Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eating, Praying, and (definitely) Loving in India

In Julia Roberts' latest movie, *Eat, Pray, Love,* her character, Liz Gilbert, discovers the power of prayer while visiting India, and learns to eat well and love in two other countries. For a group of Southern California residents who recently visited India themselves, all three necessities of life were experienced there. They did eat (though their diet was limited), they definitely prayed (though to a different God than most Indian residents believe in), but most of all they loved.

The recipients of that love were a group of 34 orphan children. They are a few of the fortunate ones who have a place to call home after losing their parents and being left for destitute. They are part part of Jane's House, a non-profit organization that aims to help care for some of the millions of orphans in India. In early July, the group of seven (most of whom are from Cypress and attend Cypress Church) left LAX and took a 30-hour trip to a village in Southeast India where Jane's House cares for orphan youth of all ages. There, they met and connected with the children and the five widows who care for them.

According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 25 million orphans in India. By comparison, there are about 2.5 million in America. AIDS, poverty, famine, natural disasters and a caste system are some of the primary reasons why India has the heartbreaking distinction of being at the top of the list of countries with the highest number of orphans. Girls especially are hit hard because of the belief that dowries will place an unbearable financial burden on thier parents.

Jane and Tony Rodriguez started Jane's House in 2004, just a few years after Tony returned to the U.S. from a short-term mission trip to India where he witnessed this plight of the country's orphans. With the help of several Christian Indian pastors and others they befriended who worked at local railroad stations, Jane's House opened its doors and took in the first of the orphans they encountered. Many of them had been abandoned by their parents and had no other alternative but to live on the streets.

“It is a common occurrence to see children at a bus or train station who have fallen asleep alongside their parents only to wake up alone and abandoned,” says Tony Rodriguez, a former Pastor to Students at Cypress Church. “Each child has a heartbreaking story when they arrive. After we find them - or they find us - they receive a full medical check-up, three meals a day, new clothes and an education that help them to reach their fullest academic potential.”

Since Jane's House began, Jane and Tony have seen three girls finish their schooling, one becoming a nurse and returning to her native village where she was celebrated. Two others recently graduated from a design school and are seeking employment. All of what Jane's House does is funded through donations. About four times a year, they are visited from various church groups that are on short-term mission trips. Like the Cypress Church team, these groups bring gifts for the children, visit with them and try to provide a joyful atmosphere; most of all, they bring the message of God's love and let them know that they are not forgotten.

*The orphans seem to have a blast when the Americans come,* says Jo Anne, a Cypress Church member and one of the seven team members who visited. *They love to play soccer, cricket, throw frisbees and balls. They sing for us, we sing for them.* Occasionally, they will explain how they came to live at Jane's House: *Some of them share their stories of being left in the train station or parents dying,* says Jo Anne. *We share our stories of how Jesus fills our lives.*

In addition to spending time at Jane's House, the group also ventured into nearby villages and leper colonies. They brought rice and household materials and shared their faith with these villagers who are amongst, as Joanne says, *the poorest of the poor in our world.* Most of the people they encountered were Hindu, believing in many gods and reincarnation. They also met Muslims and a few Christians.

*These truly outcast people embrace the news of Jesus the Savior and love to welcome the visiting teams,* says Jo Anne. *People gather and bring out plastic chairs for us to sit in. They often ask for prayer, even if they are wearing Hindu thread bracelets or did not accept Christ.* To prepare for the trip, the group spent parts of five months meeting and learning about the Indian culture. For Jo Anne, who had been on three prior mission trips to India, watching her first-time teammates react to the culture was a highlight of the trip. *They came to love India,* she says. *I was touched by the way they embraced the differences and the passion in their hearts to see souls saved,* she says.

The Cypress Church campus is located at 6143 Ball Road just east of Valley View. The public is welcome at Sunday services and Bible studies that are held at 8:45 and 10:30 a.m. as well as many other activities throughout each week. Information about the church is available at (714) 952-3001 or online at http://www.cypresschurch.net/. The public may also interact with the Cypress Church community on Facebook, Twitter and Livestream.

Photo #1 Caption: A group of children and adults from a leper colony greeted the team from Cypress Church with a song.

Photo #2 Caption: A young girl from an Indian village is presented with a beaded bracelet by a college student and member of Cypress Church's short term mission team.

Photo #3 Caption: Three of the girls who live at *Jane's House,*an orphanage in India run by former Orange County residents Tony and Jane Rodriguez.

Cypress Church - 6143 Ball Rd. - Cypress, CA 90630 - Phone: (714) 952-3001 - http://www.cypresschurch.net/ - Email: info@cypresschurch.net

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