Kulpahar Kids Home has a special place in our hearts. On our first visit to India in 1975 that took us to Madras (now Chennai) and Damoh we also made a brief trip to Kulpahar. Our Indian friends in Damoh told us if we wanted to see Americans doing missions right we should come here. We came and we were impressed. In those days three intrepid ladies were in charge: Dolly Chitwood, Leah Moshier, and Madonna Burgett. The place was teeming with orphans and day students. Our friends were right. Here was a mission Americans could be proud of. Ten years later we returned for a more extended visit. That one included one of the most exciting motorcycle rides I’ve ever taken. The excitement had nothing to do with the fact I had no idea what I was doing on an Indian bike built on the British system. In other words, everything was backwards!
We returned because by then we were in Mesa with Central Christian Church where we discovered that the first missionary they supported (and continued to support until her death) was Dolly Chitwood. That strengthened our tie to Kulpahar. So we came back in 1985 and have stayed in touch ever since.
Now Linda Stanton (from Central Christian in Mesa) and Sharon Cunningham (who graduated from Hope International University when I was president there) continue the good work.
Kulpahar Kids Home had to stop accepting orphans many years ago but continues as a hostel and school. Almost 100 youngsters live here and just short of 400 are enrolled in the school.
In his comment on the last post Gene Carlson said, “To visit India is to fall in love with her people and leave a piece of your heart behind!” You’re right, Gene. That happened to us before and it’s happening again.
Kulpahar is in Utter Pradesh, North India, one of the country’s less industrialized, least wealthy and most traditional areas. The dominant religion is Hindu, with Muslims the second strongest. The Kids Home enjoys happy relationships with neighbors of other faiths.
Christians constitute a tiny minority here, subject to many governmental regulations. It’s a struggle for the mission to meet all the demands. Finances are always tight, also. Delayed maintenance is the norm because wages for the 135 or so full-time employees (teachers, cooks, maintenance personnel, guards, etc.) come first. The 32-acre campus (it seems bigger) holds 58 buildings differing in size from the large three-story girl’s hostel to the small utility buildings. It’s a big operation. What is most impressive, though, is the loving attention given these children. Since Leah and Dolly arrived in 1946 more than 1000 have been raised here. Some have remained as employees of the Home and are now a vital part of its ongoing operation.
Because of the school’s reputation for excellence in instruction many community Hindu and Muslim families enroll their children as day students.
They know the children will receive Christian instruction (for which they must give permission). Chapel is part of the daily routine. School parents are grateful for these Americans who love and teach their Indian children without social or religious discrimination.
Another bit of inspiration for us is Janeece England. An American widow, Janeece carries on the work she and her husband started a few years ago. She spends months at a time relieving missionaries who return to the states for furlough or emergencies. She’s not replacing either Linda or Sharon on this four-month visit but has joined the team doing library and office work and generally making herself useful. They’d like to keep her permanently; her helpfulness, laughter and positive spirit are infectious. There is one problem with her, though. She makes other retirees here feel a little frivolous. She’s giving herself full-time to her missions work. We, on the other hand, play a lot with only occasional fits of service. Of course, we are a lot older than she is—but that seems a rather feeble excuse!
When we arrived we were greeted not only by old friends, but by their ancient car. This 20-year-old Ambassador is now officially retired from mission work; in fact it’s nearly dead. It’s the duplicate of the Ambassador the mission owned when we first visited over 40 years ago. This venerable brand was the only Indian-built car produced for decades (1958 to 2014). You can still see some on the road, but they belong almost exclusively to politicians and government officials.
People who have a choice drive foreign cars or the Indian-built Maruti Suzuki (complete with heater and air conditioning and power steering!) that has replaced the mission’s Ambassador, now for sale to someone who likes a more mature mode of transportation.
Finally, some of Joy’s first impressions. The next post will have many more. India provides a never-ending feast for the eyes.
We know we can’t do justice as we try to convey something of what we are experiencing in this fascinating place. We’ll take another stab at it in our next post.