David Granner, Co-Founder of Bethania Kids
As I briskly walk through the train station in Chennai, a large burlap bundle of fresh fish smacks down on the concrete and four men anxiously hoist it onto a cart. Tamil-chatter, humidity, lungi, scents, blue, dirty whitewash, pink, Ganesh, screeching train, bustling crowd, jostling people, boy, face, eyes, trinkets —“Mister!! Look sah! You want to buy? Look sah!” Old woman lying in a corner, young child, runny nose, ragged clothes, dirty walls, wet floor, fishy smell, tea, coffee, spices, noise…. . . . . I just love India!
Taking in this scene, I notice a small boy. He can’t be more than about six or seven years old. I wonder what this child is doing by himself. Why is he at a train station alone? Where are his parents? When my son was this age, he wasn’t street-smart like this young boy. He wouldn’t have been comfortable being at an airport or a train station without his mother or me. Oh, how many kids there are! Everywhere I look, children are peeking from around corners, from behind pillars, in villages, in cities, some on the way to school, some riding on a motorcycle with two siblings, two parents and all of the week’s groceries. I have to concentrate because each scene is so natural and seems to fit into the Indian landscape so seamlessly that I hardly pay attention. Yet, when was the last time I saw five people on a motorcycle carrying all of their groceries?
I find myself asking the question, “Why are we here?” Having lived in India as child, I realize that the Indian street scene has changed little in my lifetime—has changed little in perhaps a couple hundred years. In another 50 years or so, I’ll be with my loving Father in heaven. In about 100 years, the world will have a brand new set of people. All the current CEOs, Presidents, workers, mothers, fathers, and children will be gone. I can’t help it. I just want to impact some of the children of my time. This is the only time we have and these innocent young-ones seem to be our special gift from the Lord- all several billion of them, all over the globe.
I remember arriving in New Delhi at 5 o’clock in the morning on May 8th, 1988 with my bride of exactly one year. Marilyn and I had $11,000 in our money-belts to build our first Bethania Kids home. This money was raised by friends and family. Dayavu Dhanapal, an Indian national, had been caring for poor children out of her back door for years. Her family had been brought to faith in Jesus by the Ida Scudder family about 100 years before. Good family friends of Dayavu and her daughter, Priscilla, were Al and Polly Hennig, along with their son Gene and his wife Kristie, and Bob Granner, with his son David and Marilyn. This group came together to build a bridge to help start the ministry of Bethania Kids. We envisioned a partnership in which financially blessed people around the world could share Christ’s love and generously nurture and equip poor children—empowering them to change their own world through the love of Jesus Christ.
When Bethania Kids started in October 1987, less than a year before our May trip, we had just nine kids in a rented facility. I remember hearing how the first kids stood in a line, and not having a comb, were pressing their hands down on their hair to flatten it so that they would look better—hoping they would be chosen for this new group home. I remember crying at the thought of a child trying desperately to be neat enough, clean enough and good enough to be wanted. Perhaps we all experience a little of the pain of abandonment as we make our way out of our mother’s wombs and into adulthood, eventually burying our own parents. Perhaps it is this ubiquitous human feeling that causes us to have compassion on children who appear largely unwanted. We want to say to them, “You’re beautiful! I do want you in our home and I know a God who loves you more than you can imagine!” After 23 years, we have close to 1,000 children in our care and partners all over the United Stated and in many countries.
It’s amazing what God can do through imperfect vessels like us; however, we feel a deep calling to reach many more children. Many of us have been born into the wealthiest country in the history of the world. One day, I’d like us to be able to cast some golden crowns at the feet of our Lord Jesus, because back then, while we were in that chaotic and frenzied life, we chose to serve, to care, to love and to nurture. We didn’t have to! We were just experiencing a little bit of heaven at the time and couldn’t help ourselves. “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 20-21) The love of God overwhelmed us, the Spirit of God filled us, the kingdom of God was at hand and we were blessed enough to see it.
When our short time in this world is over, let’s be taken up to heaven together, listening to the joyful music of the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” Let’s show our Lord that the stewardship of wealth which has been entrusted to us is indeed a good and fruitful one. Let’s be faithful in small things each day – by rescuing, nurturing, educating, and empowering each poor child and developing within them a vision of loving service to others, so that when we’re gone, the many children we’ve touched will be like seeds on the wind, producing a great and lasting harvest.