Sunlight picture

Sunlight picture
Some of our hostel girls gathering for a picture at sunset. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A New Adventure

One of the many ways my heart responds to God is through music. A few different songs have been on constant replay in the car the past few days and one of them is Chris Tomlin’s “Waterfall”:

O God my God, I seek You
I want to move when You move
You’re more than I could long for
I thirst for You
You’re an ocean to my soul, to my soul

Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Running wild and free
You hear my heart when I call, when I call
Deep calls to deep
Your love is like a waterfall, waterfall
Raining down on me

O God my God, I seek You
In this dry and desert land
You lead me to streams of mercy, once again
You’re an ocean to my soul, to my soul

It’s coming like a flood, I’m dancing in the rain
Everything I’ve done is covered in rivers of grace … amazing
It’s coming like a flood, I’m dancing in the rain
I lift up my hands, Your love never changes … amazing!

This song expresses the swelling, pulsing urge within me to run up a mountain with God, to tread on the heights with Him and soar freely within His boundless love. As the Psalmist says, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:78). It’s amazing to me how God has designed us to experience a profound reality with Him that is beyond what we could ever dream. The depths of our souls connect with the depths of God’s heart in a rhythmic conversation, as He moves in and over us, ever shaping us into the people He has called us to be. Our soul in constant plummet sinks deeper and deeper into God. For from the roots grow the tree.

These are my thoughts as I travel to India very shortly. What a wonderful, exciting thought to be going on this adventure with God -- just Him and I -- without familiarities, comforts and distractions. I want to soak up all I can during this trip. I know the Lord has much to teach me, and I pray He will also use me for His glory. Things are finally wrapping up and the loose ends are being tied. God has graciously provided for every minutest detail – what a faithful, faithful God He is. I’m utterly undeserving of such love and mercy, yet He gives freely again and again. There are very few words to say except hallelujah!

The rain patters gently down outside my apartment window, and I’m finding it difficult to write. These days I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The fact that I’m finally going back to the place I love so much has me quite overwhelmed. My heart aches with joy and longing just thinking of all the beautiful children God has brought to the Children’s Home this year. I ache also for my “family” in India and the wonderful fellowship we will share together. Such a funny sensation to be waiting months and months for this and when it finally comes to be a jumbled mess. I’m sure I will be much much more emotional once my feet are actually walking through my village again!

Preparations for the trip have been overall smooth; I’m 98% packed and ready to go. The only things left to do are to add a few things to my luggage, print off my e-ticket for air travel and figure out which books to bring. :) Lord willing, I'll be boarding the plane in Sault Ste. Marie at 10:20 am, Monday. From there, Toronto to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Bangalore, Karnataka. Friends Raju and Joyce Mathew will be picking me up at the airport in Bangalore and taking me into their home for about 4 nights, where I will hopefully recover from jetlag and prepare for the final journey by train to the village in Tamil Nadu. Raju and Joyce are a wonderful missionary couple I met on my first trip to India. They run an amazing ministry called Accept, which is an AIDS clinic and orphanage. I had the privilege of spending time at Accept for 6 days and was so blessed! As the Lord leads, I will be visiting Accept for a few weeks in November. Ultimately all these plans are in the Lord’s hands and I hope to chronicle them in more detail as they play out.

Some prayer requests at this point:
·      an outpouring of God’s Spirit (His peace, presence and blessing) as my toes tingle on the doorstep
·      guidance, protection and safety during travel (that all connections would be made without hassle)
·      God’s power and blessing at the Children’s Home as the new school year has begun; strength and guidance for all the workers, especially the hostel wardens and for Jonathan, my teammate from Austria who has just arrived and is beginning his work with the children

Thank you all so much for your love and support on this journey. What a blessing to be part of the family of God! May the Lord Himself be with you all.
Love in Christ,

Friday, May 8, 2015

Renewed Purpose

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

These verses came to me unexpectedly in a postcard this week. What an encouraging message to receive at such a time. These past weeks and months preparing for India have been filled with much joy, encouragement and blessing, but more recently have been fraught with trials and temptations. This is the perfect reminder to me to keep on going, to continually walk forward in the freedom and confidence God intends for all His children. I’m so glad I’m His! Despite difficulties and even darkness on this trail, I'm victorious in Him; His light always breaks through. He is faithful!

God has been expanding my heart in many ways in preparation for India. One of the most humbling lessons is learning to approach India with my eyes and heart wide open. Even though India for me represents many lovely things – close friendships with beautiful people who have become like family members, the joy of holding precious children in my arms, burning sunsets that reveal the greatness of our God, praying and worshiping with on-fire believers, and experiencing the beauty of India’s brilliant culture – the reality is that India for many millions of people is a place of utter despair and suffering.

My friend Debbie lent me the documentary movie "Veil of Tears," and I watched it four times. After the first run through, it disturbed me so much I told myself I would never watch it again. But God gently guided me into a second watch, and a third. The fourth I was able to share it with a group of friends. What was it that caused me to be drawn back so many times? I suppose it was the desire to understand the stark, cold reality of what India is really like. My heart was pulled by invisible strings into the ache, the pain of those dwelling in the slums, the children eating out of the garbage, the young girls being sold into the sex trade, the women abused, abandoned and even killed by their husbands, the widows left to die on the side of the road … countless, countless lives overwhelmed by sorrow and shackled by an oppressive society. God’s heart is breaking for these people, and my heart must break too. He wants me to see these dear people on the other side of the world as real individuals, as souls who desperately need Him! Am I willing to see them this way? Am I willing to allow my own heart to ache for them? Furthermore, am I willing to allow God to show me how to respond

Growing up in North American culture, I've been taught by society that the purpose of life is to pursue whatever makes me happy. Of course, as a Christian, I know that this isn't what life is supposed to be. But I think such strong cultural influences subtly affect my thoughts and choices sometimes. God has really been challenging me to examine my life and recognize how much time I spend thinking about and pursuing things that will fulfill me. His Holy Spirit wants to correct and gently steer me in the opposite direction: the path of obedience to His word, the path of truly loving others above myself. The verse that comes to mind right now is: “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Our life with Christ is a calling to rise above the world, and indeed our selves, so that He alone can reign in us. And I believe one of the ways we can allow Him to reign is letting Him teach us how to love.

Jesus is the greatest example of love who ever lived. He is our source and guide. As I read the Scriptures more and more, especially the Gospels, I see a Man who never stopped loving people, who never stopped seeing the dire needs of those forgotten and discarded, and who responded to them with deep compassion. How can we not fall more in love with our Saviour when we see His tender affection for people? And how can we not desire to be more like Him in everything we do?

There are many needy, love-starved children awaiting me at the Children's Home in India. These are the children God is calling me to love. (Please let me interject here to say that although God is sending me to India for a time, this theme of loving others should take place wherever I am, whether on a missions field or at home -- I'm praying God will show me people through His eyes in whatever place I'm in.) Yet as preparations for this mission proceed, and as the time for departure draws near, I pray God will continue to prepare my heart for ministry with these precious children -- who are so loved by their Heavenly Father -- and that He would enable me to to say with greater willingness and joy: “For me to live is CHRIST.”

To close is a poem of surrender by Amy Carmichael, “Make Me Thy Fuel”:

“From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified),
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

While I Have Breath

"My delight is in You, Lord
On Your Word I set my heart
You are peace, You are calm for my restless soul
You light my way through the dark
I want to know You even more
Holiness is my desire
Purify, burn in me
Come and make me clean
You refine me in Your fire

Here I am, open arms 
Draw me close to Your heart
You're my life, You're my refuge
My delight is in You

My delight is in You, Lord
You're the treasure I have found
You're the rock where I stand 
I will not be moved
All my life is in Your hands 

Refiner's fire
My heart's one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord
I choose to be holy
Set apart for You, my Master
Ready to do Your will"

~ Christy Nockels 

Could we, Lord Jesus, as the children of Your heart, just press into You? Could we draw near with arms and hearts wide open, expectant to receive an abundance of mercy, joy and the tender embrace of our God? Could we happily leave behind our life, our dreams, our desires, and gaze on the wonder that is You? Could we bask in the glory of Your majesty, and feel the blood-bought Life, the victorious Life, coursing through our veins? Could we truly taste and see that the Lord is good? Could we appreciate Your beauty and grow in our understanding of its fullness? Could we perceive the depth of Your holiness and rightness more than ever before, and so loath our own sinfulness, all the while rejoicing in the riches of Your grace? Could we be still and know You, our God, who is seated above the heavens? Could we rest in our eternal security under Your wings and never again allow the smallest fear to dim our love and trust? Could we, as little lambs be protected and cared for by our Almighty Father? Could we, as sons and daughters rise to praise the name of our gracious King, and with humble hearts exalt You, Lord Jesus, for Your sovereignty and power? Could we allow ourselves to be bound to the altar daily and surrender ourselves exclusively to Your purposes and plans? Could we, by relenting, find ourselves refreshed in Your presence, Your Spirit flowing in us and through us moment by moment? Could we long for that rushing wind and those tongues of fire, desiring that Something that lifts us from ordinary into extraordinary? Could we be transformed by the renewing of our minds? Could we be altered from our present infantile state into maturity, our daily sustenance the meat of Your precious Word? Could we become a well-watered garden or a spring whose waters never fail? Could we really be new altogether? Lord, could we simply be Yours? For we breathe You in, God. You are the One we fear.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


During a time of reflection tonight with the Lord, I began imagining what it will be like to walk through the little village in Tamil Nadu again, to see the children's precious faces, to hear their infectious, boisterous laughter, to watch them romp and roam. Vivid images of the children appear in my mind's eye -- it’s as if I can touch them even now. How amazing to really be face to face, to really hold them in my arms!

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:4, NLT).

In the midst of hundreds of India photos on my computer, I stumbled upon some videos I had taken of the children during my 2011 trip. The moment their laughter pierced the speakers, my heart awakened to dear old memories. The sweet, childish voices chattering and bickering in Tamil instantly brought me back to that place.

Then comes a realization. This is what I’ve been waiting for, praying for, longing for: to be reunited with these beautiful, remarkable, inimitable Indian girls and boys, whose hearts will always be a part of mine! It’s been 4 years since being in India and it still moves me to tears to watch the children play, dance and sing on video. They are so lively and full of personality, like blossoms bursting in spring. How I love them! How I’ve missed them!

The little ones will no longer be little -- how sweet to see how they've grown. Many of the cheery faces to greet me will be unfamiliar ones, since new batches of children arrive at the Home each school year. Exciting to think of brand new possibilities, opportunities and relationships. I can't wait to see what God is going to do!

Sometimes it completely boggles my mind to think that I’m really traveling back to India to minister to these children. It humbles me and brings blessing beyond measure. God is so so good! All the praise and glory goes to Him always! He has been faithful in providing and I just want to continue trusting Him. Where He leads, by His grace, I will follow.

“All the way my Saviour leads me
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort
Here by faith in Him to dwell
For I know whatever befall me
JESUS doeth all things well!”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mission Minded

Today I was greatly encouraged by this beautiful little passage, Luke 5:1-11:

"On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on Him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' And Simon answered, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets.' And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they begun to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.' And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him."

Jesus' love and compassion for the people He ministered to is so evident. It says "the crowd was pressing in on Him" -- they were spiritually hungry, desperate, and with longing hearts -- and He immediately responded by teaching them. Jesus wanted to communicate truth because truth sets free. Jesus, who loved them, who perceived the fallen condition of their hearts, was sent "to proclaim liberty to the captives" (Luke 4:18). His healing and redemptive work began with words of life, words that sliced through their inner darkness. But He didn't stop there. He proved his credibility by demonstrating His power in a very real and tangible way. "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch" -- in other words, "Now that I've told you what I can do for you, step out in faith and take hold of it." Truth itself is meaningless unless apprehended. It is a call to action. I love Simon Peter's response: "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your word I will let down the nets." What a wonderful demonstration of faith! Peter took Jesus at His word, despite the fact that the fish weren't biting. The result was overwhelming blessing: a miraculous catch of fish that caused their nets to break! Isn't that just how our Lord Jesus works? We come to Him with a tiny seed of faith and He explodes all proportions with His love and faithfulness.

Oh how we need Him. And He wants us to need Him. The more we need Him, the more of Him we have. We press, we ask, we lean, we trust, we plead, and His mercy reaches us succinctly in our hour of need. Then we are "astonished." We wonder, "Can this be?" I can just picture Jesus laughing joyfully, saying, "Yes, yes My child, this is really true. This is really how I work. This is really how good I am. Oh, this is just the beginning! Come. Come with Me, and you will see greater things than these!"

Jesus sets us free from our past -- our sins, our failures, our feeble attempts at life, our banged-up fishing boats -- to live a radically glorious life in Him.

I for one, do not want to miss it! This theme is deeply personal. God has recently been tearing down strongholds and healing pain in my life. Scripture tells us to "hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). Jesus has shown me that the life He desires me to live is not at all connected with the things that had previously held me chained. Where His Spirit is, there is freedom. 

 I'm guessing but I think that this opportunity to return to India could not be more timely. As the Lord teaches me to walk forward in His freedom, He is literally taking me on a new journey. What a gracious and loving Heavenly Father He is.

Jesus' words, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men," is a wonderful affirmation of His leading on this mission. No longer stationary but propelled by His Spirit, He equips me -- weak and small though I am -- to do His will. I want to take this passage as my own, and see that miraculous catch of fish as the harvest of souls the Lord wants to reap in India. Not that this particular mission is singular in reaching that end, but I pray I can somehow be a part of God's work in rescuing these children, turning them from darkness to light and touching them with the love of Jesus. To Him be all the glory!

"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose" (Philippians 2:13).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fragments, Part Two

April 5 - Here I am now at Raju and Joyce's house. The journey has come full circle and I am back with them again. I forgot how lovely and elegant their house was. There are actually tiles on the floor and clean, unstained, painted walls! The guest room provided for me is beautiful, with a door opening unto the balcony. Now I am seeing that everything is different here in Bangalore. The area where the Mathews live is actually quiet! (Can you imagine? A quiet Indian street?!) The roads are paved in this neighbourhood. Not very many people, tall, modern buildings, sometimes a shack here and there. I cannot believe the richness of some of the houses ...

More goodness, more blessings. A delicious meal with Uncle Raju and Aunty Joyce: chicken curry, rice, dal and vegetables. We even had bananas and ice cream for dessert! (What extravagance!)

Already we met with some people, friends of Joyce. I talked to one young girl named Nisha. Her husband is far away in Abu Dhabi for one whole year. She has a young son and she's writing a final exam for a job. I'm praying for her.

Joyce also talked to me about Accept, the AIDS clinic run by the Mathews, which I will be visiting tomorrow. God is providing me with children again. What a joy! After a three-day rest in Pappanaikanpatty, I feel ready to "roll up my sleeves," in new work. How I miss my dear hostel children, that dear difficult work that required so much faith each day, but in the end was so rewarding ... Maybe it sounds strange, but I had not known there would be work for me to do in Bangalore too. I knew I would get to see Accept, but the way Joyce is talking, it sounds like I will actually be able to spend lots of time with the children. There are 20 orphans, all with HIV.

April 6 - The Accept compound is situated outside of Bangalore, down a rutted dirt road. It is a lovely place and reminded me a little of Dohnavur. Very clean and spacious with red-tiled roofs on the buildings. There are two main facilities: the clinic and the children's home. The clinic has a full staff of doctors and nurses. Patients stay for days or weeks, depending. Sometimes they die. Seeing some of the patients was heartbreaking. Immediately you can tell they are very sick with sallow cheeks, tightly drawn, paling skin, thin, frail limbs, bloodshot eyes. One teenage boy looked so sick he could barely walk, every step causing him pain. 

When I first met the children at the Home, I instantly realized they were not like normal children with their yellowed skin, sunken eyes, wispy hair. The children at the ---- Home were not like this. (I'm so glad those children were healthy!) And my heart breaks for these little ones, who cannot live as most children do ...

April 7 - These are the names of the wonderful orphan children at Accept: Rachel, Dia, Anushri, Mariya, Rageswari, Ramiya, Chandini, Angilee, Subramani, Kishore, Ramesh, Naveen, Amir, Sathish, Srinivas, Prakash, Kumar, Richard, Eshwargowda, Sharath and Rahul. 

One of the littlest girls, Anushri (age three), caught my attention almost immediately. She just stared up at me with big dark eyes and an impish grin. She always wants to be held and I am more than happy to scoop her up into my arms. I also noticed she constantly bites down on her bottom lip. Then I found out that she was breast-fed up until 3 months ago when her mother died of AIDS. She is still a little baby and sometimes seems to be lost and sad.

Subramani has the same birthday as me. He's about ten years old and looks healthier than the others. Very sweet, and he likes playing soccer and volleyball.

Prakash is a walking miracle. When Accept took him in he was close to death, but the Lord revived him. Now he is entirely full of joy and LIGHT in Jesus! It is amazing to see the faith of this young boy. I've never seen a frown or heard a cross word from him.

Kishore melts my heart as no other. I'm not sure what it is about him, but he is so special. He captured my heart from the very start with his sweet, unassuming ways and quiet confidence. He is extremely intelligent and looks much younger than his fourteen years. He has the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen ... light brown framed by long eyelashes, communicating sadness and hope and longing and the knowledge of one whose experienced life sorrowfully.

Right now the majority of the children are in the upstairs room here at the Home, watching superhero cartoons on TV. They get tired easily during the day and they like relaxing in front of the TV in the afternoon. It's a little difficult to write, but there is so much to tell that I have to write. The Lord is doing something incredible in my life. There is so much ... so much fullness, and He is changing me. I praise His name and want to give Him all the glory. He alone has filled me with overflowing love and joy!! The past few days with the children have been wonderful and I have come to love them so much already. The Lord brought me here at a perfect time.

Now as I go to sleep my mind and heart are filled with the treasures of the day: talking with Uncle Raju about the Lord, playing volleyball with the boys, listening to Richard's music on the keyboard, Amir and Ramesh laying their heads in my lap as we watched "Oceans," teasing Rhoda (she's from the local assembly and she helps at Accept), seeing Prakash's smiling face, so joyful because of Jesus. The overflowing love and joy today -- so incredible!

April 8 - There is a saying written on a plaque in the house here that says, "Rest a while and run a mile." This is a good reminder to me of how we should live our lives. First we must sit at Jesus' feet and then He will give us the strength to run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Isn't it a comfort to know that it's already marked out? God knows the future. I'm so glad He does!

"Delight in Me," the Lord says. The Christian life is not a task or duty. It is a life of love. The life of one head over heels in love with the Saviour.

Lord, here I am at Agape chapel for prayer meeting. Even though I am weary I know You are here with me. Today at Accept, You gave me strength when I had none. The children are wonderful. Especially the boys ... I really really love the boys. Thank You Lord for these children. It's amazing just to spend a few days with them. Oh help them right now. Flood them with Your joy and hope.

April 9 - The past few days have been so full -- spending the whole day at Accept with the children and then in the evenings accompanying Uncle and Aunty as they visit church members. I also help Aunty with dinner in the evenings.

Last night I talked with Uncle about India -- the corruption of government, the horrible darkness of Hinduisim, persecution of Christians in some places. People are doing awful things here - because of idolatry. It's overwhelming for my mind to comprehend all the things I've been seeing, hearing and doing the past few days.

The words of this song are a perfect reminder:

I've found a friend in Jesus
He's everything to me
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul
The Lily of the Valley
In Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole

In sorrow He's my comfort
In trouble He's my stay
He tells me every care on Him to roll
He's the Lily of the Valley
The Bright and Morning Star
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul

He all my grief has taken
And all my sorrows borne
In temptation He's my strong and mighty tower
I've all for Him forsaken
And all my idols torn
From my heart now and He keeps me by His power

Though all the world forsake me
And Satan tempt me sore
Through Jesus I shall safely reach the goal
He's the Lily of the Valley
The Bright and Morning Star
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul

He will never never leave me
Nor yet forsake me here
While I live by faith and do His blessed will
A wall of fire about me
I've nothing now to fear
With His manna He my hungry soul shall fill

When crowned at last in glory
I'll see His blessed face
Where rivers of delight shall ever roll
He's the Lily of the Valley
The Bright and Morning Star
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul

To delight in Him. That is all.

April 10 - Two days left in India. Soon I will be returning to a rich and bountiful land where most people have everything. India has taught me so much about being thankful. The children at ---- had none of these luxuries, only rice and curry every meal. Here in Bangalore, at the Mathew's house, there is so much food -- we eat fruit everyday! In Tamil Nadu, fruit and vaday were luxuries. I can't believe the richness even here in Bangalore, compared to the village. Yet Canada will be a hundred times more.

Let me write about a bit more about Bangalore city. Much of it is very modern. The people dress and look very different from our village. There are less saris and more chudidars, and even t-shirts and jeans! I've seen a few people from other countries too. Rhoda told me that many people are from Manipur (a Northeastern state in India) -- they look Tibetan or Chinese. There is a totally different sense to the city -- a roughness, a confusion, even an unfriendliness. It is busy and crowded; everyone on the streets, on the buses, in the autos and rickshaws have somewhere to be and don't care about anyone else.

The Christians here though are wonderful. I met a lovely young lady named Joanna. She's from the Northern state of Gujarat, but she's studying in Bangalore. Her accent is much different from the people of the South. I was also able to see Aunty Dorothi again -- she is such a sweet sweet person. And Rhoda of course ... it was so good to see her again! I met her mother finally. Her name is Pauline and is so sweet, with a beautiful, sunny personality. I liked her instantly. Rhoda's father Madhu is so friendly and kind, always making me laugh. It's nice that most of the people can speak English to me. Roshini, Rhoda's younger sister is wonderful too. When I first met her she was extremely shy and didn't talk much, but now that she's been coming with me to Accept we've gotten to know each other better.

April 11 - My last day in India. It will be a busy, full day. I'm going with Uncle one last time to Accept.

Today is full of ups and downs so far. Kishore, Prakash and Sharath were not feeling well. They did not have much energy for play. I found a chess set in the grocery store nearby Raju's house and bought it for the boys. Today I taught Richard how to play. Kishore, Rahul, Sharath and some of the other boys watched. Roshini was there too. We had a lot of fun with the chess set.

I'm reflecting on the past days at Accept where I felt so part of everything: teaching English rhymes and songs, helping with crafts, reading stories, and playing with the children. Today is the last day and I feel distant from everything, shadowed by the knowledge that things will go on whether I'm here or not. I pray I have made some difference ...

Oh India, when I am home, I will long for you!

April 12 - On the way home. The Lord has been so faithful in all His ways. My last day in India was beautiful beyond words. I was at Accept and the children were taking their afternoon nap so I went into the activity room and shut the door to be alone with God. My heart poured out to Him because I was feeling discouraged by leaving. I prayed for some kind of miracle and a few minutes later,  Shanthi teacher walked in (she's the lovely lady in charge of the children's ministry at Accept). From the first she had warmly welcomed me. She is so beautiful in the Lord, with a strong faith, bright cheerfulness and a deep love for the children. You can tell she just loves every moment being with them.

As we talked, she completely opened up to me and shared her heart. She told me how she had been crying earlier because I was leaving and I've been such a help to her. She spoke such lovely, encouraging words about God being with me as I return to Canada and how He alone will fulfill His wonderful purpose for me. She talked about how Jesus is coming soon and we cannot waste time. Every day must be lived for Him. She explained how God provided this ministry for her to work with children. Sometimes it's so difficult and she just cries out to God for help. Without prayer we cannot do anything.

Oh the kindness of our dear Heavenly Father, who knows our every need! What she said resonated so deeply within me. I was filled with tears of joy at the goodness of my God who graciously provided this Indian lady to speak to me at just the right time. We connected in such a beautiful way and I realized God had given me another Indian "mummy." She reminded me painfully of Sornakumari far away. After our conversation I was flooded with so much joy. And I began to understand that my time at Accept was no small thing, even though the time was short. Shanthi told me God sent me to help her at just the perfect time. I do not boast in myself. Only God could orchestrate such a thing. I am only His vessel. He does the work.

The last few hours with the children was precious and heartbreaking. It tore me up inside to have to say goodbye. At the Home in Tamil Nadu I spent nearly three months with the girls. At Accept I was only with them for a short time -- it broke my heart to let them go. Saying goodbye is so hard. The children are so wonderful, especially the boys.

God gave me a special love for Kishore. He's fourteen years old but he looks about ten. A beautiful, angelic face with long eyelashes surrounding his piercing eyes, and a sweet smile. I don't know why but whenever I think of this boy my heart just aches. There is something special about him. Just like Rengith. In the last hour with them I was taking a few more pictures (Uncle Raju let me borrow his camera because I forgot my camera in the village). I asked Kishore to get in a photo with Richard and Eshwar. As they stood there in the sun, Kishore's face suddenly turned away as his face crumpled into tears. Then he went away and sat in a corner. When I asked him what was wrong he wouldn't answer. After several minutes it dawned on me that he was crying because I was leaving ... There were knots in the pit of my stomach and my heart just broke for him. I shared some bible verses with him and told him I loved him, but he was still really sad.

A little later Uncle took a photo of all the children and I (quite unexpectedly) and then they gave me a card, with all their precious names written in it (also very unexpected). The tears came freely when I opened the card. It was too much for words -- so humble and sweet and unnecessary, but a token of their love. Only a week with them and so much love ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fragments, Part One

I sensed the need to write something tonight. This blog feels like an out-of-touch old friend. It's been a little more than a month since my return from India. I've been meaning to write for so long, but something always kept me away. Maybe it was hesitation or fear that I wouldn't have the perfect words. But now, perfect words or not, I'm going to write.

The last days at the Children's Home, my time spent with the Stephens in Pappanaikanpatty, and with the children at the Accept Home in Bangalore, still remains unwritten. I would like, by God's grace, to remedy that now. The best way I think, to capture that time, is to copy down snippets of journal entries. So here they are …

March 26 – I am writing by the light of a single candle in the darkness of my bedroom here at the house. There is no electricity on the compound right now. When I went to the hostel tonight, the rain was pouring down. I had to pull the loose end of my sari over my head and carry my bible in a bag close against me. It’s difficult walking on muddy, wet ground in a long dress! I spent some time with the girls and Mary Amma, as the Lord lead me. Selvi in ninth standard and I played a game. I shared a storybook with the children: A King is Born (Jesus’ birth). Then the girls ate supper in the semi-darkness. The only lights came from a few torches, and the frequent flashes of lightning.

March 27 – Yesterday when we drove to Vasudevanallur (where the ladies’ meeting was), I was looking out the car window in great delight. Everything was so beautiful. Sometimes we passed a forest of palm trees where as far as you looked there were trees, green grass growing in between them … and nothing else.

March 29 – This morning at the hostel with the girls was lovely. Today I braided Veera and Sangeetha’s hair as usual. Marimuthu, the little boy at the girls’ hostel, was standing close by, trying to tickle me and being so cute. I will miss so many things about this place. I will miss the red dirt roads. I will miss bending over Rahini to kiss her goodnight, her little fingers reaching up into my long hair. “Shampoo?” she says, as she smells it. So precious! I will miss the laughter of the girls as they splash each other during bathing time. I will miss their little voices calling, “Sister! Sister!” I will miss their beautiful eyes, chocolate brown skin and raven black hair. I will miss Mary Amma and her kind, mothering ways. I will miss serving rice with twelve-year old Benitha. I will miss Susheela’s jokes, Jothi’s smile, Gayathri’s shyness. I will miss Antony Amma’s sweet singing voice, her dancing … I will miss the palm trees, eating fresh coconut, riding in a rickshaw, sitting and talking with Florian, prayer times, tea times …

Today as we were in the bathing room, the girls suddenly pointed up at one of the towering palms outside the hostel wall and shouted, “Ceeli! Ceeli!” We looked up and there was a beautiful green parrot perched on one of the branches. It was so bright and delightful, with an orange streak near its beak. Then another one came, fluttering down beside it. After a few minutes they both flew away together and we watched their vivid green wings flash against that blue blue sky. Why did God have to send two parrots to us today? It was completely unnecessary. Yet it told us of His indescribable beauty and wisdom.

March 30 – There is LOVE between the girls and I. Every one, all one hundred of them, are so precious  … my heart is so full, and my God will continue to fill. He cannot leave me empty. The rains always come. During breakfast time I came and sat with the girls on the verandah while they were eating. Then they started to feed me! I must have eaten from ten different plates! I motioned to them that all that eating would make me fat, as a joke, and we laughed together.

God brought me to India. Now He’s taking me away again. I don’t know when I will come back. Only He knows. Everything points to my leaving. There is no chance at all for me to stay longer, so I know it's His will. My visa will expire soon and I cannot extend the visa. Four new helpers are coming to the Home. One of them, a young man named Edgar from Germany comes today actually. Florian and Paulsam are in Madurai right now picking him up at the airport. Paul Stephen is coming for me this Friday … There are so many needs that I’m leaving behind, and I can’t do anything about it. Today I gave Komuraj and Sandos, two of the hostel boys, each a tennis ball, with their names written on them, as God directed me. Then a whole gaggle of boys came eagerly to my door, asking for a ball also. I had to turn them away because I don’t have enough for all of them …

Rengith: the boy God gave me a special love for.
April 1 – Yesterday was such a difficult day – full of sorrows and joys. Now I feel emotionally drained. Saying goodbye to the children was so hard. So many tears … I don't have words. How I love them. How I will miss them

April 2 – Here I am in a brand new place, with village and the family far away. It doesn’t seem real yet that I’m really gone from there. It was my home for nearly three months. I miss it already … My mind is in a whirlwind. Right now it’s hard to write about anything and the pain of goodbye is so fresh. All I could think of last night was Rengith’s tears when he realized I was leaving. I will miss that precious little boy so much. There’s a picture in my mind that won’t go away – it’s of his face crumpling as he cried. I cannot hold him in my arms anymore. Please Lord, comfort him and sustain him. Just hold him … especially at night when he’s sleeping at the hostel …

This is Paul Stephen’s house. He graciously invited me to stay with him and his family for a few days (before continuing on to Bangalore). Paul Stephen is a friend of Appa and a brother in Christ. PS’s wife name is Debbie and they have a fifteen-year-old daughter, Joan. Their house is in a small village called Pappanaikanpatty, in Salem District. We are up on a hill, surrounded by mountains. The mountains are so close all around, I feel I could touch them. When I look down the steep hill at the edge of the property, there are paddy fields (now brown because the rice has been harvested), which are separated by little dirt paths. Hundreds of coconut and banana trees are growing here also. The paddy fields are built at different levels in the land, so it looks like steps. The house (called a bungalow) is very small, with a red-tiled roof. It has two rooms only, a kitchen and a living room / bedroom. The bathroom is a separate building outside.

The family is very kind. When Debbie saw me she took me into her arms and kissed me! This morning we prayed, sang a hymn and read from the Daily Light (in English!!) It almost brought me to tears – it was so good to fellowship with them and understand the language. I can scarcely believe my time at the ---- Home is over, but I’m so thankful to the Lord to be here in Salem. It’s much quieter than in the village. The breeze is so fresh. Now I’m sitting in the chapel building, which is just diagonal to the house. The door is wide open and the wind is rushing in. Far away I can hear bleating sheep. Earlier I saw a young woman and little girl winding down the dirt path under the banana trees. The little girl’s anklets were jingling as she walked and the woman was carrying a load of washing.

Uncle PS came up to me today as I was peeling shallots for Aunty Debbie. He had a book in his hand, the story of Evelyn “Granny” Brand. “I have a project for you,” he said. “Try to read this book in the three days you are here and give it back to me.” So I am reading the book. It tells the tale of a woman who was a missionary for sixty years here in India, in these very hills

This is Salem District. It was here Evelyn and her husband Jessie worked with the “hill people” on five mountain ranges, telling many of the gospel of Christ. Evelyn and Jessie married in India. On their wedding night they had to trek up the steep mountain path in the pouring rain. Her wedding dress was ruined …

April 4 – Here I am sitting on Granny Brand’s verandah at the mission outpost in the Pachai Mountains. Paul Stephen and Debbie are directly connected to Granny Brand’s work. Today they are cleaning the house because of an upcoming ministry to be held here. The house is almost hidden by overgrown trees and scrub brush. It is set upon a rocky hill, a quiet, solid place, overlooking a valley below. We drove up the mountains in a rented car. Up and up and steadily up, around sharp corners and hairpin turns, the mountains rising majestically on all sides.

So I'm sitting on the verandah steps. Uncle and Aunty are busy cleaning. Aunty is crouched in front of piles of dishes, which she washes and then lays out to dry on a rack in the sun. The bright, shiny tin cups and plates glimmer. Prabu, Uncle’s friend, and another man, are inside sweeping and tidying. The house smells of mildew; it is very old. I asked to help, but they will not let me. “Much better you sit somewhere and read,” Uncle said kindly. And since I brought Granny Brand’s biography with me, I have a chance to finish the “project” he gave me.

During the drive this morning, I talked on the phone to Appa, Amma, and Florian. Just hearing Amma's sweet, inquiring voice on the other end made my heart ache. They keep telling me they miss me and I miss them so much too! I have left my family behind …

This is a lovely place to sit – with little butterflies of all colours flitting through the sun-dappled leaves and branches of gnarled old jackfruit trees. There are dragonflies too, and breezy mountain air, and fushia-coloured roses on tough, twisting boughs. Dead leaves are scattered everywhere, curling fragments on patched stones. No sounds except the tins banging, the broom sweeping, birds singing and the occasional voice of Uncle or Aunty. There is a sign nailed to the wall of the building opposite the house, that reads in Tamil and English: Jesus is coming soon.

A man, a woman and a goat are crashing through the scrubby path below. Where are they going? Now they are hidden in the trees. A wind rushes in and there is a tinkle of cow bells. Oh, I could stay here for weeks. There is so much peace … no hustle of the sweaty crowd in S---, no incessant honking of motorcycles ... or worse, buses. Not even any voices running off in full-speed Tamil. Just quietness. Almost.

April 5 – On the way from Salem to Bangalore. Enjoyed a beautiful few days with Paul Stephen, Debbie and Joan. What Christlike kindness and love they showed during the short stay. I will miss their little house, and those lovely mountains. God graciously provided three days of rest. And now onto the last leg of the journey: Bangalore. Raju and Joyce Mathew. Raju at least will meet us at the station. It will be delightful to stay with them again. We are sitting on the train, even as I write. Debbie packed lunch for us in little foil boxes – so sweet of her. A man sat with us, a Hindu, and probably from a high caste. After he got off at the stop, I thought, “Why didn’t I tell him of Jesus?” My heart was suddenly burdened for this man, a man who didn’t even talk to us because he was on his laptop … yet he is a lost sheep. I pray for him.

Right now we are entering Bangalore. I couldn’t tell when we crossed over into Karnataka because the landscape wasn’t very much altered. But now there are great differences. I forgot Bangalore was such a huge city. Tall buildings you wouldn’t see in the farther south. Even Madurai was much more subdued than this booming metropolis. Just now we passed an outer city slum. Dirty little shacks pressed together with tarps for roofing. Garbage everywhere. How can this be possible next to clean, modern sky rises and beautiful domed cathedrals? Still there is God’s beauty – in the bright flowers and gathered trees …

More to come.