Adventures in Denmark

For 2011-2012, I will be a student missionary at an SDA academy in Denmark called Vejlefjordskolen. I will keep you up-to-date on all my adventures during the year. Hope you enjoy all the pictures, messages, and inspirational quotes to come!

Ashok

Ikke Farvel. Vi Ses Snart.

Yes, I am back home.  After a draining 24 hours worth of travel last weekend, I finally got be in the arms of my mom, dad, and sister (with my Danish flag in hand).  It’s been almost a week since I said goodbye to Denmark.  Over the past few days, I have spent quality time with my family, reunited with old high school friends, received phone calls relatives, visited my old workplace, drove my Mini Cooper, and eaten at my favorite ice cream shop…twice.

"How was Denmark?"  That’s the question I have been asked probably a million times already.  Images of the students and student missionaries run rampant through my mind. All the fun moments with them are replayed in a flash.  I can’t help but smile and get a warm feeling.  And all I can say is, "It was awesome!"  Words can’t convey the memories I’ve had over the last 11 months.  I can’t believe it’s over.

I’m having difficulty realizing where my home is.  As I go through town, everything looks the same but feels so different.  I feel like an outsider and I definitely have culture shock returning to the States.  

To me, home is where the people you care about most are.  In that case, I guess I have many homes (which I am truly thankful for).  One of my good friends said a couple days ago, “Sometimes God gives us certain things for only a season and then they are gone.”  So, was Denmark a “seasonal blessing”?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

One of the student missionaries said it best: 

From here on out, everything that we do in life will be forever influenced by what we experienced here in Denmark.

-Rebekah

It’s true.  The way I think, the way I act, and the way I interact with people is already different from my old self.  I thank Denmark and it’s amazing people for that.

Today, one of my mom’s co-workers asked me, “Would you ever go back to Denmark?”  Without hesitation, I proudly said, “In a heartbeat.”  

My plan is to visit Vejlefjord in 3 years.  I don’t know where I will be in that time. But I hope to God that this will come true.  I really do.  

So this is my last post on this blog.  I want to first thank everyone who donated money so I could come to Denmark.  Your investment yielded a great reward. Trust me.  Secondly, I want to thank everyone in Denmark who befriended and supported me this past year.  Your friendships and memories are worth more than money could buy.  Lastly, I wanted to thank YOU for reading this blog. Whether you were a faithful follower or a casual visitor, thanks for reading my written thoughts.  It means a lot to me.

So what are my parting words?  ”For helvede!”  Oh oops, that’s not it (Danish saying, only pun intended).  Jokes aside, I want to say this: live life and live it to the fullest.  Tak alle sammen for en rigtig god år!  It was the best year ever!   

P.S. To Vejlefjord, thanks to you I can’t stop looking at pictures from this year and saying random Danish phrases.  Seriously, I can’t shut up about all the memories we’ve had.  You guys have ruined me, in a good way.  I miss you all so much.  See you in 3 years :)

Here is a picture slideshow of many fun moments during the year.  I showed it for my last worship at Vejlefjord.  Hope you enjoy it :)

Music: “Song A” by I Am Band

Week 43: “Slap Af”

I hear the kids say it all the time in Danish.  ”Slap af”.  Relax.

I promise, I do my best to avoid looking at the current date on the calendar each day. But as I look at the top-right corner of my MacBook Pro, it says today’s date is June 12, 2012.  I’ve been in Denmark for roughly 10 months. I have precisely 1 month and 2 days left.

My mind and body don’t know what to feel.  I am torn right down the middle. Part of me wants to stay in Denmark.  Part of me needs to go home.  I go through these weird lapses of emotional roller-coaster rides.  At the moment, I don’t want to leave.

Still, questions plague my mind.  ”Will I be ready for next year?  How do I recuperate after this year at Vejlefjord?  How will my friends and family view me?  Etc, etc, etc…”

Yes, I am a “worry-wart” and all those questions have made me restless.  One student in particular has noticed it:

"Stop over-thinking everything and start to chill.  Enjoy life one day at a time.  Appreciate the little things here in life." 

I’m trying to put her advice into action.  I’m trying to relax.  I try to walk slower. I try to joke more.  I try to sit and talk with my guys during my goodnight runs. Even today, I couldn’t stop gazing at a simple sunset as I went to go pick up students in a neighboring town.  

I don’t care how short my time in Denmark is.  Each day is all I have.  I just want to stop and enjoy the ride.

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax…give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.

-Matthew 6 (The Message translation)

Week 42: Inspired

While I have been here in Denmark, I have had a lot of time to think about what direction I want to pursue in business.  Last week, I started reading a book called Screw Business as Usual by Sir Richard Branson.  About 50 pages in, I was sold.  Like Richard Branson, I want to pursue something that I am passionate about, work with people that are just as passionate as I am, and offer a good/service that is for betterment of others.

I felt so inspired that I began praying for God to lead me in a direction similar to Richard Branson.  Strangely enough, something out of this world happened only a few days after.  

This past Monday, a few of the student missionaries and I went to Copenhagen with our Danish teacher, Jill.  As a joke, I said to Jill that we should go to Sweden because it was only a couple of miles away.  To my amazement, she said yes!  Then my fellow student missionary named Jeff said that we had to go see his favorite car company.  It’s called Koenigsegg and the factory is based on an airfield about 45 minutes away from Copenhagen.  

So we jumped in our van, boarded the ferry, and drove to Angelholm airport. After locating the (very hidden) Koenigsegg factory, we went inside the main office.  We asked the receptionist if we could see the factory.  She said that we weren’t allowed to go in because they were conducting tests on their new model and the cars on the assembly line weren’t allowed to be viewed before they were delivered to the customers.

We were all disappointed.  We met Michael, manager of merchandising for Koenigsegg.  While we were talking with him, I saw a man pull up in a Saab 9-3 convertible.  The man who got out of the car was bald and about 6 feet (2 meters) tall.  ”Excuse me, is that Christian von Koenigsegg,” I asked Michael. To our amazement, it was him!  

After Christian walked into the office, we introduced ourselves, told him where we were from, and asked if we could take pictures with him.  He was so kind, hospitable, and gave each us of a gentle smile.

After snapping a few pictures with the owner, Christian said, “Well, since you guys have come from such a long way, you might as well see a couple cars.” All of our mouths dropped to the floor.  ”Follow me.”  Let’s just say that the three guys turned into “little screaming girls obsessed with Justin Bieber” (as Jeff put it).  

Down the stairs, out to a green airplane hanger, and inside was a bright orange Koenigsegg CCXR with all its doors opened up.  While some of us were snapping pictures of the car, I walked over to Christian as calmly as I could.  I started asking him question after question.  ”How do you create a car that looks beautiful while being aerodynamically stable? Do you have a wind tunnel?  How do you put 900-plus horsepower to the ground?  Is everything bespoke?  How many cars do you make per year?”  

I’ll tell you what, this guy was absolutely incredible.  Christian could tell that I was passionate about his car and I think he took my questions as a compliment.  He kept smiling as he answered each question.  

Though none of us could afford his car (duh, obviously), the owner saw our passion and chose to share his passion with us.  He even let us go over to the next building to see the newest model, the Agera R, get tested on a dyno.  Jill, our Danish teacher, said that she heard Christian talking to the mechanic at the dyno.  She overheard Christian saying, “These kids are so passionate about the cars.  It’s so inspiring to see them like this!”  

He wasn’t the only one inspired.  I was equally so.  Here was a guy who genuinely cared about people who were passionate about his dream.  He didn’t care if we could afford it or not.  He just appreciated a common interest. This is business done right.

I was so inspired that I have spent the past couple of days revamping my resumé to send to Koenigsegg Automotive AB.  I just sent it a couple hours ago, in fact.  In my cover letter, I asked the supercar company if they could offer me a summer internship next summer.  I told them that I am willing to be an unpaid intern so long as I am mentored by Christian von Koenigsegg.  That is how much he inspired me.  

I don’t know where all of this will lead.  It’s been a huge dream of mine to work in the automotive industry.  I’m setting the bar high.  We’ll see where my dreams will take me. In the mean time, I have my fingers crossed and I’m praying hard about it.

-Photo credits to Jeff Andersen

I’m a big dreamer, always wanting to achieve more than what is expected. Passion is what drives me and I believe that nothing is impossible because impossible is nothing.

—Bongani Tshabalala, Branson Centre entrepreneur and founder of B&M Football5’s

Week 41: This Is My Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for a new day.

Today, I want to make the most of it.  Please allow me to enjoy it and live it to the fullest.

Help me to forget yesterday, not focus on tomorrow, and just live in the moment.

Today, I give you my battles.  Fight them in Your Name.

Today, I give you my dreams.  Let us reach them together in Your Name.

Help me to “do a little more for Jesus” (Blood Pressure by MuteMath).  Help me to see the needs, struggles, and dreams of others.  Please use me to help them.

Thank you for the amazing people you have put in my life.  I cherish them very much.  Help me to make the most of my relationships.  

Thank You for sending me here to Denmark.  I love this place.

Most of all, I open up my heart to you.  I want to accept the love that you pour down on me each moment I live.  Let Your love satisfy me.

Let Your goodness and love follow me all the days of my life that I may dwell with You forever (Psalm 23).

Let’s go.

Week 39: The Calm Before the Storm

I’m not going to lie, this has been something I have been wanting to write for some time now.  It has been heavy on my heart and mind for quite a few months.  Now, I can finally write about it.

Yesterday, I was having a great conversation with one of the girls.  In our conversation, she was telling me that this year was the worst year of her life. There have been so many trials, obstacles, and problems she has had to face. In the most trying of times, she did something many of us would do: pray.  She went on to say that all of a sudden, God just became…silent. Things kept getting worse and God became more and more silent.  The hurt was well-shown by her and it seemed like nothing could repair it.

A couple months ago, I witnessed God’s silence for the first time.  I felt extremely lonely and I could see the Devil’s hand in my life.  I saw myself self-destructing.  There were many nights I prayed with tears running down my face.  I was begging God to intervene.  What did I receive?  Silence.  More silence.  And more silence.  Where was God in all of this?  It seemed like He had ran far ahead of me and left me behind.  I’m not going to lie, I have never felt so hurt by God in my life.

Ironically last night, both the girl and I admitted to each other that we came to the point of questioning the very existence of God in our lives.  We felt like God had given us more than we could bear and we both cracked.  

This morning, I skimmed through the story of Job in the Bible.  Life was going good for him and then God allowed the Devil to destroy Job’s life.  In the book of Job, we find Job trying to reach out to God for about 35 chapters.  What did God do?  Nothing.  He was silent.  Who knows how many days, weeks, or months Job went through this ordeal all while God was silent.  Finally in chapter 38, the Bible says, “The Lord answered Job out of the storm.”  For the next three chapters, God couldn’t keep silent anymore.  In furious rage and anger, God justifies Himself as the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator that He is.  

God goes on to question Job.  And He goes on to question me, the girl, and to you.  ”Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation (Job 38:4)…everything under heaven belongs to me (41:11).  Where were you when I painstakingly made you and wrote the plans for your life?”

Out of the storm in my life, God has reminded me He is the supreme Maker and Caretaker.  Though I still have feelings of hurt and distrust, I also have feelings of humility and reverence.  

Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest:

When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible— with absolute silence, not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.

The Creator’s silence is His way of saying He wants to be intimate with us. This is the calm before the storm.  When God finally rises up and speaks out of the storm, it’s going to be the chaos that will be silenced.  

MuteMath

—Control

"There is no better loss than to lose myself in You…surrender has somehow become so beautiful.  So take control." 

"Control" by MuteMath

Week 38: No Boundaries

This week I had the privilege of taking one of the guys out to dinner just to get away from the school and talk about different things going on in our lives.  As the boy was talking about past relationships and forming new ones, he said, “Ashok, love has no boundaries.”  Love has no boundaries.  For some reason, this one statement really hit me.

Over the course of the last 9 months here in Denmark, I have learned a lot about myself and others.  I have found out that everyone is searching for love. Yes, that means you and it definitely means me.  We all have this emptiness in us that we want to fill.  Some of us search for them in relationships while others search for them in success.  We all have our own individual pursuits.  

Being away from home has really taken its toll on me (starting in college and continuing in Denmark).  I miss being in a place where I am loved.  I miss hugging and kissing my parents every morning and night.  I miss being around my sister who I can talk about anything with and accepts me for who I am regardless of what decisions I make.  I really miss these things.  So it has caused a void in me.

In the course of 9 months, I will admit that I have tried to fill my void with things that I thought would satisfy me.  It wasn’t up until a couple days ago that I made a discovery.  While I have been here, I don’t really remember asking God to satisfy me with His love.  Maybe it’s because I like things that are tangible.  God’s love isn’t something that can be seen, touched, bought, or sold.  It is freely given in some unseen form.  The problem that arises is me.  Am I willing to accept something that isn’t tangible?  

It all goes back to the boy’s statement: “love has no boundaries.”  God’s love has no limits.  It has no bounds.  It can satisfy what may seem impossible to satisfy.  So, it is up to me to accept God’s love in faith that He will satisfy me.  

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. He crowns you with love and compassion and satisfies your desires with good things.

-Psalm 103 (My favorite Psalm)

P.S. Though I miss home dearly, I don’t want to leave Denmark. I like it here :)

Photo credit: Annika Karina Galindo