February 7, 2008

India, Part 3 - Some Background

The Bethel Agricultural Fellowship is made up of a bunch of different pieces. First off, there's the baby home. Indian culture is steeped in the Hindu religion. The only way a Hindu mother can make it to their equivalent of heaven is to bear a son for her husband, and, for the husband, that son must be the one to burn his funeral pyre. You might say the system is designed to dehumanize women, and this is exactly what happens. Female infantacide, as we learned from Dr. Pari (the director of Bethel, who has finished his PhD with a dissertation on the subject), is widely practiced despite its illegality; since families cannot afford to raise many children (80% live on less than $2 USD per day, while 40% live on less than $1 USD per day), the ones they DO raise need to be important, and there's nothing more important to the devout Hindu than immortality. And so, despite the laws in effect and the periodic efforts by government police forces to catch people "in the act," as it were, the rate of female infanticide grows. Bethel, in an effort to save as many as they can, take whichever babies are brought to them and raise them as their own family. Many of the students at Bethel live there year-round because they were once orphans brought up in the baby home and now have nowhere to go. The problem, of course, is physical contact; babies need a lot of human contact, and the staff at Bethel are often overwhelmed with the number of children in need of attention. When we had free time, many of our team would go over and simply hold and play with the infants.

Next is the matriculation school, the Indian equivalent of a Kindergarden-12th Grade School all rolled into one building. The orphans are not the only students who attend - many others attend from surrounding villages - but they do make up a sizeable portion. It is here that much of the team spent their time. Richard and Karen Bates were along on the trip for this very reason; they had brought supplies along to do crafts with the school kids, a different one each day, and they needed our help to keep the kids in order.

It is also these children that we saw so often around the compound. When they weren't in school, they were playing out in the yards around their houses, two of which (the girls' houses) were right next to our dorm. They took a particular interest in Adam, who has shoulder-length blonde hair, a goatee, and is fairly tall. Apparently, this was enough that they started calling him Donny, after a famous Indian Cricket player that (to be honest) looks nothing like him. I know this because they were quite happy to supply us with several pictures of Donny they had saved from newspapers. It took until the middle of our time there that they began calling him Adam again; they had started to get to know him and in a culture where to know a name is to know a person, it was only fitting that they do so. But Ryan and I (mostly Ryan) wrote a song in honor of Adam:

Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Your hair is golden like the sun, is golden like the sun, is golden like the sun.
The girls go crazy over you, go crazy over you, go crazy over you (your eyes are blue)
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Your dancing, it makes us smile, it makes us smile, it makes us smile
You hit the cricket ball like a man, you hit it like a man, you hit it like a man (your arms are tan)
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Your hair, it demands another verse, demands another verse, demands another verse
Your hair, it demands another verse, demands another verse, demands another verse
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you
Oh Donny, oh Donny, Oh Donny, we love you

Adam rather enjoyed it, although he did turn a bit red after Benjamin decided to teach it to the girls after lunch one afternoon.

There is a hospital at Bethel as well, and an attached nursing school. It's not pretty; by Western standards, it would barely qualify as a cheap motel. But out in the middle of the nowhere that Bethel finds itself, it is the best that can be hoped for. Fortunately it is staffed by some amazing doctors, a dentist (who happens to be the sister-in-law of an Asbury student), and a number of nurses. Dr. Keith Alexander, an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgeon), volunteered his time at the hospital while we were in India. I think they appreciated his help quite a bit, but also the many supplies that he had brought with him.

Then there's the chapel. But that's for another day.

(to be continued ...)

3 comments:

Dan said...

keep bringing the stories... i'm loving it.

Adam Caldwell said...

oh oh...silly silly boys...with too much time on your hands...perhaps you should have been in the chapel more contemplating deep spiritual...errr stuff...seriously, that was fun...I haven't read all of these but I am going to make my way back when I have time...I promise...Question(Dwight Voice): Why did you steal my picture idea?

p.s.-I hooked you up with a link, just thought you might want to know.

Chris said...

Dude ... I have been doing the picture thing for years now!

Thanks for the link :)

And by the way, we WERE contemplating deep spiritual stuff, and then God said to write a song about Donny. What could we do but obey?