Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday and Happy New Year

I have uploaded about 70 pictures from November, Christmas and December to the web at .

Pictures of many of our work parties, Anna with our friends and flood pictures have been uploaded. Ryan has added a comment for each also, thanks Ryan.

Also an early birthday happy to Anna for this Friday. We leave Thursday night for Pune to attend an Interserve conference until January 4th. The train ride is 24 hours. Anna will spend all of her third birthday on the train, pray for us as this is our first long distance train ride and I have no idea how Anna will do.

Keep us and all the others attending the conference in your prayers, for the travel, concentration on the messages, the fellowship time there, and the return trip home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chicken Biriyani

Today is Christmas, that means yesterday was Christmas eve. In preparation our families sent us gifts from the states. We went out and bought stuff. This morning I woke up, Nancy served breakfast of French toast and sausage. Then it was time to get ready for church. Church was good, not the typical message, but about how Mary a nobody was like Moses a nobody and so many others in the bible accepted God’s challenge of ‘I dare you’. I also am a nobody. I took the dare once, and know what… God will dare me again… and again…

For Christmas we thought long and hard about what to get for our friends in the slums, we wanted to give - ‘Lord help us give the right gifts’ - thread and scissors for Mary Gloria, yes good for her tailoring class. A toy car for Samuel, good he is the only boy in five girls. A letter puzzle for sweety Angel, good not only for her but also the older kids. Books, markers, crayons, books, notepads, and other fun stuff like that for the kids. While it is not something special for each child, it is much abundance. Oh also for Elevarase a saree… oh we have to stop somewhere. Set it all out on the table, ok the child’s dress will not go, sorry ruthmary but you like to draw and I know Marygloria went to Saravana and bought you a dress. Some of the coloring books can stay here, same with some of the other books. Ok Lord, this is not much… but to them it is so much.

Each party we have gone to has had chicken biriyani and I am not a big fan of chicken cooked in rice. But Joseph helped put it into perspective. He got a 200 rs bonus for working as a guard at the nearby apartment complex. With it they bought a chicken, and made biriyani. Oh… I see… chicken biriyani is very special the chicken is very special because it costs them so much.

Visit the tailor after church, the top is not ready, visit us at three, lunch, visit some stores… three 5 minutes after three try the top on, it is good. Auto ride home, crash for a nap. Visitors. Ah peace to write a journal entry… looking at gifts for Anna, for Nancy, for me. Maybe we will open tomorrow, we must leave for the play soon.

Gifts opened when we got home… wow our family misses us.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Parties and Malai

A lot has been going on this past week. Here it is Thursday and we have been to 5 Christmas parties, let alone more to come:

Tabitha College: IMED where we volunteer as Quality Control for clothes they export to England. This is a school where high school dropouts are educated in tailoring, secretarial work, nursing, computers and life skills.

GOF: Our company party with 109 adults and one Anna.

Saidapet GOF Branch: The closest branch to us, two doors down. They are like aunts and uncles to Anna. We celebrated with over 1500 of their clients.

Alpha Group: My bible study with 15 moms and 7 kids. We shared the story of Christ’s birth, carols, snacks and games.

Jkpet GOF Branch: Another one of our branches which is our family. We went there without Anna and they missed her. Our clients amaze me in their kindness and openness; I was hugged so many times. There were 250 women there and at least 30 kids.

All of these parties are a celebration, not of presents and Santa but of Christ. We have to keep Him the center of these celebrations. It’s a great opportunity to share with many Hindus and Muslims the gospel. This is what we believe and we can be there for you. We will pray and we are growing relationships. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it takes time.

It is still Monsoon season here. We had rain for 2 days straight and last night a tree fell on our home. Thank God it was at night so there were no kids hurt. Our upstairs neighbor had just moved his car 30 minutes before it fell. Everyone was safe and nothing was destroyed including people. We watched 8 men spend a day sawing by hand and cutting with machetes this 35-year-old tree, no one has a chainsaw here. Later children came and took the wood home for their mom’s kitchen fires. Little 5 year olds were so proud of their piles as they carried them away and they are better at wielding a machete than I am.

The rains (malai in Tamil) are still coming. Our friends, Sebastian, Mary Gloria, her parents and all the kids have been evacuated to the near by school until the waters succeed. Good news is they are back home the next day. Some things they can take to the school with them or store somewhere else. It’s just hard not to be home, especially with kids even if it is only for one night.

We have attached a couple pictures here, and will post more at Also If you are on our mailing list there is a picture of Sebastion in our quarterly update. It should be coming to your mailboxes soon if you haven’t seen it yet. Many thanks for the DeVries’ for the finishing touches and sending out the letter this past Saturday. Email us if you want a copy and are not on our mailing list.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nativity Scene

One of my great debates is should we / can we have a nativity scene. We are in a country which many people worship idols be them as a picture or cast in metal or plaster or carved in stone. Exodus 20:4 tells us not to have idols. My freinds here would be the first to say, "You are a Christian you are not supposed to have an Idol in your home!"

But yet... I do want a nativity scean, it helps me picture the primary reason of Christmas, God's son coming to earth as a person, just like me. God gave this gift and I want others to see that my home honors Jesus too.

So while we do not plan to have a Christmas tree this year, or fake snow, we will have a nativity scene.

People can come to my house and I can tell them its there to remind me to Jesus. I am not worshiping it, laying flowers in honor or burning incense. It is like a picture of your mom on the wall, you don't worship it but it helps to remind you of where you came from.

Recently this news article talks about leaders of other religions encouraging the celebration of Christmas... but then would I also have to encourage them to celebrate their holidays.

Hands off Christmas, say religious leaders

LONDON (Reuters) - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims joined Britain's equality watchdog Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.

"It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be star of the show," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

"Let's stop being silly about a Christian Christmas," he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.

***Special Update! We are sending out a mid term newsletter today to Ryan's parents, there they will send out to everyone. Pray they get there safely.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Anna's first Report Card

We got Anna's first report card Saturday.

I am glad God doesn't grade me.
Faith ... mustard seed

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Little Girl Collecting Wood

This morning I saw a little girl about 6 gathering wood, that is the age of my niece.

The school dress she is wearing is missing buttons and she isn't wearing any shoes or socks, I doubt she will go to school today, or this year. My heart goes out to her. I am grateful that I here to help women like her mom find a business that she is capable of doing... and in the end enabling her to keep her daughter in school not collecting wood so the family.

That is why I am here, to aid others... as Christ has asked us.


My late night thoughts last night turned to Thanksgiving, and what I was thankful for... It is not the roof over my head, that is taken for granted. It is not the clean water I have to drink, I would rather be frustrated that I have to keep filling the bottle as the tapwater will make me sick. It is not all the clothes I have, I have worn them all so many times and the are starting to show just a little wear. Cars, money, and stuff... nice to have but thankful for it all... only with a grain of salt.

Friends, family, a living God... each of these relationships give to me so much that I have no idea how to return and sometimes how to accept. This year this day this hour that is what I am thankful for...the goodness of God, and all the positive relationships that are built from him. I pray that I continue throughout the year to more fully grasp this idea.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Childrens Day

On Tuesday we were informed that tomorrow was children's day and it is expected that Anna dress up in a 'fancy dress'... IE costume... not having time to make something we bought this pretty little princess dress.
Wednesday Anna hated putting it on in the morning. Looked so awkward walking to school with all neighbors holding back the laughter... and we felt bad as many other students had not dressed up. After school she came home her face all dirty, she did not eat her lunch, and just ran all around the apartment for hours.
It was late in the evening before we could get her out of the dress, she was happy to wear it all day. And she was happy to eat all that chocolate at school.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Gnana Olli

Servant, helper, maid, cook, nanny, laundress, errand girl... Godsend that is what Gnana is. Without her we would be at such a disadvantage here in India with her we eat better and cheaper, and can work longer without worry of Anna.

Six days a week including holidays she arrives about 8:30 am, takes out or trash, surveys the vegetable situation and goes upstairs to do the same. She sweeps the front walk, then at 9am takes Anna to school and picks up any grocery needs for the day (if she did not go shopping on her way into work) She comes back to cook and clean upstairs until noon when it is time to pick up Anna then she cooks and cleans for us while watching Anna until 4pm when we come home. We can see she loves to cook and she loves Anna. For cooking and cleaning both homes she earns just under $100 a month, some say high for someone that knows only about 50 words of English.

Gnana Olli is South Indian born in Thirdivanam and while she does not know when her birthday is she figures she is about 38. Her husband Sagayaraj is also about 38. She has two sons, Pratap (pictured), 18, is apprenticing to be a mechanic, David Dinakanam, 16, is in 9th standard. She started working for us because in April her husband Sagayaraj 'met with an accident' the motorcycle he was riding crashed and a curb stone crush his leg. Up until last week he had pins coming out attached to a steel rod, that now removed he will be in a cast until Christmas. He has been given leave from is position as an instructor of carpentry at a local trade school until next June.

This past weekend we took Anna to meet Sagayaraj as he is to stay immobile while his leg heals. Their small apartment is not much bigger than a bedroom, has a twin size bed, closet, some built in shelves, a small bathroom and a kitchen the size of a walk in closet. This for 1200 rupies a month. Here is where they sleep, Sagayaraj on the bed, Gnana and the boys on the floor.

I asked Gnana what she would like to say to all our friends... 'greetings to all. and keep me and my family in your prayers.' (Thank you to Auntie Joshey for translating.) Its அனைவருக்கும் வணக்கம்! எனக்காகவும் என் குடும்பத்திற்காகவும் ப்ரார்த்தனை செய்யுங்கள் in tamil. (Thank you to Bungi for translating.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Starts

It is now the start of two seasons, festival and rainy.

One of the first festivals was Poonja the blessing of all things mechanical, from cars and printing presses on down to staplers. Now to be honest I would only pray about my car or stapler when they did not work, when they do I am ignorant to their presence.** But for Poonja each and every thing is given recognition mostly by placing a little mud on it. But for more important items such as printing presses, cars, and auto rickshaws it is a little more elaborate. Marigold blossom garlands are attached, and little sprays of mud are flicked on in a v pattern. Banana leaves are tied on, and streamers and balloons are added. A small oil lamp is lit and watched until it burns out a couple moments later, then a melon or limes are smashed outside on the road.

There was definitely a level of difference in participation, many people ignored, some did a little, others more elaborately, and others had a special person come in to perform the rituals. I just sat on our front stoop and watched, then later went for a walk to the main road to snag some pictures of the vehicles.

It is also the start of Divali, many schools have special dance recitals, Retu and Rena were dressed in their finest going to perform for their school. If Anna was attending Ashram school she would have been in one on Saturday. Tanya, Nalini's 5 year old daughter got a scrape when her bike slid out on the remains of a melon.*

I will talk more about the rainy season in a future post.

Yesterday Nancy and I took the opportunity to go visit to a three groups in Tambaram. Emmanuel, a CRO was our host. We visited two groups in the city of Tambaram lead by Ushanani and Stellas group Pudhiya Padhai described on the GO webpage. What an energetic group of individuals! For work they buy glass beads, clasps etc up in Deli and string them on wire or string and try to sell them. Sadly they still have trouble doing that, the police will constantly tell them to move on. (I saw that while at the train station, a family of 10 was waiting for the train with all their wares and supplies, my guess is going north to another city to for the festival season to work. A police man was telling the group they needed to move along, the head of the family was polite in explaining that they were waiting for the train, in the end they did have to move from near the station to the far end of the platform to wait for the train, good thing is it was not raining that hard, and they were still under an awning.)

While this group of gypsies still do a lot of traveling, especially now with the busy festival season, they have been living on this plot of land for over 30 years. There are six groups of 20 women in Self Help Groups meeting with GO. I asked the leader and a couple others of Pudhiya Padhai what could be done better. Along with the suggestions to GO directly was the request for a bathroom for the community. Given that there are 120 women I can estimate by what I saw that there are 300 to 500 men, women, and children living there in a forest between rice fields. That is 300 to 500 people without good bathroom facilities. WOW, this pulls at my heart, but I have no idea where to go, if this pulls at your heart and you know how to help, contact me, we can then work with these self help groups to provide for the whole community.

Thank You,

*Nalini and Nancy's first bible study occurred last Thursday, they had one guest, but the three of them felt that it was very productive. There is hopes for a couple more individuals coming once school is back in session (it is also quarter break right now so many schools will start up again next week after two weeks off.) Pray that it continues to grow and the right people come to learn more.

As usual more pictures will soon be at our website.

**This gives me a quick segway into my background, I am a mechanical Engineer with a specialty in product design, and to sum everything product Engineers do is that if they do their job correctly you use the machine they design without even a thought, but if we did poorly you think and know it. How odd but true that the better I do my job the less I will be thought of for doing it, and how true that is for so many other jobs.

I am proud to announce that Joel Bezaire who daily hosts the popular Crummy Church Signs website has released a book of the best signs called 'Crummy Church Signs Volume 1 (2004 - 2007).' You can order your copy at Many people from around the world send Joel their pictures and comments of the changeable signs found so often in front of churches. This book includes pictures of some of the worst church signs you'll ever see (poor grammar, bad theology, silly jokes, etc) along with the author's hilarious commentary! The best thing is that Nancy and I regularly contribute to Joel, and have content featured in the book.

The author, Joel Bezaire, is also donating ALL of his proceeds to Compassion, a charitable organization that places underprivileged kids with sponsors around the world.

Buy the book! Visit the website!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anna and the Banana Cart

One of the neat things in our neighborhood is from dawn to dusk people come down our street selling stuff in carts, on bikes and just carrying it. They yell their wares and you come out if you want something. Usually they are cheaper than going to one of our corner stores. Our regulars supply water, ironing, fish, knife sharpening, banana cart, coffee and tea, vegetables, posters, cotton candy and shoe repair. Here is a guy with chicken sales.

I am sitting in the living room with Anna yesterday about 5 pm. We hear a man yelling "wahlepalam"and Anna says "Mom can we get some Bananas?"

She was right, it was the man with the banana cart going by.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Two Word Pictures Of India

Today I want to share two things that have been written by other people.

First is a story about an adoption, An Australian adoptive mother searches for, finds, and visits the mother of her children from India. It is estimated that 1/2 to 3/4 of the population of Chennai lives in a slum like the family she talks about. Every client visit I have been on has been similar to this, if much shorter in time. Read the story here. It gives a great picture about how real people live.

One long story is not enough... I also wanted to share something written by Rob Wegner of Granger Community Church. This story about his visit to a remote village with Anon who was spending every weekend bringing the gospel. I would love to share many stories we know about how people are sharing here. From those setting up community colleges, orphanages, training centers. Others that are setting up stores, restaurants, banks all as "Business as Missions" to reach clients, workers, and suppliers. There are lawyers providing services to those that usually don't get justice. There are students here to reach an overlooked people group. The rich and middle class. All these workers are from a variety of nations, many from India. So while Rob's story is what you think of typical and not at the same time, let in encourage you in your sharing.

Thank You for taking the time to read. Also thank you for letting us know you received our postcard. It is great hearing from you, keep the encouragements coming.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Anna in Her Uniform

As promised here is what Anna looks like in her uniform. Keep her in your prayers as she learns to understand her teachers English and obey her teachers.

Monday, October 8, 2007

My Baby is going to school!

It is unbelievable that kids start school at 2 ½ years old. We could buck the trend and keep Anna home but we wanted her to be around other kids. Who knew it would be so hard and then so easy to get her started midyear.
School runs from July to July here in India, they were all ready in session when we arrived. Then it took some time to decide Anna should go to school, and which school to go to. Ashram was in the next subdivision a short walk away. But their general offices were a mile away. For four long weeks I walked to either the school or head office with Anna, paperwork, money to see this specific person at that specific time.

My mind changed greatly when on a visit of Anna to the teacher she bit the teacher and they laughed. The proverb ‘Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from it” instantly came to mind. I expected a time out. I came home with Anna and talked with Ryan, we continued to stop in prayer several times a day asking the Lord to remove these roadblocks.

Then the doors opened when someone suggested I try St. Anthony’s, this school just 1000 yards from our house was unnoticed, I assumed it was a part of the school across the street which spoke Tamil only. I visited, they spoke English, I filled out the paperwork and within a week Anna was going to school. It took so long because they had a four day weekend.

I am so grateful that there are no tears, at least from her. They say nursery rimes, sing songs, learn letters, and I think Anna’s favorite part is snack time. She even has a text book that on the first day she spent all day paging through back and forth asking us to read this page and that. She is so smart, our gift from God. I still am stunned that my little 2 3/4 year old is big enough to go to school, I am so proud.

She gets to wear a uniform like her classmates, a blue jumper and brown shirt, our friends at IID are making them for us. Should be ready by the end of this week.

Note: while not confirmed someone did think that Ashram is owned by someone very devout in the local faith and strongly apposed to ours. And while we were told the school is secular Nancy did notice murals on the walls that indicate otherwise. We fully believe that the Lords hand is in which school our daughter attends. Esp as Ashram wanted us to wait until November 1st to start.

***Breaking news, for the first night Anna has voluntarily slept with her light off and her fan on! Picture at
Also please note that I have uploaded many pictures and videos to our picture site. A backlog of three weeks is available at I have finished the September general pictures, started October, plus view special folders of Anna's third day home from School, our trip to Malapurnam, and a local zoo. I have made special effort to include some videos with Anna's Grandmothers in mind, enjoy seeing Anna, run jump, talk, and be a kid.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Unexpected Holiday

Monday was what in India is known as an Unexpected Holiday. Nancy and I first came across this expression on Anna's application for school and when sharing such an unexpected statement with those that have lived in India much longer... they had the lack of surprise we did telling us that unexpected holidays are quite common.

This holiday is the result of a strike or bandh instigated by a political party or competitor to gain publicity on the day between a weekend and Tuesdays birthday of Gandhi. Reading the local news services I am well confused about the truth of who or what matters.

For most people it is a 4 day weekend. And even in the case of many I think Gnanam (who is our helper) said it best. "we do not pay attention those holidays" meaning that most working class and poor people continue working six or seven days a week - day in - day out - from when they can walk to when they can no longer. But I do hope she does give Gandhi's birthday some thought. He is one of the people of more modern times that I have a deep respect for.

Remind us if we do not post in the next couple weeks more information about Gnanam. For now I want to give a moment of respect to Mahatma Gandhi by being quiet.

Note: Gnanam did come on Tuesday also, She and Nancy made Cookies, using our neighbors oven. Then I watched Anna and she went home early with some to share with her family.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Working Hard

Today I will share a couple things.

1) what we did this past weekend
2) Anna update
3) what we are doing as 'work' and
4) how you can help

This ended up being a very long post so via email you are only getting the first lines... read the entire thing here.

Saturday Ryan and I attended a "training your child" workshop put on by Ashraya. While nothing surprised us it was good to have a refresher as Anna is no longer a toddler / baby and becomes a little kid. Then Sunday we spent a relaxing morning as a family, venturing out of the house about 4pm to walk about 3 miles in the neighborhood. Found out Anna likes to be carried when a) there are lots of children around (near slums) b) when there is traffic c) when tired. Dinner was pizza at Pizz'araunt a good place for good food that is a great blend of American but still with the Indian flair (odd toppings like dried split peas.) God has a lot of patience for us.

The Anna update, we are getting Anna into school. I can’t believe they start it here at 2 ½ years old. The girl next door is 5 and reads 3 letter words and can write up to the number 50. We had to let our nanny go because she could only work when Anna was in school. Clara is wonderful. I was able to go in to work the first day, something I did not think would happen. Anna after a few days was happy to see Clara come and wanted me to leave, a mothers blessing. Clara also is a Christian and would read her bible to Anna in Tamil. Clara is a client of GO and a group leader. She also makes saris and sells them from her home. It amazes me that she had the time to work for us from 9 am to 2 pm. I hated to let her go, we both cried. I am grateful for the time they had and I would highly recommend her to others.

I thought that Anna would be starting school this week. Saturday we went for an evaluation and Anna bit the teacher. They want her to wait until I talk with an administrator and then I find out when she might start. I wonder if this is God telling me I need to look into other schools. I pray and I know Anna will do fine in school but I don’t know if this is the right one if they tell me do not worry if my child bites the teacher. I don’t like that and they should not either. Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are older they should not depart from it … good advice and I want whom ever is around my Anna to follow that.

Our work: Ryan’s mom has asked a lot of questions about what we are doing here and I bet others are wondering too. Ryan and I are helping set up the work flow, job descriptions, and procedures to make sure that we are actually impacting our clients lives in the way we want to and in the most efficient way possible. By doing this the workers can spend more time ministering to their groups and also in prayer. Each time a group meets they have prayer where the leader is praying to our Christian God. I got to lead prayer in a couple groups which was so cool. They may not be Christians but when they see our God answer their prayers they see that we have a good and faithful God. They want to know more! Also the weekly lessons are biblically based so they are exposed to the word of God. They see us there and we can tell them that God, our God asked us to be there and we are being obedient. And then the door to talking about our trust and faith in God is opened.

For me, I am looking at loan applications to see if we are collecting the right data about people lives to measure change, are the kids going to school now, do they have better education, is the business making more money, is the health better? The first step is to see where we are now by making a nasty looking Excel sheet, but isn’t that bad to do. God taught me patience with Anna I am using that to read some of these forms. Yep, and a sense of humor is needed here too.

For Ryan this means following around everybody looking at what they do, why they do it, and how long it takes. Then writing it down and suggesting methods for each job description. In the end GO will be able to have a group of paperwork so that when a new branch is started and everyone is new they know the way the people at other branches do what they need to do. Right now Ryan is following around the branch accountants... five people. This takes about 3 days in the field and one in the office organizing notes. Eventually GO will have about 50 to 100 pages called a best practices manual, with 1 to 10 pages for each job title. Ryan’s prior experience at GM is certainly coming into play in writing manuals. God can use an engineer in finance.

Ryan is doing some side work on the GO web page to improve the content. Feel free to click the link above or on the right side of the page. You can support us by clicking on the Interserve link on the right. There is also a link to our pictures. We are so grateful for your support in prayers, advice and financially. We can't be here without all of you :)

God has been good to us here in finding a church that can feed us spiritually. Not many churches do parenting and marriage workshops, even in the States. I am grateful for having Christian neighbors who help me with translations and just all around guidance here in India, like what are the tricks to really getting water delivered and that tomorrow really means some time this week. I am very grateful that we are all healthy and safe. We do need some prayer in Anna going to a good school and the logistics of having her watched so I can work. Pray that we make the right decision on a school. There are 4 to choose from here. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, God does open doors, our maid is willing to take Anna home from school and take care of her until I get home.

We also ask for your prayers for when we have to leave in January out of India and back in due to our visas (we can only stay in 180 days in India at a time). We don’t know yet where to go yet. We need to make some arrangements soon since it is around Christmas and New Years with lots of people going on vacation.

So there you have a long post about what we are up to and what we need. We still have a number of the postcards left so shoot us an email if you would like one. Send us an email and just tell us how your life is too :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Address and Addresses Please

Hello All,

Wanted to let you all know that Growing Opportunity has now its own website. (prior it was a sub page at Opportunity International Australia.) The page, designed by S. Simms, a high school student that was here in Chennai for the summer, is at It was a privilege to help S. Simms publish this.

Second, we have received prayer cards and envelopes back from the printer. And are sending them out to those that request them. This great resource can be placed upon your fridge, bathroom mirror, or as a bookmark in your bible. It has a picture of Anna, Nancy and I on the front. And on the back are a list of prayer points, our birthdays, and our website and home mail address. We will gladly airmail you a card if we can have your address. (WHAT FUN TO GET A CARD FROM INDIA!!!) Let us know your current address so we can send you this wonderful resource.

Thank You and keep writting, again it is great hearing from you about life in the states, school starting (gosh kids you could have a great show and tell item --- a letter from you to India!) and such. Praise that Ann has a job as a teacher this year (I still think she should come here and work at GO.)

It only costs 90 cents to send an airmail letter to us, and us only 30 cents to send to you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Parry's Corner

And now for an article borrowed from New India Press.... to give you a slice of life here in Chennai. We personally work near T-nagar Bazar (also called Pondy bazar) and live near Saidapet bazar which is much smaller than Parry's or Pondy.


A date with Parry's

Monday August 27 2007 09:21 IST
Riyas KP sees a place for everything in the streets of Parry’s Corner

From iron to plastics, vegetable to fruits, Parry’s Corner is a place for everything. Here, one can find everything from paper and textiles to cosmetics and decorations at affordable prices.

Parry’s Corner is one of the city’s business centres. Often referred to as Parry’s, the place is situated near Chennai Port, at the intersection of North Beach Road and Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose Road.

Named after Thomas Parry, who set up the EID Parry Company in 1787 (The corporate headquarters of EID Parry stands on the corner), the place is also a hub for intra city bus services. Parry’s Corner is an area that is vaguely defined and contains a number of streets. Though there are streets well-known for certain things, the peculiarity of Parry’s Corner is that one can have almost all things from a single street.

Anderson Street is well-known for wedding cards, with many shops exclusively for them. “Wedding card sales is a 365-day affair here,’’ says Govindan, a sales person. “Cards range from 50 paise to even Rs 150,’’ says A Mohamed Ali, manager, Olympic Cards. Books, pens, plastic files... as you go down Anderson Street, the things available keep varying till the end.

If you are walking along NSC Bose Road towards the Flower Bazaar police station, there is a narrow but crowded-street called Badrian Street. The fragrance of jasmine, rose and other flowers fills the air and will not miss your attention. The street is one of the retail flower trade centres in the city. Even though the wholesale market has shifted to Koyambedu, the name Flower Bazaar remains. As the sizeable Malayali population of the city is set to celebrate Onam, Badrian Street was witnessing brisk business on Saturday and Sunday. “This is the only place in the city where flowers are available in retail at affordable prices,’’ says Shylesh and Manikandan, a frequent visitor of the street.

The business in the shops here keep changing with season. Shops that now sell stationery will have a different look during Diwali, Christmas and New Year, selling crackers, Christmas props, diaries and calendars in the respective seasons. Other items will take a backseat,” said a store manager. Shops selling decoration items, flags, plastic flowers and ribbons, Bunder Street is a colourful lane. The street, again, carries seasonal wares and is very active in the beginning of the year. With pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, rulers, notebooks, files and all other paper items, the street is a living sign of how important paper and allied accessories are, even in the digital age.

Parry’s Corner is about 80 acres of commercial business space and the traders are a mix of Tamil, Telegu and Hindi-speaking people. Burma Bazaar, which got its name because Indian refugees and traders from Burma dominated the area once, is an area where one can find all sorts of imported goods, ranging from electronic gadgets to readymades and perfumes.
Riyas KP

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Milestone and crumbs

I wanted to take a moment to point out a wonderful if quick event in the life of GO, we now are impacting the lives of over 10,000 people with weekly transformation education and business loans from $50 to $500. Add to that the school loans, and savings ability we are well on the way of alleviating poverty from the bottom up.

Anna and I had the privilege to see the signing and distribution of two loan groups yesterday. A wonderful experience for me. To realize that I just go down to the ATM (with much thanks to all those supporting us) and pull out for spending in a week what is a major investment in their lives. To put this to point, Anna had a zip lock bag with some corn flakes in it, she was sitting next to me eating, spilling some on the ground. A 5 year old child, not much taller than Anna was sneaking behind us and picking up these little crumbs... later I gave her an Oreo cookie, I thought she did not like it, eating it so slow, but she was savoring each little bite. This is the amazing world we live in. Should we go and savor life like her, or help lift her up to be like us that dropping crumbs is OK.

OH on a personal note: It is refreshing to get notes and emails from those that have sent, it is SO uplifting and encouraging. Please keep those letters and emails coming! To encourage everyone to visit our web page I have posted a photo of our address here in Chennai on the site and replying to this email (if you get the emails) will send a note to both Nancy and I.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Micro Finance Basics

Well I am back, 4 days of training at the Institute for Finance Management and Research (an Indian college for upper level individuals getting masters and Phd's in all things financial related.)

Biju, the COO and Aju, the Financial Manager, and I the consultant, along with 13 others, a combination of masters students from Stanford and Stockholm university going to volunteer several weeks at Hand in Hand, plus we had as fellow students a good cross section of the industry, including someone from the Reserve Bank of India (the governing body of financial maters in India) and other key players in the finance industry. Networking was a very good aspect of what was taken from the week.

We all enjoyed 18 sessions delving into theory and research about micro finance in all forms. Micro finance is not only lending money, but also savings, insurance, money transfers etc for the client. But it was not all about the front office stuff, most of the sessions delved into backroom thoughts, how to get more capital, how to reduce risk, identify clients, where the industry is going, and examples of different methods with pros and cons.

Most micro lending activity is happening in rural areas, and most do not yet take into account the income cycle of the borrower. For example a loan could be made to buy a water buffalo (a good source of milk here in India) The loan would want repayment each week all year long, even though they do not produce milk for 4 months of the year. Then if all you do is loan for milk producing animals there are two issues, the village will have more milk than it needs, and if there was a disease in the buffalo all the banks loan income could be wiped out (in technical terms that is called High Systematic Risk.) The average family can care for only 4 buffalo before they run out of land and time in the day. After each family has their 4 buffaloes the lender will no longer be needed. A lender should look at lending also for other things, such as fruit and vegetables, small crafts, a refrigeration center for milk, a truck to move milk to nearby cities, cheese making etc etc... Now we are talking Micro-Enterprise development.

One last thought, there is not social security number here in India, no one number identifies a person, as a result many agencies have no true easy way to identify who they work with, from the government on down to the local micro bank. Technology companies are stepping in with fingerprint readers, photo ID cards, etc but currently the average cost is $3 a card and the reading machine is $300, with a need to one or several per village...

This message is getting much too long for your email box. I will stop now and return to editing of the new Growing Opportunity Website, the plan is to have the site up and running by the 14th of the month. This will include a very good description of how we interact with our clients.

Meanwhile if you would like to see pictures from another Growing Opportunity Volunteer the link below will take you to Annemarie's site. please note she is from the Netherlands, her text is in her native language.

The attached picture is a kolam made from a variety of flower petals to celebrate Onam it is about 2 meters in diameter.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Anna Air Mail

Anna shows our first piece of mail. A belated birthday card for Ryan (Aug 7) and a welcome to India.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ryan is working on getting Anna down for a nap so I have a few minutes to tell you what I got to do last week:

Last Tuesday I went to a slum school started by IID ( . Not many slums have schools. The parents are of a variety of religious backgrounds send their kids to the school because the children are guaranteed a glass of milk and 2 slices of bread to eat, and sometimes more food is available. I was amazed that the little 2 and 3 year olds were sitting quietly on plastic chairs waiting for school to start. Anna did not understand why all the kids just sat there and she wanted them to play with her.

These boys and girls are taught Bible versus, songs, numbers and letters in English and Tamil. They are given chalkboards so they can start practicing writing the 246 Tamil or 36 English letters and numbers. The second picture is of 3 girls singing Jesus Loves Me in Tamil, with motions. It is sooooo cute and humbleing to see children my Anna’s age acting so well behaved.

Then Friday, while Ryan and Anna played I went with Silve, a GOF Client Relationship Officer to see some of her clients and attend two meetings. In the slum area we went to there are over 15 groups, almost 300 women total; at each turn we met another person that Silve knew as a client. Every place I went people were offering me something to eat or drink and a place to sit out of the heat... I really wanted to turn them down, a 5 rupee soda is a lot of money to someone with nothing, but culturally I would be greatly offending them by rejecting their hospitality.
It was fun to see the meetings.
At each meeting they say an oath, (a commitment to each other as a trust group), a prayer is said, attendance taken, there is a check of who paid back their loan and put money into savings, (a member of the group deposits the money at a local bank and shows the deposit slip at the meeting, later GOF transfers out the loan payment portion.) Then a question and answer period, maybe a learning game and what I would call some great comradely. And most important is a 10 minute lesson by the CRO. These lessons are set during the first loan cycle (24 weeks) in later cycles (which last up to 32 weeks and keep renewing as the ladies have need) the CRO chooses topics that she thinks that group needs to hear about. Both groups I attended were made up of women related to each other as moms and daughters, sisters and cousins.

I have one picture attached, but will post more of my pictures at . Now given that we do not want to distribute photos of under dressed children I do not have many of all the children of the clients who are also at these meetings. It makes me proud that the kids see what hard work their mothers are willing to do. Maybe that is because I am a mom too. They can teach their kids how to get out of the slums and do much better in their lives. I want to be a good example to Anna like these women are to their sons and daughters.

Please keep Ryan in your thoughts as he is in Microfinance Training this week.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Four Waters

Today I want to talk about the four waters at No 8/45 THOMAS NAGAR.

We have 4 different types of water, salt, sweet, filtered, and bottled.

The salt is from a 9-meter deep bore well, up to the roof top tank, to use in the showers, toilets, and one tap at the sink. It indeed tastes very salty and has a good chance of something in it that would make us quite sick.

Second is the sweet water (this is a misnomer it still has a strong salt taste) this is delivered by a lorrie about once a month. The truck load costs us 750 rupees. This water is put into a sump underground and then pumped up to the other half of the overhead tank. This water is sent to the washing machines and a sink tap. Drinking it may make us sick.

We also have filtered sweet water, through a UV unit and micro screens, to kill the bugs in it, you can see the filter on our kitchen wall. This we use to cook, wash dishes, brush teeth, and we could drink if we did not mind the taste. (add a pinch of salt to your glass next time you drink...)

Last we have bottled water to drink, 5 gallon bottles poured into a container, then transferred to 1 litre bottles that we take with us everywhere and sip to stay hydrated.

How I learned we had so many sources of water... the bore well tank ran dry. Each morning someone should run two water pumps, one pushing sweet water up to the tank, the other pushing water from the bore well up. It only takes two switches and a half hour... the boys who lived in the flat before us faithfully did that. But alas we did not know, our long showers and toilet use took its toll, the tank on the roof emptied, the bore well lost its siphon, and now what to do.

Go up on the roof, 3rd floor. Go up a ladder that is too short then climb the pipes to the platform the tanks are on, 4th floor. Then pull up the ladder, and climb on top of the tanks, 5th floor. Open the heavy metal covers over both half of the tanks, fill hose with water, and set up siphon from sweet water tank to salt water tank. On way down notice two valves that could have been opened to connect tanks.

The good news is Anna no longer complains about the taste of the water in the shower, now if only she would be happy with the soap. The bad news is we can not get the bore well pump to again, the plumber was called, he told Yohshy that he would be at the apt Monday afternoon. (it is now late Tuesday and we are still waiting, eventually I will post about India time and explain why this is the norm.)

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Today is an important day, yes it is the start of India's 61st year of Independence, but also our independence from the New Woodlands Hotel! This morning we moved into our apartment here in Chennai. Rather than fill the inboxes with pictures I ask you to go to this link to have a gander at our abode.

Now yesterday being Independence day in India the office was closed so we hired Vijay the auto driver to take us around to some of the highlights of the city, some were closed, but other were open. Such as the Shiva temple, and St Thomas Cathedral. See pictures of our day here: Note Nancy also took some with her camera, I will upload those soon.

And last, if I do not have enough pictures of India Stephen Hinkel has more at: Read his blog at he is one of the team from GCC that went to

OK now that I have all that diversions of pictures, and others experiences of India out of the way we should give a little bit of a selfish update.

We have all been reasonably healthy, though occasionally too much spicy food will upset our tummys one morning or another. Nancy and I are not having culture shock, though Anna is. Nancy and I are having Anna overload. We have been near her for the past 14 days constantly (this includes all sleeping in one king sized bed (with Anna in the middle because she is fearful of falling off)) Again I will say moving to India is like having a second Anna, one of her is ok, but two at the same time brings the need for.... (I don't think Lamaze was meant for child birth but for all the years after that)

Anna is not adjusting well to the people here. It is the Hindu culture to pinch the cheeks of a good looking child for good luck, and Anna is the perfection of such. Those that are older, or poorer are more likely to reach for the cheek. Anna will run, hide, cry, scream, and otherwise act out even if no one is coming. We need to take a corner in restaurants with her tucked away for safety... There are other Expats here in the city who are giving us advice, the best is to teach Anna to yell "no thank you!" And also to give lots of play time to unwind.

Last our ramp up for work is purposely very slow, GOF has a strong desire to let us get used to the culture before setting us to work, and now that we have an apartment Nancy will be settling in there until we find a Nanny, and I will start visiting branches, clients etc learning about the paper trail in hopes to simplify it. (there was also a potential project that Nancy has hopes to be involved in also but as it did not interest me... I let it slide from active memory.)

Please write us back, we love to hear from you and about you.

Friday, August 10, 2007


Question, you are out and about in India and would like a little something to drink, what do you ask for?

Answer: Chai tea, tea and milk boiled together and placed into a small flimsy cup that you are unable to hold without crushing. I do not drink tea regularly but I like hot chocolate, and this is a good close resemblance.

There are so many new things here in India, it is so hard to describe them without it sounding like the USA is much better than India. We have a year to post of the many sights, sounds and smells.
Sadly it is much more difficult to whip out the camera and get that great shot than I thought it would be. I have placed a number of pictures and descriptions at our picture site. Please go take a look, leave comments, ask questions.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Welcome to Chennai!

What a whirlwind of change in our lives this week. From living with parents in south bend to now in our own little hotel room in Chennai India.

So many new sights, smells, and sounds it is surreal.

How to describe Chennai. More later but for now I want to compare to Pune, in central India, they may both be India but the differences... Pune is Hindi speaking, Chennai is Tamil. Chennai has gas stations, Pune has mini-vans on the side of the road with 2 litre bottles of fuel. The roads are wider in Chennai, but smaller sidewalks. At least in Pune we could walk a block or two without being in traffic.

The Auto rickshaws (our primary means of transportation in both places) goes by rate (actually 6x plus 2 rupees the rate) in Pune but Chennai is bargaining, and being at a tourist hotel you do not I mean DO NOT want to take one sitting out front. They want 100 rupees to take you to a friends little shop (where they get 25% of what we buy or some other kick back.) Just walk down the block a little and pay double the regular rate because of being a new American and pray they know where you want to go.

Some pictures from a Auto ride:

Pune had Debbie and Rupa, two wonderful people to ease us into the Indian culture. (we stayed with them and Debbie lead the training) Chennai has Annamarie, another GO Finance volunteer who is running us through a nice slow immersion. I could go on...

We arrived in Chennai late on Friday night, Annemarie met us at the airport and rode with us in the SUV to The New Woodlands, our home until we find a home. Saturday Annemarie picked us up shortly before noon, and brought us to a restaurant (Amethyst) where we met Bungi and Peter and Biju. Then a quick jaunt over to look at a potential apartment then back to the hotel and at 6pm (nothing happens quick in India) we laid down for a nap... I asked Nancy if she wanted to go out for dinner or breakfast...

Annemarie and Anna

A picture from our hotel. Bungi and Peter

Breakfast in the morning was same as Saturday the buffet at the hotel restaurant (Indian veg menu. pancakes with onions on top, peas and carrots, and a couple curries, plus watermelon-pineapple-mango fruit cups.) Then our first rickshaw bargaining to get to church.

The church was very much like Granger or Mars Hill, about 300 attenders series title is Pure Sex, today's topic is the 4 loves and how they all interrelate.

Then to Sparkies for lunch (Tim S. last day in India so very busy party), home by Auto (overpaid by 10), and out to Little Italy for dinner with Dave and Kim and the boys.
Now you are caught up.

This morning I (Ryan) woke up at 4am with the need to empty my GI track... feeling better now about noon but if it continues much longer I will begin to take Cipro.

We did make it to the office at 9am for devotion time, as it is Monday that is songs in English and Tamil, and prayer time. (I will upload a short movie to our picture site.)

We ask that you also take the time to pray for us, both our health, getting settled, plus lastly support.

A quick financial update: We had about 80% of our needed funding pledged when we left, we can live OK w/o additional support. But the dollar has recently become much weaker to the rupee 40.45 to the dollar (was at 45 for the longest time), draining out another 10% of our income. Please, we implore you to support us, we can not do this without you, please pray about supporting us, and follow through if you can! We are trusting the Lord to provide exactly what we need, and we are humble that that is what is happening so far.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pictures From India

Some pictures on the plane.

And Outside Mumbai Airport.

And pictures of Pune

All out luggage.

Nancy's new outfit

More later :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Welcome To Pune

Just a short note to inform everyone that we safely arrived at Pune. We will spend the next several days here with friends, then Friday fly on to Chennai.

The flight was long, and most of the time was lights out, everyone try to sleep. Anna did sleep most of the way. The first half of the journey that was on the floor at my feet, in the under seat storage area. Then in London we had to leave the plane, with all our carry-ons, walk a very long way, go through security, then walk all the way back to the plane and reboard.

On the second half of the flight Anna slept on the seat between Nancy and I. Or played with a 3 year old (almost 3 his birthday is the 7th of August) sitting in the seat behind us.

Then a quick pass through customs in Bombay, a 3 hour ride in a very fast taxi from 3am to 6:30 am, some sleep and now it is 3pm and we will go shopping for an outfit or two for Nancy.

None of us have much jet lag, yes we are a little sleepy, but feeling well otherwise.

The GCC india team is also doing well. Please visit their site and watch what they do this week.

Pictures to follow.


Saturday, July 28, 2007


Sunday at 4pm we will be boarding a bus to O'Hare Airport at Granger Community Church. If you are there at that time you can join in the send off celebration.

GCC is at 630 E. University Drive Granger, IN 46530 ph574.243.3500

The bus will pull out about 4:30pm

We will be traveling by bus then plane then taxi to arrive at our destination about 8pm Eastern time on Monday. And as India is 10.5 hour ahead that is about 6:30am on Tuesday for our new time zone.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Day In Chicago

Nancy, Anna and I had the privilege this Friday of driving into Chicago, where we gave up our passports for the day. Two hours waiting for number 54 to be called at the Indian Consulate, hand in our paperwork and $255. Then off to walk around the town, Navy Pier's Bubba Gump for lunch, then walk up to Michigan avenue to take a picture for Bungi. Then at 4:30 we wandered back to the NBC building and the Indian Consulate where we picked up our visas, multi entry visas expiring July 19 2008 for each of us. Then on the trip home we hopped off the highway at Portage and found a Steak and Shake. Our waitress is going to India this fall with her college for two weeks. And it was fun to watch the people leave the place, they either had a real big grin on their faces, or were too stuffed to risk that and waddled back to the cars. (we were in the later group)

Saturday followed with a quick run up to Grand Rapids for a going away party thrown by my family. Thank you all for the well wishes, we could not do this without God's leading. And thank you Dave for letting us borrow the GPS unit... sometimes when it says to turn, you should not.

7 days until we depart from Chicago Ohare Airport.
Ryan and Nancy

PS I did not email a recent post showing my new haircut. This and additional pictures available at our website, and click the our pictures link on the right to see what we are up too.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hair Cut

Before, during, during, during, after... aftermath.