South Asia Externship

7/30/17 9:29 AM

Before I got here, the two main things people brought up was their concern about the poverty and how gender roles work differently. Their concern wasn’t what annoyed me, it was their approach.

“Oh it’s just terrible, it’s just in your face.”

“Be careful not to get raped.”

Not a good way to start a dialogue about those topics.

That annoyance hasn’t shifted much after being here. It’s even heightened a little. Especially when there a variety of topics to talk about, whether they’re positive, negative, or a nuance of the two.

I initially made it a point to not write about this because I didn’t want to perpetuate that as a main focus. I also didn’t want to come across as the person trying to get “ally points,” I still don’t want to come across as that person.

But I believe it’s worth mentioning, so that people know that I’m not ignoring it or avoiding it.

7/26/17 7:27 PM

I’m so nervous to go back home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited as well. I just felt like writing about why I’m nervous in particular.

I’ll have a lot of trouble trying to balance “doing” and “being” back home; especially with graduate school starting soon.

I’ll have trouble maintaining the momentum of reading and writing I’ve been able to keep here.

I’ll have trouble maintaining the spiritual insight I’ve gained here.

I’ll miss the people I’ve been working and serving with.

I am returning to a place where I’ll be heavily catered to in regards to my religious and Western identity.

There’s still so much more to learn from this place, and I’m leaving so soon. Seven weeks is not as long as I thought. This only gives me more reason to return, but it will be a long time before I do that.

I want to remember all of these things, and I intend to make sure I do. Writing this down helps hold myself accountable. Despite how troubling it will be of trying to hold on to these things mentally, it will help me apply what I have learned in the next parts of my life coming up.

7/21/17 7:51 AM

In the West, we focus a lot on “doing.” During my internship at Hillside, we focused a lot on “doing.”

There have been times during my externship when I have wondered “what am I ‘doing'” and “am I ‘doing’ enough?”

Here, with the help of a lot of the staff members on the team here, have helped me realize the importance of simply “being.”

“Doing” is a great way to engage with people and love people well, but it is certainly not the only way.

“Being” emphasizes the necessity of patience and relationships.

“Being” provides a good enough reason for being in the same space as others.

“Being” does not mean that one is taking up too much space.

“Being” means that one is giving enough and serving well enough.

Trying to remember the healthy balance of doing and being will be difficult, but it’s worth continuing to explore.

7/20/17 6:05 AM

From 6/29 post:

“God has blessed me with a love for creativity, especially in writing, a love for people, and a love for interfaith relationships. When processing this in the view of God’s omnipotent vision, it’s overwhelming that I don’t know what that looks like entirely.”

I believe there’s this unneeded to pressure to know what that vision looks like. I’ve learned to recognize the peace and joy in not having to know. Faith is believing in what we don’t see, after all, so we only have to know bits of the bigger picture.

Through prayer, I am able to know that God is pleased with me. I am able to know that part of the bigger picture is to love others well and make sure they feel less alone. In the book of Genesis, God says straightaway that He did not intend for human beings to alone. Since the Fall, loneliness has been inevitable for many of us, but that doesn’t excuse us to not care or be indifferent to other people’s loneliness.

There is spiritual darkness in the loneliness perpetuated in violence, colonialism, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, discrimination against religious and nonreligious minorities, xenophobia, discrimination against those with disabilities and mental illnesses, and so much more.

The only way to combat these things is through the light of community, service, constant learning, confession, forgiveness, and above all things, love.

7/17/17 9:01 AM

My clothes from the day before are all covered in glitter, the dance teachers and the young dancers are still washing hairspray out of their hair as I’m writing this. It was a long day yesterday having everything set up, but it was a great day!

Last year around this time, I got to help serve in an art gallery, this year, I got to serve in this ballet school. Last night reminded me of how much I enjoy serving in artistic spaces.

During my undergrad, I taught spoken word classes to at-risk youth and created open mics and showcases for them regularly. Once I’m in grad school getting my MSW and certificate in Applied Arts and Social Justice, I will be serving and advocating for incarcerated youth through the use of theater, spoken word, and social justice education.

Representation through art matters so much. And seeing that exist in other areas of the world continues to warm my heart and put into perspective how I want to love others well through the use of the arts.

7/15/17 9:48 AM

Mosquitoes buzz in

my ear like miniature

violins.

Geckos are my new

guardian angels, watching

me as I sleep.

7/14/17 7:52 AM

A pregnant woman walked up to the front of the church and sat down. She wore a green dress, with small traces of blue upon the edges, and a blank, passive expression.

Six or seven months along as of right now; last time, she miscarried after seven months.

As we circled around and placed our hands on her, what I felt was not what I saw on her face. A surge of vibration made me start weeping.

“This does not define her,” I prayed silently. “Make sure shes knows that this does not define her. She doesn’t have to feel ashamed. No matter what happens, she is not broken.”

7/14/17 6:13 AM

Yesterday, I taught my first English class. It went so much better than I expected! I have taught English classes before, and I even tutored people in Spanish, but on this trip, I was training to teach English as a second language for the first time. That was big for me. This is the first time I taught English in a sense where its used as a basic skill in this context rather than a literary one.

There are still some things I can work on before my next lesson, but I’m grateful for the constructive and positive feedback I got from the people on my team.

This Sunday is the ballet event, so I’ll be helping a lot with that for the next few days. I’m excited to see the costumes the dancers will be wearing!

Remember the subject of evangelizing through actions I talked about a few posts ago? Art and language has the ability to do that as well.

7/12/17 3:24 PM

A poem I wrote for a creative worship event recently after our excursion:

I believe in a Holy Spirit that can give us a solid foundation of the meaning of love across language barriers.

I believe in a Holy Spirit that can give us ethereal butterflies in our stomach that will never disappear.

I believe in a Holy Spirit that grants us permission to refer to our bodies as temples when He enters them. Even if it is a bit cliché

But what I hope is not cliché is how I believe in a Holy Spirit that makes our bodies home.

There is no rent because the fee has already been paid.

And I believe in a Holy Spirit that makes our heart an open door, because there is always room for more who wish to receive it.

I thank this Holy Spirit for the ability to create art that glorifies it.

I thank this Holy Spirit for allowing us to be the medium of its creative masterpieces.

7/7/17 2:01 PM

This week, we spent time cleaning up litter in the area. Working together in community while also interacting with the people who live in the area we were cleaning was sweet. This is often done regularly in this ministry.

I know that some Christians get upset at the phrase “I evangelize through my actions,” because it comes across as downgrading the importance of faith when it comes to sharing with others about Christ. However, there is more value in that statement than people realize.

Getting a sense of who we are but what we do speaks volumes louder than words ever could. No one has to agree with you in regards to what you believe, but they can see value in it by how you engage with others and how you engage in serving others.

So, please, don’t judge someone too quickly when they say “I evangelize through my actions.”
7/1/17 10:54 PM

I talk a lot about interfaith relationships in my life. I need to give light to the intra-faith relationships in my life as well.

A year ago, I wrote an article about diversity in missions work and how I became more open to short-term missions work. I also wrote about my frustrations with missions organizations that focus more on saving than serving.

What I meant by that was missions organizations that focused so much more on the faith without the works. Focusing more on their narrative rather than the people they claim they are serving for the Lord.

Because of this experience, without realizing it, I allowed that as reason to continue my ongoing bias towards missions groups. Even though I was training to be a part of a group last year. Even though I was raising funds to go overseas with a group this year.

I wasn’t willing to acknowledge the insight of missionaries who view faith and works in one, love people well by reading Scripture the best way they can, and stay committed to Christ this way.

Although I have to continue to learn how to forgive my fellow Christian siblings for their flaws, I have to learn to continue to apologize more for my own.

6/29/17 1:39 PM

What’s great about praying in community of people from various countries is the need to reach each other physically and process vocally rather than processing internally.

I have processed with two other women about a need to accept peace from God and God’s vision (whatever that is and will be).

I don’t enjoy the feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s not good for my anxiety and it’s not good for my well being in general.

It’s even more frustrating when I become overwhelmed spiritually, because that brings a whole other slew of thoughts that I wish weren’t there.

God has blessed me with a love for creativity, especially in writing, a love for people, and a love for interfaith relationships. When processing this in the view of God’s omnipotent vision, it’s overwhelming that I don’t know what that looks like entirely.

I consider myself a task-oriented person, and it shows when I talk to others as well. I’ve completed my tasks to complete my undergraduate degrees, I’ve completed my tasks for fundraising for South Asia, and I’m in the process of completing my tasks for graduate school when I return from South Asia.

As great as that is, I still question my future and how I can best use what I have to serve a God who loves people a heck of a lot more than I ever will. I believe there is always a reason for where I am in the world and who I meet, and I also believe I have the free will to choose what to make of the experiences. I just don’t know what to do with this free will at the moment. How to make it all come to full fruition.

Before pursuing outreach in this excursion, we have been delving into Scripture and prayer. I’m grateful that the people around me have encouraged honesty, especially when there is negative pressure of taking up too much space. That is a lie from the Enemy, and we are more than allowed to process where we are with the Lord in community and with Him.

A huge flaw of mine is how much I overthink things, and it’s something I have to work on over and over again.

6/25/17 10:07 AM

Some quick updates:

I’ll be working in the language school’s cafe teaching English in their outreach programming. Before I start that officially, I will be participating in a spiritual development and outreach excursion outside of the area for two weeks. Then, I will be back at the language school, while also help at the team’s partner’s event: their annual ballet recital which is exciting. Trust me, I’m no dancer, I’m helping with prep and however else I’m needed.

6/22/17 9:59 PM

In the United States, due to my physical appearance, I have been mistaken for Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Mexican, Dominican, Jewish, French, and Persian. When I explain that I am black, white, and Native American, it clicks for them.

Ohh. I see it now.

Yep.

I remember wondering how people may or may not react in a different country outside of the United States before going on this trip. I’ve been in South Asia for a few days now, and there are a couple of different things I’ve noticed.

Because of my physical appearance and my first name, they know that I am American by my speech, but I must have one or both parents from South Asia, no? When I explain my racial identification, European American clicks, while African American does not.

African American?”

Yep. African American.

I know that I talked about the frustrations that come with mixed race identity, but this is actually something I find interesting most of the time. Irritating if one is offensive about it or if it’s all one talks about in a conversation with me, but most of the time, fascinating.

My sister and I once had a conversation about mixed race identity and racial ambiguity, and she told me that one privilege that mixed race individuals have, she believes, is the ability to grow awareness of others’ backgrounds and more understanding because of the patience we have to develop for those understanding our own.

I appreciated hearing that in her words.

I wrote about in processing mixed race identity in a Christian context through the fluidity of Christ’s identity in an earlier blog. I want to write now that I’ve also been able to process mixed race identity through the context of the Holy Trinity. I’ve written about this before and I talked about it at interfaith conferences and events, but for those who haven’t heard me talk about it, I want to write it down again.

When it comes to the Holy Trinity, you have an egalitarian triune God of the Father (the creator), the Son (the redeemer), and the Holy Spirit (the connector). Although this God is of three parts, it doesn’t make Him any less whole. Just because I identify with all of my parts, it doesn’t make me any less whole, even though there have been people in this world who may be confused or say that I’m not [fill in the blank] enough.

One conversation I had with a teacher at the language school I’ll be working in was one about hair and our experiences with our hair; my hair type becoming more favorable in South Asia, her hair type becoming more favorable in the United States. It then led to many other topics of conversation: politics, culture, religion, books, films. Affirming one another in our physicality, interests, perspectives, and being enough was so great and necessary.

I like it when people ask me where I’m from and how I identify in my racial identity. It then leads into a conversation about how they identify, regardless of multiracial or monoracial background, their experiences, and how much we can make each other’s day just sharing our experiences.

6/21/17 12:37 PM

As we were waiting in line in the store to pay, I picked up a carton of milk that has a woman drawn on it, holding a tray of smaller cups of milk.

“Oh yeah, they sell milk not refrigerated here,” Kendra explained. “You don’t refrigerate it until it’s opened.”

I nodded and said, “Wow.”

When I put it back down, we were directed to the next line over for someone more available.

A middle aged man wearing a blue buttoned shirt and a mustache stood in front of us. He looked up at us, opening his eyes wide.

“I’m so sorry,” he exclaimed throwing his hands up.

Nahin. Theek hai,” Kendra assured. No worries. It’s okay.

The man’s eyes grew even wider, and he returned to checking out his food.

Kendra and I shrugged at one another.

“Was he surprised by us being okay?” I asked. “Was it a ‘ladies first’ thing? He didn’t have to feel bad, we were just coming up.”

“Or he might have been surprised that I responded at all,” said Kendra.

We both laughed. A white girl speaking Hindi. The last thing to be expected.

6/20/17 9:10 PM

More haikus based on flight  connections and arrival:

She wears pineapple socks

and she scribbles in a

notebook. What a sight.

 

I’m conserving snacks.

I’m hibernating in

between my layovers.

 

Thank God my sisters

have WhatsApp…that’s all I have

to say about that.

 

“It’s a full flight!”

they said, as we turned to the

empty seat next to us.

 

It doesn’t matter

the position. I’ll never

sleep comfortably.

 

I’d take a picture

of the pink sun, but it

wouldn’t do it justice.

 

It’s blue shining through

now, and I’m really far

away from home now too.

 

Don’t forget the importance

of data. Don’t forget

the importance.

 

Water fountains are

not easily accessible

in LHR.

 

Completed reading two books

over the course of this trip

so far. Wow.

 

Lord, I pray the

person in front forgives me

for sighing so, so much.

6/18/17 2:28 PM

Christena Cleveland’s book Disunity in Christ has been keeping me engaged and entertained during my flights, layovers, and, particularly, schedule changes. In her book, she uses biblical scripture and social psychology to analyze why Christians have difficulty engaging cross culturally with other various Christians, as well as why Christians can attain the ability to engage. Obviously not in simple or perfect ways, but in a way that embraces what our large community has to offer in denominational culture, hermeneutics, racial diversity, political ideology, gender identity, and more.

One passage from the book stood out to me in regards to Christians of individualist backgrounds and collectivist backgrounds:

“The Christian from the collectivist culture often says, ‘Your people did this to my people,’ whereas the Christian from the individualist culture responds with, ‘I’m not responsible for what my grandparents did.’ The collectivist’s socially oriented faith includes the possibility of social guilt and requires that individuals who are connected to oppressors be responsible for sins of oppression. However, the individualist’s individual faith only knows individual guilt and is offended by the idea that one person can be held responsible for another person’s actions.”

As a mixed race Christian woman of color of white and black descent, it’s interesting witnessing how collectivist and individualist ideologies work in my experiences.

When I express frustrations towards racism that perpetuates itself because of white power, I may receive from white Christians, “Hey, God is spirit, He doesn’t see color,” “Well, my parents raised me to love all people, so I don’t know why you’re upset,” and “Not all white people.” It made me think a lot about the critique a lot of people of color tend to receive. When critiquing Western whiteness and systemic oppression, people of color are accused of generalizing, and there are white people who say things such as “Well, I’m not racist,” and “Why are you overreacting?”

When I express frustrations in the black community about the lack of attention and care to mental health and other forms of prejudice, I don’t see a lot of white people bat an eye. I don’t hear, “Not all black people.” I don’t hear, “Why are you overreacting?” Mostly because they don’t feel an individual form of guilt since they’re not the ones addressed. That doesn’t change how bothersome it is to me, and it is worth pointing out.

More black Christians are starting to be hyper-aware of the issue of mental health, especially in the problematic “you don’t need counseling, just pray about it” phrase. Because of the aspect of social guilt, of course more are attempting to hold one another accountable. However, black Christians still perpetuate that harm and view therapy as a venue of seeking validation when God should be the validation, or, to put it bluntly, a white issue and not a black issue.

I won’t even get started on the flaw that both white and black communities share in excluding mixed race people in dialogue either.

Another passage that stood out to me in Cleveland’s book was, “The work of reconciliation is often excruciating because it is the work of the cross.”

Processing and reconciling with both of the communities I identify with has been excruciating for me, and still is. Confessing of what I perpetuate while also having to ask for forgiveness and forgive people in my communities. It’s important to note that my life hasn’t been miserable because of it, I love the racial identities that I have. Not only did God create me this way, black and white, but He created his Son god and man as a way to reconcile, heal, and love well; there are a lot of things I appreciate about and can learn from that.

When I was raising funds months ago for South Asia, there were friends, including a couple friends of South Asian American descent, who expressed their concerns and frustrations in regards to the history of white colonialism. Processing, reconciling, confessing, and asking for forgiveness during this time was hard.

If I were pursuing this trip a few years ago, I would have said things like, “Well, my mom raised me to love all people like how Jesus loved them, so I don’t know why you’re upset,” or “Hey, not all Christians,” thinking they wouldn’t understand and without me seeking to understand them. Whether or not I would have pursued a trip like this years ago is debatable, but my point still stands.

Because of my involvement in interfaith work and my involvement with Hillside, I believe that God has blessed me with people in my life who taught me how to have those conversations at the right time months ago instead of years ago. There was a lot of tension in those conversations such as Christian jargon that may be off-putting to Christians and Non-Christians in fundraising and online, viewpoints on Christian theology and doctrine, Christian privilege in the West and the lack of in the East, Western missionary organizations that still perpetuate harm in Eastern countries, and a few Christian and Non-Christian friends who weren’t (and still aren’t) comfortable with me going.

Working through how to have this dialogue with friends and family without downgrading the importance of my faith to me or downgrading the importance of their perspectives (e.g. faith-wise, culture-wise, etc.) was a form of healthy tension, and it was worth it. Stressful at times, and caused me to overthink at times, but still worth it.

I want this summer to be a form reconciliation as I’m serving and living in a new area with new people. I’m hoping not to sound gushy, and I’m hoping that the last part didn’t sound too Christianese, but I had a lot on my mind. I’m at an airport on the Internet, so I wanted to be sure to put this all down.

6/18/17 9:40 AM CST

A series of haikus to describe from last night to now:

 

My first international

flight. So what do I do?

Tweet about it!

 

Hours of twiddling

thumbs, only to be kicked off

to repeat again.

 

Twiddle your thumbs,

angry cry, and remember to

try to get some sleep.

 

A hotel voucher

to sleep for four hours the

only sleep I’ll get.

 

Shuttle driver repeats

“Which airline?” for me to

wake up properly.

 

Bird flies inside. Have

to explain why I’m gasping

To ticket lady

 

She says my passport

expired. Her mistake; her

glasses are foggy.

 

My fourth time in

O’hare this year. And this time,

not on purpose, mind you.

 

If more architects

were women, would we be in

bathroom lines this long?

 

Day got better when

I met my “hair twin.”

I love it when that happens.

 

Encouraging one

another’s textured hairstyles

is needed right now.

 

6/15/17

This Saturday, my flight leaves for South Asia. I will be there for seven weeks pursuing ministry and outreach, and this is a way to document my experiences. For the past six months I have only been writing spoken poetry and a couple of editorial posts. Not that those aren’t great ways of expressing myself, but I’m hoping to write poems more so for the page, creative nonfiction, and maybe other forms of writing this summer.

I also started an Instagram account solely for this summer: maya_in_south_asia as a way of documenting as well.

If you would like to follow along, feel free to follow this blog and my Instagram.

A huge thank you to those who have been supportive of me through dialogue, prayer, good vibes, donations, and so much more.

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