Happy New Year!

Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and before we know it, another year has passed by once again. We’ll be putting together a little look back on 2016 in next week’s prayer letter, but for now, here’s what’s happened during the last week leading up to our annual New Year’s celebration.

One fun event involved Eugene, his family, the Nursery Kids and our big John Deere tractor. It was billed as a picnic in the jungle, an event that sounds straight forward enough. But it ended up being an epic adventure complete with challenging obstacles to overcome.

First a trailer was hitched to the tractor and all the kids piled in. It’s a bumpy, rough, uncomfortable way to travel but the children love it. Off through the village the party went until they came to a shallow river.

Getting ready to roll. Ashwani (the old farm boy to the left) paid for the day’s feast, so thanks, Ashwani!

Sheetal, Cynthia and Santoshi, sporting slick matching hair styles for the day’s outing.

Normally, Eugene would just drive easily through such low water, but this day, the ground was surprisingly soft and  both the tractor and the trailer ended up buried deep in the muck. It took more than an hour of heavy lifting, chains, trial and error, and prayer to get free of the trap, but soon the picnic was back on track, heading deep into the jungle, looking for the perfect spot to prepare lunch.

An additional tractor was called in to get the job done.

Many hands working to solve the problem.

In the end, the mud was forgotten, the picnic grounds were found and the cooking fires were lit. There were games, good food, rest and lots of fun. Plus another bumpy, uncomfortable ride home that had the nursery kids squealing with delight.

Eugene, the chef, along with a happy and hungry Amos.

A post dinner relaxation pile with Uncle John.

Time to head home. It was a great day.

This past week was also a chance to work. The roof project up at our school is continuing with truss after truss going into place. But the workers need bricks to complete the job and many of our kids pitched in to help out.

Rick was overseeing the efforts and he enlisted the Small Girls to load a trailer full then hoist them by hand to the roof. After the Small Boys took the better part of the morning to complete the same task, the Small Girls clocked in at exactly one hour. And they did it with a measure of good humor and no fighting, which for Rick was a welcomed relief. Great job, girls!

Bricks go in the trailer, then are lifted to the roof.

Jessica between bricks.

Rosie and Sareena on the brick assembly line. A few boys joined in to help out.

The girls at the end of the job. Dusty but happy.

This time of year is wonderful to see so many returning farm kids, most coming from Delhi where they work, all enjoying home for the holidays. For the older boys, the Christmas/New Years season is a never ending cricket match with occasional motorcycle rides mixed in. For the older girls, it’s a chance to catch up with old friends, relax from their busy lives, and spend time with each other, even if that means helping around the place.

Some of the returning boys in-between matches.
L/R: Casey, Tulsie, Vinod, Solomon, Silas, Vencil, Nirmal, Jesse, Vicky, Donald & John

This scene plays out every day, most of the day. They love cricket!

Catherine and Meena cutting some onions out in the warm sun.

Sheila, Hopie, Dilsara and Gail, enjoying a quiet moment in our empty pool as Sheila’s son, Edwin, plays.

The big effort this week was for the New Year’s celebration. Each year we host lots of visitors, peel mountains of potatoes, prep the dining hall with balloons and decorations, shine up the disco ball and get ready to welcome 2017 in with music, worship and laughter.

This year, we were glad to have Katie’s parents back with us, and Bob led the New Year’s service that saw another full house. The dinner that followed was a loud, joyous event that set the stage for the after-party that went late into the night ending somewhere around 2am. Here are just a few pictures from New Year’s Eve on the farm. We hope your celebration was as full of fun and family as ours was.

Maya prepping potatoes.

Rajesh really wanted to show how he could blow up a balloon with his nose.

Auntie Lucy did amazing work once again with the meal preparations.

Church service with Rick and Katie, mid song.

Job and a cloud of balloons at New Year’s Eve dinner.

Auntie Violet and some of the boys she helped raise.

The girls did the dishes after the feast, the boys will do them tomorrow.

Grandpa and the girls; this is one happy bunch.

A little laser light disco dancing to see the year out.

Once again, we are beyond grateful to God and to all of you for all of our blessings this past year. Each time we think we can not possibly surpass the abundance of projects and creativity and compassion and progress and fun and friendships, we are wonderfully surprised by the time we flip the calendar over on another year.

What will 2017 bring? If the past is any indicator, it will be full of new challenges, new relationships, and new opportunities. Like a ride in the trailer, the road may be bumpy and uncomfortable at times, but together, with God’s grace, we know it will be a ride worth taking.

Have a blessed and HAPPY NEW YEAR!


About the Author:

Clifton is the grandson of Maxton D. Strong the founder of The GSAM. In 2004 at 19 years old he moved out from Australia to India with his parents to continue on his grandfathers work. Today he is working as the Deputy Director of the orphanage and the Chairman of the Maxton Strong School. He is married to Priscilla, a former child of the mission and together they have 3 sons.

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