A crazy thing happened to me in India last week, where I was totally put ‘on the spot’.
I thank God that I am a teacher!
I was in Kotdwara, North India where I often do some charity work during the school holidays. This particular evening, our plans were to go and visit some homes close by, but then my friend (a local Indian man) got a phone call from the Chief Superintendent of Police requesting that we meet him at a village on the outskirts of town. After a crazy drive across Kotdwara we found ourselves at this far removed place, a very poor village, houses with mud brick walls, a courtyard with a dark ambience lit only by an open kitchen fire, a gathering crowd, happy children and many curious faces. We were directed to sit in the circle of empty chairs, as the crowd continued to grow. The children giggled and laughed as we showed them the photos we were taking of them. We were told that this was a community meeting in a very rough neighbourhood and the policeman would be speaking about domestic violence. We were interested to hear what he had to say.
I guess something got lost in translation because in true Indian style, the superintendent asked me to speak to the crowd …right there and then! Being put on the spot and completely unprepared is not something I really like at all, especially a public lecture …but I'm getting better at it thanks to the skills I have learnt and acquired over the years as a teacher and a principal.
With an interpreter, I spoke to this crowd for about 40 minutes. I said that there can be hope for the future for the beautiful children who sat at our feet. That the key for this hope lies in education, in learning, and having a strong community. I addressed the men who were all around me and spoke to them directly about respecting their wives and other women in the community. This place I am told, has a terrible problem of drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, and human trafficking, especially child labour. I spoke about placing dignity on others and the power and importance of being a man of integrity, a man who makes unselfish choices, one who has vision for his child’s life. I said that men can change a community to bring hope for the future. They nodded and even smiled. I was relieved to not be mobbed in anger.
All up, we were there for about an hour, and by the end there were about 60 people listening. It really was totally surreal! I find it crazy to think that I was in this place, a dot on the map in the middle of nowhere in India, so far removed from my usual existence in Australia.
A woman from the village also spoke to the crowd and thanked us on behalf of her family and community. She thanked the Superintendent for his personal interest and efforts. No official or people had ever visited them, or cared for her people before. She said that because of this, people's lives were changing for the better, and her village was changing too …they could see a difference in a short amount of time.
We left as quickly as we arrived and we were thanked for placing value on them. They were honoured that we would be interested in visiting and in that moment we made new friends, and we became better people too.
I thank God that I am a teacher! This is how I learnt to speak with confidence in front of a crowd (I actually got 16% for public speaking twice in a row, in year 10). God has equipped me over the years, it doesn’t come easily, it has taken determination and a lot of hard work.
I thank God that I am teacher for more reasons than this. I am thankful that I work in a sphere that influences the lives of people, and changes communities. I am thankful that my professional expertise gives me insight and perspective that I can share with others. I am thankful that my work equips and empowers children for success in their lives.
I am thankful that God has used my work to take me to places like India. Teaching has opened doors for me to serve God in ways that I could not have imaged or thought possible.
Have you considered that God wants to open doors for you too? I believe that teachers hold a significant key. We are blessed to be so well resourced in our work in Australia. Have you considered sharing your gifts with other educators, other people, other communities, in a place that is far removed from your usual existence?
Thank God that you are a teacher, and ask Him how you might serve Him more. He promises to open doors.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. Ephesians 3:20
Teachers hold the key to lives transformed.
An exciting footnote
One week later, the local Chief Superintendent requested a second meeting, this time in his office in the centre of town. He thanked me again for my talk and he has offered his personal support for our idea to commence a small school in that precious village in that very rough part of town. We hope to start this new centre by the end of the year. Up to 40 kids who will probably have never been to school before will soon receive their first education …and they will have a teacher!
I have just had another incredible trip to Kotdwara (early April). This time it was even better because I got to travel with my amazing wife Rowena, and daughter Maisy. We had had an amazing time, filled with great reward, adventure, tears and fun not to mention surviving some pretty bad food poisoning and forty degree temperatures every day.
Thank you for your prayers and encouragement in all we are doing. Our good friends in Kotdwara, Amit and Daisy, send their love, prayers and sincere appreciation for your generosity and support. If you have followed our adventures on Instagram and have been inspired in any way, might I sincerely ask you to become a regular financial supporter of www.kotdwarahelp.org.
This trip has once again reminded us of the enormity of what can be achieved through the combined generosity of many of our friends. We have certainly seen lives changed. We have seen some of the most incredible smiles that you can ever imagine and happiness brought to people who live in terrible poverty and appalling circumstances. We have seen the transforming power of education which impacts not just children but also their families and community, simply by coming to learn at school 2 hours a day. We have seen kids looking nourished because of a healthy plate of food at school. We have even seen the lives of our five cooks changed.
Sadly, we have been distressed and brought to tears having witnessed the abhorrent actions of individuals. However, we have seen how good can triumph evil, and how the trajectory of a life impacted by evil can be altered by acts of goodness and kindness, not necessarily by us, but by people in the community who care. We have seen the impact of growing the leadership of youth and seeing them reach out to others. We have seen the incredible power that comes from encouraging people in their faith and also from reaching out to others who don't necessarily share our beliefs, breaking down barriers, building trust, earning respect, and realising that we all so alike and we have so much in common ...a love for our kids, family, friendship, pride in our homes and for our 'patch' (even in a slum), enjoying a meal after a hard day's work, and prayers for a peaceful and happy life.
We have experienced the delight on children's faces watching them eat their first ever Easter egg and we also witnessed the strange but satisfying curiosity that comes from a toddler wearing a pair of shoes for the very first time. We have held hands and hugged friends who have leprosy ...people who have never experienced beyond their immediate family, the simple affection and warmth that comes from human touch.
In all of these things we have seen the power of love, and this has impacted our lives in ways that words cannot express.
We have been challenged by the notion of #smallstepsbigpurpose and humbled and overwhelmed that God is opening so many doors. We are convinced that bigger things are on the horizon for www.kotdwarahelp.org.
We arrive back in Sydney with some very exciting plans for the year ahead ...a women's conference, training for both NGO's and local police, further anti-human trafficking initiatives, and plans for a new education centre in a pretty rough part of town ...with the backing of the police commissioner.
To our friends who already support our work in all sorts of ways we pass on a sincere thank you. None of this, would be possible without your help. You really are a part of this incredible story. There are people in Kotdwara who know that you love them. You have made a significant difference in their lives. They thank you. If only you could meet them!
If you would like to be a part of our story, please reply or send me a message and I will happily show you how you can become a regular supporter. I would love to connect you to a project that you might be particularly passionate about. Please extend your generosity for this very special purpose.