Monthly Archives: June 2013

Anand (Joy)

Standard
Image

Anand (middle) with his friends Sanjay and Aman -1996

Anand was in his early twenties when we met him.  He gave his life to Jesus soon after that.  He was shy but always had a big smile on his face.  He loved his new family and community.  He got jobs here and there cooking and cleaning.

He often reminded us of the time when Jordan (aged three) asked him if he had a daddy.  Anand told him he didn’t have one.  Jordan’s reply was, “Don’t worry Anand, I’ll be your daddy.”

He met Mina and they got married and had three beautiful children.  Somewhere and at some stage in their hard lives they found they could write songs in their own Garhwali  language.  When they discovered that, the songs came one after the other.  He was prolific.  He was a struggler but a lover of Jesus.

A year ago, Anand was diagnosed with cancer.  With the help of friends and his community in Mussoorie, he was able to have chemotherapy.

Anand went to be with Jesus this morning.  He has left behind his three young children and beautiful wife Mina.

Anand met Jesus many years after I did, but he is seeing Him before me.  The songs he has written and sung on the earth are nothing compared to the ones he is singing right now.

What a son.  What a brother.  What a friend.  What a joy.

Post 92. The weird and the wonderfuls

Standard

There was a small church up the road from us.  We got to know Pastor S and his family quite well.  They were always happy for us to pop in for chai and biscuits.  Tony had grown his hair and re-pierced his ear, which caused quite a stir among the pastors.   One pastor asked Tony if God told him to grow his hair.  His answer was, “It’s strange.  I just left it and it grew all by itself.”  Pastor S sarcastically shouted out to Tony in the street, “Tony I like your earring!”  Tony replied with, “Oh good, I got you one for your birthday!”  We had some good laughs.

We were sitting in Pastor S’s study one day and looked at the photos that were up on his notice board.  They were of him baptising people.  We could hardly contain ourselves.  He had drawn hair with a blue pen, to cover his bald head. He had also drawn a tie onto the t-shirt he was wearing.  It wasn’t a joke.

Another pastor came into town for a while.  He told us he had a deliverance ministry.  He attended some of our meetings and invited us to come to his place for chai.  He was very keen to show us his photographs.  They were too awful for words.  Contorted faces, people writhing around; he was in all of them.  We felt really disturbed by it all.  While we were trying to look at them with our eyes closed, a lady came to be “delivered.”   She fell at his feet.  He seemed to know her.  He grabbed her by the hair and started shouting at her.  He pulled her hair back until she fell on the ground.  Tony tried to stay calm, but couldn’t sit there and watch the abuse going on.  He strongly requested him to stop and let go of her.  He refused and kicked us out of his house.  We talked about how, if we were a demon, we would be so terrified of him that we would be more than happy to leave.  That was the last time we saw him.

There was a strange religious formality, which we struggled with but we tried to focus on those who weren’t churchgoers.  Mussoorie was a small place and everyone knew everything about everyone.  It was sad that we got the hardest time from those in the faith.

Image

Hiram with Tony and John Watkinson

Hiram was a young guy whose father was a Math teacher at Wynberg Allen School.  It was on the hill just above our house.  He would walk past our place and wave but was really shy.  Tony invited him to come to a meeting and he came.  He kept coming.  One day we were breaking bread and he felt left out.  Right then and there he asked Jesus into his life.  He became part of our family.   He told us that for months he had watched Tony playing his guitar and worshipping on the rock on our roof.  He had binoculars so he could watch him close up.  Tony gave him some guitar lessons and within a few months he was playing really well.

Abhinandan was a tiny little man with a big heart.  He was one of the best tailors in Mussoorie.  Many Woodstock families used him to make their curtains and cushion covers.  He was a Jain.  We saw a fat, naked Jain man walking past our house once.  The girls saw him from the roof and shouted out to us to come and look.  They were giggling with Sarita.  There were people brushing the road in front of him so he wouldn’t kill any insects.  We knew Abhinandan wasn’t that type of Jain.   We were interested in what he believed and he was happy to tell us about his religion.  He had heard about Jesus through some of the Woodstock people he met.  We had a vegetarian meal with him in his little house above his shop.  He was a real sweetie.  He got really sick one winter and we popped in to see him.  I was really scared he was going to die.  I looked him in the eyes and said, “ Abhinandan, I want you to come to heaven with us.  When we get there, we want to see you there.”  He asked some questions about Jesus which we answered simply.  He put his hand on his heart and said, “Today I have adopted Jesus.”  It was amazing.

There were many “weird and wonderfuls” in our lives.  People came and went.  Checking us out.  Some found us weird some found us wonderful.  Those who stayed had amazing stories to tell.  We were all on a wild adventure together.

Post 91. The roof

Standard

We spent as much time as we could on our roof.  There was a big rock right on the edge of the cliff and after the rains, it was covered with little daisies.  The girls spent hours playing with flowers and stones.

Song for Zoë Ray:

You’ve seen so much, made so many friends

Hellos and goodbyes never seem to end

So many colours, languages too

They don’t seem to make any difference to you

Different faces, different smiles

We’ve been a long way, walked a lot of miles

The roads been hard

But we’ve pulled through

I’ve really enjoyed my life with you

You play in the sand

Mix flowers and mud

The stories are told at the edge of the cud

So much in common, you laugh and you cry

Swing on the trees as the days go by

Friends forever

Running together

I’ve left a part of myself in you

And the love we have is a life that’s shared

You live your life like it won’t end.

Image

Kids on the roof- using the water tank as a pool

The roof was a good place to be de-liced.  Lice were a constant problem for us.  I told the girls it was a good problem to have.  It meant we were getting close to people.  We agreed it was better to be close to people and get what they had than to stay away from them and stay clean.  The only available lice shampoo didn’t work at all.  Dettol seemed to work best but we couldn’t use it too often.   So we sat in the sun and scratched through each other’s hair and picked out the nits one by one, like monkeys. The sun was lovely and I loved having my hair fiddled with.  We took it in turns.  Sarita taught the girls how to spot them and they became experts.

Mussoorie was known for its monkey problem.  The grey, lanky, black-faced langurs were careful to keep their distance and didn’t bother anyone.  The brown recess monkeys were a different story.  They were aggressive, didn’t listen to women and were known to attack people carrying bags of fruit or vegetables.  Close friends of ours got tired of monkeys eating their flowers.  They put light poison in some chapattis and scattered them around the garden to chase them away.  It was one of the unsolved mysteries of Mussoorie.  Why were there crows falling from the sky?

A young boy, Raju, came around with a dirty fabric bag to scratch through our rubbish on the roof.  Every day he shouted out to us to let us know he was there.  He was a sweet boy.  We would give him chai and something to eat.  We couldn’t communicate very much but he knew we liked him.  He lived with his family near the Landour Community Hospital.  They were garbage pickers and their houses were plastic tents.   Raju took us to meet his family.  They had absolutely nothing.  We took them some crayons and paper and enjoyed watching grown women and their kids drawing their first ever pictures.  Raju, somewhere along the line put his faith in Jesus.  His parents were fine with it until other members started coming with him.  One day we heard that Raju’s bag got stuck under a reversing truck and he was killed instantly.  We were devastated.  His family said it was because he had changed gods.  That was his punishment.   It was all so sad.   It took us a long time to get over that loss of life.

Image

The roof was a place of friendship, fellowship and fun.   It was flat.  There was no hierarchy up there.  We were family.  All humans.  All in need of love.   That was where we found it.

Post 90. Start with love

Standard

The day before we moved in to “Ebenezer”, Tony discovered a little chapel right next door.  We could see it from our roof.  On the same property was an orphanage with about thirty children.  He went across to meet the family who were running it.  They were lovely and said we could use the chapel for our Sunday meetings.  They were also happy for the kids to join us.

Image

One of our first meetings in the chapel

The chapel could seat about eighty people.  It hadn’t been used for years so we got in and cleaned it up.  There was also a lovely outdoor space, which we could use for the children.

Image

We had some idea of who would come.  The Bartons, Diane, Shaji, Jason, the Hawthornes,  Lizzy, the Bhutia family and some international students we had been meeting with at Woodstock School. They were all going to invite others to come.  We were also expecting some children and staff from the orphanage.  Everyone was excited for our first official Sunday meeting.

Image

Some of our young friends from Woodstock at the Barton’s house.

The chapel was almost full.  The kids sat on the floor in the front and most of the chairs were occupied.  One of the things we were passionate about was wild, uninhibited worship.  That was new to the church in Mussoorie.  We got the kids up to dance and most of the adults joined in happily.  Sonam had helped to translate some songs into Hindi.  Fini’s songs, “This is the day of jubilee,” and “Oh give thanks” in Hindi, were instant hits.  Tony started his series on Nehemiah to inspire us to start building together.

Image

Outside the chapel

After the meeting we all went next door to our house for lunch. Our little kitchen was packed to capacity and there were people everywhere.  We were in our element.

Something that Gerald Coated said really stuck with us.  Accountability gives birth to credibility, which gives birth to visibility.  We knew the dangers of becoming visible too quickly and we knew that we needed to build credibility in that community.  We asked God how we could be accountable and He said, “Serve.”

We decided that our doors would be open to anyone.  Hospitality was going to be a big part of our lives and our house was going to be filled with people.  When we asked God how we were going to do it, He said, “Watch what I’m doing and join me.”  So we started to watch.  Whoever came to us, we loved, without holding back.  If God was working in their lives, we blessed what He was doing and He seemed to do more.  People came off the street, ate with us and met Jesus.

We kept watching.  God kept bringing people who needed a caring community.  We could see how important our children were in all of it.  Their hearts and arms were wide open to everyone God brought our way.

Lives started to change in front of our eyes.  Love caused the most downtrodden to blossom and live again.  It was amazing to watch.

Post 89. Challenges

Standard

When we arrived in Mussoorie from Goa we still had one-month visas.  We had made a connection with music producers in Bombay.  They wrote letters requesting that we help them with the distribution of Christian music including Tony’s “Colours” album.  When we took the letters to the registration office.  The officer wasn’t impressed.  He folded our papers up, gave them back and said, “Just do your music and go home.”  We were stunned.  We knew if we left his desk we would not be allowed back in.  The girls were sitting on our laps and we were all beyond tired.  We refused to move.  We just sat there.  We sat while he did his business around us.  People came and went and the Johnsons just sat.  In the bizarreness of the situation, Zoë somehow managed to undo all my dress buttons while we stared at the officer.  Fortunately I noticed before he did.  After two hours, he looked up and asked, “So, what can I do to help you?”  We couldn’t believe our ears.  It was if he was seeing us for the first time.  He asked if we knew anyone who could teach Tony Indian classical music.  We did.  We knew an elderly Sikh man, Ajit Singh who owned Pratap Music House in Astley Hall.  His claim to fame was that he had taught George Harrison the sitar.   We needed to get a letter from him.

With that suggestion we drove for seven hours back to Dehra Dun to Pratap Music House.  Ajit was more than happy to help.   Then back to Delhi we went.  The same officer stamped one-year visas into our passports.  We were so relieved and happy.  It was another miracle.  Tony bought a sitar and went to Ajit once a week for lessons.

A priority for us was to get a phone line.  We really needed one.  We put in an application and waited.  In the meantime we gave people the phone number of the orphanage next door.  It was an almost impossible situation.  If someone called, one of the children was sent to call us.  By the time they got to us and we got to the phone, the caller had hung up.  Many of the calls were international.  Every now and again, men from the telephone department came and hovered around waiting for us to put some money into their hands to do the job.  If we had paid a bribe we would have got one in a week.   We decided that it was better to wait for a miracle than to pay a bribe.  We knew one bribe would lead to another.  Those we bribed would have been back every month for more.  It would have been a never-ending story.  It was two years before we got our phone.

Banking was quite a challenge.  The closest ATM machine was in Delhi.  On a few occasions Tony couldn’t get money from our local bank so he drove to Delhi early in the morning and arrived home late that night.

Sarita and her family lived in a small tin roofed room on our property.  When we moved in she came down to ask if we needed help.  She was heavily pregnant with her first child.  Her husband had a maintenance job at a local school.  She was lovely and we fell in love with her from day one.   Asha and Zoë went in and out of her house as if it was their own.   Within a few months she gave birth to a beautiful little girl.  We were so happy but they clearly weren’t.  There was no wild celebration, just a few cheap Indian sweets to announce that they had a baby.  Our excitement helped them to accept and love her.  Sarita asked me to name her so we called her Angela or Angie for short.

With baby Angie.

With baby Angie.

Seeing their disappointment at having a girl baby inspired me to write some words:

Baby Girl:

Baby girl

Held loosely in your mother’s arms

Her breasts withholding love from you

Your cries fall on bitter ears

The future is in her eyes

Like watering a plant in another man’s garden

Building a house that’s not your own

Like feeding a lamb that’s bound for the slaughter

Loving a baby into somebody else’s home

Little girl

Drawing water from the well

Dusty feet and worn out hands

Your tears fall on bitter ground

The future is in your eyes

Beautiful lady

Dressed for the occasion

Best clothes you’ve ever worn

They’re fixing a price upon your head

What are you worth?

The future is in their eyes

Angie and Zoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We couldn’t understand why there was no celebration.  Angie was so beautiful.  She was perfect in every way.  She hadn’t done anything to disappoint or anger anyone.  She was just a baby.  A baby girl.

Post 88. First of many monsoons

Standard

Image

It was our first monsoon in the mountains. There was so much to see.  Neighbours told us that the first sign of the rains coming were the little ferns growing on the trees.  The girls and I would go for walks and look for them.  They were so tiny.

There was something that looked like an old rag hanging on the electrical wire in front of our house.  It was one of those annoying things that ruined the scenery.  One day I was looking out of our kitchen window and saw it was covered with bright little ferns.  It was so beautiful.

Fern growing from dead bark.  A picture of grace.

Fern growing from dead bark. A picture of grace.

Things got greener and greener and the ferns became coats for the trees.  The rain was torrential and it poured down for weeks on end. We would lie in bed at night and hear peals of continuous thunder going on for 20-30 minutes.  Non-stop.  Life had to go on, so we put on our raincoats, grabbed our umbrellas and out we would go.

Leeches fell from trees and lurked on the wet paths in the forests.  They would attach themselves to whoever walked by and only fall off when they were thumb thickness and full.   We carried small packets of salt to sprinkle on them. That made them shrivel up and drop off with not too much blood loss.   Once when we were walking through a forest with friends, one attached itself right next to my pinky toe.   I was panicking and panicked more when someone got a small sharp stick and tried to dig it out.  It was ticklish and painful and I couldn’t keep my foot still.  I screamed so loud that the rest of the group came running.  They thought I was being attacked by a leopard.

The Mussoorie spiders were huge; some the size of my hand (including the legs).  Tony managed to kill one and wanted to show me how big it was.   I was lying in bed.  He took full advantage of the horror on my face and came closer and closer, dangling it right in front of my nose.  He was on the bed and I was stuck. He kept shaking it and threatening to put it on me.  I kept screaming and he kept laughing.  He only realized how scared I was when he heard me crying under the covers.

Scorpions were a problem.   Fortunately they were quite docile and nobody had ever heard of anyone who had died from a scorpion sting.  We were told that the first sting made you allergic to the second one, but we were careful.  We always checked our shoes and boots before putting them on.   It was uncomfortable just knowing they were around.

We got a carpenter to make a clothes rack which we pull-ied up to the roof above our steel bukhari (coal stove).  That was the only way to get them dry.  We went to bed between damp smelly sheets and the cotton pillows made our faces smell as if they hadn’t been washed in weeks.  Our cupboards were damp.  Leather belts and shoes grew green moss.  Photos left in boxes over too many monsoons were black and cassettes were ruined.  When I washed my hair, it stayed wet the whole day.

The first sign that the monsoon was coming to an end was that the ferns started going brown.  We were thrilled when we spotted the first one.  The bright green piece of bark hanging on the electrical wire started going back to its original brown and the sun started to shine again.  It was lovely to see it after four months of mist and rain.

By that time, everything and everyone had the fragrance of mould.  Everywhere we looked, houses were covered in bedding, mattresses, clothes, shoes and people soaking up the sun. We were right there with them.

Image

Ash and Zoe in the sun with their new little puppy Sasha.

Post 87. A sign

Standard

Image

In June 1992 we found a two bedroomed house way down the mountain in an area called Barlowganj.  It was called “Ebenezer”.  There was an empty area underneath. The  landlord told us he would make into another flat.   It was built into the mountain and had a flat rooftop.  Everything about it seemed perfect

We moved in just before the monsoon.  Dehra Dun was the closest place to get furniture and household goods.  It was an hour down the hill.  Tony spent the first week driving up and down the mountain to order and pick up all the things we needed.  He would go down to place an order and told he should come back in two days.  There was no way to contact us so he had to drive all the way down only to be told that it wasn’t ready.  It happened so many times and it was stretching and frustrating.

Image

The road down to our house.

At the same time, it was exciting.  It was a simple but new construction and we were the first tenants.  We loved it from day one. It was right on the road, on a steep hill.  There wasn’t much traffic but lots of drunken men who loved to sing at the top of their voices in the middle of the night on their way down the hill.

We had been sleeping on mattresses on the floor, waiting for our beds to be delivered.  On the day Tony was going to pick them up, he woke up and looked into the eyes of a scorpion.  It was on the floor right next to him.  We were told it was a sign that the monsoon was on its way.  We were also told that they were pretty harmless and no one had died from a scorpion sting.  Still, it wasn’t the best sight first thing in the morning.

Tony arrived home from Dehra Dun with the jeep fully loaded.  Most of our furniture was in and the house was looking lovely so we took a drive up to the bazaar to get something to eat.  While we were there the sky turned a charcoal grey.   A huge wind came up and down came the rain.  We found shelter in a little shop but realised that we could be there all night.  We got home happy and soaking wet.  The laughter didn’t last long.  Our stairwell was like a river.  We walked onto our balcony and were ankle deep in water.  Our entire house was flooded.  The builder had forgotten to put drain-pipes on the balcony, so it filled up like a swimming pool.

My first thought was, thank goodness our mattresses were on up on the beds.  After the initial shock, we got stuck in and started getting the water soaked up with towels and buckets.  The girls stripped down to their panties and were skidding around on their bottoms and tummies and having a whale of a time.

I was out on the balcony squeezing out a towel and heard someone shout in an Aussie accent, “Hi, are you Linda Johnson?”  I looked up the road and there was a really big built guy looking visibly shaken.  He came up and told us about all the hellish things that had happened to him while travelling in India. HIs passport had been stolen and he had been ripped off left right and centre.   He had tears in his eyes.  He was in a bad place.  Someone had told him about us and by some miracle he managed to find our house.  We invited him to stay until he recovered from his culture shock.  We gave him a bucket and towel and he got to work.

Image

Jason and the girls mopping up

Tony was frustrated and upset.  His first thought was, “God, this is NOT funny”.  Then God clearly said, “I told you I would take you to a place where you would put your feet in water.”  That changed everything.  Suddenly, we knew that we were in the exact place where God wanted us to be; the town, the neighbourhood and the house.  It was amazing.  The flood was a sign and a wonder.  We were thrilled that God was watching. He knew we were desperate to be in His perfect will.  In that second, we had no doubt.