June 2004

Diane Perry, June 2004

Did it begin with Reverend Satinvela, the then (and the current) General
Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church of North East India, as he
cried out to God for help to minister to the many orphaned and homeless
children in his home province of Mizoram … or with the prayers of Pastor
John Downs as he, back in Canberra, and unaware of the needs in this North
East Indian state, asked of God “your Word says to feed the hungry and give
shelter to the homeless – where would you have us to do this work?”

Did it begin with an invitation to Pastor Downs and his wife Susanne from
diplomat and poet, the late K.C. Lalvunga, to visit Mizoram, his homeland …
or with travel by Pastor Downs and his wife to the United States, where they
met members of the Scism family, who had worked extensively in many parts
of India, and who urged them to accept the invitation to Mizoram.

Or did it begin before all of this, in the heart of a loving, heavenly father and
saviour, Jesus Christ, who planned long ago a hopeful future for a group of
poor and outcast children in North East India. Those who know the full story
of the Mizoram Children’s project agree that this is the only likely scenario …
the following few pages provide some insights into why this is so.

Mizoram borders Burma to its east, and Bangladesh lies to its south west. It is
a state of India that the Indian Government continues to declare ‘restricted’.
Unrest is common in this region of North East India. Travel is not allowed to
or within Mizoram without a Central Government Permit. These Permits are
issued on special application to the Government of India, and are difficult to
obtain. An invitation by a senior Indian government official is one means by
which approval for initial-entry to Mizoram may be obtained. To obtain such
an invitation is not an everyday occurrence.

When, in 1989, Pastor John and Mrs Downs received an invitation from His
Excellency K. C. Lalvunga, senior Indian diplomat and then Ambassador to
Jamaica, he was unaware of the above facts. The invitation was given during
a visit to the United States. Two of K.C. Lalvunga’s daughters at the time
attended Pastor Downs’ church in Canberra.

During this same visit to the U.S.A, he met with members of a missionary
family who had lived and worked in India for many decades, through three
generations to the present. Their time in India had included establishment
and support of churches in North East India. They informed Pastor and Mrs
Downs of the ‘restricted’ status of the state of Mizoram, and urged them to
‘Go’, as an encouragement to the church family there who feel so isolated.
Their words to the Downs were that if they had an invitation then it would be

June 2004

God’s will for them to go because others had tried to obtain permits and had
either been refused or had waited extended periods before receiving them.
This visit to the United States occurred just before the death of Audrene
Scism, who had spent much of her adult life in Christian service in India.

It was shortly after this visit by the Downs to the United States they decided
they would, indeed, make arrangements to visit the North East Indian State of

By early 1991, tickets were booked and travel confirmed. They made their
way to Mizoram. Kolasib, the site of what is now a fully operational home for
children, was not on their itinerary. Unexpected flight changes in Calcutta led
to their travel being diverted through Silchar, Assam. This, in turn, delayed
their road travel to Mizoram. The driver, however, pressed on into the
evening. By this stage, they had been on the road for eight hours of arduous
travel, around extremely winding curves and bends. They were ready for
refreshment, so Reverend Satinvela, who met them at the airport and was
accompanying them, kindly requested the driver to pull in at a little bungalow,
where they were able to obtain a most welcome cup of tea served on a little
table in an open field.

During this break in travel, Pastor Downs made conversation, asking about
the field. He learned that the plot of land had been given to the United
Pentecostal Church of North East India for the purpose of building an
orphanage; that the bungalow was the caretaker’s residence; and that, when
funds flowed again, construction would commence. Reverend Satinvela did
not, however, tell of the prayers that had been made to secure this plot of
land, nor of the miracle that had occurred in obtaining it. Likewise, Pastor
Downs did not tell of the stirrings in his heart. However, a few miles from this
site, when back on the road after the refreshment, he knew that this was the
answer to his past questions to God – that this was the place where the
church at home in Australia would help to feed the hungry and shelter the

The rest of the story unfolds as a further series of events and achievements
for which glory is surely due to unseen hands:
    On return to Australia, the Board of the church in Canberra decided – as
    priority over its own building program – to fund the first stage of the
    orphanage in Kolasib, Mizoram.
    In just over a year the necessary funds were raised, and the foundation
    stone was laid on 15 January, 1992. Construction proceeded and on
    January 16, 1993, Pastor Downs and his wife were privileged to be there
    for the dedication of the building.

June 2004

   On November 1, 1993, after further building, installation of beds and
   furniture, and the appointment of staff, the first children were taken into the

This was an extraordinary accomplishment for the Canberra church. The
church of North East India also continued to contribute where they could.
Many people in Canberra expressed their desire to support the orphanage on
an ongoing basis, and a funding program was established for this purpose.
However, many outside of Canberra also expressed their desire to support
the work. Therefore the Executive of the United Pentecostal Church of
Australia (UPCA) was approached and a decision was taken to establish a
Child Sponsorship program managed and administered by the UPCA National
Women’s Ministries Department. The opportunity and privilege of ministering
to approximately 35 young lives now extended beyond the Canberra church to
other UPCA churches and members around Australia.

It seemed that the project had taken on a momentum of its own. Funds came
in from time to time from additional sources including outside the church
community. The children continued to express their gratefulness for the
generosity of the people of Australia. The people of Australia continued to
celebrate the lives of the children by giving to this project. The Audrene
Scism Children’s Home was becoming a living monument to the great love of
God, in particular toward the poorest and neediest of children in this isolated

Explanatory note: The orphanage was named after the late Audrene Scism.
The Mizo people both loved and respected Audrene, whose missionary work
included ministry in North East India. In addition, she had played a major part
in the decision of the Downs to travel to Mizoram for the first time.

Photo: The Audrene Scism Children’s Home - children and staff.

June 2004

In the mid-1990s, planning began for the construction of a school on the
ASCH site. Mizo people consider education a very high priority for their
children. All involved with the orphanage wanted nothing less also for the
ASCH children. A good education would be such an asset and advantage to
the future of these children, particularly given their extremely disadvantaged

By the late 1990s, construction had begun for a new educational facility at the
orphanage site. Funds donated to the project during this period (except for
funds designated specifically for Child Sponsorship) supported this
development activity. Although protested by Mrs Downs, the leaders of the
United Pentecostal Church of North East India desired to name the school in
her honour, as well as to develop the school motto around the example of her
life: “Godliness with Excellence”.

The school was indeed named the ‘Susanne Downs Boarding School’
(SDBS), and was officially opened in May 2002 with classes from Nursery
Grade to Grade IV in that first year of operation. New classes will be added
as funding allows up to Grade 10, which is the final year of schooling in North
East India prior to vocational training or studies leading to tertiary education.

A primary purpose for the establishment of the school is to achieve greater
financial independence in the future from foreign funding of ASCH operations.
This will be achieved through a proportion of profit from the SDBS gradually
and increasingly being contributed to the ASCH.

The SDBS admissions policy is that first priority of places in the school will be
for the education of the ASCH resident children. The second priority of places
in the school will be for boarding student admissions, for which Mizo people
are willing to pay highly to secure a place for their children in boarding schools
of proven quality and reputation. Remaining places at the school will be
allocated to day students in the local community.

The SDBS is already gaining a reputation for educational and spiritual
excellence in the region, teaching the Scriptures and godly principles upon
which the students can build their lives. It also has a technological focus, and
teaching occurs in the English medium. This will provide an inestimable
future advantage to children attending the school.

June 2004

The church in Canberra (Calvary Chapel) under the leadership of Pastor and
Mrs Downs continues to contribute to the work being undertaken in Mizoram.
They also provide much valued leadership and advice to orphanage and
school staff, as well as church officials in North East India.

   Calvary Chapel administers a program called ‘Friends of the Orphanage’,
   which caters for needs in addition to basic maintenance of operations at
   the ASCH, and for special needs of particular orphans where these exist
   (eg. a special education program and equipment is required for a ASCH
   child with cerebral palsy). The program also supplements basic
   operational funding to the Orphanage when this is required.

   Calvary Chapel serves as a contributor and coordinator of development
   funds for the SDBS.

The UPCA National Women’s Ministries (NWM) continues to provide support
to maintain basic operations at the orphanage.

   In 2001, the UPCA Executive confirmed approval for the continuation of
   the NWM Child Sponsorship program of support for the 35 or so children
   who call the ASCH ‘home’.

   On occasion, NWM serves as a channel for the sending of funds raised
   through special events (eg. auction of donated craft items at national
   church conferences) for the ASCH.

   Since 2001, when the UPCA once again considered its focus with respect
   to the work in Mizoram, NWM has channelled all funds raised for the sole
   purpose of maintaining basic ASCH operations.


Regular monitoring of the project occurs by selected senior personnel in North
East India, as well as by Pastor and Mrs Downs every 12 to 18 months.

Technical support and advice has always been available to the project at key
decision points, and on an on-going basis as required. This has occurred
through Calvary Chapel personnel with expertise in international
development, project management, systems development, child welfare and
education, and primary health care.         In recent years, personnel with
appropriate technical qualifications and experience have undertaken missions
of approximately 3 months duration to assist in priority areas including the
review and development of child protection protocols.

June 2004

All in all, it can be reported that expectations from the outset of involvement in
this project have been far exceeded. We attribute the success of the project
to the fact that that there is a great God who initiated it, and is directing it; it is
truly marvellous in our eyes (Psalm 118: 23).
                                   A family photo:

Mrs Downs and Madingi (the ASCH Housemother who has been with the
project since its inception) holding twin girls who were deserted by their
mother the day after they were born. The twins now have a family and a
home where they will come to know and feel secure in the love of God and
those around them.

                       Your support has made a difference!


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