Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Journey's End

I'm blogging from the house of our friends Sylvie and Soumya in Hyderabad, where we arrived this morning after spending the night in the sleeper car of the train from Rajahmundry. We had to be at the station in the evening to catch our train, so I was unable to blog last night. Only a day and a half left! Our flight out of Hyderabad and back to the States leaves at 6:45 on Thursday morning. That leaves us with only today and all of tomorrow! I just can't believe this journey is over so soon!

Yesterday was our final day with the Rajahmundry boys, and I think we made the most of it. We spent almost the entire day at Angel Home praying, playing and saying goodbye. After lunch, while the boys were still at school, Ingrid and I took the time to pray over the interior of and grounds around Angel Home, asking for God's protection and blessings over the work that Solomon and Bethania are doing in His name in Rajahmundry. When this work was done, we greeted the boys as they returned home from school at 4:00.
After an intense two games of Kabaddi and some storytelling from Ingrid, we went out and brought the boys ice cream. They were pretty happy about this; ice cream is a rare treat for them!
On top of the ice cream, I also prepared some campfire popcorn that I had brought from the US. Everyone enjoyed it, including me! Oh popcorn... I miss it so. Only two more days!

We spent our last hour with the boys dancing and singing. I gave a short, farewell Bible lesson from Philippians 1:3-11, and then we prayed:
We took the time to pray for all the boys individually. It was exhausting, exhilarating and humbling; I doubt that Ingrid and I are capable of giving back to these boys even half of the love that we receive from them. Thankfully God more than makes up for our insufficiency, and as we prayed His love and blessings upon these children it was as if I could feel them being filled, like the feeling you get when you touch the outside of a jar as water rushes inside; vibrations of the Holy Spirit within and without!

We also prayed for the Bethania staff, and this is where God really stepped up and did some powerful things. Two of the women who serve as housemaids at Angel Home, Ramana and Lakshmi, are firmly rooted in their Hindu faith. Yet they came not just for a single helping of prayer, but for two! We repeatedly prayed the name of Jesus Christ over them, asking Him to make Himself known to them in ways that they could not imagine, to call them out of their idolatry with His love, to plant the root of faith in their hearts and let it grow. Please join us in praying daily for these two women. Pray that they would find the Truth and hold fast to love and grace of their Savior, that they might "forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!" (Philippians 3:13-4)

To conclude this final blog post, let me write out the farewell verse that we shared with the Bethania Kids. As I mentioned before, this passage is found in Philippians 1:3-11.

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God!"

Thank you all for your prayers and support over the last six weeks. In praying for us and encouraging us, you have indeed been our partners in the gospel. As we say goodbye to our friends in India, we look forward to again being reunited with our friends and families back home the United States. In the meantime we "yearn for you all (both at home and in India) with the affection of Christ Jesus" such as we can with hearts deficient in love, yet saved and sanctified for the work of Christ. As our love is never enough, we pray that "your love may abound more and more," and that it would be love filled with "knowledge and all discernment;" not simply a mindless, flattering, selfish love, but a love that is like the love of Christ, knowing all and yet loving all, all the same. We also pray for the fruit of the body of Christ in America and India, that fruit would be produced and produced abundantly for the harvest of the kingdom.

And lastly, all glory and praise be to the God of our salvation who has blessed our journey thus far, and in whom we trust to bring us safely home.

In Christ,
Max

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prayers for India

Today Ingrid and I helped to lead a young adult group at Solomon's local church. We invited the attendees, mostly college students like us, to divide into two groups to come up with a list of prayer requests for the youth in the United States. These prayer requests reflect needs in churches throughout India, and provide for us in the United States a meaningful way to pray for Christ's body in India. I hope that by working through this prayer list, compiled by thoughtful, God-seeking youth in South India who are well acquainted with the issues facing their nation and their faith, you will find greater solidarity in the worldwide body of Christ; the church which is at work in different and dynamic ways across oceans and continents.

This first prayer list comes from the boys:

1. Please pray for the protection of Indian churches from the anti-Christian groups that are sprouting out throughout India. These groups are moving to attack the Indian church politically and physically.

2. Pray for better church constructions, both in terms of the physical church building and the infrastructure of the church management. Many churches in India are very disorganized.

3. A significant issue in India is the keeping of the sabbath. Most Indian schools and workplaces do not close on Sundays, preventing many (particularly men) from being able to attend church without endangering their family's livelihoods or their grades. Pray that Christians in India have the courage to be counter-cultural and maintain sabbath worship, but also that their culture will grant them the right to abstain from work for the sake of church on Sundays.

4. Pray that basic needs in the church will be met: electricity, plumbing, roofing and bathrooms.

5. Pray that the people of India will worship in truth and humility, but not for "their name's sake."

6. Pray for the end of idolatry in India.

7. Pray for more musicians. This is a severe need in India. Truly skilled musicians and worship leaders are few and far between in the Indian Church.

8. Pray for the distribution of the Bible in India.

9. Pray for the end of corruption in Indian churches, government and society.

10. Pray that the church and all Christian communities would be concerned for the environment, and seek to bring an end to the severe pollution that plagues India.

11. Pray for the end of caste imbalance and discrimination towards backward groups.

This second list was compiled by the girls, and carries a much different tone. Their first prayer request struck me as being particularly graceful and timely.

1. Pray for Christian fathers, that they would serve their families whole-heartedly and not for the sake of the world or themselves.

2. Pray that the youth of India would grow in the love of Christ.

3. Pray that the church in India would be without involvement in politics.

4. Pray that India would be transformed from a Hindu to a Christian nation. (Yes, yes, yes!)

5. Pray that the poor would receive the means to construct their churches.

6. Pray for the missionaries who serve the poor in India; missionaries who live without basic needs, and who are often in danger.

7. Pray that the Bible would translated into all of India's one thousand, six hundred languages.

8. Pray that the Gospel would be heard all over the country, throughout Indian society, and by India's political leaders.

9. Pray for the people who are trapped in floods, and those who are trapped in droughts.

That's a lot to pray for!

Remember that one day there will be "a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10) The day will come when we will stand with the global church, united under the banner of the Lamb who saved us all, praising Him as one body into eternity. This church began adding to its number in the 1st century AD, and continues to do so more than 2000 years later. What a glorious body it will be! Let's get a taste of that unity now, as we gather in the name of Jesus Christ to pray for the needs of His churches scattered throughout the nations.

God bless, and keep praying!
Max

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Doing Work

Today has been a mix of work and play. This morning Solomon had us all in the garden behind his house to prune his fig tree and to plant new poles for clotheslines. Two of the older Angel Home boys, Prasad and Abishek, cemented the poles while the rest of us helped to drag away the pruned tree branches.
It felt good to be doing some manual labor for a change; you get a different sense of the phrase "a job well done" when the work's been done by the strength of your own real muscle and bone, as opposed to studying a book or writing a paper (strenuous mental activities). Study and labor are both types of work, and both have their benefits. But there's been a deficit of physical work in my life lately. I see people all over India farming the land and constructing new buildings, but I'm almost never invited to participate. When I was asked to help this morning, I seized the opportunity.

We went to see the boys at noon, and they too were hard at work on a more delicate task: shaving dry palm leaves. The shavings are roped together to make brooms. The boys were delighted to teach us their technique, and with a little practice Ingrid and I became expert palm-shavers. The tools of the trade certainly help; we sat on footstools which were fitted with a large, sharp blade. The shaver straddles the blade, and slides palm leaves up and away from himself, against the edge of the blade. In this picture Kumar helps me to get the hang of it:
The end result is a slender, fiber-like shaving. When you've made several hundred of these, you've got your broom! There's a lot of palm leaf left over, but it's not wasted. Naveen used it for a nap!
Ingrid and I spent more than an hour doing this work in the shade of the goa trees in the front of Angel Home. We joked around with the boys while we were at it. We were poked and whipped with palm leaves, and sometimes even with the knives in our stools!

The boys have been begging for cricket ever since our return to Rajahmundry, and today we finally obliged them. I had a horrendous day batting-wise, but everyone enjoyed the two games we played in the hot afternoon sun. In the evening we came back to Solomon's home, where we assisted him in some of his Bethania paperwork, took pictures of the boys for his records and enjoyed some no-bake oat cookies that Ingrid and Smiley made themselves while we were playing cricket! Delicious! All in all, it's been a productive and rewarding Saturday for everyone!

Before I sign off I'd like to share another thought with you. I've been in the book of Romans since Kodaikanal, and today I began chapter 10 of Paul's big letter. Verses 14-17 particularly stood out to me this morning:

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For the Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ. - Romans 10:14-17

This passage occurs in the midst of the tenth chapter's discussion of salvation. It's important here to follow Paul's train of thought, organized through a series of rhetorical questions: to call on Christ to save us, we need belief. To believe in Christ, we need to hear His Gospel. To hear the Gospel, we need someone to speak it to us. In order to speak the Gospel, the speaker must himself be a recipient of the Gospel he shares - he must be called and consequently sent. The one who is called to speak will have beautiful feet: fast feet, urgent feet, which carry the good news far and fast. But hearing is not enough: "not all have obeyed the Gospel." That is the Holy Spirit's work; the "calling." Nevertheless: "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ." People come to a saving knowledge of Christ only if they have heard the Gospel of Jesus. This implies that they can't figure it out on their own. They must see it in the Word with their own eyes, or have it spoken to them. For me this has been the most driving truth I have found in this passage.

What's keeping us from sharing the Gospel more than we do? How about simply speaking it? Why don't we make a habit of reading Christ's story aloud, of setting the sacred words free from our mouths and into the air? Who knows who might be listening? I'm going to try making a discipline of speaking the Gospel aloud to myself or (ideally) to others at least once a day. The Word needs to be heard, and it can only be heard if it is spoken frequently and earnestly from a heart of belief. The bottom line: we as God's people must do the work of evangelism, and do it by His grace and for His glory, not our own.

And how about those beautiful feet that carry the message? Let's pray for feet like that! For feet that take us places, to people that who haven't heard the Gospel and even to those who need to hear it again. For feet that are swift, that don't waste time but make the most of the life that's been given to them. For feet that are beautiful because they are in the service of the Lord of Heaven, and are learning to move in His graceful shoes.

In Christ,
Max

Friday, July 8, 2011

Helplessness and Hopelessness

Back in Rajahmundry at last, and I'm so happy to find myself under Solomon's roof! Last night we were treated to delicious dinner of chapati and mango, slept a full ten hours and awoke to a breakfast of French toast with even more mango! We are well rested and stuffed.

I can't think of much else to blog about, so let me take some time to try sharing some of my own recent struggles.

My time in Kodaikanal was more difficult than I had anticipated. I was living at Bethel Home with the boys, so I was frequently exhausted with play and attention. The climate in Kodai was cool, but also dreary, with frequent clouds and rain. I struggled to stay healthy, and by the end of our visit I had a fever, chills and frequent stomach pains.

But what affected me most of all was the realization that there is an unchangeable pattern of suffering in this world. I was driving through dark, wet mountains into dark, wet villages swamped with poverty, disease and depression. In these places I would watch Christ-hearted servants like Paramadas share truth of Christ with joyful abandon, pulling smiles from listless faces and enlivening slack limbs. I would be given the opportunity to speak with these missionaries, sharing stories, a song or two, praying the prayer...

And this is where I became caught. What to pray? How can I make a prayer meaningful for this people, when I see these same problems everywhere? "Lord, please reach the people of this village... reveal Your truth to them... reveal Your love to them... heal them..." We'd travel to the next village. "Lord, please reach this people... Reveal Your love, Your truth, Your healing..." And again. And again. The same problems. The same prayers. And no change that I could see with my eyes. Only grey skies, sad faces, children with running noses and mud on their clothes. And a small, frail hope that God was doing something.

At last words failed me, and I found myself unable to pray as I was accustomed. I could only say, "Lord, my words fail me before all of this evil, and I can do nothing but beg you to intervene here." And that was it. "Words fail me; do what You must." "I don't know what to say, but You do." "Lord, here we are again. HELP!"

During my time in Kodaikanal I began a study in the book of Romans. In Romans 3:10-18, Paul outlines the extent of human depravity:

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Depressing stuff. But there it is, and the rest all follows: "No one understands, no one seeks God." Therefore idols, therefore worthlessness, therefore mouths that lead to the grave, therefore deception, therefore violence, therefore ruin, therefore misery through sickness and plague, therefore restlessness, therefore audacity: "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

This is why I don't know how to pray. This is why I can't fathom what God is doing. This is why when I see human suffering in India I wish myself back in the States, away from all of this so I can lock myself in my personal castle of gilded things and forget that men and women suffer at all. Because when I am not remembering to live by the Grace I have been given, when I am consumed by the sadness of circumstances that can be traced to my own sin nature, I am left to enjoy nothing but myself. And that's not much to enjoy. Selfishness will never lead to happiness.

I hope I'm making sense. All this to say I have realized that if I do not return in my heart to the Grace of God daily, even hourly, and if I do not keep in mind that "the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18), I will go insane. That's strong language, but it's true. In the face of the suffering here in India, and with a proper understanding of what I am guilty of, I would go mad if it were not for the love of Christ and the work He does in me by His Grace to make me a jar of clay for His purposes.

Purpose: you can only find it in Christ. If you look for fulfillment in anything else, you may attain the world, but at the top you'll find yourself still hungry, and still hopeless. In an impoverished country like India it's easier to see how meaningless the life outside of Christ really is, because people are suffering and dying all over the place. During our afternoon in Kannivadi a man was found dead in the hills behind our guesthouse. He had been a poor laborer who had gone scavenging among the rocks, had fallen and lamed himself, and been unable to crawl out of the hills before he died of thirst in the blazing sun. I didn't see the body, but Joseph, our host, told me about it.

Life ends in a moment. How can we possibly derive meaning from this single mortality? Only in Christ, for Christ, through Christ. Amen.

I hope this post doesn't scare anyone. Or maybe I shouldn't hope that. Maybe we need to be scared out of our meaningless lives by the knowledge that we are making it meaningless by our own abstinence from the Grace Christ has offered us. The words of Ecclesiastes come back to me again and again: "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" Redundancies of hopelessness. But then we see the light at the end of the tunnel: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

In Christ alone our hope is found.
Max

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kannivadi

Ingrid and I are spending our last night in Tamil Nadu at the Bethania home in Kannivadi, where the old lead the young:
Seriously, Muniyappan (the boy on the left) is a fantastic leader. Kannivadi is organized so that the elder children instruct and discipline their younger "siblings." The system works beautifully, allowing the older kids to come into their own as adults and leaders, while the younger children benefit from their elders' experience, charisma and general coolness. And Muniyappan is cool... so cool that he almost broke my totally uncool hand while we were playing cricket today.

The town of Kannivadi exists on the plains of Tamil Nadu, on the fringes of the Eastern Ghats. It's very small, with a few old concrete buildings surrounded by huts made out of palm branches and mud-brick. The hills surrounding Kannivadi are beautiful, and famous for an abundant population of wild peacocks.
They've been making noise all day with their shrill, cat-like cries. But around 5:00 this afternoon we saw something that neither of us have ever seen before: a peacock dance! Four males appeared on the rocky slope of the hills immediately behind the compound and began spreading their tails in the air, shivering and slowly rotating around the rocks. The displays were striking, and I think the peahens were very impressed.

After arriving in Kannivadi before 10:00 this morning, we played cricket with the staff, ate lunch and slept. After the nap we climbed into the Bethania bus and went to pick up all 35 kids from their schools.
They drive this bus without closing any of the doors or windows. No problem. This is India. You just take things as they come, which in this case meant dodging every tree limb, thorn bush or vine that entered the vehicle from the edge of the dirt road into Kannivadi. The kids also have no problem hanging most of their bodies out of the doors or windows to catch the breeze. Like I said, this is India.

Following a snack after school we played the obligatory cricket game, and then let the kids show us many of the animals around the Bethania compound. Bethania in Kannivadi is one of our most well-developed homes, with its own fields, orchards and livestock. It even has its own domed chapel which, as Ingrid says, evokes memories of the Pantheon in Rome (Oh Ingrid...). Allusions to the Roman Empire aside, Priscilla (the administrator of this particular home) has developed her compound into a sizable establishment that is capable of sustaining its own growth in many ways. Solomon intends for the new Narendrapuram complex to provide for itself as well through raising livestock and cultivating fruit trees, among other things.

Dinner is approaching, so I'd better wrap up this post. Tomorrow Ingrid and I leave Kannivadi at 5 am (ouch!) to make the two hour drive to the Madurai airport for our 8:40 flight to Chennai. In Chennai we'll switch airlines and then zip back to Rajahmundry. I can't wait! Returning to Rajahmundry always feels like a homecoming to me.

We'll be getting our sleep early tonight. Pray for safe travels for us tomorrow, and for a productive final week in Rajahmundry.

In Christ,
Max

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Arulmozhi

Hello everyone!

I meant to bring this incredible story to the blog while I was still in Kodaikanal, but I didn't have the time or computer equipment to do it. Now that I can sit down for more than an hour to write I hope that, with the Lord's complete help, I've been able to do it justice.

This isn't the easiest story to read. Many of its moments fill me with disgust and anger. Nevertheless God has made it a redemptive story, and His sovereign Hand is evident in the power of the blessings that He has purposed in Arulmozhi's and Papitha's suffering.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28

---

Arulmozhi (pronounced "Aroo-molee") was born in the village of Cuddalore on the coast of Tamil Nadu. Cuddalore is a fishing village that was impacted by the 2004 tsunami. Fortunately Arulmozhi and her little sister Papitha were relatively unaffected by the disaster; but their troubles were of a different kind.

Arulmozhi's mother left her when Arulmozhi was very young to marry another man; her mother's fifth "husband," though she had never in her life been properly married. Her mother disowned her daughters to run off with this new man, and Arulmozhi was sent to live with her grandmother, who was too old to work or give adequate care. In fact Arulmozhi became almost entirely responsible for the survival of herself, her sister and her grandmother. At the time she was only 9 years old.

Working as a "rag-picker," Arulmozhi was paid for the trash she would collect on the streets for about 5-10 rupees per day (less than 25 cents). When she could not make enough money collecting trash, Arulmozhi would sneak into Hindu temples to steal the milk, eggs and rice offered to the idols and temple snakes. She would also steal from the blind beggars who couldn't catch her when she made off with their few coins. Sometimes Aulmozhi would collect liquor bottles thrown in the street simply to sip the leftover alcohol. But she rarely kept what she found to herself. Most of the food she obtained she would carry off to her grandmother and sister, and the three of them would divide it between themselves. The food was usually rotten and covered in dirt.

Arulmozhi's mother had many lovers. One of these had sent his own son, Kishore, to live in the Bethel Boys home in Kodaikanal, and told Arulmozhi's mother about Bethania's Shalom Home, where servant-hearted Josephine looked after 19 tsunami-affected girls (since its founding shortly after the tsunami, Shalom Home has grown to support 35 girls!). Arulmozhi's mother wouldn't bother about her children, and was even unwilling to admit that she was their mother. So Kishore's father brought Arulmozhi and Papitha to Shalom Home himself and left them in Josephine's care.

At first Arulmozhi struggled to adjust to her new life, and had a number of behavioral problems; she would bully the other girls and frequently use foul language. She also refused to eat her food, to clean herself and to engage in daily prayers. Arulmozhi struggled in school as well. She had no understanding of the alphabet, was unable to read, write, or do simple math problems. As a result she was demoted from 4th grade to 1st grade.

Nevertheless, God accomplished His gracious work. Arulmozhi began to excel in school, and was promoted back to the 4th grade after only one year. Her behavior also improved, and Arulmozhi, now 14 years old, is a leader and role model for the younger girls. She has become a born again Christian, and she shares her love of God and His Word with anyone willing to listen.

In 2007 Arulmozhi heard the tragic story of a German missionary, Graham Stein, who had been serving lepers in the North-Indian province of Orissa. Stein was driving home with his two sons when Hindu terrorists accosted their car, doused it in oil and set it on fire. As she listened to this story, Arulmozhi felt the Spirit moving her to action. Arulmozhi can now say with confidence that she has felt the call to serve as a missionary to Orissa, one of the most impoverished and dangerous states in India.

But how can she be so sure? Because Arulmozhi has had this calling confirmed for her in an incredible way.

This past month many Bethania children were given the opportunity to take a short, two-week trip home before school resumed. Arulmozhi and Papitha shared a desire to visit their mother, even though she had ignored them for most of their life. On invitation their mother came, took them down the mountain to their old home... and promptly left them in the care of her neighbor while she ran off to who-knows-where.

This man forced the girls to work daily on his cashew farm. For more than two weeks, Arulmozhi and Papitha were made to climb cashew trees and pick nuts. In the morning they would harvest the cashews, and in the afternoon they made the three-hour walk to sell the nuts in a town miles away across the plains. The nuts they sold were sent to retail factories and packaged for wholesale.

For their work, the sisters were served a breakfast of leftover rice. There was no lunch or dinner. Aside from working with the cashews, Arulmozhi and Papitha were forced to do other menial chores around the house. This included anything from washing the clothes to cleaning human excrement off the floor with their bare hands.

After fifteen days of slavery, Arulmozhi decided that she could not live this way anymore. So she set out for a telephone booth with the intention of calling her mother. She wanted to go back to Kodaikanal, to be where she was loved. But on the way to the phone her neighbor caught her. He grabbed her by the hair, threw her down on the road and kicked Arulmozhi repeatedly in the chest. When this abuse was finished, and Arulmozhi found herself back under her neighbor's roof, she despaired. She got some rope and prepared to hang herself.

But as she was about to place the rope around her neck, Arulmozhi saw "in front of me and in my heart" the words: "Whom will I send to Orissa?" At that moment Arulmozhi was reminded of her calling, of the life that God had planned for her to live, of the hope she had in a destiny that was not ruled by suffering, but by a God who loved her more than she could understand.

Arulmoshi threw away the rope, and tried again to call for help with prayerful determination. This time she took her sister and made for phone-booth. But instead of calling her mother, she called the one person she knew would not fail her or leave her forgotten: Josephine.

Josephine got the call while in church, and immediately set out down the mountain to retrieve her lost daughter. Arulmozhi has been back at Shalom Home for the past 3 weeks, and is so happy! She is thankful to the Lord for delivering her not just once, but again and again. As she says, her testimony keeps getting better and better!
Her favorite Bible verse is drawn from Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2:

The Lord raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and on them He has set the world. - 1 Samuel 2:8

Hope this story has captured your hearts with the power of God's faithfulness and love. God bless!

Max

Monday, July 4, 2011

Kodaikanal in Pictures

Ingrid and I said goodbye to Kodaikanal this morning. Now in back on the plains in Oddanchatram, I can at last access a reasonably speedy source of internet. Rather than trying to describe all of our experiences in the mountains, I thought I'd upload a bunch of pictures. Because, you know, a picture's worth a thousand words.

First, the Bethel Boys Home, where I've been living for the past ten days. This little red cottage is home to 35 boys gathered slums in from Kodaikanal and the surrounding tribal villages. The caretaker of Bethel Home is named Ruby, and her house fits her name perfectly!
And here are some pictures of the Bethel boys:
And now for some pictures from the girls of Shalom Home. Shalom Home serves 35 crazy girls between the ages of 8 and 16, and they were not camera-shy!
Ingrid gives the girls a keyboard demonstration.
Incidentally, everyone was so impressed with Ingrid's keyboard skills that they asked her to play hymns in church on Sunday while I sang along... solo. It was what it was.
And now for some pictures of the Bethania creches. Bethania's five Kodaikanal creches provide care and a preschool education for the toddlers of impoverished dalits living in the Kodai area. By taking care of their kids, Bethania enables the impoverished mothers to work and earn bread for their families. The children also learn a little English, memorize Bible verses and songs, get fed a healthy lunch and become introduced to the love of Christ. Here they are singing Father Abraham:
Yeah, these kids are adorable. This little gremlin's name is Abishek, and he likes making faces.
Abishek says, "HELLOOOOO?"

And now for some images of the beautiful Kodai countryside, and its wildlife. Here's a picture of the hills above the village of Mannavanur.
This view always reminds me of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia (near and dear to my heart). Since this seems to me to be a little piece of Virginia in India, I call this place Virgindia.

Kodai is also known for its wild bison, which are enormous, ill-tempered, and responsible for dozens of deaths each year. This one appeared in someone's backyard.
I'm sorry that the photo's so poor, but I wasn't going to get close. If you want to imagine this monster to scale, compare him with the shed he's standing next to in the picture (the door is probably a little less than six feet high). If my dad had been here, he would've tried throwing rocks at the bison to lure it out of the bush. So unwise...

We also visited the Kodai museum, where we encountered a creature thought only to exist in legend. Behold: the Forest Eagl-Owl. Neither eagle nor owl.
Don't make him your enemy. The moment he lays eyes upon you, it's over. Seriously. Beware the eyes.

We have so many more pictures of and so many stories from our friends in Kodai, but I simply don't have the time to share them with you right now. I need to get some sleep! I'm getting up at 5:30 tomorrow to go on a walk with our host in Oddanchatram, Dr. John. John is like a modern-day apostle, filled with the wisdom and fear of the Lord. It will be an honor and a blessing for Ingrid and me to be present with him in his home for the next two days, soaking up his wisdom and learning from his example. This will be a kind of spiritual retreat for us before we return to Rajahmundry on the 7th.

Only ten days left until we fly home! I can't believe our time in India is already drawing to a close! God bless you all, and we hope to see many of you soon!

Max