My name is Nikki and I am living in India and serving at Sarah's Covenant Homes, an orphanage for abandoned children with physical and developmental disabilities. I am a foster mama to 10 sweet children with special needs and they light up my life!

If you feel led, please go HERE and donate to help cover my expenses and keep me here in India with my babies!

*blog names (not their real names) are used online for the kids to protect their privacy

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My India

I love this country.

I love this country so deeply, unlike any other place I have ever been or will ever go.

I love it because my kids are here, but even more than that, God is growing my love for India as a whole.

This country is so full of joy and so full of sorrow.

Sometimes it is hard to process all the thoughts I have about India, about my kids, about this life. And so it's easier to write about day to day things; my kids walking, learning, growing, thriving. It is hard to write about anything deeper.

Like when one of our SCH children die.

Like hearing stories of what life is like for children who live on the street; children that I know and have hugged and have loved.

Like fears of having to do this life alone.

Like looking at old photos of my children, in their lives pre-SCH, and staring into haunted, empty eyes and skeletal bodies.

This is Promise as a little girl, in the orphanage she used to live, and the next photo is Promise earlier this month at her 17th birthday party.

I have a hard time even processing that my girl, the girl God has entrusted to Sarah and Tori and I, used to live like that. I look at that photo and see the pain and the misery, but I don't let my brain connect that that was her reality. It may seem that I have grown cold to the problems of this country, but in fact there is just so much pain that if I let myself feel it all, I wouldn't be able to function.

Humans of New York is in India right now, and posted a photo that I just can't get out of my head. In the photo, a middle aged Hindu woman is smiling, staring into the distance. This is the caption:

"I don't have any dreams. What's the point? I'm poor. I don't have any skills. I wash the utensils in the kitchen -- that's what I do. But I like the girls I work with. We make fun together. I tell jokes. They tell jokes. I'm happy -- it's in my nature." 

Most people commented about how they wish they could have that outlook, to be happy with the simple things in life. And yes, in the western world I think we are lacking that.

But there is so much more to what she is saying. She doesn't dream. She can't dream. She doesn't see value in herself and certainly doesn't view herself the way God sees her. She is trapped in a culture that is controlled by caste and gender discrimination and a lack of education. And I see that time and time again here with the women I meet. They feel trapped. They feel a lack of control. They feel like they have no choices in life. They are constantly seeking affirmation and love and the smallest things hurt them so deeply. And it hurts me. Because I love them so much and I want them to be happy but I also want them to dream and to have hope that God will give them the desires of their heart and that He will be there to walk alongside them.

But over and over again, God shows me the beauty in India.

Promise is an amazing, healthy young woman who is loved in a family now. She goes on outings to the museum and for walks out to our local park. She loves listening to Telugu worship music with big headphones on, and her best friend is Jasmine. She can be sassy in one moment and sweet and innocent the next. She keeps our house laughing with her noises and the sound of her own giggle cracks her up. She wears flowers in her hair and bangles on her wrists and is so loved. God is working in big ways in her life. When I look at Promise, I don't feel sad for how she used to live, but I feel happy for the miracle that her life is now.

God shows me the beauty of this country when its people minister to me. Here I am, supposed to be serving them, but they serve me in greater and more powerful ways than I have ever known.

When I am sick, and my kids rub my back and kiss my cheeks.
When our cook walks upstairs yelling "where is my baby?!" and comes to rub my back and sing to me and deliver my favourite meal (yes, I am spoiled!)
When I am feeling so down that I wonder why the heck I am living in this country, and one of ayahs prays with me and reminds me of every good thing that God is doing here. She won't relent until I give every worry to God and through her words and prayers and time I feel so loved.
When I go to Lily and Molly's school talent show and the teachers repeat over and over again that no matter what the child's talent is, whether it is singing or dancing or just walking on stage in a costume, we need to clap and cheer for them and encourage them, because every person's talents are valuable and these special children are amazing gifts from God. And I cheer with the other parents and thank God for connecting us with these teachers who serve my family by loving and accepting my kids just as they are.

And so I love this place, and stay until God tells me to go, and wonder whether He will ever tell me to go because this is home in as many ways as my birth country is to me. And no matter how tragic or stressful or sorrowful it can be, God shows me the beauty. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Theo & Louise: Cochlear Implant Update

Theo and Louise have become best friends since Louise joined our family, so I will combine their updates in one post!


Theo's cochlear implant has been switched on for nearly 3 months now, and wow... he is doing amazing.

Right away, within the first few weeks, we began noticing Theo making new sounds. I was with him when we had the CI switched on, and shortly after left on my leave to Canada. When I was skyping with Tori, I could hear babbling in the background. I had to ask her who it was because I didn't recognize the voice. These are my kids and I know their every cry and their every sound, so I was shocked when she told me it was Theo. He sounded like a different kid!

Tori takes the bulk of therapy with Theo. Every week she is in charge of his auditory verbal therapy, where I am in charge of Nolan's (we split Louise 50/50). She and Chinna Anjamma switch off taking him to therapy at the hospital Tuesday, Thursday,and Saturday. Every afternoon Tori sits in the school room with him for an hour, working on school and AVT. Every afternoon I do PT with him and I have been trying to use this time to incorporate both his PT, as well as his speech and hearing. For example, we play basketball and use words like ball, up, go, get, throw, you, me, uh oh, and yay! He will sometimes say these words but I am mostly working on his understanding the meaning of the words and following commands without relying on sign or gestures.

Every moment is an opportunity to work on his speech and hearing though, so outside of his daily therapy he gets a lot of practice. Tori and I make a conscious effort to get him to use his words in everyday tasks. Playing games is the perfect opportunity to get him talking as well. The other day he, Nolan, and I were playing Candyland and he was consistently saying "blue" (he chose the blue marker) and "uh oh!" whenever someone had to move backwards.

He is not as good as Nolan about taking care of the speech processor. When he undresses to go eat, we often find it lying on the ground or out on the balcony. We have been really getting on him about this and he is starting to become responsible for it, which is pretty awesome since he's only 3 years old.

As of now, words that Theo has learned how to say: bye, hi, up, down, apple, banana, purple, papa, baby, blue, uh oh, ball, move, more, mama, amma, I love you.

The "Johnny, Johnny" nursery rhyme is very popular here in India, and Theo loves it! We have been singing it and working on his speech. Look how cute it is!

Please keep praying for Theo. His progress has been fast so far and we have big dreams that one day he will be fluently speaking and understanding speech.


September 12th was a big day because Tori and I took Louise to have her cochlear implant switched on! As we sat in the office waiting, we speculated about what her reaction would be. Both of her brothers cried big, scared tears. Louise is not nearly as sensitive or fearful as her brothers, but she is our pint-sized drama queen so we were both positive that there would be crying. We were wrong!

When the implant was activated, Louise's eyes brightened and she looked up. In the following minutes, she looked around, a bit confused. When she would look at her lap, the audiologist would make a loud noise and she would look up sharply with a slightly confused look on her face. When it was all over, she lifted her arms up to me and sunk onto my shoulder. We walked around outside a bit while we were waiting to see her surgeon, and during that time she perked up. She began pointing to her ear and making the cutest little confused faces, gesturing as if to ask us "what is going on?!"

Since the switch on, she has been doing well. She has not seemed scared, and we are working on just teaching her to keep it on. In a week and a half we will take her for her first mapping session, and after that we will begin therapy.

Tori and I were talking about how we don't want to forget how BIG of a deal this is. Now that we have 3 kids with cochlear implants, it is almost normal- the surgery, the recovery, the activation, the therapy. But it isn't normal... it isn't some every day thing. I may never have the opportunity again in my life, after these three, to watch someone's face as they hear for the first time ever. It is a MIRACLE and it is straight from God. A child couldn't hear, and now they can hear. Wow. Just take that in for a moment and recognize how incredible it is.

Louise needs a sponsor. She is the last of our kids to need sponsorship and we really want to fulfill this for her. Please CLICK HERE to support her!

Check out the video!
Cochlear Implant Switch On from Brittany Dietzman on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Lows

I have been struggling here in India lately.

That is hard to share. There are a lot of people who have a million reasons they like to tell me why I shouldn't live in India. Because of that, I have developed an ultra-defensive way of sharing about my life here. I get nervous that during one of those talks about why I should move back to Canada, this will be thrown at me. And yet, I feel led to share.

To be honest, I don't go through a lot of the same struggles that many missionaries do (at least not yet... I have only been living here 14 months). I love my life here. I say that sincerely. I rarely get homesick. It's not because I don't miss my family, but when I miss them, I daydream about them coming to visit me here. I get tired (I do have 10 kids!) but rarely overwhelmingly so. Overall, I am happy. Joyful, many days.

But lately fear and anxiety have been creeping into my heart.

It's usually at night, once everyone is in bed. Sometimes I have horrible dreams about something bad happening to the people I love- my kids here, my family back home. Often feelings of loneliness overcome me. It is confusing because I'm not lonely- not really. I have a community here. It may not be the community I am used to in Canada, but I have developed some very close relationships with a few people and those relationships make me feel loved and part of a family here within SCH. And yet the loneliness creeps in. And it makes me grumpy, and needy, and self-pitying, and unsure of whether I am even meant to be in India.

Yesterday one of the other foster moms, Imelda, was hosting a 24 hour worship and prayer session in her home. When the kids were napping I walked over. For some reason I had woken up feeling sad and it had just stuck with me all morning. I got to her house and got straight onto my knees in prayer, and I asked God whether it is my own desire to be in India because I love my kids, or whether this is what He wants for me. And as soon as the prayer come out of my mouth, the song Oceans came on. I'm not sure if I ever wrote about that song, but it has a lot of meaning to me and was a song that God used in my life when I was first moving to India last year. And as I worshiped and prayed I was reminded without a doubt that it is God who gave me this love for my kids and it is because of Him that they look to me as their mama. India is my home now and that hasn't changed.

As soon as I got home from Imelda's house I opened my messages and there was a  message from my friend Shanka back home. Every once in a while she sends me some bible verses and thoughts and encouragement, and wouldn't you know, yesterday she sent me a massive message all about loneliness.

Even just reading the verses that she directed me to helped take a weight off my shoulders.

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous be shaken."
(Psalm 55:22)

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
(1Peter 5:6-7)

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing,
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."
(Psalm 68:5-6)

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or see in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
(Philippians 4:6-9)

And then I prayed. And it all melted away, and I remembered how grateful I am to be here and to live this life. And I'm sure the feelings will be back, but what a reminder that was today that God will sustain me and that I can give all my anxieties to Him. This morning I woke up with joy in my heart!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

September Sponsorship Challenge

Did you know that it costs $300/month to take care of each of my kids?

This total covers things like: food, medicine, vitamins, salaries for their ayahs, salaries for their teachers and physiotherapists, Pediasure, diapers, drinking water, and a place to live.

If all the SCH kids were fully sponsored, our fundraising efforts could begin to go for extra things, like hiring a speech therapist or taking the kids to the zoo, rather than on the essentials.

As it is, most of my kids are fully sponsored, and Tori and I are so grateful to everyone who sponsors one of our kids. It takes a lot of people to come together to provide a stable, healthy environment for them, and we thank you for your role in that.

I have three kids who are not fully sponsored though, and I need your help.

During the month of September I am going to be sharing about these kids on my blog and on facebook, in an effort to find some people to come together to support them.

How awesome would it be if ALL TEN of my kids were fully sponsored?! As their mamas, Tori and I want to provide that for them. We want SCH to be able to focus on the kids who don't have foster moms. We want to be able to fully provide for our 10, but we need your help.

LOUISE: Louise came to us in July and is a very new addition to SCH. She is deaf and just had her surgery to get a cochlear implant. It will be switched on soon. Louise is 2 years old and is a somewhat serious little princess. She enjoys puzzles and riding her trike. She loves going on outings and blowing kisses to people.
Louise still needs her full $300/month in support. $300/month is a lot for one person. Perhaps a church group could come together and support her at $300/month, or we also offer partial sponsorship at either $150/month (2 people), $100/month (3 people), or $50/month (6 people). Every little bit helps, so let us know if you want to sign up to sponsor her at any of these amounts, and we will hopefully find enough people to come together to make sure she is fully sponsored!
Click HERE to sponsor Louise!

DINAH: Dinah is our happy, giggly baby. She is 6 years old and has cerebral palsy. She can walk independently and recently hit a huge developmental spurt and is learning so many new things. Dinah's favourite toys are her stuffed monkey and her ball. She loves Telugu worship music and shakes her whole body when her favourite song, Nibandana, comes on. Her best friend is Cedar.
Dinah is partially sponsored, but still needs $160/month to complete it. This can be full, $160/month (1 person), or partial, $100/month, $60/month, or $40/month.
Click HERE to sponsor Dinah!

ZINNIA: Zinnia is turning 5 later this week. When she first came to our home, we thought it would be temporary, but she has become a part of our family and we are so happy she is with us! Zinnia has hand and foot differences, but is able to walk well and use her hands to eat and hold a pencil just like other children. She is good friends with Lily and is very sweet with the other children, always asking to help us take care of them. She likes the colour pink and enjoys riding her bike, playing on the iPad, and going on walks.
Zinnia attends Bachpan, an excellent private English speaking preschool where she is in LKG. As of today she wants to be a cook when she grows up, but that changes daily! She still needs $55/month to cover her education. This can either be full sponsorship, $55/month (1 person) or partial, $25/month and $30/month (2 people).
Click HERE to sponsor Zinnia!

If you cannot sponsor one of the kids, you can still help! Share this post, or share the photos and stories on my blog and facebook this month, to help them find a sponsor!

By the end of this month, I would LOVE to see all TEN of my kids sponsored! Please help this come true! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Louise: One Month Update

Louise first came to us on July 21st. She was a different kid then. I remember in her first few days she had a temper tantrum probably 30 times a day. She was scared of everything. I described a bit of what she was like in the posts Meet Louise and 10 Things About Louise.

Shortly after she came to us, I did an educational assessment to see where she was at academically. She is 2.5 years old and we were trying to determine whether we would wait until next July to send her to preschool, or send her at the semester break, in December. I made a list of about 20 things that she should be able to do, and over the course of 2 days I tried all of them out with her. Some of the activities included colour matching, stacking blocks, matching cards, doing the shape sorter, doing the geometric peg board, doing the ring stacker, doing the fine motor animal string game, and doing a toddler puzzle.

She looked at me completely blankly for almost every single activity, even when I modeled it and did hand over hand. The only one she was able to complete was the game where you take animals (with holes in them) and string them onto a large string. It is a fine motor activity that we use with some of our kids. She was able to complete that with minimal help, and she understood what to do. She had no clue how to colour match. If I had a pile of red objects and a pile of blue objects and gave her a blue object, she would put it in the red pile as frequently as she did in the blue pile. She couldn’t fit puzzle pieces into their slots and couldn’t order the rings by size in order to stack them from largest to smallest. She had no communication and knew zero signs, not even come, drink, or eat, which are fairly universal here.

I just thought the whole process was so interesting. Theo came to us at almost the same age as Louise with the same diagnosis (deafness). He also couldn’t do many of these activities, although he did have the basic foundation of understanding colour matching and was able to do puzzles. Within days though, he picked up all the other activities quickly. He, however, had been at SCH for over a year prior to coming to our home where he had volunteers and various programs that engaged his mind. Louise had never left the government orphanage and the contrast to me was fascinating. She had no previous experience doing these activities and had no exposure to educational toys, or probably many toys at all.  We think she had access to toy cars at her old orphanage, as she seemed to know what to do with a car, and she likely had paper and crayons as she knew how to hold a crayon and scribble. Everything else seemed very foreign to her.  We are still unsure if she has some sensory processing challenges or if she is just timid. Water terrified her. When we tried working on colours with Playdough she refused to even look at the Playdough and ran to the other side of the room.

To Tori and I, the emphasis isn’t on what she can and can’t do, it is about broadening her world and exposing her to activities that will help her mind grow. A childhood spent within the same 4 walls isn’t much of a childhood at all. Her brain hasn’t had the stimulation it needs to help her grow, and so Tori and I made a plan to try to catch her up. I take mornings with her and Tori takes afternoons. Some of what we do is just sitting 1:1 and doing preschool activities like teaching her how to match colours and how to put shapes into a shape sorter. But we also just play with her, as learning comes through play. We roll a ball back and forth, we finger paint, we look at books, we splash in the water and try to expose her to different sensory stimulus. She is eager to do all of these activities and we have seen a huge change in her since she arrived a month ago. She had such a hard time making eye contact, and now she finds that easier and will make eye contact, smile, and engage playfully. 

Louise went from not being able to match colours at all, to being able to sort 4 colours at a time. She learned how to wave hi and bye, and imitates clapping during worship time. She can do the ring stacker now, placing the rings in order of largest to smallest. If she makes a mistake, she recognizes right away that it doesn't fit, and takes it off and puts the correct one on. She does puzzles and simple iPad apps. Her attention span has increased and she sat for an entire movie (Toy Story) and watched it. She will tap me and do a sign she made up for tickles, asking if I will tickle her. She will engage in pretend play with our cooking set, making me meals and feeding me and letting me feed her. 

She loved playing with shaving cream that was coloured with food dye when it was in small buckets. Another day, when we filled the entire bathtub with shaving cream and played it in, she was hesitant at first but then began "painting" the walls with it. Despite being scared of water, when I took a big bucket of water and dyed it blue, and we went around the house finding blue toys to put inside the water and "clean", she participated in the activity and didn't show any fear. She went from crying when the other kids went near her, to seeking them out in play.

It seems like Louise has been here for so much longer than this short while! She has fit so seamlessly into our home and we love her so much. This evening I am bringing her to the hospital to be admitted. Tomorrow, one month since she arrived, she goes in for her surgery to get a cochlear implant. Please keep her lifted up in prayer!

Louise still needs to be sponsored!! Will you come alongside her and help her thrive and grow?