My Three Days in Goa with an Israeli Man

I know that this title makes this post sound like it’s going to be full of juicy, rambunctious rendezvous with an Israeli man in Goa, but not quite. Sorry to disappoint.

God brought this Israeli man into my life at such a time as was necessary to help me grow and come to terms with who I am and what I’ve suffered from in my life. How we met was what anyone would call “pure chance”, but I know that nothing is a coincidence. I suppose I should preface this by saying that I’ve always been passionate about the Jewish people and the Jewish roots of Christianity fascinate me. I wear a cross and a Star of David together around my neck, a piece of jewelry which has always begun interesting conversations.

 

So, this man. We met at a restaurant/guesthouse called “Wellness Inn” in Goa. I had just finished breakfast and was about to head out to the beach or to town, when a thin, tan, blonde man with the tiniest swim trunks ever sat down across from me.

 

“Can I sit here?”

 

“Sure.”

 

We began talking and I learned that he was from Israel and that he came to Goa to learn Ayurvedic massage from some of the best teachers. Just as we began chitchatting more, another man showed up. (Ha! You thought I was into the borderline naked guy.) This man was tall, slender, with long dark, curly hair pulled back into a little ponytail. As he slipped off his shoes before entering the restaurant, I acknowledged him with a polite smile. He smiled back and glanced up at me twice before sitting away from me and my new breakfast companion. We asked him to come join us and we learned that he was also from Israel and was in Goa simply as a tourist. But, he also knew how to give massage therapy.

 

He and I began chatting like one does when one first meets a person. We covered all the basics of our respective countries and what we think about them, our respective ages (he is 31 and I’m 24), what I think about his English, etc. The other Israeli guy invited us to come to the beach with him, but the sun had just begun sitting high overhead and I had no intention of suffering from heat stroke. Instead, while the blonde Israeli man went to pay his bill, the dark-haired Israeli man and I talked more and made plans to walk to this market about twenty minutes away. I immediately felt comfortable with him and I could see that he felt the same with me as well. We sat quite closely and leaned into each other as we spoke. At last we got up and left the restaurant and our other Israeli friend behind (sorry, dude.)

 

Over the next three days, we went to a market, the beach, a fruit stand, various shops, another beach (it was Goa, after all), and a restaurant for dinner. Every day he picked me up for our little excursions. I’d hear the little jingle of the bell and open the door to see him standing sheepishly to the side, fidgeting with whatever little thing he could find. Each time I’d open the door he’d say things like:

 

“Wow, you look like that when you’re just relaxing at home?”

 

“Wow, you look like this when you just wake up? How is that possible?”

 

“Wow, you’re wearing Indian clothes. You look great!”

 

He made me feel so beautiful. Everything he said about me, from my hair texture to my skin color was a compliment. He thought I was beautiful and had no fear expressing that, although he did so subtlely. Every day he glanced down at my neck and commented about how he loved seeing the cross and the Star of David together like that. He had never met anyone who was like me in that regard.

 

As we walked about the sandy Goan streets, he and I talked about everything. Honestly, we delved into deep topics quite quickly, which has hardly ever happened to me before. We talked about my depression and anxiety, his family history and the Holocaust, my dad’s abuse of my family, and his dislike of Israeli hypocrisy and Orthodox rules. Although I shared pretty heavy topics like that so early, he was still interested in me, which surprised me. When I’d tell him difficult things, he’d respond with something like, “Wow, that just shows me how incredibly emotionally strong you are.” That comment brought me to tears, internally of course, because of how much I needed to hear it. I haven’t thought of myself as emotionally strong for about a year now so to hear someone say that and see that inside of me was shocking. When I shared with him about my hypochondria, he helped me out by laughing with me about it. That actually helped, believe it or not. I said something like, “You know, sometimes I walk around afraid I’m going to drop dead of a heart attack. Isn’t that ridiculous?” He smiled and said, “That’s very funny. That’s great.” I felt free to go on: “Sometimes it’s a heart attack, other times it’s a brain tumor or a stroke. It depends on the day.” We laughed together about it and for the first time since dealing with hypochondria, I didn’t feel so alone. The whole thing didn’t feel so overwhelming.

We parted ways the next afternoon with a sweaty hug and a promise from him to come visit me elsewhere in India as soon as he was free.

He said he’s sure we’ll meet again. Even if we don’t, I’m grateful that my three days with this stranger were so restorative and affirming for me. I hope that my openness about the Jewishness of Christianity and my love for the Jewish people encourages him to investigate the claims of Christ.

 

Gabrielle G.

 

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Two Weeks in an Indian Village

When I first arrived in Jagiri, I didn’t expect much. I knew I wouldn’t have any cell phone service or WiFi for two weeks. I knew there were no local shops I could walk to when bored. 99% of the people there don’t speak English. My hosts would only be around for a short while on the weekends. I was essentially on my own, save for one or two people around me who could communicate with me in my language, English. May I just add here that a strong linguistic barrier is the experience for the majority of new immigrants in the U.S.? This was going to be one of the few times I would ever experience this. The old Gabby would’ve been excited by this new challenge! She would’ve delved into studying Dangi and Hindi to be able to communicate with the locals and show that she cared about them and their culture.

 

That was what Gabby in 2015 would’ve done. That’s what I did in Kolkata, with joy! But, I was a different person then. I was more open, less cynical, more trusting of God and of life. 2018 Gabby is much more careful. I’m wary of everyone and every situation, always deciding what my plan is in case something bad happens. Always formulating an escape plan in my head. Constantly aware of what could go wrong. That’s me. So when the truck first arrived in Jagiri, I was already tired of the heat (Gujarat gets HOT HOT HOT) and I was annoyed with the prospect of two weeks with no WiFi. I felt that I would get cabin fever in this village and hate every moment of it. A part of me wanted to hate it, for some reason. I didn’t want to connect. It’s easier that way.

 

As I climbed out of the truck, I just wanted a cold drink, an air-conditioned room, and time alone to stew and complain about my lack of comfort in my circumstances. Instead I was greeted with an orange and yellow flower garland around my neck, tons of small children throwing orange flowers at me (blessing me and welcoming me), and older boys playing Indian drums. I walked between two rows of little Indian children and Indian teenagers. At this point, my heart was still hard toward this place, for reasons unknown to my spirit (which later turned out to be a Satanic attack), so I couldn’t fully embrace the moment. But I felt my heart softening a little bit and I began to feel guilty for feeling a dislike for a place I hadn’t even seen yet. After that, an older woman sat me down and washed my feet. If she and I were alone, I would’ve burst into tears. As she washed my dirty, worn out, scarred, bug-bitten feet, I felt my eyes fill with tears. I felt loved but also immensely guilty at the same time. “Who am I?” I thought. “I don’t deserve this treatment. I’m nobody. They all work so much harder than me. I’m just a complainer. I don’t deserve this. They do.”

 

I walked up the hill to my room, led by the hand by my hosts’ adorable five-year old son and began to feel more connected to this place I had only first seen ten minutes prior. I unpacked my things to a certain extent and came out to the dining room to my first Indian meal in India this year. I was in Goa for a week before this but I couldn’t find any Indian food there. I appreciated this meal. But, my lunch companions enjoyed conversations only in Hindi, stopping once every ten minutes to give me a hint of what they were saying. I felt left out. I didn’t expect everyone to speak English all the time, but my mother taught me that if you’re with someone who doesn’t speak a certain language, you don’t speak it in front of them because it’s rude. My mother always scolded me about speaking Spanish with her in front of my white American friends who didn’t speak the language. I never understood why until I sat at that table, only hearing Hindi around me, distinguishing a few words here and there, but being thoroughly excluded.

 

The next night, they had a graduation ceremony for the 8th graders, the kids I would be giving extra English classes to. They had me on stage, handing out certificates to a few of the kids and I again felt that this was so undeserved. I didn’t do anything to contribute to these kids’ success. I just got there the day before! It was so hard for me to receive any of this honor or hospitality. I felt it was so unwarranted. Before this, I sat with the little girls and watched as all of the schoolchildren performed various tribal dances and sang songs in a few languages. It was all so beautiful. The purity of the culture being celebrated by these children was just too powerful for me to explain. It was something you had to see and feel if you wanted to truly experience it.

 

As the next few days passed, I started teaching English to these 8th graders. In my limited understanding, I assumed I’d be teaching 14- and 15-year olds. Nope. Here in the village, you start school when you start school. One of my students was 24, my exact age. Many of them were 14 or 15, but I had a few in their early 20s. It felt odd to be teaching to girls and guys around my age. We should’ve been peers, but because of my privileged education, I was their teacher. One of my students, we’ll call her J., is a 20-year old woman in 8th grade. She’s wicked smart. She speaks Dangi, Hindi, and Gujarati. She’s currently learning English. She makes the best chai. She has an adorable laugh. She has baby feet compared to my monstrous American feet. Yes, we actually compared our feet because the size difference was so astonishing! But, in the shower one day, I thought about her as I washed my hair and reflected on my time in Jagiri at that point. She is 20 years old and in the 8th grade. When I was 20, I was preparing to finish my junior year of college. I was well on my way to finishing my Cum Laude Bachelor’s degree from a prestigious New York university. Because of where I was born, I was able to achieve this with absolutely no one stopping me and nothing limiting me. It was easy and natural for me to go to college and finish in 4 years. Because of where J. was born, she could not so easily receive an education. I began to feel pity for her, but then God reminded me, “She’s getting an education now. It’s never too late to get an education. Be happy for her.” I am. I’m so happy for J. I hope she goes far in life. What I want for her, for all of my girls, and for my boys, is simply the chance to choose what they want for their respective lives.

 

I was told by a man in Jagiri that it’s common in the village for kids to get married around 15 or 16 years old. This man and I lamented together about how marriage derails their lives, is unnatural for their maturity level, and is harmful to their bodies. Young girls should not be giving birth. I immediately thought of Kajol and I told him about her, tearing up a little. I’m happy that my students aren’t married yet. There’s nothing wrong with them choosing to get married at some point, even if it’s at a young age like 18 or 19, but I want them to be able to choose. I don’t want marriage to be their only option. I want my students to one day tell me, “Ma’am, I got accepted to college!” or “Ma’am, I was offered an incredible job opportuntiy!” I yearn to hear those words and see the joy on their faces.

 

Throughout my two weeks here, I’ve had a few good conversations with these kids. I’ve prayed for some, listened to their stories about their Hindu families pressuring them to become Hindu again, hearing the passion and urgency they have in sharing the Gospel, and seeing how deeply grateful they are to God for revealing Himself to them. I’ve gotten the shyest girls in my class to speak up, even if that’s just whispering the answer to me. But, I definitely shout out that answer and let everyone know who said it! I’ve had fun acting out prepositions with my students (there’s really no other way to do it), creating murder mystery games, reading their stories, watching Tarzan with them, playing Badminton with them, painting their nails, drinking chai with them, and just being with them.

 

The night of the graduation ceremony, I tried to sleep but felt that God wasn’t letting me. He had things He wanted to address with me! As I prayed, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to pray for something I didn’t want to pray for. I asked God to help me, “If not love this place, then at least appreciate Jagiri for what it is. Help me learn something here. It’s going to be hard, but I want to at least learn one thing. Clearly You don’t want me in India. So just let me learn something here before I leave.” Well, God answered that prayer. In my ignorance and arrogance, I thought that because I wasn’t “feeling it”, then God must not want me in India. My attitude completely shifted the next day. I went from hating this place to absolutely loving it and not wanting to leave. I’ve come to a place where I want my life to be woven into the lives of my students. I want to follow their success and root for them from the sidelines, inserting myself into their personal narratives whenever they need a shoulder to cry on, a person to vent to, or an advocate to fight for them.

 

Today was our second to last class and we sat in a circle sharing our hearts. I encouraged them to ask me any questions about myself or life. I received a few good questions about my educational background and life in New York, but what I wanted more was to answer their questions about life. I wanted to advise them. Before sending them off for lunch, I told them that if anyone wanted to talk with me privately, I’d stay after class and they could talk to me. Three students stayed back, two girls and a boy. The first girl asked me what to do regarding her problems with a friend who was lying to her. I felt honored to give her advice about her situation. She chose me! She trusted me enough to come to me. But, the second girl brought me to tears and left an indelible mark on my heart. She, close to tears herself, said this, “I feel very alone in my house, so can you stay? Can you stay for a few more days?” As she asked this, she looked down at her notebook where she had written my name “Gabi ma’am” and she began tracing it over and over again with her pen. When she first asked me that, I hardly knew what to say. I wanted to hold her, cry with her, and promise her that I’d stay. But, I didn’t know then that my hosts would allow me to stay here and teach. So I asked a few questions, got a bit more information from her about her home life, and gave her advice. I cried with her, telling her that I grew up in a difficult home as well and that I understand one-hundred percent what she is feeling and suffering. Then we prayed together and I held her hand. I told her that I wished I could have my own house and she could live with me, in freedom. I encouraged her to keep studying so she can break free from her oppressive home and live however she wishes! Education is the best way for her to break free. When she asked me to stay and began crying, I knew for certain that God wants me here. I have no doubt that the vacant teacher position is for me. Those teenagers are God’s and He wants me to steward their little hormonal hearts and guide them throughout the next few years. I’m praying and asking God to let me stay in Jagiri and keep working with these teenagers. I know that God has called me to work with teenagers regarding education, child marriage, and depression/anxiety/and suicide. I know that He will use me in all of these ways here in Jagiri. I pray that He lets me stay.

 

God used this time not only to allow me to love on my students, but to receive love and revelation from them and from Himself. The other day, I sat on a couch in my hosts’ home during a particularly hot afternoon and began writing in my journal. Throughout these two weeks, I read three books on marriage, sexuality, and Jesus. After all of this knowledge intake, I felt the words pour out of me onto my paper. I’ll write separately about this in more detail, but God revealed to me that He doesn’t want me to live a vagabond life, especially not out of fear. He wants me to be open to the idea of a husband, of a home, of a family. He showed me that not all men are abusive. Not all homes are stifling and trampling. Many homes and families are encouraging. They are places of peace. What I want is not a sense of false freedom by roaming about here and there under the guise of “Biblical mission work”, but I want a peaceful home where I can become part of whatever community I settle in. I want “Un hogar de paz”, a peaceful home. I praise God for revealing this to me and ask Him to provide me with this blessing.

 

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

Receiving Gifts from God (I’m Really Bad At It)

Readers,

I have a huge confession to make. To be quite honest, I’ve just become more aware of this issue in my life, so it’s not like I’ve been keeping it a secret. If you’ve been a reader of mine for a while, you know that honesty and vulnerability are my creed.

Well, here’s the thing: I don’t know how to accept God’s gifts. I initially was going to write, “blessings”, but I’m so often tempted to think that I have a huge hand in what God blesses me with, that I just couldn’t write that word. I felt God telling me to write, “gifts.”

Now I’m not that good at accepting gifts in general, especially as of late. Because of my incredibly difficult financial instability, I’ve had to receive gift after gift from friends, relatives, strangers, and church family. That’s how I’ve been able to eat and survive since August 2017.

I’ve gotten better at receiving gifts from people, but I definitely have this overwhelming sense of “I have nothing to give in return. I’m so emotionally drained that I honestly can’t take on anyone else’s burdens right now. I can’t even give emotionally. I have nothing to give.”

God is showing me that I’m very incapable of receiving His gifts. There are two reasons for that, as far as I know.

  1. I think that if God gives me a gift, He’s going to take it away or give me something bad to balance it out.
  2. I think that my life is meant to be spent in servitude to God, but not in the receiving of any gifts at all.

I’ll speak on the second reason in this blog post. This realization recently hit me as I’ve been thinking about my upcoming trip to India. As I book each flight, research accommodation, and think about what my Father might do while I’m there, I often find myself saying things like, “Well, if I meet a nice guy, I’ll marry him because I want security and protection. I don’t need it to be romantic. I don’t see that happening for me. I don’t mind.”

On Friday, while speaking with my therapist about this, I began to think about it a bit deeper. As I thought about the marriages I’ve seen happen and the marriages I’ve closely observed, one thing is apparent to me: I don’t think God will bring me a good, loving husband. 

Whether it’s because I saw so much pain in my parents’ marriage or because my friends’ loving marriages seem so out of reach, I’m not sure. It’s probably a combination of both. So I resign myself to putting up walls around my heart, distrusting almost every man I encounter, never finding one good enough for me. While thinking about India, I felt the Holy Spirit say to my heart, “Why don’t you think I can bring you a loving, romantic, strong husband? Why do you think you’ll have to settle? Can’t I do anything?”

This is hard for me. It was hard for me to hear that, because I was so satisfied with, “I’m going to be single. I’m going to serve God. I’m going to suffer and serve Him. I don’t need romantic love. I can do it, just me and God.”

Wow that isn’t healthy at all!!! Why DON’T I think God will give me a wonderful husband? Why do I think serving God equates to constant suffering and sacrificing our joy? That’s so anti-Christ! Jesus celebrated things all the time, so much so that the Pharisees called Him a drunkard and glutton. While Jesus suffered, that suffering didn’t consume His entire life. His life on Earth was a beautiful balance of suffering and celebration, while never losing joy.

God, retrain my brain to understand servitude. Teach me Your ways. Let me be willing to accept Your gifts, even when I don’t feel good enough.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Uncertainty in Medical Testing (Oh, the Sweet Irony)

Readers,

My last post was about my hypochondria, which is extremely ironic considering what I have to share now.

I’m currently undergoing several tests for a plethora of diseases, including MS or a spine issue. I have two MRIs coming up and have also had my blood rigorously tested as well as a nerve test performed on my legs.

Here are my symptoms so you can understand what’s going on:

  1. Burning, tingling, and twitching in my legs
  2. Forgetting words and misspelling easy words sometimes

Therefore my neurologist is testing me for what she calls “a pool of possibilities.”

The irony of this doesn’t escape me. At a time when I worry about every single thing regarding my health, actual health problems seem to appear out of nowhere. These issues with my body all began last week, leaving me perplexed. This week I’ve been to the ER, my PCP/GP, and my neurologist a total of 5 times. That’s an extraordinary amount of money, as far as co-pays go. For my readers in countries with universal health care, I envy you. Thankfully my church is going to help me afford all of these tests.

I’m asking for prayer in this situation. I truly believe this is all a spiritual attack, but God only knows.

 

Thanks, guys.

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Living with Hypochondria as a Christian

Readers,

This is something I don’t really talk about that often. It’s really painful for me because I still live in this, to a certain extent. Today I’m going to be honest and write about my hypochondria.

But, first, let’s take a look at how the dictionary defines “hypochondria”:

abnormal anxiety about one’s health, especially with an unwarranted fear that one has a serious disease.

Last July, I began experiencing hypochondria. I remember the exact day it all began. My father had woken me up at 4 AM and told me that he thought he was having a heart attack. I sprang into action and waited with him, calming him while the ambulance came. At the hospital, we learned that it was simply a panic attack. This event happened two or three days after my brother was rushed into surgery for a life-threatening bone infection. Later that day, after waking up from a long nap, I began having back pain and I felt this overwhelming fear. Something whispered to me, “You’re having a heart attack.” I tried to shake it off so I went back to sleep. Immediately I felt panic rush over me. I could hardly breathe or think straight. I called my mom and told her that I wanted to go to the hospital. 

En route to the hospital, the panic increased and I literally thought I was dying. I began hyperventilating and I repeated “Jesus, please don’t take me!” Mom prayed and she sped to the hospital. After getting checked out, I was told that it was just a panic attack. “Just” a panic attack. Clearly these doctors have never experienced a panic attack. It feels bigger than you. It feels all-consuming. It becomes your reality. Your mind and body begin freaking out and no one around you can tell that there’s something wrong with you.

For the next few months, I suffered constant fear that I was dying. Some days I feared a heart attack, then I feared that God would supernaturally stop my heart, then I feared I would have a blood clot like my Dad, then I feared a stroke, then I feared internal bleeding, then I feared a brain tumor, and the list goes on and on.

These days it takes all of me and help from my parents to convince me that I will never get a blood clot, that I’m a healthy 24-year old who cannot have a heart attack, and that all of the other things I fear are just irrational. But, when you’re so far gone in your fear, that fear becomes your reality. To my brain, it is completely logical that I would die of some disease that older people typically have. I could look around at people my age or older that are obese and obviously very unhealthy, yet I can make excuses for why it would happen to me and not them.

I think that the entirety of last year truly affected the way I view health and wellness. I know it’s not a promise from God and therefore I began to fear losing my health. It got to the point that I told God, “Okay, God, if I get sick, I get sick. But please give me a long illness. I don’t want to have a sudden death because I live alone and no one would know.” That is what my brain thought about all the time. It’s still hard for me to stop my brain from thinking these things.

After going to the hospital so many times with my Dad last year, I think some type of anxious spirit latched onto me and I let it feed on my soul. Going to the hospital was normal for me. Growing up, my mother had hypochondria as well and she used to go to the doctor all the time. I had once dealt with this issue before, but when I was 16-17. It had been YEARS since I gave a second thought to my health. When I did, it became all-consuming.

I would stay inside because I didn’t want to die on the street, alone and helpless. That’s how bad it got. I would constantly jiggle my legs to keep my blood flowing, so I wouldn’t get a blood clot. I still do this. I look at my legs all the time, making sure they’re not swollen and I’d lay in bed at night, obsessively checking my pulse to make sure it wasn’t too fast, both of which would indicate a clot. The Internet told me that people over 50 usually get them, but that hasn’t stopped me from freaking out about it. It feels bigger than me. I used to go to the hospital once every couple of months, convinced I was dying. My doctor saw me almost every week for a new “ailment.”

I’m not writing to you from a “I’ve made it through to the other side and now I’m all better” position. I still fight for my sanity regarding health issues every. single. day. It’s a daily battle. Despite hearing God tell me that I won’t die, that He holds my life, that I’m not sick, my brain immediately goes to fear. 

One day, while just walking around, God said to me, “You’re so afraid of dying. You’re so consumed by the thought of dying that you’re not truly living. You’re really just afraid to live. When you were depressed, Satan tried to get you to kill yourself. Now he’s trying to make you think you’re dying.”

He’s so right, obviously. I was so obsessed with death that I didn’t give much thought to my life. I didn’t fight hard for things in life because I felt like I was going to die at any moment. What was the point of it all?

Readers, I ask for prayer in this area. I want to be fearless. I used to be completely fearless before 2015. I used to be confident, loud, bold, and fearless with everything in life. I KNEW that God had my back. I want to get to a place where I completely trust Him again.

It’s hard being a Christian and reading verses from the Bible that tell us not to worry, but then to suffer from hypochondria and panic attacks. It feels out of our control. We are commanded not to worry. But, how do we obey when our brain seems to be taking over?

Have you guys every suffered from hypochondria or other anxiety issues? Let’s have an open space to discuss, pray, and heal.

Blessings,

Gabrielle G.

When God Brings Back Best Friends

Readers,

I have experienced so many instances lately of God’s sovereign timing. I’ve received apologies three years after I wanted them, yet right at the moment when it mattered. I’ve run into people I hadn’t seen in years, but at exactly the right time when I knew it was from God.

God has also brought back one of my best friends. This friend and I were best friends and sisters for about two years before graduating from college and losing touch, something we never thought would happen. I remember the day we met: I was late for my first day of an English class my sophomore year of college and saw that there were only two seats left in the crowded classroom. Both empty seats were next to a Muslim girl in a hijab. I looked at each girl and decided to sit next to one of them. I’m not sure why I chose this girl, but I think it was God’s influence. We sat next to each other, introduced ourselves, and from that moment, we were friends. From the beginning I knew she was a Muslim and she knew I was a Christian. She was my first Muslim friend and I was her first Christian friend. I felt like our friendship was so beautiful and so powerful. In a world where people from both of our respective faiths hated each other, we chose to love each other.

She taught me some Urdu words and explained how Muslims view Jesus, or Isa. I taught her how Christians view Jesus and how we see God as our Father. I’ll never forget one of the most beautiful moments in our friendship. While living at the dorms, I so desperately wanted to have a sleepover with her, but I knew that her mother wouldn’t consent. Her mother didn’t know me at all. Surprisingly, when she asked her mom, she said yes! That night, after feeding her a meal of mushy rice and beans (I’ve perfected my rice-making abilities since then), which she claimed to love, we sat on my dorm bed and talked about life. She confided in me that she witnessed her father’s death and felt guilt from that experience. I sat there, nodding, listening, praying for her. All of a sudden, she burst into tears and I hugged her, rubbing her back and telling her that God is her Father and He wants to take this pain away from her. She sobbed and said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying. I’ve never even told anyone about this before.” We had only known each other for a few months at that time, but I was convinced that the Holy Spirit was using me to touch her heart and soul. 

As she wiped her eyes, she laughed a little, out of relief. I could see that so much was lifted off of her shoulders. That night, as she slept on my air mattress on the floor, I looked down at her and prayed, “Jesus, give her a dream. I know how You use dreams to speak to many Muslim people. Lord, give her a dream.”

I woke up the next morning waiting to hear all about this dream. She didn’t say anything. “Well, maybe she had a dream and just didn’t tell me,” I thought. A week later, I “randomly” ran into her at school and she said, “Gabby, I had a dream! Last night I had a dream that I was walking with my boyfriend and looked away for a second. When I looked back, you were in his place and all of a sudden this peace and warmth washed over me. It was so incredibly peaceful.”

Now any other person would say, “Woah, looks like she’s in love with you.” Nah. I know that I was merely a representation of Jesus in her dream. She saw the Jesus in me and felt peace. She went to class and I walked away rejoicing and praising God for what He had done! She had a dream about Him!

After graduating, we completely lost touch. We didn’t really talk for almost two years. Much of that was because we simply didn’t see each other anymore. She lived far away and had a full-time job. I was in the same position. Over time we just became used to not talking, although I never forgot about her and she apparently never forgot about me. While texting about seeing the new Hindi film “Padmaavat”, we became reconnected. I remember thinking, “Who would see this film with me?” She was the only person I could think of who would want to join me.

Since that day, we began texting more often and picked up our friendship right where we left off. It was like nothing had changed. One night, I sent her the e-mail/blog post I shared here a few days ago about my decision to move to India. She called me crying and said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you. I’m so sorry I didn’t put effort into maintaining our friendship. I’m so sorry.” 

This was a shock to me! I didn’t find her guilty of anything at all! But we both cried a little over the phone and talked for an hour. She confided in me about her mom’s health struggles and how she’s has become the primary breadwinner now. We talked about my potential future shaadi in India and how we’re going to sneak her into the country (she’s Pakistani.) It was like nothing had changed but time and our level of cynicism. Working and being an actual adult had already taken its toll on us.

If she had come back into my life at any other time, I don’t think it would have been as powerful as it is now. She came back at a time when I am planning to move to India to serve Jesus and others. I truly believe that Jesus brought us back together now to grow us in our friendship and sisterhood. I believe that He will use me again to shine more truth about Him to her. I want my life to be a living testimony that I serve a living God.

Pray for that, please.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

Christianity and White Supremacy (A Brief Glimpse)

Readers,

I was recently blocked on Instagram by a famous white male worship leader from Bethel Church. His Martin Luther King Jr. Day post complained about how too many people were using MLK day as an opportunity to continue to disparage Donald Trump (hereafter referred to as #45) rather than celebrating MLK and his peacefulness.

The above picture was my response. I was shocked by this worship leader’s Instagram post. Did MLK not talk about white supremacy and a need for change? I’m sure he talked about it every day of the week. Why should we not talk about the same issues that MLK fought for and was assassinated for on HIS DAY? Why is this white man telling people of color how to respond to a day for our hero, who was assassinated by a white man who didn’t like what he had to say? I did not take his comments well and therefore wrote the above comment in the picture. My comment was then deleted and I was blocked. Did I call this worship leader a white supremacist? No. I called #45 a white supremacist, which has been proven by his own racist mouth. We hear about a new racist comment from #45 almost every week. 

So why did my comment offend this man so intensely that he had to block me? Was I posting waves of comments and personally attacking him? Not at all. That was the only comment I had ever posted on his Instagram and I did not call him a white supremacist. Clearly he feels that I did, which reveals a lot, to be quite honest. It certainly shows his white fragility. I did say that we’re not going to have white people tell us how to celebrate MLK day, which he obviously did not receive well, but I still stand by that. MLK day is not a day for white people. It’s a day for us. No one can police us on MLK day. We’re already policed enough throughout the entire year.

 

Now, this post is about white supremacy and Christianity which is a deep, complex, and disturbing history. There is so much to be said and this post will not cover everything because I don’t have ten years to write on the topic. Well, not yet at least. Instead I’m going to take you through a brief glimpse of white supremacy in the Church and my observations.

First, let’s talk about how Merriam-Webster defines “white supremacy” : the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society. Keep this definition in mind as we talk about white supremacy in the Church.

White supremacy doesn’t exist throughout the global church because not every church is primarily white or exists within a white majority culture. But, for those of us who do live under a white majority system, we know that white supremacy shows its ugly face throughout every facet of our daily lives: school, work, the police, the government, the courts, and church. We’re typically only free to be ourselves at home, if we live with others who are open-minded, culturally competent, and respectful. 

Some examples of how white supremacy manifests itself in the United States are: 

1. The strategic and systematic oppression of people of color, especially black and Latino people. We see young black men shot on the street every day for simply existing. If a white cop feels threatened, they are quick to pull that trigger, ending that black person’s life. ICE officers revel in their ravenous raids on innocent Latino homes and businesses, often dragging parents out in front of their children or arresting them while their kids are at school, leaving those kids with no one to come home to. In those moments, these white officers do not see these black and Latino people as human.

2. One other way that Latinos have been targeted by white supremacists is through the calculated sterilization of Puerto Rican women in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland. If you aren’t aware of the sterilization that the U.S. forced on Puerto Rico during the mid-20th century, I urge you to Google “La Operacion Puerto Rico” and read more. One-third of women on the island were forced to be sterilized because of racist ideology. Sterilizations in the U.S. have typically been free or low-cost for black and Latino women as well, so that figure is much larger, I’m sure.

3. Ever notice how many black and Latino people in urban areas live in the projects? Think it’s a coincidence or a failing of the entire people group? Dig a little deeper. Read the true history. White supremacy pushed us to the projects, gave us garbage schools, and has continued this cycle of poverty. When one grows up under this type of poverty, one cannot simply pull themselves out of it.

 

If we begin to think about church history, so many churches in the U.S. and around the world have been founded by white people. That’s not inherently bad at all. Praise God that well-meaning and passionate missionaries followed Jesus’ command, the Great Commission, and have planted churches throughout the world. Unfortunately, what has typically happened after the churches have been established is that the white Western way of doing church, understanding theology and God, and living out the Christian life has been taught and even forced on people of color.

Bibles have not always been translated to the native tongues of the people groups served by the white church. Therefore it has been easy to interpret the Bible for these various people groups and push their own white ideology on them. William Carey, a famous missionary to Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, was an excellent missionary who translated the Bible to various Indian languages and committed his life to India. But, he’s also the same white man who had no respect or understanding for Indian culture and said that Indian music is disgusting. See what I mean?

Singing in their native tongue and dancing their culture’s dances has also typically been prohibited in many white-established and operated churches around the world. So with all of the best intent that these missionaries had, some missionaries inadvertently, or intentionally, pushed a white way of being a Christian onto these people of color and have created a hierarchy of race, in a place where no such hierarchy should exist. In Christ, we are all equal. All of our opinions should be heard. We should be open-minded and receptive to how others worship, see God, and live our their Christian lives. White people cannot assume that they know best.

Throughout my short life, I’ve witnessed a few micro-aggressions when it comes to white supremacy in the Church. No one has outright stated that they know better than me because they’re white. In fact, I’m sure that white people hardly ever do that. The supremacy that exists in their minds is more subtle and they may not even be aware of its existence and its manifestations. 

I’ve attended multi-ethnic churches that stick to the popular contemporary white worship music and seem to have a rigid worship environment, not allowing for various worship expressions. I’ve never attended a church where I felt that I could dance for Jesus without getting looks for “being too emotional” in church. Why don’t we sing in different languages in our churches? If our church family consists of multilingual people, we should consult them regarding musical worship and make sure that people from every ethnic and cultural group feel welcome.

Most of the churches I’ve attended, save for the one I currently attend, have been led by white people, especially white men (that’s a whole other story, readers.) If we only have leaders from one ethnic or cultural group, we’re missing a fuller picture of who Christ is. Christ exists and shines in our differences. He teaches us all different things. Some cultural groups, like Latinos and blacks, deeply resonate with the suffering Savior picture of Christ and singing of His redemption of our souls brings us to overflowing joy, because we know what it means to be shackled. Perhaps white people resonate more with the joy that Christ brings and His provision, because they’re more accustomed to living in a country that favors them.

White people have shaped Christianity in this country and around the world for far too long. There is a true Christianity out there that we will never fully get because we’re sinners, but buying into white Christianity and letting them dictate how we live our Christian lives is very damaging.

 

I want to live out my Christian life in a church that celebrates diversity of thought, worship practice, language, and theological understanding. I’m not sure we’ll ever get there, but I have hope that it’ll get better once we realize we’re all sinners and the only one who knows best is Christ Himself.

 

 

P.S. Jesus isn’t white.

 

Blessings,
Gabrielle G.

Typical “Women’s Ministry” Fails Women

Readers,

I am absolutely fed up with typical women’s ministry as it’s practiced in church settings. Typical women’s ministry is best understood as groups of women who gather together to discuss their difficulties as mothers and wives. Or, we’re subjected to Scripture study of very specific books like “Ruth” and “Esther” and the primary idea to be grasped is that we have to be Godly women, wait on the right man, and our Boaz will come along eventually. 

Too often, women’s ministry encompasses the following topics:

  1. How to best support your husband as he leads you and the family
  2. How to be a Godly mother
  3. How to balance your time and your duties in the home
  4. How to serve at the church (typically behind the scenes and with children, if there’s a children’s ministry)

In case people don’t know, not all women are wives and mothers. Some of us don’t even want to be wives and mothers. That does not diminish our womanhood or femininity. We’re not incomplete as women because we’re single and childless. We are able to offer just as much to the kingdom of God as any man, no matter our marital status or the state of our wombs. It is not the end goal of a woman’s life to be married and have children. That is a patriarchal way of thinking. Tear it down.

Let’s consider the multiple ways that the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles treated women. First and foremost, Jesus Christ is the best feminist ever. He fully supports equality between the sexes. A man is not greater than a woman. A woman is not greater than a man. Both equally reflect the image of God. Both have value and purpose in this life. We see how Jesus responds to women multiple times throughout Scripture, whether that’s saving the woman caught in adultery,  gently forgiving the woman with several husbands, showing kindness toward the Gentile woman with great faith, and healing Mary Magdalene of all of her demons and accepting her as one of His followers. By follower, I mean that she quite literally followed Jesus, right alongside Peter and John. She left everything she knew to serve Jesus and followed Him. Luke 8 tells of the several women who financially supported Jesus’ ministry. Clearly, the Lord loves women!

Now, as far as His apostles go, there is often talk of the Apostle Paul being misogynistic and backward in his way of thinking about women. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything that the Apostle Paul had to say about women must be understood in the proper cultural context. For example, when Paul said that women should “remain silent” in the church, he did not mean that women should literally never speak. He was pointing out a problem that happened during church services. Women would hear Paul preach and, during the service, ask their husbands what he meant. Paul says that this should be reserved for the home, because they were simply interrupting the service and distracting everyone.

The Apostle Paul is the one who famously said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3:28. Here, Paul is not saying that the differences between men and women don’t matter, or that we have no differences, but he is saying that the old way of thinking, the patriarchal way of thinking, has been abolished by Christ’s sacrifice. In heaven, we are all equal and because we are citizens of heaven living on Earth, we must be equal here as well.

Let’s consider then how we should approach women’s ministry. What can and should women contribute to the King’s work on Earth? Well, pretty much everything. Although I agree with Scripture’s prohibition regarding women serving as senior pastors, women can serve in virtually any context. Worship leader? Yup. Small group leader? Definitely. Missionary? Yes, please! We need more of you on the mission field. Outreach and evangelism? Absolutely. Prayer coordinator? No doubt.

You get the idea.

I want to be a part of a women’s ministry that is focused on training women to be better image bearers of Christ. I want to be taught evangelism. I want someone to show me the best ways to do outreach. I want to be trained as a missionary! Let’s gather together and talk about theology, doctrine, and apologetics. Let’s discuss how we can serve the world with our incredible gifts as women of God. Let’s talk about our own struggles with pornography. Can we get into how hard it is for WOMEN to be sexually pure?

Ladies, we are not defined by a ring on our finger or a baby on our hip! We are defined by Christ Jesus alone and we have as much responsibility to bring more of God’s kingdom on earth as any man. We will be held accountable for our actions on earth and I’m not just talking about sin. When we behold the face of Jesus, the last thing we want is to ask ourselves, “Why didn’t I do more for Him?” You are a Kingdom-chaser and a warrior for Christ. Let’s start acting like that, husband or no husband.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.

 

 

Rosalie Avila’s Suicide (My Story)

A few days ago, a young girl named Rosalie Avila committed suicide. She was 13 years old. According to news sources, she ended her life because of constant bullying from fellow students at her school. She documented each act of verbal violence every day in her journal. Two months before her death, she began cutting herself and was receiving therapy. In her suicide note, she apologized to her mother, knowing that she would find her dead in her room.

A young girl killed herself because other kids bullied her. I have so many questions and feelings.

  1. Why didn’t the school do more?
  2. Could the parents have done more?
  3. Why does this keep happening?

I’m left dumbstruck, gobsmacked, and disturbed. The older I get, the younger the kids are who kill themselves. When I was 13, the thought of suicide never entered my head. I don’t think I had ever thought about it, even as a concept. I had heard of ancient people who committed suicide, but I had never known someone who had committed this act of violence against themselves.

My initial thoughts on Rosalie Avila is that she did not know the ramifications of her final actions. She did not actually know what she was doing. Her mental state was not clear and she was not in control of herself. At 13 years old, her insular academic world was her entire world. She could not picture a world outside of her school. She was not able to imagine a positive future for herself apart from her situation as a bullied child.

Therefore, she took her life. Personally, I believe that she’s rejoicing with the Lord right now. As she was a child, I believe God didn’t hold her to the standard that He holds adults to. Her brain couldn’t comprehend her actions. Now, 13-year olds can definitely have a beautiful, holy, childlike grasp of the Gospel, but that’s another conversation.

Ultimately, my heart breaks for this young Latina. She had an incredible future ahead of her. God created each and every person with a specific purpose and plan. It was NOT God’s will for Rosalie Avila to kill herself at 13 years old. He knew it would happen, but He hoped the whole time that she wouldn’t do this. He created her to serve Him, enjoy the beautiful world that He created, and bring others to a loving knowledge of Himself. I wish this beautiful Latina grew up to become a freedom fighter, fighting alongside me and others as we push forward toward God’s kingdom.

 

 

Personally, I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts three times in my life. At ages 15, 17, and 23, I was tortured with unwanted suicidal thoughts. These thoughts bombarded my mind and I couldn’t free myself from them. Rosalie’s story could’ve been my story.

It took constant fighting against these thoughts to become somewhat free. But, I quickly realized that I wasn’t fighting against myself. These thoughts weren’t coming from my own brain. If my brain produced these thoughts on its own, I would welcome them. I would not be disgusted or scared of them if they were of my own creation. The human being wants to survive. We have natural survival instincts that automatically kick in whenever our lives are threatened, or are perceived to be at risk.

These suicidal thoughts came from the prince of darkness, Satan. I began fighting Satan, not just the thoughts. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12 

Clearly the Word tells us that we fight Satan, not others and certainly not ourselves! When a suicidal or negative thought came into my head, I would combat it with the truth. What is the truth? The Bible. I literally forced myself to read an uplifting verse in the Bible or to sing Christian worship songs in my head. This helped immensely. I took every thought into captivity, as the Word tells us to do.

“…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” – II Corinthians 10:5

Practically, there are several things you can do when you find yourself targeted by Satan with suicidal or negative thoughts. I’m not a mental health counselor, but these are the practices that have helped me and brought me further onto this path of divine healing.

  1. First and foremost, tell a trusted person about your thoughts. The number one thing that Satan wants to do during this time is isolate you and make you think you’re crazy. Fight against that desire to isolate yourself. That comes from Satan. It will make your situation worse if you isolate yourself.
  2. Bring these thoughts to God Himself. He is not surprised by these thoughts. He knew you would have them before you were even born! He wants you to ask Him for help. He will send His angels to guard you and protect you from the demons that are attacking your mind. “For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.” – Psalm 91:11
  3. Do exactly what I described a few paragraphs above. Replace these intrusive thoughts with Scripture and worship lyrics. This will truly help you!
  4. Seek therapy, spiritual counseling, and/or mentoring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with therapy. God loves it! It’s so biblical to seek help from others. It doesn’t mean you are insane or weird if you have a therapist. Honestly, so many issues around the world would be solved if every person received therapy for their problems.
  5. Don’t give up. My number one piece of advice is NEVER give up! Satan wants to make you think your life is over, you have no future, you’re crazy, no one loves you, and you’re worthless. LIES! ALL LIES! This is why we need to know Scripture because Scripture tells us the opposite. God loves us, we have a bright future in Him, and we are worth much because Christ died and rose for us.

If you ever need to talk to someone, I’m great to talk to about these things. These issues are more common than you think, so there’s no shame in coming forth about them.

 

Here’s a lifeline you can call if you feel you need immediate help (or call 911): 1-800-273-8255

They even have an online chat if you can’t talk by phone for whatever reason.

 

Be blessed. Be strengthened in Christ’s love for you. Be well.

 

Love,

 

Gabby G.

When God Diverts Our Path (Literally)

This morning, I woke up so early to get to two doctor’s appointments. I rushed around the city, hopping on and off of buses, lugging around my heavy bag, and just wishing I could get back to my apartment.

But, God had other plans. Of course!!

As I made my way home, carrying my groceries and overnight bag (I had a sleepover last night), I was so consumed with trying to access RZIM’s live stream of Nabeel Qureshi’s funeral that I got on the wrong train. Realizing my mistake, I jumped off and stood somewhere on the street, waiting for the funeral service to load on my phone.

It turns out I was standing outside of a McDonald’s. There I saw a homeless woman with a sign, Diana. I felt God say to my heart, “Yes, you don’t want to miss this funeral live stream, but there is a woman who needs love.” 

I ended up buying her and her friend, Tyrone, a meal, sitting with them and talking about the crazy hurricanes and crazier Donald Trump. We just shared time and food together. I didn’t pester them with questions about their condition as homeless people. We just talked like people, humans, friends. As they left, Tyrone said, “Gabrielle. I’ll never forget that name.” 

 

Earlier that day, I was hungry and wanted to get a bagel from this deli, but I had no cash. Knowing that Dunkin’ Donuts would take my card for a $2.00 purchase, I went there and bought a bagel. A man, who used to be Muslim, sat down as I killed time by reading my Bible. He began preaching to me and encouraging me, reminding me that God will keep His promises. He will NEVER lie or not keep them. He will never forsake me. I needed that.

 

If I had gotten on the right train, if I had had cash on me, I would not have had these experiences. God let this happen so I could be ministered to and so I could minister to others.

 

Praise God.

 

Blessings,

 

Gabrielle G.