During the time we were in Machilipatnam we ministered to over 800 children and adults, including a village of "untouchables" where we were also to provide some relief assistance with winter blankets, food staples and clothing for the children (many of whom were naked).
Pastor B (Pastor J's brother) met us at the airport in Chennai (he drove over 5 hours in a CYCLONE) and made our transport to Nellore quiet comfortable. During the three hour trip on Tuesday he explained that Nellore (our destination) had been hit by a "cyclone" and many villages and people were affected. Over 100 people dead and 25,000 displaced. We were shocked that he had braved the storm, to reach us and bring us to his area. He explained the reason we were traveling in a huge bus was it was the only safe vehicle to travel across the water covered roadways.
As we got closer to Nellore we could see evidence of the flood waters everywhere. Many washed out roads and fields totally covered with water. People were sitting on the sides of the roads in front of collapsed huts. Men could even be seen fishing from the road, since the fish have now come down streams. The main roads in Nellore were covered in close to two feet of water. People on motorcycles and the little taxi cars were up to their knees trying to get through the water. It was an amazing and frightening site, as we would look down the side roads to see rivers where there should have been streets. It made us thankful for all that we have in terms of social infrastructure.
There may be many complaints when disasters strike in the US, but what is a person, a family, a child to do when your entire community is no more, and there is no one to help or offer assistance? Pastor B explained that our plans may be changing as many of the villages we were scheduled to visit have been totally cut off and isolated by the flood waters.
As we were driving, his cell phone was ringing constantly. Each time he would say, "this is another Pastor telling what has happened in his village. One of the church roofs has collapsed. There is no assistance for them..." With each ring, we would utter a prayer and wonder "what now, what next?"
We asked about the children at the orphanage, and our program time today. He said, "no problem, all the schools are closed because of the flooding, you can have all the time that you need with them."
Today, the weather has calmed (after the storm) and we made our way to Jane's House Orphanage. The children were waiting for us and were excited to see visitors, especially after 10 days of heavy rains. They loaded on to the bus and we went to the Pastor's house for the program as it has a larger area for the children to be seated. We did our program, had crafts, Polaroids, and special action dance songs from the kids. By the time it was over, they were all happy, smiling, distracted, and interacting with us, showing us all they had created for the day. They set off to walk back to the orphanage with their "goodies" (a fairly short distance) and we packed up to head back to the hotel for lunch.
In a few minutes, one of the little girls came running back to the house accompanied by two of the older boys. We thought she had forgotten something. The Pastor smiled, as the girl handed us to small pieces of candy. "It is her birthday, and we have a tradition to give candies to people when it is the day of celebration.". We smiled, she smiled, and we thanked her and sang "Happy Birthday" to a warm response.
Then the Pastor told us her story. She has only been at the orphanage for 5 months, after they found her (and another girl) abandoned at the train station. We had learned last night - many of the children at the orphanage are "train station" children. Abandon by parents for a variety of reasons, many as young as 1 year old. It seems her father had left her mother, and now was being courted by another man. However, he wanted nothing to do with her children. So the mother took the girls younger brother and crushed his skull on the floor, killing him. When the girl saw this she ran away, and finally landed at the train station where she was rescued by the orphanage workers.
Can you imagine? We certainly couldn't. Even last night as the Pastor was explaining how the children wound up at the orphanage, and he told us these stories, it was hard to imagine how a mother could abandon her own child to a life at a train station where many suffer dismemberment being caught on the train tracks sleeping, or worse. And here in front of us, with a smile across her face for her ninth birthday was a girl whose last image of her own mother was that of her murdering her brother!
The Pastor shook his head saying, "Sisters all of these children have such tragic stories, you can not even imagine."
We cannot imagine the pain, the hurt, the deep wounds this causes in the hearts, souls and minds of these so very young. As we drove through the streets, already a picture of poverty and suffering, covered with flood waters, we could not imagine how things were going to get any better for such a "world".
He can imagine.
This is the reason He sent His Son. This is the reason He sent us here.
As you may remember, this was not our "Plan A". Nellore was added to our itinerary only after we did not receive the paperwork in time to travel to Imphal. We arrived in the aftermath of disaster, reaching and touching those affected in life by disastrous plans of an evil enemy seeking to destroy hope, joy and love.
In the face of such overwhelming disaster, our "program" seems so small. But He showed us today, the smiles on the faces of the children are large. He is singing over us and waving His banner of love. He is also singing happy birthday to a beautiful nine year old girl through some strange light-skinned girls who showed up after the storm.
God bless the intercessors who are providing bullets in the battlefield of India.