Welcome to India

This blog is intended to make a country that most Westerners find to be otherworldly not so much so. We enjoy sharing our experiences, noting our observations, highlighting our impressions and otherwise recounting our adventures in India while helping our blogwatchers to be vicariously closer to this grand country. Welcome to India.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Indian "Semi Christmas" Celebration

We still don’t know why Indians call their Christmas festivals “Semi Christmas,” but we sure love the celebration:  lights, color, extra special food and, because of the support of so many of you, gifts for children who have never before received any wrapped gifts with their name on it.

When we decided to stay in India for Christmas this year, we did not know just what a good decision that would be.  Our Christmas this year was, in some ways, more focused and meaningful than it ever could be at home.  Spending our main Christmas fete with 400 children was not exactly a Silent Night, but something about it was indeed holy.

However many presents you may have wrapped this year, it didn’t compare to Paige.  December was spent wrapping over 600 (!!!) gifts for children, home parents and biological children of the pastors.  See them in their new clothes in many of these pictures.

We do not plan on too many Christmases away from home in our future, but Christmas 2012 will always be remembered for the non-commercial, giving-focused celebration with un-entitled children all around as well as the unique atmosphere of an Indian festival-like party. 

A few images above and below begin to capture it all.

Merry Christmas, partners and friends, and a joyful 2013 to you from us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Life Is Not Boring...

We have two pieces of extremely life-altering news for the Rickshaw Writer as we close out our two-year commitment here in India:

1)   We’re having a baby in April!  Sean turns 40 years old on April 13th and that same week our firstborn is due.  We’ll be living in Southern California, hopefully Santa Barbara, and in the States from late January to late August, when we will….

2)   …be returning to India for another three years of assisting in giving these orphans and abandoned children an opportunity to get educated, receive three meals-per-day, belong to a family of brothers or sisters and have their dignity restored as they learn about God’s love.

The work we’re doing here is just too compelling.  

The last thing we would want to do is stop our role with Covenant Children’s Homes just as the opportunities and possibilities are starting to take off!  We’ve only just begun.  Our goal is 1,000 (!!!) children housed and sponsored by late 2015.

We look forward to all that is ahead in 2013 – 2016, but for those wondering, we do intend still to live permanently in the States, starting in a few years.

Thanks to all of you for paying attention, for caring and for supporting us in so many different ways (prayers, emotionally, financially, advocacy).  

Keep riding the Rickshaw Writer in the years to come!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

2 Campaigns. One Great Goal.

When working with orphans and abandoned children, an important responsibility is to holistically care for their needs:  health and nourishment, education and discipleship.  What goes on deeper is all the more important - a transformation from an orphaned spirit of worthlessness to an adopted spirit of wholeness and, what we strive for in everything we do with these children, dignity.

We are tackling not one, but two, significant dignity-growing campaigns for Covenant Children's Homes right now:

1)  Christmas Gifts

Watching these children open wrapped gifts for the first time is a window into the true heart of the Christmas season.  Check out this video and consider donating to our Christmas campaign which buys new clothes for these children, "high-caste" clothes for these low-caste children, sparkling dresses for the girls and stylin' jeans and a collared shirt for the boys.

Donate for Christmas through PayPal at the following link:  http://cch-india.com/donate/

What do children look like when opening their own wrapped gift for the very first time?  Check out this video from last year's Christmas celebrations:

Christmas Gifts 2012 from Covenant Children's Homes on Vimeo.

2) "Mats to Mattresses" - Happy 35th Birthday, Paige!

When CCH kids first arrive, they have most likely been sleeping on the ground.  We give them mats to start.

Then, when we get the funding, we put them on bunk beds with plywood (at least they're off the ground).

Then, when we get the funding, we give them a mattress and a blanket (and maybe even a pillow) to give them the best sleeping experience of virtually anyone in their village.

We're now just $3,500 away from all 400 of our children sleeping on mattresses on their bunk beds.

This would be a great birthday gift for Paige, who turns 35 on January 8th, to finish this off!

Check out more and how to donate at our CCH Website:

And more fun pictures of dignity-bestowing Christmas clothes and mattresses:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

CCH Leaders

It’s a milestone for our program to even put “CCH” and “Leaders” in the same title. 

Our hope for these children (and one of our favorite taglines) is that we want our children “not just to survive, but thrive.” 

Part of the vision for them to thrive is for their education and discipleship to cultivate a sense of purpose and leadership into their lives for the transformation of this entire region. 

The first step in our building in leadership experiences for these children was last week when 25 of our older children (12 – 14 years old) stepped up to be the counselors and teachers of our October holidays camp experience for the 200 newest children.

Now that we have identified 25 of our current children as leaders, we can begin to do training, programs, recognize and grow individual gifts and continue to creatively provide opportunities for leadership experiences for the future of these kids, and this whole region.

To get a glimpse of what the future holds was truly rewarding for the two of us.

So give it up for the CCH Leaders, now and in the future!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Top 10 Things You Missed When We Stopped Blogging About India


1) Paige and friends
2) Foreign teams help us a ton - here building a much-needed fence around one of our children's homes. 
3) Paige with Hosanna who is admirably battling leukemia
4) The opening of another home
5) Our "Fruit of the Spirit" camp banner, the same theme used for next week's camp for all of our newest children.

It’s been a few months since we last took a ride on the Rickshaw Writer, but our children didn’t stop growing and Covenant Children’s Homes didn’t stop progressing while we were away.   

Now we’re back in Ongole and back and updating you.

Top 10 lists are just so cheap, so easy, a writing copout, but also so effective.  Thanks for indulging us:

10.  Never thought we’d see the day we would make a “spontaneous” trip across the world, but we did in September.  A “business” trip, we covered seven states and close to twenty thousand total miles by air and car to meet with hundreds of people to raise awareness for our newly-opened children homes.  400 children and growing!

9.  Some of you know of one of our CCH kids, Hosanna, who was diagnosed with Dengue Fever, but who was more recently diagnosed with leukemia.  Please pray and believe with us for Hosanna’s full healing as he undergoes treatment.

8.  We now have 30 of our 40 homes sponsored with food and school fees!  This is 10 more than we had three months ago - we're so grateful to our sponsors...

7.  Our trip home provided one-time gifts that cover our upcoming October holiday camp for the newest homes and school uniforms, shoes and backpacks for all 200 of our newest children!

6.  We spent one very needed month in Thailand resting before our trip to the States.  We do love Thailand so.

5.  Paige has so many talents – one we have only recently realized is website-customizing.  Check out our new site:  www.cch-india.com

4.  Our Indian staff grew from three to six!  A big step as we continue to prepare this program to function without us. 

3.  Southern India “cooled off” to a crisp 92 degrees during the day…

2.  Two of our CCH kids were accepted into a prestigious government college preparatory school.  This is the first sign that our academic focus is working!

1)  As our two-year commitment to India comes to a sudden conclusion early next year,     things will be changin’ – you don’t know the half of it.  

Stay tuned to the Rickshawwriter!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Do You Handle It When...?

As a little window into our life here, the day-to-day life that is often hard to communicate, uninteresting and unglamorous, we thought we’d share the questions we asked ourselves (according to our journal from 2010) prior to coming to India, and then share with you the questions we now only wish we had known to ask in order to properly evaluate and prepare for what was to come:

Sean & Paige’s India Questions 2010:

  1. What will be our responsibilities & expectations for this program?
  2. How will our individual giftings be best used?
  3. How often should we come home?  How much fundraising do we need to do?
  4. Do we have the commitment to stick with it when things are difficult and rough in an unfamiliar part of the world?
  5. Can I be productive and efficient in a very open and unstructured environment where we are in charge of our own program?
  6. What will our friendships and community look like there?
  7. What length of commitment will be needed or best?
  8. Do I have any romantic images about what this might be like?  Anything that needs to be called out before reality hits us?
  9. Will we be able to enjoy the food?  What will our living space look like?
  10. What will be the effect of this developing world environment on our marriage relationship? 

Not bad questions at all, but since hindsight is indeed 20/20, we now know the questions we should have asked ourselves, and what we would encourage others to consider prior to committing to this type of service in the developing world:

  1. How do you handle it when everything around you happens an hour or two after you had planned it?
  2. How do you handle it when someone tells you they will be there or the job is done and neither is true?
  3. How do you handle it when you’re facing a deadline and the power goes out?
  4. How do you handle it when that power comes back on, but the internet then goes out?
  5. How do you handle it when you are told something, but only because that’s what they thought you wanted to hear, not because what you were told is anything reflecting reality?
  6. How do you handle it when you’ve made Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, but it’s plan D or no plan at all that transpires?
  7. How do you handle the inefficiency and perceived waste of time and money when trying to accomplish something that faces avoidable setback after avoidable setback?
  8. How do you handle it when the gods are seemingly against you?  Answer this one carefully.
  9. How do you handle it when all these things happen in 110-degree temps, sometimes without fans or air conditioning?

Coming in with expectations, standards and pre-conceived notions of how everything should be or run is the first of so many pitfalls for us Westerners when coming to parts of the world (I don’t think any of this is unique solely to India) that aren’t grounded or built on the same foundations as we are used to.  So when you arrive, it’s a constant give and take that ultimately demands patience more than anything. 

“Are you patient?” is the first and last question you should honestly address when considering a season of life in the developing world – this will make all the difference in your experience and others’ experience with you.

(Even as I finish typing this, while the power and internet is out – mind you, my wife is in the midst of making umpteen phone calls all over the state to follow up for the umpteenth time about tasks that should have been completed months ago…)

Love is patient - there’s a reason Paul listed this first in his descriptions of love in 1 Corinthians 13…

Pictures Above:
1.  Paige walking along a beautiful Bay of Bengal beach earlier this year.
2.  Ever wonder why Indian food is so spicy?  Well, these piles of chilies are all over the land...
3.  Our newest addition to our NTR Colony home, Khartik, the youngest CCH member we have so far in all of our homes.