Follow us every couple of days as we receive updates about the the progress of the Trip to ASHA DEEP.
Please keep Emelyn, Terri, Pauline, Luz and Barbara in your prayers as they travel and visit Asha Deep on our behalf!
Asha Deep is in the Bijnor Diocese at Dodrajpur in northern India www.bijnordiocese.com
Update Received February 5, 2012
As well as spending time at Asha Deep, we made a few trips to other places within the Bijnor diocese. One visit was to a small village consisting entirely of Christian families. Last year, Barbara and I had visited this village as it was near the flood area where so many houses had been destroyed. Their houses were flimsy constructions of branches cut from the forest and subject to the wind and rain. Most of the people work as day labourers on the farms and are very poor. The diocese had given them money to build brick houses and the people in turn will build a small church in the village.
Along with Frs. George and Stephen we travelled for two hours on roads which degenerated into mud paths marked with deep pot holes and ruts. As we turned into the village we saw that the entire village was lined up to greet us – including the parish priest for the area, Fr. Biju – the old, the young, mothers, fathers, babies and children. The children from this village attend the school in Fr. Biju’s parish. We were showered with marigold petals and hung with garlands before touring the village to see the houses, which are substantial, built of brick with bedrooms, living/eating area and a small kitchen, such a contrast to the former inadequate structures. The whole village followed us, proud to show off their new houses and Fr. George was asked to bless one of the houses. We met the father of the pastor, the first priest in the diocese to be ordained from this village.
We were then escorted to the catechist’s house for tea which was served with true Indian hospitality. There was a special cake made with carrots and coconut, a speciality of the village, and tea so full of sugar it was like drinking syrup, but drink it we did, while everyone stood around and watched. The people were so delighted to have us there, it was a big occasion for them and we felt their warmth and good will. It was a privilege to share these few moments in their lives, something few tourists would experience.
We also visited Fr. Biju’s house and the church of St. Mary’s. Some of the girls from the Christian village, along with others, are boarders in a hostel in the parish so that they can attend the school. Again we were greeted with big smiles, garlands and songs and the children escorted us into the church, which is new and very beautiful. We also visited the priest’s house (the former church and were then taken over to the convent to meet the sisters who look after the hostel and the school. Again, more tea and snacks, it is impossible to visit a house in India without being treated as honoured guests and offered food and drink. Luz said she thought she was going to lose weight in India, but finds herself growing daily, rounder and rounder! Fr. Biju told us he had 250 catechumenate families preparing for baptism.
Until the next story, God Bless and keep us in your prayers.
Update Received February 2nd, 2012
It is quite difficult to describe or put into words the joy & the love that these marginalized children of AshaDeep had given us. They have given us more than what we have given them.I was quite moved just watching the children’s compassion & kindness for one another, sharing the same thoughts, being one in soul, in love & in prayers regardless of their faith & disabilities. It seems that the spirit of God speaks through this children.
The beautiful memories of our few days in AshaDeep will be with us forever. It was difficult & heart – wrenching to say goodbye to the children, the nuns, & to Fr’s George, Stephen,& Jiju. They went out of their way to make us feel like we are members of their family. There were so much laughter,jokes,& teasing during lunch or supper with the Father’s . I should mention Sis. Alexis & Joyce who were constantly concerned about our comfort.We do have discussion time with the 3 priest regarding our thoughts/ideas that could be realistically be implemented in AshaDeep. They were so open minded.Now that we have seen and played and lived with this children,every time we talk about AshaDeep, we can attach faces to it.,not merely words nor names. We are truly blessed. They maybe poor but so rich in LOVE and they willingly share this to others.,we should learn from this children.
Update Received January 31st, 2012
Dear St. Patrick’s Parishioners,
Having been at Asha Deep for five days, Emelyn, Luz, Pauline, Terri and myself, wish that all of you could experience the warmth, hospitality and love that permeates this place. We have so many wonderful and special memories it is hard to know where to begin. Father George, the Director planned and organized an intensive, but rewarding programme, so that we could experience all aspects of Asha Deep – the physically disabled, blind, hearing impaired, bed-ridden, mentally challenged as well as the normal children in the school. We have met with all the priests and sisters to discuss each home and the rewards and challenges of the programme. Father Stephen, who is in charge of the senior boys, was our dedicated tour guide and a source of endless jokes and information. There has been so much fun and laughter and also many tears. We feel that we have not been visiting an institution, but are part of a warm and caring family.
The children here are full of happiness and joy and it is obvious that they are loved by all those who care for them. Bishop John arrived last night to see how the group was surviving and to visit the children. In his prayer with us, Bishop John prayed that in these children’s disabilities we see the bruised body of Jesus and that we become, like them in their trust, openness and caring. We have seen so many small incidents of caring: one child rushing to prevent a blind child from tripping or bumping into an obstacle, a partially-sighted child leading another who is blind, one lame child helping another in a wheel chair, all without fuss or direction from an adult; older children comforting a younger child, helping to serve the meals, a child on crutches and one in a wheel chair voluntarily bringing in the washing! Their disabilities are not an obstacle and they have so much courage. And can they pray and sing – with enthusiasm and a joyful noise – the responses during the liturgy, the rosary, grace before meals, night prayers – and these are Hindu children and no one is trying to convert them, only to serve them and help them to achieve their potential. This includes teaching them how to pray. None of their disabilities stop these children, they sing, dance (even the hearing impaired) and play with enthusiasm and we sang, danced and played with them. They cheered the Tug-of-War organized by Luz, Pauline and Emelyn, learned to sing Head and Shoulders and If You’re Happy and You Know It, danced with us, taught us Hindi words and laughed with us, and tried to teach Pauline sign language. We have become their friends and it will be heart wrenching to leave them.
We stayed at the house for the physically disabled and were looked after, with great care and concern for our well-being, by Sister Alexis and Joyce, Sisters of the Destitute. They cooked amazing meals three times a day and provided everything we could possibly need including pails of boiling hot water at 5:30 am in the morning. There are showers at Asha Deep – cold water only! It is very cold as the buildings are not heated and the sun only warms up by noon. We are all in layers, turtle neck tee shirts, sweaters, vests, coats and scarves – and Luz and I have been wearing gloves in the morning. Every morning we walk over to the chapel for Eucharist in the Syro-Malabar rite! Fortunately it is in English – except for Sunday when it is in Hindi – and the Sisters guide us through the responses. The prayers and the singing are beautiful.
Every day we meet with Fathers George, Stephen and Jijo to share our experiences, to ask questions and to pray together. We have had wonderful discussions, no topic is barred and every question is answered with thoughtfulness and thoroughness. There is an openness, trust and respect for each other that makes it a special experience and has created a sense of community. As a group, we have also met each evening to share our thoughts and reflect on what we experience in the light of the Gospel. One of the readings was the parable of the Kingdom of God being like a tiny mustard seed, which when planted grows into a large tree where the birds of the air can find shelter. We see this as the seed of Asha Deep being planted in St. Patrick’s Parish and spreading and growing and drawing others in. We do not know where this is leading and feel we have to trust in prayer and the Holy Spirit, but there is no doubt in our minds that God has a plan and a message in this experience if we can only listen.
I am going to have to stop as I am going to have dinner with Bishop Gratian, having just arrived in Delhi. I will write again later there are still more stories to share – the visit to the Christian village (which was flooded last year), the parish and school there, the visit to the women’s self-help group, the house for the bed-ridden and mentally challenged girls and women, Prem Dahm (Place of Love) for the mentally and physically disabled boys and emotionally disturbed men from the streets.
With Love and Blessings,
Barbara (for Emelyn, Luz, Pauline and Terri)