The Poor in India

We are spoiled here in America.
I’ve seen what Communism has done in Cuba and with the Caste system so alive and well in India, I feel so fortunate to live where and when I do. In both cases though, the people are super nice, kind and happy.

I was gone 19 days, 12 days to help photograph some projects my church has done. Not only do we support 2 local pastors, but 12 widows, 60 orphans, and have built over 40 water wells and some rest rooms.  This first blog is about my time in southern India with the 3 other members of our group in that ministry. The next one will be of the three tourist days I had in Agra (Taj Mahal) and Delhi and the last blog, the two days in Dubai.

I have so many photographs to share, I apologize!

The first thing that hits you once you arrive in India is the driving.

Portugal was bad, passing on curves and fitting in between 2 lanes of traffic (AND I drove). But India? Fortunately, the local Indian pastor drove with the troves of bicycles, Pedicabs, motor scooters & cycles, pedestrians, autos (like tuk-tuks), trucks and cars all narrowly missing each. It was like a synchronized dance dizzying to ones visual and audio sensibilities. (Horns honk constantly for awareness issues.) But I never saw an accident. Amazing.

The second thing is the poverty. (Third? The pollution and garbage.)

To best read this blog, read the left column first, then the center, then the right. :-)

Untouchables usually have little hope for a better life due to the Hindu religion.

Untouchables usually have little hope for a better life due to the Hindu religion.

The restroom was built in one of the untouchable camps (usually 30-100 folks).

The restroom was built in one of the untouchable camps (usually 30-100 folks).

The water well we put in a few years ago. Clean and fresh and saves them from walking miles to get water.

The water well we put in a few years ago. Clean and fresh and saves them from walking miles to get water.

Untouchable woman.

Untouchable woman.

Untouchable camp.

Untouchable camp.

Inside a typical untouchable hut.

Inside a typical untouchable hut.

Squatty Potty that our church had built (2 side by side, one for men, one for women.

Squatty Potty that our church had built (2 side by side, one for men, one for women.

Untouchable village, cooking outside always..

Untouchable village, cooking outside always..

Colorful Saris sarees in India arms and bracelets travel photos
Cows pulling hay cart in Southern India. They do have the sacred cows work in the fields as a form of blessing to the crops.

Cows pulling hay cart in Southern India. They do have the sacred cows work in the fields as a form of blessing to the crops.

This is more typical though, Sacred Hindu cows roam the streets in India. They are fed by getting scraps or by devout Hindus.

This is more typical though, Sacred Hindu cows roam the streets in India. They are fed by getting scraps or by devout Hindus.

Indian Christian pastor and his colorful church in India. All the churches were vibrant.

Indian Christian pastor and his colorful church in India. All the churches were vibrant.

Widow in India. When a husband dies the oldest son gets everything and sometimes tosses his mom on the street.

Widow in India. When a husband dies the oldest son gets everything and sometimes tosses his mom on the street.

We visited a widows home, where my church supports 12 ladies (65-81 years old), and paid for 1/2 of the building to be built. It’s run by a local Christian worker.

They sang a worship song in Telugu, the local language.

They sang a worship song in Telugu, the local language.

The beds for the widows.

The beds for the widows.

The showers, one left one right-this is the washroom. Not shown:. The toilet is a sit down one WITH TP.

The showers, one left one right-this is the washroom. Not shown:. The toilet is a sit down one WITH TP.

Washing the widows laundry.

Washing the widows laundry.

I gave Polaroids of the widows (and orphans). They loved it!

I gave Polaroids of the widows (and orphans). They loved it!

Cutting the veggies for lunch. Most food is rice with yogurt and spicy chicken stock sauce. Chicken if lucky.

Cutting the veggies for lunch. Most food is rice with yogurt and spicy chicken stock sauce. Chicken if lucky.

Eating lunch Widows home.

Eating lunch Widows home.

Widows outside the church.

Widows outside the church.

Loving the widows in India. I’d give names but India would then block their reentry next time because we’re Christians.

Loving the widows in India. I’d give names but India would then block their reentry next time because we’re Christians.

Beautiful Saree and hands of life.

Beautiful Saree and hands of life.

Church in India. Uses just voices and drums. Worship usually lasts 45 minutes or more.

Church in India. Uses just voices and drums. Worship usually lasts 45 minutes or more.

5 people were baptized.

5 people were baptized.

Baptism in a small lake. Believers say Amen and Hallelujah and raise their hands a lot.

Baptism in a small lake. Believers say Amen and Hallelujah and raise their hands a lot.

Lunch feast in the church afterwards. Typical, except for the added chicken

Lunch feast in the church afterwards. Typical, except for the added chicken

Henna on a girl participating in the WorldRace.org where they help out with Christian missions in 12 countries for a full month. Amazing young folks!

Henna on a girl participating in the WorldRace.org where they help out with Christian missions in 12 countries for a full month. Amazing young folks!

Hyderabad craft market. So many cool items to buy!

Hyderabad craft market. So many cool items to buy!

Wood crafts.

Wood crafts.

Over 400 craft booths.

Over 400 craft booths.

I arrived in Vijayawada (Southern India) where we visited 3 untouchable camps. WHO are the Untouchables?

Man at the camp.

Man at the camp.

This untouchable camp had a kerosene fire and lost 14 homes (shacks). We brought 14 new Rice cooking systems.

This untouchable camp had a kerosene fire and lost 14 homes (shacks). We brought 14 new Rice cooking systems.

The formal presentation of the cooking systems.

The formal presentation of the cooking systems.

Taken at the 2nd Untouchable Camp we went to where 2 huts were burned down. New cooking systems for both. The husband is 21 and his wife is 19. Got married at 17 and 15.

Taken at the 2nd Untouchable Camp we went to where 2 huts were burned down. New cooking systems for both. The husband is 21 and his wife is 19. Got married at 17 and 15.

There are 3 main caste systems In India with sub categories totaling 12 groups. All are noted on one’s ID card.

The top caste includes the Brahman and the 3 classes within [not caste] which includes the politicians, actors and models. Light skinned, you don't see ads with the dark skinned lower castes in them. The second tier caste may be in politics or TV but not ads. 

The third level caste are most of the pastors and their families and who we are working with. 

Outside and below these 12 classes are 3 groups of the poorest in India. They aren't even considered a caste but below that. 

These 3 groups include field hand laborers, but the lowest of all are called the untouchables. Few in India wants much to do with them. The Untouchables live in palm tree shacks along seldom used roads near towns and aren't allowed in some stores and sometimes even poor street vendors won't sell them a piece of fruit. They make money by picking up and redeeming cardboard and plastic and catch rats in the rice fields for protein. 

Planting Rice

Planting Rice

The government has forced schools to educate them but other times the local government will come and demolish their make shift shacks. The Caste system is based on Hindu philosophy about karma and reincarnation. There is no reason to lift them up because of their past life. Religion or a world-view does affect how one acts.

These pastors and what University Fellowship supports are the 3 lowest groups. 13,14 & 15. Many are forced to defecate in the open and get water from polluted sources so building a water well and a bathroom for community use is a huge benefit for them. 

This untouchable group now has it's own church.

This untouchable group now has it's own church.

Untouchable woman.

Untouchable woman.

Due to protein deficiencies, we now help provide milk and eggs 2x a week at this camp..

Due to protein deficiencies, we now help provide milk and eggs 2x a week at this camp..

To help this other local pastor financially, we gifted a male and female goat to create a herd in time.

To help this other local pastor financially, we gifted a male and female goat to create a herd in time.

Teaching the untouchable kids how to high (and low) 5.

Teaching the untouchable kids how to high (and low) 5.

Because of the love shown by the local pastors and the building of wells and restrooms, many have become Christians.  It's such a worthy use of ones giving.

Dedication of a new water well with another local pastor.

Dedication of a new water well with another local pastor.

The local women were so happy to get clean water.

The local women were so happy to get clean water.

Currently, locals haul water from a polluted pond.

Currently, locals haul water from a polluted pond.

So appreciated! Water wells in India range from $700 to $1500 depending on the soil and depth.

So appreciated! Water wells in India range from $700 to $1500 depending on the soil and depth.

Showers (that usually don’t work well) are open in the bathrooms at mid and lower priced hotels. The TP was ours. Basic hotels cost $20 a night.

Showers (that usually don’t work well) are open in the bathrooms at mid and lower priced hotels. The TP was ours. Basic hotels cost $20 a night.

Dressed up for church.

Dressed up for church.

Shoes are always removed not just for churches or mosques/temples but in homes as well as a sign of respect.

Shoes are always removed not just for churches or mosques/temples but in homes as well as a sign of respect.

Some quick notes:

Worship is seriously and lively. Persecution is real in India.  We all spoke at local churches, I gave my testimony 3x of how I became a Christian, my marriage, adoption of my kids and the death of my wife, each for about 15-20 minutes, due to it being translated.

Worship is seriously and lively. Persecution is real in India.

We all spoke at local churches, I gave my testimony 3x of how I became a Christian, my marriage, adoption of my kids and the death of my wife, each for about 15-20 minutes, due to it being translated.

The Bible in Telugu.. Ephesians.

The Bible in Telugu.. Ephesians.

This pastors’ family lived below the church. Rather than cabinets, Indians cut out part of the wall.

This pastors’ family lived below the church. Rather than cabinets, Indians cut out part of the wall.

Across the road from the church.

Across the road from the church.

The 27 orphans lined up to hear Sunday's teaching.

The 27 orphans lined up to hear Sunday's teaching.

Playing games at the pastors home where he and his family care for 16 boys. Across the street, 11 girls are housed. Ages 5-18.

Playing games at the pastors home where he and his family care for 16 boys. Across the street, 11 girls are housed. Ages 5-18.

The kids performed their Christmas pageant for us.

The kids performed their Christmas pageant for us.

Wearing Christmas outfits that the church provided, we took all the kids on an excursion to a huge ancient fort: Golconda.

Wearing Christmas outfits that the church provided, we took all the kids on an excursion to a huge ancient fort: Golconda.

The Golconda Fort is over 400 years old, built by the 5th Mogal king (related to Genghis Khan .

The Golconda Fort is over 400 years old, built by the 5th Mogal king (related to Genghis Khan .

This had a huge mirror and spots for candles and lanterns. (Used to be inside.)

This had a huge mirror and spots for candles and lanterns. (Used to be inside.)

Cool interesting designs. Hot and cold running water back then too!

Cool interesting designs. Hot and cold running water back then too!

Hindu temple at the fort location was not destroyed by the Muslim Mogal kings, but left to this day.

Hindu temple at the fort location was not destroyed by the Muslim Mogal kings, but left to this day.

This is a view from the top (a fort was 1st constructed here in 1143), At the bottom it was a huge palace with 3 levels for the queens and concubines. (Over 2,500 women.)

This is a view from the top (a fort was 1st constructed here in 1143), At the bottom it was a huge palace with 3 levels for the queens and concubines. (Over 2,500 women.)

This was the hall once covered, with a fountain. Dances and festivals were held here. The palace in the 1600’s had hot and cold running water.

This was the hall once covered, with a fountain. Dances and festivals were held here. The palace in the 1600’s had hot and cold running water.

After a long day at the fort and playing in the park, the kids conked out.

After a long day at the fort and playing in the park, the kids conked out.

Street vendor making coconut water.

Street vendor making coconut water.

Coffee vendor.

Coffee vendor.

I love the coffee (due to the sweetness of Water Buffalo milk) and the basmati rice of southern India.

Street vendors.

Street vendors.

Water buffalo on the highway.

Water buffalo on the highway.

Hows this for an office building? Hyderabad is India's 6th largest city and the techno hub. Having the orphans learn English is huge for their future.

Hows this for an office building? Hyderabad is India's 6th largest city and the techno hub. Having the orphans learn English is huge for their future.

Despite the high tech, untouchable camps are prevalent. It’s estimated that 10% or more of the population are in this demographic.

Despite the high tech, untouchable camps are prevalent. It’s estimated that 10% or more of the population are in this demographic.

India photographs
Every where you go there are statues. Usually dedicated to a local politician who did something for that community. Ego and prestige is an integral part of the culture.

Every where you go there are statues. Usually dedicated to a local politician who did something for that community. Ego and prestige is an integral part of the culture.

LOVE The colors of India. The sarees are gorgeous and new ones cost $3 on up. Worn only by married and widowed women. The young girls still wear colorful outfits as well.

J Golconda Fort with kids and park (45).jpg
J Golconda Fort with kids and park (6).jpeg
Orphan girl in India with saree.

Orphan girl in India with saree.

We see many women carrying items on their heads.

We see many women carrying items on their heads.

They grow a LOT of food in the south: Rice, Tobacco, Beans, Peppers, etc. Cows pooping in the field is a sign of blessing.

Vinukonda red peppers drying

Vinukonda red peppers drying

Vendors like this are literally everywhere.

Vendors like this are literally everywhere.

Typical shops off the road.

Typical shops off the road.

Putting one’s hands together in front of your face to show appreciation is an INDIAN thing-irrespective of religions or class.

Widow

Widow

Giving $40 a month will enable a lower caste child to attend a private school where they learn English. That skill will offer them a permanent way out of poverty later.

If you want to contact to donate, go to this link (and click on any of the 3 options for India).

Thank you!!!

Very few untouchables have shoes.

Very few untouchables have shoes.

Old man in India Vijayawada
The traffic is crazy.

The traffic is crazy.

Old woman carrying wood India
Garbage is usually just tossed on the street or lots.

Garbage is usually just tossed on the street or lots.

Woman making plastic bags.

Woman making plastic bags.

Many buildings are colorful.

Many buildings are colorful.

Trucks encourage honking so they know where you are.

Trucks encourage honking so they know where you are.

Trucks, like the women's Sarees, are also colorful.

Trucks, like the women's Sarees, are also colorful.

Street vendor..

Street vendor..

Cow dung drying for heat, note hand imprint-which “gives a blessing” to that person.

Cow dung drying for heat, note hand imprint-which “gives a blessing” to that person.

Country side in India.

Country side in India.

Industrial transport?

Industrial transport?

Typical street scene in southern India. I was often gawked at as many had never seen a white person. Even gave out my autograph!

Typical street scene in southern India. I was often gawked at as many had never seen a white person. Even gave out my autograph!

Vinukonda India, street scene. Note the political ads.

Vinukonda India, street scene. Note the political ads.

Sign in the elevator. But men relieve themselves on the street.

Sign in the elevator. But men relieve themselves on the street.

Making canvas bags. Gudiwada India..

Making canvas bags. Gudiwada India..

Rice fields are everywhere in southern India.

Rice fields are everywhere in southern India.

Cut rice grass is sold as well

Cut rice grass is sold as well

Restaurant in Vinukonda

Restaurant in Vinukonda

Breakfast in India I had poori, a puff pastry with curry and yogurt. With 2 coffees it cost 75 cents. . A nice dinner out? $6-$8

Breakfast in India I had poori, a puff pastry with curry and yogurt. With 2 coffees it cost 75 cents. . A nice dinner out? $6-$8

American fast food in India.

American fast food in India.

McDonalds in India packaging hamburgers. No beef or fish in McD’s.

McDonalds in India packaging hamburgers. No beef or fish in McD’s.

McDonalds All American burger was spicy.

McDonalds All American burger was spicy.

View from my hotel room in Vinukonda India.

View from my hotel room in Vinukonda India.

Carpentry shop across the street from the hotel.

Carpentry shop across the street from the hotel.

Pongal     Tamil Nadu    celebrates Pongal every year on the 14th of January , their most popular festival. They do drawings on their front stoop and often fill it with colorful powder. ‘Pongal’ means to boil over. It is considered auspicious in Tamil culture when milk boils over from a clay pot; it signifies prosperity in the household. Thus, during this festival people prepare various sweet dishes with rice boiled in milk that is then offered to the Sun God.

Pongal

Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal every year on the 14th of January, their most popular festival. They do drawings on their front stoop and often fill it with colorful powder. ‘Pongal’ means to boil over. It is considered auspicious in Tamil culture when milk boils over from a clay pot; it signifies prosperity in the household. Thus, during this festival people prepare various sweet dishes with rice boiled in milk that is then offered to the Sun God.

Pongol and many of the 300,000 gods that the Hindus worship.

Pongol and many of the 300,000 gods that the Hindus worship.

The cows are often decorated for festivals. But water buffaloes are not considered worthy.

The cows are often decorated for festivals. But water buffaloes are not considered worthy.

Typical small family shop.

Typical small family shop.

Restaurant. May have trouble with the FDA.

Restaurant. May have trouble with the FDA.

Bay of Bengal fishing boats.

Bay of Bengal fishing boats.

Boat with Telugu language.

Boat with Telugu language.

Fishing boats coming home.

Fishing boats coming home.

Some of the 60 orphans that people in the church sponsor.  They were so excited to go to the beach. Most had never seen the ocean, even though its a 90 minute drive.

Some of the 60 orphans that people in the church sponsor.

They were so excited to go to the beach. Most had never seen the ocean, even though its a 90 minute drive.

Lunch at the beach.

Lunch at the beach.

Bay of Bengal.

Bay of Bengal.

One of hundreds of small crabs.
Ice cream in India is very good. Highlight of the day for the kids.

Ice cream in India is very good. Highlight of the day for the kids.

Things I learned:

The dot between the eyes is a Hindu practice stating I’m serious about my religion-it represents a 3rd eye.

Open sewers creates smells I don’t care for.

India will overtake China in 5 years as the most populated in the world, even though it’s only the 7th largest country.

Hindus see cows as the ultimate level of reincarnation, thus they don’t eat beef.

95% of the marriages in India are fixed.

Marriages are incredible expensive due to the dowry. Indians LOVE gold!

Typical necklace for a standard wedding. This cost $4,500.

Typical necklace for a standard wedding. This cost $4,500.

There are 29 states in India and 22 main (7 dominant ones) languages, Hindi is the most common. In the south they speak Telugu. (Wanda Nalu is like Aloha).

The food IS spicy, especially in the south where most eat with their right hand.

Toilet paper is not the norm for most places…thus the left hand.

The government DOES have affirmative action programs for the folks below the 2nd castes.

Murders due to marriages between castes still happen today. In fact one happened 3 months before we arrived in a town 50 miles away. The perpetrators served 12 days in jail.

It’s acceptable for all classes for the parents to beat their children (on the head) and for husbands to beat their wives. (The couple that led the trip spent time giving seminars to local pastors, leaders and their wives on what the bible teaches about loving your wife and children to counter this cultural issue.)

Seminar on marriage by 2 members of our team (names blotted out for protection).

Seminar on marriage by 2 members of our team (names blotted out for protection).

Someone asked me, How has India changed you? It’s made me more compassionate to those who don’t have much, forcing me to see what really matters in this life (the loss of my wife did that to a higher degree), and realizing I don’t need much to be happy. I want to get rid of stuff and give $ to support the worthy causes that can use all the help we can offer. NOT out of guilt, but compassion.

It’s made me appreciate the life I have here in America, where the government ISN’T persecuting me because of my Christianity. India is getting worse for Christians and Muslims due the Modi government and Hindu extremists. If I said I was coming in to help a Church group I would have been denied entry. In fact I can’t list the pastors names or folks I went with as they could be denied entry next time or persecuted. Pray that Gandhi gets electing this year. Cuba made me appreciate my freedom. India, my day to day life.

I could write a book about my experiences in Southern India…I learned and saw so much, but feel free to write or email me if you have any questions. I would encourage you to go with a church group or folks who are serving those unfortunates. It is NOT comfortable, but it will change you for the better. :-)