Monday, 26 January 2009

Slumdogs and Starfish

I just watched ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Whoever called it the ‘feel-good movie of the decade’ either started off ridiculously depressed or… I don’t know, but feel-good it aint! I had been warned that for someone who’s been to India and seen the reality of the slums it could be quite harrowing but I’m not usually affected very much by movies so I thought it might just be a bit sad in places. But ‘harrowing’ is the perfect word to use. It is real and in every scene, for every character, there are thousands of real people living in that situation today, every day.

At the end of the film, when he goes to answer the final question, there are shots of people all over India celebrating: people gathered around TV shop windows, crowded into individual houses that have TVs, stood in the street watching, and others, obviously more wealthy, who are in comfortable houses. When he wins [sorry to spoil it…but you should have guessed by the title ;)], kids run across the railway lines in celebration just like Jamal does as a child at the beginning of the film. It’s a happy ending for one of these ‘slumdogs’ but there are millions of others still where he started. What will it take to protect them from leading the same life, or worse- the lives of those not so lucky to escape in the way he did so many times?

The problem is so big, what difference can we make? At this point I’m reminded of the ‘starfish story’ (found here). It tells of a young man who was walking along the beach throwing stranded starfish back into the sea. When challenged that he could not possibly make a difference to all the thousands of starfish washed up on the shore, he picked up another starfish, threw it into the ocean and said, “It made a difference to that one.” We can make a difference to the individual ones, until we find a way to make a difference to the twos, and then the threes, until we can make a difference to the thousands. But never let me be so overwhelmed by the size of the task that I make a difference to no-one.

If there are people actually reading this, watch this space for information about ‘Love India’- a charity we intended to set up when we returned from India in the summer. The busyness of life has put a pause on any developments but after tonight, I have to do something. Even if I just make a difference to one.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

And the walls came tumbling down!

Storytime. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

In July, like thousands of other students in Leeds, I moved house. Unlike a lot of those students, I didn't really know most of the people I was moving in with. It soon conspired that there were things going on in the house that I wasn't very happy with and didn't want surrounding by. Simultaneously, some of my friends were looking for a house and they asked me if I would like to join them. It was a surprisingly difficult decision but I decided to go for it; after all, a lot of people don't start looking for a room til September so how hard could it be to fill? You'd be surprised!

It was a few weeks before we found a new house to move into but when we did, wow, was it a great house! Such an amazing provision, beautiful and affordable and just in time- the wildcard from heaven. So for a few weeks I would have two rooms until everything got sorted then I could move across to the wonder-house. About two weeks later somebody came to see the room. He loved the house, my old housemates loved him, and he rang back within 10 minutes asking if he could take the room! What a God-send! Everything was fulfilled as I'd thought. He moved in the following Monday and we were to sign the contract the next day once everything was sorted. But one thing after another, and difficulty in pinning down one housemate to approve the swap, and by Friday the contract still hadn't been signed. But we were all moved so as far as I was concerned, the deal was as good as done.

Not so soon. On Saturday I received a text apologising very nicely, but explaining that this guy had found a room in a mate's house and he'd be moving out that day. I was gutted. Everything seemed God-sent: why would he give me this and then take it away? Why hadn't I insisted the contract be signed that week? What was I going to do now? I'd been through so much stress letting it out the first time, I wasn't sure I could survive that ordeal again. But we prayed, and I came to realise that this wasn't just any old room-filling problem; this was a spiritual battle. There were a number of situations in my family's life and as a family, we needed breakthrough. God had told me he was going to deliver me and I had to believe in Him.

So...I kept advertising the room, and kept praying. A word came through a guy I had never met in my life that God was going to break down the wall in a way that no man could stop and I stood on that word. In December, my family's walls began to fall, one by one. Surely my time was coming! I've been in tight situations before and God has never let me down. The closer it came to the deadline, the more certain I became that my deliverance was on its way.

(Let me explain about the deadline: My housemates are wonderful. When we first moved, they agreed to cover the rent between the three of them until I moved so that I wouldn't be paying for two rooms, on the understanding that I was moving soon. But time went by...and Sarah is moving out at the end of January. I couldn't expect the rent to be split between two. The 14th January had been set as the date when we would have to sit down seriously and talk about it: two weeks to go!)

I was challenged to speak aloud the faith I had. Even though I believed that God could provide, I found myself expressing different sentiments to those around me. But I was determined that 2009 would be different. On Wednesday, 7th January I was talking about the situation with a friend who isn't a Christian, but I committed to say that I believed there wouldn't be an issue come 31st Jan. I may not have said 'I believe God will deliver me' but there was faith behind my words. That night, I received a text from one of my old housemates, the one who had dragged his heels so that the last contract fell through. He had a friend who was in need of a room. There were a couple of issues to iron out but by 5:30 on Wednesday 14th January the deal was done and the contract signed! Couldn't have cut it closer but my God is never early and never late.

There was no other way out: God was my only hope. It had to be a filled room or provision of finance to pay for both. But it's those situations where we really need faith, where it's God or bust, that we see his deliverance. I love this passage from 'The Organic Church' by Niel Cole:

"We must be willing to place ourselves in a position where, if God does not show up we will be seen as complete fools. Most have not been willing to take that risk...We will never witness the sea part if we don't take the path that dead-ends at the beach while the enemy's forces are breathing down our necks...Because we are not in dangerous places, there is no reason for Almighty God to step in and deliver us."

Go on...take a risk!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New Languages

ಜಸ್ಟ್ ದಿಸ್ಕಾವೆರೆದ್ ಥಟ್ ಕ್ಯಾನ್ ಟೈಪ್ ಇನ್ ಕನ್ನಡ ಸ್ಕ್ರಿಪ್ಟ್! ಹೌ ಎಕ್ಷ್ಕಿತಿನ್ಗ ಇಸ್ ಥಟ್? ಹವೆ ನೋ ಐಡಿಯಾ ಹೌ ಟು ರೆಅದ್ ಇಟ್, ಅಂಡ್ ಇಟ್' ಜಸ್ಟ್ ಫೊನೆಟಿಕ್ ತ್ರನ್ಸ್ಲಿತೆರಶನ್ ಆಫ್ ದಿ ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷ್ ವರ್ಡ್ಸ್, ಬಟ್ ಸ್ಟಿಲ್ ಮಕೆಸ್ ಮೇ ಹ್ಯಾಪಿ :)

which says...
I just discovered that I can type in Kannada script! How exciting is that? I have no idea how to read it, and it's just a phonetic transliteration of the English words, but still makes me happy :)

This year I am going to learn Kannada, the language spoken in the region of India I have visited twice now. But I can learn the script on here, amazing!