Yesterday we finally got to meet Sam (he is a native Indian and also the son of the man who started Hopegivers in 1960, and is now the President). I wasn't sure what to expect from Sam. I've read a book written about him, and have seen how many sacrifices he's made in recent years to carry on the vision with his dad for abandoned children and outcasts of society in order to give them hope. That includes persecution and imprisonment, even in the last year, and a willingness to die for his faith, or for his family, or for any one of "his" thousands of adopted children.
In the book about him, he seemed so serious, wise, and well…holy. I didn't know if I should put on sackcloth and ashes to greet him or offer to wash his feet. Truthfully, I was a little nervous and feeling very small. As I approached him standing by his car at our hotel, he looked over the top of his sunglasses at Maria and me, sized us up, and said, "Are you two stiff or are you normal?" I think he meant "uptight," but it was so funny that he said it this way…and that he said it at all. Bursting into laughter I replied, "Well, if you''re asking if I can touch my toes or not, then I'm stiff. But if you're asking if I'm fun to hang out with, then I guess I'd have to go with "normal." And so began our time with Sam, and I lost all illusions of him being Mr. Serious and "holier-than-thou"…
Today we got to hang out at the orphanage all day. It was a blast. The kids are SO SWEET and affectionate. They love to sit with you for hours, talking, cuddling, playing with your hair, asking questions, and soaking up the attention. I loved it!
Lots of great things happened today. First of all, we attended our first orphanage church service. It was so fun. The kids are so spiritually connected, it is inspiring. They love to worship God and their praise time is nothing short of heavenly. The kids themselves lead the worship part of the service and do such a great job using three loud drums, clapping and singing at the tops of their voices. They also have a time of testimony (something I think is sadly missing from many American churches) and many of the kids stand up and take turns sharing what God is doing in their everyday lives, or teaching the other children, or they exhort the others out of the Word in some way. At least 5-8 kids stood up to share, some of them emotional and vulnerable about what God is doing in their lives. Even some of the very young children shared.
After the service, Sam got up to speak. It was my first time to hear him and what a treat. He is funny, articulate, inspiring, and a very strong leader. He is also very dramatic. He shared powerful testimony from Romans 8:28 (all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose) and he told of all of the good things he sees coming out of this last year of persecution for the ministry. He talked to the kids about how hard it is to see the good when you are in the middle, but if you trust in God's plan and goodness, you will later see the good He brings from even the bad circumstances. Sam brought up the fact that he's had nineteen assassination attempts on his life and none of them have succeeded by God's sovereign power. He also challenged me with the thought, which is similar to what God has already been teaching me very strongly lately, that God is looking for broken people for His service because those are the people He can actually do something with. Those are the people who will be loyal to the call. He is a very funny speaker and kept the kids very entertained too. The overall theme I would say of the service was God's goodness, power, and faithfulness.
We had another excellent cultural event this afternoon. Sam has a lot of friends in high places, and one such friend who is an acclaimed Indian Grammy winner for his music on the serengi (see photo) came and performed a concert for the kids. He also has a guy who plays hand drums (amazing) and it was really an awesome experience. The guy has a great heart and even offered to come and teach the kids some music lessons for free.
Well that's all for today. Stay tuned for tomorrow next exciting episode! Also, tomorrow I will be adding more photos to the photo gallery.