All The Good

I’m heading back to India soon.

My own kids are going to be in Maine for the holidays and I am not. So if I’m not going to be with them, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission. Spending Christmas with any children is fun, but at an orphanage with 70 boys and girls who I now love like members of my own family…there is a special kind of magic in the air. Whatever I can do to increase that magic for them only makes my own holiday spirit shine brighter and brighter.

It’s been nearly three years since I stumbled, sick and feverish, through the Mission gates, and in that time, the children I’ve met there have radically changed my perspective. I now spend a good deal of my creative thought and energy working for them and on behalf of orphaned or abandoned children worldwide. It is work that fills me like nothing I have ever done. Rescuing a child forgotten and unloved in the world offers a satisfactions that no Emmy statue can ever hope to provide. I know that much. It’s the kind of calling I’ve always hoped to find in my lifetime, and I feel beyond lucky to have found it.


Even so, I get some criticism from time to time. It’s rare, but I heard it again on Facebook just the other day.

When I speak before American audiences or write something online (including this post, I suspect), the complaint goes something like this:

Why don’t you help American kids? There’s plenty of need over here too, you know. After all, this country raised you, educated you, protected you. Don’t you owe it to the USA to use your skills for America first?

I’ve had the opportunity to answer this question many times, and I usually say something like this…

Why are our hearts touch by one thing and not another? Why are some people drawn to protect animals and not immigrants? Or the environment and not the homeless? For reasons only the heart knows, we are called in different directions. We simply feel for some causes more deeply than others. And if your cause is American children, well…that’s fantastic! They need champions as all children do.


But my heart, without apology or doubt, is drawn to orphaned and abandoned children in developing countries. Maybe it’s because they are the least valued, lowest status humans on our planet. Maybe because their need is so great and the resources directed towards them are so small. Maybe because they have no voice and I like to talk. Or maybe it’s just because they are cute as pie to me.

Whatever the truth…I see them. I love them. Their faces, their stories inspire me to be better, to do more. Helping them helps me. When I give to them, I receive. Which is how answering your own true calling works, I’ve found.


And so I ask: What do you feel called to do? What images fire your compassion and urge you to act? What is the still small voice inside your heart whispering to you? Perhaps if we each answered this unique call in our own personal way, all the needs of the world would be met. Maybe that’s why we are all called in different directions. Maybe that’s part of the plan.

Melting glaciers, hornless rhinos, wounded veterans, dirty water, stray dogs, frightened refugees, crushing poverty, forgotten children.  Our world, for all its beauty, is broken; a shattered mirror reflecting all the critical places in need of care. Our job then is not to fix it all. Our job is just to pick up a piece, any piece, nearby or far away, something you love, something that’s worth fighting for.

Then, as John Wesley, the Methodist reformer from the late 1700s once said: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”


For anyone like me who finds inspiration in the faces I’ve included in this post, I want to end with an easy way to get involved. It’s a little fundraiser I’ve put together. $29 buys a child at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission a Christmas to remember. If your heart is calling you to act…here’s a small piece that might be worth picking up. If nothing else, the video on the other side of the button below should brighten up your day.

  • Ana Katsuya
    Posted at 08:59h, 15 November

    Dear John,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and what goes in your heart. Lately, there has been a lot of talk about race, walls being built, families separated… The world is becoming an uglier place but, because of people like you, because of your actions and the message you spread through your beautiful pictures and blogs, I keep my optimism and the hope that we will come together in the end, from all corners of the world, to spread love and to build a better and fairer future for ALL of us.

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 12:46h, 15 November

      Me too, Ana. Thanks for the contribution. Go Booklinks, Go Mathais, Go all of us!

  • Natalie Graham
    Posted at 09:05h, 15 November

    Thanks, John, you’ve eloquently expressed the same viewpoint I hold when seeing someone be unkind about helping others – locally or not – online or in person. It’s like a arrow to my soul when I see that kind of criticism when there are so many unmet needs around us. I feel so very fortunate to have been introduced to the kids at GSAM through you, and to help one of them with a sponsorship. I also participate in serving my local community with causes that speak to my heart.

    Be kind to each other. Treat each other as you would want to be treated. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Be the change you want to see in the world. I try to remind myself of these mantras every day, because I am flawed and need to engage my compassion, understanding, and empathy for everyone I encounter. I hope others will see that also in this crazy, upside-down world. I truly believe like you do that if everyone picked up a piece of that broken mirror and used it to reflect some light into the causes we hold in our hearts, our lives and world would be immeasurably better.

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 09:28h, 15 November

      Beautifully said, Natalie. It’s not about saving the world. Each of us can only do so much. But if we each safe a tiny piece of it, maybe collectively we are the hero the world has been waiting for. Thanks for all that you do to help at the Mission, for Sheetal, and in in your community.

  • Jan urbanek
    Posted at 11:08h, 15 November

    John…your words and actions warm my heart. It gives me hope in a world that needs hearts like yours. Thank you for all you do!

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 12:56h, 15 November

      Thanks Jan. Nice to hear from you. Both my parents say hello. All the best.

  • Hanna Park
    Posted at 13:35h, 15 November

    Hi John, I read your book over a year ago and I loved it!! You are an incredible writer, story-teller — with such humor, wit, and depth. I have been making a list of books that I want to pass on to my 2 kids when they get older, and your book is definitely on that list! Actually, it’s YOUR book that prompted me to start the list in the first place. Keep doing what you’re doing with those precious children in India, keep motivating, and please, keep sharing your story with the world! Thank you!!

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 15:17h, 15 November

      Love your comment, Hanna. I’m honored. I’ll keep on writing. Thanks for reading.

  • Allan Goodman
    Posted at 16:10h, 15 November

    Gudday John, I hope you don’t mind being quoted. Your ‘take on things’ is exactly the way it is and we all need to contribute whenever and wherever we can in the way our hearts and minds tell us. There are those that won’t see it that way and I feel sorry for them. Another great post. All the best for Christmas – wish I were going to Banbasa as well.

  • Susan L Miller
    Posted at 20:07h, 15 November

    Hi John- so glad I read your post just now. I was trying to decide whether to enter a cloister for the rest of my life and just pray and pray all day long! But I know in my heart that there are SO many good people like you, quietly working in the background to lend a hand, share a sorrow, wipe a tear or feed an empty belly. For 15 years, as a singer with the international Threshold Choir, I have been honored to comfort those at the end of their lives with gentle vocal music. This is my calling, and I hope to be able to continue for a long time. May Spirit continue to bless you with abundant grace! Warm wishes to you and all you serve for the happiest of holidays, and a healthy and peaceful New Year 2017! Hugs, Susan

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 20:19h, 15 November

      Thanks Susan. The nuns loss is our gain! Keep up the good work and never despair. The world needs all of us in whatever way our hearts feel led.

  • Wayne Kerrison
    Posted at 20:10h, 16 November

    I guess John we have to accept that there will always be some people on our planet, usually from the developed regions I might add, whose motivation in life is to tear down, criticize, demean, vilify, even harass, those who make it their life’s orientation to build up, develop, add value to, celebrate, empower and even walk a mile in other’s shoes. You see it is easier to sit in their comfortable dwellings with the world at their fingertips, and speak their negative minds than to step outside and take a risk by exposing themselves to the different, the challenging and sometimes uncomfortable “two thirds world” by contributing to what just might make a difference in a life or two.
    Don’t ever give up on making a difference, it is what we are created to do.
    God bless

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 22:33h, 16 November

      You are right, Wayne. Thanks for your words and for your contribution. I don’t listen to the negative comments. I know how good it feels to serve others, especially these kids. They certainly are worth my best effort, no matter what a few angry voices might think. All the best.

  • Cate Brockbank
    Posted at 20:46h, 21 November

    Hi John, Your wonderful work and beautiful images are an inspiration. I love supporting Clifton and Rick and their increadible work. I’m glad my niece Emily had a chance to visit and help out a little while back. A great eye opener for a young person. It is my intent to visit one day, but as with most who would like to be hands-on, Distance and life commitments sometimes make it a slow path to get there.
    Emily talks very fondly of you and I thank you for inspiring her too.
    The video’s and photos you have produced show the happy side to these children. They are living proof that your work is worth-while.
    I wonder what your critiques are doing to save the world bit by bit. Thank goodness for people like you.
    I hope to meet you one day.
    Warm regards

    • John Marshall
      Posted at 23:08h, 21 November

      Thanks, Cate. Hope to meet you one day as well. I loved having Emily around at the Mission. Her acting skills during the Christmas play were invaluable 🙂 Please say hi from me. As for any criticism I receive…it really doesn’t hold a candle to the powerful bonfire of love I receive from the kids. As for my work showing their happy side…let’s just say it’s hard to miss. All the best, John