Thank you so much for your prayers! We had a great trip, with lots of excitement and lots of praying. I'm just getting around to filling you all in because as soon as I returned, I had to jump into running the Film Festival that I am the programming director for. Now that, that is over- I'm ready to dive full force into the White Rainbow Project!
Cissy and I had a good flight over to India- we met up in Newark and then flew non-stop to Delhi. It was a long flight (15 hours) but we used the time to talk, read, sleep and pray. When we arrived in Delhi, there was a driver from the Guild of Service to pick us up. He took us to the Guild's headquarters in Delhi, which also serves as a hostel for young professional women. They had a lovely (air conditioned) guest room for us on the roof- top with nice views overlooking a park. We met with Dr. Giri for breakfast the next morning in her living quarters. She was so inviting and happy to host us. She is still very grateful for the White Rainbow film, as it has helped her to raise funds for the work she does. She is such an amazing woman. Cissy really liked her and they hit-it off beautifully!
The next morning we visited a nearby hotel that Dr. Giri suggested that we use for our group trips. It was a very clean and charming hotel that was reasonably priced. Dr. Giri was even able to get us a good discounted rate!
We then visited a historic site- The Quatab Minar- the funniest thing was everyone wanted pictures of us- we turned out to be the attraction! Later that day, a new friend, who just started driving in India, took us on an adventure to find Asha James, the woman who exports fine embroidered linen to my friend in the States. Her office was on the opposite side of the city. We eventually found it after asking hundreds of people directions! Asha was amazing! Such a warm and caring person! The work she does it beautiful but more importantly is her heart to help others! She is willing to help train some of the widows to do work for her so they can make an income.
The next day we traveled with Dr. Giri, Meera Khana ( the vice chairman) and several others, to their widows shelter "Ma Dham" in Vrindavan. Dr. Giri was going there to prepare for a huge function they were hosting the following week to dedicate the Inter-Faith Pavilion she had constructed at Ma Dham. Many dignitaries were invited as well as the Governor of the State. Dr. Giri explained that this Inter-Faith Pavilion was a life long dream of hers. She is hoping for unity and peace among all peoples. In India, their is much blood shed over religion, so she felt this would help bring about tolerance.
Dr. Giri and others just stayed for the day and then left Cissy and I to stay at Ma Dham for a few days. She had arranged for a young woman named Nisha to take care of us and to bring us Chai Tea in the mornings and afternoons. Nisha, had been thrown out of her home by her husband, and she was seeking shelter. The Guild of Service was going to train her to be a nurse, but taking care of us was her first assignment.
Ma Dham is like an oasis in the desert. It is a brand new beautiful facility on nearly 5 acres. It is situated just off the main road to Vrindavan about 5 miles outside the city. It is completely fenced with 4 large buildings. The front building has a huge hall downstairs and 5 guest-rooms upstairs that has a separate kitchen and huge dining hall. It is a perfect place for us to stay. Cissy and I stayed in a large room which was nicely furnished. It is very clean and comfortable. Almost like a retreat center. We had the whole place to ourselves. There is a large terrace that surrounds the whole building looking out at the neighboring fields. Very relaxing!
The other buildings are the medical center and offices and 2 large dormitories where the widows stay. Currently 120 widows live at the shelter along with the staff. Most of the women are older, with some more outgoing than others. We spent time speaking with the few who could speak english. Most seemed friendly and curious about us. One of the dormitories has the kitchen and TV area. The other one houses the widows that are sick and immobile. The main observation that I have about Ma Dham is that it is currently under utilized. There is plenty of room for many more widows. The Guild just does not have the funds to care for more at this point, but they hope to be able to house 500 widows there.
The next morning one of the counselors that works at Ma Dham, took us into the heart of Vrindavan to see the thousands of widows chanting in the Ashrams (temples). It was quite a sight. Just like the White Rainbow movie. For me it was the end and begining of a long journey. I have been waiting for this day for years, to finally see the widows face to face. It was pretty overwhelming. The city itself is very crowded with all kinds of people. It was bizarre to say the least. It was interesting to see many foreigners dressed in Indian clothes coming to worship in the temples. I found out that most of them were from Russia. They are seekers, coming to follow Krishna and the Hare Krishna movement.
The counselor also took us on a tour of 5 neighboring villages where the Guild has established "Self Help" groups to help the poor women of the area. We met lots of friendly people and adorable children, living in deplorable conditions.
On Sunday, Cissy and I visited the Taj Mahal. It was so beautiful. The first glimpse, took my breath away! The following day we took the train back to Delhi. Remind me never to do that again! Let's just say God sent his angels to protect us.
After seeing all that we had, I was confused as to what God wanted us to do. We were going to meet with Meera Khana of the Guild to begin to organize the trips. I was feeling at a loss. It seemed to me that the task of helping these widows was too huge to handle. Cissy and I prayed and I had a good quiet time reading my Bible and calling out to God. He is amazing, he came to me just at my bleakest hour and revealed to me that He would do the work, all I needed to do was to step out in faith, one step at a time.
Our meeting with Meera went really well! We came up with the idea of having the WRP group host a lunch at Ma Dham for widows that were living in the Ashrams in Vrindavan. We would provide transportation for at least 100 widows to come to Ma Dham (most of the widows in Vrindavan don't even know that there is such a wonderful place). We would serve them lunch, entertain them with a play (something to share with them about God's Love for them) and then give them a gift bag of soap, lotion and footwear (flip-flops). We would also invite the ones that wanted to stay there a permanent home. That is where the White Rainbow Project would come in to pay for there up- keep, which runs about $50 a month. My goal is to be able to support at least 100 widows our first year.
Cissy left to go home and I flew down to Chennai to stay with Dharan for a few days, We worked on creating a short 3 minute promo to show at Churches. I'm going to post it on Youtube soon.I
I am just putting together the July trip. I hope that some of you will join me. I think it is important that the first few trips are mainly filled with WRP people! Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to give you all an overview on how God is working this whole adventure out!
Looking forward to hearing from you!