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.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Hardest Part: The Heat? Spicy Food? Funding? Nope. You'll Never Guess...

Village girls heading to another day of school is 
an inspiring sight in rural India.

Nandini Reddy is our very first college student in CCH.  
Many, many more to attend very soon.

Here our staff member, Vijay, shares a laugh 
with a boys home.

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

A:  Sean vs. the heat?

B:  Paige vs. the spicy food?

C:  Jaya and Rayne 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.

The hardest part of India for us is the hopelessness and vision-less mentality of the villages in which we 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 (next Thursday night), 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!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Insta-Critical Thinking Skills: Chess-Playing Orphans in India

CCH kids learn how to play chess from a visiting team

A Path Appears illustrates a story of how an poor, underperforming school 
in Brooklyn started a chess team and the school's academic ability skyrocketed

We often have teams of college-aged students come through our area of India for a month at a time.  We have them conduct various lessons or complete various projects for Covenant Children's Homes, but this past January we had the team tour from home to home playing chess.

Playing chess.

Not Checkers.  Not Chutes and Ladders.  Not Cricket.


A New York Times Bestselling Book by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn brought to the world the story about Intermediate School 318, an inner-city Brooklyn junior high school who created a school chess team and the academic improvement was almost instantaneous.

The conclusion is that learning to play chess well sets the brain on a course of learning to critically think in many different areas of life.

Insert CCH.

One of our most challenging undertakings is to help our CCH kids learn how to critically think for themselves and how to creatively think about their lives and their futures.  If chess can help our kids think, and if thinking will help our kids excel in school, and if excelling in school brings the opportunities and dreams we have always had for these kids, well then bring on the Kings, Queens, Rooks and Bishops!

Chess and CCH just became good friends.  

Let's hope the results are as good as at Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn.

(By the way, we highly recommend A Path Appears to illuminate what is happening nationally and internationally to provide opportunity for people and create possibilities for changed lives.)

Check out A Path Appears at Amazon by clicking here:  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Amateur Traveler Podcast on Hyderabad - Listen to Sean Talk Travel

For those of you who love podcasts, or those who love travel, and especially for those who love both, have we got a treat for you!

In August, I (Sean) conducted an interview with Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler website and podcast.  It was the second time I had done an interview with Chris (Sweden in 2007) and just as enjoyable and interesting as it was previously.  

Amateur Traveler is one of the longest running travel podcasts on iTunes and is always highly ranked on travel podcast charts.  The average AT podcast is downloaded 10,000 times!

Take a listen to hear all of my thoughts and experiences about travel in Hyderabad specifically, but also India in general.  It's 50 minutes long, perfect for a drive or while doing household chores.  Also available on iTunes, episode 477.

Let us know what you think!

Attending a cricket match in 2011.

Fruits at a local market, always a happy place for a traveler.

The new Microsoft CEO is Indian and from Hyderabad - Satya Nadella

The iconic Charminar of Hyderabad

Thursday, February 11, 2016

CCH Home Sponsor Visits: All the Way to India? Yep!

That moment when you step out into an 
Indian village welcome-fest!

Home sponsors are welcomed with banners, dancing, festivals 
and Indian hospitality like no other!

Charlotte Berns is right at home with her Indian 
brothers of Modugalapalem.

One of the (many) challenges of our work in India is that, let’s be honest, India is just so far away. For most reading this, literally a whole world away.

And it’s as culturally distant from the Western world as it is geographically.  In order for someone to sponsor a home with Covenant Children’s Homes (and we have now 25 entities that sponsor at least one home of children!), they have to overcome what feels like, and is, a long-distance relationship.

And, in order to have one of those home sponsors make a memorable and rewarding personal visit to their sponsored home, they have to overcome the geographical, logistical, financial and time obstacles that are challenges with any travel, but especially to India.

When the Narsimgolu girls met their home sponsors, 
smiles were in abundance.

In our five years on the ground here, we have had eight of our CCH children’s homes be visited by their home sponsors.  These times are so meaningful and bonding, but also illuminating as the sponsors see their homes and the lives of these children in India in person.  Pre-conceived notions are broken and new understanding takes place, which can be challenging (facing rural poverty always is) and also encouraging (to see the transformation that is taking place). 

Jason and Laura Berns receive an Indian village welcome.

Recently, Jason and Laura Berns, longtime friends and also sponsors of three of our children’s homes, made the admirable journey from Los Angeles to Dubai to Hyderabad, only to then travel by train and car many more hours to visit their homes.  The boys of Modugalapalem, the girls of Nelaturu and the girls of Narsimgolu met their home sponsors and everyone came away very blessed.  Games, stories, gifts, dancing, music, skits, prayer – all of this is naturally a part of home sponsors visiting their home of CCH boys or girls here in India.

If you are you sponsoring a home with CCH, could you come for a visit? 

The answer is “Yes.”

These boys learned so much and grew so much when their home sponsors 
came for a visit, and the feeling was mutual!