Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
In early February, Christie and I shared about Pravaham in the very first Missions Exhibit Hall of Los Ranchos Presbytery’s Worldwide Mission Partnership Summit. I had signed up for this last year but as the time drew near started to have second thoughts. I did not want to do it alone and God, as is His marvelous way, sent me Christie. She loaned materials to display, Lucy mailed brochures, and it all worked perfectly. I even remembered to bring and give away the jewelry made by the students, and the last 2 printed copies of my book (royalties from the sale of this book (details below) go to Pravaham, only $50 so far, btw). A couple of people said they would purchase the book directly too! One lady didn’t want to take anything for free and so she gave me $5 for the necklace she took. We asked people to pray for the student when they wear the jewelry made by her; Christie gifted an 8×10 copy of the picture of the student who made the jewelry and people loved that, as you can see.
How is Pravaham building, practicing, and experiencing Jesus’ Kingdom of God among the oppressed and marginalized rural poor in South India? This is the question we tried to answer through a Photographic Exhibition and DVD screening of Graduation 2009. Photos of this event, which was held yesterday at IPC, are available online. Below are some of my reflections.
Christie’s pictures and moving testimony showed us that Jesus’ kingdom of God is being built at Pravaham on the strong foundation of our Triune God’s love and justice for all his children. All of us are created in the image of God and each one of us is his dearly beloved child. Still, in rural south India not every baby girl is welcomed into the family and not every family accepted into the village society. Pravaham, founded in 1993 by Rev. Dr. Ananda Rao Samuel, a former Moderator and Bishop of the Church of South India, models the awesome truth that God’s love though is available to everybody. Using their inheritance and with the consent of his children, Uncle bought the land to establish God’s vision of a Community of Peace and Justice as revealed by Amos 5: 24: Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness as a mighty stream. Uncle’s act of buying the 6 acres of land among the remote and rural poor and establishing it as Pravaham: A Community of Peace and Justice reminds me of Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price in Matthew 13: 45-46, where the rich merchant sells all that he has to buy a single pearl of immeasurable value. Sadly, 5 years after Uncle’s death, it looked like Pravaham was to vanish. But then, God called his daughter, my friend, Lucy. Supported and encouraged by her husband and family, Lucy gave up her career and began God’s work at Pravaham. Today, almost 7 years later, she continues to run Pravaham voluntarily. Lucy takes no salary or travel expenses for the work she does. Obedience to God’s vision to rebuild and renew Pravaham is what drives Lucy. Pravaham means “everflowing stream” and under Lucy, Pravaham’s works of love, mercy, and justice flow richly, freely, and include: Tamil-Nadu Open University approved vocational education certificate programs for high school dropouts, health clinics, evening tuition centers for the school children (all grades) in the surrounding villages, and model school outreach whereby elementary and middle school children are brought to the Pravaham campus for a day of nutritional meals, fun, and games. The Pravaham community is made up of a handful of staff, their families and about 20 to 30 students (number varies every year).
Pravaham’s motto is: A community that lives to enlighten, Receives to enable, With God as its source, Christ as its model, And People as partners. Lucy and her staff have joyfully claimed the identity of the living Christ and model this for the students. Initial practices they teach can be summed up in the old saying: Cleanliness is next to godliness 🙂. That is, the girls are taught basic hygiene and participate in communal devotions before anything else. Many of the young women, ages ranging from 15 – 24, who enter the community receive love and acceptance for the very first time in their lives. Next, a daily routine of spiritual and vocational study along with manual labor, chores, service and recreation is encouraged. Finally, Lucy skilfully shares her vivacious enjoyment of life and love of God and his creations through liturgical and other traditions. One such tradition is the annual Graduation and Inauguration celebration. This is a worship service as well as an awards ceremony for the graduating students. It is also a social event welcoming new students and bidding goodbye to the graduates. We watched the video of this ceremony, which had been specially edited for the Missions team by Nancy Chong. This event is Pravaham’s grandest, joyful shout to the world that God is living in their midst, present, active, in the everyday reality of the community. Held once a year usually in August or September, the graduating students, are dressed in white saris. White signifies their cleansing, purification and rebirth as new creations in Christ. They sing a promise to walk with Jesus all the days of their lives and they light their candles from a symbolic lamp of Christ. They pass the light on to the new students coming into the program, who are dressed in pink and white salwar-kameez uniforms.
Another of the everyday realities is that while Pravaham is a garden setting of peace and tranquility like the original Eden, real serpents and scorpions, dangerous animals, live there too. Yet, God’s promises of protection covers this community with abundant grace and mercy.
Christie’s photos document the students’ growing grace, expressions you can see in their faces that comes from the experience of living in Jesus’ Kingdom of God. In the photos, I could see their expressions changed from when the girls first came in and when they graduated from Pravaham a year later. The original bio pictures, taken when they were new, show only a few of the incoming students smiling. Some looked sullen, many were expressionless, and others even looked angry. But by the time they graduate everybody is smiling and the faces shine with joy and peace. Last year Christie had experimented by taking art supplies for the students. We were able to see the artwork each student created. Most of the artwork was rudimentary, primitive and broke my heart because they had never used even such simple art materials before. Finally, we also saw the picture board story of Priya, an elementary education (teacher training) student and the first one in a new program area. At the end of the year, Priya stood first among 500 students who took the Teacher Training certificate program exam of the TamilNadu Open University. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, Priya’s story is a powerful affirmation of the experience of God’s kingdom at Pravaham.
We lunched al fresco in perfect SoCal weather and the food scintillated in the sunlight like brightly colored jewels, a visual bounty and tasty treat. The fresh fruit platter was stunning (Olivers) and the bowl of watermelon refreshing (Austins). Delicious, healthy salads, and other foods (Chongs, Kameyas, Rashoff, Stillwagon, Siakis, Boyd, Clinard, Partibles, Carriers, Farkishs, Wei, Kreutzen, Major, LaCount, Foo, Bullocks, Yamaguchi) were plentiful and much appreciated. I am just sorry that I can’t remember the names of all the dishes :(. Wanting to test my energy levels and Indian culinary skills I cooked Butter Chicken Masala, Coromandel Shrimp (wild-caught from the Indian ocean), Spicy Fried Potatoes and Cauliflower, Basmati Rice Pilaf with Chicken, Basmati Rice Vegetable Pilaf, Cucumber-Tomatoes-Onion in Yogurt (Patchadi), Vivikam (sweet idlis) and Hummus. Trader Joe Naan and plain white basmati rice complemented the home made dishes along with mild samosas and tamarind chutney (Nappolys) and tiny spicy samosas (Dietzes).
One thing I cannot and will not forget is the turnout; I was deeply touched by everybody who was there, that they made time out of busy schedules. I love that families came together with their kids as I deeply miss the loss of the multi-generational family get-togethers of my childhood. Rohan was sweet and helped by offering soan papads to everybody. It was also very touching to see how the kids made a beeline for the poster that we were going to sign for Priya! These are very special kingdom people and I will hold them close to my heart forever.
Earlier in worship, Pastor Scott kicked off a brand new sermon series called Desiring the Kingdom. He reminded us of our reality, that Jesus came to call us into the kingdom of God, a kingdom in which we are restored to wholeness, peace, and tranquility. As I reflect on yesterday’s events, I am filled with gratitude to God for Lucy, Arlene and Senthil back in my life so meaningfully and powerfully. I am also filled with love and gratitude for the incredible faith community that God has given me now. I offer to my heavenly Father God the niggling critical little voice that finds my flaws and chastises me for not providing a formal overview of Pravaham yesterday. The Holy Spirit brings me comfort and memories of our times together, in worship and service, Bible study, fun and creativity, fixing and polishing off plenty of good food! I too live in God’s kingdom, and am being slowly but surely being restored to wholeness. Thank you, Jesus, man-God, my Savior of the world. Thank you, special IPCers! Thank you Christie and John, Nancy and Wendell for all your hard work. You are not only voices for the faraway voiceless, you serve them and us too. You have made Pravaham come alive for us. God bless you.
Praise God! Last year was the first time Pravaham participated in our church’s Bazaar. We had 1 table and 2 volunteers. This year, we had 3 tables and 8 volunteers! In addition to giving girls the gift of Christian freedom (Pravaham Nursing-Aide sponsorships), donating towards a much-needed kitchen building (the current kitchen is nothing but a mud hut), and chickens (for pest control as well as for food), there were a variety of products on sale. These included Christmas greeting cards by San Pedro artist Peter d’Aleo featuring the artwork of some of the Pravaham girls, calendars, thank you and blank note cards featuring photos by Christie Van Vugt taken during her August 2009 stay at Pravaham, natural jute bags made by the Hearing Impaired in India and which were a big hit last year, jewelry by Pravaham students and others in India & other handicrafts. We also had plant gifts ready for gifting, donated by Garden Club members.
The whole Bazaar experience – from planning which started in August to execution on Sunday Nov. 22 – is an unforgettable and powerful reminder of God’s love and provision for all of us, here at IPC and far away at Pravaham, India. It is also about the power of prayer. So much was an answer to prayer, prayer by many faithful friends and prayer that was clearly Holy-Spirit led. God answered these prayers amazingly & powerfully. Friends Suzanne, Joy, Karyn, Shanti, Jennifer, Cindy and Nancy graciously offered to help with the Bazaar. It turned out every one of their presence was needed and most warmly felt. Christie who’d visited Pravaham summer 2009 gifted me the sponsorship biopics which made the girls come alive as the the stories are in the words used by the girls themselves – these were the sheets the sponsors took away with them. Angie & Pete designed cards, Aruna sent ‘natural products,’ Lucy, Annie & Paul sent exquisite Indian handicrafts, and Arlene & girls made jewelry! Suzanne packaged and price tagged everything! Cindy made beautiful table signs. Jennifer raffia’d the terracotta plant gift donations & I had fun helping some of my friends figure out which Indian dress they’d like to wear :).
Linda and her husband Dave’s unexpected donations of succulents brought God’s blessings most affirmatively to the Garden Club; before that we’d had only 8 baby barrel cacti, 8 aloes, 2 pizza dish gardens and a dozen each of tomatoes, and basil. Their gift – many, many dozens of succulents ready for gifting – boosted our Garden Club collection! Similarly, there were many more unexpected divine gifts. I was really sad that Kate Leavey’s family couldn’t be with us because of her recent tragic accident but here again, God is so marvelous! Sunday was Kate’s day of rest from daily, major surgery, her healing is proceeding miraculously, and God is being glorified. Our faith community and city is coming together in a way that is simply amazing. Many, many people signed the poster we made for Sean & Nora; we used the picture of Kate from last year’s Bazaar (she was at the same spot Pravaham was this year) and Jon enlarged & printed it so beautifully. I was blessed to be able to be with Tim & Nora too, briefly.
I could go on and on but pictures will share the story much better. I was touched by the generosity of Team Pravaham and also how many of our church folks came to the Bazaar and bought their Christmas gifts; that”s a lot of burning hearts for the unseen, under-privileged, and marginalized, hearts filled with love & desire to serve God and each other. I’ll be uploading ~130 pictures of the entire Bazaar shortly, pictures taken by Nancy & me. Jon also took pictures as did Rick, Joy and others too; send me yours if you’d like them added to the ACB Gallery & Archive. Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures from ACB 2008! 🙂 “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3: 20-21.
I’m just back from Irvine Presbyterian Church’s Third Saturday Service Project (click on the Saturday Service tab) led by Van and Mary Partible. I arrived at 5: 30 pm with my donations for the hygiene kits and lasagna. At 5:45 pm we began to enjoy the potluck dinner and at 6: 30 pm or so, Angie d’Aleo and Christine Von Vugt were introduced along with their husbands, Peter d’Aleo and John Stephenson. Angie shared copies of the stunning flier shown here and talked briefly. Created by her husband Pete, the flier front shown here, has a map of India and Indian flag, and the verso describes their upcoming Our India Adventure and what they will be doing in Pravaham.
Then, the kids started on the letters to Pravaham and El Nino students, drawing and putting stickers. At Van’s request I’d made Tamil (தமிழ்) stickers which said: Our Jesus is Good – Nam Yesu nallavar – நம் இயேசு நல்லவர். This is, apparently, the first line from a popular Christian Tamil song as well. I wonder if the Pravaham girls will learn it? The stickers for the Mexico kits said God bless you in Spanish. The kids also started making the hygiene kits, containing 8 items in a ziploc bag: lotion, chapstick, a bar of soap, kleenex, comb, toothpaste, toothbrush, Johnson’s band aid kit and of course the card from the kids. In record time, less than an hour, 400 kits were assembled! Van gave 50 to Angie to take to Pravaham, India and 350 to Karen to take to El Nino, Mexico. We all laid hands on Angie and Christine and prayed for travel mercies and blessings for their loving and caring hearts for Pravaham, and for the girls at Pravaham to know the love of Jesus. Later, I collected and gave Angie the 30 Welcome to School kits from the VBS Jr. High kids.
The evening went by really fast and as my friend Nancy (remember Nancy, Arlene , and everybody, do check out her Incredible India website, a web journal of her own trip) put it: we did something that will help many! I was very glad Shanti (Lucy’s friend and now mine too) could be there. Shanti brought two huge dishes of chicken wings and the 400 ziploc bags – thank you, Shanti! Another of my friends, Karyn came too and that was great; the bean salad she brought looked and tasted gorgeous and her donations were most appreciated too! I do hope you guys will join us for other Third Saturday Service projects! I introduced Angie to Donna as also Jennifer and her fascinating houseguests: Ron, Erin, and Nikki (missionaries in Indonesia).
Back to Angie’s little talk: Angie did a wonderful job conveying the essence of Pravaham’s work in 2 minutes or less: how girls from the untouchable caste are touched by the love of Jesus and given freedom from the indignities of caste through their Nursing Aide student program. Jennifer Dietz reminded me to arrange for Angie and her friends to share with us again after they return from India. I do hope Angie, Snobia (who could not attend today because of a conflict), and Christie will do so along with Pete and John ! Thanks Angie, Christi, Pete and John for braving the freeway and coming to Irvine. We all appreciate it very much.
When the kids were preparing the cards, I shared a teeny weeny bit of the history of Tamil with a few of the older girls: Tamil is a Dravidian language, distinct from the Indo-Aryan languages (e.g. hindi, urdu, sanskrit which are common in northern India). Indo-Aryan languages are a group of Indo-European languages. Tamil and other Dravidian languages are quite distinct from English, etc. In fact, Tamil is supposed to have some similarities to Finnish, Korean, Ainu, and indigenous Australian. I wish I knew more about Tamil language and literature!
Third Sat. Service project is an incredible undertaking – thanks to everybody who donated but especially the Partibles, Siakis, Culbertsons, Korneychuks and other families who are leading this with their kids ranging in ages from months old to the mid-teens. They have a nice little assembly line for putting the kits together and the kids just go down the line … with a few adults doing quality control at the end :). TSS is an innovative way to model the love of Christ and social justice in action for our kids. I’m glad I got to be a part of this – thank you, Van & Mary (and Pastor Tim too). I am very grateful to Angie and her friends for taking IPC’s gifts of love to Pravaham. God bless IPC, Pravaham, Angie, Christie, Snobia and their church United Methodist, San Pedro, and all the people involved in Third Saturday Service, abundantly.
July 13 – 17 is Vacation Bible School at Irvine Presbyterian Church and the Jr. High class is doing something each day for IPC missions partners. On Tuesday, July 14 evening, Shanti shared about Pravaham’s ministries with IPC ‘s Jr. High kids. Following Shanti’s presentation, the Jr. High kids wrote letters sharing their favorite Bible story or verse to the incoming class of Pravaham Nursing Aide students. Led by teachers, Janel, Michelle, and various other helpers and guides 44 energetic kids besides also put together a number of Welcome to School kits. The letters & kits are IPC’s 2009 VBS Jr. Higher’s gifts to the new girls coming into Pravaham. According to Lucy, Director, as of July 6, 23 had already arrived on the Pravaham campus with 17 more yet to come!
Each BEAUTIFUL, ECO-FRIENDLY pink bag contains a gorgeous mirror, fun pencils and cool erasers, besides of course the precious letters.
Thank you, Shanti, and everybody at IPC, for sharing God’s love and gifts to us so generously and for your passion to help bring social justice even to places and people thousands of miles and half a world away. Pictures, taken by enterprising Jr. Highers of their friends writing the letters, are at IPC’s Asia Missions Photo Album website. One little girl’s comment touched me deeply. She said “spoiled” is how she felt when she saw how little these girls have and against what odds they struggle.
Keep up the good work at Pravaham, Lucy! The love of Jesus that you show through your work with these girls in Pravaham is felt in sunny California too.
To God be the glory, now and forever. Alleluia, Amen.