Pennock man making a difference for kids and families in India

Gary Crowe, of Pennock, doesn’t give up. His heart won’t let him. He has so much compassion and love for the children he works with in India. He’s been going to India since 1985 and has no plans to quit doing so.

Right now, Crowe and Hope in the Night Ministries have started a bawarti, which is a day care center, in India. Crowe said they have about 42 kids ages 2-4 at the bawarti and they might start a second one. With most of the kids that come the parents don’t pay anything, and they’re not required to pay. Hope in the Night buys uniforms for the kids and the three employees. The bawarti is Christian based, and the children are taught Christian Bible stories and Christian songs. “It’s an opportunity to work with their parents or guardians. If you go through the slums you see kids 3-4 years old by themselves. With this, their parents have a chance to have a place these little kids can go while they work,” he said.

He said they send home with the children biscuits that have the consistency of a graham cracker, and these biscuits give the children 100 percent of their daily requirements. “We use them in our day care and other places.” 

Gary Crowe, of Pennock, interacts with kids at a new day care in India that is offered free for families thanks to Crowe and Hope in the Night Ministries. Contributed photo

Every afternoon in day care they send one biscuit home with the children along with a piece of fruit, and on the weekends, they send a biscuit for every day. “We are doing our best to try to give the kids coming to the day care good vitamins.”

He said they’re working deep in the slums with this one program and are considering opening a second one. “We haven’t decided yet but are leaning that way. We’re excited to be doing what we want to do, and we’re helping the kids.”

They have a new group every year that comes in July.

“Oftentimes when they start, its only for one hour a day because a kid that’s 2 years old, someone drops them off and they scream, and we sort of work into it until they’re at about a little over five and a half hours a day.”

Crowe said they have three employees there, one at each of the schools. They also work in the Tuberculosis Hospital.

“We still maintain the children’s ward, and we maintain one of the women’s wards. We’ve hired two ladies part time to come in twice a week. They go to the children’s ward first where they work with the children.”

They’re there to keep an eye on the ward and if there’s something that needs to be fixed, they let Crowe know. “We want to keep it up to the best it can be.” This last trip they found two ladies who were very excited about doing this. They pay them part time, and when they’re done working with the kids, they’ll go to some of the other women’s wards and just get to know them, do some Christian counseling. “We’ve been working in the TB hospital now for eight years.”

“When these people go into the TB Hospital this is sort of the end for them,” Crowe said. “Their lungs are pretty much shot. They come out of the slums and probably have had TB for a while, but they haven’t been able to get medical health – and this is the end.”

The people Crowe have encountered over the years all come from different faiths — Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian — but many share one common feeling.

“What I’ve found over the years going in there and sitting and talking to these people is they have no hope whatsoever,” Crowe said. He believes that out of all the religions in the world, the only religion is the Christian religion that gives hope. “When you’re dying, you’re taking the last breath, and you can take it with hope that there’s a future, there’s not one other religion that I’ve seen or talked to people about that people can take their last dying breath with a smile on their face saying that they’re going someplace.”

It’s very easy talking to these people in the TB hospital, Crowe said. “They’re dying for hope. They’re dying, and they have no hope, so to give them hope, they will grab onto that so fast.” When Crowe bring groups there, they spend about three days in the TB hospital.” He teaches the people he brings to India about the people there. In the states, everybody has everything, and they don’t really need hope, but he said, they’re going to experience these people in this building who know they’re dying. “They don’t want to die, but they know they’re dying, and if you just say if for whatever reason you pass away, how would you like to have hope that there’s a future beyond this bed you’re been laying on for months.” They grab it just instantly, he said, and the two employees they just hired are going to work with the kids, but they’re also going to work in some of the other wards talking to the women in those wards and giving them hope.

Right now, in India, the organization has 10 part time employees. Going on 24/7 is the  school, the bawarti, and the TB Hospital. When Crowe brings groups there, they also do other projects, such as laying blankets on people, or the medical camps where they work with Teen Challenge very closely in Bombay.

“But on a day to day basis we do have things that go on every single day,” he said.

When asked about finances, Crowe said people are good. “Hope in the Night is an organization that has been incredibly blessed. One of the things I’ve learned being involved in this since 1985 is you learn two things. You learn what works and what doesn’t.” Crowe said he’s made lots of mistakes but what he’s found out over the years is that you can show pictures, tell horror stories about kids, show them with bloated bellies. “You can do all this, and people respond by emotion. To be honest, I don’t want people to respond to Hope in the Night through emotions because emotions last two to three months and then the emotions are done. It’s like impulse buying at the grocery store – they see something and say ‘I’ve got to have that’ or ‘I need to do this’ or whatever, but over the years – and I believe this sincerely, I believe God has sent me people that are there for the long run. They’re not there for one kid they saw a picture of. They’re there for the long run.”

So, he said, people donate money, and he’s shocked and grateful all the time. “Money comes in.”

Kids practice writing letters at the new bawarti in India. Contributed photo

Crowe said he has a tough time sometimes accepting the money but what he has had to learn and continually learn is that people give. “I have to trust that God is going to bless them for their gift. That’s what I have to learn.”

Crowe became involved after hearing a special speaker talk about India in his church. Crowe was running sound. “I was so glad I was in this little cubbyhole in the balcony. Nobody else was up there except for me running sound. I was so glad I was all alone because tears started to come down from my eyes.” Crowe said he’s been involved in Pentecostal or emotional churches all his life so he understands emotion. “I was caught up that night in emotion. I understand that. But the problem is it didn’t leave me. Every time I’d open a book, turn on the TV or open a newspaper, it was India, India, India. Every time I’d do this, I’d see India. It got to the point where I was almost tired of it because I couldn’t do anything about it.”

He finally decided the powers that be must be telling him to do something, so he enrolled in an Emergency Medical Technician class at Ridgewater College, became an EMT, and started working for the city of Willmar as an ambulance driver. “The whole reason behind all of this was that I figured if I have that kind of training maybe someday I’ll be able to go to India for about a month and do some volunteer work.” So, after a year of the EMT and working for the city of Willmar, he heard about this hospital in Calcutta and wrote a long letter to the administration telling them he would like to come for a month and work in their hospital, all at his own expense. They replied and the short letter said “Thanks Gary, but no thanks. We don’t have any place for you, but we’ve enclosed an envelope if you want to send us some money.” It was a slap in the face, Crowe said.

About a year later, Crowe was working with the Sonshine Festival when he got a phone call from a man who lives in the Twin Cities six months out of the year and India six months. “He’s an Indian, and he had heard about Sonshine, and he has these huge crusades attended by 40,000 to 50,000 people.” He told Crowe he wanted to reach young people. Crowe and Bob Poe met the man at a Perkins in the Cities. “He explained his whole history and invited them to go to India for a couple of weeks to help him do this crusade. “Bob’s not understanding what this is doing to me. This is it, this is it, and anyway we end up going there. I didn’t know if this would be the first and last time I would ever go to India in my mind.”

Crowe brought enough film to take 240 pictures. He ended up buying film while he was there. “When I came home, I had taken over 500 pictures on film. Everything was exciting to me.”

Crowe likes to get up early in the morning, and when they were at the hotel in India, he’d take his camera and walk around taking pictures. He found this old, wrinkled man sitting on the curb and thought to himself, “What a picture, what a picture.” Crowe walked around and took about a dozen pictures of him sitting on the curb. “I’m new to India, and when I took my last picture, I realized that the reason he was sitting on the curb was because he was going to the bathroom. And the whole time this old guy is just looking at me and grinning from ear to ear.”

After that trip Crowe ended up going every year for the next four years. “We worked with these gentlemen with the crusades…..we traveled with Neil Armstrong for a couple of weeks during this time, and he got us into all kinds of government offices and higher ups; they all wanted to meet the guy that walked on the moon.” After that, Crowe met a group that had had a children’s home or orphanage for many years. They were supported by a group in Australia. That particular group disbanded and so did the children’s home in India.

“So, my wife and I made a decision that if these people were willing we would like to open up a small children’s home. We had them put a budget together, and it ended up being where we could afford seven kids out of our budget. This wasn’t a ministry. I didn’t come up with Hope in the Night. It was just something my wife and I were going to do.”

Then in September or October they had made the decision they were going to open up the first of the year. During that time over the next three months, people found out about it. His mom and dad, friends and relatives heard they were going to do this so they said “Can we be involved with you. This sounds like something we’d like to be involved in.” So, instead of six or seven kids they opened up with 16.

The particular children’s home ran for over 23 years, and they had over 700 kids go through the home. “Some were there for months, some eight to 10 years. I have a young boy who’s a surgeon, who came through the home, a lot of teachers, a lot of nurses,’ a lot of people in the trades, from electricians to plumbers to concrete people.” He added, “If the home would not have been available when they came into it, they’d be bent over in the rice fields now.”

Crowe made his dream of India and helping the children there become a reality, and it’s something he’s very proud of.