Thursday, March 6

Strange Beginnings: In India, Days 4 & 5

Opening the project meeting at the EMI office in Delhi
Entering the EMI office the next morning, I met our final team member: Madhulika (who goes by Madi).  She's an architect about my age, and was a pleasure spend time with.  Such a different story than mine. She's lived in India all her life, was raised in a Hindu family, and came to know Christ a couple of years ago.  But she's also spoken English as her primary language for the last twelve years AND has read all of Harry Potter, so it was easy to relate to her.   

As our official opening meeting began, we received surprising and disturbing news from Matthew our team leader concerning the children's home that we were about work with.*  It's copied here from an email he sent out later:

"On 29-Jan the Home received a notice from the government that all the children should be returned to their own homes, or if not then surrendered to a government children’s home in the district, followed by the closure of the Home by 15-February. This notice... came two days before their 25th Jubilee celebration...

Starting in Delhi, we went North to Himachal Pradesh
The purpose of this decision and the Act is to make children’s homes a last resort of the immediate/extended family of the child in question, and comes in reaction to cases of major child abuses that were discovered in various children’s homes across India over the last 10+ years."

Yikes!  Should we even go there?  We began planning and praying, while yet waiting for a phone call to tell us if the project was still on.  Whew - it was!  From office, we went to the train station where, based on Indian train lore, I fully expected a two-hour delay and cars brimming over with humanity and chickens.  Nope.  The train was exactly on time, and the seats were super comfy and pre-assigned.  Admittedly, this was first class.  We played Dutch Blitz, ate Indian snackfood and talked about CS Lewis.

Scheming in the rain?
On the way, I had a chance to talk with Matthew.  He's the director of the India EMI office, and an interesting and intelligent person.  You all know that I love to ask random questions, and Matthew answered all of mine - eloquently!  You may have noticed though that on this trip he was literally the "odd man out".  Most EMI teams are predominately male - on my first trip, I was the only female professional, though my leader's wife also came along.  This team was flipped.  Matthew handled the situation well, though I think he was baffled by the amount
of time we spent discussing how to make various desserts.

The amazing Hmuni and Suvarna!
By the time we arrived, after four hours on the train and an hour and a half in a van (where the darkness kept us from being able to discern the edge of the precipice as we wound up mountain roads), it was midnight.  That didn't stop the ministry leaders at the children's home* from greeting us with food and tea.  Throughout our visit, their innate hospitality was abundant, and the love of God and faith in His providence to them was clear.


The next day we toured the premises in rain that would linger, but of course as a Seattlite I took these conditions in stride :)

The current "small boys" dormitory - around 100 years old!
EMI has an ongoing relationship with this Christian children's home* in Himachal Pradesh.  Among other things, our team's goals were to create conceptual drawings for their new dining hall/kitchen building and to make the existing conceptual drawings for a new boy's dormitory and ready for construction.  Specifically, I was in charge of the first task.  And it became clear that afternoon when I called our first meeting to order that I was the most "type A" personality on this team.  Despite the uncertain and sensitive situation, I wanted to give these amazing people our best efforts.

Work is always better with tea
About four times a day, we encountered a classy ritual: tea time.  "Chai" in India is black tea with cardamom, boiled with milk.  Ya'll know I love tea.  I especially loved it in India: because it was served in elegant teacups.  Because it punctuated the day with awareness of the people around me.  Because it was cold, and it felt really good to drink something warm.  And because there was no coffee, and over the past three nights I had gotten a total of 15 hours of sleep.  Seriously, friends, praise God that I stayed healthy and functioning through this trip, because the sleep deprivation would only continue. 

*The children's home is unnamed in this blog post, because of some the details I've included about their situation.  They have a desire to cooperate with the government, but are trying to figure out the logistics to do so.

White Pines at the edge of the Himlayas


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