Matsiko’s “Little Orphan Anna” performs with heart and soul!

I still find it hard to believe that last week I was boarding a plane to address 13,000 Googleemployees on a stage in Santa Clara, CA – the very same stage that hosted Lady GaGa,President ObamaKeith Urban and a slew of other celebrities.

Honored to be called upon to introduce the Matsiko World Orphan Choir (one of the non-profit missions supported by Talus Rock Retreat), I welcomed the challenge of the opportunity and recognized the magnitude of the task at hand. I was also charged with explaining to a significantly Indian-based audience why the India kids would not be present (The Delhi-based US Embassy denied the orphans visas citing “not enough family ties to ensure their return”. Despite a press storm, my interview on IBN/CNN,  Times Now TV, and a 12-turned-to-41 day stay fighting for reconsideration, the denial decision stood firm. I returned home to the States empty-handed.)

India’s representation of the World Orphan Choir denied U.S. visas for 2012 Tour

On a last-minute request by Jennie and Don Windham, Founders of International Children’s Network (parent organization of the Matsiko World Orphan Choir), I wondered what I might say to move the brightest of minds — something that might cause them to sponsor a child to become educated through the University level and help end the cycle of poverty.  Well aware of the intellectual capital that might be listening, I struggled over every word while writing to weave an effective script in a very short 6 minute window. It’s not everyday that one gets the chance to present on the world’s platform, and I had drafted at least 8 potential speeches, belaboring over each phrase trying to choose which best expressed the call to action with regard to the world’s 600 million orphaned and at-risk children.

Matsiko World Orphan Choir (Liberia and Peru) 2012

Fortunately, I was accompanied by my friend, Stephanie Sandish and her wonderful daughter, Morgan. Stephanie is Talus Rock Retreat’s  ”Keeper of the Keys” and “Goddess of All Things Good” taking full charge of the Retreat when I’m overseas or overworked. Neither of them could pass up the opportunity to tour the Google campus and see the kids perform, and I was most relieved to have the company.  They offered up more than a few speech concepts, one liners, and points of focus to my already scrambled and swimming head.


Stephanie and Morgan Sandish,                       and Morgan with Heather Mehra-Pedersen


ICN fell into my life in when the group was in need of choir housing during their 2009 Choir tour through Sandpoint. Talus Rock Retreat  was called to help with housing 10 or so people.  When I opened our door to welcome what I thought would be the ten orphans needing host housing for a week, I was surprised to face a doorstep full of weary adults. Shocked more than disappointed (C’mon—you think you’re getting adorable, small, brown orphan children, and instead you end up with exhausted, scruffy, red-eyed, chaperones and leaders. There’s bound to be a jolt, right?), I ushered in the group while mentally reconnoitering the sleeping arrangements.

I’ve come to believe that this was one of those “divine appointments”.

Matsiko Children’s Choir 2009

There were many late nights over the next 7 days spent holed up with the ICN Founders, their staff and choir directors since I had opened that door. Bruce and I talked with our guests into the wee hours about the team’s global vision, the choir marketing, their overall mission effectiveness, current (and past) problems and successes, and other insightful organizational highs and lows of ICN. That was to be the beginning of a mission-based relationship that would lead me to stand on Google’s stage as ICN’s International Director for Asia.

Matsiko World Orphan Choir 2012 shines at Google

While I don’t think I  hit a home run despite the practice, stress and wholehearted effort in preparation, I know that I gave it my all. The scheduled (and I do mean scheduled – even the applause was slated for 30 seconds!) 20 minute Choir performance was fantastic and the entire effort went off without a hitch. As I reflect back on the weekend ordeal, theGoogleplex (Google’s corporate headquarters) was most impressive but, with the whirlwind that was my mind, it remains a blur.  I’m not sure what I liked best about the campus: the micro-kitchens conveniently located only 100 feet from any desk (chock full of organic wholesome food, milk, juice, soda, candy racks and 6 choices of water – all free for employees and guests), the colorful bikes to go from one office to another within the 3 mile campus, the ice cream cart in the lunch room, the valet parking for all employees, the outdoor exercise swim jet pool (complete with a lifeguard), or perhaps it was the convenient campus trailers for oil changes, car washes, massages and even haircuts!

Finally, a great big thank you to Talus Rock Retreat guest (and Google Executive) Steve Houtchens, and his beautiful and talented wife, Bernadette, who made it all happen. You made dreams come true!  Stephanie said it best:

“To see inside the iconic Google campus was a privilege and I count us all very lucky to have been included. Thank you both for developing such an opportunity for the choir.  We can never fully measure or be aware of the impact occurring inside another human, however, we choose to take the stand that your event can lead to unexpected results, unpredictable change and dare we say it, a miracle or two. We trust that when those tiny orphans’ palms of friendship reached across those laptops and held, for a moment ,the nimble fingers of those on the forefront of the virtual highways, an extraordinary partnership began.”

To all of you who have stayed here at Talus Rock Retreat, we thank you for your continued support of ICN,  the Matsiko World Orphan Choir, our family, and this place we call ‘home’.

Check out the World Orphan Choir’s Tour Schedule, and if you know of a church, school or an organization in your neck of the woods that might be interested in experiencing the Choir (or you or someone you know would like to house a part of the team while traveling through your area), please contact Pam at

Of course, if you feel called to sponsor a child (thank you!), please email Jennie Windham, at

I hope you enjoy these videos of the 2012 Matsiko World Orphan Choir:

Jennifer’s Song

Matsiko World Orphan Choir 2012