legs unfold and he sits up, as though he were a man who possessed dignity and had been given love since birth.

I'm not quite sure what to say about Neeraj. There is so much I could say about this child of Mercy, but for this one time I'm going to share with you the words of Ton as he describes God's fraile Beloved... "At my morning-round I stop at the bedside of Neeraj who was discharged the day before from a reputed hospital. This 19 year old boy received good care in the department for
tuberculosis, though in my heart I’m troubled: his present physical condition is very poor. When I found him on the roadside he did look so young, fragile. Now his eyes are sunken like an old man, the lines around his mouth, when he smiles, deeper, his eyes huge but faded. I sit on his bed, his arms like dry sticks in my palms, I question him, I want to know his story: “Born in Fathepur he prides himself to be of Rajput caste, their house was made of bricks, a stone roof. He never attended school, just went from “here to there”, like a butterfly. His mother died two months ago, she was very skinny, Neeraj told me; she coughed a lot, blood came out. Nobody knew what she died of, she just died. He himself also felt sick, fever in the night, no appetite, loss of weight, coughing blood. In despair he climbed into a train to Delhi thinking money might bring relief.

Only two weeks he managed to clean plates in the cold winter weather, season of marriages, a menial job at the banquets of the rich while he himself starved. Emaciated, not able to walk any longer he lay down in the filth of the Yamuna Bazaar roadside. It was there where I found him, close to death. Diagnosis; pulmonary Koch’s; (tuberculosis) and tuberculosis of the abdomen. I want to hear his story, what was it he experienced while dying on the pavement. “Did no one help you while you were lying at that street-curb” I ask. “No, no one would even bring me water though I was very thirsty”. “Did no one bring you food?” “No, no one brought me food, my only friend abandoned me too” he complains. “Did any one passing by talked to you?”. “Hardly,” he sobbed”. “Did you ever hear of TB?” I inquired. “Never heard of such a thing” he said. “Did the doctor in the hospital explain to you what it is you are suffering from?” “No” was his sad answer, and then: “You are the first one who tells me what tuberculosis is, you and your brothers are the only ones who truly cared”.

His eyes lit up, a smile. Deep sadness came over me, what world are we living in? How unjust this suffering, what an offence to this body, this soul so sacred.
A beautiful Sunday evening meeting. Worshipping the Creator of each of these present individuals, together.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Have you ever experienced the feeling of your heart wrapping it's valves and tenticles and all that makes up a heart, around another person. Like the person who you believe you are isn't you anymore without their hands touching your face or their smiles giving laughter or their arms around your shoulder or waist. That's how I'm feeling lately. I feel like I'm not myself when I'm outside of my relationship with those who live here. I'm not sure what to do with all this yet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A few pictures from Holi

Sunday, March 11, 2007


This afternoon has been a restful one. After a rip to Delhi to find new patients, with the feeling of rain in the air and my heart full of ideas to share I sat down at this empty computer screen to write an up-date of sorts. It was then that inspiration was side-tracked, a flaw to writing on a screen with attached buttons, gadgets, clicks and options.

Following you will read an article I read from Chris Haw's Blog. I don't know this guy from Adam, other than than he is a member of Camden House, an intentional community dedicated to following the teachings of Christ. The article is written by a friend of his, Chico.

I agree with, and am challenged by what he has to say.


the sermon on the mount is out of style these days. it is out of style because it does not address "issues." the Church in america is in the midst of a political battle--will it go Right or Left? will it fall in line behind Dobson and Bush or Wallis and Obama? the battle between the Religious Right and the Religious Left doesn't include sermon on the mount because sermon on the mount transcends the myopic battle of "issues."

the sermon on the mount does not address "issues" because "issues" is the concern of a Church that has been fragmented into autonomous individuals. america will go down in Church history not as the nation that taught christians to relentlessly consume or to use violence to solve its problems (the Church was good at doing this before america came along), but as the nation that turned the Church (and the rest of world) into a sea of autonomous individuals bobbing at random with no belonging to family or community. the glorious dream of american freedom for the individual has succeeded beyond the founding fathers' wildest dreams as americans are now not only free from colonial rule, but also from any sort of commitment to town, neighborhood, family, parents and now even spouses.

see, the sermon on the mount was intended to be corporately lived out by communities, not by individuals in an anonymous society. it was intended for jewish marriages, families, households, towns and villages. it was intended for people who interacted with one another a daily basis for many years. it was intended for communities of
stability and commitment.

but the american ideal of freedom for the individual coupled with the industrial revolution's "quick and easy answers" to "inefficient" work has shattered most civil and familial communities. friends are made not with nearby neighbors, but with screennames on "friendster." teenagers cant wait to leave home when they turn 18 to set off hunting for a college "as far away from home as possible." college graduates make their decisions about where to live based on weather conditions (california, florida and colorado are filling up fast these days) or career opportunities rather than on family, friends or church. adults commute 30 minutes to work, driving past a dozen towns filled with people they will never meet and come home to read blogs of
"friends" they never see.

they will hop from town to town, job to job, church to church, (spouse to spouse), never being in one place long enough or detached from technology enough to develop committed relationships with people who live close to them. its no wonder the sermon on the mount, delivered to communities of people who grow up and die together, makes little sense to a Church of rampant relocation.

and so while the Religious Right and the Religious Left duke it out over abortion, healthcare, homosexuality, the environment and war, the spine of matthew 5-7 and luke 6 are left stiff and unbroken. for what sense can individuals' make of jesus' command to:

comes to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on
the way to court with him.

when you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that
someone as something against you, leave your gift there before the
altar and go; first be reconciled to your accuser and then offer
your gift.

do not lust.

do not make vows...but let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be

if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give them your
cloak as well.

lend without expecting anything in return.

do not judge, do not condemn, forgive...

the words of jesus from sermon on the mount sound old, outdated and irrelevant. "do not make vows? resolve conflict with my neighbors on the way to the town council? give people my jacket when they sue me? do not lend at interest?" what have these
things to do with my life? and what have they to do with global crisis like abortion, genocide and global warming?

no, they would not make sense. they would not make sense to anyone who does not live in a community of people who share daily life together.

but if one prepares dinner with, works with, prays with, eats with, does business with, and worships with ones neighbors for many years, one will come to realize that resolving conflict before participating in eucharist, not lusting after a community
mate's spouse, lending thirty dollars to a struggling housemate, telling the truth and withholding judgments are essential for a community of people to live peaceably and justly.

but the Church does not know commitment to a community, therefore it does not know how to respond to communal commands of sermon on the mount. instead, as homeless
apartment-renters and itinerant career-shoppers, they can care only for those things that will remain stable even if they dont. issues like abortion, homosexuality and darfur wont go away even if one change jobs, towns or churches.

so while the Religious Right and the Religious Left continue to clamor after issues, sermon on the mount will be resting quietly on the coffeetable, waiting for some community of christians to commit to each other and actually embody the alternative society jesus imagined.

and i am convinced that as christians withdraw from the ugly political battles over "issues" and begin to live quietly in communities of forgiveness, sharing and truth-telling, the world and all its so-called issues, will witness another way of life, be fascinated enough to try it and so be healed.

- chico

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm tuckered...

After a re-examination of priorities, both Jake and I are out of the office and back to where we want to be, need to be - with the patients.

It's been a trying couple of days here, post Holi. Yet, we are learning more now than ever about others, ourselves, cultural differences, gender divisions, Jesus, etc...

We'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

We're back.

I'm finding it difficult to begin this entry - for a couple of reasons: 1) I want to talk about the preceding picture, as well as 2) our get-away and 3) us. So let me first begin by talking about Tony & Pramanod below with hopes that all will fall into place...

At the beginning of our stay here at the Ashram, Pramanod (the one on the right) was picked up and brought in with a broken leg. A cute guy, ex-junkie, intelligent kid. Quickly I was drawn to him, his spirit, his wit, willingness, laughter and smile. There is simply something about him that is different than many others who live here.

Three weeks ago came Tony. Picked up from a local government hospital, both of Tony's legs are broken and severely burned. In addition, he has what appears to have been polio, which has paralyzed one of his legs. He also appears to demonstrate many symptoms related to autism. I call him "the love of my life." He is also the boy whom I am kissing in the news article posted below. He is beautiful, aware, exciting and silly.

A week and a half ago a miracle occurred. I began to watch Pramanod take Tony on walks around the Ashram. Pushing Tony's wheelchair with a cast on his left leg, I would watch them creep around the plotted gardens along brick-laid paths and budding marigolds. I began to notice Pramanod help Tony feed himself and change his bedding and pants when he wet himself. But the night shown in the picture below was something which I have never before witnessed.

Each night one of the guys who lives here comes to the office requesting two candles to light in the mandir (place of worship). With the lighting of the candles, oil lamp and incense many come each evening to pray before these simple offerings. But this evening was different. Pramanod, with Tony at his side, came around to collect the candles for the evening. Still in awe of the relationship that was being formed between the two, I walked over, grabbed two candles to give them, kissed Tony on the cheek and gave Pramanod a good love slap on the head. With business on my mind and tasks to be accomplished I sent them on their way and continued on. Not too long after I ran out of the office to have my all too frequented play time did I witness what you see below.

It was one of the first times I have cried since coming to Ashram. Surrounded daily with pain, hunger, loss, grief, devastation, abandonment, death, mutilation, diseases, rejection and injustice I have found myself very much at peace right now with a living, breathing, burning sensation inside my belly. I am angry. I am hurt. I am frustrated. But I don't cry for some reason. I am in love I guess.

I am in love with Tony. I am in love with Pramanod. With time to give, love to offer and truth inside, Pramanod picked Tony up out of his chair and carried him to the alter, to the feet of Jesus Christ. Before my eyes in the darkness of the late night, Pramanod taught Tony how to pray. He demonstrated how to bow down. He spoke words of offering, gratitude and love. They became one before my eyes.

Jake and I do not yet have this depth of love between us, I don't believe. Even with time together each morning and evening, a luxury we are grateful for, I do not yet believe we are as "one" as Pramanod and Tony are today. We do not pray enough together like they do. I do not think I love Jake as deeply as they love each other. I do not sacrifice enough for Jake to really show others that I truly love him. I think we are a marriage of hedonism right now. I just really enjoy him and take delight in him. I acknowledge that, and to be perfectly honest, I'm okay with that for the time being, I think. I think God may be okay with that too. I love my husband. I love simply enjoying his heart. I love simply enjoying him. I love enjoying his mind, his body, his voice, energy, wit, knowledge, convictions, love for others and feistiness. I think that's how it's suppose to be, at least for now. Yet, I think we need to begin making more intentional moves toward growing together, with each other as well as with others. I need to start making efforts to carry him to the feet of Jesus Christ like Pramanod carried Tony.

Our two days away were a beautiful time of hedonism, simply enjoying one another. A beautiful time of renewal. A beautiful time of talking without interruption, obligation, technology or commitment to others. With the knowledge that all of the preceding are all well and good, it was refreshing never-the-less. I love my husband.

Yet, two hours ago we walked back onto the Ashram campus and were reminded of why we are here. Among all of the "Where were you?"'s and "I didn't know where you were!"'s there were smiles welcoming us home. Bald heads to love slap (lice is taking over not only my head). Armpits to tickle. Laughter to be had. Comforting to be done. Love to give.

It's nice to be home with Jake.