As our plane took off from Kolkata for the short flight to Siliguri, I put on my headphones, cranked the volume all the way up and played a song that, for whatever reason, is always the first one on my playlist for this portion of the trip: The Story by Brandi Carlisle.
A chill ran across my shoulders as the guitar intro rolled.
"All of these lines across my face tell you the story of who I am. So many stories of where I've been and how got to where I am."
And as the second verse hit its stride, "I climbed across the mountain tops, swam all across the ocean blue..." waves of emotion swept over me. "I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules, but baby I broke them all for you." I buried my head in my hands and bit my lip.
The second song on my playlist, "Set Me Free" — an old Vineyard worship tune — was one of only two songs (the other was "Break Every Chain" by Will Reagan) I could bear to listen to as I was enduring a particularly dark three-week period almost exactly a year ago.
"Fall on me, every so gently. Washing, washing my filthy stains. Shower me with your love. Breath on, breath on these dry bones. And break these chains and set me free."
As the song rolled into the chorus, I came undone. And although I didn't cry as hard — or for as long — as I did last June, it felt as if something broke loose inside me. And if I hadn't been on an airplane where my histrionics were likely to cause distress in my other passengers and the flight crew, I probably would have crawled into a fetal position and sobbed. And those who know me well probably know that I'm not especially lachrymose.
So why all of this emotion? Well, I can't really go into all of the details in this forum, but my return to India was not a foregone conclusion as of this time last year. And this year, we had some concerns about our visas that caused us to wonder if we would be entering the country or returning to Thailand to activate "Plan B." Or "Plan C," if you're really counting. Even now, as I lie securely in my bed in Kalimpong, this visit is freighted with all kinds of intense feelings.
We drove up to Kalimpong from Siliguri this morning and arrived by lunchtime. Despite heavy rains in the early morning, we didn't encounter any landslides or washed out roads. The trip was relatively uneventful; the only delay was caused by a very slow moving train blocking our path about a half hour outside of Siliguri.
After enjoying a room service lunch and a brief nap, we headed out to visit each of our five homes (a sixth one is on the way; the kids are living among the other homes while we iron out funding to rent a house of their own). I surprised myself at how many of the kids names I remembered — I'd guess at least half of them. Considering that we now have more than 800 kids across Asia's Hope, that's not too shabby.
Although I time was short at each place, it was a pretty joyful reunion. We finished the evening with a dinner at Home 1. I got some tips that should improve my chapati making, and I promised to make lunch for the staff later in the week. I'm thinking tacos.
By the time we got to the last two homes, it was already getting dark, so I didn't get many pictures. But as I told the kids, I'll be here for a while.
Tomorrow is church. I look forward to worshipping with these dear families tomorrow. And I hope I hold it together; I'm not sure the kids would understand 'why is John Uncle a blubbering wreck.' Tonight I'm thankful to the staff of Asia's Hope India and to those who work so hard to support these amazing families: Lake Forest Church in North Carolina, Transform Construction, Narrow Road Church, Scarlet City Church, Sacred Space Church, Vista Church and Life Church in Ohio and Real Wood Floors in Missouri. You guys — along with the many people who contribute to Asia's Hope — are my heroes, and are a blessing to me and my family.
Jaimashi! (Jesus wins).