Life lessons from India
● By Steven Hoffman
Morgan Palmer's roots with the Boys and Girls Christian Home in Amraviti, India run deep.
His great-grandfather, Dr. George A. Palmer, was a strong proponent of the Boys and Girls Christian Home and its mission to help children in need in India. Dr. Palmer was well-known for his radio ministry, “Morning Cheer,” which featured his uplifting, God-centered messages to listeners up and down the East Coast in the 1930s and 1940s. He was a pioneer when it came to using radio to reach listeners to spread the word of God in the U.S. Palmer was a founder of Sandy Cove Ministries in Cecil County, Maryland, which isn't far from where many of his family members still live.
Morgan, 20, who works as a rehabilitation technician at ATI Physical Therapy in Oxford, recently returned from a trip to the Boys and Girls Christian Home. It was the second time that he has visited, the first coming the year after he graduated from high school. He explained that Amraviti is located near the middle of India. It is a poor area, but it is rich with lessons for visitors who are unaccustomed to seeing the kind of poverty that exists in this region of the world.
“We saw what it was like to have absolutely nothing,” Morgan explained. “It's a look at real poverty. Some people don't have anything but a few goats. You see children who can fit all their possessions in a shoe box, but they are still so full of joy. You can't come back from a mission trip and be the same person. The visit to India changed my perspective on what matters in life.”
The Boys and Girls Christian Home was originally established in 1899, at a time when there weren't many other places helping children in need in that part of India. Homes that care for girls are particularly uncommon, and the Boys and Girls Christian Home added that service more recently in its history. The children who arrive there are usually hungry and helpless—some don't have fathers, others don't have mothers. Many are orphans. They are all looking for hope.
At any given time, there may be between 150 and 200 children at the Boys and Girls Christian Home.
Morgan explained that the day typically starts for the youngsters at around 5 a.m. They do chores, attend morning devotions, eat breakfast, and then get ready to go to school. They have classes until lunch. They eat lunch and then they go back to school until the early evening. The children attend devotions, do more chores, and then turn in for bed. It's a very structured environment that helps the children immensely. They learn English at the home, which is important if you're going to be doing any kind of business in the area. Youngsters attend classes there until the seventh grade, and then they move on to a nearby high school.
“It gives them an opportunity,” Morgan explained. “It's changed thousands of lives.”
One such person is Phillip Dongre, who grew up in the Boys and Girls Christian Home. He went on to go to college and earn his doctorate. He worked for the Boys and Girls Christian Home, and then set up an orphanage in India. Today, Dongre lives in North East, Maryland.
Morgan said that more than 20 of his family members have made trips to the Boys and Girls Christian Home to help continue the good work that was so important to his great-grandfather. Morgan had the opportunity to make a visit with his father, David, a resident of Colora, Maryland. Morgan's older brother, Cody, and younger brother, Zac have also made trips there. Cody once spent three months straight at the Boys and Girls Christian Home. Morgan's uncle, Paul, has organized numerous trips to India, taking many different people over. Each person who visits the Boys and Girls Christian Home gains an understanding of its importance, and spreads the word to others.
“It's really been a big part of our heritage,” Morgan explained. “It's almost like you develop a second family over there.”
According to Morgan, his great-grandfather's interest in helping the poor came from his own experiences as a child. George Palmer's own father had passed away when he was a child, and he grew up in a family that struggled to attain life's necessities.
“God didn't turn his back on him, so he wasn't going to turn his back on these children,” Morgan explained.
During his trips to India, Morgan has had the opportunity to meet with some of the children who are currently staying at the Boys and Girls Christian Home. He meets with the current leaders of the home, and he was also introduced to some of the alumni who had grown up to become nurses, teachers, or businesspeople. It made him think about the world of possibilities that are now open to the children who are there today.
“What are these kids going to accomplish 30 years from now?” Morgan asked rhetorically.
Morgan hopes to be able to visit the Boys and Girls Christian Home as often as he can. He has a busy schedule at home. In addition to working at ATI Physical Therapy for more than a year, he also attends classes at Cecil College, where he is studying physical therapy.
“I love working with the patients—I really love my job,” he explained.
Some of his patients recall listening to Dr. Palmer's “Morning Cheer” radio show. He loves to hear about his great-grandfather. He is glad that his family has such a strong connection to the Boys and Girls Christian Home.
“I feel like it's my duty to carry this on,” he said. “What my great-grandfather did is an inspiration to me. It's something that I a proud of. I see India as being a big part of my life.”
For more information about the Boys and Girls Christian Home, including information about how you can help sponsor a child, visit www.bgchm.org.