06 Oct Auntie’s Story – Photographing for Orphan Outreach in Manali India – Capturing Grace on a 16 flight, 5 week journey throughout Asia
Photographing for Orphan Outreach in Manali India – Capturing Grace on a 16 flight, 5 week journey throughout Asia
“If Hebrews 11 were rewritten, it would include Auntie”. These were the words I was told prior to my journey to Manali India. Situated in northern India’s Himalayan mountains, Manali is tucked in between the borders of Pakistan and Nepal, Aunty’s House of Grace is aptly named.
I’ve never felt closer to heaven then when I heard the voices of 180 children, singing hyms as the sun rose over the mountains. These are the children who call House of Grace their home.
Thirty years ago, 48 year old Aunty was called by God to flee religious persecution in Kashmir for the safe haven they now enjoy in Manali India. With no money and 39 precious children under her wing, this strong women of God survived repeated attacks on her life, and theirs, to journey with her children to safety. Buddhist extremist made attempts to capture the children repeatedly and bring them back but God had other plans for their lives.
The hours of interviews I recorded of Aunty sharing the stories from her journey of faith would take a book to tell, a movie would be amazing.
During my three days at House of Grace I photographed, hugged, played with, hiked with and felt generous love from children who are living evidence of Aunty’s life calling.
In seperate posts to come, I will tell stories of the Children Aunty has risked her life for, rescuing them from lives of pain and desperation, introducing them to the love of Christ.
During my time here in Manali I photograoghically captured all 180 children and staff, hiked into the limited access, 9000’ elevation remote village of Malana with 78 year old Aunty who lives out my theory that “there is nothing to hard, just things we try to do to fast”.
Aunty has turned over the day to day operations of House Of Grace to Joy, one of Auntie’s graduates and success stories. Aunty still lives in her little cottage at House of Grace and is a strong presence. Her recent endeavors have been focused on reaching out to the Malana community high up in the Himalayas. This is a community of hard workers, mainly shepherds with a little unusual twist. Marijuana grows wild here in the mountains of Malana and many are coming to buy what is now considered the highest quality Marijuana found in the world. it is reffered to as “Marijuana cream”. This has impacted the villagers of Malana with a newfound but illegal source of income.
Aunty is striving to bring the love of Christ to this village in the form of providing alternate sources of income, setting them up with a sewing shop has been one of those endeavors. Some of the children at House of Grace came from this village as well. It was our trip to Malana that is the focus of the photographs you see in this post.
I love Aunty and her heart for these children, and I hope these photographs and the stories I’ll be sharing will allow you to feel the love I experienced in these mountains.
After my time with Aunty I stand in awe of an almighty God who is as real and personal as the precious people here at House of Grace who have a special place in my heart.
[My Notes for this story – I don’t even know where to start, many of these photographs represent individual stories that I look forward to telling but I simply could not wait till I got back to the US to post what you see here.
Just know, this post was accomplished on a bouncing 7 hour taxi through the mountains and multiple planes and trains taking me to Kolkata, Pakur, Varanasi and where I am now in Jodhpur. The process involved reflecting on two hours of interviews with Auntie, in her cottage between dozing off and on while sipping spicy Masala tea, and on the mountain roads to and from Malana.
Fortunately, my recorder was always on, so the cottage snoozing was a pleasant way to process her lyrical, musical voice as her 78-year-old brain recalled story after story, miracle after miracle, the foundation for Home Of Grace. I literally felt like I was in the presence of an old testament character who God was speaking through.
Then, 797 photographs from our hike to Malena were paired down to 142, paired down to 58 and then the painstaking task of what to illuminate to reach the Facebook required 42.
The photos I went with were from our adventure, journeying high into the Himalayas, hiking into the 9500’ village of Malani. As I shared in this story, the worlds highest quality Marijuana has begun to draw many here to buy it (illegally) and smuggle it out.
Since I lingered in this village with only my interpreter, I was conscious of my vulnerability as I met those on the trail who clearly did not belong. I received more than one stare from guys with mirrored glasses, muscles bulging through their T shirts, while keeping my very expensive and obvious Canon glass and bodies pointed at the ground. They do not want to be photographed. I had instinctively removed the CF and SD camera cards from my 5D camera bodies and and hid them in my clothing so that if they grabbed my equipment I would still have my treasured images.
God is good… I am grateful ❤️]
I invite you to learn more about the ministry that Orphan Outreach supports here in Manali at – http://orphanoutreach.co/countries-we-serve/india/manali.asp