The Emotion from Saying Goodbye

Learning what it means to love 140+ kids Posing with all the kids
This photo was followed by hugs and tears

I’ve been on more than a few missions trips. Each one had spectacular moments of God showing up, of miracles, joys, sorrows and stretching, but I think I have never felt the emotion of the last moments with the kids in the way that I felt it on our last day with them. They have been through horrors I can’t even imagine. Thirty of them watched their fathers kill their mothers and then take their own lives. Forty percent of them lost their parents through suicide.  Some were placed on the black market for sale… How far down does a person have to go to be called “the least of these?”

And yet there is a joy there. The kids would light up at any interaction. They prayed and sang fervently. We went there to love them. They loved back. 

I am both amazed and ashamed. Amazed that God’s love transcends so much of the trauma that mankind’s evil has created in their lives. Ashamed of the times I indulged myself in self-pity over things that now seem so small.

I won’t remember most of their names, but I can’t stop seeing their faces and wondering if I am doing enough to help feed them. What goes on here is a miracle. It is life changing for them and for us. I’m both overjoyed and overwhelmed. There isn’t enough support for them yet – but by God’s grace we will get there.

The bottom line is that it takes $7000 each month just to keep them housed and fed. It doesn’t seem like much to sustain so many kids, but it’s more than we have been able to send. I don’t know how we’re going to raise the rest, but I know we have to try.

Of course this is more about bottom lines. It’s about people of God’s creation and what He wants us to do about the needs of those He puts in our path. What a responsibility. What an honor to know God can use me in some way.

So, we said goodbye. Pastor Kiran sat us down, invited some of the kids to put flower garlands around our necks and told each of us what we had brought to them. Then he invited us to start hugging. Some of the kids went to their storage boxes and grabbed whatever they thought was of value and brought it to us. I had tho most powerful feeling I did not expect. It was the same feeling when on three occasions an Indian Christian has knelt down before me and touched my feet. “Wow. I don’t deserve this…. Do they understand how flawed I am?”  It’s a high dose of both humility and grace with a shot of redemption. Nope, nothing I could do would make me worthy of anyone’s gratitude at that level. But it’s God’s grace makes us worthy. I was thinking of that as the kids came up to us and began to give us whatever they had. This humbles me, and that’s ok because I need to be more humble. This day made me understand love just a little bit more, and that’s ok because I need to love more.

So what should CTL’s slogan be? “Come to serve others and be completely humbled in the process?” Hmm, I don’t know if that looks good on a brochure, but that is what happens. Above all else, God is big, and way way bigger than me or what any human can do. But He calls us to be an important part of it. This mission was never about what we can do for God. It’s about what He does for us. 140 smiling and crying faces helped teach me something I can’t get in a sermon. I wish I could express it better so everyone could feel what I felt, but I know it’s a God thing and only He has the power to reach into a soul like this.

Go and find those moments in your life, in whatever path God leads you through. It’s worth the journey 🙂

Dealing with Dispair

We visited the HIV slum where Evangeline was forced to live after testing positive for HIV. She was there for about a year but her disease became aggressive and she was moved to a government AIDS hospital. We don’t know if she will ever come back, but we have hope, even in the face of AIDS. CTL still provides her with medicines and supports her care, but it was sad to visit the slum and miss seeing her. My prayer is that she feels love support and God’s hand somehow in her life.

What made us equally sad was discovering what the government did to the rest of the people living in the slum, 80% of which carry the virus. They built a new building for them. A building they didn’t need and in the process covered up the only well the people had for fresh water. Now they have to walk to another part of the city to draw water- a place where they aren’t welcome. The conditions in the slum were already filthy, and this has made it worse.

The ray of hope there is the schoolteacher. She is a Christian and feels compassion for these kids. She asked me if I would remember to pray for her and for those kids. I don’t want to forget that request. I’m still thinking of those kids. They were so excited to see us, and I’m guessing they don’t get a lot of visitors. In spite of their conditions, the children laughed and smiled and one young girl sang for us- she had a powerful voice!

We took some gifts to the children there and when I saw what happened to the well I was stunned.. My first reaction was, how could the powers that be act so foolishly? I don’t know the details of why it happened, but this really affected the team, as we have ministered to the kids there and we know that more HIV positive kids will come to the orphanage from the street, and we will have to send them there. Some of the team members pooled their money and covered part of the $1000 cost of a new well. Water issues cause a high percentage of the world’s health problems. Maybe someone should inform the government.

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Causes and Hope for a Cure

There are lots of reasons why orphans exist. And I’ve heard some explanations that are quite absurd… It’s one thing to have a debate on the state of the world’s at risk children. It’s another thing to hear their individual stories.

Here is one of them:

Malleswarao watched his father stab his mother to death at the age of 8. His father then hanged himself. Officials at Malleswarao’s home village brought him to the Children’s home. He was very afraid and traumatized and would talk in his sleep. He would repeat “please don’t kill!” during the night and cry during the day. After several months at the children’s home he began to smile and interact with his new family.

Recently Malleswarao’s was playing cricket with the other boys and was hit by a bat. He reacted strongly to the sight of his own injury and began to see flashbacks of his parent’s death, but this time he had loving adults to comfort him. He cried out for Pastor Kiran as Daddy, a term the kids will use for the person taking care of them even if they are not their natural father (they call us uncle and auntie and they call Kiran Daddy). Malleswarao is improving again and smiles along with the other children. He is moving on from the details of his past life and embracing his future.

Thirty children at the home have witnessed the death of at least one of their parents, often at the hand of the other parent or from suicide. Ten percent of the kids lost their parents to HIV-AIDS.
At least one parental suicide was involved in 40% of the cases.

Widows

In Hindu culture, the face of a widow is considered bad luck. They are not allowed at celebrations. They are a class of untouchables all by themselves. A widow is typically blamed for the bad luck of her husband’s death. These women are extremely vulnerable to abuse and prostitution. They are treated as subhuman. The CTL sewing initial project took five treadle sewing machines and offered 7 widows the opportunity to learn a skill which can sustain them and their children. Widows who complete the training can “earn” a sewing machine. These machines, which run on foot pedal power, cost $200 each. We hope to expand this program, both for the widow’s sake and because we believe it will prevent the creation of more orphaned children.

There are lots of ways to become involved if you feel the call.

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Is This For Real?

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One question we ask ourselves over and over while we visit the CTL-Berachah Childrens home is this: After all they have been through in their short lives, HOW can these kids be so normal? Where is the attachment disorder? Where is the negative behavior, the lack of social skills? Where are the trust issues?

The most amazing thing to notice here is what ISNT showing up. A lot of CTL team members have experience working with children of all kinds of needs. Many of us have been in orphanages, group homes, counseling centers and have seen what a hard life and early trauma can to to a young person.

Dont misunderstand me – I am not saying they dont have scars. As Pastor Kiran brought some of the older kids forward to share their stories with us, we could see the pain return to their faces. One boy named Joshi, now in college, watched his father kill his mother and then himself. He is not the only child there to have watched that. The pastor tells us that some kids will overreact to events that bring back bad memories.

But in the day-to-day lives of the kids, their smiles, bright eyes and enthusiasm for school seems to show that there moving forward. They are finishing school with good grades. They do family chores (there are lots of chores to do in a family this big) cheerfully. Their lives have structure, purpose, and a sense of future. They are taught that they are not victims– they are special children of God who can experience love and grace every day.

If it sounds like Im painting a picture of an unrealistic utopia, in a way I am. This place should not exist. There is not enough support to keep it open. It seems to go against the tide of local culture. The nearby city, Machilipatnam, which means fish town is a depressed area plagued with alternating droughts and floods and a very high suicide rate. Its not a place one associates with the word utopia.

But it does exist, and I have returned several times to see if what I saw was real. Everything about the place feels like a miracle, and if you havent seen it, it may be impossible to fully understand it.

There are many orphanages in India and a huge number of kids live and beg on the city streets. The gap between Indias rich and poor is sickening, but there are also many things to appreciate there. One of them is a childrens home a few miles from a depressing place known as Fish Town. After seeing God at work there, I have never been the same.

An outstanding team . . .

I like this team. Of course, I would say that with any team I was leading, and I have enjoyed them all, but this year’s team is filled with “go with the flow” kind of people, and that makes them very easy to be around. There is a combination of experience, humor and unflappability…. Also, they do all the work and I watch in amazement- did I mention that?

Because the kids are finishing up exams this week, we spent time with them in the afternoons and evenings. They have lots of enthusiasm, and it makes for a great finish to every day. Now think of having 130 plus kids in your home, all with lots of enthusiasm… Got the picture? This is an incredible place, and I am here with some incredible people:
My sister Peggy refuses to give up no matter what, Adam is especially good at building relationships and engaging both children and staff, Dana has become very outgoing, not that she was in a shell before, but she is really engaging and supportive with Kiran and Lakshmi, and is filled with ministry ideas. Alan is a great song leader and will try anything and mix it with humor. Dustin and Berenice are new but you would never know that- they have a heart for these kids and for what is happening here. Dave jumps right in with kids and knows no fear.

Knows no fear.. That’s it. This is a team that is not afraid of jumping in with both feet, and though we all experience fear, it cannot stand where faith is strong. Jesus conquered death and with it, fear.

The kids at the CTL-Berachah Children’s home Are learning to live in the spirit of truth and not the fear of the streets. Their transformation here is miraculous, and we are witnessing something amazing here… These kids are NOT growing up to be victims. They study hard, work hard, and already kids from Berachah are graduating from high school, going on to colleges and making lives for themselves far beyond their beginnings. Love in action is an amazing thing.

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Sometimes just getting there is a story . . .

This is from Peggy, my sister and a great team member:

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This has been a journey like none other in my life. The difficulties that have been going on for the past year have taught me not to be prideful bout the things that God blessed me with, regardless of my pride. God taught to think more about His plans for me, than my plans. I also realized that what God calls us to does not always make sense. Why would God call a short, uneducated, chubby woman with no amazing talents and skills to go to India to serve him? And if that woman had a bad back and couldn’t do much more than feebly and painfully walk short distances, couldn’t lift anything more than a few lbs, surely, God would not call this kind of woman to India to do HIS work! Having been to India before I was thrilled to go again… but what about my back? An MRI showed some herniated disks, a transferees vertabra, and at L4/5, a “severe” spinal stenosis. So, how does a believer make these kinds of decisions? Is it silly for a short, chubby, uneducated, middle-aged woman with a bad back to think she can go with Children to Love to work in India??? I was wondering. These are the steps that I took in making my decisions:

1. Did I feel a passion to go to India and do this work? The answer was “absolultely”! I wanted to go to India with all of my heart.

2. Did I sense that this was my calling from God, or was my desire to go to India just from me.

2.. I determined I would not go if any of my doctors told me it was unwise to think of going. All my doctors encouraged me and tried their best to improve me enough to go. Not one said “don’t go”.

3. When it was time to apply for an India visa, I was told thhe 10 year visas were very difficult to get. That I would much likely get a 5 or 3 year visa. I decided to go for the 10 and see what happened – in less than 2 weeks, my 10 YEAR visa was returned to me!

My back became worse. I prayed with friends and had friends pray with me that my back would improve just enough that I could stand the pain enough to go!

I was doing epidural foods about every 3-4 weeks. I was going to a physical therapist twice per week, I was doing exercises every day. I was taking muscle relaxants and pain pills and Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and typenol. I was eating healthy, drinking juices suggested, and although things helped for a short while, and these things all helped at times, but long term, I was getting worse!

What was God trying to do? What was He saying to me? What decision should I make? I wafted back and forth, and felt more miserable about it all spiritually than I did with just the pain.

One day I woke up and could barely get out of bed. When I tried to walk, my right leg was in so much pain, and was so weak and numb, that I could not walk unless hanging onto something. I called my pain doctor and went in to get a caudal epidural flood. That brought very little relief to the pain, but I could very slowly.

I talked to my brother the King Leader, and he talked with others and not one was concerned that I might slow them down. They were willing to adjust and help me, so that I could remain on the team.

Still in pain, I went to my Bible and began to read a devotional about Joshua 3, when the priests were supposed to step into the water with the ark, The author of this devotional shared that sometimes we think we should have our miracle so that we can be obedient. But sometimes God wants for us to obey first, then watch how He works out our struggles and gives us the miracle we need.

That is what God did for me. I prayed, “Lord, I am going to India. It doesn’t matter how much pain I have, I am going to India. I will crawl there, if I have to! Unless you slam the door in my face, I AM GOING TO INDIA!”

The next morning, I rolled out of bed, and I had no pain!!! I was not completely cured, and the surgeon is still on my to do list when I return, but by making a few concessions and being “smart” about my pain, I found that I could get around a little better each day.

Early on January 2, The team picked me up at 4 am. My 90 year old mother inspired me as she got up to make waffles, yogurt and coffee for a great breakfast before showing up at the airpost in LAX. Now came the longest airline trip I had ever taken in my life… What would happen?

Wheel chairs were always there when I needed them! I had taken a pain pill and was hooked up to my TENS machine. I think it was about 15 hours of straight flying. The whole team was exhausted! But when we arrived in Dubai, my back felt a mild soreness, no pain!

A wheel chair took me to the next flight, and this one was still long, from Dubai to Hyderabad, but again, a man with a wheelchair pushed me everywhere I needed to go, helped me through customs so I didn’t have to stand in long lines, and I can’t tell you the joy I felt when I saw my brother and Dileep waiting in the large room of the airport! Dileep gave me a big hug and introduced me to his mother who is a beautiful woman in her lovely sari, and though she speaks no English, She became an instant friend and is trying to teach me already, to count to 5 in telegu. Dileep quickly ordered a Latte for me, and I felt myself coming alive! I felt sore and achey, buy no pain! God is marvelously good!

Now, I have had a shower, and am ready to fall into bed. It’s almost 2 am! Dana is my sweet room mate, and I love her so much already! She’s so young and enthusiastic, full of great ideas and filled with God’s love and the holy spirit. What a blessing!

I am helping widows and orphans. In James, in the Bible, we are told that this is the heart of a true faith. I have absolutely no human right to be here. But my wonderful God and Savior has chosen me for this task, and I feel a wild sense of Joy about being here!!!

Tomorrow we catch a train to Machilipatnam. It will be an evening and night trip.

Thank you to all of you who have prayed, encouraged, challenged, and loved me through, this “safari” of life! The adventure continues! Thank you, Connie J, for teaching me to boldly ask for healing. Thank you Deb for teaching me to do some sewing. Thanks to my neighbor Pam for all the things you do for me (too many to relate!)

Thank you, Glen for being my best supporter both with finances, encouragement and love. I appreciate you SO much!

Big thanks to my children and grandchildren who have taught me how wonderful children can be and how much they all need hope in their lives. Because you have all loved me, I am free to love others!

Please pray:

1. Our team will reflect the Love and Unity we have in Him every day of our lines

2. Pray that we will remain spiritually ready to go, do and be all that God requires

3. Pray that we all stay healthy enough to accomplish all that God wants us to do

4. Pray that when difficulties arrive, we will refuse doubt, and accept the time of stretching and strengthening for God’s work, and our relationship with Him.

5. Pray that there will be no demonic activity interfering with our times of loving, teaching and giving to those we have come to serve.

Praise and Thank God for all He has accomplished, and the beauty He brings to all our lifes

Blessings for your chubby, little short Term Missionary,

Peggy — Pictures below!

Me, with Dileep’s mom. We don’t speak each other’s languages, but became good friends.

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First Day With the Team: “It cleans out my sinuses!”

One of the fun things that happens when you lead a team is you get to see everyone’s first reactions to things, and of time you also get to see everyone in the team grow in their faith. The first adjustment to culture here is traffic. The second is food. At our first breakfast together today we experienced some very non-western food. As this team is filled with delightfully positive people who do their best to find good things about a new culture to comment on, Berenice volunteered that the “soup was very spicy, but it cleared up my sinuses and it sure tastes good!”

The team bonding with Dileep continued with more teasing and the chance to get to know his mother, who rode the bus with him for ten hours to come greet us at the airport. Dileep’s mom gave us a nice compliment– “I like that you people are always laughing.”

It’ good to be known as a team that smiles. It will help us a lot in the task ahead.

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