India: Scene Four

1 11 2011

More about the Children’s Homes, the second Home.

There is another Children’s Home we visited. Many of the buildings are quite old, built a hundred years ago. The setting for this one is very different from the other home. The one Home was very open, and spacious, and orderly. This one is like a mountain retreat. The various buildings are set on different levels of the mountain, so you are walking up and down garden paths, among fragrant flowers and banana trees, to the different areas. It is like being in the jungle, only with spectacular views as well.

This home also has a female director. Again, the same awesome kids, but on a campus that is in need of repair. The two main churches, as well as other teams of people, have been steadily doing construction work on this campus for the past six years (not sure if I have that number right, it is approximate) and they are TRANSFORMING the place. I can’t adequately describe this, but it is fantastic to see how every project has met a need and added order and beauty to this home.

Still, the need is great. The boys dorms are still the same mud buildings that the lepers used, and especially in monsoon season, the roofs leak and the walls get very wet, leading to mold, and bed-bugs coming out of the walls. They are very small, tight rooms, dark and not at all pretty, yet the boys come out happy and energetic. Love makes up for a lot of things.

One of the projects they are raising money for is a new multi-level boys dorm which will cost around half a million dollars. Material costs are similar to Canada, but labor is very cheap, so it does bring the costs down. They have a great spot picked out for it, and it will be exciting to see the boys housed in a proper building.

The work that has been done already in other areas is so noticeable, and the vision for this site is so inspiring! They want to keep fixing up the school, but also provide room for weary church planters (Indians work tirelessly and don’t typically take vacations), and a training center for all those new converts who are leading churches but need Theological training (more about that later).

Even though these homes have been running for a couple of decades, there is an “I’m in on the ground floor” at the beginning of something special, kind of feeling I got, because the vision is so big, so fresh, so knee-deep, so visceral, so impossible…it is easy to find yourself saying, “put me to work, anywhere will do!”

While the vision is completely God cantered, ________ has applied for its own charitable status (days away now) to broaden its ability to partner with others, so that it isn’t associated with one particular church. ________ is a long term calling, made up of people who partner and I felt so privileged to have been on site, to have met the directors and teachers (some of whom were kids who were raised here and have returned to invest their lives in helping others), to have been in the company of those children…

A few stories of the people we met but before I do, I must explain something: I need to add a note here for us Canadians who might think this is all simple. In India there is an anti-conversion law. If you are Hindu, you remain a Hindu. Other people are not permitted, by law, to try to convert you. If you do convert, you actually have to register this change and you must prove that this decision was completely, independently made. Even then, they discourage conversion. So you can understand how difficult it is to share the gospel with others here!

In the homes, if a child comes to Christ and wants to be baptized, they will not do so as this would mean a lot of trouble for the home, the child, and the family. That child must wait until they have graduated and can independently make that decision and application to convert. It is a very fine line to walk for the homes. When parents send their children, they go knowing it is a Christ cantered place. They can worship “that God” while they are there, but when they return home, they must worship the family god. Following Christ comes at a tangible cost.

Now the stories…

This is a story of a boy who graduated from one of the schools. He was being brought up in a Hindu family. They were moving from one place to the next when his father died suddenly, leaving his mother poor and in a very bad position. She could not care for him as she now had to find work and their living conditions were bad and her children were being left alone. So he came to the D.U.F. School and in grade 10 he made the decision to be a Christ follower and be baptized.

When he would go home at Christmas he would talk to his mother and family about their idols. He would say, “what have they ever done for you?” (idols, which are representations of demons, aren’t worshiped out of love. They are worshiped out of fear). And eventually they came to see that such demon worship was wrong and that Jesus’s love was a beautiful and powerful thing. Now his whole family are Christ followers and he is in his final year of becoming a certified general accountant! A great guy with a great story; he just beams when he tells it. His meeting Christ is now affecting generations of his family!

There was also a little boy of about 10 who is mentally challenged. His parents abandoned him a the train station, no one knows for how long he lived there and survived on his own, but finally the police picked him up an brought him to the home. He was very malnourished, and was operating at the capacity of a three year old. After being at the home for about a year, he has improved so much! He has a huge smile on his face, he looks healthy, is very friendly, is picking up language and skills, and the way the other children treat him is so beautiful: like a brother. Love.

Another child: she is from Nepal and came to the home with her older sister because her family situation was very bad. She is maybe 3 years old and beautiful and shy. The children call her “new” because she is…well…new! Also, it means “little sister.” They brought her to us and she kept her head low and looked terribly uncomfortable and wouldn’t speak but by the end of our time she was running to us, especially to Brianne, and chatted away in her language and we in ours. It is so funny that we didn’t understand each other, it didn’t seem to matter to her at all. And if she had a need, maybe to go to the bathroom, she would toddle off and one of the girls, maybe older by just a few years would look at her with concern and then run after her to pick her up and help her. They were like mothers to her, all of them, and the boys would do the same, just seeing a need and responding. It was something to see. Love.

At dinner we sat with them and talked about their lives; they asked questions, we asked questions and at the end the hardest question was, “are you coming back?” I wished I could say confidently, “yes,” but such a promise is a hard one to make and a harder one to break so I had to say, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know what all this means, I need to listen for a while.

As a family, we became partners with _______. It is different from some other organizations in that you don’t sponsor a child. You become a partner, especially a prayer partner (and they will send a picture of a specific child go pray for) and you become very personally involved in the development and movement of the mission of these two houses. Many people get directly and practically involved (like one gentleman who leads construction teams every year) and develop a very personal connection with the staff and kids.

As I saw this first hand, and met the guys who are on the Canadian board (these guys are invested heart and soul, it is very contagious. They also have Indian board members, living in India, whom I did not meet), and the Indian directors, walked the campuses, met the kids, saw the success, saw the needs, I just found myself saying, “Yes. This is right. This vision is right. This is working.”

There are still many challenges, still bugs to work out, still roadblocks (India and it’s illogics), still the messiness of working with people and personalities and cultures…but I can see God’s hand so clearly on this and it was a huge encouragement to me; it gave me such hope for change in India.

— Teresa Klassen

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