Sun setting over India.
Our time here is coming to a close. Time to say goodbye to everything messy and lovely in India, and all the wonderful people in-between.
It’s been such a crazy trip… as I just wrote to a friend:
“It truly feels like one of those life changing times. Things are changing, moving, I’m not going to be the same after this…”
We leave today from Chennai back to Mumbai. And then we have a late flight out of Mumbai at 12:30 AM back to Amsterdam! While our real-time visit is nearing it’s end – there are still so many stories, people, and dreams left to be shared with you.
Stay tuned-in to the blog the coming days (weeks even!) for more impressions from the journey.
As we head out the first bottle made it to us! Life Springs has started!
A visit to India is not complete without a ride on the train.
Crowded. People. Everywhere. No personal space. Everyone is together; There’s something magical about this.
The mass of people make their way to the platforms. Women pick the trash off the tracks until they hear the train’s approaching. People stand at the open door – ready to make their quick exit. The mass crowds onto the train car – inching their way to the nearest handhold.
As I took a few photos of my impressions – one boy stood up in the corner, raising his hand, and motioning that he wanted his photo to be taken. He might be hard to spot at first, as I’ve been left to a fixed lens on this trip and have no way of zooming-in to my subject… However the light gleams perfectly on his face – his eyes alit with wonder as he is the star of the show now.
I can be quite sensitive to taking pictures of people I don’t know – but I’ve found that many here are delighted to be the chosen subject of a complete stranger (well, perhaps white westerner with a big camera is more like it…) It’s quite special to have the opportunity to enter into people’s worlds and meet face-to-face for a moment in time through the lens.
As people exited one-by-one with each approaching stop, I made my way to an empty seat, which happened to be next to the family of the boy who wanted his photo taken. This Hindu family was a delight to meet. Their daughter having some form of disability, made me wonder how she, and the family as a whole, are looked upon by their surrounding community. As a Hindu, it is the belief that this disability was brought to them by some bad karma, most likely through the wrong doing of the parents. They are shamed and often parents choose to rid themselves of the disabled so as not to be ridiculed.
But this family was different. The mother lovingly looked after her daughter, wiping the drool forming around her mouth…they smiled and were grateful that I would pay attention to her. Commenting on her beautiful bangle bracelets and dress. They were delighted for me to take a picture of her too.
There’s something about being on the train that brings a closeness. Forced into each other’s spaces…friendly exchanges of smiles and attempts at speaking to try and understand through some common words – but mostly through catching eyes and getting glimpses into one another’s souls.
A couple days ago we had the opportunity to visit one of the most recent startups with BFO Life Springs – a water bottling business!
Freddy’s dream is to reach people with one of life’s basic needs: water. But he’s doing it differently. He wants to offer high quality purified and good tasting water at low cost. But his vision goes beyond the customer. He’s also employing people from the slums at a fair wage – the same slums where many of the children have been rescued and brought to their children’s home. It doesn’t end there. Proceeds from the profits go towards the orphanage! This is what BFO is all about.
It’s been exciting to see the process from start to finish. We were brought into the water bottling plant through the side door, as all the water plants have been shut down by the government over the last days for testing after a scandal had recently surfaced. We saw the product from start to finish: From borehole, to water tanks, through the sand filtering systems and reverse osmosis purification, mineral additive, cleaning of the recycled bottles, filling, and of course, the final touch of the cap and seal!
As of today – the good news broke that the water plants are allowed to re-open and tomorrow will be the first selling day for Life Springs at five different distributing locations!
Christian, James, and I rolled up our sleeves late this afternoon and labeled 500 bottles, made ready for filling! Maybe this is TMI but we were literally dripping with sweat after we finished. The heat has been intense this week – but I think we were all grateful to get dirty with our partners in this new business.
As I write this, at nearly one in the morning, James and Freddy are still out at the water plant – filling those 500 bottles to be ready for tomorrow’s selling!
The last visit to a children’s home on our whirlwind tour…
This orphanage was started by Freddy and Daisy more than 10 years ago – over 2000 children have come through their doors since they opened!
We only spent a few hours with these kids – bringing some cheer with bubbles, baseball, and stickers. The fun only lasts for a short time and then the reality starts to sink in again with the daily routines…
My heart got attached quickly. Especially to this little guy – Chandru. He was brought to the home from the slums just two years ago and has needed a lot of attention due to his rough beginnings – abandoned by his father, abused by his step-father, and used by his own grandmother as a ploy to beg for money on the streets. She would put alcohol in his milk causing him to sleep longer, subdued so as not to disturb opportunities for money making.
It wasn’t long before Chandru reached his arms up to me, knowing I wouldn’t resist his plea to be held. Once I picked him up, he wouldn’t let me put him down again… up the stairs, down the stairs, spinning in circles, a tug this way, a pull that way… he knew how to get himself around with me as his personal chariot.
As James put it to me yesterday – every bit of time we spend with these kids – if even for 15 minutes, we are showing them the love and attention that they long for. The fact that they now have a home and good care was once unthinkable in their circumstances, but these kids were meant to have one dad and one mom who love them… and hold them for hours.
Freddy and me on our way to set up a new BFO business.
Naomi immersed in her art and her surroundings
We were told today, that yesterday was the hottest day of the year.
Visiting the children’s home of Dr. Lalita.
All of these children are HIV positive.
I went home from this visit a wreck. Something about seeing children left me broken. It’s just not fair. It’s not the way it was meant to be. These children have been abandoned by their parents and left with terrible future prospects. No child should have to face such a world.
It gives some hope to know that there are people like Dr. Lalita who are taking them in – providing a home, a community, education, and needed care for a better life. But what about all the thousands, perhaps even millions of others? Who will care for them? Dr. Lalita is seventy-four. Who will follow in her footsteps after she’s gone?
We visited the new grounds for the children’s home Hope of Glory just outside Pune. Joy (pictured with James above) is the director of this orphanage. He shared with us the story of how they decided where to drill the borehole. They are surrounded by Hindu landowners, even a temple is being built within meters walk from their property. Hills can be seen just in the distance and are the home of an idol depicting the god of water.
The people in the area encouraged them to go and find favor with the god of water in order to successfully drill the borehole – but Joy refused. Instead, he told the children to pray. One of the kids even took a stone and laid it in the corner of the grounds – “This is where we will drill the borehole! This stone marks the spot!” Joy laughed, “Not even I have enough faith for this, but let’s do it – Let’s start drilling right where the stone has been laid.” Already within 80 feet – water bursted forth from the ground. He told them to keep drilling. At 150 feet – more water came out. He wanted more, even though he was told it was pointless to keep drilling – and at 250 feet the water kept pouring out the entire day. The people in the area were amazed by this.
We pray that this orphanage will be like a light on a hill that cannot be hidden. There are 33 million gods in India – but who is a God like ours who is a Father to the fatherless and sets the lonely in families. We have a God who is near to the lowly and forgotten of this earth.
Joy is a man who is set apart from many in the Indian culture. He doesn’t give in to bribes. He doesn’t cheat the system. And this is partly why the building and development of these new grounds go slowly. Yet he patiently waits, in order to go about things in a right way, standing against the corruption that so rampantly controls society. In the end it’s the destitute, the least of these who are most hurt by this broken system because they are unable to pay up to those who have the control.
Join us in prayer as we ask for more provision for Joy. He desires to buy more land in order to move his family to live in front of the orphanage’s property and for all the building regulations to be approved in God’s perfect timing.
It is people like Joy, a man who is full of integrity, that BFO is looking to partner with in their work to bring transformation to the lowest of society.
Riding with Freddy on the back of a motor cycle through Chennai – Adventure Time!
The team has arrived in Chennai
We made it to Chennai! It’s only a little bit hotter then Pune.
Asha warmed herself immediately to my heart when she started telling me jokes. “I’m full of jokes… Want to hear another one?” And again… “Want to hear another one?” And again and again… I was a captive audience. I couldn’t move as my arm was a blank canvas for Rebecca’s Henna paint. Then Asha started rattling off verses she had memorized word for word… “I’m full of verses” – “I’m full of stories” – “I have so many testimonies of God working” … “God spared my life 4 times!” …
Just yesterday she had been swimming deep down in the pool – she had stayed below for too long but someone noticed she had been gone missing and dove down in after her…”if He would spare my life four times I know He has a great plan for my life…”
What if we all had this mindset? This kind of confidence that God has a great plan for our lives? Asha was rescued from the slums in Pune when she was only three-years-old, just after her mother had died of AIDS. Asha cried for three days straight after she was brought to the children’s home …”but I don’t cry anymore – There is never a reason to cry because God is always good – He always hears when I call to Him. Even if He didn’t answer me, I will keep praising Him for He is good!” This now 10-year-old orphan girl is preaching it! I’m humbled as she speaks. Perhaps her words seems cliche or like empty phrases, but I believe she’s speaking from her heart. She’s experienced His redeeming hand as real and active in her life.
Asha is a living example of the beautiful things happening through Good Shepherd Homes in Pune. These children are the fruit of all the time, money, investment of those who work with GSH – the houseparents, the director (like Binu himself), and the people who invest time and money into these homes so they can continue. Business for Orphans wants to sustain this work through businesses.
Asha’s dream is to become a teacher one day – she wants to rescue more children from living on the streets. Her dream is to do for other children what she herself has experienced through GSH.
Before I left she asked that I would pray for her. Her request for prayer was for God to give her friends at school. How this breaks my heart! Such a beautiful and bright girl has such a deep need for intimacy – for friendship – just like we all do! Sometimes it’s easy to just think of orphans’ needs as basic bodily needs – clean water, food, education… but one of the deepest human needs is relationship.
This is just one of the reasons that I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to meet these children face-to-face. I’m thankful that I could be Asha’s friend for the day and laugh at her silly jokes.
This picture doesn’t quite do justice – Dr. Lalita is one of the most inspiring and radiant women I have ever met. She’s worked alongside the world’s most destitute and ostracized people in the world – children and prostitutes with HIV and AIDS as well as focusing her attention to the transvestite community of the red light district of Pune. She’s full of stories, full of life, heart full to the brim and overflowing – I feel so blessed to have met her today. There is much left to share, but one thing she asked for us to pray I leave with you now:
“Pray for miracles – pray that the children in our home will be healed of HIV…”
Her life is a living testimony of one of my favorite verses:
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a well-watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Binu, Christian and James meet to discuss one of the current business plans BFO supports as a means to earn a sustainable income for the children’s homes Binu oversees with Good Shepherd Homes. A lot can happen over a cup of coffee – great progress was made today!
Binu, James and Naomi – Picture time!
Rebecca is one of the girls living at Good Shepherd Homes. She taught herself how to do Henna – she draws and then creates her own Henna designs! It was so beautiful to watch this intricate design unfolding – she was so concentrated and focused for hours. It was an honor to sit with her and just be with her as she demonstrated her ability to me. The girls crowded around as she worked. We talked about girly things – like our desires to be married one day…
Now I wear the mark of her art.
Christian and James at one of the boys homes with Good Shepherd Home in Pune yesterday.
Yesterday we had the privilege to attend a ceremony celebrating the engagement of this new couple. Joshua was one of the first kids at Good Shepherd Homes – one of the children’s homes supported through BFO.
So why are we in India? (You may be asking yourself) … or who is ‘Business for Orphans’ anyway? The short version of the story goes like this:
It all started a few years back when Streams of Mercy invited James to go on a trip to India for the first time… He and the team wanted to do something nice, so he took a bus load of street kids to a water park for a day – half of these kids on the streets had formerly lived in an orphanage – fed daily, with a place to sleep, and a school to attend… but it all ended when the funding ran out. The kids went back on the streets.
Encountering those kids that day, meeting them face to face, knowing their names… James could no longer return to his hotel room comfortably that night.
Poverty is no longer an elusive word once you meet a living breathing human being, not too different from you or me. Not too different from your own children who also need loving care, community, a place to learn and grow and become who they were made to be.
Business for Orphans was birthed out of a desire to see that these kids would stay off the streets – for good. James and Shannon came alongside those involved in caring for these orphans – whose desire is to see these children thriving – and provide sustainable means for them to continue in the work that they do through starting small businesses.
The ideas come from the people and are run by the people. We just provide the means to put these ideas into reality.
Christian and I are along for the ride because we’re excited about what they do. We want to see what’s going on – meet the people involved – the orphanage directors, the children – and see how we can be a part of the journey with them.
My First Henna experience
On the Road Mumbai => Pune
Early layover in LOH – The journey has begun.
First leg of the flight – AMS => LOH