What's it all about?

40 nights for the orphans of India. My 'Lent in a Tent' is about raising hugely needed funds for 'Shining Faces in India' orphanage in Salem, Tamil Nadhu, by sleeping ouside the Chaplaincy at King's Bruton for 40 nights. My target is at least £10,000 - which amazingly is only enough to feed the hundreds of children there for about two months.

I hope that many might be inspired to trade 40 pounds for my 40 nights. Actually, in the back of my mind I'm convinced that we could smash through the target and go much much further ... I wonder.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Last Post ... night 40/40

It's probably one of the best known melodies. In its proper setting it signaled the end of the day when the duty officer returned from inspecting the sentry posts around camp. The First Post signaled the beginning. When it was over and the last sentry post had been inspected ... then sounded the Last Post. In a way it heralded the close of the day's duties.

I feel a similar closure tonight ... the 40th sentry-night of 40 ... each one marking a watch over the children at the orphanage for their sake and their future. The wonderful thing is how many have decided to stand alongside, and I know that the children salute you ...

Together we can gift them over £13,200 ... an amazing amount that will make a tangible and meaningful difference to their daily lives. The 'collective anonymity' I wrote about on night 23/40 means they'll always speak of us as a unity ... a body who together made a difference. And that's how it should be ... every gift as important as each before and each to follow.

For me, I can only offer you my deepest thanks. Your support has meant so much and warmed me through very cold nights. When I wake up tomorrow the Last Post will be done ... in this blog and in the tent.

But as in camp, it's only ever the signal of a temporary end. This 40 night 'day' is over, but duties and responsibilities go on with the dawn of a new morning. Our relationship with the orphanage continues ... the next team heads out in July; many more will go in the years to come.

With such massive need before us there's no way we can ever do everything ... but we've shown that we can do something.

So we continue to stand watch over them ... to protect, care and bear our duty to make the lives of at least some of the world's unfortunates a little more fortunate than they might have been.

May the Lord bless them in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bees, caffeine and the need to return ... night 39/40

'Plants lace nectar with drugs to make bees return'

So runs the headline of snippet number one of 'Ten things we didn't know last week' on the BBC News website today. Incredibly it seems that plants have evolved the ability to spike their nectar with drugs like caffeine and nicotine to make them mildly addictive to bees. What it does is create a 'need to return' ... so raises the chance of pollination.

It seems the drugs also increase the bees' memory of the scent ...they even stick out their tongues in anticipation! A need to return.

There must be something that the orphanage produces, too, if the need to return in so many of our team members is anything to go by ... and in me. I've spend wondering-time in my tent on this one. What is it that draws us back so powerfully? I've been to many places in the world, but none other has done this.

I think part of it is sheer scale. There's something quite literally monumental in what Jayaraj is doing, and it's remarkable to be a part of it ... like being part of a great occasion of some kind. But the monumental scale is juxtaposed by the tiny breakable lives of the children living in and on it ...

Then there's something more in the earthy essence of their life, a simplicity that I wrote about in an earlier post ... the inter-wovenness of humanity, nature and elements. I light a fire from time to time ... but I don't live by fire. Not so there. Fire is part of life ... burning rubbish ... giving warmth ... cleansing and purifying fire ...

But scale and simplicity don't give the whole of the answer. There's something, too, about serenity. It's hard to explain, but there's a quietness of spirit and contentedness of heart that's powerfully appealing and so very different to the restlessness and acquisitiveness of our western lives ...

It's a positive quality far from the passivity of defeatism that might be expected in the face of the harsh realities that make up their lives ... and it's a quality I'd love to have more of in myself.

For those plants and bees earlier, the researchers say it's a matter of getting the dose right; leak just the right amount into the nectar to lure them in, but not too much so that the bitter taste puts them off.

I'm not sure the same applies for the orphanage. Scale, simplicity and serenity combine with such potent effect I kind of expect the draw only ever to grow.

So now it's my penultimate night and feelings are mixed. As always, if you'd like to boost our amazing total for making a difference, then please ...


Friday, 15 March 2013

In concert ... night 38/40

I've just come back from a fabulous Spring Concert here at King's. Of all the opportunities my rich life affords me, one of the most thrilling is the chance to watch and hear the extraordinary things our young men and women create.

My heart swells with pride for them all ... face grins with their grins ... eyes catching theirs to offer the momentary message of support and approval.

But it's the concert that makes the evening. 'Concert' ... defined as, 'Agreement in purpose, feeling, or action', or 'Unity achieved by mutual communication of views, ideas, and opinions.' That's the real making of the evening ... boys, girls and staff working in concert.

It's the same concert that plays the music of life so beautifully in India. Without the concert there's just buildings. Vast ... empty ... sterile ...

That's the nursing clinic first door on the left, and school-rooms further down ... but no concert. Add a person ... one precious one ...

She's one of Girija's friends. Full of life, contentment, smiles and fun. Just one player in the orchestra, but vital and the only one like her. Add more ...

Now we're on our way. Character and personality inhabit the concrete and fields and the concert begins to play; 'united in purpose, feeling and action' is how the definition goes ... survival ... gratitude ... hard work. Does that do? Then just add staff ...

Now the concert is fully underway ... girls, boys and staff united in common purpose and agreement for the good of them all - children to take their place in life, staff to play out theirs.

I loved the Spring Concert, and I love this concert of life we have a chance to participate in. It's a concert open to all, not to spectate, but to join as a player. There's no end to the variety of instrument or the way they're played ... as rich a variety as there are people wanting to take part.

These different days are almost over ... my tent life about to give way to the normality of home life once again. It's wet, windy and gloomy outside, but in India the concert plays on, and our part never ends.

If you'd like to join the orchestra then please ...

Thursday, 14 March 2013

In and out the same ... night 37/40

'You're letting the heat out!' the pupils cry.  One look at the open flap of my tent and they just can't help themselves ...

I need it open to dry off the condensation from another freezing night. Minus 7 last night, and a frozen water bottle by my bed. Here's the tent surface in the morning ... a fascinating sudden-freeze of water droplets, not the normal frost ...

I love the way the sun slowly banishes the ice as it marches across the morning sky ... markers for spent nights to the left ... still-to-be-done nights to the right ...

The point I try to expalin to the pupils, though, is that there's just no heat to let out! Left untouched a tent will live at equilibrium with the outside. In and out the same.

That idea ... in and out the same ... is something Jayaraj takes seriously in India too. He's not content to give all he can to those who have the gift of being on the inside. He tries to make in and out the same ... taking as much of the love and provision inside the orphanage to those on the outside too.

Every time I'm there I have the undiluted privilege of accompanying Jayaraj on Sundays to the churches he supports with salaries for the Pastors, and with food and gifts for the congregations. I'm ever prepared for the invitation to sing a song or say a word ... or as last time to take bread and wine down the lines of life-weary men and women on their knees.

I can't express to you my sense of unworthiness as grateful hands opened before them to receive ... to eat ... to drink ...

Afterwards we gathered above in another church-sized room where hot food was served and happy faces were fed. These two ... mother and daughter ... had tried to catch my eye and make me laugh the entire service below as I told of my own walk from outside to inside the Lord's family ...

In and out the same ... that's Jayaraj's longing. But he know's his power to effect change is supremely on the inside. Nevertheless, he'll go on taking his endlessly-energised love to all he can reach on the outside too ... an everyday effort to make in and out the same.

If you're yet to do so, please do join in and ...


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Elephants in the camp ... night 36/40

It is India ... and there are animals the like of which we'd never encounter here at home. That's why Jayaraj feared for my life in the tent, asking if I was safe from 'snakes, fire and rain.'

On their first night at the orphanage the latest team watched a man race in to the compound with a spitting cobra wrapped round his arm ... head gripped vice-like in a reassuringly experienced hand. The writhing slowed until finally the creature hung as straight as a rod, deadly fangs dripping poison in the open mouth above.

So I wasn't too surprised at Jayaraj's email this morning about elephants in the camp. Here's the article from The Times of India ...

Six extremely dangerous beasts on the rampage for food after poor rains left their forest home short of the fodder they need. They crushed homes to raid food from kitchens as owners lay still-as-a-board so as not to be seen. Behind the herd you can see the blue roof of the new dining hall our team made so beautiful and that I wrote about in 'Reverse Entropy' on night 18/40. They loped into the orphanage itself and rested where the new church is being built.

It's a little insight into life so different to our own. Never will elephants rampage past my tent ... even if sometimes it sounds like they do. Never need I worry about a two-fanged bite that could spell the end of my days. But Jayaraj worries.

So he's building a wall. A wall to keep the dangers out. Snakes can't scale it and elephants won't crash through it. Monkeys can swing over it, but they don't bring the same danger ...

Soon there won't be a chance for elephants in the camp, and another peril will have gone from the little ones' lives. The job is endless, and the perils countless ... we're on our way and so much has been done.  I doubt, thought, that there'll ever be an end to navigating through danger, or an arrival at completely safe harbour.

So we voyage along with them, and pit our all alongside Jayaraj and his team for the safety of the children through whatever each day brings.

If you'd like to give to that end, then please ...

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Body soul and all ... night 35/40

One thing I try to speak into every day here at King's is the message our pupils hear that they're only the sum total of their physical existence. 'Materialism' is the technical term, and many are those who swallow it. Championed by popular science celebrities, the idea is that the feeling we're anything more is nothing than that ... a feeling, and an illusory one at that.

What we often don't realise is just how parochial a view that is in world terms, let alone how opposed it is by many from the very same sciences these proponents of the 'New Atheism' tell us they represent.

I'd love to write on about it, but instead let's relocate 5,100 miles to the orphanage to see things another way. Take these two smilers ... Rebecca on the right and friend ...

What do we see? Flesh, blood and bone ... or something so much more? Whatever we see, Jayaraj sees all that they are and ascribes value to them accordingly. God's creation ... body, mind and soul bound up in physical, psychological and spiritual unity ...

There, open-mouthed shout-aloud joy like in this little one is always only an outer expression of something far deeper at the core of a little boy or girl's soul. That's how Jayaraj sees his children. And so he provides for the whole person in them. Food for the body, yes, but also food for the soul. Clothing for the body, yes, but also clothing for the soul ... robed anew on the outside ... robed anew on the inside too.

So it is that we witness a spiritual work alongside a material work ... the children pray and feed and grow in spiritual roots and stability with such a deep understanding of the fullness of who they are under God ...

I sometimes hear the claim that attending to the spiritual in children is little less than brainwashing. Let the children decide for themselves. But is there really such a thing as unbiased education? Are we any different in our schools but just with the opposite message? Even teaching a 'pick your own way because anything goes' Post-Modernism is proposing a very particular world view. We can't escape a message of a kind.

For me, I'm four-square with Jayaraj. Whatever doubts I may have, I long to see the children brought up as everything possible they are and can be ... body soul and all.

So as they pray for us, I'll pray for them in all their wholeness ... the 'Gestalt' ... the essence or full form of who they are.

Only 6 nights to go and almost £13,000 given by so many generous followers. I wonder if a final £15,000 might be reached from this little tent on the grass by the time night 40 is done? If now's the moment then please ...

Monday, 11 March 2013

Sodden air ... night 34/40

Of all the things that make cold-tent-living that little bit more uncomfortable than it might be, this was one I'd never have guessed in advance.

We're into our next cold spell with winds pouring in from the Urals taking my tent-time temperature well below freezing once again. There's the business of keeping warm, and the noise of the wind through the tent, but I hadn't bargained on the sodden air.

The thing is, my lovely warm lungs vent moisture-ladened air into my freezing tent ... so it condenses on contact ...

It's a bad image, but you can see the sodden air. What that means in practical terms is that the battle for warmth is compounded by an increasing sddenness of the sleeping bag anywhere near where I breathe. Now that's something I hadn't expected.

Sodden air, though, is more familiar. There are three seasons at the orphanage ... hot and wet ... just hot ... and just very hot. But at the end of the hot and wet phase, when the heat is building and the rains are still coming, the children get to have sodden air ...

You can almost feel the wetness ... swim in it. So much water just hanging in the air. The children are used to it ... but us westerners struggle intensely with the clinging shirts and the damp heat rashes it brings.

I've never seen this kind of sight at home in England ... at least not from the heat. I see it in the cold fog of a Somerset morning, or the day long mist in the micro-climate of Bruton, but never the titanic clash of extreme heat and torrents of rain.

It's just one of the countless surprises that make life in India for me and our teams so very fascinating and different to home.  Our fascination ... but their normality.

As I tackle the sodden air in the tent tonight I'll remember the similar but oh-so-different sodden air that spells life for the childrens' lungs ...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Life on the lines ... night 33/40

Life in my tent isn't far from life on the line. If I could hover above it and head 150m south I'd be looking down on the line ... London Paddington to Truro. It's a life-line for West country workers in the city and an artery connecting King's to the wider world.

For the millions of orphans and street kids in India it's one place that becomes home to so many of them ... life on the lines ...

It's not so much home as a network of homes. Homes that come and go ... carriage homes that snake and weave across the country ... public homes that carry the children on journeys through all India.

But it's not the journey they need ... it's the life-line it offers. It's by journeying that they find a place to sleep, people to beg from, and all too often to steal from as well. They don't want to steal, it's just that their abandoned self finds no other way to provide.

So it's on the trains, too, that our lives cross. Our journey to the orphanage involves a 6 hour leg from Chennai by train. And there we see them. They can hop from the bushes as we glide slowly by ...

There are chains on sale in the station ... chains to lock our luggage to our seats so the children can't snatch them away. I sometimes want to chain myself to the seat instead so there's no chance of catching them if they do. Their need for my things has got to be so much greater than my own.

Well as I head into night 33/40 the snow's falling again and the temperature is set to plumb -4 this week. I enjoyed the happy respite, but there's something fitting about heading to the finish with the same shivers I lived with as the journey began.

As I lie here tonight I'll remember the familiar Chennai-to-Salem leg, and when I hear the Paddington-to-Truro 'home' speed comfortably past Bruton I'll think of the children and their life on the lines.

If you'd like to donate to keep children off the lines, please ...

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Live radio and deadly roads ... night 32/40

What a day it's been. All excited, I headed off to Taunton for a live appearance on BBC Radio Somerset's Saturday Morning show ... you can find the link below.

Listening to the previous presenter along the way I heard the tragic news of a fatal car accident on the M5 ... a young lad of 20 or so ... vibrant life in the morning now perished by the road.

It took me straight back to the streets of Salem and to the rule-free roads that are such a shock to western habits and which could claim the future days of any of our boys and girls with cruelly uncalculated ease.

But they have such fun on and around those roads ... journeys like never before ... nodding-off in the rocking cradle of their seats ... Guiness World Record numbers in such small spaces ...

Then there's the children who need to go to-and-fro between the schools in the Promised Land and the main offices in Salem. For them, buses lie in wait in in the courtyard like giant fingers of lemon cake ...

Others need to head home after a fee-paying day in one of Jayaraj's on-site Colleges.

But all of them face the dangers of roads with no rules and driving with no fear. Indeed, it wasn't too long ago that Neeva, Jayaraj's daughter, was struck on the roads and providentially survived without injury.

So while I sat relaxed on live radio this morning, elsewhere a family was facing news they never wanted to hear. It's reminded me of the importance of praying hard for team safety on the roads in India, and pressing home the urgent need for wise choices in all things transport.

You can hear today's BBC Radio Somerset interview on the link below.  It starts at 20mins 15secs into the programme and ends at 50mins with a couple of musical breaks included ...

On-going thanks to all of you who are making our time less demanding and our daily loves more encouraging.

Link to BBC Radio Somerset Emma Britton Show

Friday, 8 March 2013

Fall-away ground ... night 31/40

We're at the end of an annual wonder here at King's. I remember David Attenborough's 'Nature's Great Events' and I suppose there's something of a similarity ... only our version is so much greater because it's about great events beyond nature ...

I'm thinking of our Lenten Addresses. For three days in my 40 nights we invite a main speaker and a team of helpers into King's to encourage the boys, girls and staff to step out further in their thinking about God, and his Son Jesus Christ.

As has become typical, probably 80-90 have gathered these last three nights to step out in their thinking.  Then, tonight, a considered few chose to step out in new faith too.

For those who did, there's no doubt a feeling of stepping out precariously onto new ground that seems unfamiliar and unsure ... kind of fall-away ground that feels like it offers little early security.

There must be an element of equivalence to the new life a new child at the orphanage steps out onto. Is it safe ... will it last ... can I count on it for the security and hope I so desperately need to know is certain for my future?

But as over there, only infinitely more so, the ground soon catches up from behind the stepping out.  What was unsure becomes sure as God's gift of faith cements the gaps and firm ground advances into each new life ...

So fall-away ground becomes hold-you-up ground and each new future takes on a certainty and confidence that only this stepping out can bring.

It's a tremendous privilege to witness God at work in lives so powerfully and enduringly. I see it in so many of the children in India ... lives affected so profoundly and with such deep conviction ... and I see the same thing here.

My prayer in my tent this evening is for those who have stepped out in faith tonight ... that the fall-away ground feeling would last only a moment and that the Lord would cement under them a floor to last a lifetime.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Outsiders inside ... night 30/40

Well it's night 30 of 40 ... that's got a good ring to it. I prefer it to 'three-quarters' somehow. Same ratio, but one just sounds more!

I'm thinking about 'outsiders inside' this evening, but having waxed lyrical about the glories of monochrome last night I feel the need to start hard and fast with an extraordinary hit of technicolour ... just for the sake of it!

Black and white has it's place, but hands together for a double-ristretto of the full rainbow too!

I'm welcoming outsiders inside here at King's this week, and it's a real insight into another aspect of our relationship with the children at the orphanage. Everything changes. It's our 2013 Lenten Addresses and whilst I know normality is chugging along in the background, for this short three days there's a completely different experience of life ... different encounters, different priorities, different agendas, different pressures ...

It must be the same in India too when we pitch up to share their lives for a time. Everything changes. Normality chuggs along in the background ... school, homework, prayers, play ... but suddenly there's a world of difference too.

People and places become conjoined in unfamiliar ways so that the children find themselves where they wouldn't normally be doing things they wouldn't normally do ...

It's because of the outsiders inside. I'm only ever there for a week or so, but even our teams wouldn't claim to be insiders after just two months. If they were, then normality would demand back it's rights over change. As it is, even over such a time they keep the novelty of outsiders and all that means for the children who live alongside.

But something magical happens when they leave. These outsiders inside become insiders outside. Different when they're there ... different when they're home.

Thank you to all who are reading through the thoughts of my nights ... for becoming insiders outside in your commitment to make a difference to the 700 we serve.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Black & white ... night 29/40

It's quite a slur normally ... to be told you only see things in black and white.

The suggestion is that there's a shallowness to you; an inability to spot and appreciate the nuances of the situation ... the subtleties and complexities that a more mature appreciation would allow access to.

But then again, black and white can be a fantastic way of seeing things ...

In a remarkable way the removal of the complexities of colour seem to offer us a far purer view of life and character at the orphanage. We lose the distraction of all those competing tones, and instead have simplicity of form, flow and contrast. Somehow it removes barriers and ushers us in to the uncluttered self in the frame.
Actually, 'black and white' as a name is a bit of a misconception. 'Monochrome' is better because it says what there really is in the image ... just many shades of one colour not two ...
And maybe there's benefit in black and white for you, me and the orphanage as well? If I examine my own heart I think I find that it's in the black and white of the situation in India that I find the most compelling call for personal action. It forces me to see the stark reality of how things really are.
It's in the undergrowth of the subtleties, complexities and nuances of the situation that my excuses find their camouflage and cover. Strip all that away and they're exposed for what they are in the light and pure truth of the real lives these children have endured.
So let's see things in black and white from time to time, and allow the infinite shades of monochrome in these precious little ones lay bare anything in us that would deny their call upon our lives to walk with them, if only a few steps, into a future we have the power to improve ...
If black and white inspires you to take this moment for a few steps, then please ...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Liquid gold ... night 28/40

$1570 per ounce ... desired ... worn ... loved. King's and Queens are draped in it, and husbands and wives seal their love with it. It's value trades the same the world over ... it encircles fingers, pierces ears and festoons necks in every community in every land. None more than India! Gold.

But there's another 'gold', a liquid gold that has even greater universal place and appeal. It, too, graces the courts of King's and Queens, but unlike solid gold is found in no less measure on the tables of commoners and paupers ... and orphans.

Water ... liquid gold! No mere material commodity; living necessity! It's a funny thing, water. It's incalculably precious and without it we die; but it's also a toy, to be thrown and thrown into. The children just love it ...

The same rainy-season rushing rivers bring life to young crops and laughter to young boys ...

But it's drinking water that's the real gold. Clear, safe, clean deep from the earth drinking water. And that's where Peria comes in. I mentioned her last night and promised to tell you more. She's a very special person. She can't speak, and can't really learn properly either.

On my first visit to India I met her with all the others. I've kept in touch with them ever since, but not her ... she fell from my view ... never sure why. Her father was the well-digger Jayaraj hired when he first bought the Promised Land site; not a well-digger as you'd know one, and not a well you'd ever imagine.

His first task? To build a home for him and his family. This well would take months to dig. Dynamite ... dig out by hand ... dynamite again ... dig out again. So it went on as a great mouth opened up in the land. Deeper and deeper he went. It had to be so because if water wasn't found the land would be useless for the children. Then it flowed ... potable water ... liquid gold. And so the orphanage took root and grew to what it is today.

The wells still fill for mouths, and the dam now fills for the fields. It's a precious thing beyond all else.

Or is it? Isn't Peria more precious than the water that keeps her alive? This year I found her again. I was told that she still lived nearby so I headed through the trees past the building plot for the new hospital. In the broken light among the goats they now own I saw her again for the first time in 7 years. The same wide eyes ... the same open smile ... the same unhindered excitement as the years melted away. It was magical. Then she was gone ... off with her goats. But I know I'll see her again, and I know she knows too.

So tonight I'll take my water bottle of liquid gold to my tent, give thanks for the access I have to it, and say a prayer for Peria.

If now's your time, here's the link  ...

Monday, 4 March 2013

Me and my goat ... night 27/40

I've written already about how life at the orphanage is such an entwining of humanity with nature. I know some enjoy that here in England ... those who work the land and raise livestock ... but out at The Promised Land it's everyone.

And it's personal too. Not huge farms and vast flocks and herds - not at the orphanage anyway. Just families here and there with a few goats or a few cows to live off and create sustenance for the children.

There's something more in the relationship they share with nature. I know we love our little animals, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but maybe there's something less of the sentimentality in the closeness?

They cuddle them like we would ...

And they have them do really silly things and make animal-fools of themselves like we would too ...

But for them there just seems to be more of a common-sense understanding of how something like this goat fits in ... a connection my consumer-shrouded eyes wouldn't naturally see. It's that entwining of humanity with nature that gives the cuddle and the play a far bigger dimension.

Maybe it's because of a need-fueled appreciation of the value of each creature as part of the children's daily life and survival. I remember once waiting for my morning coffee from Vanitha but it didn't come. Why? Because the cow hadn't finished being milked so the milk hadn't made it to the table. It soon did, and it was udder-warm.

The point is, I never have to wait like that here, so I never have that feeling of being entwined like they do. It makes their lives far more rounded and complete than mine ... even though I have far more stuffed in than they do.

Oh, and the goat above may well belong to Peria's family.  I'll tell you about her soon.

Still thinking about our project dilemma ...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

No turning back ... night 26/40

OK, it's confession time and I'll say it straight. All this could have been done a year ago ... if only I hadn't copped out! The idea was there, discussed with a few friends, practicalities checked, ready to go.

But it didn't happen.

Why not? That nagging fear that once begun there's no turning back. Fine, the first few days would be different ... interesting ... novel ... but 40 and no turning back? It was my worry this time, too, but the encouragement from friends was stronger!

Out in India there's no turning back either ...

There's a bonding that takes place ... maybe not in everyone but certainly in most ... which goes so deep because shallow isn't on offer from the children who ache for so much more. Teams leave, but that bond remains.

I was overjoyed yesterday to bump into Jamie, one of our very first team members back in 2008. I told him again how grateful I was for how he gave himself so completely while he was there. His eyes sparkled as he revelled in the chance to speak again of those days.

Once that relationship is made there's just no turning back. There's a profoundly lasting effect on lives at both ends. Listen to this from Elena on Facebook today. She left the orphanage this week:

'One of the teachers from the orphanage just sent me this message: "Today one girl from 7th grade gave me a chocolate, and I asked her, 'Today is your birthday'? She said, 'No miss, today my uncle birthday'. I asked, 'Who is your uncle'? She said, 'My uncle Sam from King's birthday today, so I give chocolate to everyone.'

And it'll happen when each on the team is remembered by the children they've loved and had to leave for a time. The leaving hurts ... but the bond remains ...

It's that same bond that's grown in me here at King's over the years of privileged contact ... a bond that finds it's way from those who've gone to those who may yet go. Only today I had an email from a mother of a past team member who now wants to go where her daughter went before and serve as she once served. Bond from bond.

On a separate note, I've heard from Jayaraj about the cost of that new and extra project needing doing - and it's put me in a dilemma. More about that tomorrow. There's another night to do first, hopefully warmer than the last one ... although there's a glimpse of beauty in the glint of ice and the orange glow ...

Thank you for travelling along this night-time road with me; thank you to new donors; thank you to you who are praying ... for this end and for India; and thank you to those yet to join in.

If you'd like to now, then please ...


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Water, power, food, sleep ... night 25/40

Well I promised last night that I'd get some details to you about priority work needing to be done out at the orphanage that our funds can now make a reality, so here we go ... watched over by the children soon to benefit ...

The main needs fall into four areas ... water, power, food and sleep.

Water: The installation of two commercial-capacity reverse osmosis water purification systems for the boys' and girls' hostels. These will deliver plenty of clean cool water for all the dry mouths that need it. (£3000)

Power: The extension of underground cabling from the main back-up generator to the boys hostel and new dining hall. As Jayaraj, founder of the orphanage writes, "Boys really suffer lack of electricity during nightly power cuts." The power cuts out predictably every night and currently the boys have to re-site to other areas of the campus that are covered by the back-up. (£1300)

Food: The construction of a building to house the new steam cooking equipment, and the installation of this modern cooking system and pipework. This will mean safer cooking and a more healthy variety of food. It also means the new dining hall, recently decorated by our latest team, could become fully functional and fill like it did for the celebration meal taken there when the painting was done. (£3000)

Sleep: Jayaraj tells me, "A cot (bed) is something that kids will enjoy having for themselves. All the kids would have never slept in a cot with a mattress on. This will be a great blessing to them ...". We aim to provide 50 double beds & mattresses, plus sheets and pillows for 4 small children per large steel bed. (£5000) 

That makes roughly £12,500 ...

BUT ... if we could go on climbing higher with funds from others still wanting to join in, there's a new and significant need ...

A change in Government regulations means that a new bathroom block must be built nearer the boys' hostel. I hope to receive costings from Jayaraj soon. This could be done from funds already raised, but then one or more of the hoped-for projects above would need to be left undone.

I wonder if we could use the momentum of this Lent in a Tent to sling-shot beyond where we are now, and on to a new bathroom block too?  Possible? I'd say it is.

If you'd like to make this your moment to join in, then please ...

Friday, 1 March 2013

Smoke without fire? ... night 24/40

I'm feeling nervous, but it might just be smoke without fire.

We've all been watching with such excitement as the funds have flowed into the India account ... we've been talking about just how far they'll go and what a difference they'll make. All most defintely true.

But here's what's happened. After only night 22/40, far quicker than I'd ever imagined, we hit the target I'd assumed was a stretch goal for the full 40 nights! That's down to you. More generous donors have acted since, but the rate has sunk dramatically with that breaking news. Actually, the following day was the first day since I entered the tent that no donations appeared.

Don't get me wrong ... I'm not claiming a 'right to receive' on behalf of the children. there really is no such right. It's just that I fear there might be a feeling of 'job done'. Is that fire of truth or just smoke without fire?

The real truth is that there's so much more we could do if we only grasp this moment to do it. 17 more nights and I strike camp and head home. Until then I stay out, stay cold and stay hoping. I'm worried, though, that there are plenty of supporters who sincerely intended to join in but now think the need has gone ... target reached ... job done.

I've been talking with Jayaraj today about his greatest desires for the orphanage right now. I'll give you details and costings tomorrow. The thing is, I really think we could take his whole list and say, 'Jayaraj, consider it done'.  But not if we see our job as done. We're waiting on a couple of final costings, but I'm thinking the total will come in somewhere between £15-20,000. That's far beyond my original target, but you've already shown me how wrong I can be!

Over the remaining 17 nights could it be that many more put their stake in the ground ... mark their intent to become part of a remarkable moment of provision that the children will benefit from and talk about for many years to come?

My hope and prayer is that this is just smoke without fire. I was wrong at the start and I'm probably wrong now! To be honest, though, I don't think I'd ever embrace my own error as much as today ...

To prove me wrong please just click here to make a donation

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Collective anonymity ... night 23/40

'Namelessness' is how it's defined. Anonymity. 'The quality or state of being unknown or unacknowledged.' Anon.

It's a name that many have adopted for themselves as they've visited my electronic home to make a donation to the children. There'll be many reasons for the adoption, and many reasons for not, but in a very real way every flesh and blood character behind every name will share a new anonymity as the funds so generously given are fired to India in a few weeks time.

I've talked already about our own blindness to the plight of the countless invisible ones of the world, as if their need-scarred beauty in some way inoculates our vision ...

But from their end, the children at the orphanage have no way of seeing the faces and lives of the 120 who currently stand side by side on the team of 'Lent in a Tent' donors and from whom the £10,500 now raised has flowed.

To the children there's a collective anonymity about us. Every generous heart is an anonymous heart, unless more happens to create a broader crossing of lives. But there's treasure in the anonymity. I've heard them speak of it ... marvel at it ... and pray thanks for it.

The point is, for the children our gift arrives as nothing other than simple committed love - 'agape' love as the Bible calls it. No opportunity for reward; no chance of thanks; no favouring of the friend - just giving to those in need whoever they may be.

And so all you generous hearts are anonymous to the children who pray thanks for you. Anonymous by name ... but known as 'givers' ... to them you're synonymous with the gift you've given. It's somehow best that way; the 'anon' allowing them to 'move on'.

For them, their lives are enriched through this plan that has brought us all together for a time. We may be anonymous to them but their lives are bound together in new-family-love and joy in the dream come true of new friendship ...

'Dream come true' has relevance here in Somerset too. Our smashing of the ten thousand target is cause for unfettered gratitude, but also for redoubled efforts for the second half in the tent. Striking target does no mean striking tent!

We keep going, as I wrote last night, and who knows where this bunch of anonymous-to-the-orphans good hearts may take our total? If you'd like to ...

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A ledge not a plateau ... night 22/40

Today is a momentous day!

Soon after breakfast we shattered our target £10,000 ... then the donations just kept on climbing. There's a palpable feeling of people wanting to be a part of what will now certainly be a real change-making gift to the orphanage. All you donors are change-makers ... let's not under-estimate the power of generosity in unity.

The vital thing, though, is for the effort to continue. My 40 days will go on and in my mind the target was always more of a ledge than a plateau ... a place to pause; to look back at the route that took us here; to look out at the view from where we are; to breathe a very contented sigh of gratitude, then reach up for the next hand-hold and continue the climb.

There will be a plateau one day, a place where the climb will end as we stand on the summit of this endeavour, but only after the 40 nights are over ... it's climbing all the way until then.

It's like the buildings at the orphanage I mentioned in 'Straining Iron' on evening 12/40. They, like us, only ever seem to pause for breath before going about climbing higher - each floor more of a ledge than a plateau ...

Every year I go Jayaraj reminds me of the height of last year, before we head for the stairs and keep on climbing. From the top the buildings stretch out like the flight decks of vast carrier convoys deep in a sea of palms ... each deck surely long enough to land on. The teams land happily on them every year and the vast spaces become a regular haunt for the biggest screen showings of natural beauty they've ever seen.

On the way up glassless windows offer flashes of expected and unexpected colours along the way. Greens? Of course, it's India and we're in the country ... but the purple? It's like this nation does with colour like no other nation would dare ... even in its sky ...

And so we pause on our ledge. The achievement we've accomplished so far is quite fantastic. But it is only a ledge. We're not going down, so the only way is up. I'm looking forward to tonight's thoughts as I gaze up with Petzl at net. If that means nothing then scroll down to 'Return of the Petzl ... after 11/40' and have a quick read about the trio that can conquer anything!

Oh ... and I took a bit of time the other night to give you a different take on my view from the tent. This one looks back across the remaining stakes in the ground to the Chaplaincy where the best job in the world has its home. I've boosted the exposure to give you a better view ...

So, a momentous day, but a ledge not a plateau. We're quite a team, you followers and I! Fancy continuing the climb ... ?