Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You are Invited!

You are invited to a Journey to India: Mission Presentation.

I would like to share what I learned, saw and experienced when I was in India. There will be a photo presentation, Indian desserts ( Gulab Jamun,  Besan Barfi), some savory snacks, and  tea (Chai Masala).

Everyone is welcome!

It will be held at New Hope Community Church
244 S. 79th St., Shelby, MI
(Email me if you would like directions.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.

I hope you can come!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Some Final Thoughts

Here are some images that were burned into my eyes, ears, tastebuds and nose:

I saw more garbage and flies than I knew existed.

I saw whole families on motorcycles. Once I saw dad in a helmet, two toddlers and a mom on the back. One of the toddlers was asleep and mom held him, so that he wouldn’t fall. This whole scene was taking place in three lanes of stop and go city traffic, flanked by autorickshaws, buses, tiny trucks, big trucks and bicycles.

I learned that what can’t be carried on a person’s back, is put on a bicycle (I saw someone riding a bike with at least 20 re-rods that are used to reinforce concrete). If the bike won’t handle it, then put it on a motorcycle. (I saw two men riding a motorcycle with a goat between them.) If that won’t work, jam it in/on an auto-rickshaw or a truck of the same size.

I learned that the roads and roadsides are a constant stream of chaotic humanity, yet, we only saw one accident.

It isn’t ok for women to show their legs or upper arms, but it is ok to show your belly when wearing a Sari.

Cows really are sacred, they are ignored and given free reign in all settings. I’ll never use the term, “Holy Cow” without realizing where it originated.

In the mountains marijuana grows everywhere, so the name ‘weed’ makes sense. I’m not sure that is why it was called that, but in the mountains, it is true.

I smelled jasmine and manure;  curry/turmeric based body-odor; our guest house room had a teakwood floor that made the room smell wonderful; many indoor bathrooms had an outhouse smell. I smelled sandalwood incense and smoke from marijuana as I passed by a shop in downtown Manali. 

I realized that the reason we were given a typhoid shot to go to India is because their rivers and streams have raw sewage in them. I saw a river that looked like it had ice on it, except that it was 102 degrees that day. It must have been a sudsy type of pollution. I saw people washing their clothes on the riverbank, downriver from the pollution. I wondered what else was in the river that I couldn't see.

I saw rice paddies, water buffalo, a cobra in a basket charmed with a flute, wild monkeys and camels ridden in New Delhi traffic.

I saw a man with his hands, feet, and nose taken by leprosy. He was sitting on the pavement in an alley in New Delhi. He wasn’t begging, he was just sitting.

As we shopped in a storefront bazaar, I was pursued by a little girl selling beads. She said to me, “Buy some my mother, I give you a good price, my mother.” I got 100 Rupees out of my bag and kept it in my hand. She said she would sell them to me, 20 strands for 100 Rupees. I said, ‘How many are in your hand?” She began to count them in English and miscounted, ending up at 20. I recounted them with her and she had 24.  We exchanged a look when she realized her mistake. She said that she would give me a good price Rs 100 for 24. I bought them, but she continued to follow our group soliciting other team members. I said to her, “My friend isn’t going to buy any, but remember, I did. I asked her, “How old are you?”  She told me she was 11. I asked if she goes to school. She said, no. I asked if the lady with the baby who was begging was her mother. She said no, her mom wasn’t there, and that she was very poor. I asked if she had any brothers or sisters. She said she had an older brother.
She also told me her mom made the beads that she was selling. (There were probably 10 other people selling identical bead strands. I wondered how much of what she had told me was a ‘sales ploy’ and I wondered what had happened to make this 11 year old so street-wise. I also wondered what her life would be like in the future.)

We saw children begging. Uma told us not to give them money. He said Slum Dog Millionaire was accurate. There are people who use the children as slaves to beg for them. He said if we feel a need to give, give food. The children would at least get some benefit from it.

I tasted amazing, wonderful, and spicy Indian food.  I can’t begin to say the names of the dishes. I hope to learn to make some. I love the mint tea we were served at the Children’s Home. Masala Chai tea is also something I intend to make. I had watermelon juice and ice cream made from roses.

I found most of the people to be curious, helpful and gracious with their time and resources, no matter how limited their time and resources might be.

I haven’t really processed all of facets of this trip yet. I know God wanted me to be a part of this team. I think some of His reasoning was because I had some things to offer to people. I think some of His reasoning was for me to gain from people and experiences. I don’t really know the big picture yet, and it may take a long time to unfold for me.

I did have one experience that I am pondering. When I was in Manali, in the chapel and the children were singing, “How Great Is Our God” There was a sense of Holiness listening to the children’s voices and this thought popped into my head,
” This is why I brought you here.” I am prayerfully pondering its meaning. I do know my thought each time we sang with children in each setting, was an awareness of God's great love and Holiness in worshiping together that transcends culture and language differences.


Here is a story and verse which have more meaning for me now that I have been to India.

 It is adapted from “The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley.
A man was walking along a deserted beach. As he walked, he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and one-at-a-time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean. The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

“But,” said the man, “you can’t possibly save them all. There are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast day after day.
“You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “Made a difference to that one.”

My prayer daily is to love people as God loves them. To move my heart in the direction of His, means loving people one-at-a-time. Helping them meet their needs is showing them love and respect. Hopefully, God’s love will flow vertically down through me and out of my mouth, hands and feet to the people He loves.

Matthew 25:44-45
The Message (MSG)
 44". . . Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?”
 45"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.
It is my hope and prayer that this blog entertained you, opened new aspects about India for you, and maybe gave you some new insights to aid you in your relationship with God.

My thanks to Anna Van Wyck and John Balyo for the use of their photos.

If you would like to see the rest of my photos and to hear about the whole trip, let me know.
If God has laid it upon your heart to help support these ministries, I can give you the contact information.


When you are told to bring toilet paper to India . . . do it!

It seems that much of Indian life is lived in public alongside the road. Just about every item imaginable is sold by roadside vendors: food, religious supplies, tires, motorcycle helmets . . . I saw men getting haircuts sitting in a roadside barber chair.

As we rode in the bus at night, there were many men congregated alongside the roads. Rarely did I see any women. I am thinking the men use this as a time to hang out with their friends. In the city, I saw a lot of men laying on the ground sleeping both at night and in the daytime.

It appears to be socially ok for men to urinate in public along the roadside, as long as they turn away from the road to do it.

The women’s bathrooms were also of interest to me. In places like the mall or airport there were toilets with seats and toilet paper much like here. They also have what looks like a hose that in the U.S. might be attached to a kitchen sink.

I saw this for the first time at the airport. (I’d been told that sometimes the international airports offer showers. Being the good little blonde that I am, I thought, “How nice, the Delhi airport offers a shower right in the bathroom stall.”)
Well, as we traveled and as I saw many more bathrooms, I had to refine my ‘shower theory’. Many bathrooms didn’t have a toilet to sit on. There was a hole to squat over, no toilet paper to wipe with, and one of those hoses. (In most bathrooms, if you  happened to bring-your-own toilet paper, you were expected to deposit the used paper in a waste basket and not in the toilet itself.)

What I can’t figure out is how a lady can use that sprayer without getting herself and her clothes wet. I guess that will have to be a question I will need to find the answer for in the future.

Here is one final piece of advice for traveling. Many of our team members expressed some distress about being constipated due inactivity, dietary changes and not being able to relax. One of the team members did suggest a cure for constipation that none of us wanted to try. She said suggested taking another ride through the mountains might have a laxative effect especially if we did it in the day time so we could see how close we were to the edge.

Make Friends, Help Meet Needs, then Share Christ


(We were asked not to put the faces of the children in these slum ministries on Facebook. So I have more photos that are part of my presentation, but that won't be included here. If you want to see or hear more, let me know.)

Yesterday, Friday, our team went to a slum in the northern part of New Delhi. We drove for over an hour in the clamor of horns and the chaos of buses, trucks, delivery vans, auto-rickshaws, bicycles and motorbikes.
We turned off the major road onto very rutted and bumpy side roads. There were the Hindu shrines, and roadside vendors selling everything possible alongside the road. The ever-present trash piles seemed bigger and more numerous. I did see people picking through the garbage looking for items of use, to eat, or to sell. There were pigs, chickens, and cows wandering everywhere. The only animal more common than cows, are the stray dogs; they are lean and constantly looking for something to eat.

When our 'rich person’s bus' made its way through the narrow streets, people would look up and you could see them wondering why were we there. I feared that this predominantly Muslim community would think our visit was to stare at their living condition the way people stare at animals in a zoo.

Honestly, we had spent the past week observing many aspects of rural and city Indian life. Hopefully, we were observing with curiosity the way life in India varies from life in Western Michigan, without passing judgment.

As we entered the slum community, it appeared that the role of curiosity was reversed. It became our turn to be the spectacle as the bus came to a stop. People from all over the neighborhood gathered outside of the bus. Uma encouraged us to hurry getting off of the bus because the longer it took for us to gather our supplies, the larger the crowd of onlookers would be.

Thankfully, we had been joined by the two women and two men who run this Christian ministry, and school.

I need to say that as we got off the bus into that crowd, I was scared.
I put on a fake smile.

We couldn’t walk directly down the alley to the school, because there was a death in the community. A 12 year old boy had died that morning and was laying in the alley outside of his house and surrounded by mourners. His body was to be burned before sundown that day.  He had fallen 2 years ago and had been paralyzed since then. I wondered about his mother and if he had been a part of the school we were getting ready to visit.

We entered the school building through a narrow doorway that led to narrow, and tall steps. As I neared the top I stepped over many pairs of shoes shed as the children entered their classroom. I turned from the stairs and entered a room to see 50 brown, smiling faces. They were all seated on the floor on mats. There were 25 young children and 25 older boys seated separately in rows.

They were clearly curious about us, but also very happy we were there. The fear I’d been wearing fell off like a thick winter coat. We all waved and smiled at one another. There was much love that could only have come from God passing between all of us in the room.  Interesting how it can be, there were such differences between us and very little ability to communicate, yet the love and peace of God was in and through us.

We’d only been told that there would be teenage boys at the school about 30 minutes before we arrived.  Because we were expecting only little kids in the slums, we had left all older kid activities in Manali. It was my responsibility to plan activities for the older kids, so this left me with nothing for them to do.

We had brought two suitcases with activities, donations and candy. The activities we had planned to do (pasting foam pieces on a book mark and coloring a Bible story picture) would be an insult for these teens. (There were only a few girls in this age group, the only one I remember was the teacher’s daughter). I went downstairs to the place were the suitcases had been put and I prayed that God would help me to find something in there to do with these boys. I opened it and saw paper that had been cut to fold and assemble to make paper Frisbies. Thank you, God!

I didn’t know how to make them, but I located two team members who had done them in Manali. They agreed to lead the session.

I saw once again the  power that music has to join believers in worship to the God we share. Chris, from our team, led several accapella worship songs and Annette played the violin. The kids were attentive; I think it was their first time see/hearing a violin.

The boys surrounded us, and were eager to fold/assemble the Frisby. They were patient with my lack of skill, and it was clear that they were very bright and learned as quickly as we were able to teach them the folds. The thought came to me that many doctors and engineers come from India. I could see this aptitude in the boys as we worked.

Several of our team members offered to paint the boys faces. I wondered how this would be received. They weren’t interested in that, but did like to have designs painted on their forearms. They said, “tattoo”.  Anna’s comment was that they related some of the designs with Hindu dieties.

As I mentioned before, we had a lot of young beautiful women on our team. Before the afternoon ended the guys surrounded them to flirt and ask questions. It was appropriate, but a little more of the uncomfortable type of attention men give to western women in this culture.

All too soon, it was time to pass out the candy and to leave. We didn’t have enough candy bags for all of the kids, so we dumped them into a bag to distribute:  10 pieces per child. Once again, I saw their street smarts. The two men who had been interpreting for us and photographing the activities with our cameras, told me to count the 10 pieces of candy into their hands so that they could give them to the boys.

I did, but when the boys approached me, I asked if they’d already gotten some and they said no. The man helping me let me know that they were scamming me and that he should be the one to pass out the candy.

The teacher was a petite little lady with beautiful green eyes and was wearing a white Sari. She made a point to introduce herself, although we didn’t share a language. She also wanted me to meet her son and daughter who are both in the program. When was time to leave, we hugged and she told me, it wasn’t goodbye, because we would see one another in heaven.

The walk to the bus was again lined with curious neighborhood people, but also with the children and adults that we had just sent several hours getting to know.

The crowd surrounded our bus, waved, and smiled. One woman held up her baby so that I could see him. I saw one of the younger girls, probably about age 6, that had gone to the roof for the little kids lesson and crafts. She had her candy and the items she had made held in the folds of her Kurta so that she could hold them and wave at the same time.

As we drove off, I felt deeply thankful for the opportunity to meet these people and to serve God in this way. I did learn later, that there is no water available at this school. They don’t have any money for a well and are unsure if the government will give them permission to get one. In the U.S. if there isn't water available for school, we close and send the kids home.

While we were in the school, the camera and money belonging to one of our team member was stolen from the bus seat.

Today we were guided to a slum in the southern part of the city. This made the buildings and lack of water at the previous school look like a palace.

We walked from the bus down a street lined with vendors and corrugated metal pieces that had been assembled into ramshackle dwellings. There were tarps and sacks used to join the metal piece.  Families lived under them. Each was joined to another so that there were rows of adjoining cells of families. Again we were joined by 3 of the people from the previous day who are also involved in this school and women’s ministry.  As we followed one of the women., she led several of us into a yard surrounded by scorched brick walls. We were told that there was a fire there 2 years ago. Because people burn cow manure patties for heat and to cook food within their dwelling, fires are always a concern. Most of the dwellings also have a blue or white tarps covering a portion of it. The proximity of the dwellings and the types of material inside, makes fire a real and deadly threat.

I learned from one of the women that these people are in such temporary dwellings, because the government can relocate them at any time. She said that she was from Darjeeling Pradesh and her people had also been relocated. This helped her have something in common and it helped her establish trust with the people in this community.

I have never seen filth like what we walked through to get to the school. Not only was there garbage everywhere, there was standing water that clearly had sewage in it. One of our bags fell in the water, we were told to leave it there. A well-meaning person from the school picked it up, rinsed it at the school’s pitcher pump and then handed it to me. I was unaware of the events that led to the wet bag in my hands, I was advised to put it down and use hand sanitizer.

We entered the school’s courtyard  through an wrought iron gate to find an open-air room. It had a red tarp over it to block the sun. There were also 4 small classrooms with tables and benches and a leanto against one of the rooms to provide another area of shade. The dirt and brick floor had been swept very clean. There was no furniture in this main meeting area. We saw 50 children were sitting on the floor on red blanket-like mats waiting for sand again, God's Spirit was clearly apparent.

On Friday, we had joined these same children on a field trip to a doll museum in New Delhi. They were very unresponsive to us at the museum, but in their own setting, they seemed happy to see us again.

There were neighborhood children on the roof next door watching us as well as children outside the iron gate watching us through the bars.

In addition to the two ladies, Adelade and Tonge, the program director who had also been with us the day before were acting as our interpretors. WhenI showed the program director all of the school supplies we planned to leave with them, he explained that all supplies had to be taken to the main office for storage because people break into the school at night to take anything that is left there.

Once again we sang to them, and Annette played her violin. Their little faces were amazed to see the violin and to listen to the songs. The story of Jesus' death was told to them. We divided into 3 groups for coloring and crafts.

I have never, in my life, experienced flies like what are in that place. Mid-morning it was very hot and a teacher asked if it would be ok to serve some juice to the children. At that point the kids were busily coloring. Two young women mixed and served the juice, another teacher spent her energy waving away the flies so that they would stay out of the children’s cups until their their juice was gone.

(On the way out of the school, we walked past a butcher shop. I didn’t see it, but was told by a member of our team that a man was cutting up a chicken on a block on which the flies were so thick, the top of the block looked black. Two other women said the floor of the shop was black with flies and as the man walked in his shop it looked like a black cloud lifting off of the floor.)

Before we left, our team surrounded the children to pray for them. It was a touching moment to see them in the center of the circle with their heads bowed during the prayer.

As I am beginning to process these two experiences, here are some of my thoughts:

First, in the US, kids have much more than the children we met and yet, I don’t think they are any happier than these children.

Second, although these people have very little to offer, they made sure we were given a beverage in each of the schools, and we had full meals in Manali.  I think the people of India are people of great graciousness and hospitality.

Third, in each place we visited, they were very appreciative of our gifts, and that we would just come to share music, crafts and ourselves with the children.

Fourth,  In each of these settings, I was reminded that we are all under God. At the DUF Children’s home, the teacher said to me, “I will not forget you, please pray for us.” In the northern slum the teacher reminded me that we would meet together in heaven one day.  As we left the southern slum, the woman who helps run the women’s purse sales told me how grateful the women were that we purchased their hand-bags. I told her that we took lots of pictures to help us remember to pray for them. It made me realize that is a use for our pictures in addition to recording our memories.

Fifth, and of  the utmost importance, these ministries are doing like Jesus did: He made friends, He helped people meet their needs, and He then shared the hope of heaven and salvation with them. Not only are these ministries in India making friends with outcast people, they are helping them to meet either needs.

In the northern slum, women were coming to bank money they had earned in a women’s ministry to help them manage the money they earn.

In the southern slum, the women have been embellishing handbags to sell. They had a display out for us to purchase. Some of the money will be given to the women and some will be used to purchase more supplies to make more. This women’s cooperative both with the banking and cottage trade gives some of these women money to help support their families. The teacher said that substance abuse within the male population is very high. This training is a huge help for these women and children.

When a person feels respected and knows someone cares enough to help them meet some of their needs, that is when their heart will open to salvation that Christ offers. Jesus was a great example, He cared, healed, and fed before He shared His life’s mission.

Wednesday and Thursday Highlights

On Wednesday early a.m. we left DUF Children's Home after a very sad goodbye. Auntie is such an inspiration. She got up to come to our guest house to say goodbye at 5 a.m. as the teens put our luggage on the tour bus.

We traveled 2 hours to the nearest airport in Kullu. We arrived, went through a ridiculous amount of security (including a woman who checks the bathroom stall after you finish) and then we sat . . . for hours. The only flight to New Delhi was in question due to weather conditions. Eventually with some prayer, whatever the problem was ended and we were able to fly to New Delhi.

It was too late to go meet more kids, so we relaxed and went out for dinner. This was a welcome rest.

On Thursday we traveled 10 hours round trip on a small bumpy bus (no one was able to read or type a blog) to Agra and the Taj Mahal. The heat index was 114 degrees, I don't sweat and became seriously overheated. Thankfully, an ER nurse on our team took care of me both that day and the next when we went into the slum which was also very hot.

Before we left Delhi, we were sitting at a red light, two camels with riders went across the intersection!
Here are some photos of other things we did and saw.
Although there are wild monkeys all over like squirrels, these are some alongside the road that people can be photographed with.

Yep, that is a cobra in a basket and a snake charmer with his flute. Just like you see in cartoons!

The bus driver, against the wishes of Uma, opened the bus door so that we could get a better look at the cobra.
When the charmer was done, he put the lid on the basket and the cobra went back into the basket!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday July 17, A Picnic in a Mountain Valley

On Tuesday we took the kids from the home and the Rainbow School kids for a picnic in the mountains. In addition to eating, we played with bubbles, balloons, a parachute, made salvation bracelets, and had face painting. This is also a ski resort, so the kids were treated to a gondola ride up the ski slope to see the magnificent views from the air. 

Note the ever present cows. 

Monday, July 16 The Olympics and Vacation Bible School.

On Monday, the morning was spent doing Vacation Bible School activities. The little kids were in the eating area of the home, I was upstairs in the chapel with the older kids. Many of you here at home, made these activities possible with your donations of money and materials. These are memory boxes. We had 4 lessons that had objects to go in the boxes to help them remember the lesson.

In one activity, the kids were asked to write a prayer for themselves.
Anna later told me that a boy in her group prayed for his heart to be
broken with the same things that breaks God's heart.

I was able to use my new Macbook to share some photos of the Silver Lake Sand Dunes
with the kids. Our lesson was from Psalm 139 where God thinks about us as many times as there are
grains of sand.  

In the afternoon we had the olympic events. Here is the opening ceremony, complete with team flags and bandanas.

This is Anna and her team.

Here are the guys prior to worship.

Here are the ladies.