Camping in the Rain

Soggy shoes, dripping trees and bright green leaves.  Whatever would entice me to go camping in the pouring rain?  Maybe just the fact that I can.  Maybe because if I wait until summer arrives I’ll never take the time.  Either way, on Wednesday morning Alyssa and I made a run to the store for a few groceries then loaded up the car.  With the GPS set to Merrill Lake, Cougar, WA, we headed north on 503.  We drove in light rain through some of the most beautiful countryside; the last curvy miles skirting Yale Lake before turning off toward the much smaller Merrill Lake.  A wooden cutout of Smokey Bear let us know the obvious; fire danger was currently “LOW”.  Neither a person nor vehicle could be seen as we followed the posted 5mph into the gravel lot.  The lake spread before us and woods surrounded us.  A wooden sign reminded us to release any fish we caught, haul out our trash, not stay more than three days, and be careful of our fires.  Off to one side was an old fashioned water pump designated, “Not Potable”.

Leaving Alyssa and Tia in the car, I pulled on my hat and took a tour of the ten walk-in campsites.  Pausing at an unlit bathroom with a lonely looking pit toilet, I quickly lost my smugness at having remembered my blow dryer.  I was coming to realize that this was no KOA, but it had lots of potential and was definitely peaceful.  I settled on site #6; up a little higher up for good drainage and a filtered view of the grey waters of the lake.  The rain halted long enough for us to pack in our gear.  Thankfully we’d kept it pretty simple, leaving behind most comforts and special cooking items.  As we made our way repeatedly down the same trail we were able to take in the sights and sounds of our temporary home.  Squirrels scampered lightly up trees, a blue heron called with a hoarse, broken honk over the lake.  Due to heavy clouds, the evening was setting in early, making it impossible to discern the various little birds flitting about.

Filtered view of Lake Merrill from our camp

Neat paths dissected the woods; lushly lined with bright green sorrel, yellow violets, buttercups and a multitude of other plants.  The forest was comprised of mature old maples, feathery hemlocks and wiry vine maples.  Towering over them all were massive fir trees whose girth Alyssa couldn’t begin to embrace.

Once packed in, we quickly placed a ground tarp, positioned and set the tent, then threw a large tarp over all.  This was promising to be a wet trip and we were going to at least be dry while sleeping.  Thanks to daughter Telina’s advice, I’d come prepared with rope and duct tape.  We used them as needed to secure the tarp over the tent and create a small entrance porch.

Campsite #6

The empty fire pit beckoned me.  I’m not a pyromaniac in that I love to torch things to see them consumed, but I do love starting fires to create something warm and inviting.  And I admit I don’t want to resort to fire starters (or torches, as son Naaman suggested).  I like sticks, a bit of newspaper and a match (but no, I’m not interested in using a flint and steel or whatever it is the cowboys used).  It began to rain again as I scrounged the woods for dry stuff.  Alyssa wisely worked on setting up inside the tent.  An hour passed, then two.  Occasionally I asked Alyssa to pass me a little more newspaper.  I doggedly fanned my pathetic attempts with a battered paper plate with little results.  Alyssa gently tried to question why I even needed to build the fire but I’d have none of it.  I was determined to do this.  I pondered though, if God may be working on my pride issue.  Finally, I was licked.  My thumb was bleeding profusely from where I’d caught it between the soggy log and the butt of the hatchet.  I turned my back on the fire and told Alyssa, “That’s it.  I’m done.  If God wants us to have a fire, He’s going to have to make it happen!”  I kid you not; she came out of the tent just in time to see the flames leap into life.  I was almost giddy as I said simply, “Thank you.  Thank you, God”.  As the bigger logs caught and turned to coals we walked down to the lake.  Low clouds hung over the water, contrasted by the dark hills on the opposite shore.  With the sun obscured, not a hint of color touched the silvered water.

Merrill Lake at dusk

Alyssa and Tia

The need for supper drove us back to the fire where we roasted our hotdogs.  Pulling our chairs up to the fire pit we enjoyed every bite of our sumptuous meal before the rain began to pelt us in earnest again.  We crawled in the tent and, bundled up in four layers of clothes, beanies and fleece sleeping bag liners, we played several games of mancala.  With our tent pitched under the trees, the rain didn’t fall in a constant, predictable pattern; it splatted randomly down.  This made for some unusual sound effects and coupled with the solitude, excess caffeine, and lack of cell service, our minds began to play tricks on us.  Our simple game became tense; I’d pretend to be pondering a move at length as I listened carefully to identify a sound.  Was that someone talking?  A car door slamming?  I’d crawl to the tent door, heart hammering and poke my head out under the zipper.  Nothing.  We’d smile at each other and assure each other that we weren’t scared; after all, there may be big bad guys out there but God was much bigger.  Beanies back over the ears and the game resumed.  Over and over again.

At 10:30 we were snuggled down in our bags with the light off, sharing ear buds and listening to “Adventures in Odyssey”.  I was peacefully dozing.  Suddenly Alyssa sat up and motioned.  I yanked off my hat to listen.  Sure enough, there were people laughing in the distance and dull clanking sounds.  I decided that it was someone bringing in a small boat; why in the pitch dark, I have no idea, but it was the best I could come up with.

Alyssa and Tia in the morning

The grey light of morning finally came.  A raucous crow cawing overhead got Alyssa to sit up and face the day.  She confessed that she hadn’t slept a wink.  I knew better.  I recalled some nocturnal discussions based on dreams.  I hadn’t slept the best either but camping is about more than sleeping; it’s about experience, and discoveries and memories.  It is the extremes that we recall in later years and take out to ponder; the darkest, the lightest, the hottest and coldest.  It’s the in-betweens we often forget.

Giant fir tree

Reaching for the leaden sky

I pulled my wet coat on over my other layers and cramming on my soaked hiking shoes, I crawled out to make breakfast.  But first, coffee.  Oh, the glorious sight of steam coming up from the pot and the golden bubbles gurgling into the glass knob on top.  Though the rain still fell steadily, things were looking up already.  I ate my raindrop infused scrambled eggs sitting damply under the porch, gazing out across the lake.  Alyssa cuddled Tia in the tent with a big mug of hot chocolate to wash the eggs down.

We’d planned to stay until Thursday but the wet, muddy shoes and coats said the logical decision was to pack it up and try again another day.  I knew that it would never be the same when we came back.  There would be humans to share this space with, sunlight streaming through the trees, boats on the water.  But it would be good and we’d make more memories.

It’s Thursday morning now.  All the laundry is done, the gear is packed away and the tents and tarps washed and drying in the garage.  I’m glad we made that short, impulsive camping trip in the rain.  I learned a lot.  I learned that if you’re going to go camping in the rain you should pack mud boots and a real raincoat.  I learned that, sadly, I fear my fellow man more than wild animals.  I learned that if I’m not careful, fear can poke holes in my trust in God if I don’t pray away the fear.  And lastly, I learned that attitude is nearly everything; circumstances are just there and it’s what we make of them that counts.

The Death of a Dream

If anything or anyone has brought you joy, has filled your days, shared your love and is now lost to you, it must be mourned…If ever your days will be filled with joy and you can truly love again.

The death of a dream

the foundation is dug

Heat shimmered across the dusty ground as I looked down into the hand dug hole.  Many hours and many, many shovelfuls had created this special place.  The mildewed black umbrella I held above my head was intended to keep me from heatstroke but merely halted all breezes.  But I was dreaming.  Dreaming of tall, sturdy walls reaching for the hazy sky.  Dusty brown feet scampering up cement steps.  Books open to inquisitive minds.  Songs of Jesus sung to the beat of a native drum.  Wide smiles.  Tummies filled with good food.  Wild play and happy laughter.

It was India, May 2002.  The foundation hole had been dug for the main building of the ministry of Agape Manor.

the first 4 girls arrive

Four shy girls in tattered dresses sat on a worn bench; Kobita, Mondakini, Geetha and Jyothi.  Having just arrived from their home in the Laxmi Dungri Leprosy Colony, they had no idea what to expect.  Their dusty, slightly sweaty faces turned curiously toward me, trying to trust me, letting me love them just a little.

the first 4 boys

Four boys arrived with them; Koperchon, Shankar, Bikash and Choitu.  Their only brush with education was watching village children walking by with pressed uniforms and bags of books, yet they were already dreaming of being policemen and drivers of cars; two of the noblest professions they knew.

For the past eight years there has been much growth and many changes.  Hundreds of children have come from a variety of backgrounds; poor villages, leper colonies and broken homes.  All were needy; lacking education, medical care and proper nutrition; and all needing Jesus.  Some stayed a few days, others for many years.

one happy family

Chris with kids

Fifteen times through those years I got on a plane and traveled across 13 ½ time zones to visit them.  Some trips I was alone and others I was accompanied by my family or friends.  My husband Chris and children, Brandon, Telina, Naaman and Alyssa all made the journey with me.

Naaman and the girls, long ago

Brandon serving rice

Telina with Anjana

Together we bonded with the children who called Agape Manor their home.  We left our mark on them; teaching them songs, games, stories and art.  And they left their mark on us.  Mostly in our hearts; never to be removed.  They entertained us with skits and dances.  They taught us their words and songs.  They hugged, kissed and held us.  We laughed and cried together.  The trips were not always easy but they were filled with joy and love and never to be forgotten experiences.

The Nativity

completed building

The fingerprints of God were all over this ministry.  He blessed the work beyond measure.  He opened hearts and brought in teachers, bricklayers and cooks.  The building rose into the coconut palms and stretched to fill the available space.  Children sat cross-legged on the cement floors and poured over lessons; science, history, mathematics, English and more.  Most were eager to learn and a few just itching to go out and play.  Songs of Jesus filled the air and eyes shone with His love.  Children who had never before heard the name of Jesus, praised Him with their lips and spoke of His love to their idol worshipping parents.  Lives were changed; especially mine.

Alyssa and girls

Prabha and I

Anargalam Limma

Anar with baby

The Limma family became my extended family.  After sharing in the labor and delivery of their two youngest daughters, I had the privilege of naming them; Esther Joy and Elina Anne.  Despite the language barrier, Prabha and I shared our thoughts on food, family and all things women.  The two Limma brothers, having founded the ministry with me, were a constant source of inspiration to me.  They worked hard to provide and protect in an anti-Christian culture.  I trusted them; with the children, with decisions and even with my life.  Through the years and the many trips, I and those with me traveled with the Limma’s over bumpy, rutted miles to villages and leper colonies.  Always we attempted to share the love of Jesus through distribution of food, clothing and medical care; and by speaking the Word and singing songs.

Pastor Limma drumming

But life on this planet is ever changing.  Long, long ago sin entered in and has been spreading its poisonous tentacles ever since; creeping into the heart of man.  Reaching out and shattering the foundations of a godly, solid work.  Fear, pain and mistrust marched in where once there was joy and security.  Though the Light may still shine through in places, long dark shadows have been cast over the campus of Agape Manor.

The children who were touched by the love of God still have the finger marks of God upon them.  He is watching over them no matter where they go.  My love for them is but a fragment of the love of the Heavenly Father for them.  But for me, God is closing a door.

goodbye to the girls

It is time for me to shed my tears, say goodbye and wipe my eyes.  I hold the brown faces in my hands once more.  I look into their sparkly, trusting eyes.  I catch their smiles and hold them close.  I share a firm grip with the big boys’ hands, hug the girls tight one last time and pull the little ones in my lap.  God only knows what tomorrow may bring, but for now, I grieve the circumstances that pull us apart but hold the love of the children forever in my heart.

“…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” Job 1:21



Girls singing in church

Chris shares his music

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THIS STRANGE WORLD

“People are the same all over the world”. I’ve heard this statement many times and in a sense of the word, it’s true. Inside, we have mostly the same needs… to love and be loved; to be accepted by others, etc. We have similar physical needs as well… food, clothing, shelter, sleep, etc. But visiting India from Washington State, I find vast differences in the world around me. When I’m not otherwise occupied, I’m on the roof or porch looking down at the activity below me…

sweeper girls

sweeper girls

On the mission compound there is packed sand everywhere. Not a blade of grass to be seen. Each morning at 5:00 am,  several of the girls crawl out of bed in the predawn darkness and armed with short twiggy brooms they sweep the yard. Piles of the debris of the previous night’s storm are gathered up and later tossed into the canal. I think of my green lawn and well ordered flower beds.

breakfast is ready!

breakfast is ready!

At mealtimes the children line up for a heaping plate of rice. Sitting cross-legged on the floor they eagerly eat it with their right hand (their left hand being reserved for, well, “other things”). Even little kids can consume 3-4 cups at a sitting.

food for the cows.

food for the cows.

Two legs come walking down the road topped by a massive pile of grass. The man, obscured by his burden enters through the neighboring gate. Walking directly into the cowshed he drops his load in front of his beloved cows. Next comes a woman…on her head is an enormous stack of carefully pressed and dried “cow pies” that will be used for cooking fires.

cooking fuel

cooking fuel

It’s dusk and numerous black shapes descend from the lower fronds of the coconut palm. Bats…they move to the mango trees; circling and swooping silently, feasting on the ever-present mosquitoes.

Driving to town we pass a petrol station where 5 cows have sauntered up to the pumps. On a busy intersection in the city there is a roundabout where a police is usually stationed with a hand held sign to direct traffic. Today I see a cow has taken his place. Judging by the amount of dung surrounding her, she’s been here for awhile. A pack of dogs dashes down the road…one of them is torn and bleeding. No one gives a second glance; there are nearly as many dogs as people here.

bathing and laundry in the canal

bathing and laundry in the canal

In the canal below, a woman bathes almost fully clothed. Her youngsters romp nearby…squealing and splashing; their naked skin shines in the morning sun. At the well a man methodically brushes his teeth. Another man walks down the road with a stick poking out of his mouth…a poor man’s version of a toothbrush.

buffalo bathtime

buffalo bathtime

tractor wash

tractor wash

A small treasured herd of buffalo lumbers down the banks of the canal. At their master’s command they lower themselves into the murky water. After each has been scrubbed they are herded away. Some are used to plow the rice fields in preparation for planting. Others are taken down the roads to forage.

The buffalo gone, a bright red tractor is driven into the filthy waters of the canal to be carefully washed prior to the day’s work. Beside a large flat rock at the water’s edge, a woman stands calf deep in the canal. The days’ laundry is piled at her feet. Sloshing them repeatedly through the murky water, she pronounces them clean. The spin cycle is accomplished by whacking the folded garment repeatedly on the rock to force out the excess water. Some women fold many garments inside a sari, creating a large, wet, heavy object to smack on the rock.

lizard on Alyssa's arm

lizard on Alyssa's arm

Small lizards, maybe 6” long live in the houses. Friendly, with wide-set staring eyes, they move quickly across the walls, chirping as they go. When Alyssa has been here with me she has managed to catch and hold them. One night I dashed into my room in the dark to get something. Just before I hit the light switch I saw a tail disappear into a hole beside the switch. So that’s where my friend sneaks off to!

packaging rice product

packaging rice product

Things to do…Today the children are out of school due to one of the numerous Indian (Hindu) festivals. We are assembling some gift packets for the Laxmi Dungri Leprosy Colony. The packets include some soaps, food ingredients, hair oil, etc. Tomorrow some of the kids will accompany us to the colony to distribute them in the name of Jesus. This is the colony that I had the privilege of living in for a week in the spring of 2007 so these people are very dear to me. I have not been able to go before now because the people have been fighting amongst themselves and it wasn’t deemed safe.

I will also be putting together small gift packets for the children here…some sweets, pencils and sharpeners, etc, to be given out to them Wednesday.

I am going home! I feel that God has closed some doors here and that it is time for me to go home. My family needs me and I need them. I was able to get a ticket for exactly a week earlier, so I’ll be leaving at 10:00 am on Wednesday and arrive home at noon on Thursday. Please be in prayer for my journey, but even more, for those I leave behind. I’ve told some of the kids and they really don’t understand. After all…we have such good times together, why spoil things?

the kids and I sitting outside

the kids and I sitting outside

the girls and I hanging out

the girls and I hanging out

This will likely be my last blog posted from this side of the world.  I leave you in the care and keeping of our gracious Lord and Savior!

Kobita cutting cabbage

Kobita cutting cabbage

my food: c.w. from top: fried potatoes, egg curry, dal, chapati, fried okra, veggie rice

my food: c.w. from top: fried potatoes, egg curry, dal, chapati, fried okra, veggie rice

Niranjan - first in line

Niranjan - first in line

milk man

milk man

stormy evening

stormy evening

Pintu pouring cooking oil

Pintu pouring cooking oil

kids add to my lesson

kids add to my lesson

Rain outside my window

Rain outside my window

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DOING LIFE IN INDIA

on the road

on the road

Prabha at clinic

Prabha at clinic

I’m into my second week in India now. So far I haven’t moved around much; only one day trip of accompanying Prabha Limma to a clinic for thyroid testing and to the hospital for an ultrasound. Days are busy with about 100 kids working, playing, eating and going to school. Anytime I show my face I am greeted with a hand to forehead and an enthusiastic “Good morning, Madam!”, “Good afternoon, Madam!” etc. The littlest ones use whatever greeting they’ve learned, irregardless of the time of day. This always brings a smile to my face.

storm over rice field

storm over rice field

heavy deluge

heavy deluge

We’ve had a couple fabulous thunder storms that have brought much needed rain and a little cooler temperature. One recent day there was such a deluge just as the kids got out of school for the day. I took off my sandals and danced and twirled in the warm shower as the palms swayed frantically overhead. Laugh at the image if you want, but it delighted the children and that’s all that matters!

dancing in the rain

dancing in the rain

ON SERVING THE KING… Malaria clinics, preaching, smuggling Bibles, digging wells and building homes; these are the things that come to mind at the word missionary. This trip especially, I feel I fall so short on serving. But God has shown me that I’m to be faithful at the little things. Though I am far less capable than even the children at it, I can dole out huge scoops of rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They seem to enjoy my efforts. It may seem silly for a missionary to paint fingernails but it gives me a few minutes to look into a little girl’s eyes and let her know she is pretty and worth my time. Or I can simply sit in the girls’ room and let them tell me about their day; admire their beautiful drawings and teach them songs of Jesus.

pretty fingers

pretty fingers

monkeys!

monkeys!

sharing a laugh with Prabha's mom

sharing a laugh with Prabha's mom

The little boys seem to think I do them a great service every time I video tape their goofy antics. What delighted squeals emit from their mouths when they watch it play back. It makes me chuckle just to think of it. The big boys like to talk seriously about the outside world or problems that they are facing. I don’t usually have the answers but I can direct them to Someone who does. I can go sit on the floor by Pinki and put my cool hands on her hot, feverish forehead and make sure she’s given proper medication. And I can chatter away with Prabha’s mother who doesn’t know a word of English and loves to talk as much as I do.

Sobita with my coffee

Sobita with my coffee

ON BEING SERVED… Every morning around 6:00 am, as I sit watching the glory of the day unfold, I hear a soft voice behind me; “Your coffee, Madam”, if it’s one of the children or “Good morning, Sister” if it’s Prabha. In their hands will be a steaming cup of “milk coffee”, covered with a lid. Three times a day, someone brings my meals up to me on the third floor and collects the dirty dishes when they are done. If I’m sitting in their room for awhile one of the girls will often rub my back. The little ones bless me just by wanting to be with me and hold my hand. So many little acts of service all day long, it would be impossible to repay them all.

Shanti Sindriya

Shanti Sindriya

MY FEET ARE WASHED… Jesus said that as He washed the disciples feet, so we aught also wash one another’s feet. On some of my earlier trips I have had the privilege of having my feet ceremonially wash. Dusty and tired from walking in sandals I have been blessed to have the cool water poured over my feet. But never before now have my feet been “dusted” as an act of love. Little Shanti would not be ranked very high by this world’s standards. Her mother is mentally unstable; she is of the lowest caste, with very dark skin and is not especially intelligent. But Shanti loves me and makes sure that I know it with her little acts of love. In addition to greeting me dozens of times of day, she motions for me to join her and grabs my hand when I do. She looks up at me adoringly whenever I am near. Often she just presses my hand to her sweaty little face. One day I was sitting in the girls’ room for a few hours watching them doing impromptu dramas, singing songs etc. Shanti never tried to claim the limelight as some do. Instead, she sat on the floor at my feet and rubbed them. My very dirty feet, I might add. Then, after a while she ran from the room and came back with a handful of scented powder and began to massage it into my feet. It was the sweetest gift and like no other I have ever received.

And so I carry on for a little longer here. I am still searching for more answers. God has opened some doors but seems to have closed others. Pray that I may shine for Jesus in all that I do here.India, fall 2009 130

Carom

Carom

Shyam Patel

Shyam Patel

factory smoke

factory smoke

Rina and Jyothi

Rina and Jyothi

India, fall 2009 585

good friends

good friends

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FIRST WEEK BACK IN INDIA

first glimpse of sun

first glimpse of sun

sunrising

sunrising

September 19, 2009

The show begins at 5:45.  I’m up on the roof of the guest house.  My hands are wrapped around a cup of coffee and my Bible open in my lap.  Praise music flows through my ear buds masking the nearby temple music; I’m ready for the glory to unfold.  A faint vermillion tracing is seen in the grey band of eastern sky.  It quickly rises, fleshing out its shape to an orb; brilliant to look at and gilding the palm fronds with gold.  Shadows flee, and the day has begun.

Sounds lovely, huh?  I had actually just written that in my journal, feeling inspired after reading the verses of Psalm 19 about God orchestrating the rising and setting of the sun.  I got up to take a picture of the glory, framed by said palm fronds.  I stepped carefully across a small black river of algae that has been flowing since the beginning of time due to a leaky pipe.  My foot hit the slime and down I went; iPod and camera flying.  The word that came forth from my lips as I hit the nasty cement was not nice.  Shame rushed over me as I recalled that moments before I had read and prayed the words that end Psalms 19.  Something like… “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord”.  Just as picked up the pieces of myself and my electronics, I heard a tentative voice behind me say, “Excuse me, Madam; your coffee.”  I pray that either he hadn’t been there long or he did not know that one certain unsavory English word.

The human condition is weak and not one of us can set ourselves above the other or as imperfect.  I came here to India primarily seeking answer about a sin committed.  God has created a beautiful world but we as mankind has tainted it with sin and decay from one side of the globe to the next.

I have already been here for several days but this is the first chance I’ve had to email.  Previously they had some kind of connection here but it hasn’t been available until today.  Unbelievably, it’s even high-speed and I can my check my facebook.

girls sharing my iPod

girls sharing my iPod

One of the oldest boys, Shankar, is very interested in learning about computers and is looking over my shoulder as I type. He likes nice things…especially my iPod!  I think that he’ll have to study hard so he can get a good job.

It has been somewhat cloudy but very warm and humid.  My room is on the top floor on the southwest side so it is difficult to keep it cool.  Last night they installed an old “swamp cooler” which may help a little.  Yesterday there was lightning but it wasn’t very close because I couldn’t hear the thunder.  Praying for rain as it may take the humidity down a notch.

Amy Madam

Amy Madam

I’ve spent lots of time with the kids.  Teachers seem to come kind of randomly so if there isn’t a teacher, I just fill in.  Not that I actually try to sub but I find something interesting.  They love having me draw and it’s a novelty for me to use a chalk board (which is really just an expanse of black paint on one wall..

drawing lessons

drawing lessons

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The above entry was abruptly ended when my computer suddenly shut down.  It turns out the power draw from the nearby village was too much competition; at dusk everyone turns on their lights and TVs if they have them.

This morning went a little more smoothly on the roof and I have only a wrenched back to remind me of yesterday’s episode.  Nothing pain reliever won’t cure.  Another power outage had doused the nearby temple music.  As I read through the Psalms, I sat, without music on and listened to the sounds of the morning.  Pigeons warbled beside me on the railing; blue-black crows cawed their way from mango to palm tree.

morning visitors

morning visitors

An ageless man; head turbaned loosely in a plaid towel drove a half dozen buffalo down the dusty road. “Yah! Yah! Ha!” he spoke sharply, with upraised staff.  Large splashes followed as he drove them down the bank into the murky waters of the canal.  Cumbersome masses of sleek, smoky flesh. At the master’s command they lowered themselves into the water to soak until it was their turn to be scrubbed head to tail with a handful of straw.

scrubbing the buffalo

scrubbing the buffalo

On the campus below me the children were already busy with chores, baths etc and chattered as they went about their business.  From the village a mother gives a sharp command, answered by the cry of a child.  Roosters crow and random dog fights break out.

Pray for patience and wisdom for me in my search for the truth.  It is not my nature to just “be”.  Pray that mouths will be opened in God’s time and for peace in the hearts of those who have painful, fearful things to share.  Pray that I will be able to bring joy to these children whose lives have already been filled with so many difficulties.  May God bless and keep you in His peace!  Amy

Indu and Sobita

Indu and Sobita

boys reading

boys reading

main hostel/school building

main hostel/school building

boys chopping firewood

boys chopping firewood

Girls prep the food but boys do the cooking

Girls prep the food but boys do the cooking

Divya makes a ginger-garlic paste

Divya makes a ginger-garlic paste

girls cutting chicken and onions

girls cutting chicken and onions

#5, RETURN TO INDIA

Agape Manor girls

Agape Manor girls

boys

boys

More than a year has passed.  Agape Manor has limped along.  Building projects have been halted but we’ve continued to send money for the basic care of the children.  Life seems nearly normal for the approximately 100 children; many of the teachers returned to the campus and classes have resumed. 

studies resume

studies resume

Through the months I continued to receive glowing reports of Pastor Limma’s prison ministry – how many times he’s read through the Bible and how many copies of the same he’s given away to seeking inmates.  Doubt about his guilt wedges its way into my mind.

Anargalam Limma with local pastor

Anargalam Limma with local pastor

Meanwhile, questions have been raised regarding policies and finances for the running of the ministry.  My file of printed emails from Anar has grown to an inch thick but most remain unanswered.  In February, I planned a trip to check things out but then cancelled it – knowing the time wasn’t right.  Recently I received information from another source.  After much prayer and deliberation, I believe God desires for me to go and check it out.  Do I want to go?  No, not really.  I look forward to seeing the kids there and my dear friend, Prabha Limma.  But I hate leaving my family – I know they need me too.

Prabha Limma and I

Prabha Limma and I

I know that God will be with me but do keep me and my family in your prayers as I depart at noon next Monday, September 14th.  Pray that He will plant a hedge of protection around me as I travel and fill me with His peace, His strength and His wisdom.  Pray that the truth will be fully revealed to me at last and that I will know what to do with it.

For those of you who have joined me is spirit on my past 14 trips, know that I treasure your prayers, comments and encouraging verses of scripture.  May God bless you!

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#4, MONTHS OF CONFUSION – SEEKING ANSWERS

Pastor Limma behind bars

Pastor Limma behind bars

January through July brought sporadic reports of the situation in India.  The police paid random visits but their presence seemed to be resented rather than welcomed.  I was told that while Pastor was initially treated harshly in jail, once the jailer and his fellow inmates became aware that he was a pastor he was, strangely enough, given more respect.  He developed the reputation of a model prisoner and was known to give away extra food and clothing to those who had less.

Baragarh Jail

Baragarh Jail

A trial was underway but it dragged on an on with many postponements. Anargalam Limma and I emailed back and forth on a weekly basis but answers to my questions were not very forthcoming.  Doubts and confusion circled through my mind; what was really going on over on the other side of the world?  During the visit of the Bajrang Dal there had been some accusations hurled as they stormed around; could there be some truth to them?

Jailer

Jailer

In July, while in Minnesota at an ALC convention, I received some shocking news.  It was told to me by Robert Maki, who’d been given the news by Dr. Kumar, from Andhra Pradesh, India.  In brief – Pastor Limma was not being imprisoned due to Christian persecution.  He had raped one or more girls at Agape Manor.  Though I’d had my suspicions, this disclosure sent me reeling.  Bob made every effort to be sensitive but there was no way to sugar coat it – this was a bitter pill to swallow.  I felt betrayed.  I wanted to lash out at someone – the bearer of the news? Pastor Limma?  Maybe even God?  But I knew that this went back to the Garden of Eden – nothing new here.

L-R, Dr. Kumar, Pastor K, Superintendent of Police, Bob Maki

L-R, Dr. Kumar, Pastor K, Superintendent of Police, Bob Maki

After some deliberation, we decided to go – Bob on behalf of the ALC Foreign Mission.  We would meet Dr. Kumar in Andhra Pradesh and travel up to Orissa State together.  At the last minute we secured a fourth to our group – Pastor K, also from Andhra Pradesh, who proved himself invaluable as translator, companion and friend.

Reading through police report

Reading through police report

We based ourselves in a moldy little hotel in Baragarh – a town fairly close to Agape Manor.  Dr. Kumar brought with him Xerox copies of police reports and court papers which were obtained by some undisclosed means. 

Local police

Local police

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Deputy Inspector reading case

taking tea with S.P.

taking tea with S.P.

In the evening we poured over these.  As we turned page after page and saw the sordid details in print – along with names so beloved to me – it seemed that the darkness had descended into our filthy little room.  And as much as I cried, I knew that God grieved even more – this was not what He created man for.

Deepa and her sister Puspa

Deepa and her sister Puspa

Thanks to our Indian companions and God miraculously opening doors, we were able to spend our days meeting with the police at many levels and even traveling to visit the alleged victim.  Dearest Deepa – how my heart was moved at the sight of her sad face!  Slowly, bit by bit she told her story – first to me in private, then to Bob and Pastor K. 

 

We also met with Pastor Limma in jail.  When he got over the initial shock of seeing us there in the jailer’s office, he vehemently denied the allegations against him.  As did Anargalam, his brother, when we finally came “out of cover” and moved to the mission compound.  On campus – though their numbers were depleted by half – the children carried on in fairly normal fashion.  They lined up with their steel plates for meals; they sang their songs and begged for stories.  Teachers had all fled but a few local pastors had come to fill in and hold some classes.  But for the dark cloud over all, these were happy days. 
Deepa in happier days

Deepa in happier days

Bob and I went home to our families as certain of Pastor Limma’s guilt as he and his brother were of his innocence.  Deepa’s tear stained face is ever before me in my mind.

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