Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dr. Giri Speaks at NKU and Xavier University

Last March, Northern Kentucky University photography professor Barbara Houghton visited Ma Dham to document the work Dr. Giri is doing to help the widows of Vrindavan for her photographic essay titled "Changing India, one Woman at a Time". She invited Dr. Giri and I to come for the gallery opening on November 15th. She also arranged to have Dr. Giri speak on the status of widows in India and screened "White Rainbow" at her University as well as neighboring Xavier University. It was a wonderful trip. Barbara and her husband Keith, hosted us at their lovely home set in the woods and served us excellent food. It was a great time to get to know Dr. Giri better in a relaxed environment. Her talks were powerful and her enthusiasm was contagious.
I'm looking forward to our upcoming trip in February to continue with the important work that is set before us. Won't you join us? It will be life changing!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Excerpts from an exciting update from Cynthia

I was asked by Dr. Giri to organize a program celebrating both International Elderly Day and Gandhi’s birthday on 2nd Oct. I asked the pastor of the Methodist Church in Mathura to pray about speaking, but he sent a local pastor to meet me. His name is Dinesh Lal. He pastors some home churches here in Vrindavan. He speaks some English also. He spoke at the program and was well received. He has a sweet spirit and a broken heart for the hurting. He has begun coming once a week to lead a Bible study. The first class began with a short meeting that was a follow up from the program so there were about 25 women there. A few left when brother Dinesh began, but we had 18 stay for the whole thing. He taught from John 4 on the woman at the well. The next week we had 8 attend the bible study. I had asked him to talk about the character of our Lord. He taught on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22. He also translated so I could share my personal testimony. That was the highlight of my stay here!

Brother Dinesh’s relative is the administrator of a Methodist Health Center that is about 40 klm from here. They conduct free medical camps in Vrindavan every Monday morning. Geeta, the manager, and I are going to visit the center on next Thursday morning, and get camps scheduled for the widows here at Ma Dham. God is Good.

I’m so looking forward to being with you all again. I arrive home 10th Nov.
Love, Cynthia

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Widows Stories

Cynthia has been busy these past few months that she has been living in Vrindavan at the Ma Dham shelter for destitute widows. One of her favorite tasks has been interviewing widows that she has been caring for and loving on so that she can learn more about them and pass on their stories to us. Please take a moment to learn about them to see if it would be in your heart to help sponsor the care for these women. Every bit helps and every hug counts! We will be highlighting one widow at a time so keep checking back to see more faces and read more stories.

Gauri Biswash

Age: approximately 75 When asked her age she said, “500!” She married at age 13. Her husband was 22. She had one son. She became a widow at age 40. Three years after her husband died her son threw her out of the house so she came to Vrindavan. She has no contact with her family because it is too painful. She has difficulty walking, but she can still get around on her own very slowly.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Home from a Successful Trip! July 15-30, 2010

Our first official White Rainbow Project trip was a complete success! Joining us this first time were Pepperdine University students, Brianna, Austin and Sid and Palomar College student, Danielle. Cynthia was happy to greet us at the widow's shelter known as Ma Dham, as she had been there a few weeks in advance of our arrival. The weather was hot and there were lots of interesting bugs in our rooms at night, but we did not let that distract us from our main goal of ministering to the widows. We spent most of the mornings cleaning the rooms and bathrooms of the bedridden widows, gaining their trust and showing them kindness. Even though we could not speak their language, we were able to communicate with them perfectly as LOVE needs no translation. It was the best part of the trip!

We also visited the Bajan Ashrams (the temples where the widows chant) in Vrindavan. That was almost like watching a scene from the movie "White Rainbow". We saw thousands of widows there, chanting for hours. When some of the widows would fall asleep, the matrons of the ashram would hit them with a long stick. The men in charge were not happy when we wanted to interview some of them and let them know about Ma Dham. It is shocking to see how these women continue to be exploited. Some were so old, they could barely walk. We were also surprised to see many young widows, some with young children. One girl in particular had such a sad face. It really made an impression on us and we all vowed to help raise awareness and funds so that more of these women can come to Ma Dham and escape the cycle of abuse and neglect.
We are planing on making our next trip in November during Thanksgiving break. Won't you join us? It is definitely a life changing experience!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cynthia Made it!

I am so thrilled! Cynthia Roberts just arrived in Vrindavan and is staying at the Shelter (Ma Dham) with the widows. Cynthia saw White Rainbow over 2 years ago and decided that some thing had to be done. She has volunteered to be the first White Rainbow Project team member staying full time with the widows at Ma Dham. She will be our liaison between the sponsors and the widows. She will also be looking for tangible ways that we can express God's Love for these women. The first thing she noticed was how they were suffering in the heat. Since the electricity goes off constantly and there is not enough funds to buy petrol for the generators to keep the fans running, Cynthia decided that that would be her first gift. She is going to buy enough petrol to keep the electricity on so that the widows do not have to suffer the sweltering heat without fans. Thank you Cynthia for truly being the Hands and Feet of Christ! You are amazing and I'm looking forward to joining you in service in July. I hope it cools down a little by then :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hello Everyone!

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!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just Courage

Seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

This is the expedition that brings freedom to both those who follow and those who are found.

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in darkness,
and your night will become like noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:10-11)

In preparation for my trip, I just finished reading Gary Haugen's book - "Just Courage- God's Great Expedition for the Restless Christian". Gary is the founder International Justice Mission- Their mission is seek social justice for the oppressed, worldwide.

As I leave next week for Vrindavan- The City of Widow's" where so many women are oppressed, I pray that God will give me the courage to fight on their behalf!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Angels on Board

So much has transpired since my last post.... God has brought more people to help me with this project. Brianna is a young energetic recent Pepperdine graduate who saw the screening of White Rainbow that we had at Pepperdine University last month. She was so moved by the film that she has volunteered to help us get the non-profit up and running and she is planning on joining us on our first service trip planned for July 15-30. This trip is for Pepperdine students and anyone else that wants to join us. We only have space for 12 people so if you are interested, email me right away!!!
The next Angel is Cissy Watson, a good friend from our Pepperdine days, who will be joining me for the exploratory trip that I am going on next week. Cissy has lots of experience in non-profit organizations as she has been involved with ministries in Honduras and Africa. Pray for us that God will reveal to us exactly what he would have us do.
The next and most exciting development is my new friend, Cynthia Roberts, from Arkansas. Cynthia saw White Rainbow over a year ago, and was moved to go to Vrindavan to check out the situation for herself. She found the Guild's Shelter- Ma Dham- and she feels led to stay and work there for at least 5 months. She is willing to help with the White Rainbow Project by being a permanent presence there. God is so Good! (Cynthia is standing with Dr. Mohini Giri of the Guild of Service in the picture above)