In October 2005 Ken came on-board full-time with Lifeline of Hope as a Childcare Program Facilitator, with responsibility for existing and proposed Lifeline of Hope children's homes in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Africa.
|Ken's first orphanage visit
||at Lifeline's first India home
Lifeline of Hope Childrens Home
The 2005 World Mission Workshop was held on the campus of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.
Go into all the world...
|sunrise, Dandora slum, Nairobi, Kenya
||sunset, Andhra Pradesh, India
It was an excellent opportunity for Ken to compare notes with with Church of Christ missionaries from around the world.
In Ken arrived in India in November to establish a base of operations there and begin inspecting the orphanages there.
|associates Yesudas, Penke and Samrat
feeding center, Vijayawada
It was also the opportunity to begin addressing a pressing issue concerning orphan care in India, which is the tradition that institutional care of children (orphanages) has three distinct stages, based on age. For the first five years, children are not in "orphanages" but "baby care centers". From age five to age twelve, such children are cared for in "orphanages". From age twelve upwards, unless the child is placed in an expensive boarding school, schools generally reserved for the upper 1% of Indian society, the child enters the world of adults. For boys and some girls, this means a menial full-time job. For most girls, this means an early disadvantageous marriage. In order to alleviate these negative outcomes, we began the planning which eventually resulted in the opening of two new homes, one for teenage girls and the other for teenage boys.
There were two orphanages to be visited in the Philippines. Both of them are on Mindanao, but while one is on the northern peninsula of that island, the other is on the southern coast of that island, and overland transportation through the interior of Mindanao is not currently safe, so two separate visits were required. Grace was waiting at the Cebu airport, then together we took the ferry over to Bohol. For the next month we shuttled back and forth across the Bohol Strait, between the various offices where we had business to take care of in Cebu City, and Gracey's hometown of Salvador, Sierra Bullones on Bohol.
|orphans in southern Mindanao
||orphans in northern Mindanao
Just before Christmas Ken flew to General Santos City, commonly called "Gen-San", on the south coast of Mindanao. The first project to be visited was a proposed orphan home in the heart of Gen-San, associated with an ongoing children's welfare center.
The next day, Ken, the program director, and most of his staff set out in a jeepney down the coast road to the remote area where a new orphanage was being built. This was in a purely tribal area.
|path to Tboli village
On the following day Ken flew back to Cebu and took the ferry to rejoin Gracey on Bohol.
After spending Christmas and New Years on Bohol, we were ready to to go to northern Mindanao to visit the orphanage there which Lifeline of Hope was already supporting. We set out across Bohol by van, along with Gracey's mother and brother, and in Jagna (pronounced "haag-nah") took the overnight ferry for Butuan City on Mindanao. The next morning we were met at the dock in Butuan City by members of Gracey's extended family, and together we set out toward Alegria, where we spent the day inspecting the orphanage.
The following day we boarded the ferry for Tagbilaran, and the morning of the day after we were back on Bohol. After a few more days, it was time for Ken to fly back to India.
The optimal way to visit orphanages in a due-diligence verification of their operations is to arrive without warning at or just before dawn on a mid-week morning when school is in session an observe the children as they prepare for the schoolday. Things cannot always be done in the optimal way; circumstances so frequently intrude. It is especially difficult to make a first visit in this manner. Many times it is impossible even to find the home without hours of searching, and sometimes it can only be found with the assistance of the director, making surprise impossible. However, a first visit which fails to achieve surprise does gather enough information about the location of the home and about the local infrastructure (hotels, roads, rail stations) to ensure that the next visit will meet all the optimal criteria.
January to March 2006 was a time to refine these techniques.
|Hindu temples, South India
The sad part was finding that more than half of those Christians who ask for financial support claiming to be caring for orphan children are in fact caring for none.
On a happier note, a young man I had known years
before showed up on a church mission trip to India; when I had last
seen him, he was a teenager, now he was accompanied by two grown
While Gracey traveled between Cebu and Manila, completing her bachelors degree and assembling documents for her visa, Ken was briefly back home in Maryland.
As Ken returned to India from USA, Ken and Gracey met in Manila for Gracey's interview at the American Embassy.
||engagement party, January 2006
After the interview, which went well, Gracey returned to Cebu, and Ken went on to Delhi via Singapore.
Most of the orphanages which apply from India are in Andhra
Pradesh. But this time the orphanage inspections also took Ken
deep into the heart of Tamil Nadu, followed by a trip to Kanatika.
Six orphanages were approved, and three were rejected. In
addition, one director, a well known church leader, was blacklisted for
attempting to bribe Ken's translator.
In June 2006 Gracey's fiancÚ visa to the USA was approved; in August she had her Goodbye Party in Cebu and traveled to Manila.
|One ferry meets another in the Cebu Strait
Ken flew to Manila from Delhi, and together they flew to the USA.
After four and a half years of courtship, Gracey and Ken got married at Westminster Church of Christ on August 26th, 2006.
While working on Gracey's "Green Card" application, and then waiting for it to be approved, Ken and Gracey lived in Westminster, Maryland, with an extended visit to Nashville, Tennessee.
|Centennial Park, Nashville, Tennessee
||Mount Vernon, Virginia
In Nashville plans were made for future works in Sudan.
Sudan, Operation Warm Blanket, Early 2007
In a very short span of time just before Christmas 2006, Lifeline of Hope was able to raise significant contributions for the Darfur refugee children in a camp in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. In January 2007 Ken traveled to Africa and chartered a Russian troop-transport aircraft to deliver several tons of blankets to these children. Lifeline of Hope called this "Operation Warm Blanket".
In late January, Gracey's "Green
card" was finally approved; as soon as Ken returned from Africa, Ken
and Gracey began preparing to return to the field.
We were able to visit fifteen orphan homes in India on this
trip. As before, we found about half of the "orphan homes" to be
empty. Even where there were children, sometimes the number of
children present was woefully short of the number reported. In
some cases, where fault was admitted, orphanage directors were put "on
probation", in other cases, were the directors insisted that we believe
what was patently false, we had to disqualify them from support.
Even where the directors are excellent, these visits have a sort of
happy-sad quality. Happy, because the director cares so much for
the children and works so hard. Sad, because the needs are so
much greater than the director's resources, and there is inadequate
money from America to do all that needs to be done.
Since 2005, we had been working toward the establishment of two orphanages in Sudan, one in Rumbek and one in Kauda.
|Gracey with Darfur refugees
||ECS orphanage workers, Pachong
We were able to visit both locations and meet with the ECS bishops who are overseeing these works.
Ken was invited to speak at the 2007 World mission Workshop at Oklahoma Christian University.
from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the nations
|dawn, Southern Kordofan, Sudan
||dusk, Louisiana, USA
We flew directly from Africa to the workshop.
Upon arriving in Maryland, we were told to "stand down" for the
winter. Cypress Creek Church of Christ in central Louisiana was
looking for an interim preacher while they searched for a permanent
replacement. So just after New Years we flew to Louisiana to
spend the winter.
We were warmly welcomed.
On previous trips to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, the acute need for
mosquito nets to combat malaria and other diseases became
apparent. Lifeline of Hope was able to raise enough money for us
to take a planeload of mosquito nets and medicine for the Darfur
refugee camp in Kauda, and for the people of the Kauda region.
While in Kenya before and after our flight to Kauda, we made due-dilligence visits to several orphanages in Kenya.
This trip to India was focus on documentary videos of several orphanages. In the process of taking the videos, we got to see eery aspect of the daily lives of the children.
We also visited new orphanages, some real, some totally fraudulent.
Upon returning to the Maryland, we hastened to complete Gracey's
application to convert her conditional visa to a full permanent
residence visa. In the process of preparing the application, we
learned that policies have changed which limit the amount of time Grcay
can be out of the USA and still retain her visa. In addition, in
order to apply for US citzenship, Gracey needed more time in
America. So we began exploring how we could be more settled in
the United States.
We soon learned that the pulpit in Cypress Creek had become
vacant again. Within a very short time we had packed everything
we own in a big rented truck and we were on the road to Louisiana.
While Gracey waited in the USA for her permanent residence visa to
be approved, Ken made one more trip to India. Complete surprise
was acheived at the currently funded Lifeline of Hope orphanages visited, and they all passed inspection with flying colors.
|surprise visit, fake orphanage
||surprise visit, real orphanage
Eight new orphanages were visited for Lifeline of Hope;
two were good, the other six were frauds. In addition to these,
two other orphanages supported by Churches of Christ in the USA
were visited, one was real, the other a fake.
The plan was that Ken would preach six months out of each year, and
that we would spend five and a half months each year in the field for Lifeline of Hope.
But this was the year the economy took a nosedive, churches cut back
their giving, and the budget for field inspectors shrank to were it
could not support a permanent full-time position. Accordingly,
our relationship to Lifeline of Hope was changed from employee to contractor.
At first, it looked like we would be back in the field in our new
status within a few months. But then the first quarter financials
came in, and it was clear that no such trips could be financed until
after the annual fund-raising campaign in the fall.
|Cypress Creek Church of Christ
||Evangeline Parish, Louisiana
We still hope to go back into the field for Lifeline of Hope in the near future.
But in the meantime, we are persuing various othe options to serve
God in the mission field. We continue to raise funds for two new
orphanages we hope to start, one in Kenya and the other in the
Philippines. We are available to do due-diligence visits for
churches or church-relates agencies to ministriees which they sponsor
in Asia and Africa. We see several opportunities which may open
up soon, including a literacy project in Sudan.