Sam Tarter (ST): So, I would call it your passion, honestly… your religion and your faith. So did that start prior to coming to UE? Or was it something that developed when you came to UE?
Kausalya Mandipalli (KM): Yeah, so I grew up Hindu, actually, and there was a time in my life when I cared a lot about my grades, and about finding honor in society and my family. And it brought somewhat of a fulfillment I would say, but I don’t think it was deeper. And then, in high school, I had to take a religion class, and that’s when I first learned about Jesus. And in Luke 9, Jesus basically says, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul? And by that he is saying it is more important to focus on internal things than solely temporal things, and that’s when I realized, and I said, ‘Okay, I need to take this more seriously.’ And so I
converted, and I wasn’t very strong in my faith, but I would say after getting connected with Student Christian Fellowship here at UE, I was more disciplined. A lot of people here poured into me spiritually and were willing to bring me into their communities, so that was really helpful and allowed me to grow in my faith.
ST: That’s excellent. And so getting into your time in Jordan, you spent most of your summer there. Was that something that was a spiritual calling to you? Or was that more of a
recommendation from somebody? How did that come about?
KM: Yeah, it was a blend, I would say. In the previous summer I had just finished an internship with a church. And I felt like God was prompting me and was saying, ‘you’re in the shallow end, you need to go deeper. And I want you to give your whole summer and go and work amongst the unreached.’ I didn’t really know what that looked like at the time. I started talking to people and then my campus ministers recommended some mission agencies. So I applied and I was
praying about what country to go to, and I got clarity on that too. And then after that, I went to the Middle East.
ST: Awesome. What kind of work did you do while you were there?
KM: It was a lot of working with Syrian refugees. Yeah, children and adults.
ST: And what did that kind of look like?
KM: I did a lot with English tutoring, and I would teach them through English conversation classes and even meet them outside of classes if they needed help. We worked with a lot of kids and would meet them twice a week and engage them with games, usually ending with a snack time or Bible storytime.
ST: So a lot of education work, you would say? And while you were there, was the language barrier a major problem?
KM: Yeah. A lot of people we were interacting with at the English Center, they did have somewhat of a background, which is helpful. But as for the locals, I would say most of them only spoke Arabic. So we would spend six hours each week in Arabic classes. And the locals were really friendly, actually, because, we weren’t really clear, but they would help us out and chip in and try to decipher what we were saying. And they would also teach us as we went along the way so it wasn’t just through our classes. But we’ve learned a lot from the locals. I’d say connection wasn’t a hard thing, either, just because they are so warm and open and inviting within their culture, so they would just bring us in even if they didn’t fully understand us. They all just wanted to be your friends, to be warm.
ST: Did you learn any Arabic while you were over there?
KM: Pronounced Shway)… a little bit.
ST: Awesome. And so you said you were welcomed into their culture and lifestyle… did you also feel welcomed into their community as well?
KM: Yeah, I would say that is mostly their culture. They’re very hospitable. Whether you’re walking on the streets or you’re at a cafe, they are open to inviting you to their table, or even
their homes. I remember I would pass the stores a lot of times and I would talk to the owners maybe once or twice and they would always welcome me in for coffee or tea, and this is in
someone’s souvenir or clothing store, so they don’t really have confines, which is really really cool.
ST: Awesome. Was there anybody, either somebody doing service with you or that you met while you were in Jordan, that kind of impacted your journey?
KM: So someone who definitely impacted me would be my team leader. Just to see his consistency and passion while serving the locals there. I remember there was this one week
where he hadn’t eaten all week, but he was still like running around and meeting people in their homes, doing absolutely anything and trying to help. To see his steadfast nature and passion for people… it taught me a lot about consistency versus surges of passion that could be fleeting. Another person that impacted me, I would say, was a local that I met on the road. There was this one day where I was trying to find a supermarket, because it was my week to cook for my team. At that point. I didn’t know where anything was. And so I was asking people how to get to the supermarket and I bumped into a lady… I was speaking Arabic, and she understood me
enough to know that I wanted to go to the grocery stores. She offered to drive me there and buy me lunch even though she didn’t even know who I was. And in their culture, you have to politely decline because a lot of times people feel obligated to give you things. So I tried, and she was very insistent. So in the end she did buy me lunch and drove me to the grocery store, and it taught me a lot about faith. I think that’s how we’re supposed to be as Christians, to be inviting and open and hospitable. I learned a lot from that woman.
ST: That’s really beautiful. You kind of touched on it earlier, but were there any experiences or specific days… moments that impacted you in a spiritual sense?
KM: Well, when you’re going on mission trips you expect these miraculous signs and wonders, and I did, that was something that I longed for. There was this lady that we had been meeting with, she asked us to help her grow in her faith and just learn more about God. And it was interesting because she had been apparently receiving dreams of Jesus leading up to like all of our discussions. There was one day when we had bought her these two bags of veggies, and
mind you my team leader had not done this in over a year…this was very random, you know? So we got her these two bags of veggies and as soon as we got to her house, she was just in shock and she said that she had just received a dream of Jesus giving her these bags of veggies and just telling her to invite him more. That’s when I realized that God is moving. I think that was very impactful for me to see that God cares that much, to pursue people through dreams and visions and stuff like that… it really wowed me.
ST: How would you say the trip and your time over there impacted you educationally and personally?
KM: Educationally… psychology has been a really helpful thing, and understanding people’s backgrounds, understanding certain triggers. It helped me learn how people might have certain traumas or certain cultural habits. This trip helped me in my understanding of how to interact
with them and how to serve them. Yeah, I would say psychology, and sociology actually, were really, really helpful for me in interacting with them and not causing too much cultural friction. I’d say that was helpful. As for me personally… I was very touched by people’s openness and
hospitality, inviting me into their homes, serving me tea or coffee even if they didn’t know who I was. That is such a warm aspect of culture that we don’t always get to see here because we’re always in a rush. They knew how to really see people and they had more of a collectivist culture where they moved as a unit. Less individualism… that was just very touching to see.
ST: So, for the last question: Community Service is something that we as a people and as a faith community can kind of learn from and grow from… is it something that you encourage and recommend? And how can we best immerse ourselves in service?
KM: I always thought of it as an intersection with people’s needs, like the world’s greatest needs, intersecting with your passion and your background and your culture. I guess, putting myself in this question and making it more personal, I felt like the Middle East was very fitting for me with my ministry background, my study of psychology, and with my culture, too. There was this blend and it never felt as if I was forcing myself into it. As for community service at this level, you also have to ensure that you are being open to learning, because I had to learn a lot of things from their culture. I was able to kind of connect all these things that I’ve already been trained and equipped in, and bring into my passion of serving these people. It really brought everything I had been working on and studying together, and it not only benefited my passion, but in turn, my soul.