Saturday, February 28, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire, Orphans First -- & Me!

Well, well, well . . . I’m barely back from a deeply soul-searching retreat in the Colorado mountains—where my life in France, Italy, England, Africa, India was a relevant discussion point—and I see flashbacks of my days in India in the award-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. (Btw, this picture is not from the movie, but is an actual street child I’ve worked with in India.)

No, I was never on Millionaire (not that smart!). And I wasn’t born in a slum (although parts of my native London are close). But I have visited India several times. (In fact, Orphans First has an orphanage there with some ninety children.) And I have been to Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay). It was in Mumbai, more than a decade ago, that God allowed me to help start a children’s home. More on that later. For now, let’s focus on the film.

Slumdog Millionaire is about orphans, corruption, exploitation of the poor and defenseless, and cruelty to the innocent. It is a story of extreme suffering, love and beauty. The real India—and India’s beautiful victims enslaved to the harsh hand of poverty.

Slumdog Millionaire reminds me a little of Pursuit of Happyness, Blood Diamond, or City of Joy inasmuch as its suspense-driven plot is more nerve-wracking than entertaining. I spent most of the movie riveted to my chair, gripping my husband’s arm and feeling sick. (Not what you’d usually opt for after a retreat—but no doubt what I needed to remind me why I’m here.)

Still, in spite of the reality shock about what life in India is really like, the story line is brilliant, with unexpected twists, and exquisite artistry. But beyond art and plot--even Oscars--lies a far greater kinship between Slumdog and me. For me, it stung me to the core because I know children in India—children like Jamal, Salim, Latika, Arvind. I’ve hugged children who lived in Mumbai’s slums or at the train station. The pain they’ve borne has given them an unusual perspective.

Mani lived in the streets. He used to tell me, “Mummy, it’s not that I lost the toy you gave me, it’s that they stole it from in the streets.” Ganesh had only one leg because he got hit by a train: We bought him a prosthesis, but somehow it never seemed to feel comfortable for him. And Vijay--beloved Vijay who fought back tears the day I left, his face so worn with worry and stress that he looked like an old man. Vijay hugged me so hard, I felt as if he was trying to keep me with him forever. How I wish I could have kept him. I will never forget those children (now young adults).

I met many of these children In 1996, during a visit to my orphanage in Guntur, India. We went with a team of friends from France, and spent some time with the street children of Mumbai. It was there and then that the seed for a children’s home was planted. Orphans First began funding the upkeep of 20 street children, providing food, school (thanks to two saintly women), and church life. This initiative was catalyst to the founding of a home which then became an independent entity – no longer needing Orphans First funding. It was a miracle. However, because life in India is so precarious, most of the original children we’d worked with ended up back in the streets—something which has kept my heart broken ever since. Still, a home was established and we’ve been able to do more in India since.

With regards to India, Orphans First has its largest children’s home in Guntur and helps poor children in Delhi—and, of course, in many other countries. Check out the Orphans First updates.

India, land of dreams and demons,
Of poverty, despair and misplaced hope,
Yet land of beauty,
Simplicity of survival,
Humbled humility,
Land of squalor, shame, scum and slums,
Disguised diamonds,
Born in muck,
Cut and carved by pain’s sharp tool,
Fashioned by destiny’s cruelty,
Slumdog millionaires!
Oh, not because of money—
but because of heart.
Because of the heart of the One who died for them.
His name is Jesus.

Janey L. DeMeo M.A. © Copyright March 2009 /

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Beauty of Zits

Used to hate having zits when I was a kid. But today, when the unexpected happened—a festering ziteroo planted on my not-very-teenage face—I got to thinking. (It sometimes takes something drastic like that for the thinking genes to kick in.) Some little bothersome things can actually turn into blessings—way later on, of course.

I mean, think of school. All that homework, peer pressure and misery. But now I have a Masters degree, and can spell (which is more than I can say for kids leaving school nowadays). It was worth it.

Or, take kids. They’re adorable little blessings. And then they grow up to be . . . Ok, maybe we won’t take kids. Poor example here!

But let’s take flowers. You put in lots of effort to plant them, and then voilĂ —they bloom. Moral of story? Dah! That it’s worth planting flowers of course.

Now, let’s go back to zits (oh, puleeeeeeeeeeez, do we have to?!). Thing is, although I struggled as a teen, trying to cover those wee facial monsters, today I’m thankful for those over-active oil glands. Y’see, most people can’t guess my age. They perceive me to be younger than I am (well, for 102, I really don’t look so bad do I?) That very oil that clogged up the pores now keeps the skin moist and youthful (relatively speaking, that is!)

So, should I be mad I had zits as a self-conscious teen? Or glad I’m now ancient and look less ancient?

I don’t know. But this one thing I do know: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NKJV).

Let’s look beyond today’s zits and into the beauty of eternity awaiting us. (The way it’ll pan out really does depend on how we live our lives today. Saved by grace, but given a chance to be conformed to Jesus by doing the works He’s set before us—Eph.2:10).

Janey L. DeMeo M.A. © February 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grammies -- music & the arts

Dunno if you watched the Grammies this week, but I got a glimpse. Delightful—for the most part. (Sadly, there were some agenda-loaded comments applauding ungodly practices, but that’s life today.)

Did you ever consider how diverse music styles can be, yet there’s a common thread in its structure? It’s almost as if God allows us to have “almost” possibilities in creating melodies, tunes, sounds—but they are capped by our human limitations. It sure makes you wonder what the music will be like in Heaven.

Another thing about music, like dance and other art forms (I’m a huge fan of all the arts), is that the arts provide a beautiful vehicle for people to express themselves, and sometimes find healing. The arts especially provide a valuable tool we often use to minister to children.

As someone who grew up in an artistic family, and as a vocalist and fan of many types of music, I was especially intrigued by some of the music combinations. Whoever would have thought Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin fame would sing with bluegrass virtuoso, Alison Kraus? Fascinating sound. Not sure where Plant plucks all those lyrics from, but I get a hunch, he’s seeking.

ColdPlay, good ol’ Brits like me, have a great sound. Now if I could just get those words . . . something about a “missionary”?

Of course, some songs typically depicted today’s liberal society, which is beginning to make Sodom & Gomorrah look like Disneyland. (Ok, some of you might find this metaphor a bit of an oxymoron, so think Disneyland as it was originally meant to be.)

Music is a language, a form of communication, a God-given gift. If only this gift could be used entirely to glorify the One who gave it. Now that would really change lives.

Janey L. DeMeo
February 2009 © Copyright /

Monday, February 02, 2009

Octuplets & Ethics –when is enough enough?

A woman not far from where I live recently gave birth to octuplets—8 babies. Of course, this wasn’t a natural incident (it never is) but, rather, it was the result of fertilization treatment—artificial insemination. No one loves babies more than me, but I find this situation extremely troubling for many reasons—not the least of which is that the woman already has 6 babies (the oldest being only 7-years-old).

Not only does the woman now have 14 babies (6 + 8 = 14), but she isn’t married. And she lives with her parents—who just happen to have claimed bankruptcy, and who are exhausted. The parent's home has only three bedrooms. All the children this woman has ever conceived were through fertilization treatment. Isn't that pushing natural limits and playing God? Tragic--especially since there are so many children needing homes!

The woman’s mother said that her daughter just loves children. So? Many people love children (me, for one). So, why not work at a Daycare? Or foster needy kids? Why jeopardize the lives of the six precious children she already had before tampering with nature to satisfy some kind of need? Babies should not be brought into this world to satisfy our need. (More on this in my parenting book, Heaven Help Me Raise These Children!).

What troubles me is why didn’t anyone ever look into the woman’s background? Did the doctors involved in her insemination know she already had 6 children and no husband? Shame on them if they didn’t know. And greater shame if they knew and still proceeded.

In most cases of artificial fertilization or insemination, 3 or 4 eggs maximum are implanted. Rarely do all of them “take.” Still, they might, so that’s why the count is limited. In this case, 8 were planted. And 8 took. The age limit to receive such treatment is 35. This woman is 33. Seems like borders were pushed to the limit and the old philosophy “ignorance is bliss” reigned over reason.

Ignorance ain’t bliss folks. No way. Knowledge—combined with a sense of ethics—might have saved a lot of hardship. (I pray these children won’t face hardship, but realistically . . .).

Read an article on this subject here. (I added this article link in on Feb.12th -- since it adds more details than when I first wrote this post.)

I wonder what will happen to those precious 14 babies now? I wonder who’ll feed them, bathe them, hug them, help them with their homework, challenge them to make wise choices in life . . . I wonder if they’ll be kept together or if some will end up in foster homes. Precious, innocent lives.

Let’s pray for this woman and her babies—and the grandparents who have now landed so much more than they expected—that God’s will be done for all. Let’s pray also that the medical field wakes up to ethics and reason and stops playing “god” because of their greed for money.

Janey L. DeMeo M.A.
Copyright © February 2009