Monthly Archives: July 2013

Post 103. Priorities

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Things started to heat up.  A couple who had been meeting with us were being threatened.  They were told they would lose their jobs.  Some labourers were told the same thing.  There were lots of prayers going up.

Ali’s time with us was up.  We dropped her in Dehra Dun and I sobbed all the way back to Mussoorie.  I cried for days.  I really missed her company.

There were times when Asha and Zoë took strain with our busy lives, especially when we had overseas visitors.  There was always so much to talk about.  They loved the company but we weren’t taking time to be with them.  They were so good with all the moving around and they loved being surrounded by lots of people.  They had learnt to sleep everywhere and anywhere; which made things easy for us but we were constantly reminding ourselves to slow down to just be with them.  It was also difficult to be consistent with their discipline.  Our lack of attention made them more demanding which made us more irritated which led to more tension.  It was a real battle.

We were also constantly aware of the battle for our marriage.  One night when I fell into bed after a long day, God whispered in my ear, “Don’t withhold affection from your husband.” Another time, I woke up in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t sleep so I started praying.  For some reason, Tony also woke up and started getting amorous.  I felt irritated and in my mind I said to God, “Now what?”  He said, “Love your husband.”  He kept reminding me of the importance of prioritising my family.

It was so easy to be nice and kind to everyone else.  We loved spending time with new people and could spend hours chatting and praying with them.  Tony and I needed to do the same with each other.  Our lives were so focused on building the community that we sometimes lost touch with each other.

God knew our dreams better than we did.  He put them there.  He knew our passion for the lost.  It came from Him.  We knew we were living our dream but needed to be careful how we lived it.

During a particularly difficult time for us,  God once again came to our rescue and gave us something to think about.  His words to us were, “Don’t let your dream become a nightmare.”  We knew that the biggest nightmare for us would be to lose each other.  Even if we won the whole world we would have lost everything.

Post 102. Meanwhile in a remote village..

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Nandilal

We kept Mike and Rob busy for the week.  There were lots of people wanting to know all kinds of things.   The Woodstock students would get around Rob and throw lots of questions at him.  Mike encouraged us with his words of wisdom.  It was an amazing time.

Chandra was also busy.  The most important thing for him was to share his new life with his friends.  He loved his labouring job because he loved the men he was working with.  A young man, Nandilal,  was one of them.  He was Nepalese but had never lived in Nepal.  He was born in a small village in Himachal Pradesh, near the town of Solan.

Nandilal was the first of six children.  Scattered in between the surviving siblings were 5 miscarriages.  Their house was small and the walk to anywhere was kilometres away.  There was no electricity and the toilet was as far as the eye could see; anywhere you couldn’t be seen.  Even if you were, it was part of life.  No big deal.  A landlord owned the house they lived in.  They worked his land and paid for their rent that way.  They mainly grew tomatoes.  The amount of cash they were given was minimal but they were grateful for the roof above their heads.

It wasn’t long before Nandilal came with Chandra to meet us.  He had already put his faith in Jesus and wanted to meet Chandra’s new family.  He was a simple, lovely man with a big smile.  He had been talking with Chandra about his family in the village.  They had never heard about Jesus.  Chandra didn’t hesitate.  Within a few weeks they were making their way to Himachal.

Chandra was introduced to Nandilal’s younger siblings, Ravinder, Amar, Bhagat, Raju and his beautiful sister, Champa.  They all sat for hours talking about Jesus and what he had done in their lives.  There were lots of questions and plenty of debate about this new “God” they had never heard of.

By the time Chandra got back to Mussoorie, he was in love.  He couldn’t stop talking about Nandilal’s beautiful sister, Champa.  The only problem was that she was the one who argued the most about Jesus.  She didn’t believe what she was hearing.  We encouraged him to write to her and to see what happened.

A few months later they went on another trip.  Chandra let her know how he felt, but told her it wouldn’t work if she weren’t a believer.  She didn’t find him at all attractive and made fun of him with her family.   There was a lot more discussion and some family members put their faith in Jesus.

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Chandra and Champa

Soon after that trip, Chandra got the letter he had been waiting for.   It was from Champa.  “Now that I know the love of Jesus, I know I can also love you.”  With that was an invitation to talk to her parents.  Chandra didn’t waste any time.  Before we knew it they were engaged and we were planning their wedding in Mussoorie.

Post 101. Rob Rufus

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It was 1993 and the end of winter.  We drove to Delhi to pick up Mike Hanchett and Rob Rufus.  We were excited to see them again.  Rob wanted to visit a Hindu pilgrimage place so we went via Haridwar on our way home.  It was my first visit too.

We walked along the ghats and while the guys prayed, I cried my eyes out.   My heart broke for the people trying to wash their sins away in the Ganga.  Crippled people were being carried into the water to get healed.   Old people were waiting on the water’s edge, believing that if they died near the river they would arrive in heaven with all their sins washed away.  In another area, bodies were being cremated and the ashes thrown into the water.  The bodies of those who were too poor to afford enough wood were thrown into the river, partially cremated.

A few months earlier we had a community picnic on the banks of the “holy” Yamuna River.     We found a lovely picnic spot with a shallow area for swimming and baptisms.  After tea the cups were taken to the river to wash.  The kids were paddling a few feet away.   One of the boys saw a hand floating by.  He grabbed hold of it and pulled it out.  It was half a torso.  Someone had not been able to afford enough wood for a complete cremation.  It was all so disturbing.  Fortunately the kids didn’t see it.

Rob’s interest in Hinduism went back to his early twenties in South Africa.  His mother was an agnostic and his dad an atheist.  Rob wondered why they insisted that he went to Sunday School.  He went anyway, believing that going to church was something children did.  When the time came for him to be confirmed, Rob asked his dad to be there with him.  He refused and told Rob God didn’t exist.  He went to bed that night and prayed, “God, I am mad with you because you don’t exist anymore.”   From that day, he made it his mission to ridicule every Christian he met.

After his stint in the army, Rob went to University and became a committed hedonist.  For three years he did everything that gave him pleasure.  By the end of that season, he was at the end of himself and almost suicidal.  He met Glenda, they got married and had a little boy.  Rob started to question the reason for his existence.   That started him on his search for meaning in T.M,  Zen Buddhism and then the Hare Krishna movement.

He found Hare Krishnas interesting and bizarre, with their shaved heads, clay (from the Ganga) on their foreheads and their orange dhotis.  “These guys have got it!  They are vegetarians, they don’t’ wear shoes- they are so spiritual!”  He was attracted to their mysticism.  Glenda joined him in his new found religion, getting up at 3 am, practising yoga for two hours a day, abstaining from tea, coffee, meat and sex.  Even as a young married couple, they had to live lives of celibacy.

Christians were Rob’s biggest nightmare.  He started to run away from God and them.   There was no peace.  He wanted a way to God that would make him look good; one that wouldn’t require humility or having to admit to being a sinner.

They joined a Hare Krishna farm where Rob was given the job of planting tomatoes.  When they weren’t meditating or doing manual labour, they were on the streets of Durban handing out literature; Glenda wearing her sari and Rob with his shaved head, curly little ponytail and dhoti.  Rob could tell who the Christians were and tried to hide when he saw them coming.

One day a little old lady walked straight up to him.  She looked into his eyes with lots of compassion and love and said, “What are you trying to do, young man?”  She told him it was only through Jesus that he could be saved.  He grabbed Glenda’s hand and started to run.  They ducked into an alleyway and ran past a Christian bookshop.  A man came running out of the bookshop and started jogging next to Rob, saying, “God bless you, God bless you.”  He pressed a Bible under his arm.  Rob had a feeling God was pursuing him.  He was right.

A young Indian man, dressed in Western clothes came up and introduced himself to Rob.  “Hi my name is Krishna.  I was brought up as a Hindu and the reason I’m a Christian is because Jesus Christ is unique- he is unlike any other spiritual leader who has ever walked on the face of the earth.  It is also the only faith that doesn’t require that you work to be accepted by God.”

That was the last straw for Rob.  It was the straw that broke the back of his spiritual pride, the straw that caused his knees to buckle and his heart to break; the final straw that stopped him running away from love.

As we walked around Haridwar, I imagined Jesus being there.  I could see Him touching cripples and giving sight to the blind; raising the dead and preaching the Kingdom of God.

I knew I had the power to do the same, but all I could do was cry.

Who are you?

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Today I feel like celebrating, so I’m taking the day off from writing.  It has been 5 months since I decided to start my blog, “The Long and Winding Road.”  I have just written my hundredth post.  I had no idea what it would look like or who would read it.  It has been surprising and encouraging that over 19,500 people have read my whole story or bits and pieces of it.  It is also amazing to see that I have quite regular readers from 57 countries.

So the question is: Who are YOU?  What’s your story? I am loving sharing my stories with you, how about sharing yours with me? If you don’t have energy for that, then how about a hi?  Just today.  Oh and then maybe on my two hundredth post.  Deal?  You have the whole weekend :).

Thanks for reading.  Thank you to those who comment and spur me on.  It has really helped me to keep writing.

Looking forward to meeting you.

Post 100. Boring old fart

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At one stage, things got very intense.  Tony took out a few days to fast and pray about the way ahead.  He was desperate.  In the middle of the fast he clearly heard God say, “I want you to take your kids elephant riding.”  His first response was, “You’ve got to be joking.  With all that’s going on?  Things are serious.  There is a lot of work to do.”  When he realised God was serious, he started to make plans.

Chilla National Park was a two and a half hour drive down the mountain.  We set off the next day to find an elephant.  The girls were excited.  I was really sick with a chronic ear infection.  The last thing I felt like doing was rocking and rolling.

We arrived in Chilla and were told that the mother had just calved.  Both mum and baby had been taken to Lachhiwala Park.  That was half way back to Dehra Dun.  It was a beautiful drive through forests so we didn’t mind.   The baby had already been taught to raise its trunk to its forehead to say “Namaste.”  It was so cute.  It had been a while since the mother had been saddled up but she was more than willing.  She bent down and allowed us to pull on her tail to get ourselves up.  We set off into the teak jungle, rocking from side to side.  Soon we were screaming and ducking, trying to avoid massive spiders and their webs hanging between the trees.  My ears were so sore. I was feeling more motion sick by the minute but we had lots of fun.

When we got home Tony got a moment alone and asked God, “So, what was that all about?”  God’s answer was, “I want you to store up memories for your children.  Exciting stories they will pass on to their children and their children’s children. This is their inheritance.”

We had talked about our future and about our children’s future.  It was settled that our move to India was forever.  We were going to live as if it were a full stop.  If God wanted to turn that into a comma, we would move on.  If not, we were going to stay.  That meant our children too.  It was very unlikely that we were going to be able to leave them with much earthly inheritance. The future didn’t look bright as far as that was concerned.

So it was decided.  We were going to plan lots of trips and adventures.  The journey with our children was going to create a treasure chest of memories.   In all of life’s intensity we were going to have to take time out to have fun.  If we didn’t, all they would remember of us is that we lived busy lives.  Their memories would be few.  They would have no exciting stories to tell.

One of Tony’s favourite lines came from that elephant ride. “ Do you want to become a boring old fart and then die?”

I have a feeling that line may have originated with God who sits in heaven and laughs at all our intensity.

Post 99. The Battle

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We never could figure out why God chose us to do what we were doing.  In so many ways we were totally unprepared for what was happening.  Our language studies were put on hold and we knew we probably would never get back to studying Hindi again.  One thing we  knew for sure was that we needed lots of help.  We prayed like our lives depended on it.

Our diaries were full of cries of desperation.  Days were spent struggling with feelings of uselessness and hopelessness.  We were happy for the people whose lives had been radically changed but there were so many more who needed love.  There were times when labourers were threatened with their jobs if they kept coming to meet with us. They kept coming.  Rumours went around the mountain about us being a cult.  There were some who avoided us.

We had to teach on everything.  Our new friends had no idea who Adam, Noah, Jesus or any other biblical characters were.  Nothing made sense unless everything was explained.  We enjoyed that part the most but it was tiring.  There were others who knew a lot and the basics weren’t enough for them.  Some were high maintenance.  Gossip was something we knew would wreck havoc in our community so we were on high alert with that.

There was so much going on that was good and amazing.  There was also a lot of spiritual oppression and depression that we had to fight off on a daily basis.  That was the most exhausting battle of all.

Tony’s struggles were particularly real.  He would walk around in the forest crying out to God for help.  Fighting it out when he was alone and weak, caused him to go under for days on end.  Once, the only way he could deal with it was to go to bed in the middle of the day.  I wrote these words for him during a time like that:

The Fight

When my love is cold, I’m on the lonely road

My head is down, no longer the clown

My hope is dim, not seeing Him

Yes, I still smile

And I sing my songs

I never let on what I’m going through

The work goes on and I press on through

Things look good like I suppose they should

I’d like to run, have some fun

Not care for you or anyone

Let down my hair and the burden I bear

Take care of myself

Live my life

With my children and my wife

Is this all to my call?

Have I hit a stonewall?

In the dark, I cry, “Turn on the light!”

Help me to see what I’m meant to be

Don’t let me die never knowing why

I’ve lived my life.

(From Tony’s CD- Off the Edge)

Every time we cried out, God heard and came to our rescue.  He was our biggest fan; supporting us, encouraging us and spurring us on to not give up.  No matter what came our way, we knew we weren’t alone. We were in it for Him and He was in it with us.

Post 98. NOT funny

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1993

We had some bad bouts of sickness.  At one stage we all got sick at the same time.  We had stomach cramps, dysentery, headaches, fever and no energy.  We went from thinking we were going to die  to verging on wanting to.  The girls lost all the weight they had so nicely gained.  They got really thin.  There was always someone on the toilet.  The girls started with a casual, “Mummy, I’m finished”  and built up to “Mummmmmeeeeeee!  I’m fiiiiiiiinnnnnnnisssshhhed!”  which went on many times before they got some help.

It was never fun doing stool tests.  Trying to catch runny poos in a small container was a challenge.  Trying to catch my own was impossible.  We learnt in time, how to diagnose ourselves and it helped that every person in Mussoorie was a doctor.  We didn’t need prescriptions because we could buy any medication across the counter.  It was all so convenient.  When we found blood in our stools, we knew it was serious.

The stool samples were taken to Dr Goldsmith’s Clinic.  It was a small nursing home in the bazaar near Picture Palace.  Franky was the pathologist and we always felt sorry for him.  We couldn’t imagine anything worse than opening those little bottles.

It was also where we took the girls for their inoculations and blood tests.  There was no messing around.  Once, we were standing outside the little blood testing room.  Someone was behind a curtain.  A hand came out and took hold of Asha’s hand.  It was pulled into the curtain and her finger was pricked.  There was no explanation or any face to put to the pain.  Her eyes went as big as saucers and she burst into tears.  Quite a shock for a four year old.

We made friends with Franky and his wife.  He was a well-educated man and they had a lovely little son.  In his single days, Franky was on a bus which went off the edge of the mountain.  Everyone was killed, except him.  He was the only one to walk away without a scratch.  Right then he knew he was a walking miracle.  For some reason though, alcohol became part of his life and he became a heavy binge drinker.  He would go missing for weeks.  No one had any idea where he was.  His wife was frantic and his job was on the line.  Weeks later he would be found sleeping in a railway station somewhere.  He had no idea how he got there.  His wife would pick him up and he promised it would never happen again.  It always did.   Nothing we said or did seemed to make any difference.  It was always one of our sad stories.

We really couldn’t afford to be sick.  There were so many people coming and going.  Charles Gordon and Eldred came during a sicky time.  Charles was quite a fussy eater and it was quite a thing to find un-spicy food for him to eat.   Eldred was easy.  Tony drove them into the bazaar and found a hotel called, “Holiday Inn.”  Charles was so excited.  They climbed lots of stairs to get to it.  Tony asked the receptionist if it was a real Holiday Inn.  “You know, the ones that are all over the world?  The chain?  The famous ones?”  With a big smile on his face, the receptionist said, “Oh no sir, it is just by name.”  Looking closer they could tell the logo was slightly different.  Charles agreed to Chinese food, which was a bad idea.  He sweated and coughed his way through his spicy meal.  The poor guy was not happy.  They should have eaten at the Holiday In.

We were feeling so happy about all that was happening but were brought down to earth when Eldred said, “There is a long road ahead.”  We knew it was true.  We could see it, but we just wanted to relax and recover.  We wanted to back off for a while, but that wasn’t to be.  It’s hard not to be addicted to the battle.  As soon as we could stay off the toilet, we were at it again; full steam ahead.

Post 98. No caste or colour

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Life was getting busy.  Friends invited friends and the community was growing.  There were people from just about every walk of life coming into our lives.  There were international staff and students from Woodstock School who were highly educated.  There were also tribal people from remote villages who were illiterate.  Somehow we managed to communicate.  Our main language was love and it wasn’t just verbal.  It was tangible.  We really loved each other.

Within weeks of arriving in India, God did an amazing thing in my South African heart.  We were driving around and I was struggling with thoughts I never knew I had.  It was as if I was better than the people on the street.  We weren’t equal.  I was here to help them.  They were all in one big box; all part of the mass of humanity.  No one stood out.  They all looked the same. I never considered myself to be a racist.  I had friends of all colours and nationalities, but there was still something there; like a deep root.   It was affecting the way I was seeing the masses.  I could see crowds but not individuals.  I cried out to God.  I told him I could not and did not want to live with such thoughts. 

Then I saw a man riding on his bicycle next to our car.  I looked at his face.  I saw what he was wearing.  I took a long hard look at his feet.  I suddenly saw him as a father; as a husband going home to his wife.  I tried to imagine what he had been doing all day.  I wondered what his dreams might be about.  It was a revelation.

It was as if a cataract had been taken from my heart.  Everyone looked different.  The root was gone.  It was a miracle.  I was so grateful.  I wasn’t better than “them”.  I wasn’t God’s gift to Indians.  They were a gift to me.  I wasn’t going to be doing all the teaching.  I was going to learn way more than I could ever have imagined.   I would be giving, but receiving so much more.

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Sunil and Pam Sardar with Rebekah- 1993

Tony was having chai at Chaar Dukan.  A man was introduced to him and it was friendship at first handshake.  Tony came home and told me all about Sunil and Pam Sardar.  I was so excited to meet them.  They popped in for coffee with their little girl Rebekah who was just two years old.  She was the tiniest cutest thing we had seen.   Her tiny pierced ears fascinated Asha and Zoë.  That was the beginning of a great and challenging friendship. 

Sunil worked with dalits in Central India.   He was a social reformer,  fighting for the rights of farmers and untouchables.  His passion was to see the caste system destroyed and all men given equality.  We were challenged by his passion.  Every time we met with them, we felt our hearts moved with compassion for the poor.  He was sold out to see them liberated and finding justice.

We spent days and hours talking.  As we did, our love for India grew.  At times we felt our hearts would burst.  It was so good to know there were people all over India, dreaming the same dream.  There was no way any of us could do it alone.  We all needed all the help we could get.  Knowing that the dream came from God gave us the hope and courage we all so desperately needed.

Post 97. Nana Betty

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Betty and Tony

Tony couldn’t believe his mum was coming to India.  His memories of her vacuuming carpets twice a day and keeping her house meticulously clean made him wonder how she would cope.

We drove to Delhi to pick Betty up.  The last time she had seen Asha was when she was 9 months old and it was her first time meeting Zoë.  They loved each other instantly.  It was so moving to see them with their Nana.  They had no idea what they were missing until that moment.  They were all over her and she enjoyed every minute of it.

Christmas was spent in Mussoorie.  James and Willi put on an incredible lunch for us at their house.  Betty fell in love with everyone.  They also fell in love with her.   She became everyone’s Nana.   She loved hearing their stories and would sit for ages just listening.  Hiram loved chatting to her.  He talked very fast and in an accent she wasn’t used to.  After a particularly long chat, she came to me and said, “Lin, I didn’t understand a word he said.”  We had a good giggle.

After Christmas we made our way to Delhi and onto a train headed for Goa.  We left our jeep at the YMCA and got a taxi to the station.  We were running late so Tony told the driver to get there “jaldi se.”  He took off like a rocket, winding in and out of the traffic.  Betty thought she was going to have a heart attack.  Her heart was pounding by the time we got to the station.  We ran for it and managed to get on just before it started moving.

The eighteen-hour train ride was interesting for Betty.  The Indian style, hole-in-the-floor-toilets were a challenge when the train was rocking from side to side.  She took it all in her stride and didn’t complain once.  In fact we didn’t hear her complain once about anything.  She was amazing.

We spent the night with our friends Arun and JoyAnn Philip and their children Yohaan and Priyanka.  It was fun catching up.  We laughed ourselves silly at the most ridiculous things.  Yohaan teased and irritated the girls until they cried, but they all woke up good friends the next day.

We flew to Goa and went straight to the Watkinson’s flat.  They were away and said we could stay there for a few days.  We then settled into “C” Roque, which was where we stayed for three weeks.  It was amazing.  The rooms were simple, right on the sand and there was a shack restaurant right on the beach.  That was where we had all our meals and watched the sun set on the ocean every evening.   The girls made lots of new friends and we enjoyed seeing our Goan friends again.  James and Willi were also on holiday and were staying in a room next to ours.   It was during one of our many conversations that James mentioned that he had not been baptised as an adult.  There was no time wasted.  We drove to a beach up the coast and both James and Betty were baptised in the ocean.  What a day that was.

After an amazing beach holiday, we made the long trip home.  Mussoorie was a white wonderland. Within twenty-four hours we went from building sandcastles to making snowmen.  In two months, Betty had almost seen it all.

Post 96. Winter Wanderer

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Aman

It was winter and we were waiting to experience the first snowfall.  Our friends had told us all about it.  We were excited to see Mussoorie covered in white.  By early October we were already freezing cold.  The “bukhari-wala” came and installed a round steel pot-bellied oven in our lounge, called a bukhari.  Electric heaters were out of the question with our fluctuating electricity supply.   He bashed a hole in our wall for the chimney and filled in the gaps with cardboard and plywood.  We filled the back of our jeep with chopped wood from the bazaar and put it in our stairwell.  The clothesline from our first monsoon was still on the ceiling and there were clothes hanging all over it.  The bukhari heated up the lounge but the rest of the house stayed ice cold.  The thin steel got so hot that it glowed red which made us feel even warmer.

I really wasn’t prepared for how cold it got.  Our cold marble floors didn’t help.  A few weeks into winter I got chilblains in my toes.  They swelled up to twice their size and they were a very pretty purplish-pink; like small pork sausages.  My socks were too tight so I had to wear Tony’s big rugby socks.  I couldn’t wear my shoes either so I hobbled around in Tony’s sandals.  It was so painful.  When the sun came out I sat on the roof hoping to thaw them out.

One freezing cold night Tony and I were invited to someone’s house for a meal.  For some reason our house was full of people.  Some were spending the night with us on their way out of Mussoorie and others were there to say goodbye to them.  There were bodies everywhere.  The bukhari was firing bright keeping everyone warm in the lounge.  As we walked into our carport we noticed a young Nepali boy huddled in the corner, right near the jeep.  He had a thin shawl covering his head and that was it.  He was shivering cold.  We couldn’t understand what he was saying but he made it clear he didn’t want money or food.  He wanted a job.  We asked him if he would like to go upstairs and he said no.

We had a lovely meal and drove back home.  He was still there.  We insisted that he come inside to get something to eat.  He was shy but happy to be in a warm room with lots of friendly people.  He heard stories about Jesus from different people who could speak his language.  There was no space for him to sleep in the house so we gave him some blankets and he spent the night in the stairwell.

The next day was Sunday and he wanted to come to the meeting.  He sat and watched, convinced that everyone was worshipping the overhead projector.  He also thought Tony was the guru because he was leading the worship and people were facing him.  Chandra had a long chat with him and he said he wanted to give his life to Jesus.

Aman had lost his brother in Nepal.  Someone had told him he was working as a labourer in Mussoorie and he had come to find him.  He had walked many kilometres.  He didn’t find his brother but he found shelter under the right house and his life was forever changed.