Sunday, December 25, 2011

Indian Love Story: T-minus 17 Days And Counting.

When I was in India in May of 2010 I felt at peace, a peace that had alluded me for years. It was as if every child that touched my hands, face, hair, skin was taking my world weariness and imparting to me restoration. In exchange for my earthbound ragged-edged, dirty, dingy soul they gave me instead their perfect innocence, celestial and effervescent. To say I am in their debt implies that I might one day be able to repay them for that miracle of transubstantiation. Never gonna happen. Not in a million lifetimes.

So for that, and these two (above), and about a billion other reasons, I fell in love with India, she will always be my mistress. And India has since pulled upon me, with a slow and relentless gravity. The ship of my soul sweetly wooed by her child sirens. And now I am returning. A few months ago I would have thought it mostly a pipe dream to see her and her children again so soon. But somehow, beyond my control, India will be my home. This is how all good stories start, destiny. If you ask me anyway.

So let me make for you a little sketch of what's gotten me to this point and I will also give you a little thumbnail of what the overall plan is for the next few months, and then, on very regular intervals I hope, I will take these rough sketches and fill them in until they make a proper picture of what God has done and will do. A painting of a story. In so many words.

In July of this year my soul was imploding. I had been at Lowes for a year. Exactly one year longer than I had hoped. I was designing kitchens for extravagant homes while my mind and my heart, was ever on the plight of the third world and the exploitation of the children there, on the babies unwittingly borne into that womb of impossible poverty. My one solace was my work with Conspiracy Of Hope. See I had applied for about a trillion jobs with NGO's and international child's rights non-profits. All to no avail. So I started COH to maybe inch toward a life of abolition and child rescue. Ironically, part of what COH became was a vehicle to shed light on some of those same organizations, ones that were on the ground doing the work I wished I was doing. I would interview the founders, presidents or directors of those groups and then try as I might with a small coterie of generous volunteers, raise money and awareness for those groups. It helped to bleed off the internal pressure a bit but by July I was fit to be tied. Then I got a message on Facebook.

Now I get lots of messages on Facebook, some more exotic than others. Many from distant countries, people involved in the anti trafficking movement or people who hope that COH can give resources to them or whatever. Long story longer, one night I got a friend request from a woman with a Middle Eastern last name. Not too out of the ordinary, but when I looked around her profile it was nothing but an incredible collage of Indian children, all tangled in her arms and smiling like every day was Christmas!! Wow. I was, of course, intrigued. I found out she had a foundation, that she was currently living in an orphanage in India, and then from her blog, which I read in it's entirety in one sitting, I found a woman who had a heart that beat soley for the cast-off children of the world. A woman who even did this to raise money for her kids...

I sent her a message that night and asked if she could make time for an interview. She said yes, and seemed genuinely excited at the prospect. I worked hard to get the questions just right because the work she was doing was so important, I wanted to really honor that. Her answers came back so filled with passion and centered around the children and their emotional and physical well being. She was gracious, very thankful, and that was it. From time to time I would re-post her blog or the website because I really believed in her heart and her work for orphans. But there was nothing else, no communication. She was getting back from India and I was leaving for Haiti, to spend a week and a half with the amazing Megan Boudreaux and the staff of Respire Haiti.

Then, maybe a month later, out of nowhere a short message asking more about me. I was floored. And nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers. I did my best to be cool and calm and collected and from that day forward, for 3 months now, not a day goes by where the highlight of my day isn't "speaking" to Miss Narges K. Ashtari.

While she was in India, in the 5th of 6 orphanages she lived in, the 40 orphan girls of Assist orphanage were evicted from there rented home. Narges had two days left with them as she scrambled to find lodging for the children and their caretakers and wrap her mind around what could be done. She made a promise to those girls then and there, to go back to Canada and raise the money to build them a permanent home. And that is just what she has done. To the tune of 26 thousand and climbing, to the ultimate goal of the 43 thousand it will take to build those girls their home. The process will take three months give or take and construction begins the first week of January!

I flew to Vancouver on November 30th to meet Miss Ashtari face to face. It was nerve-wracking and wonderful and I very nearly threw up several times from my stomach being in knots for the week leading up to my visit. I spent 11 days sharing my heart and listening to her heart for orphans and justice. It felt like a dream mostly, walking around that opulent city, in the shadow of million dollar penthouses, talking about Rayagada and the girls of Assist. At some point I realized I was going, and then we spoke of it, and now it is happening! This is all very personal for me to share. But I need you to know what type of story you are following. I need you to understand and respect the principal players. So that nothing distracts from these children, sacred as they are lovely, made in the image of the Eternal God. So in case you haven't figured it out, this is the type of story you are reading, a love story, and not just one love story, but three. It is first God's love for orphans, it is my love for India and her children, and it is the story of me and the lovely Narges K. Ashtari. 

Now we are to the present. I leave for India January 11th. I have sold my Jeep and all my other possessions, everything but a few clothes and this old Sony Vaio with its missing keys and cracked case. I am jobless, homeless and again, so at peace. I will be sleeping on concrete and eating with my hands by this time next month. I am already sleeping on the floor every night! And of course I have always eaten with my hands. I am a guy after all. In the months to come I will share what is happening, the journey to India and the lessons learned there. But mostly this will be about the children of India. So I hope you will join us, and I hope you will invite all your friends. It's gonna be a beautiful journey.

The precious girls of Assist Orphanage! I am soooo nervous about meeting them!!!


  1. Love stories develop so much with time! Being in love takes a person to some of the most polar ends of experience! I think that's why I love that this will be/is a love story, that you've set Love in the middle, and that there will be not much mundane or half-hearted about it. Looking forward to reading, and excited for you!

  2. "Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, 'There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'"

    Many of us know this verse, but not many of us actually do it. I am so excited for you and this journey God has called you to...just make sure you don't forget about us and keep us updated as you are able :)

  3. Em!! I know! I am so overwhelmed right now. This is all the dream I never dared to dream...coming true!! Thank you for your words!

    Rebecca! Those verses haunt me. They stay with me, they wander through my thoughts all through my days. I am so glad to be able to live it!!! So humbled by His grace! I coud never forget you guys! You have all inspired me so many times, especially you and Em who have been there, in Africa, and India and served these precious people! on Indian Love Story: T-minus 17 Days And Counting.