By Popular Demand..and more to come

•May 23, 2010 • Leave a Comment

from Christine

•May 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hello… click on the link below for pictures.

Relief kit distribution at Ambedkar Nagar on 18th May, 2010edit

On 3rd May 2010, an overnight fire burned down the homes of approximately 450 families affecting approximately 2250 people in the Ambedkar nagar slums. The accident occurred due to the gas cylinder leak. One person died and four more people experienced severe burns because of the fire.

HCC quickly responded to this emergency by surveying the area to find the most vulnerable affected families by this accident and to also discover their present needs. On 18th May, 2010, CSS distributed 450 relief kits to these victims which included blankets, Sarees, Dhotis and aluminium house hold utensils. Our Honourable Moderator, Rev. Dr. SC David, visited the relief effort and interacted with some of the victims. The CSS staff and volunteers distributed these relief kits with the help of some HCC pastors and five visitors from Highrock Church in Boston, MA, America.

2/3 of the team is back!

•May 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Just wanted to let all of our supporters know that Danny, Eugene, Alan, and Soo Jin arrived safely in Boston today albeit a delayed flight, which led to a missed connecting flight.  Rather than waiting until the next available flight, which was tomorrow (!!!), the four of us- tired, dirty, and most likely smelly (though we couldn’t tell amongst ourselves)- hopped into a rented car and drove up from Newark to Boston this afternoon.

Thank you so much for your prayers!  We are excited to see all of you and share some of our stories, though we will probably need more time to process much of what we saw and experienced.

Continue to pray for Martha and Christine as they spend an extra week in India.  I’m sure they will be updating throughout- not withholding a single detail 😉

I am personally so appreciative to everyone who supported me by serving my class and kids all week- what a blessing!  Can’t wait to be back on Monday!


Monday, May 17, 2010

•May 19, 2010 • 2 Comments

Monday, May 17, 2010 – What a day! I think this was the turning point for me on this trip. I’ve been truly humbled by my arrogance as an American, awed and excited by what God is doing in India, inspired by the vision of the Christian Indians leading CSS/HCC, impressed with all the projects that are taking place, floored by the sacrificial commitment and compassion of the Christian Indians, hopeful that a major revival in India will soon be underway, privileged to be a witness to this, and antsy to be a part of it. We were in the rural outskirts of Solapur, one of the most arid places in India. It was 111 F and humid (but still not as humid as Hong Kong).

Our first stop – the side of a road. “Come.” said Patrick, our guide. We all hopped out of the van and there were these three kids sitting under a tree guarding what appears to be rubbish. A little Hindu shrine was only a few steps away. I noticed that the shrine was locked to prevent thieves from stealing the gods. I thought to myself, “I’m glad that I have a God that can’t be stolen.”

We walked to this floppy plastic containment filled with dirt, called a vermicomposter, under another tree. Patrick grabbed a fistful of soil, and there were about 6 actively writhing earthworms in his palm. He said “80% of the Indian population depends on agriculture. You throw dirt, organic material (leaves, straw, cow manure – there are a lot of cows in India, etc), a little water, and about 1000 earthworms into this composter, and in 40 days, you have 5000 earthworms and highly fertile soil. Apply this soil along with the earthworms to the fruit trees (~200 feet away), and it extends the fruit season by 1.5 months. The fruits are bigger, fresher, and last longer.  For this farmer, he can now sell each fruit for 5 rupees. This farmer originally wanted to sell his plot for 10,000 rupees because farming conditions were so poor. He used to use chemical fertilizers, which were expensive, burned the roots and eventually made the soil less fertile. We (CSS) came in and convinced him not to. The 1300 rupee composter has since allowed him to make 40,000 rupees off his fruit each season. He can continue to make highly fertile soil every 40 days, and sell it to other farmers. This is organic farming and we’re trying to convince all of the farmers in the area to take it up.” Meanwhile, Danny was playing with the kids and took away one of their tires and made the kid cry.

As we hopped back into the van, the team discussed how this little plastic thing had probably changed the life of this farmer. He can probably send his kids to school (even though they’re still sitting under the tree) and he probably has hope for a better future. Despite the great news, what saddened me was that he was probably giving all of the glory to those gods in the shrine and not to the God that gave CSS the compassion to help him.

We drove a little bit more and took a turn off the road. We picked up this stranger who led us through a tiny village with goats and cows running through the narrow streets, dirty children running around, old women sitting on the doorsteps, and men standing around. It was straight out of a World Vision commercial. The ride was bumpy and fun. Who knew there would be a village off that main road?

We finally stopped in the middle of nowhere. “Come.” said Patrick. We all hopped out. All around was barren land, parched under the hot, hot sun. Then there was a small field of thriving sugar cane. I thought nothing of it at the time. Patrick led us towards a large circular pit by the sugar cane field. “This is a water recharge well.” It was about 25 feet deep. The land had been slightly regraded such that during the monsoon season, the extra runoff water would fill the well. This allowed the farmer (the stranger we picked up) to farm year round and to farm sugar cane. All of the other farmers in the area farmed a grain called jorham, which fetches half the price of sugar cane. Plus, this farmer uses the cane leaves to feed his water buffalo which plowed the land, saving him money on feed. And of course, he used their dung in his vermicomposter. I love when things fit together so perfectly.

I looked around again, and saw the stark contrast in the landscape. “Why don’t any of the other farmers adopt this method? It’s so obvious,” I asked. “It’s because the other farmers are older and say that this is the way they’ve farmed for generations. We’re reaching out to the younger farmers. Once the older farmers see, they will change.” How could anyone not?

I tried to talk to the farmer, and he just looked at me, smiled, and bobbed his head side to side. I bobbed back, asking him why he’s bobbing his head. He looked at me confused. I didn’t realize until then that that’s the Indian indication of “ok,” “yes,” “so so,” “I understand,” “I don’t know,” and just about everything else.

We checked out another water recharge well, this one nearly empty, and I noticed that groundwater was trickling out the side of the pit’s walls. My thought, “groundwater is relatively high here. Not what I would expect in such an arid area.”

We hopped back into the van. I looked around at the arid and barren land and thought, “How can they not believe in their gods? Their entire survival depends on the rain and water. It’s their only hope in such uncertainty. And how can they not deify their cows? They rely on them to till their land to grow their crops. They can’t die on them. But if this uncertainty in water can be somewhat controlled, perhaps they’ll put less faith on their gods, and that stranglehold can be loosened.” I became a little more hopeful, and even excited.

“Come.” We hopped out and it was a field of flowers (with cilantro here and there). This was an example of drip irrigation, which allowed for year round cultivation of flowers. Long hollow tubes filled with water run down each row of flowers. At each plant, there’s a tiny hole, slowly watering the plant 24 hours without much waste to evaporation. “What are the flowers for?” “ These farmers (there were two of them standing there bobbing their heads at me) can sell flowers at the local temple now, further enhancing their income.” Hmm, gray area if they were to become a Christian someday. But regardless, I was very excited about the cilantro even though the rest of the team didn’t share my enthusiasm.

We hopped back into the van and were back in the village. “Come.” We hopped out and Patrick took us through the village. The kids followed us like we were the pied piper. We entered into a woman’s home, and Patrick showed us a squat toilet. What’s so interesting about this, I thought. Well, before these latrines, the village people went everywhere and there was disease. CSS is trying to provide every house in the village with a latrine. They’ve already dug ~200 latrines in the village.

The house was adorably rustic and picturesque. If I could guess what the inn that contained Jesus’ manger looked like, it would look like this. There were cows and goats harnessed nearby and INSIDE! Then I noticed a pile of dried and squashed dung nearby. Cooking fuel. And sure enough, a few feet away, there was the little stove, with a couple of dried cow pies sitting right next to the naan/roti bread. And of course a small Hindi shrine next to it.

We walked through the village and entered this small concrete room filled with women. It was a “self-help” class. The women were learning how to make “washing powder” so they no longer have to purchase the expensive powders from the market and can in turn sell theirs. They were very diligent, taking lots of notes. So, apparently CSS empowers these women by helping them form groups of 10-20 members (friends or family members in the same village). How it works is each month each woman contributes a small amount of money into their pot. This pot then provides security for the members: financing to start a business (such as washing powder maker), emergency situations, sic kness, and dowrys in the event they don’t have enough. Whenever a member borrows, she’ll eventually pay it back to the pot. It empowers them and makes them less vulnerable to exploitation. I asked, “How do the men feel about this?” Patrick answers, “India is a male-dominated society. They obviously don’t like it when their women are empowered. But they have come to see the benefits of it because they can get their wives to borrow money from the pot in case of an emergency.” Yay for those women!

We then met a blind old woman in the self-help group. CSS gave her 2 goats llast year, and now those 2 goats have 2 babies!  Apparently, she’s very happy and thankfu, because she has lots of hope rested in these goats that have now become four. In their excitement, they took us through the village to see the two goats that have now become four. They were adorable, however it was a really long and hot walk surrounded by kids. Soojin and Danny were VERY popular. As we were walking through the village, I noticed images of their gods painted around most of the door posts.

We hopped into the van and drove a little further. We stopped at a place where there was a great celebration. What’s this? We were all kind of excited to find out what we’ll see next that can cause such festivities. Patrick took us to the side of the building and showed us the rain gutter. Hmm. Ok, there might be more than meets the eye. Well, apparently the rain gutter collects water during the monsoon season and stores it in an underground cistern so that the nearby water well can be pumped year round, even into the end of the summer when the water table has dipped below the well screens (which in the past equated to no water at the end of the summer). Ok, kind of cool.

I looked around, and the entire team was gone. I got a little worried, and walked towards the music and the crowd. I was surrounded by people staring at me, wanting to talk to me and shake my hand. Right when I was about to turn around to seek refuge in the van and wait for their return, I noticed Alan’s head bopping up and down in the middle of the crowd. Then I noticed Eugene, Danny and Annan also dancing. Christine was screaming and cheering them on! I got a video of it all. 😉  Who wants to see it? 

Apparently, there was a wedding, we crashed it, the guys stole all the attention, the crowd kicked the groom off his horse and tried to get one of the guys to ride it … and then I got swamped by the kids… so you’ll have to ask the guys what exactly happened.

To be continued – second half of Monday.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

•May 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sunday, May 16, 2010 – We attended service at the Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC). Service appeared subdued and traditional compared to Highrock’s services – and that’s where I made my mistake of casting judgment in thinking that it was a service style of yesteryear impressed by the original Swedish missionaries decades ago. The youth (anyone who was not married) sang a few songs, followed by hymns, readings, more hymns, introduction of visitors (us), update on incoming tithes from the previous week, announcement of newlyweds, sermon (which Eugene gave and which was great!), another song by the youth, tithes, doxology, benediction, and an orderly exit procession where we all waited in line to shake the various pastors’ hands. People chitchatted a little and within 15 minutes, most dispersed. For the most part, it was somber (well, some of the youth group’s songs were more upbeat) and typically 3 hours long! Reminded me of my mom’s church, which bored me to death when I was growing up. I wondered where the fire and passion was and wondered how many of these younger people sitting in the pews were generational Christians, going to church out of obligation because their families considered themselves Christian. I was a little concerned. It wouldn’t be until Tuesday, when we talked to the president of UBS (Union Bible Seminary) that I would realize my mistake.

In the afternoon, we headed to Solapur about 250km (155 miles) away. I’ll leave the essence of this journey for another time. However, I’ll proudly say that at the rest stop, I didn’t mind their squat toilets, and I ordered masala dosa and tea. Only Danny ventured to try a little of the masala dosa. AND we didn’t get sick. Seven hours later, we reached Solapur in the midst of a lively festival with loud music and dancing. I wanted to partake until I found out that it was a religious festival.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

•May 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Saturday, May 15, 2010 – We (the women) went clothes shopping in Pune!  Apparently, western clothes would be inappropriate for church service and the more rural areas we were going to visit.  I was pretty excited to finally get a saree.  Always wanted one for years.  So pretty.  Well, it’s not that easy.  So many fabrics to choose from, so many stores, so many styles, so many measurements for them to take to make it fit perfectly.   And many hours later, none of us got sarees.  We ended up with ready-made salwar kameezes, which are long fancy shirts with very baggy pants.  They’re kind of pretty too.  Maybe I’ll get a saree later on in the trip.

Pune is far less congested, much more orderly, and far cleaner than Mumbai.  We visited some of the staff at Hindustani Covenant Church (HCC) and got an introduction on HCC and Covenant Social Service (CSS), the non-profit branch of HCC.  Lots of numbers were thrown at us, and we were introduced to their various ministries.  For the most part, nothing made much of an impression except that the projects and church plants took off during the last 10 years after the Indians completely took over from the Swedish (of course there was probably a lag period right before the takeoff).

 I’m not doubting the heart and intent of the Swedish (afterall, they were the initial and dedicated sowers and implemented projects that revolutionized rural drinking water around the world or provided health care to the most remote Indian communities in Maharashtra) , but this made me realize that any development work that I do in the future would have to be initiated and led by the locals for long-term sustainability and growth.  They, afterall, know their culture and needs the best. 


Friday, May 14, 2010

•May 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Where do I even begin? When we prayed for vision for this India Vision trip, I never completely expected God to give us so much vision. I’ve been encouraged, shocked, humbled, heartbroken, amazed, hopeful, inspired, and probably a bunch more feelings that I haven’t processed yet.

Friday, May 14, 2010 – We arrived in Mumbai airport at around 10ish pm, excitedly connected with John and were introduced to the world’s most skilled driver, Annan (pronounced “Ann-in”). Here we began our 5.5 hour, 150 km (93 miles) journey to Pune. First impressions – the horrendous traffic, the overcrowded rickshaws and buses, mopeds (or 2-wheelers) carrying families of 4, people hanging out of the backs of trucks, people sleeping on the streets, women in beautiful and colorful sarees walking around after midnight in obviously not great neighborhoods (or sitting on the dirt ground!), glimpses of the slums and shops in the dark, lots of trash everywhere, and the odors – lots of them. Masses of people galore, even on the highways, trying to hail down the overcrowded buses. I can’t even imagine the point of the crowded buses stopping for them. This continued on until at least 2am. Vehicles stopped randomly on the highways (probably to rest for the night) and blocked entire lanes. I can’t further imagine what it would be like during normal business hours, when most of the people come out and traffic is in further deadlock. Apparently that’s why there are slums – because transportation and commuting is so horrendous and rent near work is so high, people have to create slums near their work.

It was warm (in the 90’s), but not as humid as I thought it would be. Hong Kong was worse – a lot worse. Oh, and our van does not have A/C.

At 2am, we stopped at a rest stop along the highway. So many people sipping tiny cups of tea. Squat toilets. I was a little concerned with the restrooms, but managed skillfully – didn’t step on anything unappealing. Interestingly, there was one western sit-down toilet, and none of the Indian women wanted to use it. They preferred the hole in the ground. The food looked interesting, but I was wary.

We finally arrived in Pune at around 4am and were gleefully welcomed by Rebecca and Julia. Christine, Soojin and I went to bed at 6:30am after catching up a little with the Kims. Not sure what the guys did, since they stayed at another location.

– Martha