5 days in.

I arrived in Chennai 6 nights ago. How could that possibly be?! It feels like the time has flown by. I feel like now I'm completely behind in my writing and I can't possibly catch up, but I must start so I can finish. I hope that I can write about many of the young men and women I have met and tell their stories and how they have inspired me, but for now, I will just start with 10 things I've learned in India.

1. There are real life living saints on this earth right here, right now.

The program director of ZOE in India is living proof of that. The stories I hear of what he has done for children is just incredible, inspiring and unbelievable. He rescued a young woman who was screaming because she was refusing to be sold to trafficking by her own brother. He had tied her to a chair and cut off her arm. Jabez heard the scream, came to her rescue, and rushed her to the hospital. After she was released, he brought her back to her home in the slums and kept guard outside her door at night to keep her safe. Eventually he grew the trust of the community and he was able to start his program there. Not only is he running the ZOE program, he also manages orphanages and many other charitable projects. His dream at night is to help 1 million children in his lifetime and he keeps a running tally of his current number. I believe 100% that this man will not only achieve that goal, but demolish it.

2. There are about 12 different head nods to communicate different things in India.

I'm pretty sure I am a jedi master now. Just YouTube it, it's really quite fascinating.

3. You do not need HALF of the stuff you own or buy.

Get rid of your crap and donate to ZOE. Right now. I'm not even joking. Not even a little bit. Being here and interacting with these people and seeing their love and friendliness when they have little to nothing has made me realize that the life I live is quite ridiculous and completely outrageous. If I got rid of 1/4 of my stuff, I could fund an entire group (approximately 40 children in a group) to pull them out of really, really terrible situations, start their own group, feel like a family, learn to live on their own, start a business and make a life for themselves and feel like they have a purpose in this life and achieve a dream. Seems just a bit more fulfilling than having the nicest mini van in the neighborhood or that name brand bag and it's pretty insane anyone would think otherwise. 'amiright?

4. I will never again complain about Texas road rage.

There is no such thing after seeing how India traffic works. Horns honking, beeps, allllll the sounds. There is no lane system really, people make their own as they cut in and out and pass. Stop lights are optional and cars, buses, cows, people, dogs, motorcycles and rickshaws all share the same small road. Freaking insane.

5. Mission trips are different than the ZOE program.

I was a mission trip virgin. I really had no idea what to expect. I knew I was going on some very long plane rides to check out and cheerlead some kids. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure mission trips make you feel amazing as a person but what I have always assumed is you go in with a group, fix some things up, leave, and then it basically goes back to how it once was. ZOE is pretty much nothing like that. ZOE empowers these young men and women. From the very beginning, they get to do it all. Once they form their group, they get to name it, elect their leaders, decide when they meet and how often and so on. ZOE empowers. They are creating a life for themselves and realizing their dreams, something they never thought to be possible. I hope to expand on that later. And we get to go witness these miracles and encourage them and love on them and give them high fives and hugs.

6. If you come to India, you will surely be a celebrity.

By today, we decided we should start charging 500 rupees per photo. It's really ridiculous how many people stop you to ask if they can take their picture with you. If you are wanting to feel like a celebrity, go to India. All the kids, when asked what questions they had for us, asked "how do you get your skin so white?" LOLOLOLOL

7. When you think your life is rough, come back and read one of my stories about a ZOE kid.

Because it's not. When your kid thinks their life isn't fair because they didn't make the soccer team or they're mad because they can't go to the movies with their friends, maybe you can remind them that there is a 15 year old girl in India that lives under a make shift tent with a fabric cover out in the farm land by herself to be able to care for her ducks and even stayed out there during a cyclone so that her ducks would be safe.

8. You can survive solely on naan.

For those that really know me, you have to know that I'm not exactly the most adventurous eater. I pretty much stick to my usual and don't stray far from what I'm used to. When I decided I was coming to India, I started stocking up on the little travel Vanilla Coffeemate creamers and protein bars. Half of my suitcase was primarily snacks. But so far in India, I've managed to sweet talk my way into Domino's, fried chicken and a kid's grilled cheese with smiley fries. Naan is good, though! It's India's version of a tortilla - pretty tasty! Not so much the curry.

9. Open your heart and trust in God and things will happen.

Never has this been more true. I've witnessed this for myself and for the young men and women in the ZOE program here. If you are willing to take that jump, He will be there for you on the other end. These kids take a risk by joining their ZOE group and the outcome is worth everything to them, just as it was for me to sign up for this trip.

10. Life is short, enjoy it.

Sounds suuuuuuuper cliche, but man is it so true. A year ago, if someone would've told me I would be going to Asia, I would've laughed. I have never had the desire to be crammed up next to people in a train so going to Asia was never on my radar for this claustrophobic girl. But man, I'm here and taking it all in. I've rode a horse on the ocean, got a henna tattoo, got my eyebrows threaded, slid down butterball rock and even tried lamb. I'm not saying I'm completely changed, but I've taken risks and chances and I've opened my eyes to a whole new world and I've loved every second of my time here.

That's all for tonight. xo

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