Adventure in Real Life

I am writing this Sunday, the 19th of February. Naomi and I have been in India since the 26th of January. This trip has been jam-packed but special because, in addition to the usual workload, we have had the privilege of attending two weddings of our staff and former students.

What a joy it has been to visit each campus. We arrived in Delhi, Naomi from the States and me from Austria, and our joint flight to Ranchi was canceled. We spent the next 8 hours waiting at the airport and then were able to continue to Springs of Joy in Ranchi after being blessed to book another flight, which got us into Ranchi just before Sabbath. We were exhausted but immensely enjoyed the sabbath services with all the students.

On Sunday, we visited the new clinic in Hazaribagh with Lois and Bill accompanying us on the 3.5-hour drive north of Ranchi. It was the first time they had been able to get to the clinic since arriving in India. We met with the team there and are thankful to see the clinic used for God’s work. Bill was also so happy to finally see the project that he had put so much effort into finished.

We were so impressed with the students, both the midwifery students and the medical missionary students. It was also encouraging to see Springs of Joy’s efforts at being self-supporting through their different departments. The business is growing steadily and can take over more and more of the financial burden for this campus.

After spending five intensive days of encouragement and review in Ranchi, we traveled by night train to Kolkata.  Arriving early in the morning, we were thankful to be picked up by Amit and Bindu. Our time there was filled with assessing the need for capital improvements on the buildings that have served us for over 20 years. Little by little, we are renovating the buildings to accommodate our staff and students there more efficiently and to protect the structures that the strong salty air has damaged. Both couples who have just married are staff there, and thanks to special donations, we have been able to renovate their little two-room apartments, adding kitchen cupboards and stoves as well as bathroom renovations and painting. We still have several areas of the campus that need to be renovated for more effective use as staff housing, and we need to build a workshop and vocational building because we plan to remodel the entire Lifestyle Health Center building to accommodate 20 guests. Our Lifestyle center is doing so well, and we have a waiting list of patients. One of our recent patients was so enthused by the program there that he offered to help us raise the funds for this project.  We don’t have the funds yet for all of this work, but we trust God will supply it as the year progresses, one step at a time. We finished a two-year capital improvement plan and are moving forward in faith that God will provide.

From Springs of Life in Kolkata, we flew to the place where Sudipto and Sarah were married. We arrived in Delhi only to find our forward flight had been canceled due to bad weather. We had no choice but to take a Taxi to the wedding location, some 4-hour drive from Delhi. The 4-hour trip turned into a 7-hour trip meandering through small villages and cities because the driver wanted to save miles on his vehicle and not take the main roads. After getting lost in one small town following Google Maps, we found ourselves in tiny streets where the gutters ran down the side of the road, and the street sellers left not even enough room to exit the vehicle. The inhabitants seemed to be swearing at us, and we felt pretty anxious and prayed we would make it out of that area safely. After I took the phone from the driver and helped him navigate out of the area, he commented about how bad the people in that city were. We were even more thankful to have gotten out without incident.

Arriving at the wedding location, we found the groom, Sudipto, very thankful to see us, and it made the long, arduous trip well worth it. Being there for these dedicated young people during their wedding was such a blessing. Sudipto, whose many stories from India you have read in the newsletter, is our evangelism and social welfare coordinator.  Sarah, his bride, has graduated from the seminary training and midwifery program. She has been working as a therapist at the lifestyle center. Still, she will now be the assistant to the medical missionary training program director as a teacher and mentor for our medical missionary students in training at Springs of Life in Kolkata. (P.S. All costs for this trip were covered privately)

After the wedding, we flew to Guwahati and took the four-hour drive with public transport up to Springs of Love in the beautiful hills of Meghalaya. Being welcomed by the children is one of the highlights of this trip. How much joy their smiles and hugs bring to our hearts is not measurable, making many trials and long journeys well worth it all. 

Since being here, we have spent many hours together planning this next year and working with the director on the capital improvements needed for the children and staff. There is a lot to do, but again, we are confident that God will help us meet our needs. Our teachers and supporting staff are working hard to make this a good home and school for our 98 boarding students. Each one of them is so special. We do our best to get to know our staff here individually and have enjoyed our meals in their different homes, or because of lack of space in their homes, in the office. As our staff comes from all over India, we have enjoyed the ethnic specialties that make India famous, all without the chili, which we are not used to.

Last week, we drove seven hours to attend the wedding of Bimal and Babli in eastern Assam, close to the Bhutanese border. Many of our students have come from this very poor area, and we were so happy to visit with former students and their families and, of course, to attend the traditional Sentali wedding. Bimal is the director of the Lifestyle Training Program, and Babli is the cashier and accountant for Springs of Life in Kolkata.

We had planned on staying two nights because of the long drive. However, at about 7 p.m., while the wedding festivities were still going on, we got the news that the next day, there would be a public transport strike, which meant that the truck drivers would block the roads and make it impossible to drive with private vehicles. We knew that if we didn’t leave immediately and get out of the state by early morning, we could be stuck there for two more days…so we packed up in haste and drove through the night, eight hours this time, to get home to the school.

This week, our trip is coming to a close on Thursday. Naomi is flying back to the USA to take care of our office work and her work at Living Springs Retreat in Alabama. I am flying home to Austria to start the new teaching semester at the university on Monday. We are both thankful for the opportunity this trip has given us to understand the needs of students and staff better and plan together with the directors here how best to move forward to answer these needs over the next year. Sometimes, we feel more than a little overwhelmed by our needs, but we are confident that God will supply our needs in His time and in His way. We are also thankful that we have your prayers, thoughts, and financial support as we move forward to make these campuses the best they can be to meet the needs of the students and staff and to effectively carry out the work God has called us to do.

Thank you so much!