Monthly Archives: July 2013

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.

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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.

Post 95. Laughing with Ali

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Alison was 20 and had quite a story to tell.  She wanted to be in India and help us in whatever way we needed help.   She moved in with us until she found her own place and  became my friend and little sister.   We really needed help with our music files and she played keyboard and loved to worship.  Tony appreciated her being the second member of our worship team.

When she was writing to us, she sent a photo of herself.  Jason was staying with us for a few days so I showed it to him.  He smiled and said, “Oh, maybe I should stay a little bit longer.”   On the first Sunday Ali was with us, I saw them talking to each other and I nudged Tony.   We knew something was going to happen.  Jason left soon after that.  A few days later, Ali and I were chatting and I casually asked her what she thought of him.  She calmly replied that he was “a nice guy, nothing more than that.”   I was sitting up on the rock the next day and Ali came up and sat next to me.  It looked as if she had been crying all night.  Her first words were, “Lin, I lied to you and I am so sorry.”  I couldn’t even imagine what she meant.  Then it all came out.   I found it all so funny.

She told me that a year earlier, Dudley Reed had shown the slides of his trip to India in her church.  There was a slide of Jason.  The minute she saw it, God told her he would be her husband.  She didn’t tell anyone about it.  When Jason left she didn’t know how or when she would see him again.

Letters from Ireland started arriving but Jason wasn’t showing any signs of commitment.  Ali needed to know what was going on.  Tony gave him a call and asked him what he was thinking and revved him up a bit.  He was just being cautious; very cautious.  Things started moving a bit and we were relieved that he was at least making some moves.

She moved into a little flat up the road from us.  It was just four steps up off the road.  The only place she had to hang her washing up was on the railing on her little veranda.  She would often find cows walking down the road with her underwear in their mouths.

One evening Ali and I were in our kitchen making tea.  It was Diwali and we were commenting about how nice and quiet it was at our place.  All the fireworks were going off higher up the mountain.  As I touched the switch on the kettle, someone threw a huge “bomb” under our house.  It was so loud.  We jumped off the ground and screamed and screamed.  We looked at each other as if we were surprised to still be alive.  We collapsed on the kitchen floor and laughed until we thought we would die.