Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Music - the tone that touches the soul as well as the ear.

So many things can be said about music and what constitutes music; it can help mend a broken heart at the loss of a loved one or tie two hearts together as they dance to "their" song for the first time. A babies first words are said to music to ones ears. Music is an integral part of our lives and as we age, sometimes our tastes change. I can still remember my dad telling me to turn that "music" down as I listened to my favorite hits growing up...something I do myself now to my own kids. Funny how some things DON'T change!

Growing up in the Catholic world I never would have thought to listen to "church" music. There were few songs that could have caught my attention or kept it enough to WANT to listen to more ( Ava Maria is the exception). No, my attention was more to what sounded good in my mind. It didn't occur to me that the content of the song could influence me, I was regular church going person. What difference would it make what music I listened to? Now this isn't a condemnation on music or a righteous ploy to persuade anyone; but rather a few steps in my life that have changed my outlook. Funny how my central themes seem to be on change... 

Anyway, a few years ago in 2007 when we decided to switch churches I came across a radio station that was just starting up in our area that played "contemporary christian" music. This was an obvious detour from the music I had listen to previously. I had, and still do have an eclectic I-pod play list but this was something I wanted to add to my list. The lyrics and melodies are ones now very familiar in church at a time when I had been struggling. This song was the first I had heard on that radio station that day and it really made sense to me when all else really didn't. I started listening to this type of music regularly and it did have a positive influence on my life. Questions that I had and still do, have begun to be answered. I still struggle and deal with all many things common to all of us; but the music I listen to now seems to do more to impact my life than to just make background noise.

I'm thankful for my family...that they tolerated me when I must have been very difficult to live with. I hope the person I'm becoming is more of what they deserve instead of what they had gotten.

Enjoy the music video, it will set up some topics for more in the future. There are a lot of great christian artists out there, give a listen to some and see what happens.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trichy well and school dedications

So we took a few short plane trips to Tiruchipallalli to complete 10 well dedications. These are bit different than the well visits in the AP state in India for the reason of the higher Hindi population. The people are just as impoverished but again the beauty of the Indian people is amazing. Up north the ceremony seemed more about the wells but in the south, WE became more about the ceremony and the wells were secondary.

As you approach the village you are greeted by the usual village elders, but then a "process" of celebration begins when they burn inscense in front of you and then lavish oils on your forehead. After this, you have a honorary shawl placed over your shoulders as a sign of respect. Then, and only then do the wells become ready to be dedicated and blessed as they are in the north. Here are a few photo's of the events as they happen.

 (Click for larger  view on any photo)

The ladies are set to spread the oils on our foreheads here and then get us set up for the shawls to be placed over our backs.

This is the village elder doing the final blessing on Sandy and placing the shawl over her before we begin the process of the well dedication for them. The water seemed secondary to us as their blessings were quite important for this event.
After this, the same festivities surrounding the wells seemed the same as up north. The kids and village people are always excited to get fresh water to drink from. Ornate decorations are seen and dancing around the wells is common.

In the end, the water flows and the people have improved their lives, at least a little from our efforts. At each well we "test" some of the water and it is good.

Goodbyes are said, and we move on the next village to begin the whole event over again. It's nice to think that you have a small part in helping someone even if you will never see them again. Lives are changed through these celebrations, and not just the Indians...

It was really exciting to have the opportunity to photograph this with a good camera I had borrowed. You get to be a part of some intimate moments that a small point and shoot camera just don't allow you to capture. I found peace in moments that were at a distance, yet captured forever in my mind and on this digital media.
This was a long but really fulfilling day for me and the team, I was really glad to be a part of it and hope that this shows a bit of what you can see if you take the time to look.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Odds and ends and a day to disconnect before departure

We had planned on leaving on Tuesday to fly even further south to Trichirupally to do some more well and building dedications with the Wells for Life. So Monday evening was the last night with the New Life kids and it was going to be hard. It's nice that the children have been so relaxed with us this trip. So quickly after the first initial "What's my name?" things got down to actual conversations and talks with them. One girl got so comfortable with me that while sitting on my lap talking to me, she was looking at the side of my head and had this really strange look on her face. All of a sudden she licks her finger and sticks it in my ear, digging around until she comes out with something and says "No good.". It was like she was primping me...what do you say to that except smile and thank you?!
Here are a few random photo's of the last day at New Life, this is both our sponsor kids; Venkatesh and our newest, Saipriya. He is in 6th class and she is in 8th class. Both were very happy to spend time with their "foreigners" as they call us.
This one is the girls 1st class coming back from class and going to study hall. Notice the first girl with her hand on her mouth, all of them are supposed to be doing that to remind them to be quiet. I was a distraction with the camera and they wanted to get their photo taken.

 The kids desk, they carry all these books to and from their dorm rooms to the classroom each day. Each time I saw them, the thought of the seven dwarfs going of to work...Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to school we go...!

Here is a list of the daily schedule, lots to do...(if you click the photo's they DO enlarge!)

This is taken from the now THIRD floor of the dorms that is now under construction. This seems to grow more each year. The first year it was only one floor with a second being built. Last Christmas we dedicated the student's new dorms rooms and now the third floor which will be two large rooms for where teams members will stay and also a worship center. Quite a nice view for to look out upon when praising God!

That's about  all for now, it's early and we need to pack so we can begin the long journey home. I will have a few more posts after we get back and then I'm pretty sure Sandy will put her two cents in. The kids here are doing well and learning a lot. It always refreshes the soul to come here and see life, just a bit simpler than back in the states. I hope some of you reading might get a glimpse and take the plunge to go overseas on something like this. It would be an experience you never forget...for both you and the people you visit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Water, a life giving drink.

If you have followed my writing in the past you know that we are involved with an organization called Wells for Life which provides bore wells and fresh water to rural Indian villages. Besides providing life giving water which alone would save lives; it provides an opportunity to share the gospel and water that you will never thirst from. (John 4: 13-14).

Going to a rural village is an exciting process. After you leave the main highway you often run on semi paved roads and you never know quite what you might run into:

DSC_0003   traffic of all sorts usually delays your travels. Distances that normally take 30 minutes by highway are often 90 minutes or longer due to these delays. If the livestock doesn’t get you, the monster craters will. Pot holes in America are just a little bump here in rural India.

The real excitement begins once the village comes into sight. You see the villagers come DSC_0061             DSC_0026

out and are ready for a party! You are greeted in ceremonial lei’s and led down the main “street” usually no more than a dirt road, to the well head which is then dedicated and primed all with eager users watching on. After the first pails are drawn, they are

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taken by the women (who normally are delegated to carry water) and the singing and sharing begins! The crowds range from the very interested in just the water, to those interested in more. The sights of these beautiful Indian people is really amazing.

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After the celebration ends, it’s usually off to another village as we have anywhere from 2-10 wells to dedicate in a day depending on travel. Good byes are said, but leaving isn’t usually as easy as that. Many times people are so moved by the generosity of the gift of life giving water, they are moved so much as to ask you to pray for them…literally!

DSC_0069In the end, you come away from this experience of giving water to somebody and think you are doing good; when in fact you get so much more in the perspective that your life changes in how you think and act and react in the world around you.  If something like this moves you to look deeper, then my trip was a success in more ways than one. If you’re interested in learning more about water and wells, take a look at the link in the first paragraph. It will take you to the homepage of this organization; one both Sandy and I highly recommend! Thanks for reading and all your thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

A day to remember

Mornings are filled with such peace and solitude here at New Life Children’s Home. As I sit here Sunday morning I watch the sun rise and listen to the roosters crowing and view the haze moving over the hills in the distance. The kids aren’t up yet for their normal morning worship which begins promptly at 6 am because they will be having a church service later so the American luxury of “sleeping in” is in full force. Usually by this time of day the sounds of pray and singing are filling air with serenity.
I may not be adding photo’s for the duration of the trip, I let my camera out of my hands for the inevitable “one photo” by some of the kids and by the time I got it back it only was working when it was plugging into the wall. While this normally wouldn’t bother me much, I doubt my writing skills are as vivid as the color and imagery of my trusty Kodak. I may add some later that were from previous trips if they seem to work.
Yesterday was quite special in a few ways. The morning started very early for me as my sleeping cycle hadn’t quite adjusted to Indian time yet. I was up around 3:30am and sitting under a mango tree on a cement barrier and two boys had gotten up to “do their business”. Afterwards, they came over and sat down next to me, they saw my bible and started looking through it and asking me to read certain passages they knew. Since they were both small, and being chilled by the early Indian morning, they wanted to sit VERY close to stay warm. One boy sat between my legs and the other between his, to conserve heat and make it easier to read. After a few minutes, I began to notice just how special this time was. All three of us began breathing in unison as we sat and read, and watched the sun rise together. Although our verbal languages may have been tense, the common bond of simple companionship abounded and was both relaxing and refreshing for body and soul.
Later that day, I was walking through the schoolyard while the kids were in class. One of the staff had told us to just walk in and listen in to some of the teachers while they instructed the kids: I think they were setting us up! As I took off my sandals and was walking to a desk towards the back, the teacher grabbed me and asked me to TEACH the class. Now for a person with a barely  working knowledge of the english language, you can imagine how difficult this task would seem to a group of semi english speaking students. I was sweating bullets as I walked up to the chalkboard and looked at the “lesson” they wanted me to ex plain. A love story about desire and marriage…to 20 teenagers. I don’t know if all the chuckling was about my method of teaching or my obvious discomfort with the situation. I found it very disheartening that the teacher had actually left the room leaving me to the wolves so to speak. I doubt HE wanted to teach that subject! Anyway, I survived, although they probably know less know than before I was here…
So anyone out there, if you think you aren’t qualified or have any talents that could help on a mission trip…rethink your thought process. If you can hug a child, or smile as they laugh. You are SO ready to come and get the experience that will last you a lifetime. Having the best time here with Sandy, the group, and our kids. Wish everyone could be here!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A New Life arrival!

So the trip into the last airport for a while was good and we both arrived safely at the Visak airport and took the short car journey down to the New Life Children Home in Yellamenchilli. Tough duty as it was the mid 80’s late this winter afternoon day.


As the norm when folks arrive, all the kids put on a display for you by standing in line and lavishing you with a heavily laden fresh flower lei. It was really neat to see our sponsor child Venkatesh. He was the first boy on the right and had made his way to the front and it was HIS honor to give us the first lei as we are his “foreigner” or American family.


This was my third trip here, and Sandy’s second and each time you come you begin to remember a few more faces and it only takes a time or two before the name also becomes familiar…as much as we can understand Telegu. We are greeted and then the kids put on a quick show before we hand out new blankets and sleeping mats. As I type this I hear the sounds of the old foot pedal driven singer sewing machines (from the early 20th century) humming along churning out new uniforms that will be soon worn by the kids. It’s amazing how fast these tailors work and the quality of the clothes they make!

The agenda for us is to play with the kids and also help them complete  some “life books” which are primarily a scrapbook of things they remember about themselves to take along wherever they go. This will be and interesting project for them. The most fun, for me at least, is the feeding process! It boggles the mind to see these 3 women and 2 men prepare meals for 191 students and staff three times daily…all over wood burning stoves! Look at the size of those pots and the stirring process!


It takes a dedicated effort to pass out meals to this large and HUNGRY group each meal. And as soon as one meal is done, the process begins again for the next meal. Imagine how long it would take to get that much water to boil to make rice for 200+ people. Lots of hard working people are involved and for that, I’m very thankful! That’s about all for now…time to play!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The calm before the VERY good storm..

The trip over on American Airlines was uneventful and for that I'm grateful. We met up with the other members of our group for a quick bite in Chicago and then parted ways again as their trip involved stops in Frankfort and ours was a direct flight to Dehli. I have to say that 14 hours on a plane is not your ideal way to spend a day; but the end of the journey at New Life will be worth it for sure!

After arrival in Chennai, after a brief stop in Dehli we waited for luggage (with no surprises) and then grabbed a quick cab to the Marriott. Normally this would be a 25 minute trip, especially at 1125PM local Indian time; but road construction to update a light rail system took our 4 lane road down to 2 lanes and an hour later we arrived. We got rooms to clean up and rest as our last flight, to get TO the kids, leaves at noon today. - Remember we are 11:30 minutes ahead of central standard time. Our biological clocks right now are playing a bit of havoc on us. The clock shows 5:10am and I should!

I will try to do as many posts as we can, the internet service at the orphanage isn't blazing speed like we are accustomed to in the USA...not much is but life there is still good because all the important elements are present.  

A quick shout out to the kids and mentors at the Urban Scholastic Center. Both Sandy and I have missed seeing you all and look forward to that again in a few weeks! Thanks for all the prayers for safe travels, we have felt protected during our journey so far.