Day 6 – January 30th – Last Day.....Sad to end this Journey.

Bright and Early once again at 5:30 am.  I am not an early riser so this has been rather hard.  Today will be a quiet day as all the girls will be at school.  We started our assembly with them at 6:00 am and it was fruitful.  I love talking to the girls one-on-one about their lives and their hearts.  There are so many stories to share. 

We went to the children’s school today at 9:30 am and spoke at their assembly and sang songs with them as well as saw where they attended classes (Boys and Girls Schools).  After attending school for a short bit, we spent a good bit of the morning taking a tour of the city in Auto-Rickshaw.  What fun that was for Neha to be zooming around the city.  We took some time to go to the street/fish markets, saw the Godavari river channels, and experienced a bit of city life.  We were able to see the difference between the government schools our kids attended versus the private schools in town (this was quite a contrast.)

We spent some time in the village at the conference during the day learning about people’s lives.  We met a group of women that have been rescued from trafficking by one of our village pastors and his family.  It was amazing to see the light shining on their faces, but you could see the hurt their eyes and that they had many stories o tell.   

We also met this beautiful little girl that was in 5th grade like Neha.   She spoke a good amount of English and Neha and her had a great time.  Her mom’s story was a tragic one.  Her mother was employed as a servant to one of the Arab countries and left this little girl’s older sister behind with the grandmother in the village.  Many women are employed from the villages of India as servants in the Arab countries.  The little girl’s older sister left behind drowned and passed away.  She was not able to get back as she was on a contract for 5 years.  While she was there during this time she realized she was pregnant and had another beautiful little girl that Neha played with.  It was sad to hear these stories of families being separated.  Life for many of these women as servants was not a pleasant one abroad. 

We ended our day back at the children’s homes where we sang songs, danced, handed out bibles and other new toiletries.  This was a fun last night of spending time in fellowship with the children before we had to leave the next day.  

I want to take some time and share a little about the children.  The kids are so well taken care of at the Lifesong home with their emotional, spiritual and physical needs.  We praise God for the funds that have been coming to support Lifesong for some 30 plus years and need to pray hard for the next group of sponsors that come along side to be lifeline partners for the Lifesong India Program.  Lifeline partners come along side monthly to take a little sacrifice from their lives to make a big impact in the lives of these kids in India.  I encourage you as you read this blog to reach out to our family if you feel led to come along side Lifesong India.

Our missionaries and Bob and Siromani Stoll are in their late 80’s and have fervently given their lives to the program for 37 years.   We are not only looking to continue to fund the program from families like yourselves, but also to have a sustainable model that works in India to self-fund the orphanages and children. 
My aunt in India was looking at our pictures online and said that the girls and boys look so well taken care-of.  That is the heart of Lifesong to provide quality care that can be sustained for years to come.  The kids are not only well taken care of but they help them get into college and job-placement to secure their economic future.

Thank you for your prayers and love for our family while we were on this trip.  We are in Dubai now and resting.  Below are our last two blog updates from the trip.  We had a fun ride in Mumbai through the airport where we got to see the slums of bombay (as pictured in many movies) and also got to experience the Muslim pilgrimage to mecca in the long lines in security.  Interesting day for all of us.

We have had an incredible journey.  I have one of the most amazing daughters.  She has been such a trooper on this trip and God is going to use her for his purposes in an amazing way someday.   It was such a blessing to watch my 10 year old have no barriers from the moment she walked into the orphanage.  Her name “Neha” means friendship and it really showed on this trip.   She is the better half of Kelvin and myself.  I am so thankful for God giving us this opportunity together.

Love, Elizabeth

Neha’s Epilogue…
This was my first trip to India and I was very excited.  We were staying at Jyothi Nivas children’s home for 5 days.  Five days was not enough time to get to know every girl very well.  Five days, however, was just enough time to make friends with a few girls.  Although I only had five days, I made tightly packed friendships.  When I left  the girls and I were sad to part.  There were lots of hugs and kisses and the words “Happy Journey” echoed through the crowd.  Some of the girls made a nice drawing that said “Jesus Loves your Family.”  Although that’s what it said on the outside, on the inside it spelled “My friend.”  I knew that in my heart.  I have decided to keep in touch with my friends by e-mail, so we can remember each other.  I am so glad that I came to India and that my first trip was with the girls in the orphanage
Love, Neha.

 Pictures of the Boys... Didn't get that many.

 People carry heavy loads.. on oxcarts, bikes, motorcycles, scooters and even tractors.  Brenna thought this looked like snuffle-upagus from Sesame Street from the back.

Neha's friend in the same grade as her.  Beautiful little girl.

Villager washing dishes at the conference.

Each kid has one trunk to fit all of their stuff in.  They have two changes of clothing and their uniform.  They often share each others cloths to get a little variety.  What is amazing is that they all look so put together in the morning with ribbons in their hair, braided and combed well.

Neha and her friends saying goodbye...

 The night we handed out their new toiletries and bibles.

Day 5 – January 29th – Lifesong India Home and Pastors Conference.

We woke up bright and early once again at 5:30 am to go down for assembly, where Mrs. Brenna spoke again to all of the kids.   The kids were really warming up to us today and we had a good time with them laughing and enjoying their company.  The region has had several strikes and some of the kids schools were cancelled.  That just meant we had more time with them.  We have really enjoyed our new friendships and experience the love that these children have despite their circumstances.   

This was a lighter day and the girls were so comfortable that they came up to the third floor and spent time talking to us about their lives and what was happening in their world today.   One of the girls shared how her father was a truck (Lawry sp.) driver and died in accident and her mother shortly followed after with sickness within a week.   She was so concerned about her well being and needed prayer that she passes her 10th standard exams to move forward with pre-college and then to university.  For most children in India their grades are very important and that is their only way out in life to experience economic freedom.  I was impressed with how hard they study.  We have so much play time in the United States and are not that stressed out.

My mom explained to me that all of these children in the homes are the lowest caste (dalit’s or untouchable) and have no economic freedom so they are labeled as economic orphans.   We enjoyed sharing our hearts and prayers with these girls and boys as their hearts are heavy for their families and their future. 

That afternoon we attended the pastor’s conference again which was filled with energy and a yearning to learn.  We wrapped up our evening at the Children’s home when the girls came back from the lower school and spent more time with them singing and playing. I do have to say that the Pastor's Conferences for me where a little boring.  They loved Pastor Chris, Bob and Siromani who were very funny to watch.

I have really enjoyed the girls and their warm welcome of my mom and me.  I am touched by the way we all seem the same, but yet born into such different circumstances in life. 

This has been a long several days and I decided to go to bed early.  That is a big deal for me since I love the dinners in the evening.

Love, Neha


Day 4 – January 28th – Lifesong India – Narsapur, India…

 Our days in India start bright and early at 5:30 am. 

The first teaching sessions start at 6:00 am -7:00 am with singing and joyful sounds. Brenna started her second session with the kids who were very receptive and engaged as they became more comfortable with us.  Siromani was Brenna’s vibrant translator.  I think she was giving the kids mini sermons as she was translating.   The kids are up early and go to bed late studying.  We are tired keeping up with their schedules but are enjoying the enthusiasm of the kids here.  This year we only going to one of the other  homes on Friday as it is hard to transport all of us around. 

We have been blessed to see the new bibles and clothes from our Christmas giving of friends back home in the United States.  The kids are very thankful for the gifts and treasures from our friends back home that pray and support them. 

After our morning breakfast, the kids head out to school and we have been heading to the pastor’s conference.

The drive to the pastor’s conference is quite the adventure.  We leave the town of Narsapur and head through several villages to get to the East Godavari region.   Our car has to navigate small roads through coconut groves and rice fields as well as fitting on small foot-bridges that take us across the canals of the Godavari river.  The Godavari river which is often called the bread-basket from West to East across India is amazing to see.  We are viewing the river before it feeds out to the Bay of Bengal.  The East Godavari people are some of the most colorful, joyful, prayerful and loving people I have ever met.  They love the Lord and they love their fellow man.  The villages are filled with beautiful coconut groves and rice fields as that is their main source of income.  It’s amazing to see piles and piles of coconut shells that are used for cooking as well as ropes that they make from them.  We also noticed some nice concrete homes that look like they were in pristine condition.  It was sad to hear why many of these homes are here.  Many of the women in the villages have been contracted to be servants in homes in Dubai and various countries in the Arabic region.  The women send money back home to build these homes as a sign of their status now in life.  The life for these women in these homes abroad is not one of joy and happiness and many cases they are mistreated.  Their families are separated with husbands left to fend for themselves and children to be left behind.  Many of these kids are now in some of our Lifesong homes.

Once we arrived at the pastor’s conference, it was amazing to see the many village pastors, their wives, and villagers coming to hear God’s word.   Pastor Chris Hopf has been sharing each day morning and night with the assistance of Bob and Siromani Stoll and two of the main pastors who speak English.  They have been very receptive to Chris and love him dearly as this is his third trip to India to be in fellowship with them.  This particular day we experienced the joyful music of some of the pastor’s singing with Siromani in Telegu.   Although I am not able to speak the language well, I am able to understand every word they are saying. 

After the service, we were able to spend some time getting to know some of the people and their needs.  Many of the women and children came up to us asking for specific prayer.  It was amazing to fellowship with them and most importantly lay hands and pray for them.  The people here are not afraid to ask for prayer for the smallest and biggest thing going on in their lives.  Back home in the States when are shy to ask for prayer.  When was the last time we asked a fellow brother or sister in Christ to lay hands on us and pray for our ailments or needs?  Brenna and I were humbled by this time and their sincerity and love for the Lord. 

We returned home that day going along the same exciting road and this time got to see many monkeys on the foot bridge, which Neha absolutely loved.  The ride was long but amazing to experience how the majority of India lives each day. 

We returned home for some rest, late lunch and time with the girls at home from college.   We started our third lesson with the girls and they became more and more comfortable with the teaching and us.  The jet-lag finally hit Neha and she went to bed without dinner and was out till the next morning.  Very unusual for me to retire early in the evenings and I have enjoyed spending that one-on-one time with Neha each evening and morning.  

Bathing here is been exciting for Neha.  The water is cold or lukewarm from the tap and the bathroom is all one room, sink, toilet and shower area.  She has learned to take a quick body bath kicking and screaming.  I am so glad that her first trip to India has been going to the orphanage and village areas instead of the big cities where things are comfortable.

Love, Eliabeth and neha


Day 3 – January 27th – Leaving for Narsapur…Finally making it to Lifesong India

We were up at 3:15 am to catch our 6:00 am flight from Bangalore to Narsapur.  The driver took us from the Hotel to the Bangalore airport.   The airport turned out to be an adventure of sorts.

We get to the airport and notice all the armed guards on top of the airport looking down with their guns in hand.  We get to the entrance of the airport and we are not allowed in for improper paperwork.  Our 

itineraries were not enough to get us in the door with our passports.  My mom then had to pay a few rupees( Indian money) to get new ones printed and we proceeded into the airport.  Once we get to the counter, the flight attendant let us know that are bags were over-weight with books, home goods, and goodies for the kids.  Now they were never over-weight on the way here.   So we scramble again and move things around and again have to pay a little excess to get going on the flight.   Mom was a trooper and calmly handled the situation as things kept coming up.  You might think that this was enough adventure for us, but there was more.  At this point the flight is boarding and we are clearing security at yet another checkpoint after 4 checks at this point.  This time it was me, Neha, I had forgotten to take scissors out of my pencil pouch and we made it all the way here across two major international airports undetected. Not in India. They pull me aside and my bag and ask me to take scissors out of my bag.  Of course , my mom interjects with, “We have no scissors in our bags.”  I then quietly piped up with, “Yes, I might have some in my bag.”  Sure enough we found the scissors and then they proceeded to check and stamp all of our bags, so we thought.  We then go to another checkpoint, where we are stopped for not having all the stamps we need from the previous checkpoints and have to run back as they are calling for a final boarding call.   

After a short flight to Vijawada, we finally make it to the airport to meet Chris Hopf and James Bob at the airport.  We were thankful to see some familiar faces and excited about the next part of our trip.  Chris told us to brace ourselves for the exciting driving through rural India as it takes 2 hours to get to Narsapur.

We loved our ride to Narsapur seeing all the rice patties, agricultural lands, coconut trees, and finally cows on the street.  I was amazed to see how people transported rice on their back, or using a cycle rickshaw, or any mode of transportation they could think of.   They were always stable and somehow managed to weave in and out of traffic.  I was even more amazed how the people looked just like my mom’s family and me.  I could already sense that this was going to be an amazing day when we arrived to meet the girls. 

We arrived at Joythi Nivas home were the girls greeted us with an amazing welcome with garlands and song.  It warmed my heart to see how excited they were to see us.  They did not realize that the blessing was ours to be with them.  It was no time at all and we were all friends.  Mom remembered many of the girls and she was starting to speak Telugu.  This was amazing to watch her know a different language other than English and the girls loved making fun of her accent.  We spent most of the day getting acquainted with the girls and spending time with them.  I have made some life-long friends today.

Mrs. Brenna, started the teaching sessions that evening with the girls as they sang songs and heard her message.  God has truly blessed our first day here.  The girls are so open and honest about their lives.  I have learned so much about how they have lost many of their parents, their difficult circumstances and more.

Let me just say the food has been amazing here.  I must truly be from this region, because I love Andhra food.  I need to let my dad and siblings back home know that mom and I are not starving but rather gaining weight here. 

Love, Neha