Category Archives: India

Post 193. “I do.”

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People just kept coming.  Madhur Milan was soon too small for us and the owner wanted to increase the rent.  We started to look for another place to meet.

During our time in that red-carpeted banquet hall, we had many picnics, baptisms, meetings, parties and lots of food. We also had our first cross-cultural,  “controversial” wedding.
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Ajit and Aphi were from Nepal and Meghalaya.  Both families insisted that the wedding should not take place. Ajit and Aphi disagreed.

Aphi came from a matrilineal society in which the youngest daughter of the family inherits all ancestral property. Husbands move into their wife’s home and the children take on their mother’s surname. If a couple can’t have a daughter,  they adopt one in order to pass their rights to property to her. The birth of a girl is celebrated while the birth of a son is simply accepted. Aphi’s parents were concerned that she would lose her name to a man. They informed her that if she decided to do so, they would write her out of their will.

Ajit was from a Brahmin Hindu family and his parents were not happy with his choice of wife or “religion.”  Neither family agreed to attend the wedding.

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Part of CNC’s multi-cultural choir: Debbie Sanate (Shillong)  Zoe and Asha (British/South African Kiwis)    Zia (Bangladesh) Mark, Ronnie and Mark (Uganda) and Joshua John (Woodstock School via Kerala and Bihar)

It was an exciting event for CNC.  Many of our community witnessed a Christian wedding for the first time.   Ajit’s dad graciously appeared to bless his son and actually really enjoyed the occasion.   A few of Aphi’s relatives also attended and seemed happy with the proceedings.  Aphi felt it right that she take on Ajit’s name.

Having grown up in South Africa in the years of apartheid, I was kind of hoping I would never have to deal with it again. Unrealistic, I know.  This beautiful wedding was our initiation into the pride and prejudice of parts of Indian society.   Little did we know that there were many more to battles to come.  Young couples would fight for their love and their lives.  They would do everything they could to get the blessing of their parents.  When they knew they would never get it, they would make a call to do what was right for them.  That was a very hard call.

(A comment: It was amazing to see that all the parents finally came round after the deed was done.  They often became the biggest blessers of the couples. Especially when their grandchildren arrived 🙂

PS. Any comments from these couples? 🙂

Post 192. Cooling Down

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Delhi’s infamous summer hit us from behind.  We had experienced it on our short visits over the years, but we had never lived in it.  The billies from the hills weren’t prepared for their first summer with temperatures above 45 degrees C.

Our Gypsy’s air-conditioning had given up the ghost during Tony’s accident (see Post 156) and the black garbage bag covering the right rear window didn’t  even try to keep the heat out.   Driving around Delhi was unpleasant to say the least.

It wasn’t in our budget to get air-conditioners in the flat but we were able to install a desert-cooler in the living room.  It was made up of a steel frame, a water trough and straw padding.  When we first turned it on our house smelled like a horse’s stable, but it did the job.  When the smell got too bad, we put a few drops of essential oil into the water and that was sucked up into the straw.

Summer power cuts were common.  With everyone using their air-conditioners, Delhi’s power source took strain.  When the power went off,  everything went off.  No lights, no fans and no desert-cooler.  Fortunately we had done a strategic swap with Raman and Kiron:  our electric blanket for their inverter.   This re-chargeable battery was able to run two ceiling fans and a tube light in the lounge for about three hours.

During night power cuts,  we would wake up drenched with sweat not knowing how long the fans had been off.   One by one we would drag our mattresses into the lounge.  The kids would soak their sheets in water and we would lie spread eagled under the two droning fans.  There would be lots of giggling and silly nonsense before we finally drifted off to sleep again.

We casually mentioned our vehicle and air-conditioning situation to God. “God, we can do this, but don’t expect us to be too productive.”

When Dudley Daniel heard of our predicament, he very kindly helped us to purchase a/c s for the whole house.  We were so grateful.

Soon after that, someone unknown to us, sent us money to purchase a brand new Toyota Qualis.  Again, we were amazed and incredibly grateful.

For Jordan’s birthday we gave him a gift we could all use.  We put it on our back balcony and it was perfect for those hot, sweaty summer nights.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

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Post 191. United Nations

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We shopped for two days non-stop then moved in to our little flat.  Everything was nice and new and it didn’t take long for us to settle into our noisy neighbourhood.

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Ash and Zo with their friend and teacher Georgie Muggleton (Kalkaji)

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Louise Bulley- always there to help.

Ash, Zoe and Jordan were still homeschooling.   It was nice to have them at home to witness first hand how a community grew. From the day we moved in, people came and went.  We especially loved it when our friends from Mussoorie popped in.   Our new Delhi friends were all so generous and hospitable and we never lacked company.

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Our first visitors in our first flat in Delhi: James and Willi Barton with Sharon John and Lovily Vito

 

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Arad, Praveen, Lal and Lily

Joshua John and his sister, Sharon joined us and they started to bring their student friends. We had an influx of young girls from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) across the road and they added a lively and happy dynamic to our older group of friends.  Arun and Madhavi Handa and the original home group (See Post 180) didn’t miss a community meeting and regularly brought new people who wanted to know more about Jesus.  We started to hear some incredible stories and also learnt more about Delhi’s middle to upper class issues. It was an education.

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It didn’t take long for the Kenyans and Ugandans to arrive.. (Ronny)

On the 26 January (Indian Republic Day) a picnic was arranged and we just had to arrive.  There were 50 people from all backgrounds and ages and food enough for the Indian Army (well almost).  We had snacks and starters, mains and drinks and our first experience of the rabdi and jalebi combo.  It was so different from our very simple, tight budget picnics in Mussoorie.  The Delhi Wallas were generous in every way and they went out of their way to bless us and everyone who came to CNC-Delhi.

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Our first marriage retreat..

Right from the start we wanted CNC to be a multi-cultural, multi-generational community.  We welcomed people from every tribe, nation and tongue.  Soon it was looking like a little United Nations with the major difference being that we were united. Oh and happy. Very happy.

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Just to say that Atul on the right and Lily (in the lilac sweater) got married a few weeks ago.  This photo is from 2000.. 17 years later 🙂

 

Post 190. Begin again

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22 January 2000:

We had just had an amazing and much needed holiday in Goa.   Over the years we had driven for four to five days to get to the beach, but this time we went by train which took about 36 hours.  It was long but we survived.   Jordan was good at making us laugh in tense situations so we had our share of free entertainment.

When we arrived in Delhi we realised how different life was going to be.  The road trip from Delhi to Mussoorie  usually took about 9 hours.  We would get off the train or plane in Delhi and sleep over in a cheap hotel or with our friends, Andries and Brenda.  We would then get onto another train to Dehra Dun and then into a taxi all the way up the very windy mountain to Mussoorie. Sometimes we would arrive late at night and have to walk along the narrow path to our house with sleeping children and luggage.  There was always someone to help us, but it was quite a feat to arrive home sane.

This time we stayed with the Lindeques because we didn’t have furniture in our flat.  Andries, Brenda and their children Sarah and Simon were already an important part of our new community.  It was a Saturday.  Arun Handa and Raman had secured a school classroom for us to use for our first meeting.   All I could think of was, “What will we do with the DESKS?”   We were grateful but all felt there was something better.  At 5pm on Saturday evening,  Tony, Raman, Andries and Arun booked the Madhur Milan Banquet Hall!  It was across the street from Lady Shri Ram Girls’ College where Sharon John was studying. The guys came back very excited. Brenda asked if it had red carpets and it did.  A few weeks earlier she had a dream about a place with red carpets.

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The next day was Sunday and we were wondering, like Asha had been,  if anyone would come. We had nothing to worry about.  Word got out and friends were brought.  It was an amazing  first meeting.  There were about  40 people, including children.   People stayed well after 1 pm to chat.

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It was an interesting mixture of people and we knew that once again we were going to be part of another Community of Nations.  Enthusiasm and expectations ran high.  Mid-week house meetings were set up and there we were… At the very beginning of a beautiful new community.

No-one was more surprised than Asha.

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Post 188. Adjusting to Delhi

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Asha was angry.  She was angry with us and she was angry with God.  She hated Delhi and missed her Mussoorie friends and family.  Of course Zoe was still her bestie and she was always available but Ash was struggling to believe she could ever be happy again.  Our house in the forest in Mussoorie was beautiful and spacious.  Our new flat in Kalkaji  was noisy and small and it didn’t take us long to find out that Delhi wasn’t safe for young girls.

One afternoon while I was resting, some teenage schoolboys knocked on our door.  They had noticed that our Gypsy (jeep)  wasn’t parked outside so assumed that the girls were alone.  Fortunately the chain was on, so the door only partially opened.  When Zoe opened it, one of the boys put his foot into the door and said, “We want friendship.” Another one asked for water.  Asha and Zoe shouted and pushed the door closed on them. Their shouts woke me up.   They were shaken and upset.  The boys went away but kept their eyes open for another opportunity.  When Tony heard about it, he was mad.

Tony’s study door opened onto our narrow stairwell right next to the front door.  I was out in the Gypsy and the boys once again assumed the girls were alone.  They had no idea what was waiting for them.

They knocked on the door and the girls open it.  They tried to force their way in and the girls shouted.  Tony flung his study door open and shouted.  The boys panicked and started pushing and pulling each other down the narrow stairwell.  Tony scrambled after them and grabbed two of them by their collars.  He knocked them together and dragged them up the stairs giving them “Charlies” all the way.  (Knees in thighs).  The others escaped.

The shaken up boys were presented to our landlord who proceeded to hit them all over with his chappal; the mother of all Indian insults.  The higher the swing the more humiliation is involved.  His swings were high.  They were then dragged off to their principal who proceeded to do the same with his chappal.  The parents were called in and they got some more.

Tony came home dusting his hands and chuckling in triumph.  No-one was going to touch his girls and every boy in the neighbourhood knew to stay away from the girls who lived in K66.

This experience shook us all up and Ash was even more upset about having to live in Delhi.  We prayed with her and talked about how there would soon be new friends and a whole new community in Delhi- just like the one in Mussoorie.  She struggled to believe it.

“But how do you know anyone is going to come?”

All we could say was, “You’ll see Ash.”

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Asha 12 and Zoe 11-Entertaining each other.

Post 182. All moving on

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By the end of that year, our friends in Delhi were asking for regular community meetings.  Once a month wasn’t enough.  They were coming out of The Family and needed input and fellowship.  We looked at the team in Mussoorie and everyone seemed to have been called everywhere other than Delhi.

James and Willi left for Goa.  That was an amazing story.  For all those years at Woodstock they had opened their home to students; those who were doing well and those who were in detention for misbehaviour.  Many had moved on and become successful in business.  One young man, from another faith, decided it was pay back time.  He bought a house in Goa and told them they could live in it for as long as they wanted to.  It was theirs.  They moved in and got involved in hospitality, children’s ministry and marriage courses.  What a way to retire.

Jason and Ali and their two little girls, Michaela and Tarryn, were feeling they needed to move to Dublin to start a new community there.  That was a difficult surprise for all of us.  They were so tightly knit with everyone we wondered how we were going to be able to let them go.

Puran and Rebecca couldn’t stop talking about Nepal.  They were eager but also ready to wait for the perfect timing of that move.

Chandra and Champa had moved to Champa’s village in Solan and were doing really well.  All of Champa’s family had joined them as well as others from the surrounding villages.

Raman and Kiron had grown like bamboo shoots.  When they first moved to Mussoorie their Hindi was very rusty.  Raman would panic when he was asked to translate a simple prayer.  When Tony started asking him to prepare messages he got really nervous.  If he was scheduled to speak on a Sunday morning he would wake up with diahorrea and call Tony with, “Tony please can I be released from speaking today?  I just can’t do it.”  Tony’s reply would be, “Raman, you can do it and it’s going to be great.”  He would do it and it was great.  We saw him going from a very nervous speaker to a fiery, confident one.  His translation skills were exceptional and he was able to teach well.  They loved the CNC folk and the love was reciprocated.

I had been feeling for while that we were the ones who should move to Delhi.  After one of our trips, I felt sad that our friends were like sheep without a shepherd.  Tony wasn’t sure. He was struggling with the thought of leaving his jungle behind.  He would disappear into it for hours.  He knew that was not going to be possible in Delhi.  Delhi was everything he didn’t like.  There were no mountains or ocean and it drove him crazy to be there just for a few days.

Tony thought Jason and Ali would move to Delhi.  He had no idea it would be us.  It took him by surprise when God said, “Stop looking around, it’s you.”  That was the clincher.  After all, who are we to argue with God?  He always knows best.  We may not understand it all but we do need to believe that He is always good and He knows what is good for us.

So with that in mind, we stopped looking around and started making plans to move to “The City of Jinns,” the second largest city in the world, where eighteen million people were eagerly waiting for our arrival.  We wished.

Post 180. Hillbillies in the city

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We started to love Delhi more and more and we were meeting some lovely people.

Our monthly home group meetings were always interesting.  Worship was the first thing on the agenda and then we talked about anything and everything.  They loved reading from the Bible and there was always someone with a God-story to tell.  There was no such thing as a quick meeting.  Food was plentiful and there was much socialising until early hours of the morning.

Something we learnt early in our Delhi experience was, “Don’t go crazy on the snacks.”  They weren’t the snacks we were used to in Mussoorie.  We had Marie biscuits, namkeen and oily pakodas from the bazaar.  These Delhi snacks were heavy; Tandoori  fish, chicken, paneer or vegetables served with all kinds of delicious, spicy sauces.  The mains were served any time between eleven and midnight. We were hillbillies from Mussoorie.  We didn’t eat such things in our house and we went to bed way before nine.  It was hard for us to stay up so late and when we had over-indulged on the luxurious snacks, there was no space for anything else.  Oh yes, there was.  There was always space for hot jelebies and rubri.

During some of our non-home-group social events, some of the men would disappear to smoke some bhang/weed and come back looking slightly vague.  We were also told that partner swapping was quite common at Delhi parties and also quite common for Delhi men to have mistresses.  It was hard for me to imagine why a woman would be happy to be someone’s mistress.  It was all quite a culture shock.

I wasn’t used to talking about brands, labels, Bollywood or politics.  I could do religion but I had no idea who Jimmy Choo was.  It was surprising to me how passionate people could get about Amir, Salman and Karisma.  I knew nothing of that kind of religion.

There was an emptiness about it all.  Some of the couples really weren’t doing well.  Their kids were struggling.  There was confusion about what they believed.  It seemed there were no healthy values to live by.  We talked about bribery, ethics, abortion, fidelity, raising healthy children, husband wife relationships, wine and everything else under the sun.

One thing we all agreed on was that we loved Jesus and we loved to worship Him.  Tony would get his guitar out and everyone would sing on the top of their lungs.  People would cry, repent and pray out with all their hearts.

A few of them were very keen on their “spirits.”  As soon as the formal part of the meeting was over:

The liquor cabinet opened,

And the drinks were poured,

A loud “Hallelujah” and

“Three cheers for the Lord!”

That was the beginning of a new community in Delhi.

Post 179. The miracle of Alia

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Raman and Kiron’s daughter, Alia, was three years old when she started to cry with joint pain.  After a month in hospital and many blood tests, doctors sent her home with the diagnosis that she had rheumatic fever.  She was given Paracetamol for the pain.  A month later, she was covered in little red spots, which started to turn blue.

Raman was on his farm near Haridwar when he got the news.  Alia’s recent blood test showed she had leukaemia.  He rushed back to Delhi and they flew out to Bombay with Alia. Two year old Rohan and six year old Vidur were left with grandma.

Alia’s platelets were dangerously low and she had already started haemorrhaging internally.  There was a chance she might start haemorrhaging in her vital organs.  She was rushed into reverse isolation. Her immunity was so low there was a chance she could pick up an infection.  Chemotherapy was administered immediately.

Raman and Kiron were desperate.  Alia got weaker and weaker.  She lost all her hair.  Her tummy was distended and her legs and arms were like little sticks.  She had so many blood tests that the veins in her arms collapsed.  They started on her legs.  A spinal tap was inserted so they could keep checking the condition of her bone marrow.

The bathroom was where they did all their crying and praying.  They didn’t want Alia to see their helpless state.  It was in the bathroom that Raman heard a small but confident voice. “On the 25th it will be done.”  He was afraid to hold onto it, until his mum came to visit.  When he nervously told her what he had heard, she shouted to her husband, “Tell him. Tell him what I told you.”  God had told granny the same thing.  “On the 25th day, remission will happen.”

Alia’s blood count had dropped.  Doctors were expecting some increase by the 19th day, which would have shown she was in remission.  The 19th day came and went and there was no change.  She was being kept alive on supportive care.  Raman and Kiron memorised all the scriptures they could find on healing.  They walked up and down and around the room praying them out and really taking it on.  Their faith was weak but they knew God wasn’t.  They somehow had to believe against all odds that something was going to happen on the 25th day.

On the morning of the 25th, test results showed Alia’s platelet count had dropped from 62,000-59,000.  Not the steep drop they were expecting.  By the end of the day, it had climbed back up to 62,000.  Remission had begun.  A miracle had taken place.  Raman wanted to shout, “She’s healed!” but there was still some nagging doubt that the remission may not last.

When she was discharged from the hospital, Alia was pale.  She had dark circles around her eyes.  Her hair was all gone.   She couldn’t walk so she tried to crawl.  She had just had her fourth birthday in hospital.

When Kiron walked into their house in Delhi, two-year-old Rohan just sat and stared.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  When Kiron picked him up, he clung to her like a little monkey.   It had been a difficult three months.

Alia’s treatment was depleting her and Raman and Kiron had some decisions to make.  She was put on oral chemo for another six months.  All through those months they kept hearing, “She’s healed.  She’s healed.”    With their tiny faith in a huge God who had spoken, they took her off all medication.  Alia started to gain strength, put on weight, get her appetite back and colour came back into her cheeks.

Doctors told them to keep watch for the next three to eight years in case there was a relapse.  There wasn’t one.

Alia was fourteen when we first met her.  She came to CNC with the Bartons.  She was small built but strong.  She was healthy.  She was quiet but confident, shy but full of strength.    She was a miracle.  Our lovely miracle.

Post 178. Moses David’s Children of God.

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It seemed that Delhi wasn’t such a bad place after all.  Knowing Raman and Kiron’s friends made all the difference.  They were such fun.  We sat up all hours of the night, eating and talking our heads off.  Jason and Ali, Tony and I and Raman and Kiron took turns going down once a month to meet with them.  They were an interesting bunch and we had some very interesting conversations.

Most of them had been converted into a group called, “The Children of God” or “The Family.”  I remembered meeting groups of them in West Street, Durban in my early teens.  They were the cool, strong-scented hippies who handed out flowers and pamphlets from “Moses David” and told us to “Make Love Not War.”  I wasn’t into making either so I smiled and walked past.

They loved the Bible and had shepherds who would come to their houses to read to them.  They made lots of money that way.  They would also read the sensually illustrated “Mo letters” from their leader “Moses David.”  They believed he still spoke through his letters, even after his death in 1994.

David Berg’s mother was an evangelist during the Jesus Movement.  David lost his way and took thousands with him.  He was an advocate for pedophilia and made a doctrine out of the use of sex to convert people to the community.  They had a ministry called, “Flirty Fishing.”  The most attractive young girls and guys were sent out on evangelism.  Sex was used to make those who were lonely, feel at home in “the family.”  Couples shared each other.  If a spouse was jealous and didn’t want to share their partner, it meant they had issues and needed to change.  Communities were formed and those who joined them were given households to run and children to look after.  Some wondered who their fathers were.

Raman and Kiron and their friends were never in agreement with the “love sharing” practices of the cult.  They only knew they were loved and taught and had a community to belong to. After a year of community living, Kiron started to become uncomfortable with what she was seeing.  It was difficult because they loved studying the Word and sharing it with others.   There was a lot of work to do and everyone did everything.  The kids had jobs in and around the community and weren’t allowed to be lazy.  They were home schooled for fear that those who weren’t part of the community would contaminate them.  Music played a big role and was one of the things that attracted young people to the community. Their weekly visit to Tihar woman’s jail was a highlight.

They believed in spirit guides and the Holy Spirit was believed to be the sexy mother of Jesus. They worshipped love and anything that was done in the name of love was acceptable.  Killing for love was ok too. New converts and disciples weren’t aware of these practices.  There were suspicions but no one really knew except for the main leaders.

So, there were some very interesting times in our conversations.  A big hurdle was that they believed the organised church was the whore of Babylon.  It took them a while to appreciate our community.   When they did leave The Family, all kinds of pressure came their way.

When they saw the huge difference between “Love is God,” and “God is Love,” they made their move.

Love is NOT God.  We don’t worship love.  GOD is love.  We worship HIM.  When we do that, we love.

Post 174. It is well

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If I could just write

If I could put onto paper

The state of my heart

The present condition of my soul

I would no more be able to do that

Than I would be able to paint a perfect sunset

A silent forest

A majestic mountain

Or a gently rippling stream

My soul is well

It is at peace

It feels immovable

It is well with my soul