The heat was dry and the air burdened our lungs. Being in India during the hottest month of the year was a challenge, but Carly and I didn't succumb to our body's apparent weakness. Our perseverance gave us the freedom to experience the trials and joys of running an orphanage in India. We didn't give our eyes, ears, or thoughts a chance to rest for fear we would miss a moment. We set our minds to observe without jumping to conclusions, which allowed us to to put aside our reality in order to fully embrace another's reality.
Throughout the week Carly and I watched as Andy and Susan Lepper poured forth true sacrifice and love. Stepping out with blind faith is daunting, but Andy and Susan fearlessly leaped out when they took responsibility of the Emmanuel Children's Home in Alwar, Rajasthan. They sacrificed the cool spring mornings and the beautiful fall nights in North Carolina to create a consistent home for 40 boys - a home that every child deserves to have. Each day had a different hardship, but Andy and Susan would not let them saturate the atmosphere. This was apparent to Carly and me especially each morning at sunrise.
Our alarms were always set for 7 a.m., but we would wake well before to the sound of the boys singing, praying, and playing the tambourine. I mentioned this in a previous post, but their songs were the most beautiful sounds to usher us out of our dream states. Rising before the sun had time to spit fire was imperative so we tried to start each day as early as possible in order to play outside with the boys.
It was priceless watching the boys use their imaginations to create games. I did play frisbee and football inside the main room with them. (I shocked myself with how well I could actually throw the football.) The joy exuding through their laughter was the type of inherent joy that lives in the silence of a child's heart. We asked Andy and Susan's son Joshua how the boys felt about living at the orphanage. He said, "Oh, they love it. They don't want to leave. They have each other. They are able to go to school. They see mommy and poppy as their mommy and poppy now." It was apparent to us that Andy and Susan created an environment that allows the boys to be children and have structure that children need to grow.
There were moments when I would roam around the orphanage to let the sweat evaporate from my brow. At one point during my purposeful roaming, I turned the corner into the main room to find one of the boys playing with a pink air-filled balloon. He was gently tapping the balloon in the air to keep it from falling to the floor. I could see the determination and focus on his face as he enjoyed his simple game.
On our last day in the orphanage, Carly and I had a little make-shift photo booth with the boys. Carly's mom gave us funny masks and hats to give, and the boys went nuts. We had to tell them to calm down a few notches (they didn't quite understand) and share. I gave my sweet Mohit the bug hat because he was the youngest little bug out of the group. The smiles were so big that they are forever engrained in our memory.
When it was time for us to leave, it was difficult. Time like this is something that you try hard to keep in your memory bank forever. You fear forgetting the little details and moments - the laughter and the smiles. I know that Carly and I will hold on to the memories we created with Andy, Susan, their staff, and their boys. When I close my eyes at night, I will see Mohit and his brother and hope they grow to be strong, noble men who will not be defined by their past. For weeks, we will lay in bed (Carly in San Francisco and me in Raleigh) and wait for their sweet prayers to greet us. Those boys will be part of our story forever.
Photos by Carly Mask