Tuesday, February 28, 2012



Bat Tree

Poised and Pretty

The Doctor's Daughter

Sunset in Bagaigaon

Houseparents and Teacher

James Connection School

Duck Duck Goose
This morning Michael picked us up at the hotel after he and Nitu had delivered Mama, James and his mother to the train station to return home. The mother has refused to accept medical help for the baby’s heart problem and is opting to return home to the medicine man for traditional sacrifices and charms. Fortunately, Dimbeswar was able to intervene on the older children’s behalf by contacting their father. The children are doing very well in school and were two of the very first children to enter the home. The mother came to check on her children after other Nepalese children returned home in December.
We left the hotel early this morning due to the 12 hour strike imposed on all of India. Dimbeswar wanted to be sure we were out in Manikpur away from any issues that might have arisen here in the city today. The city was unusually quiet as we rolled out. The sun was peeking above the tree tops, and the birds were singing louder than any other noises. No train horns sounding an approach. No large trucks beeping around the next turn. Very few carts clacking their way over the cobblestones. The bicycles outnumbered all other vehicles combined, and their numbers were eerily low. We were uncertain what awaited us as we approached the day.
Nitu and Michael made much better time than Dimbeswar had expected. When he called Mama at 2:00 this morning to ask him to escort the mother and child back to Nepal, he thought he had a few hours to catch a short nap before we arrived at his home! He was surprised when Michael awoke him announcing our arrival, but quickly set everything in motion there to prepare breakfast for us. We had time to roam around the grounds making a final documentation of all of the buildings, construction, flora and fauna to share with Brother GARYTATE when we return home. We documented a tree we had never seen before. From a distance it looked like a kapok tree with large kapoks hanging from its bare branches, but looking with a more discerning eye, we realized those kapok were squirming and twitching in their sleep. Our best guess is that it is a bat tree, for over a thousand bats hung with closed eyes waiting for the strike to end so their mosquito hunts can begin again! Other trees were more concealing of their daily guests for their branches are not completely bare of leaves as this one is.
All shops, government buildings, commerce and transportation were shut down from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Private schools were free to make their own decision about operation, but Dimbeswar knew the attendance of his teachers and students would be sparse, so he chose to cancel school. Michael and Nitu stood outside the gates to send students and parents home as they approached on bicycle, foot and “bike”.
At 9:00 we were taken over to James Connection School where a church member is principal. Unfortunately, his father had taken a turn for the worse during the night and he was unable to be there today. Three of his teachers had visited worship service Sunday and invited us to their school, so we were well received and entertained. Unfortunately, only 9 of their 26 students were in attendance today. We entertained them with our four standard songs and the Hokey Pokey. Then the children each recited a nursery rhyme in English for us. Two of the little girls showed us part of a dance they had learned, a teacher sang a worship song he knew and the children recited the Lord’s Prayer. We had a prayer with them before returning to Dimbeswar’s home at the Little Flower School.
Lunch was served us as royally as it has been served each day this week. We had fried chicken, rice, “potatolets”, and fried plantains.
Mamu and Maram visited with us a few minutes. We took pictures of her with her book bag and then had a prayer for little Maram.
Dimbeswar and Michael took us over to Ruth Gunter Home to spend the afternoon with the precious children there. We had fun reviewing the songs and teaching them some new games. Dimbeswar made sure the teachers joined us so that these games and songs will be part of their weekly routine in the future. They enjoyed the Holey Pokey completely as most are familiar with English terms for the basic body parts. It was fun today to change up the fun games by injecting various vocal intonations. Then we had a fun time playing London Bridge…Jonnie and I opted to be the bridge!) Duck, Duck, Goose became a quick favorite. We chose to introduce the more gentle version where you simply race to the location--no tagging needed. To calm down the group in preparation for our departure and their evening routines, we changed up an old childhood favorite, “Doggie, Doggie, Where’s Your Bone?” to fit the culture…”Hen, Hen, Where’s your Egg?” A smooth egg-shaped stone from the construction pile served well as an egg.
As the children caught on quickly to this game, Dimbeswar helped us interview the newest of the RGH children. Then Michael served as photographer while Jonnie and I called each child for a picture with us.
A final prayer with our precious Ruth Gunter family closed our time together. As Jonnie and I began to shake each child’s hand and voice our blessings to them individually, the children followed suit and the circle became a snake with children shaking and blessing children all around the group! What a special bond God has built! Never will these lives be the same.
We approached Bangaigaon as we witnessed the sun fall behind its trees for the last time this trip. We are amazed at the dexterity of these people as they maneuver the roads home in the evening whether it be young boys pulling carts loaded with bamboo six times their height or women perched daintily side-saddle on the back of a bicycle holding a young sleeping child! Something tells me our ties will bring us back again one day to see the young children mature.
We enjoyed tea in the home of two former Little Flower teachers before returning to the Shivaly Hotel for dinner and an evening of packing and weighing bags for our early morning departure to Guwahati Wednesday morning.
As you eat dinner in Texas this evening, think about us arising, Dimbeswar, Mamu, Maram and Michael arriving with Nitu to collect us from the hotel and us all traveling down the NE Indian roads to Guwahati. You will be snuggled deep in sleep by the time we reach the city. Our flight to Delhi will take place while you dream. Then as you arrive at work Wednesday morning, we will arrive in Delhi and check into a hotel for a cozy night’s sleep!
Thursday morning we will begin another adventure seeing a different side of India as Jonnie and I will vacation in central India. Join us then for a tour of this beautiful and diverse land God has made!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Little Flower School

This was such a day of blessing as we shared the day at the Little Flower School. Dimbeswar runs a school of approximately 250 students ages 3-16. We visited in some of the classes early in the morning. The children jumped to attention as we entered each room giving a salute and a crisp “Good morning, Miss!” They were each one eager to shake my hand and ask, “How are you?” then respond back “I am fine, thank you.” It reminded me of the days I took Spanish in elementary school and so enjoyed the opportunity to speak to “real” Spanish speakers in Puerto Rico while visiting my grandparents. Classes were interrupted in the bamboo rooms lining the school yard as the echoes from classes nearby gave hints to the approaching American women visiting their school. Children grinned from ear to ear as we took the time to shake hands and to call Ruth Gunter children by name as we recognized them in the rooms.
After visiting and greeting teachers and students in each of the classrooms, we were set up in a larger room that doubles as the kitchen for the school and home, dining room for church meetings, bedroom for guests and auditorium for smaller groups. There we taught music for most of the day as several classrooms would convene to learn songs from America. We taught the basic four songs to each class…65 6-8 year olds, 78 3-5 year olds, 57 9-12 year olds and about 20 13-16 year olds. We started by placing stickers on their hands of a frog and a butterfly to teach “Bullfrogs and Butterflies” in our own short version. This has been repeated daily with our Ruth Gunter children, so they were able to serve as leaders for their groups at school. We have shortened greatly the song “Make a Heart for Jesus” to four lines, but it is a calming and comforting song after B&B. Then we used “Head and Shoulders” to get them into TPR (Total Physical Response) strategies for learning a second language. I enjoyed teaching “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to each group. I think they enjoyed it too. Then we ended each session with “You are a child of the King” playing on the CD while we shook each child’s hand. I asked their names and then spoke my only Assomese sentence, “Jesue ama morom koree’” which was greeted by all but the last student with great grins. The last child was actually the best English speaker in the school, and had been the MC for Saturday’s program. She grimaced at my attempt to speak her language, then realized that I must be speaking Assomese. She is from Nepal and does not speak Assomese, so only communicates in her new homeland in English. Thus, a wonderfully strong English has developed for her! Our last group was both small enough and old enough to venture into one additional song/game. We introduced them to the “Hokey Pokey” much to their delight. (B&B had been a bit slow to draw them into our band.)
The children dismissed at 2:00. The busses loaded up and headed in several directions. Recently I had seen the Indian school bus on an internet site, but here we found them act ually being used. They are three-wheel cyles with metal cages on the back lined with two two-by-fours for seats. I can only imagine the experience of being transported in such a vehicle over rock and gravel roads! Other children walked home or road with the Ruth Gunter students back to the village of Chakihali some ten minutes away by car.
Jonnie and I then met with the lady teachers of Ruth Gunter to present them the lovely book bags made by Donna and her friends and gifts such as the Bible study guides written by Yvonne and bound by Carolyn. The ladies were honored and reciprocated by presenting us with a traditional Indian token of honor- a gamosa or bihuwan which is a stole or towel draped over the shoulders. They also pinned us with a replica chapi--a hat used by the rice farmers during the rainy season to protect head and body from the rain instead of using an umbrella. We shared teaching strategies and Jonnie shared the Cds and posters of the butterfly and bullfrog life cycles she had brought for them.
We had been served lunch in Dimbeswar and Mamu’s home by Mamu. It was a delicious rice with cashew nuts, fried eggplant, corn and the tiniest potatoes sliced and grilled that I have ever seen! Then she brought us a bowl of corn flakes for dessert! Mamu also presented us at that time with a suijer and dupatta which she had had made special for us. We enjoyed wearing them the rest of the day.
After the teachers had to leave, Dimbeswar took us to visit the Ruth Gunter Home again. We were too late to be able to share with the teachers there, but left their bags for them to receive tomorrow. The children were sprucing up for our visit as they awoke from afternoon rests. Some were still eating lunch. Others were out bathing in the water hose and washing their morning clothing to be hung to dry for the morning to come. Older children were helping to groom the younger ones. Coconut oil was used in abundance to tame bed-tossed hair and to smooth dry skin. They were thrilled to show off their cubbies and their backpacks of belongings…some shared among the throng, others specific to the individual. Mostly they share.
We had another time with the children and shared with them some more trinkets-bookmarks, markers, stickers, etc. and a last piece of bubble gum! We loved on them, sang with them and toured their home and grounds. Jonnie even got to meet Beauty and her reluctant calf! They were proud to herd the ducks and hens around for us to see. Dimbeswar, Jonnie and I were served tea while we visited outside with the children. The sun was low in the dusty sky as we said good-bye to the children.
Dimbeswar accompanied us back to town to our hotel with stories of the day spilling over the seat to us in the back. He seemed very pleased with the week we have shared and the reactions he has received from his church members, teachers, students, houseparents and the Children of Ruth Gunter. Dimbeswar will pick us up early tomorrow at noon. “No Wheels Turning” is the slogan for twelve hours across India in protest of high prices.
Thankfully, we will be driving the four hour trek to catch our flight on Wednesday and not tomorrow!
As we left the dining room of our hotel, the principal of James Connection School and his wife and his child were waiting to visit with us. They drove over an hour from Manikpur to Bongaigaon spent twenty minutes waiting for us to finish eating to approach us and only about fifteen minutes visiting us before they headed back home…and all after dark on very busy streets. We were honored with another gamosa by his wife and left with a letter to Gary Tate.
Bullfrogs and Butterflies

Mamu's dinner on brass plate

Little  Flower Female Staff

Priscilla & Daniel


Dainty tea sippers
Our day was complete…a spiritual and emotional blessing that will accompany us through eternity!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday With Dimbeswar

This morning we were met in the restaurant by Mama. He had joined us yesterday on our way to the picnic. We were glad to see him for we knew we were headed to a wonderful worship experience! Sunday morning in Manikpur…
After the hour drive out to the village we were surprised that we were taken to the children’s home. We thought the children came to the school for Sunday School, but we were glad to have about two hours with the children, so we reached into our bags of tricks and came up with fun activities to teach them. We brought nametag sticker once again to assure that we did not call the incorrect name of a child. They love wearing them and were proud if they had preserved the one from yesterday and had two!!! The children are so well mannered and so helpful with each other. I had brought sticker activities that teach Bible stories, so we pulled out the story about the little boy with two fishes and five loaves to show what a difference a child can make in the life of another child or in the life of a large crowd of adults! The children enjoyed manipulating their own sticker pages and young Rachael interpreted for us! She was thrilled to be the little mother of the group.
We had paper cutout manipulative for Bullfrogs and Butterflies today. This has become our theme song with the children all over India. They are so thrilled to hold up the correct picture and to yell the song along with us. We also sang If you’re Happy and You Know It, Make a Heart for Jesus and If I Were a Butterfly.
After another sticker story translated by Rachael, Mama led us in a prayer. We said good-bye to the children for the day to head over to worship service.
We arrived during the song service. They were kind to include a couple songs in English for us and another couple that had familiar tunes so we could sing along. The worship service was uplifting and joyful. He preached on Matthew 28 and Acts 2. We were able to pick out a few words here and there and watch the location in his Bible to find the scripture for ourselves. We enjoyed taking communion and the dedication of the new babies/children who were in attendance for the very first time. Maram and Mamu were attending their very first time as they have just joined Dimbeswar in Manikpur last week. I was glad to be standing by Maram during the blessing prayer and held my hand out to her with a very special blessing for healing and peace to enter her body and soul.
After a time of visitation, we gathered with eleven women to share Bible study and songs. Dimbeswar sent his son Michael in to translate for us. I had brought my saree so that they could show me how to wear it. Michael left long enough for us to have the clothing lesson, but reappeared as soon as I was draped.
We used the story about the Samaritan woman from John 4 as told in the CAMEOS OF THE WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT by Yvonne Brooks for our discussion with the women. The women were not as open as the children in attempting to use English. Our song time with them did not go over well, but we were able to get them to interact by speaking a chain blessing one to the other around the circle. Then they taught me to say Jesus loves us all in Assomese. It sounds something like this: Jesue ama morom kire. I have practiced this with each one as they left the yard this afternoon. They grin at my attempt to enter their culture.
Jonnie and I were served lunch on banana leaves in a room separate from the group. Dimbeswar and Mamu ate in their kitchen with Maram while the congregation were served in the kitchen area on long tables.
Afterward we visited with various groups of people, tested the CD player for tomorrow and set down a schedule on paper for the rest of our time here. Mitu and Michael escorted us back to the hotel as Dimbeswar set out on his rounds for house church meetings.

We are backing book bags for the women teachers of Little Flower School tonight in anticipation of time with them tomorrow afternoon. Your love is evident as we pack items you have sent with us for the different ones. We feel your love and joy as we present your works of love each time. God bless you as you see the delight in the eyes of the children and teachers! Your butterfly wings are changing lives on the other side of the world!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Picnic

We are perhaps the only Americans who have ever stayed in the hotel where we are in Bongaigaon.  This is the closest hotel to the village of Manikpur.  Dimbeswar selected it because they do not allow any alcoholic beverages on the premises.  The hotel receptionist has been quite taken back with our stay.  We have gotten good service, but it is not among our top five hotels of India tour. 

This morning we left the hotel with Dimbeswar and the driver to go to a picnic with the children.  Halfway to Manikpur, Dimbeswar told us that the school was having a dance recital that we would attend before joining the children at the picnic site.  The school was all gathered in their auditorium for dances, recitations and skits...a talent show for the entire student body and their parents.  One of the little girls served as the MC and did a wonderful job.  As we entered the children stuck out their hands for a hand shake with "Good morning, Miss!"  They are all so eager to practice their conversational English with us.  The children were delightful.  Several recited Twinkle Twinkle while others performed skits they had written themselves.  The Indian dances were my favorite.

We left the school a little before 11:00 to join the children on the mountain side for fun and games while the adults were cooking for us.  We found them playing with their book bags and the items from inside them.   I passed out nametags to help us keep everyone straight.  Soon Dimbeswar rescued the bags from the picnic grounds, and Jonnie and I jumped into action!  First I pulled out frisbees which thrilled the group--first as they tried to ring them with their arms like a ring toss and later as crowns and the steering wheel of a bus!  Bullfrogs and Butterflies was introduced to this group with stickers on each hand.  They loved these stickers and even tore apart the trimmings to adorn their faces and necks!  I handed out bubble gum and showed them how to blow bubbles.  The contest that insued was worth a million laughs!  We all chewed our jaws tired!  And we wound up with a tie!  Hannah and Anne had the largest bubbles.

Several children recited ABC's and counted to one hundred in English, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,one zed-10, one one-11, one two-12, one three-13, one four-14...nine nine-99, one zed zed-100!"  They were as proud as a peacock to be able to show off.  Everyone likes to be a photographer, but some are a bit more forward about requesting the camera than the others, so they have more shots to share. 

Lunch was prepared in a makeshift kitchen set up behind two Sarees stretched across poles.  The ladies in their finest attire were cooking over wood fires in large cast iron kettles.  We had rice, chicken, curried potatoes, vegetable salad, a puree and hard boiled eggs.  They set up a table and chairs for the Misses while the children were served on the ground.  Children sat criss cross with bare feet on a folded tarp and a wall from the kitchen converted into a flat bench.  Water for the cooking, drinking, cleaning and later bathing came from a nearby waterfall.  The ladies had cleverly set banana leaves up to serve as a spout! 

After lunch Jonnie taught a little jingle about a heart and gave each child a heart-shaped lollipop.  They were delighted.  Time to visit, time to play, time to eat, time to relax out in the nature God has preparedfor us!  What a wonderful day of joy and love!  The children returned to the home in a large city bus, and we were escorted back to our hotel for the evening.

Jonnie and I tried to find an appropriate outfit from the vendors on the street, but our body build does not match the ready-made suits here.  We purchased a couple sarees, but have no idea how to make them wrap around to stay!  We will still be the American Misses or Aunties tomorrow for church and Bible study with the ladies.  Perhaps one of the ladies will be so kind as to help us out with a dressing lesson.

The Children of Ruth Gunter

Bagdogra to Ruth Gunter

Thursday February 23
Today was a travel day for us. We spent the morning repacking and preparing to fly to Guwahatti to meet Dimbeswar and Mamu. The respite was well appreciated as it gave us time to catch up on some rest and to organize for the next adventure! We also were able to blog a bit extra to share our world with our world back home.
Asho drove us to the airport where Mahindra was waiting to give us one last hug and to wish us well until the next time we meet with him. We sent notes and gifts back to Jyoti our dear younger sister and bags to Tabita and Pulshari.
At the airport we were able to exchange a bit more money in order to pay our excess luggage fees for one last time! Then we enjoyed an airport snack of chicken and cheese sandwich and an icecream treat before heading through security and to our gate. Just after we asked if it was time for us to board yet and were told no, we were approached that the gate was closing and we must rush to board the plane. The gate attendants had a bus waiting to take us out to the airplane awaiting on the tarmac. We boarded and found our seats with plenty of time to spare. The planes do seem to leave the airport a few minutes earlier than scheduled, however. Onboard we organized pictures to be ready to post to the blog as soon as possible…
The Calcutta airport was larger, with several shops lining the lobby. We maneuvered through the maze to find the line to affix our carry on tags and then to the security once again. We sat waiting for our flight to be announced and leisurely entered the line as the crowds began to thin only to be told that Jonnie’s carry on tag was expired! She had to take her bag back through security where they emptied every item and repacked then called a woman to scan it again! Well, they came to find us and once again sent us by private bus out to the airplane! We felt very special.
Dimbeswar, Mamu and Maram met us in the airport with open arms. We found the Little Flower vehicle and driver waiting in the parking lot to load our luggage and zig-zag our way through the night streets of Guwahatti, the state capital of Assom. The trip from the airport to the hotel took well over an hour. The hotel was very impressive from the street, but it does not meet the standards of the Sinclair or the quaintness of the Ivanhoe House! Dimbeswar and family stayed for dinner with us. Mamu is a sweet young lady, ten years younger than her husband. Dimbeswar and Mamu were married in December in a legal marriage with the justice fo the peace. Maram turned four on January 10th. She has a heart condition that requires that she travel four and a half hours to Guwahatti once a month to have the fluid removed from around her heart. She is on a list for a heart transplant. Maram has not yet warmed up to Dimbeswar. She is very attached to her mother. Dimbeswar says her language is her very own…only her mother can understand her. She is a very opinionated child. They left us to spend the night with Mamu’s parents nearby.
Breakfast was the redeeming item of this hotel. We enjoyed the typical buffet we had seen at the Sinclair with the addition of pink grits and oatmeal along with crescent rolls and cannolis. As we left the dining room, we found that Dipak and Jeuti Ray and their co-workers were waiting for us in the lobby. We enjoyed getting to know them. They were delightful Christians with a true heart for others and a love of God. It was hard to tell them good-bye when Dimbeswar came to pick us up.
We drove for over four and a half hours to arrive at our hotel in the midst of a shopping mall in Bongaigaon. After dropping off our luggage, we traveled another hour out to the Little Flower School. I sat in the back of the jeep and packed book bags for each child as the driver maneuvered the roads. . . Just finishing up as we drove through the gates. The children were gone for the day, so we gave ourselves a tour of the complex. Dimbeswar served us fried eggs and toast before taking us to the Ruth Gunter Orphanage to meet the children.
The children were delighted to see us drive up! Each child offered us a handshake and introduced himself or herself to us. They were thrilled to give us a tour of their home. The former church building has been divided into two rooms by a cement wall. The larger room is divided by portable walls in two…a TV room and a living room. The smaller of the rooms is divided by portable walls into three sections…dining area and two sleeping quarters. Another section has been added to the original building to serve as food storage and kitchen. It is on the ground instead of being up on the cement foundation of the church. The bathing area and toilets are behind the orphanage detached from the main building.
We gathered the children in the living area. They sat in a circle and I taught them “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and they sang “I Have Decided” to us while we waited for the last ones to dress and join us. We were so excited to deliver the book bags filled with Bibles, readers, sticker books, gift bags and treats for each child. The group clapped for each child as they came forward to claim their bag.
They were thrilled to find pictures of Montie or Merita who had made the bags them inside their Bibles and the American $2 bills crisp and clean from ASB. They fingered their Bibles with love and worked diligently at reading the Bible stories. A few ventured into their Bible sticker books, but most dug quickly into their treats. Grace wrapped herself in her quilt and carefully folded it back into the plastic bag for safe and clean preservation. Others oohed and aahed over her soft and cuddly prize. Little girls donned 3, 4 or 9 hair barrettes while the boys blew up balloons and bounced them around. Elizabeth began taking pictures with my camera, and soon others took their turns as well.
Smiles and giggles filled the air as the children spilled out of the door and down the steps. Each one was eager to pose yet another time with bag and Bible displayed. These angels began to help each other decipher the codes and determine how each item was to be used. They delighted in the sticker books and matching the pictures to the correct space on each page. They were thrilled to see that they could actually read the English Bible story books and compared the beauty of each Bible cover to the next. The children beamed with pride as they spent time with each other and as they shared their home and yard with the “aunties” from America.
God’s love filled the air…God’s love expanded the hearts of the children and melted the hearts of the adults. God’s love washed over us with an overwhelming joy and sense of belonging. The children of Ruth Gunter won our hearts and souls.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family Love

Mahendra and Jyoti make a phenomenal team.  They have established a beautiful home with their three children and his mother. 

Tabita has come from the Darjeeling area to live with them this past fall and is a wonderful, sweet grandmother who helps to care for the children.

Elizabeth is a young fourteen-year-old lady who has lived with them since she was about two years old.  Her bright smile and twinkling eyes are indication of the love she has for the Lord and her adopted family.  Her birth father has recently come forth requesting her return so that she can serve their family.  Mahendra has told them if they will assure him that she will receive an education, he would allow her to go, but he is committed to affording her the best that this life can offer.  Elizabeth is a precious and helpful addition to the home who jumps in quickly to help with young children.  One day she will be a wonderful teacher or pediatrician.

Avay is Mahendra's nephew.  He came to the home this fall with his grandmother.  He is four years old and ready for school, so Mahendra took him in in time to enter the first year in Morning Star School.  He is bright as a tack and has a tender loving heart.  He melted our hearts immediately with his big, black eyes and broad grin.  His English is increasing every day, and he is quick to jump to attention at the call of his name with a sharp, "Yes, sir!"  Avay will one day change this world as he will take after his mentor-uncle.

Grace is a delightful young child who has everyone wrapped around her little finger.  She will turn two this April, but is already reciting her ABCs, counting, singing the nursery rhymes in English and singing Sunday School songs throughout the day and night.  Her smile is contagious, but she is camera shy and gives her smile away only at her own timing.  One day she will turn this world upside down!

Jyoti is a wonderful Christian woman.  She leads in the church and in the school.  Jyoti has a women's group that meets monthly for Bible study and to discuss women's issues.  She teaches Sunday School in two locations each Sunday morning for close to 75 children.  She runs her home with compassion and love caring for each member's needs immediately.  Her home is warm and inviting.  It is filled with children every afternoon as friends of Elizabeth and Avay come to play.  Each Wednesday she opens her home to the members of the church for the midweek worship and study time.  Jyoti is involved in the lives of her neighbors, church members, fellow teachers and parents of her students.  She reflects the love of Jesus in all she says and does.  She is very busy teaching the youngest children at MSS.  Jyoti is our beloved sister!

Mahendra is the head of the family, the head of the church and the head of the school.  He is a man of God.  Every opportunity he has, he is sharing his testimony and leading others to a faith in Christ.  He is well read and keeps current on world affairs.  The background knowledge he has in each religion helps him as he meets his contacts on their terms,.  (I will complete this blog at a later time.  It is time to head to the airport now.)

Breakfast Buffet at the Sinclair

Our Waiter

Idly-ground rice & water-steamed breads

Steamed Vegetables

Alumatasubji - potatoes, peas & curry

Bara-spicey & salty

Indian Puree a fried bread

Salti Samar a stew with curry & turnips

Corn Flakes



Pasta with a cream sauce

Our typical Indian breakfast buffet is filled with savory delights and accompanied by fresh juices (today's was watermelon), tea, milk, toast, boiled eggs and omelette on request.  Breakfast is included with the room and is hearty enough to last until a late lunch or early dinner.  The only sweet is the delightful mixed fruit jelly and the sugar for the tea.

We have been thrilled with the service at all three of our hotels thus far.  Indian hospitality cannot be beaten!

Lions and Tigers and Bears-Oh My!

Darjeeling--Tea Anyone?

Tuesday morning Jyoti, Mahendra and Grace met us at the hotel in a taxi they had hired to drive us up to Darjeeling...the city above the clouds!  We felt Jyoti and Mahendra needed a break from the tedious days at school, and what better way to get to know the family and the country than on a road trip to Mahendra's hometown.

The drive up was broken by several wonderful stops to see God's fabulous creation...tea plantations, rolling hills and a beautiful lake up in the mountainous area.  We also stopped several times to relieve twenty-two-month-old Grace who found cars and winding roads were never supposed to meet!  She is a precious and well-mannered young child who suffers from motion sickness.

We were amazed at the lovely variety of terrains as we wound back and forth on hairpin curves through the forest, then through the tea fields, into fern forests and finally into a dense cloud of fog before rising above the clouds into Darjeeling! 

What a quaint city upon a hill!  Each house and business is built right out on the side of the mountain making Jonnie ask if they had to buy the air on which they built their houses!  The streets are narrow...the businesses are tightly squeezed together with doors wide open...the roads under repair...the cars passing within inches of each other in order to maintain the exterior of the car and to not run over pedestrians!  The pedestrians are dressed in their best...school uniforms, saris, tunics, jeans, robes, etc...the first just as colorful as the next!

We arrived at our hotel...The Ivanhoe House...shortly after noon.  It is an old home converted into an enhanced bed and breakfast!  We were immediately served tea in the sitting area of our bedroom while they prepared our lunch to Mahendra's orders.  The dining area was filled with WWII newspaper clippings and vintage pieces.  We thoroughly enjoyed the cuisine and then headed out for a walk around town up one hill and down the next.  A quick stop at the Aliceville Hotel for pictures to send back to Gary Tate who remembers visiting there as a nineteen-year-old serviceman.  Mahendra walked us past his former places of employment, schools, etc.  We did a bit of windowshopping and stopped to purchase a few gifts to take back to friends.

Back at the Ivanhoe we enjoyed a fire in our bedrooms to warm our bodies and our rooms.  Then we were served a delicious meal of more of Mahendra's favorite dishes before turning in for an early bedtime.  A hot water bottle helped to take the chill off of the bed as we snuggled under two wool blankets!

Wednesday morning we arose early and were served a hot cup of tea in the lobby before leaving the hotel by 4:15.  Mahendra, Jonnie and I went by taxi ( unlike Gary who road a horse up the mountain) up Tiger Mountain to see the sunrise over the Himalayas.  We were thrilled to find a very nice viewing lounge out of the cold and wind.  We were a bit disappointed to find that the fog prevented us from the fantastic views we had anticipated, but it was a fun morning adventure.  On our way back to the hotel to join Jyoti and Grace for breakfast, we stopped by a Buddist Monastery and the WWII Military Memorial.

We were served a six course breakfast by the hotel staff...coffee in our rooms, cornflakes, papaya and banana, toast and jelly, omelettes, tea.  Then we bid farewell to our new friends at the Ivanhoe and headed out for the day's planned activities.  Mahendra was excited to show us his city. and had planned stops for us to see.  We drove up to the Tibetan Refugee Camp only to find it closed up tight for a Hindu holiday.  The drive up was lined with fern-clad hillsides reminiscent of the rainforest of Puerto Rico.  The frongs of the ferns were at least five-foot long!  It really astounded me to see this in such a frigid area.

Grace receives her Book Bag

Our favorite stop was the zoo!  Grace was thrilled with the red pandas and especially the monkeys.  We were impressed with the tiger and leopards of various ilk.  The Mountain Climbing Museum was also intriguing and very well established.

Winding back down the mountain, we found two troups of monkeys - one swinging from the trees and the other sitting primly on the fence posts.

It was a sad good-bye back at the Sinclair.  Jonnie and I have grown to love this family dearly.  They have become our family as well.  Jyoti will not be able to make the hour trip over to Siliguri to see us off tomorrow morning.  She will be busy teaching classes.  Mahendra will come to the airport to see us off to Guwahatti at noon tomorrow!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Parents' Day at Morning Star

This morning we were up and ready for our driver to take the hour drive from Siliguri out to Mahendra's home and school.  The morning drive is delightful as we pass by fields of tea, rice and pineapples growing; cars, trucks, bicycles, carts, walkers going in all directions to begin a day of activities; businesses opening, families gathering, mothers cleaning, schools buzzing, and faces smiling!  The sights and sounds of India rise above the foggy haze out over the fields as the world reawakens while back home friends and family prepare for a night's rest.  Eleven and one half hours ahead of those in Texas, we are still adjusting to our new time schedule.  India is a country filled with color and excitement and people who need to know Jesus!

We walked into the schoolyard where children were gathering in lines by age--gray shorts and skirts topped with white tailored shirts and gray sweaters in graduating lines faced the school while colorfully dressed teachers stood on the porch above them simultaneously welcoming and inspecting them.  As each name was called, a military sharp "Yes sir!" was echoed back.  The youngest of the gray clad participants as distinct as those whose age has already reached the mature age of ten. 

On the opposite side of the yard brightly adorned mothers and crisply dressed fathers lined the fences perched in eager anticipation of the day.  The parents had been summoned for Parents Day.  Little did they know what the day held in store for them! 

Students climbed the steps to the school porch and lined their benches to observe.  Roll was called by student number and each child rose with a crisp "Present, Sir! or Absent, Miss!"  Then the children descended to the schoolyard once again for games with the sisters from America.  We learned to sing and played Head and Shoulders, Head Thinker and  Bullfrogs and Butterflies.

Then the children marched back upstairs to watch their parents play. 
And the official program began with introductions, welcomes, and announcements.  The children sat quietly while the parents let their hair down...orange bobbing, flour balancing, sack racing, candle lighting and fighting over chairs in a game of musical chairs.  The students applauded and encouraged their parents as they competed with joy and enthusiasm.

Prizes were awarded to first place winners all around by the visiting sisters before lunch boxes were delivered for the children.  We were treated with the extras after the parents and teachers had been served.  Samosas and sweets filled first the boxes then our stomaches!

Teachers and Staff with prized Book Bags

The children and parents left for the afternoon while the teachers gathered for staff development with us.  We honored them with book bags made by the ladies of GCR and filled with Bible study booklets and gifts sent by GCR members to them.  Jonnie presented the life cycle charts for butterflies and bullfrogs and introduced the teachers to the Butterfly Effect that can happen in their very classrooms when they touch the life of an individual child.  Mahendra took up the charge with the opportunity to present the gospel to his teachers.

Land for the new school

The day was full of blessings from beginning to end!

After lunch with the family, we headed over to inspect the land Mahendra has obtained for the new school.  We walked the perimeter and prayed for the plans God has already prepared for the location and the lives that will be changed one at a time.

Mahendra and Elizabeth accompanied us to the airport to pick up my bags!!!  We wanted Elizabeth to receive her precious bookbag from us since we would not be seeing her again this trip.

All is well in India!  We are content, well fed and have all our gifts securely in our possession!

Elizabeth with Bookbag

Pam with Found Bags