Misadventures in Mumbai

Misadventures in Mumbai

This might look like greasy, fried Western food, but tonight, it was what relief tasted like. It was the flavour of a small victory after a long and frustrating day. It was safety after about as much adventure as we could handle at once.

Children of my Heart

In the past, I have mentioned briefly on this blog an orphanage in India that we help.

The time has come to expound.

Pastor Isaiah and Mani with some of the children from Faith Children Home

In September of 1997, I went on a life-changing trip to India. I was joining Jason on his third trip to volunteer at a small Bible School of Discipleship in central south India, close to Bangalore. (This was before Jason and I were a couple.) When I set foot on Indian soil, all I really knew about the country was that yoga originated there, and I liked the pretty dresses that the ladies wore. I didn't even know that they mainly ate spicy food! Way to be prepared, right? However, I knew God had called me there, so I went.

Jason was working as the Assistant Director. I did glamourous things like weed the garden. Honestly, I'm not quite sure what I did that helped at the school that year--most of the things I tried to do, some other person insisted on doing it for ME. But God used that year as a pivotal season in my life, both in my character growth, my world view, and in the relationships that I would carry with me to the future.

That year, there was a pastor there that had come to the school for further edification and training. His name was D. Isaiah Kumar. As the oldest student, the other students liked to tease him a bit, which he took good-naturedly, most of the time.

After the school year was over, and we all returned to our homes, Pastor Kumar kept in contact with me, sending pictures of his wife and daughter and updates on his ministry. Very soon after returning home, he started an orphanage in his small village.

As the years passed, Jason and I would send what little we could afford to help Pastor Kumar in his ministry, but several years ago, God began to lay on my heart the need of these kids--they needed better funding, and someone who could advocate for them to a wider audience. At the time, I did not feel that I could be that person, as my own life was so very crowded. However, I began searching for an umbrella organization that would take this orphanage under their wing.

For various and sundry reasons, every organization I contacted said no. After four years of following up on every lead I could find, I was becoming seriously disheartened.

Then, several months ago, I received an email from Pastor Kumar that he was considering closing the orphanage, as he had no funding (except some donations from his small congregation, which were not enough to cover even half of the expenses of the orphanage), and was in such debt to the local vendors that they were not extending him any more credit.

God used this to smack me upside the head. I amped up my efforts of knocking on the figurative doors of organizations, and simultaneously started the ball rolling for a major fund-raiser and started looking into registering my own charity for the orphanage.

Of course, God had the whole situation in hand. Through a mutual friend, the answer was provided when our long-time acquaintances Gordon and Laila Craddock agreed to take this ministry into the fold of Heart4Children Canada *, a small ministry they started fifteen years ago to help the children of the Ukraine. About a week ago, it was passed by their board of directors, and Faith Children Home is now part of Heart4Children Canada, with Jason and I as the Canadian directors (for the orphanage)!

While this was in the works, we had already made contact with some of our Indian friends, and had a trusted emissary go to the orphanage and assess the situation there, so we have a pretty good unbiased opinion about what the immediate needs are. While Jason and I plan to go to India ourselves sometime in the next several years, for now, this was invaluable intel about where to start from.

We are so excited to be part of this ministry. There are currently fifteen children being supported by the orphanage, and I have been poring over their photos and learning their names and falling in love with every one of them. Making a difference in the life of even one child is so powerful, and here are fifteen children who can grow up to affect the future of their country positively by being given this better chance at life.

For those of you who read this blog, please consider helping in the following ways:

  1. Commit to pray for these kids, Pastor Kumar and his wife Mani and their children, and the staff at the orphanage.
  2. Send financial support. You can send a cheque directly to Heart4Children using this form. We need one-time donations for some immediate projects such as better accommodations for the children (the house they have been staying in does not have sufficient space for 15 children), and a computer to enable quicker, better communication between us as well as providing ease of access to teaching materials for the children. We also need people to commit to sending in monthly support to help feed the kids, pay for school books and tuition, and more. Even a small monthly amount can make a difference. Donations can also be sent via email transfer (for Canadians only-please contact me for payment email address and question/answer.) Or, you can give via Paypal from Heart4Children's website. *All donations over $20 will be issued a tax-deductible receipt after December 31. 
  3. Keep tabs. I will be sending out an e-Blast every couple of months to present current prayer requests and to help supporters get to know the children that their dollars are helping. You can sign up for that newsletter here, and edit your subscription at any time. You can also Like Heart4Children Canada's Facebook page
  4. Get involved. Many of you have known me for a long time, and know of my heart for India and for children. While we didn't want to advertise our "secret" charity work before, now, we need to in order to help these kids. Please prayerfully consider whether or not you, too, could help spread the word about Faith Children Home and Heart4Children Canada by doing a presentation at your church (I could send you a Powerpoint presentation, and I am working on a video), or raising support among your circle of friends. Think of ways you could raise funds to support this orphanage--your time is a valuable gift, and it can be used as effectively as your money to help these kids.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at talena [at] wintersdayin [dot] ca, and I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.

Thank you for reading, and for caring for these kids!

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
— James 1:27

Hanging out at the playground beside Pastor Kumar's house

The current orphanage location. We need to find somewhere more appropriate and cleaner.

The children love to worship and praise God!

There's always time for a little fun!

This Ain't a John and Yoko Song

When Jason and I were in India, we spent most of our time near a city called Bangalore in the state of Karnataka. Well, more specifically, we spent most of our time at a rural Bible College called Green Valley about 75 km (which translates to a 2-hour bus ride) away from Bangalore. When we were there in the late 90's, we never experienced anything but welcoming, friendly faces from everyone we met--some a little too openly-staring at my blond hair and fair skin for my comfort, but I got used to it.

Well, the climate in India is not all reflected by smiling kids chasing your rickshaw and yelling "Hello, Auntie! Hello, Uncle!" In 1999, a long-time missionary in the state of Orissa named Graham Staines was torched, along with his two young sons, as they slept in their station wagon. Before and since then, Hindu activists have persecuted Christians in Orissa, with a recent outbreak of violence that has led to thousands of Christians in Orissa living in refugee camps or in the forests, as this article explains. This site has much more detail about the Orissa persecution.

This morning, our dear friend George, who founded and still runs Green Valley, brought all this to our attention, saying that this violence is now spreading to Karnataka, and down the West Coast--areas that traditionally have been much more friendly to Christians. Here is George's e-mail:

India is emerging into an economical superpower...but on the other hand the communal severance is on the increase too. The war between our present ruling Congress and the opposition is finding expression in communal conflicts. The Orrisa episode which began much before the murderous persecution of Graham Staines has many new chapters followed up!

The recent, like a few weeks ago literally hundreds of so called low class hindus who had become christians genuinely or forcefully were killed through burning or beaten to death. Many church buildings were destroyed with properties which were dwellings of those who were called christians in Orissa. Such events have occured in many other parts of India but not made known to the people in general. Government is limited in what they can do in these situations as these are considered as under the tag of religious fanaticism...and the killings go through the legal proceedings and never get solved for centuries!!

Now we have been drawn to what's happening in Karnataka as that is our home State! On Saturday and Sunday some Christian tracts containing defaming statements on Hindu gods began a stir among Hindu communal political party called Bajran Dal...which gave raise to several atrocities in the State. 7 Churches were destroyed or burnt in Mangalore area...north west Karnataka and a house of nuns also destroyed and many hundreds were injured through arson. One Church was destroyed in Chikmagalur, at interior west Karnataka and on Monday a Church a few kilometers from Devanahalli...half way to Green Valley was destroyed. A few young people shouted making anti-christian remarks in front of Green Valley just two days ago. Many Bible Colleges on Hennur Road in Bangalore received calls and notices threatening them with serious consequences if they did not shut their operations. Many Churches in Bangalore also received notices to shut down their services. Bajran Dal very openly said that they are responsible for the opposition against Christians and forced conversions are the reasons! They very clearly said on TV that the whites who come into the country as visitors getting involved in so-called Christian activity will be opposed and those who host such activities will also be opposed! Open meetings, street preachings and loud propaganda of Christian messages will not be allowed. Now this violence is slowly moving on the west coast to northern Kerala State.

What can we do?

It is so easy to feel helpless in a situation like this. Whether it is a so-called "Christian" American President with who-knows-what hidden agenda, or a crazed dictator touting fundamentalist Islamic teachings, or a Hindu activist terrorizing men, women, and children, religion always seems to be the excuse that violent men use to further their own purposes. "But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." (Proverbs 4:19 NIV)

How can we prevail against wicked people?

1. Pray. If you are a Christian, pray for your brothers and sisters who are suffering right now. Pray that the hearts of those who are persecuting them would be changed. Remember that Saul, who was the most zealous persecutor of the early church, became Paul, the most zealous apostle for Christ, after he met Christ himself.

2. Give. Check and see if your church or denomination is sending money to help with the relief efforts. If you can't find a way to give and you want to, please contact me (e-mail address on the side) and I will help you. (Please remember I will be out of e-mail contact starting this weekend for about 10 days.)

3. Tell others. As Christians, we are called to lay down our lives for Christ. For some, this has recently become literal. Tell other people about their testimony. Let their deaths speak, not of the hatred of man, but of their love for and faith in Christ.

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them...

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. " (Excerpts from Hebrews 11.)

How great is the love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Our God is a god of love... pray that our persecuted brothers and sisters would show that love, even to their enemies. Pray for strength for them. Pray for rescue. Pray. Pray. Pray.

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' (Romans 10:9-13 NIV)



It's a Tea With Cardamom Sort of Day

I learned to like tea in India. Before that, I really didn't care for any caffeinated beverages, with the possible exception of an extremely occasional Sprite or 7-Up. My dad drank coffee, not tea, and my mom drank, well, um, she drank water. Lots of water.

In India, tea is such an integral part of the culture, it would almost have been impossible to avoid developing a taste for it. There is "tea time" twice a day at the school where we worked, as well as in every home that I visited there. If you were to visit someone, the first thing they would do would be to offer you some "chai", even if they were so poor that it meant using up the last of their milk to do so.

Here is where we in North America have made an error. (My Indian readers, please correct me if I'm wrong.) To us, "chai" has come to mean "tea with milk and sugar and a whole variety of spices." In reality, "chai" is the word for "tea." I was going to say "Hindi word for tea," but it's actually the word for tea in every Indian language that I know of, and I believe it is also the word for tea in some African languages. Which language it originated from, I have no idea. Especially since chai with lots of milk and sugar was a drinking custom introduced by the British during the colonial days, since that is how they like their tea.

"Tea with spices" is known as "masala (spiced) chai," and the type of spices used range in variety and quantity, depending on what area--and what household--you are in.

Most of the time while I was there, we simply had chai, which is loose tea in a base of about half milk and half water and a fair amount of sugar, all heated until just barely boiling, then strained into your mug for a cup of creamy goodness. It is a safe way to drink milk of questionable origin, water of questionable origin, and a social custom that bonds families, friends, and strangers. (I remember my shock the first time I saw my friend Chingluan pouring tea back and forth between two mugs to cool it off for her daughter--who was two at the time!)

I'm not sure the reason why, but it was somewhere around 2000 that "chai" became extremely popular in North America. Thus Jason and I began our search for "the perfect chai," the one that would bring back all the flavour and memories we had come to love while in India--our hearts' other home country.

It was a long and disappointing search. We found a few that were close, but still seemed like someone had just gone a little crazy with throwing in anything from the spice shelf. I couldn't figure out why. Finally, when George and Ruth Peters visited us in 2005, I asked Ruth.

"How do you make chai? And what is the spice that you put in it?" She answered that while she usually just made basic chai, occasionally, she would add a sprinkle of cardamom to it (thus elevating it to "masala chai.") This was the answer we had been looking for!

I just about choked when I saw the price of the stuff. I don't know how it compares overseas, but here, cardamom is twice as expensive as every other spice (with the exception of saffron, which is just expensive everywhere.) Fortunately, I really only had one use for it. Each cup required only the tiniest sprinkle for flavour, so in six years, I think I might still be on my first jar. Partly because I soon discovered that I like the tea without cardamom as much as with it, and it became a "luxury" that I rarely partake in--and Jason feels the same. Tea drinkers that we are, our day is usually masala-less--at least as far as tea is concerned!

I'm not sure what possessed me this morning. Most days, I make a "cheater chai" that does not require the mess of loose tea and straining. It is not as strong as the real stuff, but nearly as good. I steep my tea bag (Lipton Red Rose Orange Pekoe is the best we've found) extra-long, throw it out, add a good-sized glob of honey from a teaspoon, then fill the mug up with cream until the colour is pale and delicious-looking. Then I take that first, satisfying sip.

This morning, though, I looked at the concoction in my mug and said "it's a cardamom sort of day."

Some days, the routine of dressing and feeding a family, getting Jude to school on time, making dinner ahead of time, teaching piano lessons all evening, doing dishes, working on my e-Bay business, being wife, mother, nursemaid, teacher, babysitter, friend, daughter, and all my many other hats can just seem overwhelming--like there is no way to live up to it all. Those are the days when my loving husband lets me have a little time to myself to create something beautiful, or go on a walk, or when a well-timed hug from my babies can turn a really stressful day around.

The cardamom was just the perfect touch on what would otherwise have been an ordinary, everyday-sort of cup of tea. Once in a while, all we need is a little masala to put things in perspective.