!ncredible !ndia (intermission)

I apologize for my delay on further posts about the India trip. I am currently out of town on business and drowning in work back at the office.

More soon though...I promise.


!ncredible !ndia (Part 2)

Monday May 14 
BEAUTIFUL Sarees at a Village Meeting 

 Sleeping with the windows closed turned out to be the least brilliant idea of the entire trip. I think I woke up every couple of hours from the severe heat trapped in our room. The next night there was a unanimous decision to face the critters instead of the heat. What's a few bugs compared to practically cooking in your own skin???

 It's hard to sleep long into the morning when there are so many things going on around the building. With no glass in the windows, sound traveled freely into our room, and I would wake every morning around 5:00am. Directly outside my window was a small pond and a dirt road leading into the village. Across the street were a couple of village homes and I could watch the families beginning their days from my window. Being unaware that there were outsiders watching, they were at ease and laughing with each other. Several little boys were chasing each other around the house while their mother fed the chickens and ducks in the yard.  

We met every morning around 8:00am for group devotion and breakfast. Michael did a great job leading our devotions, and we spent the week reviewing and discussing the steps from salvation to sanctification.  While we were doing our devotion, our host would bring us each a 'tea and tiffin'.  Tiny cups of delicious chia tea and a small packaged cake called a tiffin. The chia tea is indescribably good- it doesn't taste like any chia tea I have ever had. According to Andrew, Indians drink hot Chia tea throughout the day because it helps to coat the stomach and protect from the heat. I just know it was delicious.

After Yuna took the tumble off the harley on Sunday night, we got to ride in the cars to St. Mary's school for the morning.  Here are the cars that we rode in during the week.

 (1) the very American looking SUV and (2) the TATA Nano which we loving referred to as the 'Puppy-Mobile'. Junior Panda always drove the puppy-mobile and it didn't take long to figure out that Junior Panda thinks of himself as a NASCAR driver. I'm pretty sure the TATA was airborne a couple of times and anything we had to travel in the cars, I tried to get a seat in the SUV as quickly as possible.

 Here's 'GID' (good Indian Driver) who always drove the Boleto. I think he may have been the best driver in all of India.

 Our first day at St. Mary's School was a bit of a misadventure. When we were  trying to prepare for our trip, we received a rather long list of things that the school wanted us to do which included teaching English lessons and bible studies, etc. We were all a bit nervous (as none of us are teachers) but we did our best to prepare. When we arrived at the school the children were gathered in the chapel and we were introduced to all the teachers and students.

St. Mary's School

Andrew introduced our team, and then they looked at us and said, "OK, what would you like to do?"


 And here we thought they would be telling us what things they wanted us to do.

 Needless to say, the four hours at the school went by VERY slowly on Monday. We brought a bunch of blow up globes with us, so we spent some time showing the kids where India was on the globe and where Alabama was in the United States, and how we had traveled to visit them.  We broke all the kids up into three groups and each group has a couple of teachers to serve as translators.  We did a bible study and tried to do our best to gauge how much English the kids could understand on their own. Unfortunately the teachers seemed to have the most trouble translating what we were saying to the kids. Indians learn is King's English (British) and we all know that an accent from the Southeast U.S. is about as far from King's English as you can get. Not helpful. Somehow we made it through that long first morning at St. Mary's with a lot of Father Abraham, and Simon Says, and bible stories.

Team on Monday when we first arrived at the school.

Heading to do a group 'competition' to end the morning. The kids LOVE to compete.

Relay Races

We were a bit overwhelmed by the time we left for lunch, and I was wondering how we were going to make it through the rest of the week. We all knew we would have to regroup and come up with another game plan before Tuesday morning.

 Now to explain the photo below:

On the way back to the church compound for lunch Andrew said, ‘We will stop by the sea to refresh ourselves.’

Ok. Sounds good. We could all use some refreshing.

I think he could tell we were both totally frazzled by the morning activities and totally wiped out from the heat and high humidity.   We drove to a near-by town on the river Ganges and parked the cars in a lot by the market. By this point I was starting to get used to people starring at us, but watching people trip because they were looking at us and not where they are going was over-the-top.   We walked down through the market and out to the pier. The area of West Bengal where we were is primarily agriculture based and the towns along the Ganges are fishing villages.

There were several fishing boats off the pier and out in the water. Andrew pointed out past the furthest boat where you could start to see another land mass in the distance and said, There is Bangladesh.”

My first thought was, ‘Crap. Rick Lynch will not be happy.’

The one (of many) things dad kept saying to me before we left was, ‘Don’t go near any borders. It sure looks like you are going to be near the border. I don’t want you hauled off to some foreign prison.’

‘Don’t worry Dad. We are not going to be near the border’. (As least there was water between us).

Those tree tops in the background...Bangladesh.

After the refreshing visit to the border of India, we headed back to the compound for a delicious lunch of prawns in a spicy curry sauce, white fish cooked in another spicy sauce and rice. We also had homemade French fries with every meal. Is this what people know of Americans? Even they were spicy. We had watermelon and a sweet pudding for dessert, which Andrew again said was suppose to coat your stomach and keep you cool during the day. Believe me, it was so hot and humid you could have told me standing on my head and singing Kum-ba-ya would keep me cool, and I would have tried it once- just in case.

After lunch we talked about the morning at the school, and tried to game plan something better for Tuesday. We figured out that Michael actually had a pretty good day with his group because Andrew had been his interpreter. We decided to try something new the next day.

Around 3:00pm we headed out on the two Harleys to the first two villages with new NeverTHIRST hand pumps in place. We rode the Harleys when the roads to the villages were too narrow for vehicles.  The first village we arrived at actually bordered the sander bands on one side. The Sander bands are a marshy low land area that makes up the border between India and Bangladesh all the way down to the Bay of Bengal. It is a World Heritage site and one of the last places on earth where Bengal tigers exist in the wild (we did not see any).  Before we got to the village we had to park the Harleys and cross over a cane bridge bordering the sander bands.   Junior Panda kept saying ‘Come come! One at a time!’ as we crossed the bridge. I have serious doubt it could have supported more than one person at a time. We did not press our luck.


Crossing the Bridge
When we walked into the village, a large group of villagers had already gathered for the meeting. They had a row of chairs for us to sit in and the villagers sat on large tarps and grass mats in front of us. We were (of course) welcomed with a generous offering of coconut waters.   Louanne and Andrew introduced the team and we discussed the hand-pump with the villagers. We asked questions like the following:

·         How long have you had the hand-pump?
·         How many families are using the pump?
·         What are you using the water for?
·         Have you noticed any improvement in your health since the hand-pump has been installed?

These questions would help start the conversation. Many villagers wanted to know about community sanitation and future plans. This is the next step in the NeverTHIRST program, but it has not been implemented in any of these villages yet. The village model is currently being developed.

Neverthirst Well

Andrew also introduced Pastor Panda to the villagers. The driving force behind NeverTHIRST is to not only provide clean water for villagers, but to provide LIVING water through salvation in Jesus Christ. NeverTHIRST is a catalyst for connecting the local church (Pastor Panda in this case) with the villagers. In the NeverTHIRST program villagers actually have to raise and fund half of the money for the drilling and maintenance of the well. Someone in the village even has to donate land for the well to set on. This way, the villagers have a stake in the well, they paid for it and are responsible for its up-keep. Because Pastor Panda was an active part of the process of bringing the well to the village, he now has access to the villagers and can share the gospel with them.

We also did a skit called ‘The River Crossing’ that shows the importance of gaining knowledge from others and then sharing it with others to pass the knowledge on.’ We all know I am not the actor in the family, but I gave it my best.

Heather reviewed ‘Safe water’ practices with the villagers that included things like:

·         Cover your clean water container.
·         Use well water for cooking and drinking.
·         Wash hands after using the restroom.

We also played a huge life-size game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ that helped to reinforce the Safe Water Practices.

 Before heading to any of the villages, Andrew had prepped us by explaining to us that you are not allowed to share the gospel with people in a public place (ie the village meeting), but that you can share with someone one-on-one after you have been invited into their home.

 Due to a 'lost in translation' moment I'll not exactly sure what happened at the end of our first village visit, but Pastor Panda was speaking to the group of villagers, and then Andrew asked Michael if he would close the metting in prayer. At this point one of the villagers got very angry and marched down front and was speaking very animatedly in Bengali. Another man in the crowd had to stand up in front of him and sort-of block him. Andrew would not translate what the man was saying, he just turned to Michael and said, "Pray fast." We left the village immediately after that. Andrew never did elaborate on what the man was saying. Maybe he did not want it to discourage us for the remainder of the trip.

 We continued riding the Harleys to a second handpump location. We did not have a formal village meeting here, but walked around from home to home and met the villagers who lived there and used the hand pump.

Walking through the village
Typical Village Home. Yes, a few homes do have satellite TV.
Hand-formed cow patties drying in the sun on the roof. Used to burn as fuel.
Visiting with a woman outside here home.
Visiting with a family outside their home.

After dark (7:30pm) we rode the Harleys back to St. Mary's School where we sat and had a snack. Then we met with a group of local Evangelicals, most who have been saved only a few years. The purpose of the time was to study the Word with them and better equip them to share the gospel with others. Believers in India desperately need someone to train them in better biblical understanding. Michael led the men through the same principles that we were studying in our morning devotions.

 Around 9:30pm we headed by the the church compound for dinner. Our days in India were rather long-especially with the heat. For dinner we had fried rice with peppers, chunks of chicken and cashews. French fries and mangoes for dessert (of course). Then I took a shower and went to bed. Louanne had to kill the biggest, fastest moving spider that came in the window and ran across the ceiling over our beds. I am not exaggerating when I say its body was the size of a silver half dollar, PLUS the legs. Ick. Is this really only the end of Monday?     


!ncredible !ndia (Part 1)

Here is the team- I will explain later where this photo was taken.

L to R: Louanne, Heather, Megan, Brooke, Michael, Junior Panda, Andrew, Roshni

The past ten days have been an adventure to say the least. I had a wonderful time in India, but I am so thankful to be home. I have been so encouraged by all the thoughts and prayers that I have received from so many people. You will never know what they have meant to me and I am so appreciative that I was upheld before the Father through your prayers while I was away.

 We finally made it back to Birmingham around 10:00pm last night after 20 hours in flight, 9 hours of layovers, and 4 very long hours sitting on a plane in Paris while necessary maintenance was preformed on the plane. Thanks to Bethany, Jessica, and Megan O. for surprising us at the airport- even though we were 5 hours late getting there.

 Sitting down to write this blog, I am a bit overwhelmed at how to best share my trip with you. Since I was unable to blog the entire time that I was gone, I have decided to take the next week and share some of the day-to-day activities and experiences of the trip. 

 If I was asked to describe India in one sentence, it would be this- "India is an assault on the senses." 

 From the moment my feet touched the ground in Delhi, it has been an adventure. I have been severely pushed outside my comfort zone both physically and mentally. Everything is a new experience in India, the people, the smells, the weather and the culture.

 We arrived in Delhi around midnight on Saturday, May 12. We met Andrew Gurkin there at the airport and headed to a hotel for the night in Delhi. Andrew is the India coordinator for NeverThirst and also served as our primary interpreter while we were there.

 Walking out of the airport, two things hit me: (1) was the heat. Even at midnight it was hot, and the weather in Delhi is rather dry, so it reminded me of being out west. (2) was the amount of people that were staring at us. Louanne (our team leader) tried to prepare us for this, but it was still rather surprising to feel the numerous pairs of eyes on us. After the four flights it took to get us to India all we wanted to do was take a shower and fall into bed. 

Hotel EuroStar in Delhi- our last A/C of the trip

 Sunday, May 13 
 Sunday morning we awoke in Delhi and headed back to the airport to fly to KolKata. Delhi is situated in the middle of the country, while Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal in the eastern part of India. The Republic of India is divided into 28 territory states. Everyone in India is required to learn (3) languages: English (for business), Hindi (the national language) and your mother tongue. The mother tongue varies by state and what language your mother speaks. The mother tongue of West Bengal is Bengali and most people use it primarily. Understandably, the further we traveled from the major cities the fewer people spoke English.

 The flight to Kolkata took 2 hours on Sunday morning and then we were at the airport meeting Andrew's wife, Roshni, and Yuna, who works for Andrew at the NeverThirst office in Kolkata and served an our photographer for the week. Andrew had arranged for two taxis to drive us three hours east of Kolkata to the village we would be staying in. 

Lunch in Kolkata

 We first stopped for lunch at an Indian Restaurant (maybe you don't call it an 'Indian Restaurant' if you are in India, haha). We let Andrew order for the table as we had no idea what anything was, even though the menu was written in English. We had delicious barbecued chicken that was pretty spicy with rice, and lamb covered in a spicy green sauce.  After lunch we piled back into the taxis and headed towards the village. This is the point in the trip when we realized just how crazy Indians are behind the wheel of the car. Getting into a motorized vehicle with a Indian driver might just have been the most dangerous thing I did the entire trip. I tried to take a few videos on my camera while we were driving, but they do not do the craziness justice.

 "What makes driving in India so dangerous?"

Let me count the ways.

 (1) They drive on the opposite side of the road- which can be a bit disorienting.

 (2) Lines on the road are only a mild suggestion. If no other cars are coming the driver will straddle the center line of the road. Only when someone is coming head-on will they veer back into their respective lanes at the last possible second. 

 (3) They also seem to have a complicated system of communication worked out that involves flashing their lights and blowing their horns with abandon. I never did seem to get a grasp on what was going on. I was primarily concentrating on trying not to gasp out loud or throwing my arm across the person beside me every time we almost collided with another vehicle or pedestrian. 

 (4) They pass each other with very little space available. Imagine standing in a crowded room and trying to weave your way to the exit on the opposite side of the room. They do the same thing in a vehicle, driving over 40km (60 mph). Brake pad and tire replacements must be a booming business in India.

 That first three hour car ride to the village was probably the worst ride of trip. Thankfully, I do not suffer from any type of motion sickness, but three of the girls on the trip do. Thankfully, they were already taking motion sickness medicine from the flights over, and continued on the car ride. About an hour into the car ride, I even started getting a little sick from the constant braking and swerving. My solution was to take a nap to avoid the sickness and the constant image of losing my life in a head on collision in the middle of east India. That decision was win-win as far as I am concerned.

 When I woke up we were pulling up the church compound where we would be spending the week.  The building was designed as a compound, a concrete structure with a metal gate for the cars to enter. In the center was an entire courtyard with two story rooms and walkways on all four sides. We had electricity (thanks to a generator) and indoor plumbing (with Western toilets-yay)! 

Where we met our meals at the church compound

Compassion kids during their morning lesson

Bath in the courtyard- government handpump

Kids washing dishes from the morning breakfast

 We met Pastor Panda, who pastors the local church and surrounding villages, and his family and some of the other families that lived onsite at the church compound. One of the main functions of the compound was to serve as a Compassion International Child Development Center. You may be familiar with this program if you have heard of child sponsorship. Compassion International is one of the largest organizations that matches sponsors with orphan children. Local orphans in the area lived at the church compound and went to school at the local school where we spent our mornings each day. 

 We were the first group of white people to ever stay at the compound, and most of the people seemed very shy and nervous when we arrived. The feeling was probably mutual, as we were trying to be cautious of cultural differences. Women do not smile or make prolong eye contact with men in India. But after a couple of days we all became at ease with one another and things went really well. We were able to figure out who could speak a little english and then we were able to talk to those people and they could translate for the others.

 We were welcomed with coconut waters (straight from the coconut) when we arrived. I believe this was the first of 20-25 coconut waters that I drank over the next week. Every time we went to a village, the villagers would greet us with coconut waters in welcome. While coconut water is not the best tasting beverage I have ever tasted, they are extremely high in electrolytes making them nature's Gatorade. I was thinking about the coconuts a few days later when we were at a village meeting. The villagers were talking about how their government hand pump had broken and that the pond has dried up in the current summer heat. Michael asked where they would have gotten water if the NeverTHIRST hand pump had not been installed before the dry summer season. 

 'We would drink only the coconuts.' replied one one of the villagers.

 And while this is not the ideal solution for all the village water needs, the thought that crossed my mind was the sovereignty of God as Creator. In a harsh climate like West Bengal, India he provided coconuts which supply our bodies not only with fluid, but natural electrolytes (potassium and salts) to quickly restore our bodies from severe dehydration. 

 After we settled all of our things at the compound, we walked about 15 minutes to St. Mary's, the church and school, for evening worship service. Michael shared about the conversion of Paul. We originally thought that the service would include people from the local villages, but the majority were that children from the school, the teachers, and Pastor Panda's family. 

 After church, we rode back to the church on the 'Harley Davidson'. This was our first of many experiences on the Harley, but this trip was a little unsettling after our first car rides and the fact that we could not actually see what we were riding on. We had 11 people riding on the Harley, and Yuna actually tumbled off as we were rounding a corner at one point. Thankfully, everyone arrived back at the compound unhurt.

11 people rode on this at once. Thankfully after Yuna took a tumble off we started taking two Harleys

 We were served a delicious dinner of spicy curried chicken, rice, and mangoes for dessert. They served mangoes with almost every meal, and it was probably my favorite part of every meal.  Needless to say, we fell into bed quickly after the long day. We were just about to climb into bed when the biggest cockroach I have EVER seen flew into the room from the open window. It was at least 4 inches long. After I killed it, we debated whether dealing with the heat or the critters was worst. We decided to deal with the heat and shut the panels on the windows for the night. Maybe not the best idea...

***Hopefully I will have my Online album of Photos loading tonight or tomorrow, and I will provide a link to them for everyone to see!***


In transit

Currently in the Amsterdam Airport for a couple of hours layover. Then we will be heading to Delhi. The current time in Amsterdam is 9:30am (6 hour time difference from home). It will take us another 8 hours to get to Delhi and we will spend the night there before heading out to Calcutta on Sunday morning.

Here are a couple of pictures of the team...getting our fill of technology and connection to the outside world while it is available.



In 12 hours I'll be on the first of 4 flights over the next two days which will land me in Calcutta, India.

If you are interested in learning a little more about India and why I am traveling there, be sure to check out the blog over the next week. I'll be updating as much as possible. Below is one of the NEVERTHIRST: India videos. I encourage you to watch THIS VIDEO to learn more about India and work happening there.