Sunday, August 16, 2009

India Trip

Finally, Hannah our youngest was old enough to make the flight to India. It's been over three years since we had an opportunity to visit India. We made plans for Violet and the kids to spend 5 weeks in India and I managed to take couple of weeks off from work to join them in India. Over the years, we have had the privilege of working with our brothers and sisters in Christ who have shared the passion to spread the word of Christ and help those in need as commanded by our Lord and Savior. I can't thank all of you enough for praying and supporting ALFA.

Isaiah 58:7-11
"I want you to share your food with the hungry and bring right into your own homes those who are helpless, poor, and destitute. Clothe those who are cold and don't hide from relatives who need your help. If you do these things, God will shed His own glorious light upon you. He will heal you; your godliness will lead you forward, and goodness will be a shield from behind… .Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too."
Here is an update on what God is doing at ALFA....

Joe's Journal
It's been over three years since I visited ALFA. The last time we were here there were several small structures that had been put up to house the kids and start the school. The children were living in a dilapidated building that was on the verge of being condemned. The Lord has been busy in the last three years. I walked though the new two story dormitory that has been been built for the ALFA children. The kids now have a safe place to live and study. The structure is made of concrete and steel that should house many children for years to come. Recently we had a large tree fall on our house and damage the roof during hurricane Ike. We had a hole in the roof where a tree branch had broken though. We patched it temporarily since it was next to impossible to get someone to fix it right away. When it rained we had some water that would leak though. I still remember the impact on my psyche from the leaking roof. I realized how important shelter plays on our perspective on life. All Glory to God for provide a safe and secure place for the children at ALFA.

We took pictures of the kids and got to talk to them about their lives at ALFA. It was wonderful to see the hopes and dreams of the children. Many of the kids we had seen about three years ago are now well into their teenage years. The kids had all of kinds of questions for us. What's it like to be on a plane? What is it like to drive in America? What does it take to be an ISI (intelligence) officer? Who is the most important person you know in the U.S.?
Victoria had purchased a cricket bat for the kids. The boys were busy playing cricket. There were two kids missing and some of the ALFA caretakers were out looking for them. We later found out that two boys had decided to sneak out to catch crabs at a nearby lake. The two kids earned a special meeting with Krup!

When it was getting dark, we decided to head back to the dormitory. The kids were proud to show us their rooms. We asked the kids to see their school work. How exactly do you solve this quadratic equation I asked one girl looking at her notes? She went on to explain about factors. We heard about the subjects they liked. Violet and I were interested to see which teachers were good at their school . I was pleased to hear their enthusiastic discussion of all of their teachers and the positive influence they have on their lives. They seemed to love and respect all of their teachers.

Electricity was out for about an hour that night as we chatted outside in the cool breeze. A single light lit up the school patio that was powered by a generator. We sat there for a little while trying to take it all in as the kids played . The kids had formed a few groups and had found an activity to keep themselves busy. Some were dragging a metal piece around, some were kicking a tennis ball, some were playing tag, some were talking, and some were wrestling. As the kids played, for a few minutes they didn't have a care in the world. What a precious and magical time childhood is! We were privileged to share this moment with the ALFA kids.

Mark 9:36-37
Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in his arms, He said to them,
"Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives me; and whoever receives me does not receive me, but Him who sent me."

Today we had the opportunity to attend a prayer meeting. Krup and Victoria send an open invitation for the pastors in Bangalore to come to ALFA and pray from 8:00 am. to 12:00 pm. and then they have lunch together. We had 31 pastors in attendance today. We had the privilege of having the pastors lay their hands and pray for us. We enjoyed having lunch with the pastors that afternoon.

Today we visited a church that Krup and Victoria had planted over 35 years ago. I had attended this church as a child. We had the ALFA kids in attendance today at the church. Many of them were playing musical instruments during the worship service. I also got to listen to a pastor that was mentored by Krup when we lived in Bangalore over 20 years ago. It was good to see many of the young people that I knew as a child, grow up be the leaders of this church. Now there's a new generation of kids that are actively participating in the Church. I asked Jake how he liked the worship service? I just could help but laugh when he said “ I got bored after a while because I don't understand what they are saying. About the only thing I understand is Halleluiah and Praise the Lord” It really made me appreciate the children service at Second Baptist Church in Houston that Jake loves to attend.

Violet and I had lunch today with all of the teachers from the school. The teachers were kind enough to share their background and experience with us. We were impressed with the credentials and the caliber of talent we have in these teachers.

Next we visited the three floor school building that houses the school. The first thing you notice is an enormous structure that has a red cross on it. There is no mistaking that the Lord presides over this building. On closer inspection the building is made of all concrete and steel. Construction on the first two floors are complete and are currently being used by the school. The third floor is still in progress and the interior will be completed when the Lord provides for it. As I walk though the first two floors, I am floored that this building exists. I still remember when Krup got the architectural plans for the school and shared with us in Houston that God has a mission for him. I must say it did not seem plausible to build such a building and have an elementary, middle, and high school operational and functioning. Here I was walking through a state-of-the-art school building and staff of 16 teachers with about 320 children buzzing with activity. It feels like a dream, but then you realize that in Christ all things are possible. I walked though the building for the next two hours in amazement. That afternoon, I went to the roof of the dormitory and spent about an hour just looking down at the ALFA campus. I could not help but reflect on the folks that God has used to make this happen and felt a sense of deep gratitude for their willingness to respond to his call. I was also in awe of the love and commitment that Krup and Victoria have for ALFA and their role in making this a reality. Watching the campus from the roof and looking at the changes you could clearly sense and see that God has tremendous plans to use ALFA for his glory.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to speak for about an hour with three senior teachers that supervise the school. I got to spend some time to get to know them and listen to their experience at ALFA. We had the opportunity to share with them about God's vision for the school and the emphasis on helping the community.

Violet's e-mailed journal
Hello Everyone!Wow! What a great trip! I cannot believe how well we did!! Thank you so much for your prayers! The kids did sooo well! We were on really nice planes with video screens the whole way. (all kinds of shows and games for Sophie and Jake) From Paris to Bangalore we were upgraded to Business Class and the stewardess treated me with great patience and kindness. They were so sweet and helpful the entire time. We got to go shopping a couple days ago...since I brought next to nothing. I'm just continuing my really quite perfect life of plenty.... when a little girl comes up to our car and peers in and begs for money and stayed a good while until the light finally turns green. Poor Jakee saw her and really wanted to just play with her and be friendly. I realized he was really struck by it when he brought it up later that night. Hard realities...much, much harder when it involves little ones. Yesterday we went to the ALFA School. They just finished up their student counsel elections. Today was the pinning ceremony of the elected students. I, at Krup's insistence, was the congratulator and pinning person. It was so heart warming. Especially, when some of our own children home students came up so very proudly to receive their pin of leadership. Very, very sweet. You know me...trying to keep dry eyed!!! Jake had a ball running around with some boys who befriended him. One of the older boys climbed a coconut tree and got some coconut water for us. They also picked some Jack fruit. I was so amazed by the Jack fruit tree!!! I thought I would not like it, but it was delicious! Krup said it was a hybrid tree so that it was extra tasty...and it was! We had lunch with the children and Jake stayed and played while we returned home to Krup and Victoria's house where Sophie and I promptly went to sleep while they watched Hannah. I think I've caught up now. Today we went to church where I didn't understand a word, but enjoyed meeting the people. Hannah went from lady to everyone a friendly smile. Sophie went when she was offered candy. :)I've been observing and assisting in the pre-k and various English classes. Krup wanted me to do an in-service for a few teachers. So I've had a chance to see what their routines are and find some areas where I think I may be able to give them some new information. The teachers have been very nice and open to having me in their classes. It's been interesting to see the differences in our educational systems. Jake goes to ALFA in the mornings on most days and everyday from 3 to 6. He's been playing Cricket and Soccer with all his ALFA brothers. He LOVES playing with them. He comes home totally exhausted. One of the older boys comes to pick him up everyday. I assumed it was in the car that he drives at times, but when I followed him out today....I saw my baby boy getting on the back of a bike and going into....a somewhat crazy road.... I've just come from the home of a beloved cook for ALFA. She's been apart of our ALFA family for about 10 years. She has cooked delicious foods and helped to care for our children for such a long time. She is sick with Cervical Cancer. We are so sad to see her looking so thin and so defeated. Victoria and I went and looked at the many tests and information that they have gathered at the hospital. Victoria witnessed to her of God's power to heal and then prayed for her. She tried to give her some encouraging word to help her not give up. I'd appreciate your prayers. ALFA is going to help pay for some of her medical expenses, so Victoria will bring her some financial help tomorrow. I pray that this family will see a personal loving God....I know she sees Jesus through Victoria.

We have been here in Bangalore for over 2 weeks now. It's been a nice break for me, since there is lots of help with the kids and no cooking since that is taken care of for me. Jake is fast friends with many of the boys, so he's easily entertained by just playing with the boys. When Hannah has napped well, she will go with anyone... a little worrisome at times..., but nobody's took off with her. :) Sophie is pretty clingy a lot of the time, but there are a few people she will play with. A girl by the name of Push Pa plays with Hannah and Sophie a lot. Push Pa is a bright eyed, quick smile, inquisitive young teen. She's very thin, but Victoria said she has "put on weight" since coming to ALFA. She used to run like a street child...eating where she found food and going wherever her feet took her. When she came to ALFA, she needed some loving discipline. Victoria was the one to reign her in and get her to stay in one place and get back into school. I have been teaching her along with five other students who are in 9th grade. I have really enjoyed tutoring English. Our ALFA children are hard workers and studious. The reading passages are challenging, but they rise to the challenge pretty well. Some, of course are better than others. Pushpa, with her history, is struggling... she jokes about herself... but she's no dummy. I love seeing what God is doing in her. I have been doing my small bit of tutoring in the house and the rest of the students go to the cafeteria and do their homework with Victoria and Nawaneetha. Nawaneetha is a former ALFA child who now works as the school secretary and assistant for Victoria. It's a huge blessing to have her, because her love for ALFA makes her trustworthy...and that can be hard to find... anywhere...

It's good to be home! We made a lot of good memories. I enjoyed spending time with the ALFA children. Since ALFA Public School is an English medium school, our children now speak English fairly well. With communication lines open, it was so fun to ask them all kinds of questions. Of course my favorite question was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I got a lot of good answers: Software Engineer, Anchor, Police Officer, Doctor.... the really exciting thing was that I felt it was all within their reach! Victoria has them on a strict schedule to ensure they are taking advantage of their opportunity to get a quality education.While I was there, a church came to the ALFA campus and did a few baptisms in the pool. That evening, the kids got to go swimming. I never saw such a good time as that!! When it was the boys turn, Jake joined right in and had a total blast. Joe got to come for the last 10 days of our trip. He enjoyed getting reacquainted with the children. I could see his love for the ALFA kids... it made me really glad to be his wife. July 10th was our 10 year anniversary. Krup and Victoria threw us a big party. I got to wear a beautiful sari that made me feel like a princess. :) We had a great time visiting with many people that we have not seen since our Indian reception. I spent some time with the Early Childhood teachers at ALFA Public School doing an in-service and also modeling centers and small group learning. I came back and went to Jake and the girls' room and just stared in amazement at their bookcases. They are full of books...overflowing with books... books that I easily found a garage sales, thrift stores, hand-me-downs from my sister.... Now, I want to help ALFA Public School create a library. The curriculum is great. The kids are learning, but I would love to see them have the enrichment that children books would bring. I'm going to do a Book Drive and ship the books the beginning of October. Hugs!!Violet