When I was a teenager I watched a movie called “City of Joy.”

It sucked me in.

It was based in India, and I was mesmerized by the crowded streets, the colors, the people, and tough-guy Patrick Swayze’s change of heart. (Be forewarned before you go rent it that I had my family re-watch it with me a couple years ago and it was a tiny bit on the cheese-ball-ish side, but still pretty good.)

I don’t remember who I watched the movie with, or where I was exactly, but I remember how it made me feel:  full of the love of service, and how it can change lives.  Certainly the lives of the people it is given to, but what hit me the most is how much it can change the lives of those giving that service.

I also remember making a quiet vow in the dark when the credits started rolling:  I would get to India some day.  And I would do something to serve those people I had fallen in love with.

Years have passed and I have never forgotten the spell that movie put me under.  I got married before I could get there.  I started having babies.  But I never forgot about India.  As time passed half of my family made it there at different times and in different ways.  I ooohed and aaaaahed over their experiences and their pictures, and we decided to sponsor our own little boy over there (read about him back here).

I knew some day I’d still get there.

So finally a couple years ago Dave and I put it on the agenda.  We decided it was time to make a plan and that we’d work toward saving up and making it happen in the summer of 2012.  And here we are.  It’s this summer.  And we leave in a couple weeks with Max and Elle to change our hearts and open our minds…and serve as much as we can.

I cannot wait.

It’s been quite a process getting to this point I will tell you.  The passports, the Visas, the flight arrangements with all kinds of crazy connections.  But we are finally set.  And I am giddy.

I know India is no cake-walk.  When I tell people we’re going with a sparkle in my eye many raise their eyebrow in surprise.  “Have you ever been there before?” they ask with that warning tone in their voice that they know it’ll be rough.  I know it’ll be hard.  I know we will probably cry at the things we see.  But man alive we are going to learn so much.  A whole new world will be opened up to these two teenagers who live in the middle of desert suburbia (and Dave and me too).

Of course, there are ways to serve and get out of our comfort zone right around the corner, anywhere we may live.  Service doesn’t need to be on the other side of the world.  But how grateful I am for “The City of Joy” and that hankering for India it gave me all those years ago because it’s going to be quite a ride.

Watch this video and see if you want to work India and this amazing school into your future plans too 🙂

Also, check out this blog…specifically this post.  Allyson makes me SO excited to go to India, especially with kids.

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  1. Oh my goodness! I am going to India through the same program the end of August. I am so excited to serve the people. It's neat to run into someone who is doing the same thing, I'm sure we will all have great experiences 🙂

  2. Hey Shawni – just a daily reader of your blog, but felt compelled to comment about your trip to India. They call it "Incredible India," and that it is… incredible in every way. My husband said it was difficult for him there as there were incredible highs of beauty and history and incredible lows, things that tore you up inside. But ENJOY, it is a place of magic and it definitely puts things into perspective for us – it will be fantastic for your children!

    And the colours … oh the colours, your photos are going to be fantastic!

    Go with patience, and an open heart … India will change you, and for that reason alone, it is so worth it!

    Take Care – Safe Travels!



  3. I bet your kids will learn more from this than any years in school can ever teach them! I so wish I could do this with my girls!
    I can't wait to see what the people of INdia have to teach to you guys and the way they are going to touch your heart!

  4. I agree, what Elle & Max will learn will be with them forever, Everyone should try and experience something like this, even if it's not in a foreign country, a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, something, to teach our kids how fortunate they are. I am so excited to hear all about your amazing adventure!

  5. I fell in love with India because of Gospel for Asia. The man who founded it is from India and hearing his tales of how the Untouchables are treated just broke my heart for them. I hope to travel there one day and adopt.

  6. That will be incredible for your kiddos–and for you! Here in Seattle so many of our neighbors and dear friends are Indian, and I adore them. Their culture IS so colorful & rich . . . and then there's the FOOD. 😉

    p.s. We were just at Bear Lake (Amanda Larimer & the Dahl clan, etc.) for a reunion. It was lovely–my first time. Someday I'll have to get a beach recommendation. Ours was Idyll Beach and it was a little rocky & lake weedy.

  7. Hi Shawni,
    My dad is originally from South India and is now in full-time ministry, primarily to India (he's actually there right now). I made several trips there when I was younger and didn't necessarily appreciate it then (I would have much rather had a fun family vacation in the States). I haven't been there since 2004 but thinking back on my trips I realize how many incredible things I saw and how lucky I was to go. I have no doubt y'all will have an amazing time and see some awesome, colorful, heart-breaking things (not to mention crazy bugs, jet-lag, and delicious food). Wishing you the very best for your trip!


    perfectly priya

  8. I think this is so unbelievably awesome. What a wonderful opportunity for your kids, especially since they will be sharing this experience with their parents. Good luck on your trip!

  9. What an awesome experience this will be for the four of you!! I believe that there will be a lot to learn from. Have a safe trip and you must share all the details!

    On a side note: could you please share how Elle did her kool-aid streak? I love it!!

    I love following your blog, so interesting and inspiring. Your family is adorable.


  10. So excited for you and your family. What a blessing it will be for you and your children. I have seen that movie too and what has stuck with me is that where much is given much is required. Enjoy your incredible journey.

  11. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness did that for me when I was a teenager. I would love to do that some day too. Have you heard of the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers? It is about life in a Mumbai undercity.

    I'm so jealous. Best wishes.

  12. I saw the same film as a teen, and as I watched I felt that someday I'd also go and serve there, as a missionary…I've not had my chance yet, but I feel I have a place there and will someday 'take my turn' serving the people there.

    Interestingly, my life has led me to Haiti and to Vietnam, and seeing those countries and serving in them has helped in realizing the great work that we can all be engaged in to help others-whether abroad or right in our neighborhoods at home.

    Have a great trip, I wish you the very best experience and can't wait to hear a report when you get home!

  13. I had the same reaction years ago as a senior in high school watching that film on the big screen. I hoped at that time that I"d get to serve a mission in India, and maybe I still will someday with a husband for a companion!

    Our children lived with us in South Africa for just 6 months, and the exposure they had to another way of life and to the reality of the meagerness of most homes and circumstances has had a profound effect on our older kids. It has surprised me though how the memories fade, even mine. I hope your kids are forever impacted by their experiences. I'm so happy for you to have the chance to share such a great opportunity with them. Can't wait to read about your trip when you get home!

  14. Shawni…I went to India over Christmas and it was amazing. You and the family are going to love it. Rising Star is great! They are going to LOVE you. Can't wait to talk about it when I see you next. ENJOY!

  15. I Loved your post for several reasons!
    1. I just took my family (ages 6-10) there in March with Rising Star!
    2. I work with Rising Star's social Media Campaign!
    (I would LOVE to post your photos and experience while you are IN India on the Rising Star's Facebook page. You'll need to friend me (Ember T. Hobi…I'll send a request)
    3. You used my YouTube video Reach Out! Thank you!
    4. I always like your posts! 🙂
    I've been to India twice and keep a blog about it too.
    When I heard you were going to India (through Dani) I was anxious to see a post about it!
    Good Luck! My little ones LOVED all of India- even the filthy, smelly, sad, and hot parts of it.

  16. My daughter just graduated from high school and wanted to go to India for her "senior trip" – So after getting some money saved up – She and her cousin will leave this Saturday for Chennai- She is so excited and I am excited for the experience she will have there! Can't wait to hear about your experience too!

  17. I'm a new reader of your blog and it has me hooked!
    Very jealous that you and your family (a small part of it!) will be travelling to India.
    My husband and I travelled to India 3 years ago and loved every minute of it.
    They say you either love or hate India, there is no inbetween!
    Looking forward to reading all about your adventures!

  18. Wow, what an amazing experience for you, especially to do it with two of your kids 🙂 I imagine it will be very exciting but very eye opening at the same time!

  19. Hi Shawni! I've been reading your blog for awhile but haven't commented yet (sorry!). I am so grateful for your insights and perspective on parenting and life in general and I have learned (and continue to learn) so much as I read. Thank you for being so positive and inspiring. I feel like I'm reading about a friend–you're adorable! My best friend's little sister just got back a couple weeks ago from working with Rising Star and she had such an amazing experience! She blogged about it here carliekay.blogspot.com. Can't wait to hear and see pictures from your trip! I also wanted to share one of my blog posts with you: http://jambreefam.blogspot.com/2012/06/home-green-home.html I have recognized that you are VERY health conscious and think you would be really interested. I don't sell anything–just get to educate families on safer, healthier products for their home. Please let me know if I can share more, I love helping families!! Bon voyage! 🙂

  20. Dear, dear friends of ours just left last week to become full time missionaries in India. They went on a short term missions trip 2 years ago and so fell in love with the country and the people that they are now living there with their 3 beautiful little ones.

    Have a wonderful trip!

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