40 Lessons I Learned in India

  1. Always bring snacks (and toilet paper).

  2. Start packing earlier.

  3. When in doubt, pray first.

  4. Don't be afraid to speak the language, even if you embarrass yourself.

  5. Be a listening ear for verbal processors before lecturing.

  6. Care deeply about the nationals and get to know them individually.

  7. Missionaries are sinners, too.

  8. Always confess your sin and seek forgiveness first.

  9. Look like you know where you're going, even when you have no idea. Walk with purpose. :)

  10. Comparison is deadly, hinders ministry, and dishonors Christ.

  11. People are not less intelligent just because they speak less English than you do.

  12. Deep conversations are worth missing sleep for.

  13. Allow at least 30 minutes of extra time in the morning so you're not rushed.

  14. Talking to Mom and Dad won't magically solve your problems.

  15. Spiritual warfare is a constant reality, and it affects things more than you know.

  16. That person you have the hardest time with can grow to be a kindred spirit.

  17. Sometimes loving and serving looks like being ridiculous on stage––deny yourself!

  18. Sing loudly and dance how you imagine in your head.

  19. Don't live for affirmation. It won't satisfy or bring lasting joy.

  20. Don't underestimate the power of reading Scripture throughout the day.

  21. Keep an internal dialogue with the Lord––thanking, beseeching, praising, processing.

  22. It's okay to smile and be warm behind a microphone.

  23. You're probably less awkward than you think you are.

  24. Too much sugar throughout the day will make you irritable at night.

  25. The world will not end if you don't check Facebook for a few days or don't respond right away.

  26. God is always working, even when you can't see it.

  27. It's okay to be sweating a ton––wear dark colors if you don't want it to show!

  28. Forget "cool." You're called to be faithful, not enslaved to others' dictates/standards.

  29. It's better to humble yourself and admit when you're not okay.

  30. If you're tired and rambling, just stop talking and go to bed.

  31. Having no concrete schedule is actually really freeing, even though it terrifies you.

  32. Notice little details to anchor memories to.

  33. People love and affirm in different ways. Learn to recognize and appreciate those ways without being enslaved to them for happiness.

  34. It's not about you.

  35. Just do the dishes.

  36. Choose the adventure.

  37. When you're weak, that's when you're strong.

  38. Music isn't your savior.

  39. Always go to the bathroom before you leave—you don't know where the next one could be. :)

  40. He is able to do far more abundantly than all you can ask or think.

Reflections on an Indian Summer

Carissa India Home


"So, how was India?"

It's hard to find words to respond to that inevitable question.

Certain words swirl in my mind:




But words can't do justice to the daily sounds of vegetable vendors calling out their wares, the voices of an Indian congregation singing jubilantly, the variety of languages heard as an audible backdrop to the Taj Mahal's majesty.

I will tell you, though, that I have never been humbled so consistently. I learned so much in 6 short weeks, and learned to love ferociously––to love my wonderful team, the lovely nationals, the mesmerizing place.

My time in India challenged me to appreciate the beauty of life, its challenges as well as its high points. In new ways, I saw that true fullness of life and joy is only accessible through Christ.

Some favorite experiences included:

  • Fellowship with Indian believers at slum small groups

  • Exploring the city––taking rickshaws, the metro, walking around

  • Deep, soul-nourishing conversations with new friends and teammates

  • Cultural immersion: from the food to the clothing to witnessing temple worship

  • Being caught in a monsoon at midnight––after being locked out of our flat!

What sights I saw. From the begging mother pounding on my car window to seeing an elephant casually walking down the highway...alongside a camel.

Countless other memories could be recorded: English and computer teaching, developed friendships at an academy and kids' camp, and several stunning scenes.

But more than all that, I saw God at work tangibly and beautifully in an oppressively dark place.

Spiritual warfare is real, friends. The problems and heartbreaking realities of India––its poverty, corruption, and hopelessness are large and seem impossible to overcome.

But I hold Christ to His Word. He promises that every nation will bow, worship, and glorify Him as King. And I pray India will be lit afire for the Savior of the world, to magnify and exalt Him.

"All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name." –Psalm 86:9

Nothing compares to the glorious and exceeding joy I had to share the gospel in at least 4 different settings––3 of them in front of larger groups. After all, that is my life's purpose (Acts 20:24).

Was India easy?


Was it worth it––to build friendships entrenched in eternity, to see God's miraculous love fully and abundantly on display?


Yes, it was worth it. God knew I needed to see my pride as the ugly monster it is––to view my insufficiencies so He would be my sole strength.

I tasted more deeply of His goodness––I saw more of His sustaining grace. Toward me, my team, and the people of India.

All through 120 degree days, frequent 12 hour workdays, late talks, sweaty afternoons, vibrant colors, loud laughs, heavy cries, and great praise.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." –2 Cor. 4:7

The power belongs to Him alone. And yet, in His perfect providence, He ordained my team––8 other weak vessels and I––to be His ambassadors and servants.

So. How was India?




6 weeks of life-altering experiences, lessons learned, and grace lavished. I will never be the same.

And by God's grace, I will see my Indian friends again. If not on this earth, in eternity, when every tribe, tongue, and nation will encircle the throne of the Savior who loved us and commissioned us to proclaim Him in all the world.

Gazing Toward the Future


In quiet moments, my mind revisits cherished memories – like a late-summer swim in the dimming waves of a San Diego sunset with a kindred sister in Christ.

Gliding through the water, we faced the distant horizon of the sea and the horizon of our futures. Sunset orange, crimson and purple melted down to light up the ocean around us.

Brilliant colors in the sky faded into dark blue, and our voices sailed over the waves in soul-nourishing conversation. We became misty-eyed as we pondered the mercy of God in light of our insufficiency.

We are prone to nautical wandering – we truly don't know how to navigate the ocean-like immensity of the future.

Time is an ever-fluctuating and vast sea with an unreachable horizon of tomorrow. Still, we feign knowledge of the unknown future because of our natural craving for control. Desperately and hungrily we reach, longing for a sure stability of safety.

We might as well try to conquer the ocean. Time is unforgiving – she has no concept of care for individuals caught in her flooding tides.

But the Eternal One alone commands the sea of time. 

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” –Mark 4:41

He is all-merciful and all-powerful, even over the inevitable and oft ominous currents of time. I aspire to be a woman always basking in humbled wonder at the great magnitude of His providential and sustaining mercy – even when the future looks like a murky expanse.

Looking back, I remember the taste of rippling, moonlight-drenched waves, the depths of His faithfulness, and the arrival of hope. I see a season of euphoric joy sometimes eclipsed by shadowy pain and sorrow.

Looking forward, I gaze toward the horizon of the future. I do not know what it holds, although I seem to glimpse fragments–a journey to India, a not-so-far-away college graduation, and post-education ventures into the exhilarating unknown.

I do not need a precise awareness of what my future holds because I know the sovereign One outside of time. The Alpha and Omega who knows the beginning from the end in His timelessness.

My grandmother's words return to me: "You may not know what is to come, but you know the One who knows." Security in the face of a fast-approaching future is only found in pursuing Him, the One who holds all the waters of time in His hands.

Top 10 Summer 2016 Reading List

FullSizeRender 10

Here is a sampling of the books I read this summer! With the exception of Bible reading and various ongoing devotional readings, this represents a substantial amount of what I read over the course of the past few months. I am a firm believer in one's reading list reflecting a lot of who they are, so welcome to a bit of who I am, embodied in my summer reading list.

  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy (fiction): Ivan Ilyich is a haunting exploration of one man's foray into the heights of worldly success and his ultimate downfall – a dire diagnosis leading to a rapidly dark confrontation with death.

Why you should read it: At some point, every person must come face-to-face with the sure reality of death in their own life and the lives of others. This book excellently chronicles the struggle of a man devoid of hope, echoing the turmoil of millions even today. For Christians, this should drive an increased urgency in sharing the gospel with those around us. Thanks be to God, through whom "death is swallowed up in victory" (1 Cor. 15:55)!

  • Into All the World: Four Stories of Pioneer Missionaries, Vance Christie (biography): One of several missionary biographies I delved into this summer, Into All the World succinctly chronicles the lives and ministries of four pioneer missionaries into previously unreached areas: David Brainerd to Native Americans in colonial America, Adoniram Judson in Burma, Robert Moffat in South Africa, and John Paton in the South Pacific.

Why you should read it: Stories of the Lord's faithfulness throughout the history of His church are manifold, and I often found myself in chills reading about the tenacity and courage of these pioneer missionaries as well as others, such as Amy Carmichael and Gladys Aylward. Missionary biographies provide a wonderful opportunity to worship the Lord for His great power worked through the lives of redeemed sinners for His glory!

  • The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer (Christian living): Tozer's book is a brief exploration of the attributes of God, approached in reverence and awe. His passion and love for the character of God and focus on increased praise given to the Godhead is stirring and thought-provoking.

Why you should read it: In his Institutes, Calvin said, "Though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter." Therefore, we must be dedicated to a pursuit of the knowledge of the Most High. It is only in light of His character and truth that all else falls into place.

  • The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak (fiction): The Book Thief, to this day, is one of the most phenomenally written novels I have ever read. A monumental work of human experience set in 1940s Germany, this book combines rich imagery and grand themes, all woven into a deeply immersive story.

Why you should read it: If a well-executed, personified Death as narrator is not enough to convince you, let me just say that the utter vastness of content in this 550 page book goes far beyond its pages. The gripping nature of Zusak's exploration of the human heart will leave you reeling for days, as it certainly still does every time I reread it.

  • North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell (fiction): Margaret Hale, the main character of North and South, is described as a "renegade clergyman's daughter." Though meant as an insult, this descriptor is actually the one that best embodies Hale's spirit. Driven by the strength of her faith and compassion for others, Hale embarks on a journey into the suffering world of the impoverished and downtrodden.

Why you should read it: Hale's unflinching fearlessness in the midst of rioting, class tension, and all sorts of other obstacles is mesmerizing. This heroine is also described as having a "straight, fearless, dignified presence" and "stately simplicity," making her one to admire as a "framework of elegance."

  • Discipline: The Glad Surrender, Elisabeth Elliot (Christian living): Elliot's firm motivation for a well-ordered life is a love and devotion to her Lord, in discipline of everything from feelings to time. She is open and honest, correcting wrong thinking in her writing with much needed truth from Scripture.

Why you should read it: Well, it's written by Elisabeth Elliot. Enough said. Really though, her prose is straightforward and piercing, full of both conviction and encouragement. A crucial read for any person in any stage of life!

  • The Savage My Kinsman, Elisabeth Elliot (autobiography): The Savage My Kinsman is a chronicle of Elisabeth Elliot's time spent living with the Indian tribe that killed her husband. Hers is a story of remarkable working of the Lord in the life of a young widow willing to commit herself to the gospel, no matter the cost.

Why you should read it: In spite of hostility and a real threat to her very life, Elisabeth Elliot was determined to be committed in proclaiming the gospel of her God in some of the most grueling life circumstances imaginable. Within the Auca tribe's village, she truly lived 2 Corinthians 12:15: "And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved."

  • Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot, (Christian living): Elliot's book is a challenge for women of the Word to stand strong with backbones of steel in conviction, integrity, dignity, and an unwavering devotion to their God.

Why you should read it: What it means to be a woman is clearly defined in Scripture, and Elliot writes bite-sized chapters based on those truths with examples and anecdotes. Moving on from this book, I was abundantly encouraged to walk in closer communion to the Lord through His word.

  • Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliot, (biography): A thorough and at times chilling recounting of the lives of five young missionary men who poured out their lives to reach a tribe that mercilessly killed them, this is a tale of ordinary men called by an extraordinary God for an extraordinary mission.

Why you should read it: Radical Christian sacrifice is a reality we are all called to. Though it may not directly result in the loss of our lives on the mission field, we know that "whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16:25). We must be willing to sacrifice all for the sake of Him who has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (Is. 53), devoting all we have to His service.

  • Stepping Heavenward, Elizabeth Prentiss (Christian living/biographical fiction): Prentiss describes one woman's journey from being a 16-year-old girl to mature womanhood, all through biographically based journal entries in this 19th century classic.

Why you should read it: If anything, read Stepping Heavenward for stunning quotes like this one: "Cheerfully and gratefully I lay myself and all I am or own at the feet of Him who redeemed me with His precious blood, determining to follow Him, bearing the cross He lays upon me."

May that be my heartcry now and always.

What books did you read this summer? Which books would you like to read?