Mission Team Leaves for India Soon

More of Jesus Mission Trip
December 28, 2014 – January 7, 2015

Dia De Haan is leading a mission team of four people on a trip to Kodaikanal.  They will spend their time one-on-one with the children at both the Bethel and Shalom Children’s Homes as well as the Bethania Rehabilitation Center. Please keep Dia and the team in our prayers.  You’ll also be able to keep to-do-date with their activities on the Bethania blog.

The Children Give Thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, we asked all 47 children in one of our After School Care Centers what they are especially thankful for this year. Their answers are sincere and quite moving…

Abiya – “My father and mother were separated, but they reunited.”
Agila – “My father got healed after an insect bite.”
Alwin – “My family is building a new house.”
Anburaja – “My father was met with an accident twice, but now he has healed and has started working again.”
Angel Pavithra – “My father reduced his drinking.”
Anis Amirtha – “We do not own a house, but my grandfather just gave us a piece of land. We are praying to build a house.”
Anupriya – “My brother got a new job.”
Arockiam – “My father and mother were separated, but now they are united.”
Asha – “My father was an alcoholic and now he has stopped drinking.”
Ashwin – “My father and mother were separated, but now they are united.”
Banupriya – “My uncle gave me a new bike.”
Blessy – “My grandparents got a free grinder from the government.”
Bose – “My family is building a new house.”
Catherin – “We bought a cow.”
Christopher – “My brothers were in a fight and got wounded badly, but the Lord healed their wounds.”
Daniel – “My father bought a new motor bike.”
David – “At school, the teachers are happy with me.”
Evangelin – “There is peace between my father and mother.”
Indira – “Performance in my English has improved.”
Jenitha and Jensi – “Our father’s petty shop business has improved.”
Jeyanthi – “The government built a house for my family.”
Johnes – “My father gave me a play scooty.”
Kevin – “My mother healed from a stomach ulcer.”
Michael – “I used to be alone. But now I am happy and I like to talk to others.”
Mukesh R – “My father got injured while cutting wood. Now he is healed.”
Mukesh S – “My mother healed from a fever.”
Murali – “I improved my academic performance.”
Nivetha S – “I prayed for my father’s drinking habits and there is considerable improvement.”
Nivetha A – “There is happiness in my family.”
Praveena – “The government built a house for my family.”
Princiya – “I have considerably improved my studies.”
Rajesh – “My brother got a job.”
Ramya – “The economic condition of my family improved.”
Sackthimarimuttu – “My parents were separated for three years, but now they are back together.”
Sackthisubramani – “My sister had baldness on her head, but now there is considerable improvement.”
Saipriya – “My baby brother was born.”
Sanjai – “My father fell down in a pitand his face was injured very badly. The doctor advised plastic surgery, but by God’s grace he is healing without plastic surgery.”
Selvi – “My mother finally got a job after a very long time.”
Simon – “My family got help from an NGO and now the economic condition of the family has improved.”
Subha – “My sister (Suja) had a cyst in her neck. They suspected cancer, but it turned out to be a benign cyst and now she is happy.”
Suja – “I had a cyst in my neck. They suspected cancer, but it turned out to be a benign cyst.”
Utthiriyamary – “I improved in my academic performance.”
Varshini – “My sister got high scores in her government exam.”
Veni – “My father had a heart attack, but his health is better.”
Veronica – “After my sister’s demise my family was in a very sad condition. But now, we are feeling better.”

All the children in the After School Care Center send their deep appreciation and gratitude to you and all their supporters. Thanks to you, Bethania Kids has been able to provide all these children with a hopeful and bright future. Thank You and we pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

My Religion was Basketball

We welcome the new president of Bethania Kids – Ravi Srinivasan!

A special thanks to Todd Heidelberger, who after five fruitful and blessed years ended his term as president of Bethania Kids. Ravi Srinivasan accepted the role as president of Bethania Kids in June, 2012. Below is a brief story about Ravi and his path to both Christianity and Bethania Kids.

Ravi Srinivasan’s parents were born and raised in India, but immigrated to America shortly after they got married. While Ravi was born in America, his life was a culmination of both American and Indian cultures. He grew up learning about Hinduism and frequently visiting family members in India, but at the same time, he had a love for American music, the drums, hamburgers and sports. In fact, when Ravi was asked what religion he practiced as he grew up, his answer was simply, “basketball.”

There was a defining moment in Ravi’s life that happened shortly after he graduated from college. He made a visit to India to spend time with his relatives and learn more about his cultural background. While on this trip, he visited a clothing factory and what he witnessed made a lasting impact on him. Children as young as nine years old were cutting out fabrics, sewing, and working in assembly lines. He recalls looking into their eyes and not seeing the vibrant sparkle of life which usually radiates from a child, rather there was a burdened, drab, and lifeless look about them. The moment Ravi saw those kids he told himself that if ever an opportunity arose to help children like these, he would take it.

Some years later, Ravi met a woman in India named Meena and they eventually got married. After their wedding, Meena moved to America to live with Ravi. A few years into their marriage, Ravi and Meena were filled with joy when they became pregnant with their first child. However, that joy was met with devastation when, on December 25th in Meena’s final trimester, they lost their baby.

Heart-break, anguish and utter sadness filled their hearts and lives. What was sure to be one of the happiest events of their lives turned into one of the most heart-wrenching. All they could do to cope with the pain was to try and get back to a routine. At that time, Ravi still considered basketball to be his religion, and he had been playing with some friends at a local Lutheran church on a regular basis. He continued playing with them shortly after losing their child to help occupy his mind. Ironically, it was through playing basketball at this church that Ravi found his true religion.

Although Ravi was only visiting the church to play basketball, the pastor heard about what happened to him and Meena, and he came out one evening to talk with Ravi. Ravi was struck by the kindness and empathy the pastor expressed. When the pastor asked if he could have someone talk with him and Meena, Ravi agreed. Shortly thereafter, a woman visited the Srinivasans and spent time listening to their story and sharing her own. It turned out that a similar traumatic event happened in her life. After she left, Meena and Ravi felt a huge burden lift from their hearts and decided that they would like to learn more about God. Before long, they both began attending church and they received Christ into their hearts and lives.

The Srinivasans learned of Bethania Kids through their church, and Ravi, remembering his commitment to help kids in need, became very active in the organization serving as a board member and treasurer before accepting the role of president. Ravi and Meena adopted a girl from India and later had a baby girl of their own. God has worked in beautiful ways through the Srinivasan family, and Bethania Kids is blessed to have his leadership as we nurture and equip the children of India. Also, though Ravi has put his love of Christ before all things, he still enjoys playing basketball in his spare time.

The Depth of our Blessings

By Austin Farinholt

After ten hours in a bus and twenty-two hours in a plane, Dency and Gethsy walked out of the Washington airport and inhaled their first breath of American air. Their excitement and energy filled the car as we made our way to the Bethania Kids office in Winchester, Virginia. As the driving began, so did the questions about our country – “Why are the roads so empty?” “How do they keep all the trash off the streets and fields?” “Why does no one use their horn?” We laughed explaining that things in America are a little different than things in India.

For the following month, Dency, Gethsy, and I traveled around the U.S. meeting countless people and sharing about the work of Bethania Kids. At each stop we were welcomed with hugs, glowing smiles, and plenty of food. The level of hospitality we received through every step of our trip was incredible. We felt exceptionally blessed to be a part of the Bethania family.

As we visited homes and churches around the country, Dency and Gethsy painted a vivid picture of India by telling stories of the children in our Bethania homes and care centers. They shared the difficulties and struggles of the kids before they came to our homes, and how their lives have been transformed since finding Bethania. They exposed their listeners to the harsh reality of life for many children in India.

One such story was of Durga, a three year old who attends one of Bethania’s care centers. Durga’s family lives far below the poverty line, residing in a one-room home that leaks whenever it rains. Her father squanders any money he earns, forcing her mother to find work wherever she is able. When Durga was only one year old, she would stay home while her mother worked with just her three year old sister looking after her. On one of these occasions, Durga’s sister found a razor blade and repeatedly cut Durga on her legs and body. By the grace of God, Durga lived through the incident. The following year, Bethania heard her story and brought her to our care center where she receives love, attention, care, and an education – all of which her family was unable to provide for her.

Having been to India and seen the hardships that many children and families face, I know that America is blessed in so many ways. However, the depth of those blessings hit me hard when Dency shared a thought with me. She said, “Austin, this is truly the land of milk and honey. This country has been very blessed. The people here should never forget who gave them all these blessings. If they do, it will not be good.” Her words were simple, but the message hit home.

How often have I said a quick blessing over my food without sincerely taking the time to thank God? How often have I opened my wallet at church and put the $5 bill in the basket instead of the $20? How often have I stayed silent when an opportunity came to praise and thank God? The answer, sadly, is too often.

While Dency and Gethsy brought to America stories of children in Bethania Kids centers, they left behind something much more valuable. With every person they met, they left an opportunity to change a life by sponsoring a child. The heart-wrenching stories they told of children in Bethania Kids homes and centers all had a joyful ending because someone took this opportunity. Will you also take this opportunity?

Ready For Occupancy

The road surely was not straight and paved. Like many roads in India, the one we traveled to build the Angel Home was bumpy and full of obstacles. But the end of the road is in sight! On April 18th, our Chairman of the U.S. Board, our India CEO, a handful of supporters from the U.S., many of our India staff, and just over 40 young boys will gather together for the much anticipated dedication of the Angel Home.

The Bethania-owned children’s home has been in the works for a number of years. Its beginnings date back to the year 2007 when the cornerstone was laid by one of our U.S. Board of Directors. The obstacles standing in the way were many, and ranged from meeting all the legal requirements, designing the building, to funding the project. However, with enough patience and trust in God, we are now just weeks away from providing the boys with their very own home.
Angel HomeShortly after the dedication, the boys will pack up their belongings and head down the road to their permanent residence in the little town of Narendrapuram, right outside of Rajahmundry. They should be all moved-in and settled in their new residence by the end of this May. The home where the boys currently reside offers little room for them to play games and do all the adventurous activities that every boy between the ages of 6 and 16 loves to do.

Currently, the boys sleep on mats which they lay out on the floor every night because there is not enough room in the building for beds. They also sit on the floor of their room to eat all their meals. In the new Angel Home, there will be nine boys in each room, with each of them sleeping in their very own bed! Also, eating in their sleeping quarters will be a thing of the past because right beside their dormitories is a spacious and welcoming dining hall.

The construction of the Angel Home could not have been accomplished without the help of all our Bethania supporters. When it was first discussed, the Board knew it would require great faith to complete. You, our partners, have made the Angel Home a reality. Thank you for generously helping us build this home.

Journey of Faith

Their lives began with little hope of an education, a good job, or a happy future. They began with heartache, loss, and poverty. But this is not how their lives continued. Four boys were born into difficult situations, but by the grace of God were brought to one of our Bethania Kids Centers. From the moment they entered one of our homes, their futures were filled with hope, their hearts were filled with love, and their journey of faith began.

For Abraham, Leela, Oliver and Naga Raju, a journey to the United States of America seemed a far-fetched idea. While growing up in a Bethania Kids Center, they each knew that they were being supported by families in America, but the thought hardly crossed their minds that they would visit those families. Their Journey of Faith is coming full circle this May as all four of these boys board a plane and make their way to America to visit you the individuals, churches, and families who are responsible for changing their lives.

They will be visiting many different states on their visit, including Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Arizona (for the entire tour schedule, click here). At each of their stops, they will be sharing their testimony, telling everyone they meet what their life was like before joining a Bethania Kids Center,  what it was like growing up in a Bethania Kids Center, and finally, they are going to give their testimony of faith, hope, and love.

Please pray with us that the young men visiting will make it here safely, and that there trip will impact the lives of those they meet. There are still a few available time slots open if you would like the journey to make a stop in your hometown. Please contact us as soon as possible if you are interested in hosting our visitors.

800-993-5179

director@bethaniakids.org

The Mass Of Humanity

Greg Gresens (pictured right) on his trip to India

Throngs of people walking through garbage-filled streets with the pungent smells of curry and the incessant honking of horns and blaring music is enough to overwhelm anyone who visits India. I was more than overwhelmed and hardly prepared for everything I saw when I visited India to teach English at a seminary. It was not until I made my way down to dip my toes in the Indian Ocean that the mass of humanity and the desperation of so many people in that country began to sink in. Every beggar I passed reached toward me and stared at me as I made my way to the beach. One particular woman caught my eye and caused me to stop in my tracks because she had the widest, most dramatic cleft palate I had ever seen.

This lady looked to be in her late teens. In India, girls are still very disposable because of their high cost. I have a daughter of fourteen whom I love, and cannot imagine throwing away, but it happens all the time in India. How much easier it must have been to dispose of a girl who was filthy and looked like ….that. I stopped for a moment, and thought to myself, “There is a soul that will not be in heaven unless she knows Jesus Christ as Savior”. For a moment, it seemed time stood still. And then, I moved on down to the ocean.

My heart breaks over my failure that day. It was a mistake I realized immediately, but I had all the excuses which were just as equally realized to be what they were. The next day I revealed this to my brothers in Christ at the seminary, encouraging them to never look down on the least of these. I pray for the opportunity to correct my wrong with that girl, or to make the lesson I learned there flow out in testimony to others about the saving love of Jesus Christ.

However, later in the trip, we were blessed to be able to witness a beauty that, quite honestly, would seem to only exist in a dream. An Advisory Board Member of Bethania Kids, Mike Raja, took us to see the Bethania girl’s home in Nagercoil. To see the hard work that the girls do in studying nearly four hours a day, and the way they help one another was amazing. To see the smiles on the girls in their wonderfully clean green and white uniforms that are worn with such pride was beyond description.

I thank God that I was given an opportunity to see this in person. I long for the day to come when I can witness and share this experience again. Each child is a wonderful creation of God. Each girl, or boy in these homes, laughs, cries, and longs for assimilation, just like our children. I can testify that the money we send to Bethania Kids is used and given to God’s glory.

Women Disappearing in India

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Video taken from ABC News. To see the video and the entire news story, click here.

Polly Hennig Turns Ninety

Sailing over 7,000 miles to live in an under-developed country with no one other than your family might make the average American in 1957 at least a little nervous. Not Polly Hennig. Excitement, not anxiety, filled her as she spent over three weeks in a boat on her way to India with the only familiar faces being her husband and four children between the ages of two and nine.

Polly turns ninety years old today (December 5th) and looks back with a great sense of satisfaction and joy at where life has taken her. As a young couple, Polly and her husband Al were both interested in mission work, so when their church asked if they would be missionaries to India, they agreed without a second thought. Shortly after, Polly and Al packed up their belongings and family, and set sail for India, not knowing when or if they would set foot on American soil again.

Polly and Al were tasked with teaching at a school for children of missionaries in the mountains of South-East India. Originally, there were about 30-40 children in the school, so Al taught the upper level classes and Polly taught the younger children.

“We certainly didn’t have all the frills that you would find in the public schools in America, but we emphasized the basics. I remember nearly all our students graduated from high school and went on to college in America,” said Polly. She recalls that being in a foreign country was itself quite a learning process, saying it was more of an education than someone could get from reading a book.

Upon first arriving in India, Polly recalls being “interested and intrigued by everything.” One aspect Polly found to be difficult was the amount of poverty she experienced. She remembers riding in a van through neighboring villages offering milk, rice and medicine to those in need. “There is no way you can combat all the poverty, but if you can just help somewhat, that gives you much satisfaction,” said Polly.

One of the saddest days of her life was the day she had to leave India. Her husband, Al, became ill forcing them to move back to America and eventually to Fort Wayne, Indiana where she now lives. She said that some people “take to the life and the work there more than others, and we just thoroughly enjoyed our work there. We found it very rewarding.” Leaving behind all the work they had invested in the school and children left Polly and her husband heart-broken. Little did they know, however, that their work in India had only just begun.

Before leaving India, Polly met a woman who had a passion for helping impoverished and orphaned children named Dayavu Dhanaphal. This woman gave poor children clothes and food from her back door but wanted to help the children in a more structured way. Upon returning to America, Polly and Al decided to help Dayavu achieve her goal of caring for impoverished children in India. The Hennigs met with the Granner family, who were missionaries in India the same time the Hennigs were there. Together, the two families started fundraising to build a children’s home in Kannivadi, India.

The original plan for building the home was to house twelve children in need. After a short time, the families created a charity known today as “Bethania Kids.” They now care for over 1,000 children throughout South-East India in twenty different centers. When asked what she thought of how much Bethania has grown over the years, Polly answered, “Well, I am just grateful. Someday I am going to be in Heaven with all those children because we not only cared for their physical and emotional needs, but because we took care of their spiritual needs also.”

Click here to make a donation in honor of Polly’s 90th birthday

Betty Swavely-Granner

A Dear Member of the Bethania Family Passes Away

Written by President of Bethania Kids, Todd Heidelberger, one week before Betty left this earth

For those of you who do not know Betty, she was a valued member of our board for many years (now a board member emeritus), ever a gentle but consistent advocate for responsible reporting and accountability from our Indian partners and a great lover of our Bethania Kids as well.

The child of missionaries, Betty was born in Gunter, Andra Pradesh in 1929. She spent much of her life in India and graduated from Kodai International School. She was also an archivist for the school for many years. I have seldom seen Betty without a scrap of paper or a pad in her possession on which she is always jotting notes to herself. I often joked with her asking what she was writing about in those secret files of hers. She would just smile and then tuck the pad in her pocket. Betty has always loved her tea and shared with me once that she preferred a little “nip” in it on occasion making Tea Time all the more enjoyable! She was quite a woman, traveling by train across India alone many times well into her seventies and eighties.

Never loosing her missionary spirit of adventure, Betty married Bob Granner later in life, in her late seventies! Bob has been by her side ever since and continues to care for her along with the hospice nurses during this time.

Betty passed away on November 21, 2011 at 10:00 P.M. with her husband, Bob, at her side. Please keep Bob and their whole family in your prayers throughout this Holiday season.  

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30