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.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas in India

We celebrated Christmas with the CCH children, the 220 living near to Ongole, this past Saturday.  Indians call their pre-Christmas parties "Semi-Christmas," which has become an endearing term in our time of living and working here.

It's our second Christmas in India (2012).  

Worship music, dance performances, home skits about the Christmas story, a celebratory cake cutting, gift-giving to each and every child, family and home as well as a special Christmas lunch of everyone's favorite, Chicken Biryani, is all part of this now-annual festival of color and celebration of Jesus.  It's about a 6-hour commitment for our staff the day of and days and days of work beforehand.  

But our partners like you are the ones who really make Christmas happen for these kids. 

Our Christmas budget this year was estimated at over $13,000 to give gifts to each child, each family including the pastor's biological children and to provide a special Christmas party like this one to each region of the state.  A big effort and an even bigger reward as the kids, of course, love their Christmas party.  

What a proclamation of their restoration from orphaned children to adopted children.  

If you would like to help us share the Christmas spirit with these children, we welcome your contribution - it's still not too late:

Donate to CCH Christmas by Clicking Here

Thanks for all your support and for sharing in the Christmas spirit with these kids halfway around the world.  

Merry Christmas from Covenant Children's Homes!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Highlights of Home

Is it November 13th already?  We have been home a little over two months and now it's time to return for our fifth year of working in India.  5 years already?  Well, almost.

Being home is always refreshing, encouraging and rejuvenating, but also very full and can be a bit discombobulating to be constantly on the go and constantly out of a suitcase.  Jaya time with Grandma has been treasured and we will miss her SO much as we go.  Here are some other highlights and pictures from our latest and greatest stint Stateside:
  • Celebrating new babies with friends and family (6 in total!).
  • Sean attends his first-ever World Series game in Kansas City (picture above).
  • Jaya turns 1 1/2, sister Sarah turns 30 and Mom turns 70 - so glad we could be here for all of these!
  • Our favorite island, Catalina, was the chosen spot for Mom's 70th (actual date in December).
  • A wedding reception at the Rose Bowl - Picture below.
  • Two successful CCH fundraisers, our first-ever, and a wonderful new video coming your way in future newsletters.
See you again next August!

Daddy and Jaya ride a Tuk-Tuk in Thailand, always our first stop on the way home.

Jaya has lots of friends and even dresses like some of them sometimes.

We celebrated Jaya's 1 1/2 year birthday while home.

Friends were married and had their reception at the Rose Bowl!  How cool is THAT?!

Sean attended his first World Series game with longtime friends in Kansas City.

The girls from Westmont and their families have an annual Staycation.

Jaya loves Miniature Golf!
Celebrating Mom's 70th in Catalina, a family favorite, was special.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Typical Child, Not One With Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome was recently in the news again.  An Australian couple left their surrogate son with Down syndrome, while "accepting" his typical child twin sister.  The uniqueness of this circumstance sent social media wild and it raised over $150,000. 

When Paige and I were first confronted with the news of Jaya’s Down syndrome diagnosis, we were devastated. 

We didn’t know.

Now we do. 

Please understand the following post in light of our Down syndrome transformation brought on by a bigger joy than we ever could have dreamed:


A Typical Child

So you’re having a typical child, not one with Down syndrome?
I’m so sorry.

There will be times when this child, day or night, cannot be consoled and cries uncontrollably.
I’m so sorry.

This child will not be put to sleep in under five minutes every time.
I’m so sorry.

This child may not always wake up happy, smiling and content.
I’m so sorry.

This child may not play well all the time, whether alone or with others.
I’m so sorry.

This child may cry at times for seemingly no reason at all and not be consoled with a simple diaper change, feeding, nap or tender loving touch.
I’m so sorry.

This child may not like others or make people feel special upon first meeting them.
I’m so sorry.

This child will quickly go through all the stages of growth, hardly giving you a chance to enjoy each one.
I’m so sorry.

One day this child will leave your home without giving it a second thought and then you’ll have to play the “When are you coming home for a visit?” game all the rest of your life.
I’m so sorry.

You’re having a typical child, not one with Down syndrome?

I’m so sorry.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Biggest Challenge We Face in India: Part 2 (Try Not to Be Aghast)

Here's a video taken during a simple late afternoon at a village in Andhra Pradesh.  A different world from the one most of us are used to...

An Indian village mindset would look at these girls and possibly have them all married within a few years.

A team recently did some planting and gardening at a CCH boys home, Thimuraligiri (not a typo).

Education, as seen in this billboard honoring students with high test scores, is valued in some parts of the culture.

These CCH kids have nothing to do with what we're talking about, but aren't you glad we included them?!

A few weeks back, we shared our biggest challenge in doing this work in India. 

“Event-oriented” culture (as opposed to “time-oriented”)?
Jaya far away from her Grandmas?

These are all difficult, but not the biggest challenge we face.

To fulfill our vision, hope and goals in the long-term, we must help change the mentality, change the culture of the rural villages of India.

·      “Young women should not be married off at age 14.”

·      “A life of labor after schooling of just five years is not acceptable.”

·      “Life is valuable beyond just what someone can do for you.”

·      “Marriage and family can be valued in combination with education.”

·      “Education is not synonymous with the declining morals of modernization…”

These are statements we have had to make over and over to any number of family members and others directly and indirectly involved with the children in our program.

To quote our recent blog, “Our biggest challenge is to speak life and hope into village mindsets that have never imagined one of their own attending a university, working outside of day labor or marrying in their mid-20s rather than mid-teens.”

Changing culture.  Changing mindsets.  One child, one orphan at a time.

But this also leads to a bigger discussion.  India is not that different from many nations facing battles within their borders between rural and urban, uneducated and educated, “traditional” values and “modern” values.  The three countries that we spend the most time in – India, Thailand and the United States – are facing similar challenges on how a country should move forward when these disparities are so present among the citizens of a country. 

India’s inequality is out of control, Thailand’s military recently stepped in to halt the spiraling division, and we’re all very familiar with the polarized politics currently facing the U.S. 

So the problems we are facing are not unique to India.  Globalization is providing more and more opportunity, but revealing more and more disparity within nations.  Our focus is to help take every last orphan or abandoned child that comes our way and prepare them to help with these problems that will remain long into the future. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Visit to Hyderabad's Iconic Charminar - The "Arc Di Triomphe" of India

Hosting other foreigners finally compelled our family to take in the most historic site in all of Hyderabad, India’s 4th largest city according to the 2011 census with almost 7 million people (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore).

The Charminar, both a monument and mosque and meaning "Four Towers," was built in the late 1500s and is the center of Islamic Hyderabad, the old city and a very populous and chaotic part of this region.  Hyderabad has always had a good relationship with the minority Muslims and the city was even founded in the late 1500s by the ruling Muslim families of the time. 

A classic bazaar surrounds the Charminar on all sides and if you want diamonds, gold, pearls, gems, textiles, clothes, fruits, vegetables or street food, this is the place for you.  We eventually retreated to the nearest people-watching location, the ubiquitous CafĂ© Coffee Day chain all throughout India before the rains came and offered the normal deluge for this time of year.

Enjoy these photos and another look at this multi-layered land we currently call home.

This might make the awkward family photos list...

Hyderabad's Charminar was built in 1591 and means, duh, "Four Towers."

The view of the street scene from inside the Charminar.


Beautiful pyramids of fruits and vegetables all around the Charminar's bazaar.

Mounds of watermelon, anyone?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Biggest Challenge We Face with CCH and in India: Part 1

CCH children dancing at camp.

Three faces of India's future.

Khartik, who was recently hospitalized, is doing great!

Sean with a boys home in a nearby village to Ongole.

Jaya is making friends.

We found someone smaller than Jaya - not hard to do these days as she is growing and growing.

Everyone is surprised when we tell them what the biggest challenge is for the CCH program in India.

A:  Sean vs. the heat?

B:  Paige vs. the spicy food?

C:  Jaya vs. being so far away from home?

D:  None of the Above

Answer: D

Now, admittedly, these are personal challenges as opposed to program challenges, but if we could change one thing in India, it wouldn’t be the heat, the fire-breathing food or even India’s geographical location to, say, Mexico.

It would be the hopeless and vision-less mentality of the rural areas where we do our work.

Our biggest challenge in India is to speak life and hope into village mindsets that have never imagined one of their own attending a  university, working outside of day labor or marrying in the mid-20s rather than the mid-teens (females…actually, “girls”).

When we bring in a child to one of our church-based orphan homes, we ask the pastor to immediately begin sharing the long-term vision and hope for the child with their extended family who maintain the rights to that child.  The family thinks of the home as a boarding school, but doesn’t think beyond what is normal for life in the village:  Labor, drinking, abuse, men carousing with men, women hiding with women. 

When we speak of health, spiritual growth, University graduation, professional jobs and then, only then, marriage, often the extended family responds in fear. 

Fear of the possibility.

Fear from jealousy.

Fear that their child with run off to Hyderabad, Mumbai, or worse, New York, marry a foreigner and never come home again.

We share with them the possibility their child now has the opportunity to become something more purposeful and how family can be a part of this.  Family and marriage will be a part of this, but only after he or she has established herself with studies and a sense of identity as a child of God, not a child of the village or just someone else’s property (auntie or a husband or the village elder).

What you prepare to be challenged by when working in rural India is almost by definition not what you will be most challenged by.  It’s always the unexpected.  The surprising.  The un-planned for. 

We’re learning more and more that you can’t rely on your own strength in India, but on God’s faithfulness both to us as well as these kids who, despite such hardships, have been given a true second chance, but only if their families ultimately agree to this chance…

In Part 2 of this dual blog posting, we will look at this challenge from a national perspective and examine a bit more closely how the biggest threats to national security may not be border vs. border anymore, but something much more difficult to determine and harder to combat!