FOOD! Top five foods you need to eat in Kolkata.

So one of the many parts about travelling that I love is getting to experience so many amazing kinds of food! Whether it is hot pot in China, fried chicken in Cambodia, Thom Yum soup in Thailand, Bun Cha in a Southeast Asian country, or ethnic deliciousness in Central Asia, there is many a dish that I have eaten on this trip that makes my mouth water as I think about them. Drooling on my keyboard is probably an electrocution risk right? Not to mention unsanitary. Anyway, the point is that travel provides a great opportunity to not only open your mind to new persepctives and ideas, but to also open your pallette to new flavours, textures, smells, and sensations. I think that it is important for us to be searching for new foods and opportunities to experience dining in whatever culture we find ourselves in. Unlike most of North America, many countries observe eating in a sort of intimate way. A great deal of importance is placed on food. From preparation to consumption and every step in between. Sharing a meal with people can give you great insight into that culture, more so than most other activities. And as eating is a necessity to life you will be more likely to share a meal with them then let’s say get a traditional tribal tattoo or something of that nature. Being in Kolkata for a little over a month now I have been able to experience a lot of different foods and dining experiences. Some of them have been more enjoyable than others, but each tells a different story and holds a unique memory. So below I have compiled a list of the foods that I have enjoyed most!

1.  CHICKEN KASSA AND RUMALI RUTI
   
     So this was one of my first “Indian” meals in Kolkata. My friend, who is a local, took me to a place about a 10 minute walk from my hotel in a sort of strip mall style restaurant area. The chicken kassa is a typical chicken curry in West Bengal, it features pieces of chicken, bone included, stewed in a rich dark gravy made up of numerous spices and chilis, and left to cook for hours to allow the flavours time to deepen and intensify. It is a heavenly chorus of flavour that knows no competitior! Combine this with piping hot, freshly stretched rumali ruti, the chipati’s larger and thinner cousin, and you have got yourself a match that could be featured in a commercial for e-Harmony. It is truly that delightful of an experience! Fun fact: Rumal is the word for handkerchief in the local language, so rumali ruti is kind of like saying “hankie bread.” At least that’s what my friend told me.
Price: The most expensive meal on the list 100 INR – 150 INR depending on your portion size and number of Ruti

2. PANI PURI OR PUCHKAS

    Ah, puchkas. All my instincts told me it was a risk and that I should probably pass on it. But, this time I told my instincts to get lost and I am thankful I did. Puchkas are a delicious little crispy potato chip-like shell with a filling made of potato, chickpeas, fresh cilantro, and various spices. Mixed by hand I should add. Maybe it’s the risk of food poisoning that adds to the experience. Anyway, the shell is broken by the street vendor and filled with potato and then dipped in a dark brown liquid that my local friend only called “sour water.” This process is repeated until you have had your fill and tell the man that you are finished. This may not sound like an appetizing street food however, I assure you that it is indeed delightful! There is nothing quite like standing on a street with horns honking behind you, stuffing your face with puchkas. True bliss!
Price: I think I paid 10 INR for 5 Puchkas or $0.20

3. KATI ROLLS

    Kati rolls. Kolkata’s iconic street food, or so I have heard. Either way, they’re delicious! A piece of dough is flattened and rolled out. Then fried in hot oil on a giant griddle type pan. If you are lucky, this process will be a lot more visually enticing than it sounds. Some of Kolkata’s Kati roll providers are extremely skilled in the tossing and frying of dough as a performance art, it’s quite the spectacle. After the frying, the dough is filled with your choice of toppings, ranging from veggie, to egg and chicken. It is seriously one of the best street foods I have ever come across, and it is only available in the evening, at least as far as I know.
Price:  40 INR – 80 INR or $0.79 – $1.60

4. PARATHA AND POTATO CURRY

      Another dish that features some type of bread. I could just write about the varieties of Indian bread available, but that is another post for another time. This is one of my favourite breakfast foods in the world! You can save your Corn Pops and your Eggo waffles, this is truly the most satisfying breakfast I have ever had. Three pieces of dough are flattened and fried, the same way as the beginning of the kati roll, these are the paratha, a common form of bread eaten here. These are accompanied by a insanely delicious potato curry that is made fresh each morning. They serve it on a sectional stainless steel plate garnished with fresh diced red onion and a seriously intense mustard sauce. As you try not to burn your fingers you rip off pieces of the bread and pinch the potato between them. It is truthfully one of the most enjoyable experiences this city has to offer. The best, and only spot I have found so far, is near a mall called Metropolis in Kolkata. It’s just a little shack with old bamboo poles supporting a less the waterproof tin roof, but man is it ever delicious!
Price: 17 INR – 35 INR or $0.33 – $0.70

5. LASSI (or LOSI)

    One of the more famous Indian treats, and although technically not a food, it deserves a spot here. Let me first say that before I had a real Lassi I was quite skeptical because I did not particularly enjoy my Lassi experiences in Indian restaurants in Canada . However, since I have had a real Indian Lassi, I have been born again! My friend took me to a place that is famous in his neighbourhood for having the best Lassi in Kolkata. The old man at the shop combines a sort of room temeprature yogurt, (safe) ice cubes, and copius amounts of rock sugar, in an old fashioned blender that I’m sure has been around since the 40’s. After it is blended to his satisfaction he opens the spout and out comes a delicious dairy laden delight that I am convinced is a gift from the heavens. He tops the drink with a piece of what I can oly describe as crust, which souds far less appetizing than it really is, and hands you your prize. It is seriously the best thing after a hot curry, or really anytime. The best Lassi is said to be found at a shop in the Tagore Park area, or at Sonarpur Railway station.  I preferred the shop in Tagore Park, but if you are ever in Kolkata you will have to try them for yourself!
Price: 20 INR or $0.40

Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed hearing about he food at least half as much as I have enjoyed eating it! If there is any sort of cultural topic that you would like to read about I would be happy to do research and write about it! Leave a comment below if you have any suggestions!

Grace and peace,
Caleb

     I vividly remember arriving here in Kolkata. Stepping out of the airport into the hot and somewhat viscous October night air,  and being greated by a symphony of horns, and shouts. I remember waiting for a little over half an hour for someone to meet me so I could find out where I would be staying. I remember finally meeting that person and finding out that they thought I was going to be arriving at a different gate. I remember the bus ride, the conversation, and the arrival at my hotel. And honestly, it feels like it was yesterday, but it also feels like it was a month ago.  My time here has gone by in a blur, it feels as though I am on a speeding train/motorbike/auto rickshaw (really any form of transportation) ride. I have been able to see many different places, meet many different people, try many kinds of food (stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to food), and have had many different experiences. These include sleeping on a cement floor in a church unexpectedly, nearly falling out of an auto rickshaw going 60km/h, putting a chair through a freshly made mud floor, climbing a bamboo ladder that I really had no business being on, and using many a squatty potty. But this time has also felt like a long journey that has only just begun. I have experienced dissapointment, fear, confusion, and sadness. This month has brought hardship and tribulation (big words!). However, in these moments when God can seem so far away I have experienced Him in some powerful ways.

     I was reading the other day in Romans 12 where it talks about the “Marks of the True Christian” and a piece of it struck me as like an “Oh I get it.” moment. I am not saying that I “get it”, but this particular verse made an impact on me. The verse that I’m talking about is Romans 12:15. It says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” It was a really cool passage to read in the context of that being a mark of the true Christian. If this is a mark of the true followers of Christ, that means this is a mark of the true Christ, right? If this makes us more like Christ than it must have been what Christ was like. This verse brought so much comfort in the knowledge of the empathetic side of our Heavenly Father. The phrase “God knows just what we need” gets used a lot today, and I agree 110%, but I always thought that had to mean he would bring us out of our hardship or struggle. He always had to lighten the mood and make things better, because, He knew we needed that. But on this day I saw this phrase in a new way. God does know exactly what we need, and sometimes we just need to be able to bear our soul and cry out to Him that we are in anguish. Psalm 51 speaks about the sacrifice of the Lord being a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So in my struggles I decided to do that, and let’s just say it involved some salt water flowing from my eyes, but in a manly way. As I laid in my bed with tears in my eyes, unable to sleep, and just all around bummed right out I experienced a part of God that I had been missing out on. It was as if He was sitting there on the bed beside me shedding tears with me, and feeling the same hurts that I was feeling. It was as if He had put His loving arm around me and said “I know buddy, it sucks.” There was no grand revelation that He would make it go away, or that things would get better. There was no magic formula of how I could ease the pain or the struggle that I was feeling, but there was empathy. And in this struggle, in that moment that is what I needed.

GlobeTREK Update: I am a month and a bit into my internship! Things are going decently but there are a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out so prayer for doing that with wisdom and discernment on my side and my partner organizations side would be much appreciated! Also, some of my team members were having some difficulty with their visa situation but it looks like everything is sorted! So PTL!

Thanks for reading friends!

Grace and peace,
Caleb

Coffee, coffee, coffee, and the Word.

I started to slide down the side walk, and naturally, out of fear and confusion, my first reaction was to run faster. As I felt that I was finally back on solid, not inclined, ground,  I looked back to investigate the cause of my slippery adventure. I found that a combination of Clark’s Desert Boots, which if you have ever worn no that they have about as much grip as your grandmas freshly waxed hardwood hallway, and mud had been the key contributors. I wiped a drop(s) of sweat from my face, thanked the good Lord that it was only mud, and continued my journey. I rounded th corner and spotted the cafe that I had been looking for and made my way towards my cliche millenial-Christian hideaway. Recently, I have found great comfort in reading the bible. I have found the words of Christ, and the apostles that followed, more compelling and engaging than ever before, at least that I can remember. Phrases that I have read many, probably hundreds of times, have somehow changed and mean so much more to me. Likewise, coffee shops have been somewhat of a safe haven, I am in one currently, as I seek to “escape” or take a break from the craziness of this city. I know I sound like a hipster, and I guess I am a little bit. Anyway, I have been experiencing a renewal of sorts. Things that seem mundane or ordinary in my comfortable “first world” life, have been brought to new light and have taken a new form it seems. Writing for instance, something that I have looked at with disdain (often because it is associated with an 8-10 page paper due in two days that has not yet been started) has been something that I have found great joy in, and more than that, something that I have been able to spend time with God doing. Recently I have taken to rewriting some Psalms in my own words, call it plagiarism if you want but, I enjoy communicating with God in that way. Yes, in an ethically-unsound way, get over it. But the thing that has been the most refreshed in my life is the joy of devotion. As any good Christian kid knows you “enjoy” devotions and spending time with God is “fun.” But in the same way that every good Christian kid knows this, they also know that this is just not true all the time. However, recently the “fun” has come back! But it’s different,  it’s more of a constant, steady joy rather than an exciting hit you in the face kind of experience. It has been really cool to experience the consistency of time with God, and finding joy in those times. I find that it’s in these times when my my heart is most open to what God has to teach me. In these times that I find are very challenging, God has been leading me on a tremendously thought provoking and perspective changing journey. I am excited to see where it leads as it continues! It makes me think a lot about God’s character. Especially, the inexhaustible nature of it. I often get caught up in the action of devotions or worship, trying to make my actions fit into this mould of who God is that I forget that God doesn’t fit in our mould. There is so much about God to discover and experience, but I often shut myself off to that. In this I miss out on that refreshing experience, I miss out on God opening me up to a new experience or a new perspective that could be amazing and life changing.

Well that’s new…

Well that’s new…

So India. This place is crazy! There is so much going on that sometimes I find that if I don’t just put my head down and ignore my surroundings for a minute, I might have to develop multiple personalities in order to deal with it. However, at the same time if I keep my head down for too long I WILL get hit by a bus. That is true, I was nearly hit by a bus today, and it was terrifying. I apologize for the delayed nature of this post, I have been finding it somewhat difficult to find reliable sources of internet access. (Related: I am thinking about getting a portable wifi hotspot, does anyone have experience with them and if so, good or bad? Comments are appreciated!) And in all reality, I have had no idea what to write about, and let’s be real I still don’t really. But I figured that maybe if I just throw my hands toward my keyboard in a hopeful fashion something good may come out. Maybe that’s how the Twilight series was written? Anyway, India, living here has been incredible, hard, gross, amazing, fulfilling, and challenging. And I have only been here for three weeks! Everyday holds a new experience and gives me the opportunity to learn and grow, but it also gives me the opportunity to be closed minded and be negative towards the culture and the people. There is a choice to make everyday of whether I am going to choose to embrace all that God is teaching me through people and culture, or whether I am going to neglect this and try to remain in my own world. Every time I use my flip flop to heartlessly murder an enormous cockroach (a battle that I am winning by 16-0 kill/death ratio by the way) I have to ask myself if I am going to hold this as mark against living here, or if I am going to see the humour in it and learn that ADDA flip flops are the best for this task. Every time I go into a public bathroom and I am greated by the sight of a soaking wet and slippery toilet seat, I am confronted with the choice to hate it, or think about how going to the bathroom normally is rather boring and not knowing if you are going to slip off the toilet and break something mid-movement is quite exciting and really enhances your bathroom experience! Or how about when the guy on the train decides that he wants to practice his MMA skills and decides to throw an elbow directly into my sternum, should I get physical with him and say that he is a problem, or should I maybe realize that everyone on this train just wants to get home/to work/to their friends house, and maybe even that when he becomes the UFC Welterweight champion I can say that he practiced his wicked elbow-to-the-chest move on me first. Constantly there are experiences that cause a confrontation within me. Am I going to curse the smell that, after steeping in the humidity all day, can only be described as “funky”, or think about how amazing the view of the rice fields and palm trees was as I rode through the countryside on the back of a motorbike? Am I going to sit at the back of the church with my arms crossed and repeatedly tell myself that charismatic worship is not what I believe in theologically, and therefore will not take part in it, or will I join in and appreciate the fact that we are all part of One Body, and God has created diversity within the body. I must admit that I am guilty of the former. The thing is each day, whether you live in India, Canada, America, Barbados, Mozambique, or Fiji, we are faced with challenges and they each present a confrontation between our own ideals of how we think life should be and what life is. We want our lives to be cockroach, wet toilet seat, and funky smell free but, in reality they are not! And I am glad they are not because, life would be boring if we always knew what was coming up and we wouldn’t learn anything from that. The age old saying that “Familiarity breeds contempt” comes to mind. The thing that makes life so awesome wherever you are, is the unexpected, the challenge, the new experience, and I think that we, me especially, miss out on things because I expect life to fit in a box. I don’t think that’s how God designed life to work. When I look at the Bible, and more specifically the message of the Gospel, I see that it was full of unexpected lessons and experiences. People didn’t expect that Jesus was going to come as a baby in a manger, I mean they should have based on the prophecy, but they didn’t! They didn’t expect Him to be a humble carpenter, they didn’t expect Him to die. How could the Saviour of the World die? The disciples didn’t expect to see Him again but they did. The Bible is chalked full of examples of God using the unexpected experiences of life to teach, affirm, and build people and groups up. I guess what I am trying to say is that I think that God shows us a lot through the things we go through and we have a choice to make. Are we going to be open and willing to learn from the challenges and experiences that we have, or will we choose to close ourselves off to them because they don’t fit in our category of what life should be like?

As always, these are just some thoughts that I am processing and I do not mean to accuse anyone by this. Thanks for readin! (And for real with the wifi thing, comments are appreciated!)

So you want to travel?

So you want to travel?

         So travel? The great adventure! Seeing the world, expanding your horizons, opening you mind, educating yourself, being spontaneous! Travel is one of the most envied hobbies in our world today. Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or (insert social media platform here) you are bombarded by ads, posts, or pictures, of exotic frontiers somehwere far away from wherever you are it seems. Travel is a promised rush, a guaranteed adventure, and a new experience in many aspects. The food, the culture, the dress, the language, the people, the art, the societal structure, the politics, the infrastructure, whatever your shtick is, travel is sure to strike a cord with you in one respect or another. However, travel is not always sunshine, lolipops, and unicorn farts (they are supposed to be rainbows, or candy, or something). Sometimes, it’s rain, chicken cartilidge, and diarrhea in the most uncomfortable places. Travel can WILL be one of the most amazing things you will ever do in your life. It will be amazing in ways that you didn’t expect, and you will learn more and more, the more you do it, and think about it. But, you will also find that travelling can be a very hard thing as well. Culture shock is real! Poverty around the world is nothing like what most of us experience in North America, or most of the western world. There are sicknesses that occur when travelling that can make life somewhat comparable to the human version of a busted fire hydrant, and above all travelling can be downright exhausting! The purpose of this post is not to discourage people from travelling at all! Travelling has been, and is continuing to be, a key contibutor to some of the most interesting and valuable experiencs that I am happy to say I have had. But rather, the purpose of this is to give you a heads up that it can be difficult as well. So I have decided to mention some key things I have found to be important, from practical physical supplies, to emotion, and spiritual, preparedness.

1) EMERGENCY BATHROOM KIT

I have found this to be an essential, ESSENTIAL, part of any travellers kit! Include in here toilet paper, sanitizer, wet wipes (for the more luxurious people out there), pocket bible – trust me, and a spare pair, if you know what I mean. You may ask why the bible? Well, there is a thing called traveller’s diarrhea which we all prepare for, but it’s little known evil twin, traveller’s constipation (I made that up), may strike at any time! And what better way to spend many minutes in the ol’ restroom than reading God’s word? Bring this kit with you everywhere, or you may have to use a rock in the mountains in Central Asia and things may get very, very ugly.

2) GOOD SHOES

I feel like my mom right now. But, if you plan on doing a lot of walking, or even if you don’t, bring shoes that have great support. You never know what opportunities may present themselves and you don’t want to hike The Great Wall of China in Vans. Trust me. Don’t limit yourself with bad shoes!

3) LONG PANTS

Why long pants? Well, you can’t go naked. And also, most of the world (at least Asia) doesn’t really do the whole shorts thing. Pants are especially important if you will be doing any ministry work. Making yourself stand out to the people you are trying to build relationships with can make them feel uncomfortable. With long pants comes long sleeves. Sometimes, things like tattoos, or just arms in general, need to be covered up. It’s better to be able to roll them up if that’s appropriate than to be stuck looking foolish and promiscuious with short sleeves.

4) PRAYER LIFE

This one is really geared toward my Christian friends, but feel free to consider this point anyway! Through travelling I have experienced some of the toughest challenges to my faith yet, and I expect there to be many more. I really believe that this is due to the nature of my trip, but all the same, there are many other religions around the world. And, coming into contact with these religions can and will open you up to some tests, and challenges. However, God is still God over that, and when we don’t, and can’t, understand what is going on around us all we can do is pray. I have really relied on prayer to get me through a lot of challenges that I am facing, and during extended trips, this will be a lifeline! Do not under estimate the importance of this!

5) THOUGHTFUL PROCESSING

This is kind of an obscure tip, but it is important. Travelling through some of the more impoverished parts of the world (and still more to come). I have learned a lot about life, some things about simplicity, some things about joy, some things about suffering. All these things have come through taking time to process what I have seen. Sometimes, when we see poverty constantly, we can become blind and numb to the reality that lies before us. I urge you to take time to think about what you are seeing, experiencing, and feeling. This will make travelling a much more valuable experience, and may open your eyes to new ideas and perspectives. As a Christian I think this is really important in order to understand what God is really doing and how we understand who He is.

6) THE ABILITY TO BE FLEXIBLE

This is important. Plans change, you get tired, you want to do something else, it’s okay! I think most people are okay with the fact that things out of their control change sometimes, but I think that things in our control are hard to be flexible with. At least for me. Sometimes, we want to experience the place that we are in so much that we go, go, go, see, see, see, eat, eat, eat, do, do, do, ourselves into exhaustion and we end up not really enjoying our time. (Did anyone laugh at the do, do, do part? I did.) Make a list of MUST DOS and WANT TO DOS, do the must dos and make it okay for you not to do the want to dos. Sometimes, a day of chilling at your hotel, hostel, host home, or tent, is just as much of a good memory as seeing  the next cool tourist attraction!

I hope you have enjoyed reading this! This is not even close to an exhaustive list, but just some things I have learned so far!

GlobeTREK update: I am in India for my 6-months now! It is a crazy place with lots of new and interesting things! Everyone else on the team is safely in their 6-month locations as well. If you would like to donate to Globetrek you can visit the Donations page on my blog or click this link, Praire Donations, in order to go directly to the donations page. Thanks for reading!

God IS…

God IS…

 

       This post is late. Like, two weeks late. However, I think that I needed a little bit of time to process my thoughts a little better. We were recently in Cambodia, Siem Reap  and Phnom Penh, and this was one of the best and most difficult times of my life. Why was it difficult? I don’t think I can really explain it thoroughly in this “brief” post, but here goes nothing. While we were in Cambodia we had the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields and S-21 both in Phnom Penh. These were some of the darkest places that I have ever been in my entire life. Let me give a brief background on these two places. The Killing Fields are the sites of multiple mass graves that were a result of the brutal Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime that plagued Cambodia during the mid 1970’s. There were graves here that held the remains of more than 400 people. There were graves here that held the remains of only mothers and small children. There were signs all over the place that said “Don’t step on bone fragments” because, the rain was still bringing them up to the surface. There were trees that had strips of clothing, from those killed here, wrapped around their trunks. There was a memorial stupa that contained over 5,000 skulls and numerous other bones from the unfortunate people that were caught up in such a horrible moment of history. Then came Tuol Sleng, or S-21, a “detention centre” for Khmer Rouge prisoners. This is a somewhat misleading name as only 12 of the ~20,000 prisoners survived their detention here. I suggest the more appropriate name of “death centre” for S-21. This, for me, was much harder than the Killing Fields. S-21 is a former high school, turned death centre, turned museum. It seemed that S-21 was much less curated and visitors were allowed to see the raw, untouched (to an extent), nature of it. For example, there were several rooms that were used as interragtion (torture) rooms. In these rooms were pictures of what these rooms were used for. In one of the rooms there was a picture of a body, seemingly lifeless, lying on a wire bed frame with shackles, and a pool of blood lying eerily beneath. Looking towards the center of the room you see that same wire bed frame, with the same leg shackles, and a blood stain on the floor in the same place as shown in the picture. S-21 was well documented by the Khmer Rouge, and walking through the museum is proof of that. There are numerous rooms with what seemed to be endless pictures of the prisoners. Each one had a number beside it, and as you walk through the rooms the numbers increase. Prisoner 1, prisoner 5, 16, 78, 346, 1331, 12675, these were all individual people, with individual stories, unique families, created by God for a unique purpose, and I thought loved by God. Where was the love of God in this place? Where was it in the midst of this evil? Was it in the scratches in the cell wall of a prisoner, counting the days to freedom, only to find out that his freedom would never come? Was it in the mothers being torn away from there babies only to watch in horror as their infant child was killed in front of them? WHERE WAS GOD? Why didn’t he stop this? These were the questions that I struggled with, and still am struggling with as I write this blog. Something like this, something utterly and totally evil in every way, was allowed to happen to a people so innocent and warm. *Side Note: Cambodian people are some of the kindest and most loving people you will ever meet.* Why did God let this happen? As I pondered these questions God brought me to the book of Job. Job, righteous and upright, God fearing and honourable, was afflicted with terrible suffering. He lost almost all of his family, he lost his wealth, he lost his home, and he lost his health. Why? Well you see… I don’t know. But I do know that God was still good and still loving even through that suffering. Through suffering Job was able to praise God for his goodness and mercy all the more. I saw that in Cambodia. We talked to a few people who had been alive during this turbulent time in Cambodia’s history and they all seemed to understand how good God is, how much love He has for them, and the endlessness of His mercy. This is where God is. We were able to see how God used such a horrible event in history to raise up a generation that is so passionate and so convinced of God’s love that they have inspired many others to follow in their footsteps. God has shown them the depths of His love and richness of His mercy. I wonder now what the lesson is for us to take from this? God loves us? God is good? God shows mercy? Yes. All are good. But, I think that the overarching theme of this is that God is. PERIOD. Not was, not will be, but is. In every moment of every day God is who He says He is. Malachi 3:6 offers some encouragement “For I the LORD do not change, therefore you, O children of Jacob are not consumed.” Sometimes we go through crappy situations, we lose a job, don’t get into the school we wanted, have a terrible illness, a loved one passes away, or maybe you lost your family. It is easy to get caught up in the fact that we are suffering and lose sight of who God is in the midst of this. We don’t always – actually, we seldom – know why God allows us to suffer, but the thing that we can always know and keep our eyes fixed on is that God is who He says He IS.

HAPP(me)NESS

As I watched little Chinam, a three year old Cambodian bundle of endless energy, jump from the railing of a classroom building into a small pile of construction sand below I realized something. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but, I knew there was something about him that was unusual. Last week, we spent time in the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most unspeakbaly amazing places I have ever been able to go. There was something so welcoming and friendly about the community there. Not just friendly because they wanted us to feel welcome, but a genuine, raw warm and welcoming spirit that just flowed from them in everything. However, this was not the thing that caught my attention the most. I kept noticing something about the people here as they worshipped, worked, ate, slept, and generally just lived in community with each other. Something just seemed to be present at all times. It was only on the bus as we were travelling from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (the capital city) that I realized what that something was, it was JOY. Joy was what had stood out to me so vividly as I watched how they went about their everyday lives. They seemed to be so happy all the time, but looking back I no it was more than just mere happiness. The people that we were working with did not have much, and they knew that, but that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the church yard was so flooded that they could not work on the wall that we were supposed to be helping with. They had found the joy of the Lord in every situation. This joy is deeper than happiness that solely depends on circumstance. This joy was the undercurrent of their lives, the constant stronghold in their lives. This made me think about how so often I find myself in a bad mood or upset with my life because my circumstance is not what I wanted. My faith would be tested and I would lose heart and tell God that he had gotten it wrong again, I wasn’t supposed to face hardships or trials. But that isn’t a particularly biblical view of the Christian walk is it? James 1:2-3 says that we should “Count it all joy, my brothers” when our faith is tested because that will produce steadfastness. That’s pretty different from the whole “pursuit of happiness” idea, isn’t it? Our joy, as followers of Christ, is not dependent on the circumstances that surround us, whether that be a flooded church yard, or bad job, or no job. The joy of the Lord is th undercurrent that constantly flows beneath the trials and tribulations of this life. The people that we had the privilege of spending time with exemplified this kind of joy so beautifully and that is something that I will take with me as I mve on in my journey. God’s joy is constant, regardless of circumstance. Always has been, always is, and always will be available to us. That’s beautiful!

UPDATE: We are in Phnom Penh until Tuesday and then we are off to Thailand for a bit. I have really appreciated your prayer and support! If you feel so inclined to support me financially while on GlobeTREK you can do so through the Donations page in the dropdown menu or visit Prairie College Donations. Also, our friends Darren and Minako from Work of Your Hand will be in Canada speaking at a few churches and what not so you should go check them out! It’s and amazing ministry.