Our first mission is complete and after our 10 days of service with Back2Back Ministries in Hyderabad, India, we already have a video to show for it! The video is embedded later on in this blog post so be sure to scroll down and watch it, or just click here to watch it on YouTube now, but we gained so much more than a video project. We deeply connected with the Back2Back staff and the children they serve. We had no idea how hard it would be to leave the 26 smiling orphans at the end of our 10-day stay. We grew to love each and every child, with different passions and stories, and we promised them that we’ll be back, which I am sure we will.
There is so much to share that it’s hard to even begin this post. From our airport arrival with flower garlands to delicious Indian meals eating with only our right hand, to cricket games with the older boys, to bus rides to school, to a walk through the slums — we’ve seen so much and have officially fallen in love with India.
I think this is probably the most perfect time of the year to visit India. Summer has just begun, so the hot days offer a constant, refreshing breeze and in the shade, you could sit for hours in total bliss. I love the car rides through the city, where there is so much to see. You’ll pass people riding camels on the highway and see men everywhere peeing on the side of the road. The women all clothed in bright colors and patterns from saris to long shirts with pants and a scarf (called salwar kameez). The Hindu men have the dab of paint on their forehead and the women a rhinestone and gold nose ring. The Muslim men have caps on their heads and the women are in burkas. The Christians look the same as everyone else, wearing their Indian attire but knowing the hope and freedom in life with Christ.
We’ve never been in a place where we cannot speak freely about our religious beliefs, but we still prayed out loud in restaurants and bowed our heads — even at Domino’s Pizza! It’s hard to tell if the Indians we’ve met are true pictures of the Indian nationals, since the ones we have met know Christ and express Christ’s love to all they meet. We love their welcoming and hospitable culture, the way they speak English by saying “welcome” instead of “your welcome,” and call us “Ana” for brother and “Aka” for sister, and in the morning they always ask “How did you sleep?,” only knowing one-word replies.
We are thankful we have not gotten sick or experienced any discomfort including jetlag. We immediately adjusted to the time 11-hour time change and love the Indian food. From garlic dosas (a cross between a crepe and a quesadilla) in the morning to vegetable curries and rice with nan or roti (whole wheat crispy pita) for dinner. Since the Hindus do not eat beef and the Muslims don’t eat pork, everyone agrees on chicken for the “non-veg” option. We also enjoy the rich and creamy chai at any time of the day, but usually in the morning.
We spent our first three nights in Hyderabad at the Swagath Grand Hotel, which sounds expensive and luxurious, and even appears to be until you inspect the details, like the bathroom towels that feel like sandpaper and have probably been used since 1978. But all in all, we enjoyed our stay there from the wifi to the complimentary toothpaste and shaving cream that was refilled every day, to the newspaper that was slid under the door every morning and the delicious sit-down breakfasts where Cassie “took” (their word for had) her garlic dosas, fruit salad and chai and Jordan took his single pori, fruit salad and black coffee.
Once we transitioned to Back2Back’s Suzuki Samuel India Hope Campus (the orphanage), we weren’t greeted by kids running up to us or even much notice at all, but day by day, we gained more and more interest from the children living there, and eventually got to know and love all of the children. “Ana- Aka!” (brother-sister) they screamed to us from across the courtyard when they spotted us walking over. “Push!” they screamed to us from the swing set. The playground was always a happening place — before school, afterschool, on Sundays (their only day off from school) or holidays. These kids know how to eat too! They eat five times a day — breakfast, a packed lunch and snack for school, an afterschool snack and then dinner. The mounds of rice on their plates every meal are massive — about the size of our portions combined. The campus, with 26 children, goes through 600 pounds of rice each month. On top of their rice, they always have a healthy protein with it, often chicken, lentil or vegetable curries, tomato-based sauces mixed with fried eggs, etc. They eat quietly while seated on the floor, scooping their plates clean with their right hand and then have one final serving of rice with “curd” (yogurt). We ate alongside them, with the kids intently watching us and laughing as we made our best attempts to eat with our right hand, scooping curries into our rice. You could hear the sniffles everywhere, not just from us, as the spicy food made our noses run.
As with all visitors, I’m sure, we had our favorites too. Cassie fell in love with Sandya (pronounced Sandia, which is watermelon in Spanish — or here as posted on signs “water million”). Her big eyes and sweet smile, which would only break out when she didn’t know you were looking, stole our hearts and her pink or blue princess dress that she wore every day, reminded us of our nieces who love dressing up. As for the boys, the three youngest always had us smiling — Ravi, Swamy and Madhu. Madhu reminded us of a character in the hilarious movie Boy, since he was always calling out to us to pay attention to him and then would bust out an un-impressive dance move that would have us laughing as hard as we could. All three boys had the biggest and sweetest smiles too, images that we hope to never forget, and won’t forget since we have thousands to reminisce over!
Oh yeah, and we FINALLY watched Frozen, in India nonetheless, which is quite an oxymoron since the highs have been in the 90s everyday. Cassie’s nieces were astonished to hear that the children in such a far-away place were just-as-obsessed with the Disney film.
The work Back2Back Ministries is doing here in India is life changing. They invest so much time, love and care into these children’s lives. They offer the hope of the best Indian lifestyle a child could receive by their five points of holistic care: physical, educational, emotional, social and spiritual. The kids eat three balanced meals a day plus two healthy snacks. They put the kids in the best schools available and have tutors work with the children on their studies every day afterschool. These kids are on their way to being trilingual too — as they are taught English, Hindi and Telegu (their local state’s language). Back2Back has Indian nationals living as caregivers among the children. The children are taught social skills like how to properly greet others and how to care for a feral dog that they’ve named Ringo (since he looks like a dingo, which is an Australian wild dog). Ringo always looked up at us with his crazy eyes wagging his tail and we would say in a sweet tone “good boy Ringo, but don’t touch me!” And lastly, these children are offered the opportunity to learn about Jesus and hear the gospel — the only way lasting positive change and hope can be obtained — since through God’s love and sacrifice, we have a reason to live and we are able to extend our love to others.
Back2Back’s work is long and hard, but they are cultivating a generation who will have eternal joy and will hopefully go on to do many great things for their country. We are ecstatic to have served with such an amazing organization and we are proud to share with you a video that we shot and produced during our short stay. We hope that it will stir something deep inside you and that the faces and smiles of these children will touch your hearts as it did with ours.
Thanks so much for your interest and support for our mission. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to bless others this year with passion of photography and videography. If you feel compelled by the work of Back2Back in India, there are tangible ways you can support them. You can donate to their cause online, you can plan a visit to experience what we have first-hand, you can pray for their ministry and the lives of these children, and you can sponsor a child.
Two children in particular do not have sponsors, including one of our favorites, Swamy, an eight-year-old who has the sweetest smile. He’s goofy and giddy — full of joy and energy. When he grows up, he wants to be a police officer. He’s fully orphaned and doesn’t know when his birthday is. When he first came to Back2Back’s India Hope Campus, he only had one outfit. Now, he usually plays on the playground in his purple pants, saving his nice clothes for special occasions — like the other night when the kids got to eat dinner out at a fancy restaurant. He has glasses and concentrates hard on his studies.
The other child, we only met briefly our first day at the campus. He has a medical condition that is undiagnosed and is thin and always getting sick. When we arrived, he was up and playing, but by afternoon he was sleeping on the couch and on the porch. A few hours later, he had a fever and went to the hospital. His mother is alive but she is unable to care for him financially or physically, since she is a day laborer and can’t stay home from work to care for him during his times of frequent illness. Even with Back2Back’s care, the medical options available in India are few and they cannot determine what is wrong with him.
There are three ways to sponsor the children at Back2Back’s Suzuki Samuel India Hope Campus:
Nourish Sponsorship ($25/month): Provide for the everyday essential needs of the orphaned children Back2Back serves. Your commitment allows Back2Back to meet vital needs, such as safe drinking water, nutritious meals and clean clothing.
Restore Sponsorship ($100/month): Connect with one child to provide holistic orphan care, providing for his or her spiritual, physical, educational, emotional and social needs. Restore Sponsors assists Back2Back in meeting the sponsor child’s basic physical needs, in addition to addressing broader needs, such as counseling, medical care and tutoring.
Transform Sponsorship ($250/month): Your commitment will enable Back2Back to meet large-scale needs of the children’s homes and communities. Needs vary but could include drilling a well for clean drinking water or constructing security walls around the perimeter to enhance the safety of the children.
Your donation helps pay for fulltime Indian caregivers to live with the children, two snacks and three nutritious meals a day, a roof over their heads with electricity, running water and flushing toilets, clean drinking water. It pays for them to go to school — a good school — six days of the week in their own school bus with a local driver. It buys them clothes and shoes and pays for their school uniforms. It pays for tutors to help them with their homework afterschool and a spiritual leader to provide them with Bible studies three nights a week. In return, you’ll receive the joy that comes from being generous and living for others. If you choose to sponsor a child through the Restore Sponsorship level, your child will write a minimum of two letters to you a year and will want to know what’s going on in your life too. They’ll want pictures of you to hang in their room and they’ll pray for you every night with their caregivers.