Five Reasons I Vaccinate My Children

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Girl watching syringe

Photo credit: CNN.com

Over the last decade, the issue of vaccinations has developed into a postmodern debate in which we can express our personal opinion, but should not presume to suggest others should ‘come over to our side.’ The debate has flourished over social media, where parents can peruse opinion posts that reaffirm their values and then share those opinions with friends in their like-minded community. This is, after all, exactly what I am doing in this article. There are some strong arguments for vaccination that I think still have not been fully developed in the current online debate, which, arguably, is where most parents get their ‘credible’ information. 1.  I don’t want my kid to get a debilitating, life-threatening, preventable disease. Obvious? Perhaps, yes. In our culture we are not exposed to many debilitating, life-threatening, preventable diseases, so we take for granted our child won’t contract them. Or, if our child should succumb, the disease may not in actuality debilitate or kill our child. It was only a few decades ago that all parents had personal experience with the measles or polio. They either had it as a child, their parents had it, or a family or friend contracted it. I only had to talk to my mother-in-law to find someone with first-hand measles experience. “I was about five. The big impression in my memory is the solemnity. The room was very dark, drapes drawn. They worried about blindness.” The doctor visited the house so she could remain isolation, and not expose family members or people at the hospital to the highly contagious, non-treatable disease. “I do remember feeling sick and not moving. I know when it came to vaccines for my kids, I was all for it for measles.”

There are many debilitating, life-altering and life-threatening diseases. Many are not preventable. I don’t take for granted that some are.

2.  I trust pilots.  You may have heard this analogy before, however it’s very appropriate in this context. When we fly in planes, we trust the pilots are qualified, follow the rules, and have our best interest in mind. We trust the mechanics were well-trained and did their job.   We trust the people in the government have instituted relevant and proper regulations regarding flight. I trust other drivers on the road, that they are following the rules, including not allowing themselves to drive distracted by their phones. I trust the producers of ingestibles. Everyday I eat my cereal peaceably, knowing, believing, they put no harmful chemicals in my organic crunchies. I trust the marketers of essential oils, that their non-government regulated product contains nothing that will cause me harm when I use it as instructed.

There are millions of individuals who I will never meet, but to whom I entrust my family’s safety every day. The inventors, testers, creators and distributors of vaccines are some of those people.

3.   I think traveling with children is important. Whether our trips consist of a cross-country roadtrip, an adventure to visit family in Africa or a visit to Disneyland, we will unwittingly be exposed to disease. Vaccinations aren’t required for a cross-country roadtrip, but I have been asked to show my yellow card as proof of vaccination before entering some countries.   Not being vaccinated could be a factor that limits my child’s ability to take in the glories of Victoria Falls along the Zimbabwe/Zambia border, play a pick-up soccer game on a field in Bangladesh or sit on the dirt floor of a church in Brazil during a lively worship service.  Vaccines safely facilitate these life experiences. You may not travel with your children, but millions of parents around the world do. Some of those parents, for various reasons, have unvaccinated children. According to the International Trade Administration, nearly two million Germans visit the United States every year. Berlin is currently experiencing a serious outbreak of measles that started with a child that arrived in-country from Bosnia. Any number of Germans exposed to measles can travel to the United States, just as Americans exposed at Disneyland can travel to Germany.   We welcome Germans just as the Germans warmly welcome Americans.

Vaccination makes this travel possible without the fear of contracting or spreading disease.

4.   I am a fan of pithy slogans. In this case, no pain, no gain. Not all pain is bad pain. There are few things in the life of a young child that cause pain, yet lead to positive gain. Vaccines are one of them. (Teething and losing baby teeth also fall in that category).    Last week I took my children to the hospital to receive yellow fever and typhoid immunizations in preparation for a trip to Africa. Kids can smell shots a mile away. No amount of reasoning and attempts at educating her to the benefits of vaccines could convince my three-year-old it would be worth it. “I’m going to cry and scream and kick,” she confided.   I sympathized. “It will hurt, but not as bad as when you slammed your finger in the door or when that hot light bulb from the lamp fell on your leg.” She softened a little.   “It’s okay if you cry, but please don’t kick. It will hurt me and I will have to hold you down.” My five-year-old already knows the drill when I ask her why we get shots: “So we don’t die!” I have to rephrase her answer. “Well, we all die. But hopefully with this shot you won’t get really sick or die from that particular disease.” The shots hurt and I hate the look of betrayal on my one-year-old’s face when I allow the nurse to push a needle into his skin.

   But I know this pain is something that leads to greater rewards than a pink bandaid and lollipop.

5.   I love my neighbor. But I don’t love my neighbor more than I love my children. I vaccinate mainly for the reasons already listed (well, primarily #1). However, I also vaccinate myself and my children to contribute to herd immunity because some children cannot be vaccinated. Some parents cannot vaccinate their child because the child already suffers from something life-threatening that has compromised the immune system.   The recent case of a 6-year-old with leukemia made news when his parents requested that unvaccinated children be barred from entering his school.  That parent and child are my neighbor – along with the family from church, my child’s classmate, the mom with her baby at library storytime, the dad pushing the shopping cart at the grocery store with his toddler – all with immunosuppressant conditions. These parents love their children as much as I love my own.

I might not be able to donate marrow, but I can love them by helping to stop the spread of a disease that could certainly end their child’s life.

***************************************************************** The vaccine issue often raises lively debate.  I welcome your constructive and respectful comments, opinions and contribution.  Any comments I deem to be otherwise will not be viewable by other readers.

Charleston, South Carolina (Part II): Photographic Highlights

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P1070604 Fort Sumter.  Familiar to all students of American history, the fort is located in opening to the channel across from Charleston.  The first shots of the American Civil War were fired by Confederate forces firing on the fortress in April 1861.  But this is not Fort Sumter.  Ubiquitous signs in Charleston direct visitors to the Fort Sumter visitors center where you can take the ferry to the historic site, far off in the distance.  But from the shore along Charleston’s tree-lined streets, the fort pictured is clearly visible and we, like probably most visitors, assumed it was Fort Sumter.  Not so.  It’s Castle Pinckney.  Not very notable in the annals of American history, but it certainly provides a unique foreground juxtaposed against an incoming container ship.P1070585

P1070579From the cobblestone streets to the brightly painted shutters, Charleston is reminiscent of the Old World.  And no stroll is complete until you’ve passed one of the numerous historic and picturesque churches such as St. Phillip’s Church, pictured below, fittingly located on Church St.
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The Charleston City Market provides ample opportunity to interact with local artisans who have passed down their skill from generation to generation.

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Like many cities, Charleston uses blank wall space as an artist’s canvas.  This life-size piece is located on East Bay St.
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From a balcony at the South Carolina Aquarium you can watch the tugboats hard at work, speeding out to meet ships and rotating them on a dime as they prepare to park in the adjacent port.  Dolphins occasionally frolick in the tug’s wake.
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Read Charleston, South Carolina (Part I): The Guts of a City here.

Charleston, South Carolina, Part I: The Guts of a City

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Recent posts on willtravelwithkids have talked about the reality of sex trafficking, something the symptoms of which have become more and more apparent to me as we drive the streets in our own town or drive hours away to another city.  Our children see these signs and related, intertwined issues, when we travel  – drugged teenagers walking the streets at night, homelessness, vulnerable children in poverty living in a shack under a highway overpass in the city.  We travel and visit family for the cultural experience, the academic adventure, the rich historical offerings and the stunning natural vistas.  But we’re learning to travel with eyes open and ready to see and understand so much more.

The joy, the life and the reality of a city is its people.

One evening in Charleston we met one of those people.  A little bit loud and seemingly out of place, he was trying to engage some girls in a conversation that they clearly were not interested in.  We walked by and, observing the situation, my husband asked the girls if everything was okay and, in turn, engaged the gentleman in conversation.  He was polite and eager to interact with him and leave the girls buried in their cell phones.   As we had suspected, he was homeless and was ultimately looking for someone to offer him cash or food.  We don’t give cash, but we invited him to join us for dinner.  He obliged us with his presence and the opportunity to hear his story.

“I was in the Navy.  Look here’s my VA [veteran’s administration] ID card. . .  Just got out of jail today.  Got locked up for an open container. . .  I am homeless because I don’t have a home, but I do have places to stay – a friend’s couch or something.  The VA put me up for the next 30 days in a shelter, so I’m good. . .”

We had dinner at a little Greek restaurant on King Street.  He hadn’t eaten Greek before and ordered a Greek salad with chicken.  “I’d like meat!  Make sure there’s meat!” Before the middle-aged man left to meet his girlfriend (who had called him several times during dinner), we passed along the phone number of someone who could connect him to some help and resources if he needed anything.  As a local Charlestonian and chronically homeless, he was well connected to the city services.  Nevertheless, he was authentically and profusely grateful for our kindness and willingness to let him join our family, our children and my brother included, for dinner.  We also invited him to visit a local church we knew would be more than happy to welcome him in fellowship.  We all shook his hand before he went on his way.

 

P1070578We notice the tourists, the students, the foreigner, the business people, but we also notice the less desirable noticables – those sleeping on park benches or smoking teenagers congregated on street corners late at night.  These are all the people that make up the city – all people we can and should engage with to understand what the city is about and, ultimately, understand the people that are on God’s heart.  None of these are invisible to Him.

As the About Me page has said for years, “The more we travel and meet new people and places, the more we learn about our Creator and what is on His heart and mind.”  Three years on, I can say that our travels and multiple relocations have shaped our perspective and certainly shown us in very close and personal ways what is on the heart of God.  I have also found that we have to be open to seeing with His eyes, not just seeing through the eyes of the tour guide, yelp reviews or our camera view finder.

‘Staying Power’ on willtravelwithkids’ Third Anniversary

When readers continue to view blog posts that have been published months and even years ago, WordPress calls it ‘staying power.’  Next month marks the third anniversary of willtravelwithkids and the site stats confirm that some articles published over the years have staying power.  If you’re new to willtravelwithkids, you may have missed those popular posts.  Now’s the time to get caught up and stay tuned as some major changes are also underway.

First, we’re moving to Romania in a few months and I look forward to sharing our cross cultural adventures!   There are quite a few things I’m looking forward to in Romania, including the natural beauty, the fresh fruits and vegetables, the passionate people and the lack of seatbelt law enforcement. . .  Wait!  Did I say that?!  No actually, those are the words of Americans residing in Romania when they shared some of the reasons – many with a touch of humor – they love living in Romania.  The Top Ten Favorite Things About Living in Romania had staying power and is the most-viewed post at willtravelwithkids.

Sibiu, Romania (photo credit: wikimedia)

Sibiu, Romania (photo credit: wikimedia)

Second, willtravelwithkids now has a Facebook page.  This is where I post individual photos from our travels and links to pertinent articles, including the latest blog posts.  If you haven’t signed up to receive blog updates via email, ‘like’ willtravelwithkids on Facebook.  Posts will then show up in your FB feed when they are published.  This is also an effective way to share articles and photos with your friends as well as comment on what you’ve read if you don’t have a WordPress login (like most blog readers).

Speaking of Facebook, the second most popular post on willtravelwithkids, which continues to get many views, is called Facebook: Devalues true friends (and undermines well-being).  You may, like me, have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I think discussing how, why and when we use social media is a worthwhile exercise.  Join in the ongoing conversation and share your thoughts.  Have you thought about why, when and how you use social media?  I do all the time.  Here’s why:

Studies are confirming what we already know – if we aren’t guarded in our use of Facebook, it can have a negative emotional, psychological and, I add, spiritual impact on our lives.

“Are we robbing our true friends the honor of friendship by not sharing our struggles and joys with them in person vice a mass Facebook status update?. . .

Why would someone post a picture of themselves in a bikini on Facebook?  Do they know that half the people who are their friends on Facebook may, perhaps, be married men who are trying to be faithful to their wives, even in their thought life?  It doesn’t matter to you.  It’s your Facebook, so you post what you want, calling it your freedom.  You post about how great your husband is and that he watches your kids for a weekend so you can have a girl’s weekend away (maybe in the name of publicly affirming him or maybe because you didn’t think about it at all), also well-aware that some of your Facebook friends are single moms, moms with deployed husbands or women whose husbands wouldn’t be caught dead changing a diaper.  (If you want to publicly affirm him, you could consider doing it in person, verbally, in front of a bunch of his guy friends).  But your Facebook page is about you, so that doesn’t matter.

You post about your weight-loss successes, pictures included, oblivious to your Facebook friends who are struggling with eating disorders because you don’t know they’re struggling with eating disorders (but statistically speaking, you definitely have friends who are).  But that’s okay, your facebook page is about you.  You post about what an amazing time you had with your girlfriends and the girlfriends who weren’t at the party wonder why they weren’t invited.  But that’s okay.  Your Facebook is about you and how great you’re doing.  And you want your friends to know, those who live in your town and the Facebook friend who was your partner in French class in 10th grade and that Facebook friend who you met at a party a few months ago who you wouldn’t recognize if you saw them on the street or that Facebook friend who friended you because your settings are public and they saw your “like” for a restaurant you don’t remember the name of but you liked something on the menu. . .

Or maybe you don’t want your friends to know.  Everything is great.  See how happy I am on Facebook?  But no one really knows you.  No one really knows you because they’re reading your Facebook statuses instead of inviting you over to sit and talk face-to-face about real life.  Marriage troubles.  Eating disorders.  Relationships.  Anger. Shame. Loneliness.  Isolation.  But not just struggles, joys too.

Maybe you are thrilled about a parenting breakthrough.  You can call a friend who knows you and understands your parenting struggles and can share in your joy.  Does your French partner from 10th grade truly share your joy?  Indeed, should your French partner from 10th grade who happens to be of the opposite sex and who you had a crush on at the time – come on, French class?! – be your Facebook friend, oh married one?  What are we doing to ourselves?  What are we doing to each other?  We’re robbing our true friends the honor of friendship. . .”

Read the complete article here.

The Emancipation Tree: A Story in Place

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We stood on the edge of a chunky, red dirt road.  Really, it was more like a wide trail, moving along the Indian Ocean shoreline.  The sand grass fought to overtake the track and obscure any hints of humanity.  Facing the ocean, we could easily imagine this remote locale had been untouched by history.  But not so.  We turned around and faced a black fence protecting a carefully manicured cemetery that held the remains of soldiers, African and foreign, who fought on this soil in World War I.

We forget the story of humanity leaves markers all around us.

Discovering those secrets, known only to a few and learned only by those who care to listen, excites me.  We recently had that experience regarding a tree in Hampton, Virginia.  A tree.

I’m pretty excited about this tree.

  • It was illegal to educate blacks in the South, slave or free.  But in 1861 Mary Peake taught her first class of students under this tree’s branches.
  • In 1863, in the shade of this aged oak, the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation took place.  Slaves in Confederate-held territory were declared free.
  • According to the oft-quoted Hampton University website, the tree is designated by the National Geographic Society as one of the Ten Great Trees of the World (though I could not find a substantiating citation on the National Geographic website).

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From a distance or to the quick passerby, this massive oak can easily be misconstrued for a small grove of multiple trees.  Its lower limbs, each the size of a tree trunk, rest on the ground, weighed down by time.  The tree spends its days watching cars enter the highway on the entrance ramp several yards away to the east, and guarding the parking lot to the west that serves Hampton University.  One placard, unnoticeable to the unlooking eye, stands against the low, wrought iron fence that protects one half of the tree.  You would never know the story of this tree unless someone told you.  We know the story because we happened upon it through a remarkable bit of children’s literature.

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Written by Susan VanHecke and published just last year (2014), Under the Freedom Tree recounts in poetic narrative the history of not only the Emancipation Oak, but escaped slaves who became ‘contraband of war’ during the Civil War and established the first black, self-contained community in America within earshot of the then-young oak.  From their escape across the wide channel at Sewell’s Point*, Norfolk, to Ft. Monroe in Hampton, the story highlights three brave men who paved the way for other blacks to find an enclave of freedom in the South during the Civil War.

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Just as one can stand facing the waters on the coast of East Africa and not discern the  events of history memorialized in the soil an eye glance away, so we often discount the story of our place – where we live, move and dwell.  Knowing the story brings understanding and significance to why, and how, things are the way they are today.   Engaging literature such as Under the Freedom Tree exposes our children to those realities at an early age.

In the United States we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the third Monday of January.  Perhaps a fitting way to honor the day would be to educate yourself (and your kids!) by visiting the oak that stands as a living monument to freedom.

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There are no signs guiding visitors to the oak, but it is visible from the eastbound access ramp 267 onto Interstate 64 in Hampton, Virginia.  For a close-up viewing, it can be accessed from Emancipation Drive (see map below).

Location of Emancipation Oak

Escaping at Sewell's Point * According to VanHecke, the location where the three escaped slaves boarded a boat and rowed across the river is at the fishing pier on the Norfolk Navy Base.  This location is not open to the public, but military members who have access can visit the unmarked spot (see map below with the red ‘x’ for exact location).

Fishing Pier

 

For more on the Emancipation Oak, visit Hampton University’s website.

Read about the WWI cemetery in East Africa here.

 

Pornography – the truth behind sex trafficking; a post for Human Trafficking Prevention Month

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Travel exposes you to the glorious richness of humanity – cuisine, ethnic diversity, awe-inducing nature.  Travel outside your comfort zone also exposes you to the depths of human depravity.  Exposure and a growing understanding of this reality should not cause us to curl up and stay put in our comfort zone, but should spur us to action.

Today an article I wrote concerning the link between pornography and sex trafficking is featured at Hidden Glory, a blog written by pastor’s wife and counselor Heather Nelson.  In her words, “Warning: This post will be convicting, and uncomfortable, and shocking.”

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“It’s Trafficking Awareness month. . . or something like that.  That’s right up there with Domestic Violence Prevention month, Child Abuse Prevention Month and whatever other month the government decides to tell us about.  The slavery and human trafficking issue, like so many other issues raised by the news, the government, Facebook shares or forwarded emails, make us gasp and wish the morally abhorrent practices would naturally work themselves into oblivion without us – you, me – getting involved.  But slavery and human trafficking, compared to those other issues, seem far more removed from our everyday lives.  I know a  police officer stops at the house down the street to respond to a domestic violence case.  I know children are in foster care in my neighborhood because of parental abuse or neglect.  But slavery or trafficking, in myneighborhood?  My social circle? My city? Surely that activity does not take place around here.  After all, a society that turns a blind eye to human bondage, for whatever purpose, is not my society.

Or is it?

Consider this:

- As of 2012, human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, surpassing drugs and arms in its rate of growth.*

- 80 % of human trafficking cases in the United States occurred for the purposes of sexual exploitation, including forced engagement in sexual acts for the purposes of creating pornography**

- Four of every five sex trafficking victims in the United States are American citizens**

- Nearly 90% of victims in the United States are under the age of 25

- Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, California have the highest rates of trafficking in the nation.

You don’t have to live in the slums of Thailand to be a stone’s throw away from a trafficker or trafficking-enabler or trafficking client.  These individuals work with you, live on your street and sit next to you in church.  You know them.  Maybe you are one of them.  A sex trafficking client. A user of pornography. . .”

Continue reading the complete article here.

9/11 Memorial and Museum – a hot tourist spot for foreigners

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“. . .  And please be respectful.  There are always families here.”

The security guard, a former Marine, was absolutely serious as we exited the screening room.  We watched the 9/11 Memorial and Museum introduction video in a hall filled with non-English speakers.  Maybe they were new Americans.  Maybe not.  My guess is mostly they were foreign tourists, coming to not only see America’s tribute and remembrances of 9/11, but to continue processing their own experience.

It is a memorial.  Unidentified remains are buried behind a three story containment wall underground.  The foundations of the twin towers have been excavated, preserved and roped-off, like a ruin in Pompeii.  It is a massive cavern under the city.  At one point, peering over a platform across the expanse, I heard the rumble of a nearby subway, a reminder that life continues beyond the confines of these walls.

The museum portion is emotionally and informationally overwhelming.  It would take half a day to read and observe all that is offered.  But I reached emotional saturation well before that time.  With timelines, photos, video clips, audio recordings of voice mails and phone calls from victims, artifacts as large as a crushed firetruck or as small as a slip of paper that floated on the dust cloud to an apartment balcony miles from the site – all is well-preserved for future generations, lest there be any doubt how this event impacted the nation and the world.

I can only imagine how a WWII veteran who fought in Germany might feel visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial in Hawaii, the catalyst for U.S. declaration of war against the Axis powers.  To me, WWII is distant history.  I know future generations will feel just as distant when they study the impact and significance of the attack on the World Trade Center.   A lump wells in my throat at the fresh memories, an event that eventually took me to Iraq and back.  But to following generations, it will just be a history museum.

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From the entrance at the ground level, the museum descends about five stories under the city.

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The descent into the In Memoriam and Museum areas is dramatic as you walk down wide ramps reminiscent of an airport terminal, complete with international diversity.

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Outside, two waterfall pools commemorate lives lost on 9/11.  The pools cover the exact footprint of the towers.  Underground, in the memorial, the sides of the pools are visible as concrete walls suspended above the original foundation (see photo directly above).  The water gently falls and drains into the center hole, a dramatic reminder, I think, of the deep sense of loss.

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Freedom tower is a beautiful work of architecture adjacent to the memorial site.  Though my photo does not capture it, the antenna glistens like a scepter of crystals.

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For more information, visit www.911memorial.org.

The Jungle Cooks

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You know the moment – the moment when pleasantries have been exchanged and the conversation wanes.  The obvious commonalities that often lead to deeper conversation don’t exist – parenting, work, etc.  There must be something we can talk about, common interests, passions.

“Do you cook?”  In the United States this is a loaded questions and can almost be perceived as making a critical judgement call on one’s quality of life.  In most other countries, however, it is received with an enthusiastic smile, even by men.  Of course I cook!  What do you like to cook?  What are your favorite foods?  What do you prepare for special occasions?  Since I also like to cook, conversation easily flows on this topic and can flow onto other topics such as home life, religious holidays, family values and local culture – topics that ultimately interest me more than tonight’s menu.  Cooking – the no fail gateway conversation starter.

While on a recent trip to India, I spent several days at a rustic campground.  While chatting with the camp director over a plate of khatti dahl (lentil stew, southern India style) and rice, I mentioned most sincerely and genuinely that the food at the camp was exceptionally good.  This was not a shot in the dark to keep the conversation alive.  Talk was easy and company sweet and, really, the fare was fantastic.  I attributed the quality of victuals to the obvious factors.  The scrap-fed chickens were killed mere hours before the meal (I heard some clucking around three in the afternoon and ate chicken for dinner at six).  Empty coconut shells were stacked in the corner, the contents of which had just been shredded and ground out.  With no refrigeration, everything was at the acme of ripeness and served immediately.  And the other obvious factor was the wood burning stove, including wood-scented smoke that permeated the small kitchen workspace.  The contribution of the smoke ingredient cannot be underplayed – and cannot be replicated in a conventional kitchen.

I mentioned this to the director.  “In town we ate at restaurants and at the guest house.  The food was good.  I like Indian food.  But here, the food is exceptional.  It’s hot, but the heat is not overpowering and adds a tasteful richness.  Again, it really is exceptional.

He chuckled and motioned to the team of several men in the kitchen who joyfully produced the amazing variety of sauces, breads and rice dishes.  “I’ve been here twelve [or was it 14?] years and the cooks were here before me.  They were trained by the previous director and they have full control over the menu within the set budget. The previous director was a five star chef.”

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Where the magic happens

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The magician cooks

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Read more about this trip to India here: Black Friday and the path to freedom for the sex trafficked.

 

The Coming – what it means to a slave of fear

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The face of fear, of agony, has new features for me.  Tears stream down her face as she recounts confusion, treachery, manipulation, physical bondage, unwanted touching. . .  Her story tumbles out of her mouth like a river, eager to be released from the dam of shame.  After being abandoned by her parents as a child, they called her ‘home,’ only to enslave her.

But physically, now, she is free.  When she told us her story, it ended with joy, though sadness was still etched on her brow.  Most of her decisions in life had been driven by fear.  Fear brought her to that place.  It is easy to sympathize without feeling any connection to her plight or truly understand how it feels to be in bondage.  Those slaves to fear.  Those people, over there.  Not here.  Not me.  

But we were all born slaves – slaves to fear, in bondage to self-worship and self-glorification.

ZechariahA couple days ago, over breakfast, I read the story of Zechariah to my children from The Story Bible.  Words of his prophecy resonated in my mind.  Perhaps because I recently returned from a trip to India and heard stories of persecution and rejection – often the result of choosing a life of Faith – these words spoke to my reality.

Then we, being saved, might serve Him without fear.

We were saved from fear!  In this season of The Coming, we remember – we must remember – that we live in the time when the prophecy has been fulfilled. “That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.” (Luke 1:74,75)  We were delivered so we can serve Him fearlessly.

This is the reason for His coming.

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What was I doing in India?  Read more here.

Fear seems to be a recurring theme in life – and on the blog.  Here are some other related posts:

Thank You and the Art of Henna

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“This week finds me in Salalah, Oman, where I indulged in a traditional art and got a tatoo.  Well, a henna tatoo.  In this region of the world, many women are dressed in the black hijab.  The only visible parts of the body are the eyes, hands and feet (when wearing sandals).  But that’s not to say there’s no reason to titivate with the best of them!  What is visible is often decorated and made up with great care and class.  Women’s beauty salons abound.  Eyebrows are tweezed and threaded.  Eye shadow brushed about.  Heavy mascara applied.  Fingers display a vast array of gold and dazzling rings.  Bracelets jingle.  Perfume is heavy.  And even the skin is painted.  This is the art of henna.

In the Middle East, East Africa and parts of Asia henna is a common form of body art.  Applying henna to the body is a practice thousands of years old.  Henna ink is derived from the henna plant and applied to the hands and feet in intricate, delicate designs.  The ink can also be applied as a temporary hair dye.  In desert climates like the Arabian peninsula, its practical use is as a protection from sun burn – a natural sunscreen.  This “tatoo” fades away after several weeks, so for someone like me who will never commit to be bound to a permanent, western-style tatoo, it’s an art form in which I’m more than happy to participate.” May 2013

Fast forward to November 2014, Tamil Nadu, India.  “I am not a professional, but I practice a lot at home and I have my favorite designs.”  This seemed to be a common refrain among the young women I befriended during my week in India.  This evening, ‘Naya’ worked swiftly, gracefully, skillfully on my palm and arm.  Not a professional?  This girl – these girls – had skill!  Normally reserved for special occasions such as weddings, our henna was a thank you gift.  What an honor to be a recipient of their skilled art, bestowed after a childhood of learning and observing the practice.  When she was done, Naya pulled out a phone and showed me her portfolio of intricate designs on Pinterest.  Clearly there are some arts that are under-appreciated this side of the pond.  Henna is one of them.

It does not wash off.

It does not wash off, so on the return trip, in the various airports across the continents, several people stopped to comment on the strikingly visible lines.  “Is that henna?  Did you go to a wedding?”  Yes, it’s henna.  No,  I didn’t go to a wedding.  Quite the contrary, actually.

We were crowded intimately around a campfire, girls swapping stories of henna escapades, in awe of the variety of designs that emerged out of a paper cone, tip snipped to allow the gel to escape.  They were piping brown frosting henna onto my hand and the hands of others around the circle.  But there was no talk of weddings, at least among the conversations I understood – which, when there are five languages spoken at once in a throng of girls, isn’t saying much.  For one last night, the young women were out under the stars, under the canopy of creation.  Time and again they had been told, some for the first time, that there IS a God who loves them.  This God cleans away stains that run deeper than henna and transforms calloused hearts (and hands) into individuals that bring glory to His name.

I never ended up getting that henna tattoo in Oman last year.  I was so excited about the prospect, however, that I had proactively researched and wrote a draft blog post, ready to publish once photos of the done deed were acquired.  The gift of being henna’d by a friend, however, was much more meaningful than a quick paid, touristic visit to a salon.  As I write this ten days after the event, my henna is but a faint stain of its once striking glory.  It’s nearly gone, but I will forever hold the memory of being henna’d in the dim light of a campfire in the Nilgiri mountains of Tamil Nadu.  Thank you ladies!

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Why was I in India?  Read more here.

 

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