Friday, May 09, 2014

Jeya's Jar

It seems so fitting that this small jar would typically be used for preserves -- something to contain and protect food that sustains and gives life.

Right now, this one contains only small change...  but there's nothing small about the change it will make.


This is Jeya's Jar - a small jar our women's Bible Study group uses to collect spare change for Jeya.  Jeya is a widow who  takes part in the Family Support program through the His Hands for India ministry.  As an elderly widow who is raising her grandsons, Jeya struggles to make ends meet.  She is willing to do hard labor whenever she can, but between her aging body, meager wages, and scarce work, there seems to always be a gap between poverty and her basic needs being met.  This places her in a high risk situation for trafficking and bonded labor.

She didn't need to earn much to make ends meet.  A mere $20 would comfortably cover her basic needs of food, shelter, and transportation for the month.

When we started gathering as a Bible Study group, it was suggested that anyone willing to share their blessings with Jeya could bring a bit of spare change each week for Jeya's Jar.  At the end of each month, we would send what we had gathered to Jeya, knowing that even if it didn't quite reach a month's support, it would still be a blessing.

It seems unthinkable -- that $20 a month would sustain her financially and keep poverty from clawing at her heels.

Small change when you have over a dozen people, and a month to gather it...
... big change when it's placed in God's hands for those in need.

The jar holds exactly one cup...  a cup of water in His name?  We counted April's blessings this week...  we had enough to cover exactly one month, plus a spare bit of change to begin our new month with.

As our lives are transformed by God through our Bible Study group...  Jeya's life is transformed by God through our group too.


video


Do you have a small group?  Can we challenge your Small Group to create a change jar too?  Our Bible Study group will only be meeting until the end of June.  In the meantime, we would like to see more groups join us in Jeya's Jar initiative so that her sponsorship fund can grow to support her long past the next few months.  

For more information, or to join Jeya's Jar -- please contact Info@HisHandsForIndia.org


Thank you...



Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ghana 2014: Art Auction #1

Our family is raising funds to build a library in Enyan Abaasa, Ghana, the African village in which two of our sponsored children live. This project is being done in partnership with Compassion Canada, through whom we have been sponsors since 2005. 


My 12 year old daughter Jillian is a budding artist who loves to experiment with all kinds of art. The idea was tossed around to do an Art Auction as part of our Ghana Library fundraiser. Since it's a great way for her to contribute to the fundraising, we are giving it a try. We will auction off a few paintings at a time, and hope to have several auctions throughout the year.  I've enjoyed watching her paint so much that I gave it a try too.  It was a little frightening!  :p

The paintings will be offered auction style. The starting bid will be listed in the photo description, along with the painting size. If you wish to bid on an individual painting, please do so in the comment section of that particular painting(on the Facebook Auction album. Be aware that you may be outbid, so check back often.

This auction set will be on the auction block until May 11th, 2014 at 11pm AST, at which time the winners will be announced. 

Click here to see open the auction album:  Ghana 2014: Art Auction #1

(Sneak Peak...)







If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to let us know.

100% of funds raised will be allocated to the library fund. For more information on our project, please check out our BLOG POST or our FUNDRAISING PAGE

Thank you for your prayers and your support... please share this auction album amongst your family and friends! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sunday Joy


Our His Hands Support Ministries Philippines team are in the Philippines this week getting updates on our programs.  In one particular village, they stopped for lunch and as they ate, they noticed a young man sitting nearby.  The young man sat alone, head down, not looking at anyone, but the joy on his face was unmistakable.

Familiar with his story, the local pastor, Pastor Chris, shared it with the team.  This young man lived a fairly typical life in his small village in the Philippines.  Lovingly raised by a woman known for her love of the Lord, his only desire was also his greatest delight -- to read his Bible and attend his home church.  This was what rooted his joy in the midst of the poverty and hardships that dogged him his entire life. 

His life was typical, except for one thing.  

He contracted meningitis, which left him hearing impaired and suffering from persistent seizures.  Without medication to control his seizures, he could no longer read his Bible or attend church.  Unable to afford this medication full time, the decision was made to ration and prioritize it drastically – their priority was for him to have access the medications at the least on Sunday mornings – so that he could attend church and read his beloved Bible.  The rest of the week, he often goes without and greatly suffers, but his Sunday joy sustains him considerably.

Whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for me, says Jesus. 
It doesn’t escape any of us that this young man’s name is also...  Jesus. 

 (left to right, Jesus' mother, Jesus, and Wendy)

Moved by his situation, the team is sharing his story in hopes of finding help for this young man.  The cost for Jesus to receive daily doses of medicine is $25/month -- less than a dollar a day.   We are seeking sponsorship(s) for this young man in any amount up to and including $25/month, simply to cover the cost of his medicine.  We desire to see him live life to the fullest, and to experience his greatest joys without obstacles. 

Until we find a loving sponsor or sponsors for Jesus, we are accepting one time donations in any amount, no amount too small.  A starting pledge has been received in the amount of $32, which will help him for the next five weeks until more long-term funding can be established. 
  
To make a one time donation, please use the general donation link on this page.  Indicate "Jesus - medication" in the notes.  To commit to the sponsorship of Jesus, please contact jamie@hishandsforthephilippines.org


Please share this story to help us find provisions for Jesus.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ghana 2014: Building With Books

Do you have a childhood memory so strong that to this day, by simply concentrating, you can remember the exact smell of that environment? 

Do you remember the smell of a library?  I vividly remember going to libraries with my mom when I was little, ones with thousands of books, wooden index card boxes, children’s corners with soft seating and bright colors, and the distinct smell of paper mixed with the smell of the clear tape they used to affix the white Dewey system labels to the backs of the books.  You could go to different libraries – the school library, the public library, even a library in a different town, and the scent of books was still so familiar.



I couldn’t wait to learn to read.  What an amazing key to the world:  opportunities to learn about the world around me, about people, adventures, faraway places... endless stories to be discovered.   My mom was a school teacher, so trips to her school or the library, or access to books were abundant.   I had my own collection of books at home, and when I needed something different to read, I’d venture into newspapers, travel brochures, catalogues, and old Reader’s Digests from the 1960’s from the bookshelves at my grandfather’s house.  There was never a shortage of textbooks in our schools, we even had used ones at home to use and play 'school' with.

The hardest thing for me wasn’t learning to read, or picking out a book...  it was simply the limit of books I was allowed to check out at a time.   I had one friend in elementary school who didn’t share my love of reading.  We made a deal – I would sign out my maximum of 4 books, and she would sign out another 4 for me under her name.  I’d be all set until we went back to the library a week later.

It was something that I took for granted as a child growing up in Canada.  I don’t think it ever dawned on me until I became an adult that reading isn’t always a part of childhood, and neither is access to books.

In 2011, one of the 17 children I sponsor, a boy from Ghana named Ato Sam, shared with me through one of his letters that his Ghanian village, Enyan Abaasa, struggled with the scarcity of books.  He explained that he had a thirst for knowledge, dreamed of becoming an engineer, but without access to books, it was difficult to learn English and to learn to read, much less to find the vast amount of knowledge he sought to learn.    In my response, I told him that every town and every school in Canada had its own library, that even our church had a library. 

Our church library is as big as Ato Sam’s house. 

Astounded, he struggled to imagine this.  

I had made efforts to send a book to Ato Sam with every letter I wrote to him... within mere months, he had more books than his entire village combined.  I told him that someday, perhaps he could open his own library and bookstore, and be the manager of such a tremendous resource for his village.

The boy who once had very little hope, was beginning to boldly dream.

So was I.

I continued to ensure that with every letter I wrote to him, I also sent an educational book that he could read and share.  In a subsequent letter, Ato Sam boldly told me that since I help so many people around the world, would I consider helping the children of his own country?  Knowing me well enough to know that I wouldn’t let him down, he boldly asked me when I was coming.

Although my initial thought was to help only his family or his village, I wanted to demonstrate my love for him by first doing something for his country.  After some research, I learned of the thousands of kids enslaved in the Lake Volta region of Ghana.  After carefully studying the options, a plan was formed to raise funds to increase the resources available so that more children can be rescued.  By November of 2011, our tiny team had not only successfully raised the $30,000 required, plus the travel costs, but we traveled to Ghana and took part in the rescue of two more Lake Volta children.  (Read about our project *here* and about our trip *here*)

It was during this trip that I also traveled to Ato Sam’s village for the first time and met this amazing boy in person.  

(Photo credit:  Tia Kollar)


Being in his village and meeting him fueled our dream to provide book resources to his village, to help the entire village community increase not only their literacy, but their ability to lift themselves out of poverty.

(Photo credit:  Tia Kollar)


And yes, we brought many books with us to give to them during our time in Ghana.


When I returned home, I couldn’t shake the dream of seeing Enyan Abaasa have the resource of books accessible to everyone.  I began collecting books, knowing I would see that dream come to life in time.
Imagine how hard it is for a child or an adult to be encouraged to learn how to read and write when reading materials aren’t readily available?  It’s also hard for people to find work, for teachers to teach, for business owners to write receipts or understand the laws, for students to continue their education... for people to know their rights...  illiteracy has a much greater impact than I can wrap my mind around.  Above all, it enters into a vicious circle with poverty – they feed each other. 

A library would help break that cycle for one village and for the generations that will follow...

(Photo Credits, Tia Kollar)


After much planning, research and prayer, I knew it was time to turn this dream into a reality.  In January of 2014, I reached out to the Enyan Abaasa community through Compassion Canada, asking them how they felt about the possibility of a library in their community.  It was important to me that this was their dream too, that their community was truly interested in this and would benefit from it.  The response was very positive.  Not only did they respond that yes, a library would greatly benefit their community, that it would help increase the level of literacy and help people break the cycle of poverty, but they were prepared to provide the land and the logistics of building it. 

I asked them to provide to me a plan of what they had in mind, and how much it would cost to build.  They responded with a very thorough, thoughtfully drafted plan for a library that includes a small bookstore, an office, and even a restroom – a welcomed luxury in rural Ghana.  True to these humble, gracious people, the plans weren’t flashy or excessive; rather, the library/bookstore plans are very functional, methodical and well thought through...  And much better than I could have dreamt on my own.

The detailed material list I received from them included the quantity of and price of everything, including boxes of the nails they’d need, cement bags, lumber, tiles, measurements, labor, etc...  even the water barrels and the truckloads of sand are accounted for.  The land has been secured by the local church, the management team is in place, sustainability has been thought through long-term.  The community, from the children to the elderly, will benefit as a whole and are engaged and ready to invest into this invaluable resource. 

This is no longer my dreams, but theirs.   In fact, it is no longer a dream, but becoming a reality. 
A fundraising team has been established to raise funds to build the Greater Grace Library & Bookstore for the village of Enyan Abaasa, in partnership with Compassion Canada, who will oversee the project logistics in Ghana. 


I’m experiencing strong feelings of déjà vu – just as we did in 2011, we are starting empty handed with the finished project estimated to cost $23,000US, including materials and labor and the beginnings of the book collection and furnishings.  This includes a contingency buffer in the event that construction costs increase or something unforeseen happens during the construction phase.  Once again, our only plan is to step forward in faith, one certain step at a time, believing in what we set forth to do.  It’s a sacrificial dream, it will take everything we have to make it happen, and God’s only plan for this project is His people.  He has promised this to us, and He will provide.

We cannot stop at only the construction costs; once the constructions costs are raised, while the library is being built, we will shift our focus to stocking the shelves with educational books and resources.

My son Brandon and his girlfriend Maddie will be raising funds at their high school, while my other son Joshua and my daughter Jillian will be raising funds at each of their schools.  My husband and I will be raising funds together through family, friends, work, church, social networking and the community at large.  

Once the library project is completed, we hope to accompany Ato Sam and his family to the opening ceremony.


As we did in 2011, we start empty handed.  I don’t have $23,000, and it’s likely that neither of us have $23,000.  To you and I, building this library may seem like an insurmountable challenge.  What matters is that we serve a God for Whom nothing is impossible, a God who has gathered us together to make a difference in this community.  Every penny counts, every bake sale and yard sale important, every donation precious and life changing. 

What an amazing opportunity to make a difference.


Alone, we can’t.  Together, we can.  

Please join us!


_____________________________________________


Donations can be made by Paypal using this link:  


OR:

Donations in Canada can also be made 
easily through Interac Funds Transfer
Africa@beyondmeasure.me


Tax receipts will be provided for donations exceeding $20, in both Canada and in the U.S.


Thank you...   merci...  meda ase.
Sunday, April 14, 2013

India 2013: Poverty's Prison

I've been staring at a blank screen all week, an empty slate, a white canvas...  I have been praying for the words only He can lend me that can paint the picture that I want to share with you.... the picture that my camera, my skills, my gifts can't capture on their own.  I have been broken silent and yet my heart is crying out loud for what my eyes have seen, my ears of heart, my arms have held...

The words have brewed all week, all month...  when He gives me something to write, He gives the words to me as He gives the earth snowflakes, seemingly random and haphazard yet you know they grow heavy and hurl fast to the ground and you can't catch them all, know them all...  they increase in intensity as the storm brews near, falling closer and closer together in a blizzard of thoughts and emotions and memories and right now, as they form on the ground, settling into first sentences, then paragraphs...  I will interpret the scenery before me, so that it will stand before you, unheard until now, from God's paintbrush and inkwell, through my hands, to your screen...

I have no idea how He will share this, what it will look like when it's done... much less how to hold my heart together long enough to put it to life, please bear with me, and gently stay a while...  we need you.  He needs you.



We arrived, unannounced as there is no way to communicate our arrival other than to simply come, as we are, to meet them there, as they are, where they are.  We walked down a beaten path, far from the road, through groundnut fields.  The sun beat down harshly on our backs as we walked single file towards the simple house.



We had heard of this woman, Amutha, from Pastor Michael, hearts broken over her story.  Her husband had run away from their marriage, left her for another woman.  Leaving Amutha to care for their two disabled children, a boy and a girl.  I had met both children briefly, but I wanted to do more than meet them, I wanted to see them, hear them, understand their situation and partake in their suffering.


I thought she was perhaps 10, with her bright green dress and her wild hair pulled back, scarred legs fidgeting restlessly, impish grin shining of innocence.  Her hands flapped as she fretted back and forth, pacing excitement and perhaps anxiety, she couldn't say, and we didn't know...


She was like a bright butterfly of a girl, one minute exploring, the next squatting quietly by the front door, studying us, it seemed.




We waited by the door to come in, and if I had not been watching at that very moment, I would have missed Amutha's embarrassed face as she swooped low with a dirty rag to wipe the trickle on the floor that had been left behind, before humbly and quietly ushering us into her home.




It was at that very moment that I connected with Amutha, even though she may never know the depth of my understanding and compassion.

Eleven and a half years ago, I gave birth to a precious little girl with a hint of red hair to go along with her more-than-subtle hint of intensity.  By the time she was a few years old, I knew something was different about her... but having had two boys, and both boys being different from each other as well... I simply pushed aside the gnawing feeling and told myself "boys are different from each other and girls are different from boys... she's just intense in a way her brothers weren't, and she's just her own quirky, unique self..."   That would explain her lack of fear, her inability to answer a question, her hyper-sensitivity to sensory input, her delayed development, her inexplicably late toilet training... her selective mutism... her thirst for spinning around and around and around and around...  her intense energy and spirit...  right?  

By the time she started school, I could no longer accept that "girls are just... different like that".  She was the one child rocking under a desk, self-soothing to cope with her inability to function and integrate herself in the world around her.  She couldn't speak most of the time, had no bladder control, could not brush her teeth, comb her hair, had no impulse control...  and the list went on.

As a mother, I needed help, I cried out to Him, overwhelmed...  and God provided, in abundance.  Specialists began to reveal after months of testing, that my daughter, Jillian, was on the autism spectrum, and that would come to explain so much about her intensity, her quirkiness, her hardships.  Her teacher came alongside of me that year, and taught us both how to cope, how to embrace the differences and work with them, how to help her reach her best potential, how to draw her back out of her shell and into a world made safer for her.  


Back in India, I stood before this woman that was me... me years ago, except Amutha had not one but two special needs children, both profoundly disabled, and she was completely on her own.  Her little girl is not ten, nor is she a little girl...  she is 21, trapped inside the broken body and mind of a young child.



Their government housing was miles from anywhere, specialists were not at Amutha's disposal for her daughter or her son, she had no award-winning teacher blessing her with guidance and solidarity, her mother does not live nearby, she had no spouse to bring her relief...  no neighborhood mom's group to rally support from.  No Small Group.

There was no one but her, God, and this precious shepherd -- Pastor Michael.

My heart convulsed.  I felt sick, not understanding how mercy and grace alone can have two women in such an eerily similar situation, and yet have such profoundly different outcomes.

Years of therapy and intervention, of specialists and provisions at our fingertips...  and now?  Last Friday morning, Jillian, now eleven, got herself dressed, made her lunch, confidently did her hair and chit-chatted as she prepared herself for school.  Skipping out to to the bus stop, I called her back to the door so that I could kiss her on the nose and wish her a great day at school.  She grinned and said in a singsong voice "Oh mommyboo...  I love you!" 

There are days with Jillian that I had to choose which battle to fight -- but this woman before my eyes, this woman's daily choice made my own battle seem like child's play.

Every day, Amutha chooses whether or not provisions are worth poverty's prison.

Amutha is strong and healthy enough to work, has experience with agriculture and brick work, wants so much to be able to provide for her family, and can scrape together a meager existence for herself and her two children when she does work.  She's not seeking wealth and abundance, she's simply seeking enough -- enough food to out on the tabble, enough provisions for the children's needs and hers... nothing more, nothing less...

...  but in order to do so, she must do the unthinkable...

...  in order to work when her children are not attending class, she must lock them alone in the house to keep them safe from predators, safe from wandering, safe from themselves.  The lock that dangles the front door keeps the predators out, and keeps the children in.



After a hard day's meager wages, Amutha comes home to a ransacked house every single time, as the kids, left to themselves, destroy their few household belongings.  Furthermore, the children, left for hours at a time, can not relieve themselves outside, so they must relieve themselves in the house.  No one to swoop down and patiently wipe the floor with a dirty rag.  There are no bathroom facilities, no running water.  No nearby stream.  Miles by foot for the nearest water source -- beyond a locked door.

Barely a way for her children to communicate with her when she is home -- never mind when she's nowhere near the house and working to provide for them.

One must wonder if a day's wages is worth the discouragement of coming home to heartbreaking conditions, heartbroken children, and a mother's breaking point...  but is starving a better choice?

There is a yoke of oppression and burden weighing heavier on this woman than her thick cotton clothing under the sweltering Indian sun....  there is a shackle of poverty that can be loosened and broken...


Poverty is a prison.


We were given the keys.

And the command to use them.


Feed My sheep, He said.  
  
Loosen the chains...

Undo heavy burdens...

Set the oppressed free...

Break every yoke...




The key is simple...  


A sponsorship of only twenty dollars a month provides for Amutha and her household so that she no longer has to make that heartbreaking choice until a better option is available to her and her children -- until she is able to work from home or begin a business.


Help unlock poverty's prison...


So that she won't go hungry and can tend to the needs of her children without resorting to locking them up.

So that she can pour her strength into her children's well being.

So that she experience God's provision like never before, and share of Him with all who have ears.


So that the hopelessness of poverty's prison will no longer hold her and her children captive.





To be that key, please consider a Family Support sponsorship of $20/month, or a general donation in any amount (indicate "Family Support" in the notes).  One time donations earmarked will be equally divided amongst Family Support program families who do not yet have a sponsorship. Tax receipts available (U.S. only).

Please note that one hundred percent of funds provided towards the Family Support program goes directly to the families in need.




To learn more about the Family Support program, see also this post.




Saturday, April 06, 2013

India 2013: Feed My Sheep


Each day, as the afternoon tutoring program went on in full swing, we would individually call the children into the pastor’s kitchen, where they would be interviewed and assessed in order to update the sponsorship reports.  We only had a few days in which to make sure we had updates on all the children.  With so many children to assess and a program to run, it had to be done in such a way as to minimize the children’s time out of the program, and maximize productivity. 


As the children came into the kitchen, their name would be written on a small whiteboard, which they would then take with them as they climbed the backstairs to the open roof.  It was on the roof that they would have their sponsorship photos taken, after which they’d head back downstairs to be interviewed. 









The roof was a perfect spot for photos, as it would draw less attention to the children, and the soft glow of the late afternoon light would be ideal for photos.  A handful of older children from the program helped us by escorting the children back and forth and translating for us. 



 Six year old Vimal



A few evenings into this routine, I had just finished taking photos of a child when I heard a mother’s distressed voice speaking in Tamil.  I turned around to see a mother with her daughter, next in line to take photos -- but something was clearly wrong.  Thinking perhaps she was upset with me, I approached her gently and asked in English what was happening, hoping someone could tell me.  The mother grabbed my arm in a fierce grip that can only be described as desperation, and her words tumbled out as tears ran down her cheeks and despair etched itself deeper into her beautiful life-weathered face. 
 
It took everything I had to hold back my own tears.  Then, and now. 

I began to piece the story together – she was in pain; her hips, shoulders and back were hurting... but beyond that, she seemed life-worn.  One moment she would wring her hands in concern, the next she would place them together in broken prayer and praise, her pleas to God and to us breaking my heart.  

Then, she began to put her hands to her mouth, pleading with her eyes…  the message transcended all language barriers -- she was not talking about food, she was talking about hunger.  

Wanting to understand the situation, I turned to the older children, and asked them to help me understand this woman’s situation. 

By this point, the mother was sobbing loudly in my arms, shoulders shaking, hands clinging to me, while forcing the rest of her story out in rapid-fire Tamil in between sobs.  My heart was pierced for her long before the words in English could follow.

Through bits and pieces of broken English, I learned that this woman’s youngest daughter was disabled and took part in the sponsorship program.  Her older children had grown up and gotten married, and now that they were no longer living at home and helping to support her, she struggled to feed herself and provide for her daughter’s needs.  She moved slowly, her body wracked with pain, and kept asking for healing and for help.  She had reached the end of herself… 

… but not the end of God’s provisions and possibilities.

Not the end of hope.


As I wrapped my arms around her, the children surrounded us while I prayed with her as she prayed in Tamil.  I don’t know all that was said, but I know God heard us both and that something would be made new from all these broken pieces.

As we finished praying, I took her face gently into my hands, held her worried gaze with my eyes, and told her hope was here… God had heard her cries and He would provide healing for her body, and He would satisfy her hunger…  this was the beginning, not the end...  I thanked her for trusting me enough to share, and told her once again to hang on to hope.  God would come through.  His mercies would come.




Long after the photos of her daughter were taken…  long after the sobbing silenced...  long after she had begun her trek back home with her daughter…  my heart was raw with ache for this woman who had wept in my arms.

Having poured so much of my life into breaking the cycle of poverty and slavery, I knew that this mother and her child were at risk, and the thought of it made me sick.  In desperation for food or finances, would she end up making a deal with a brick factory, where she and her daughter would spend the rest of their lives in bonded labor?  Would her daughter be at risk for child trafficking? 

Unthinkable.

The raw ache pressed into my heart uncomfortably until I spoke with Jamie later that night.  After much prayer, the idea was born to approach Pastor Michael about the possibility of a Family Sponsorship program for families in a vulnerable situation like this. 

He was very open to the idea.  He explained that families with single moms or grandmothers as the sole caretaker, especially when the children are disabled, suffer above and beyond the usual hardships of extreme poverty.  Unable to work full time because of the child care demands, or due to age and health, the financial strain of providing for their families often brings these women to the breaking point.   It often leads to the women having to pull a child out of school in order to send him or her to work, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty into the next generation.  Desperate times all too often lead to desperate decisions.  

It doesn't have to be this way.  "Do you love Me?  Feed My Sheep", He said...

We asked what would be best – for her to receive food and the basics needed, or for her to receive funds to obtain the basics on her own.  Pastor Michael said that in this situation, there was no concern with providing the mother with money, in that it would be used as it is intended – for survival.  Research backs it up -- mothers in extreme poverty will spend over 90% of their financial provisions on the basic necessities that take care of their family, often before their own needs. 

We asked how many families with children in the program were facing extreme circumstances such as these.  He named three.  We had met one – an older single mom of a disabled child unable to work to provide for herself or her child.  We decided to visit the homes of the other two families to assess their situation in person, interview them and learn more about their needs. Each story made my heart raw with ache for this broken world...

The second family consisted of a young single mom with two profoundly disabled children, Manikandan and Sathya, both of whom are in the sponsorship program.  

The mom could work, but only occasionally, as her daughter was too disabled to attend school regularly.  



Even her clothes told the story of her situation – she wore a heavy cotton sari wrap in the crushing heat while doing chores at home, rather than a lighter material that may have cost a few extra dollars.



Two years ago, she lived with her two children in a mud hut shelter built for keeping livestock.  The government had stepped in and provided a solidly built one room house, improving her living conditions considerably but still leaving her without enough. 




The last family consisted of a grandmother and her two grandsons.  

(Jaya, grandmother raising two teenaged grandsons)


The boys’ mother had died in a tragic kitchen fire accident, leading the boys’ father to flee the responsibility of raising two sons on his own.  Their care was left to the grandmother, who struggled to meet their needs on her own after her husband passed away.  

The only work she was able to do was to harvest rice when the fields were dry; this was seasonal work at best.  

The grandsons were in their teens and at risk for leaving school too soon in order to find daily wage work to support the family.  She was living in a rented home, and if she were to pass away, the boys would be immediately evicted.



At best, working full time in manual labor (rice fields, agriculture, brick work) in this area, these women could earn approximately $15-20 a month if working full time.  Full time work is rare.  The grandmother receives an old age benefit of 500 rupees a month from the government, the equivalent of $10 a month, but the basics of food, shelter, transportation and school costs an average of 2500 rupees a month – $50 -- far out of reach of what she can earn with her ailing health and body.  Many young, able bodied women do not earn that much. 

School fees are provided for by the sponsorship program, and food is provided daily to the children.  This helps alleviate the financial strain on the families, but still leaves a gap. 

After much discussion and prayer, we determined that with a sponsorship donation of $20 a month, supplemented by any work that the caretakers can manage, the heavy burden that breaks the backs of these women could be lifted, and the raw wounds left on our hearts by these women’s stories could begin to heal.

When it was time for us to leave, I turned to give Jaya, the grandmother, a comforting hug.  She wept openly in my arms, in the middle of the street in front of her tiny house, as everyone looked on and prayed.  

It took a long, long time for her to look up and look into my eyes to find hope.  I prayed she wouldn’t see me at all, but would only see Jesus... and I kept repeating the same message to her over and over again, in English...  “Hope is here – his name is Jesus…  He is here.  Hope is here....  Hope is here.”


Hope IS here.  God Himself sent us.  

To love Him is to give.  To give is to love Him.


To share from your abundance and provide hope to these families, please consider a Family Support sponsorship of $20/month, or a general donation in anyamount, (indicate "Family Support" in the notes).  One time donations will be divided equally amongst Family Support program families who do not yet have a sponsorship.  Tax receipts available (U.S. only).


He commands us to go, to serve, to give…  He connects us to the people who need His provisions…

Now that we know, how will we respond? 
Friday, March 08, 2013

India 2013: Hidden In Plain Sight


It was the same. 

In India, much like in Honduras, Ghana, Cameroon, and Haiti – we sought out the poorest areas -- areas where people lived far below the invisible poverty line.  Areas where homes were made of whatever materials could be afforded – whether it’d be mud walls and thatched roofs, shelters pieced together with scraps and leftovers, or solid concrete or adobe structures.




In India, much like in Honduras, Ghana, Cameroon and Haiti – roads were congested, garbage strewn around, infrastructure was primitive or absent altogether, education a challenge for those afflicted by extreme poverty, healthcare a rare luxury. 



It was the same...

And yet so different…



Robed in splashes of striking, bold colors and regal fabrics, and with fresh flowers in their hair, the girls and women gracefully dotted the scenes before our eyes;  bent low over rice fields, heads high carrying baskets or bundles, hands hardworking steadily weaving rope and hauling water, hearts full carrying babies and caring for families.  





The beauty before us took our breaths away.  It was as though they were in a movie, actors in a Little House On The Prairie scene…  everything was so beautiful that it made it all too easy to forget the reality of their poverty, of their situation, of their desperation for a better life.



Desperation for "enough" -- enough food, enough clean water, enough shelter, enough education, enough health care.  Enough love and compassion.



And yet we couldn’t forget. 

We tasted.

Smelled.

Heard.

Saw.

Felt. 


To the depths of our spirit.


The smell of raw sewage…  cows clogging the streets…  makeshift homes…  the homeless…  idol worshiping and sacrifices...  the poor, the sick, the broken, the lost…  everywhere.

It's everywhere back home too.  It's everywhere if you look deeply enough, past the surface... but seeing it hurts.

Seeing it can not be undone.  Seeing, instead, just might undo us...  sometimes, that's what it takes to move our hearts towards His.  To put life in perspective.  To learn how to love, how to live.



_______________



Two years ago, the children began attending a program in a local area church that offered them two meals a day, tutoring, and enabled them to continue their education through financial support from sponsors. 

Seven days a week, these children would come for nourishment of every kind…  spirit, mind and body.  It was so new to them, this idea that they were valued and important, that they were loved and appreciated…  that they could be touched and hugged and a gentle kiss could affectionately be placed upon their foreheads as they parted each night and went home…  that the words “I love you” could be spoken and meant.

In their previous experiences, they were considered the “least wanted, lowest class, despised and avoided” – their label, “untouchable”, was very literal.  For someone of a “higher social class” to touch them meant that the higher class person would then become dirtied, cursed, and lose all their social standing.  They too, would become "untouchable".  



In the eyes of their culture, these untouchable people were only good for one thing – dirty jobs and hard labor.  

In the eyes of God, and ours, these children and these people are precious, treasured, beloved. 





As the children were nurtured and loved and saw their needs met, they bloomed.  





Once reserved and shy, aloof, withdrawn, skittish and lacking confidence, these children now KNOW 
their value and worth, and bask in the glow of His love. 



Their eyes are alive, their humble servants’ hearts so pure and beautiful, their smiles light a room.  

Barriers are broken down, equality is embraced, love is received and poured out, multiplied.




As each child is sponsored, for only $11 a month, it gives the program the opportunity to reach out to more children and include them in this life changing environment.  A dozen new children were enrolled while we were in India, a few of which already have sponsors.  As these children grow and develop and are nourished in body, spirit and mind, the cycle of generational poverty is broken.

Their future is different. Very different.  And it is good.

The difference is hope.

The difference is love.

The difference is Jesus.


The difference can be you, too.