Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Our journey to India took 46 hours from departure from our homes to arrival in Manikpur at the Little Flower School and time with Dimbeswar.  There we were safely tucked away in an American style suite in the Gary Tate building. Our bedroom (24' X 22') and the western bathroom are the only two rooms that are finished and usable in the building.

It is monsoon here! We had several inches of rain each of the first days we were there.

The children are healthy and are learning so much Bible, songs and social skills under Nalini who comes every evening to the Ruth Gunter to work with the 25 girls who live there. The 19 boys are all housed at the Little Flower School and Pratap is hired to oversee the boys and teach them Bible as well as teaching in the school.  Both Nalini and Pratap are top notch. 

The first evening the girls entertained us with songs. Saturday they performed a drama of the birth of Jesus from Matthew. Nalini supervised both evenings. We spent the entire day being with the children in the nursery classroom of the Connie Tate building because of the rain and several inches of water standing in the yard.  They enjoyed receiving their bags with treats and we played games and took pictures and sang songs all day!

Our Sunday drew to a close here. Ten and a half hours ahead of you, we have enjoyed our sabboth..without the rest!  We are cleaning up and settling in for the night--so thankful for our accomodations here on the Little Flower School campus!  We have had a much more complete experience with our people here. The children have had two and a half days of holiday from their usual regimen to entertain and play with us. We are amazed at their new Bible knowledge, the songs they love to share, the English they are learning and their love for each other!  They have grown as a community much closer than most brothers and sisters.

Each morning we are served tea and breakfast here in our room.  Today we had French toast, steamed rice cakes and bananas.

We shared songs with the children from 9:00-9:30, enjoyed worship 9:30-10:15, Jonnie visited with the women while I had Bible class with the children from10:15-11:30.  Then I taped the children singing a couple of my favorite songs. Everyone was served lunch on the grounds...rice, lentils, chicken and vegetables.

We visited with the children and women before they were shuttled home. Then freshened up before going to Jaganath & Nilemi's home for tea. She demonstrated her weaving loom for us...on which she weaves her own saris!

We hustled home to leave for house church at Roger's home. Lawn chairs were gathered in the courtyard surrounded by the uncles' homes. Attending his house church are 25-30 of his family members!

Back home the boys had kept our dinner warm...rice with chicken, lentils, cabbage and a banana.

After a wrap up visit with Dimbeswar we retreated to our room for the night's rest.

Monday morning we enjoyed India's version of breakfast burritos and spicy fries. Our meals have been delightfully varied and deliciously prepared with love all week. Various staff from Ruth Gunter Children's Home have made most of our meals. We've had so many delicious sauces (curries...though not all include curry seasoning) to go over our rice at lunch and dinner. Today we had lunch in the home of the principal of James Connection Primary School Dhanjit Pattak.  He had to be in Chenai with a church member who is hospitalized there, but we had a wonderful visit with his parents while his wife, Puradi Pattak, prepared a smorgasbord for us!  We had two curries-one with lentil base and one with potato base- and a spicy pumpkin accompaniment, an egg omelet, crispy bread, cashews in the rice and two desserts...rice pudding and small cakes!  Lemons and apples were also on the table!

This morning we observed classrooms at Little Flower School, Ruth Gunter Extension and James Connection. Many of the RGCH children attend Little Flower School. Only a few are still catching up by attending kg2 classes at the extension. Soon they will be ready to move into the classrooms at LFS!  We were pleased that Philip has done so well his first year in school!  He has already progressed to class 6!  He and Esha have become the leaders of the children's home.

This evening Dimbeswar took us on a little tour and mini shopping trip. Then we had dinner with the Burman family at their kitchen table...pigeon, rice, lentils, turnips, fish, pineapples, bananas and a tiny custard dessert square!

Tuesday morning we arose early and said our last goodbyes to the boys of Ruth Gunter, the Burman family and several of the staff at Little Flower School.  Dimbeswar took us to the trainstation where we caught a train to Siliguri, West Bengal.  Four hours later, Mahendra met us on the train platform and we  out to their village, stopping by the new school to see the amazing construction that has occurred since we first visited eighteen months ago!  Mahendra is a strict task master, and he has overseen the construction of the first five classroom, teachers,s quarters and  office complex in a truly remarkable manner.  We are most impressed with his ingenuity in the construction of the buildings, the precision of the craftsmanship, the durability of the buildings and the beauty of the complex itself.

We are guests in their home this week and have already enjoyed the privilege of a welcome visit with church members in a church home, devotions with the family, two meals at their table and a great fellowship rejoicing in the souls that have been saved since we last met with the church.  Tomorrow we will spend at school in the classrooms, we will have training sessions with the six Sunday school teachers who teach classes around the village in three locations, have prayer session in a member's home which I have been asked to conduct the Bible lesson, and share the home life of this remarkable Christian family!


Mahendra's Story

Mahendra was born into the Brahma Caste in Darjeeling.  His father left home and married when Mahendra was quite young.  When his mother remarried, he chose to be raised by his father and stepmother. 

A Catholic priest noticed his passion for education when he was in nursery class and encouraged him to do well in school.  His maternal grandfather supported him in his studies and helped him to become the person he is today.  After completing high school, Mahendra tried several times to enter the army.  However, due to poor vision, he was not accepted.  At this point Gene, a missionary living in Delhi, came in contact with him and encouraged him to become a soldier in God's army.  This intrigued Mahendra, so he pursued his education in a Bible College in Chenaii.  When he returned home to Darjeeling, he found there were no other Christians living there.  His family was not supportive at that time.  He set up Bible studies with neighbors to begin planting churches.  He worked for a period of time as a border patrol along the Nepal border.  Then he joined forces with a couple other friends to open a delivery service which later developed into a FedEx office.

He came to the Bagdogra to work and rented a room in a boarding house on the main road.

Back in Darjeeling on a visit, he met Jyoti through her involvement with a "Western Asian Bible Society."  She was living her life as a soldier of Christ.  Her heart for Christ and evangelism intrigued him.  Soon they were married and ready to start out on their own.  

They relocated in Hatiduba Busty renting a room from Krishna and Pulshery.  Every evening at 7:00, Jyoti and Mahendra would pray.  Their landlords immediately began chanting Hindu rituals to cover their home simultaneously.  Night after night and month after month, this friendly battle went on.  Until the day came that Krishna became their first convert and the church of Christ was born in Hatiduba Busty.  

In 2002 they brought four-year-old Dolma into their home to raise and educate.  They nicknamed her Elizabeth.  

On Gary Tate's visit to India with Joe Crabtree in 2008, Gene invited Mahendra to come to a gathering at the hotel in Guwahati.  Gary was impressed by his enthusiasm for spreading the gospel and began supporting his efforts.

In 2009, Mahendra and Jyoti moved into a back room in a school that they took over when those running it wanted to disband.  The school was in chaos and disrepair.  Mahendra says it is easy to open a school, but it takes skill, determination and great organization to run a school.  Several families left when they saw how Mahendra was instigating  rules and regulations, but those that truly wanted the best education for their children stayed and continue with him to this day.  Beginning in 2009, Mahendra and Jyoti set out to run the first English Medium school in the area beginning with nursery classes at three years of age.  Meanwhile, they have continued to provide an education for the children previously enrolled in the school they inherited in the Hindi (language) Medium.  

In 2010 after the birth of their first daughter, Grace, they found it very difficult to live in the bamboo school building with no electricity. About that time, his mother moved from the tea plantation where she had labored for many years to live with her son and his family...helping after a difficult labor and delivery.  Pooling a portion of her retirement funds with his savings, they decided to buy land and build their home.  Their former landlords sold them a plot of land directly across the street from the school building.  They quickly built a three room bamboo home and shortly thereafter added an office on the front.  They have continued to improve their property over the years.  It is now plastered with adobe exteriors and has a separate three room structure with a well room, a kitchen and a small dining room.  Another separate building of three rooms completes their living quarters.  It houses the Turkish toilet, a shower and a large storage room.  This year they have really focused on their landscaping as well as adding a small tin garage to house Mahendra's motorbike, Elizabeth's bicycle and Grace's small pink bike.  

In the past year, they have added two little girls to their home.  Rima came to live with them in March of 2012.  She is now a darling nine year old with a short buzzed hairdo for the summer.  She exudes personality from the moment you lay eyes on her.  Her intelligence is obvious in the vast English vocabulary she has garnered.  Coming from a home that did not value education for little girls, she had never attended school before coming to the Giri home.  Now she attends Morning Star English School where teachers and students are required to speak only English all day long.  She is now attending Upper Kindergarten (UKG) with seven other children above age for LKG.  Her eyes light up when someone walks in the room.  She draws you close to her side and loves to cuddle and be rocked.  (Connie, this would be a great place for your rocking chair!). Rima is responsible for washing all the dishes and caring for all of the plants as well as taking care of Grace.  She rises early before the family and studies late into the night.

On the 15th of March of this year, Grace became a big sister!  Glory Giri is a precious six month old who is beginning to add a few bites of table food to her diet as she begins to teeth.  Her face lights up at the sight of her daddy returning home from school.  Grace delights in playing with Glory and coaxing giggles from her baby sister.  Grace is a tease!  She is quick to warm up to all who come her way.  She is the apple of her father's eye and runs the household with her desires.  To say she is queen of everything would sum things up pretty well.  She understands English very well and communicates enough to let you know what she wants you to do.  Her impish smile and flirting eyes melt your heart very quickly.  Grace studies at Morning Star in the nursery.  She does her nightly homework both spelling and writing three words that begin with each of six letters...in English, her second language!

Elizabeth is now fifteen !  She is a beautiful young lady who seeks to meet your every need before you even realize you have a need!  She is attending a Hindi Medium School about six miles from their home.  She rises early (before sunrise) to prepare breakfast for the family, clean the porch and driveway, help with Glory and take care of other duties before riding her bicycle over rocky roads to school.  Elizabeth is glad to have Rima share her room and study with her at night.  Mahendra has promised her a new bicycle at the end of the year if she is number one in her class of ninety nine students!  We stopped by her school on our last day in town to surprise her and say goodbye.  When the headmaster called for her to come to the office, I am sure she was a bit nervous.  But when she saw us standing there, her face glowed with excitement!  She was eager to take us down to her room to meet her teacher and classmates.  We were flabbergasted to find a classroom with one teacher and ninety nine teenagers all sharing benches and table.  Five students shared each bench in a room with open windows on one side only.  She looked sharp in her crisp uniforms and cute butterfly clips and headband!  

Tabita is Mahendra's mother.  She and Grace share the third bedroom in the home.  Tabita is constantly caring for a little girl.  While Jyoti and Elizabeth do the majority of the cooking duties, Tabita and Rima are responsible for clean up after meals.  With a six month old baby who is rarely laid down, Jyoti's life would be very different without her mother-in-law there.

Recently Jyoti's younger brother has come to live among them. He teaches classes 2 & 3 in the same room and lives on the new school campus about a mile from the home in one of three connected apartments for teachers.  He eats all of his meals at the house in one of three rotations around the dining room table.  Amit Rai is darling!  He is twenty five years old with a charming personality and is handsome as well!  He is the best teacher on campus and is ever-so-helpful in getting the girls to and from school each day with his motorbike.  Living on campus, he also serves as guard and caretaker for the school.

Jyoti is a beautiful woman, faithful friend, loving mother and wife and normally runs the school office and finances and oversees the teaching of nursery and LKG classes.  Her heart for the Lord is evident in her care and concern for others and her knowledge of scriptures.  She is a servant of all and is never caught sitting around like an idle!  I know she is an excellent teacher, but her best talent is cooking!  We were fed like royalty all week.

In January of 2013 Morning Star English Medium School opened classes for 89 students in their new facilities!  The campus is amazing!  Mahendra has overseen every detail of construction with the same stern perfectionism with which he runs his home and his school.  When you first see the campus across the rice patties from a mile away, you know this school stands out from the rest.  The crisp white buildings and neatly manicured grounds are strikingly clean and inviting.  The cement archway entrance is prestigious, and the fields around it just seem purer and crisper than others.  This is not your ordinary school!  Children arrive at school and report to their class lines outside the classrooms for morning announcements.  They stand at attention waiting for their fellow classmates and teachers to arrive.



Saturday morning we arrived at the guest house in time to clean up and organize our things before Jenny came to get us at 9:00.  She helped us fill the bags for the girls while we visited about our trip and her plans for our time with the girls and her.  Then we all walked across the street to meet the girls!

Her apartment is on the third floor of the complex...Indian style.  (Americans would call it the fourth floor, but many countries begin counting floors above the ground level.) Eight of the youngest children live on the first floor with a nanny and a nurse.  These are the youngest of the school girls.  On the second floor is the kitchen and eating area for all twenty girls.  Jenny's apartment consists of a large room and two smaller rooms.  Jenny lives in the smaller of the two where she has her personal space.  The nanny and nurse share the other room along with the twelve girls' personal items.  The girls sleep two per bed in one half of the large room.  They are paired by size with an older girl "buddying" with a younger...at least one sighted child in the pair.  They help each other with bathing and dressing as well.

Each has a special condition which her parents interpreted as a reason to abandon her.  Several are blind, some have webbed or misformed hands and feet, one is HIV positive, one has seizures, etc.  All have hearts of gold!  Their smiles will melt your heart, and their hugs and cuddles will dissolve you completely!  They know Christ has sent help to them in the form of His servants here on this Earth.  Their help is manifested in so many forms and people from so many nations.  The intellect in the room is astounding!  The girls began life learning to speak in their local dialect and transferred to Hindi for their school career.  With the arrival of volunteers from the US, they have begun speaking English.  While not all of the girls can speak fluently in English, they all understand and respond to Jenny's love and guidance.  Most of them can carry on a conversation with visitors as well.  We enjoyed spending time in their home and learning of their individual  likes (clothes, food, movies, sweets, outings, etc.) and dislikes (boys, bedtime, being ignored).  Jenny claims all twenty as her girls and would love to see them grow and mature over the years.  They have bonded with Jenny in such a beautiful way!  She has been able to reach into the souls of these girls and help them to stretch to new goals of their own.

After visiting with the children who had a holiday from school on Saturday, we accompanied Jenny and one of the older girls who suffers seizures to another of the ICM buildings where younger children with more severe conditions live with staff and volunteers.  Her goal was to create handprints of each child who has a sponsor overseas.  We wound up doing some hands, some feet and both for the smallest primordial dwarf!  Most were delighted with the attention of so many adults helping to paint feet, hold children, make the prints, wash feet and take pictures!  Some found it overwhelming or confusing and were soon soothed by Jenny's sweet voice singing in the ear and her gentle touch as she stroked the child to a state of peace.  

Our young helper was rewarded for her assistance by a trip to the bakery.  We enjoyed so much meeting the owner who had lived ten years in Houston, Texas.  His experience working in a bakery there led him to want a shop of his own.  When his plans fell through in Texas, he moved back to his hometown.  The young volunteers at ICM enjoy both Indian and American dishes here.  Jenny even has a burger named after herself!  Jonnie and I tried chicken pastries from the shelf and a Limca.  The other two had Jenny burgers and fries.  Of course, we had to try the sweet cakes for dessert!

The "auto" ride was enjoyable as we swerved in and out through the traffic across town.  These three-wheeled vehicles are everywhere and stay busy hustling people along their way.  It is a convenient form of transportation for small groups.  

Back at the home we visited with Setya and his assistant in their office regarding the expenses and accommodations for the weekend.

Then we went back to meet the rest of the girls who were arriving home from school.  What a delight these girls are!  They love communicating in their favorite manner...words, hugs, laps, smiles or simply showing off!  While the majority of the girls had "tuition time" with tutors, Jenny, Jonnie and I slipped out with two of the younger girls from upstairs.  We took an auto to the park to enjoy the swings, the slide, the teeter-totter and a stroll around the park.  We introduced these girls to a frisbee.

Returning the girls to the house for their dinner, we went with Jenny and several of her friends from Oklahoma to a very nice Indian restaurant.  We enjoyed trying our luck at ordering, but found all three to be very spicy choices ... Chicken 56, Garlic Chicken and Cashew Chicken.  The buttered naan helped to cut the burn, and the boys were glad to have parcels to take home.

Back at the apartment, we were finally able to have all the girls home and seated to receive their treats.  You would think we had brought them Coach bags!  They were so delighted with the bags and gifts from their friends in Texas!  Jenny labeled each bag and special item with the name as they pranced around showing everyone their bag, sporting their butterfly clips, comparing gifts and sharing the Smarties from inside.  This is the sweetest, most caring group of girls I have ever seen.  They want to be sure each friend is pleased with their treats...to the point of giving up their own to get a smile in return.  The oldest seven girls will use their bags to carry their Bibles to church on Sunday mornings!  They had been asking Jenny to get them Bible bags.  Never have these special bags been more eagerly received or treasured!  This was the perfect way to draw our first day to a close.

Sunday started calmly as we tried to catch up from the overnight ride from Hyderabad Friday night.  There was no need for an alarm as the hustle and bustle of the city calls everyone to begin the day at sunup.  We joined the girls after their breakfast as they were making their final preparations for the day.  Seven joined us for the first hour of worship in a church across from their home.  As we waited for church to begin, the girls were drawn to a young teen who came in with her mother.  They told me, "She has no eyes.  She is alone.  She should sit with us."  So they went over to invite her on their own.  Several volunteers from other buildings brought a child or two with them to worship as well.  It is so good of these young people to bring the Sarah's Covenant children into the mainstream of life in so many ways.  

After church we took six of these girls to lunch...back to the bakery!  We were too many for one auto, so Jenny sent us with two girls on ahead after giving the driver directions.  we were side tracked by another passenger and Jenny and four girls passed us by, so by the time we arrived, they were clapping for our safe arrival.  The girls are so eager to try different tastes and especially things from Jenny's home.  They ordered Jenny burgers, pizzas, club sandwiches and sodas.  It was interesting as they experienced eating sandwiches.  The owner is a Jenny fan and brought a bag of cookies to the table for the girls.  True to form, these girls suggested that the cookies be taken home to the girls who did not get to come.   We went home the fastly way--on a loop bypassing traffic.  The auto drivers had fun bringing laughter and joy to the girls as they played leap frog through the streets.  

Back home we hurried to prepare for an outing to the beach!  Three of Jenny's girls...each with an adult...piled into the ICM car.  Hannah and her cousin Miles brought one of Hannah's boys as well.  We drove out winding through the groups of Hindus celebrating the final day of holidays worshipping G'nsh the god with human body and elephant head.  Floats with ten foot statues followed by large trucks of musicians and celebrants headed out to the beaches as well...stopping in each village to draw attention and lure followers to join their parade.  They would end the celebrations by throwing the god into the water of the bay in hopes it will reunite with his mother.  We found the trail to a private beach far from the throngs of celebrants.  Our littlest angel awoke quickly at the sound of the car doors opening.  Her nap had refreshed her for the action ahead!  Dressed in full street attire, we waded out into the waves.  Imagine, if you can, the sensations experienced by these children.  Two are blind (one quiet, reserved introvert and one bouncy extrovert).  The waves came in pulling the sand from below our feet.  We jumped and giggled with glee.  Then a wave knocked us down.  There we sat and allowed the coming waves to fill our clothes with sand, building our own castles in our lap until we were loaded down and could barely lift the skirt!  Then digging holes in the sand for big waves to fill with water so we could dig deeper!  Imagine having only one digit instead of a hand.  Then imagine each foot and hand being one lone digit.  This little one built her own sand castle grain by grain.  Then she slipped her little feet right up when I filled the hole where she had placed them!  Imagine their joy as they let the water swoop over them and hear the sounds around them echo the power and majesty of our Father.  Two little girls slept in the back of the vehicle while our littlest angel told jokes and teased with everyone who gave her attention...and who wouldn't?!?

After trying our best to get the sand out of our hair and off of our bodies, we attempted a ziplock washer for the clothes.  Cup after cup of sand hit the dust bin as pocket after pocket of the cargo pants was emptied.  There was not enough time to dry these clothes for packing, but we tried leaving them on the line all night.

Our last dinner with Jenny and her friends was at another very nice restaurant downtown. We enjoyed being with these twenty somethings this weekend and catching the joy they have in serving!  Jenny came by the guest house to say goodbyes before we laid down for a few winks.  At four we woke to pack and be ready for our 5:00 departure to Hyderabad...winding through the city in an attempt to find the ICM offices, a meeting with Sarah and Julie, a rush out to the airport, a flight to Chennai, overnight connections to Colombo, a taxi out to the Hicks Hacienda and Resort equals a very long day and another night of no sleep!

We arrived in Sri Lanka safely and are enjoying a lazy day today as rain refreshes the earth!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Colorful days are ahead of us!  
It will take us forty six hours to travel from our homes to the home of Dimbeswar where we will stay for four days. (6 1/2 hours on the road, 25 hours in the air and 15 hours in airports!