Welcome to India
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Monday, November 28, 2011
Monday, November 14, 2011
Checks made out to “India Christian Ministries”
PO Box 3925
Dana Point, CA 92629 USA
(please write CCH Christmas in the memo or include special instructions on an attached note)
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
We just returned from our second week of journeying around the state of “A.P.” (as the locals call it) visiting the newest batch of children who have been given an opportunity for a “second” family and an English education to learn their way out of poverty.
It was an inspiring week of spending time in villages (no hotels this time around), sharing common meals, teaching, playing, laughing and bumping down the Indian roads as we meandered from village to village, town to town and city to city.
Our next trip won’t be until March (after our return from the States for the holidays), but we’re already planning how to make that trip most effective (painting, anyone?) and memorable for the kids and for us.
Enjoy the latest pics!
1. One of our favorite pics so far in our whole time here, the Domakonda girls smile at their creative successes.
2. The Saravaram boys will have the cleanest teeth in the village after a local dentist in Ongole donated hundreds of toothbrushes for our children's homes.
3. The Punukula girls and bubbles are a delightful combination.
4. The beach ball was a big hit state wide.
5. A hula-hoop, some frisbees and lots of smiles.
6. Community puzzles - most of these children had never seen puzzles before.
7. And after a week of village-living, Indian road-bouncing, village rice-consuming and children-loving and -educating, it was time for an urban mocha in Hyderabad!
Monday, October 17, 2011
A few times each year we take the Sean & Paige show on the road to visit our children’s homes up close and in-person, many of them up to a 6 – 8 hour drive away from our home base in Ongole. These trips are filled with bumpy roads, tasty, village-cooked chicken curry meals, fun and educational activities with the children, beautiful Indian sunsets and short nights in a motel or the local church itself before the next day’s journey.
One inspiring set of parents and children-per-day.
One great tour of Andhra Pradesh – parts I & II (coming next week).
Enjoy the pics, which speak for themselves:
1. Indian sunsets are brilliant.
2. Each home's smiling faces bring a new and energizing joy.
3. We work closely with people like this to make this program work (2 father/pastors and a district leader).
4. A beach ball and a circle - does it get much better?
5. To you this probably looks like yesterday's meal that came back up, but to those of us here, ahhhhh, wonderful village curry, chapati bread, dahl and yellow rice! YUM!
6. The Indian equivalent of a road trip coffee stop - Starbucks doesn't have much to worry about...
7. Kuderu girls stole our hearts for obvious reasons.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Until now our focus during our time serving here in India has been solely the Covenant Children’s Homes program, which is only one part of our two-part strategy to lay a solid foundation for village children to break the cycle of poverty through education.
The second part of our strategy to make a dent in the extreme poverty of Andhra Pradesh is the Covenant Child Development Centers program, which is an after-school tutoring and holistic support program for village children, most of whom are very vulnerable to child trafficking and child labor, a tragic consequence of an underdeveloped state.
In addition to our 20 open and running children’s homes caring for 200 children (and 20 more homes to open in May!), we also have 15 child development centers run out of the village churches that support 25 children each, giving 375 children a meal and tutoring assistance six days-per-week (so many parents of these children are illiterate and of no help when it comes to their child’s education). The “holistic” support encompasses physical nourishment through their most healthy meal of the day, spiritual nurturing through prayer and worship, a positive and welcoming after-school environment and ultimately, instilling confidence and dreams that they can succeed and grow up to be something, and that someone believes in who they are becoming.
Yeah, this kind of tutoring and support center makes a huge impact!
So now that you’ve gotten used to the “CCH” acronym, we’ll start throwing around “CCDC” – and even if you can’t always recall the exact meaning, you can have full confidence that hundreds (and eventually thousands) of children, orphans or not, are getting healthier meals, educational support and holistic nurturing and guidance, whether they are living at the church home or just stopping by the church-based center for a few hours-per-day.
As with every area of our Indian endeavor, your partnership on all levels is so valued and coveted. Watch for ways you can contribute to “CCDC” in the coming weeks and months.
And isn't our logo just the cutest thing ever?
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Back where we belong in rural India for just over a week now. Thailand seems like a distant memory as we’ve jumped back in with all the excitement of helping orphans and preparing for all that is to come this Fall.
In the mean time, a humorous look at “Things We Say in India That We Don’t Say at Home” – actually first authored by a colleague of ours from Texas, but appropriate for all Westerners living life in rural India.
Enjoy the latest window into our day-to-day experiences here:“Close the door so the monkeys don’t come in.” (This one was especially pertinent this week when we forgot to close that door and the monkeys did come in, promptly helping themselves to two bananas and a $3 package of raisins.)
Monday, September 5, 2011
(Pictures above are of Dr. Akash, Dr. Ashok and Komali back in 2011 when they lived in the children's homes of their respective villages.)
It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Hyderabad, India in September of 2031.
Dr. Akash is on his way to lunch with his friend and colleague, Dr. Ashok. Years ago they graduated from medical school together and have been partners in practice ever since. When they arrive they reminisce about their time growing up in the Ongole villages together and the crazy memories of living with 10 brothers, plus a few other children in the village who always seemed to be around. But more than reminiscing, they are also focused on the future and what’s in store for them as well as their former villages. They long to take their medical knowledge and influence and represent the rural poor who, despite years of efforts, are still greatly in need of support and help to adapt to the ever-changing world.
As the government cracked down on corruption over the past 20 years, India’s economy grew at record paces, now outshining even that of the United States. India’s economy and influence in the world is now second only to that of China, India’s tense geographical and geopolitical neighbor. India’s democracy continues to be the largest in the world and is slowly becoming the most influential. The state of Andhra Pradesh has seen tremendous growth in the past 30 years and Akash and Ashok are a part of its future.
During their lunch, they get a text message from Komali, another friend of theirs from village life who has been an engineer for the past eight years. She is part of a unique government program that focuses on rural infrastructure and makes it much easier for India’s agriculturally-dependent population to get to the cities, which have continued to grow at an astonishing pace, in order to have influence in government and politics.
Komali asks Dr. Akash if he is attending the next network meeting of Covenant Children’s Homes professionals who are gathering four times-per-year to strategize on how to do more to impact Andhra Pradesh. The CCHP Network has been organized now for over seven years and the goal of the group is to mobilize themselves in government, medicine, engineering, computer science, the arts, ministry and other endeavors in which former Covenant Children’s Homes children are taking part now that they have successfully completed their university studies. There is also talk of organizing and financially supporting participants who are taking the CCH model to other states, especially to people in the north of India, who are still in desperate need of an answer to the once overwhelming, but now manageable nationwide orphan crisis.
CCH has come a long way in the past 20 years with now over 1,000 children’s homes in villages all over Andhra Pradesh. Dr. Akash, Dr. Ashok and Komali are part of the leadership of former CCH children who now number close to 500, and over 10,0000 are waiting in the wings, hoping their school scores will draw the interest of universities. They meet regularly to worship, pray, strategize and continue to build the relational unity needed to effectively work against India’s continued poverty. Some of these former children have been married for many years now as their home parents arranged them, but a few are choosing “love” marriages and have been blessed by the parents and families, as well.
Knowing that their orphan lives could have taken a very different road, these three professionals live with ever-grateful hearts, which compels them to give back while always envisioning the possibilities for India's children, and future leaders.
Funding for these children's homes now comes from a variety of sources: National, international, private and even a unique public fund that was created as part of a 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2028. There’s still more work to be done, which the former children themselves are now funding and leading into the next part of the 21st century and India’s bright future.
(Thank you for your partnership and support for making this vision the reality!)
Monday, August 29, 2011
After six of our eight weeks away from India, our minds are starting to focus once again on what our fall (also known as the second monsoon season) will bring upon our return.
The three months in which we are back in India prior to our return to the States our focus will be on accomplishing the following tasks in our continuing effort to build a solid foundation for this program so it’s around long after us (our main goal during these couple years):
- Visiting and securing the eleven new homes – we have visited once, other staff have visited multiple times, but getting ten children to feel “at home” in a new church home takes time, training, resources and effort. Our visit in early October will be a very special trip for us to acquaint with the new children.
- Facebook and other social media fundraising for shoes, backpacks, uniforms, etc. for the new children. Another exciting project for the fall will be raising support for each of our children to receive their first Bible upon graduation from 5th grade (which is currently 30 children).
- Training sessions for home parents, which involves materials, food, transportation, and cross-cultural communication and, hopefully, understanding!
- Taking on the second half of our undertaking in India, the Covenant Children’s Development Center (“CCDC”): This is essentially an after-school (and dinner) tutoring program and support center for children’s education and health, run out of various village churches. Another outreach and future-minded attempt to slash poverty through education, discipleship and physical and emotional nurturing of some children in need. You’ll hear more about the ten current development centers and all future ones in coming blogs!
- It’s never too early to start thinking about how in the world to pay for all these children’s education beyond high school! Yep, over the next 15 years, approximately 500 current and future Covenant Children’s Homes children will be prepared for college! And where will that funding be coming from? Well, do you happen to know any foundations???
- And lots more where this came from!
In the mean time, we will be celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary on September 6th, a day in which so many of you reading this attended. Thanks for your love and support no matter where in the world our vows are being fulfilled!
Two more blogs from Thailand, then back to India!
(All pictures are fun times with long-time friends throughout Thailand.)
Monday, August 15, 2011
We consider ourselves savvy travelers.
Our Thursday, August 11th proved us wrong.
It all started when we failed to obtain a 60-Day Thai Visa in India prior to our trip and settled for the 30-Day Visa given upon arrival at any Thai airport. Problem is we’re here for sixty days and visas must be obtained outside the country.
Let the border games begin…
Our border/visa run took us to Cambodia, about a three-hour drive from Bangkok and frequented by many a farang (foreigner). Border runs are full of pitfalls and expenses if you’re not careful, but we had both done this before in Thailand, so no sweat. We just needed to hop on a reserved shared van for the drive, cross the border into Cambodia, get our visa for sixty days even though we only need thirty, come back across the border, hopping the next van to Bangkok. No problem. Should be back by mid-afternoon.
A post-trip highlight (or lowlight, as the case may be) of how the events of the day transpired reads:
5:30am – Shared van picks us up, off to a good start.
8:30am – Van stops for the third time supposedly for gas. “This might be a long day.”
9:30am – Arrival at the Cambodia border, an hour after expected.
10:00am – In line for Thai “re-entry” visa stamp, we learn that all border crossings are only a 15-day extension. We can’t get back into India for thirty days. We have to leave Thailand in 15 days. You do the math.
10:01am – We begin to accept the fact that our border/visa shenanigans today are only the beginning of them during our time in Thailand.
10:15am – We leave Thailand, walk along the border line between Thailand and Cambodia and get in line to re-enter Thailand.
10:30am – Thailand tells us we actually need to go into Cambodia, which might be fun someday, but for today and our current plans, not fun at all, plus we have to purchase a Cambodia visa at $30 each. Like we said, “shenanigans.”
11am – Cambodia visa in hand and attitudes starting to wane, we walk around in Cambodia for 10 minutes, decide we’ve had enough, and return to Thailand, but not before a club sandwich and fries “on the line” between the two countries. How was the food, you ask? Better than expected, and today…today is all about expectations.
12pm – Lunch complete, the reality that our day (due to only 15 days and sixty unexpected dollars) is an unsuccessful one begins to set in and we just wanna return to Bangkok without too much more damage.
1pm – We choose the cheaper, shared van as it’s also leaving earlier.
4pm – Cheaper, shared van is stopping about every half-hour to drop-off and pick-up. Yes, “shared” van and cheaper for a reason. “Savvvvvvvvvy” travelers…
5pm – Arrive to Bangkok, but nowhere near our destination in this metropolis and holiday weekend traffic begins to take effect. We realize we’re the only ones in the van that don’t know where we are or when we’ll arrive (and at this point we’re scared to even ask).
6pm – Still in Bangkok, and still a long way from our destination.
7pm – Six hours, three longer than expected, after we left the border where we were already in a bad mood, we arrive to our drop-off in Bangkok. We decide to try and redeem the day with a spontaneous downtown splurge of pizza and a movie.
8pm – Upon arrival at the theater, the capper to our unfortunately unforgettable day, we learn that the movie we’ve been hoping to see for a month, Tree of Life, just left Thailand the day before.
8:30pm – We bite into a pizza that possibly never tasted so good as at the end of this long, expensive, exhausting, unsuccessful day in Thailand and Cambodia.
8:31pm – We remember we get to do it all over again in “15 days.”
10pm - Sean and Paige’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Thursday is finally over.
In the end, all we lost was money and time but, despite the occasional thought or utterance, not too much dignity. We’ll check back again in 15 days…
Monday, August 8, 2011
Our month spent in Thailand (halfway to our return to India) continues to be an enjoyable time of refreshment and retreat, all the while preparing for all that is to come when we arrive back to India.
A few weeks ago, we posted an amusing blog entry detailing all the things “we used to do” when we lived in the States. We thought it might be fun to share the list again, but this time revised to account for the things we have done in Thailand since that blog was posted:
Worn shoes or socks (only once, but that’s all it takes!)
Slept in a bed with anything other than the top sheet
Had the electricity on all day long without interruption Driven (if you count a scooter!) Flown Seen a mountain (mountains and jungles of Thailand are simply beautiful)
Been apart for longer than 8 hours
Received mail (a few packages, yes, but still no envelopes with bills, advertisements or letters)
Watched a sporting event from start to finish (baseball’s All-Star Game)
Experienced rain for longer than 20 minutes Used a clothes dryer Worn a seatbelt
Received a paycheck (still haven’t, but your financial support continues to bless us tremendously!)
Uttered the words "Right on time."
Hugged a family member (really looking forward to this in December!)
1. This is an iconic sign in the resort town where we lived our first three weeks in Thailand before settling in Bangkok where we are now.
2. Thanks to our good friends in Hua Hin, we had the use of this scooter, which made for an even better time.
4. Needless to say, we spent a LOT of time in this pool while in Hua Hin.
5. Our Thai family is growing up!
6. Paige's pasta, no matter the country, is always a favorite of Sean's...
Monday, August 1, 2011
(Child Labor Persists in India)
-- by Sarah Rebbavarapu
It’s not easy being an eleven-year-old Indian village child. Your parents, if both are still alive, toil in the fields from sunrise to sunset, struggling to earn enough money for rice, onions, and a handful of lentils. If you’re a girl, you are responsible for the hut--feeding and chasing after your brothers and sisters, gathering cow dung for fuel, cooking rice, washing clothes in the pond, and scouring dishes on the concrete slab out back. If you’re a boy, you join the weathered construction crew--piling onto a tractor-trailer at dawn, hoisting bowl after bowl of mortar to sweaty, irritable masons who bark out orders under the sweltering tropical sun.
Occasionally through the dust you spot a couple of school children riding with their father on a motor scooter. Their bright-white, ironed uniforms complement their sleek, black braided hair. You try to imagine life at their house--perhaps they have a table, and their father may read the newspaper as the children discuss their teachers and lessons. These children can read, and they know things about the world outside. Best of all, they can get good jobs and good spouses when they grow up, so their parents aren’t anxious about them all the time.
Yours are. Your father swears when he talks about your family--with three girls to marry off--and he often stays out drinking half the night. You don’t dare approach him about sending you to school. Who would pay for books, uniforms, bus fare to the nearest school? Who would take care of the little ones? Who would feed and clothe you if you didn’t go to work? God and karma determine your course, and both have decreed a life of labor for you and your family. Disgusted at the familiar lump in your throat, you wipe your hands on your safety-pinned, grimy shirt, and get back to work.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
That’s all you get in India, as an official tourist, before needing to leave for at least two.
And while we were in need of a break and might’ve even taken a couple weeks aside from visa requirements, leaving all we are in the midst of in India was harder than we thought it would be. Those kids have a way of making you want to stick around.
Our week in Thailand has proved to be just what we needed in terms of a breather from Indian intensity. Surrounded by friends and familiarity (Paige and I have history in Thailand), much less the blessed gift of a vacation home with a pool in Hua Hin, a smaller resort town south of Bangkok, we have indulged in coffee on demand, American-sized cheeseburgers, tacos made from the real stuff and, get this, pizza that gets delivered right to your home! We know - we couldn’t believe it either!
So mixing indulgence with prudence (still American prices often) and rest with continued work and productivity even from afar, our time in Thailand will be a memorable and important time of our commitment in India, even if it was forced upon us. God is good and knows our needs.
Meanwhile, the children of the homes in India continue to be on our hearts and minds every day as we speak with our Indian staff (who often call us from the homes so the children can give greetings) and do the Facebook updates and background work that can be done from anywhere with an internet connection.
So while on hiatus from India in Thailand, we are also in the midst of planning our trip home during the holidays where we look forward to seeing so many of you.
More from Thailand coming soon! Thanks for continuing the ride on the Rickshaw Writer!